Sébastien Ogier believes he won one of the toughest battles of his career to defend his lead at Rally Sweden and secure his 34th WRC victory in 99 starts on Sunday.
Ogier led from start to finish but came under severe pressure from Hayden Paddon on Saturday morning when his half-minute lead was cut to under 10sec.
The Frenchman opened the road for more than 90 per cent of the shortened rally, and had to sweep 10cm fresh snow on Saturday to leave a cleaner and faster line for Paddon, who started lower down the running order.
“I had to fight maybe harder than ever to try to keep the lead,” said the Volkswagen Polo R driver. “Obviously it was difficult to be first on the road with the fresh snow, especially in the Vargåsen stage. My strategy was to go for it. I took all the risks and I would have no regrets whatever happened.
“I admit this weekend I had some luck with me and I think you often need a bit of luck anyway when you want to win, but it won’t work every weekend like this.”
Just how big those risks were was emphasised when Ogier escaped a monster sixth gear, 185kph slide early in the second pass through Vargåsen. “I was just praying!” he told wrc.com.
“I did everything I could to get it back, but I also needed the help of the snowbank. It’s almost a flat corner, but not quite, and when I lifted off a little bit the car went completely sideways.
“When you watch it on TV it looks a little bit impressive but when you are in the car it’s much more scary than that. It was a big moment on one of the fastest corners of the rally so it’s definitely a place you don’t want to crash as the forest is so close,” he explained.
- View Ogier's great escape below