Sebastien Ogier made it nine wins from 13 starts in this year’s WRC by leading Wales Rally GB from start to finish. But as the Volkswagen driver has freely admitted, Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship hasn’t exactly been kind to him in the past, particularly on his first appearance in the Welsh forests five years ago.
Past – Wales Rally GB 2008
Ogier arrived in Wales in early December 2008 for his first Wales Rally GB as the junior world champion, a title he clinched at a sun-drenched Corsica in mid-October. In a decidedly un-sun-drenched Wales, Ogier sensationally led on his debut in a Citroen C4 WRC, although he freely admitted that his early pace on the ice-coated stages owed much to his road position, which meant he could follow the lines of the drivers ahead and benefit from the small amount of grip they had created.
A spin and the loss of third gear, however, left Ogier eighth overall at the Friday night halt in Cardiff. And there was to be no recovery on Saturday either, after the then 24-year-old rolled into retirement on the day’s opening stage after getting caught out on a patch of ice on a left-hand turn. He restarted on Sunday and was eventually classified in 26th overall. Not quite the dream debut on the legendary rally…
Present – Wales Rally GB 2013
Once again Ogier arrived in Wales as a world champion, having clinched rallying’s top prize in front of his home crowd at Rallye de France-Alsace last month. But even with the title secured, Ogier showed no signs of slowing down on the season-closer, winning the qualifying stage before sprinting into an early lead that he wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the rally.
Ogier was never unduly troubled on the 22-stage event, despite the slippery nature of the forest stages and the pressure that VW team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala started to pile on during the latter part of Saturday’s stages. In the end the Frenchman took victory by 20 seconds from Latvala, to cap off an incredible return to the WRC for Volkswagen and cement Ogier’s reputation as the man to lead the WRC forward in the PLE – the Post-Loeb Era.