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Discussion Starter #1
Next the Final Rnd 13 Wales Rally GB 14 - 17 Nov 13

Wales Rally GB returns to its traditional slot as the season finale in November. This is following complaints about attendances when the event was allocated a mid-September date in recent years.

But while the calendar slot is familiar, just about everything else about this year’s rally is new.

The headquarters and central Service Park will move from the Welsh capital Cardiff, where they have been based since 2000, to a new home 180 kilometres north on Deeside in Flintshire.

This year’s itinerary features 24 competitive stages, more than half of which are either totally new or haven’t been featured in the World Championship since the Nineties.

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Ogier edges out Neuville in GB qualifying

Sebastien Ogier won what is likely to be the WRC's last qualifying stage at Wales Rally GB after edging out Thierry Neuville by seven hundredths of a second.

In wild weather, the Frenchman was fastest through the 3.11km Llandegla stage in his Volkswagen Polo R and earned first pick of his start position for tonight’s opening leg during the selection process this afternoon.

Qualifying is set to be scrapped for 2014 and conditions this morning were extremely unpleasant as hail, heavy rain and fierce winds brought typical Rally GB weather for the narrow but fast forest test.

Ogier was unconcerned and told at the finish: “Sometimes conditions mean it’s an advantage to be first on the road and today it wasn’t a disadvantage. The grip was good, in fact the rain helped with the grip and it’s OK to be first through.”

Neuville, who aims to secure the runners-up spot in the championship, was disappointed not to beat the 2013 champion in his Ford Fiesta RS. “It wasn’t my best stage. I tried to push hard near the end but lost a few tenths near the start when I was too careful in places,” said the Belgian.

Ogier and Neuville were significantly faster than anyone else. Evgeny Novikov shrugged off a crash while testing in north-west England last week to post third fastest time in his Fiesta RS, but the Russian was 1.8sec behind Ogier.

Jari-Matti Latvala, who is fighting Neuville for second in the championship, was 2.1sec down in fourth, the Finn unsure whether softening the set-up of his Polo R since the pre-event test brought any benefit.

“I was too careful. I wasn’t confident enough and slowed in the faster sections. I’ve changed the set-up since my test. It was too hard before but I think I had better grip then,” he explained.

Mads Ostberg and Mikko Hirvonen completed the top six, but Hirvonen was not happy. “I didn’t have a good feeling, it’s not a good start,” said the Citroen DS3 pilot.

Robert Kubica was seventh on his World Rally Car debut, the Pole satisfied with his performance but admitting he ‘had a lot to learn’.

Qualifying times were:

1. Sebastien Ogier 1min 52.708sec
2. Thierry Neuville + 0.070
3. Evgeny Novikov + 1.889
4. Jari-Matti Latvala + 2.168
5. Mads Ostberg + 2.759
6. Mikko Hirvonen + 2.979
7. Robert Kubica + 3.381
8. Dani Sordo + 3.483
9. Andreas Mikkelsen + 3.732
10 Martin Prokop + 6.183
11 Michal Solowow + 12.115



Latvala chooses first on road in GB

Jari-Matti Latvala has chosen to start first on the road in tonight's opening leg of Wales Rally GB after Volkswagen team-mate Sebastien Ogier declined the opportunity of leading the field away from the Conwy start.

After winning qualifying this morning in his Polo R by seven hundredths of a second, Ogier was first to select his start position. Cautious of being first to tackle the wet and slimy roads in the dark tonight, the Frenchman opted for second in the order.

“I know that if I choose to be first then everyone will follow. So I will take the second one just to see what happens,” said a smiling Ogier.

Thierry Neuville and Evgeny Novikov, second and third in qualifying, followed Ogier’s strategy and selected third and fourth in the order. However, Latvala, wary of being too low in deteriorating road conditions, took the plunge and selected first.

“At this time of the year you normally find the roads are quite wet and damp, and then there is a thin layer of gravel on top. By being first in the start order you normally get the benefit from that, and then the mud starts to build up on the road,” Latvala told

“The optimum place for me to see the braking lines would have been second or third on the road. Going fifth would have been too low, so I would rather be first. I feel more comfortable to be opening the road than being further back,” he added.

The remaining drivers each chose the highest start position available to them.

Drivers used numbered rugby balls to select their position. They autographed them afterwards and they will be auctioned for the Gareth Roberts Fund.

The fund was set up in memory of Roberts, who died in a crash at the Targa Florio Rally in Sicily in June 2012 while co-driving for Craig Breen. It aims to help competitors injured in rally accidents and to set up an academy to help talented young co-drivers reach the top of the sport.

The full start order for the leading drivers is:

1. Jari-Matti Latvala
2. Sebastien Ogier
3. Thierry Neuville
4. Evgeny Novikov
5. Mads Ostberg
6. Mikko Hirvonen
7. Robert Kubica
8. Dani Sordo
9. Andreas Mikkelsen
10 Martin Prokop
11 Michal Solowow


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Discussion Starter #3
SS1: Ogier quick off the mark

Volkswagen made a perfect start when Sebastien Ogier sped to fastest time by 1.3sec in his Polo R ahead of team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.

Ogier, who won qualifying this morning but opted not to start first in the running order, admitted conditions were tough. “It was very slippery at the beginning. I didn’t take risks, I tried to get the feeling in the night,” the Frenchman said.

Latvala took the brave decision to run first through the dank and slimy forests and the Finn was satisfied with his performance. “I had a little bit of hesitation in places. The grip was changing but I didn’t have the confidence to go as fast as the grip would allow,” he explained.

Thierry Neuville was 0.3sec behind Latvala and admitted to a slight mistake in his Ford Fiesta RS. Although the heavy rain and strong winds of this morning have eased, the roads took a good soaking and Neuville was first to test the Welsh ditches.

“I understeered into the ditch at a slippery place, but only lost half a second maximum,” he said. “In the last part they have remade the road with big stones. It gets more and more destroyed after just two cars, so there was no chance to go faster.”

Andreas Mikkelsen made it three Polos in the top four and the young Norwegian had a huge smile on his face at the finish. “Fantastic! I like to run in the dark. It was very tricky but I had no problems. My pace was OK. For sure we can go faster, but it’s a long and difficult rally,” he said.

Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Ostberg completed the top six, but neither was happy. Hirvonen slid wide at a couple of corners and Ostberg experienced gear shift troubles, which he believed was a problem with his Fiesta’s gear cut system.

Ninth on his World Rally Car debut was Robert Kubica in a Citroen DS3. “It wasn’t easy. First time in a proper stage at night and new pace notes, so many new things. We are safely through and that’s the most important thing,” said the Pole, who is accompanied by Michele Ferrara for the first time at WRC level.

Michal Solowow dropped more than two minutes after his Fiesta RS slid into a ditch, and as he tried to regain the road his car was clipped at the rear by the following Yazeed Al Rajhi.



SS2: Ogier the pacesetter

Sebastien Ogier continued his perfect start to Wales Rally GB by going fastest through Thursday’s second night stage.

The Frenchman brought his Polo R to the finish control 0.9sec quicker than his Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala who was again his closest challenger.

“It’s a good start but they are not easy conditions – especially at night,” Ogier said. “For now we just try to do no mistakes, there’s no big attack at the moment, and the rhythm is okay.”

“It’s a very tight battle,” reflected Latvala. “I’m enjoying it, especially when the roads are fast and smooth and we have reasonable grip. But when it’s slower and more technical I don’t have confidence. That’s where I can improve. Maybe the car is too stiff.”

Thierry Neuville was third fastest, 1.1sec slower than Latvala, but concerned that his Ford Fiesta RS WRC might have been damaged by a heavy impact. “We hit a huge rock with the sump guard,” he explained. “It was in the middle of the road and lifted up the whole front of the car, so I have to check that. I also have a problem with the gear lever, but I don’t think that’s such a big issue.”

Citroen DS3 WRC driver Mikko Hirvonen was fourth quickest, to move up to the same position overall, 12.4 seconds off the lead. “It was alright but I don’t yet have the rhythm and that’s losing us time,” he said.

Fifth fastest was Mads Ostberg, who continued to struggle with an ongoing gear shift problem. Despite this, he moved up to fifth overall after Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelsen dropped two places.

“That stage was a disaster for me,” sighed Mikkelsen. “It was a really tricky road so I had a lot of detail in my pace notes, but when they were read back to me in English there was too much information to take in! At some points it was hard to know where I was, I had no clue, and that cost me a lot of seconds.”

Mikkelsen ended up with the eighth fastest time, 16,9sec slower than Ogier’s.

World Rally Car newcomer Robert Kubica was seventh fastest, and acknowledged his recent change of co-driver was taking some getting used to. “This stage wasn’t the best for pace-notes,” he said. “We have no experience of working together in these conditions, and in the day at least you can see something!”

Evgeny Novikov was sixth fastest but reported a problem with the launch control system on his Ford Fiesta RS. Michal Solowow, also in a Fiesta RS WRC, dropped a minute to the leaders with a suspected broken rear driveshaft.



SS3: Ogier leads in Wales

Sebastien Ogier won two of tonight's (Thursday) three stages to lead Wales Rally GB by 3.2sec from Thierry Neuville as cars returned to the rally base in Deeside after a short and sharp opening leg.

Following the start in Conwy, Ogier stamped his authority on the rally by winning the Gwydyr and Penmachno tests in his Volkswagen Polo R. However, Neuville hit back in Clocaenog to post fastest time in his Ford Fiesta RS.

Heavy rain and strong winds this morning brought testing conditions in qualifying but Ogier was fastest. The Frenchman, wary of just how slippery the gravel tracks in the north Wales forests would be from first in the start order, opted to start second and it paid dividends.

Neuville flirted with disaster in the opening stage when he slid into a ditch and then hit a huge rock in the second stage which flung his car into the air.

Jari-Matti Latvala was brave enough to opt for first in the running order in his Polo R. The Finn was second fastest in both opening stages but dropped 3.4sec with third fastest in Clocaenog and ended the night 5.2sec behind his team-mate in third.

Mikko Hirvonen is fourth in a Citroen DS3, 16.2sec off the lead. The Finn twice slid wide in the opening test and admitted the lack of a pre-event test hadn’t helped his cause. “The car feels OK, but it could be better, but I’m not sure which way to go with any changes,” he said.

Despite struggling with gearchange issues, Mads Ostberg is fifth in a Fiesta RS and the Norwegian lies 3.1sec ahead of fellow countryman Andreas Mikkelsen. Strong times from Mikkelsen in the first and last stages were offset by a poor second test when he couldn’t absorb all the detail from his pace notes.

Robert Kubica is seventh on his World Rally Car debut, the Pole opting for caution as he comes to terms with a new car, a new co-driver, pace notes in Italian and his first time on slippery gravel stages in the dark. “I have a lot of things to learn,” was probably the understatement of the night.

Evgeny Novikov, WRC 2 leader Elfyn Evans and Martin Prokop round off the top 10, all in Fiestas of one sort or another.

Dani Sordo lies 46th after receiving a five minute pre-start penalty when his Citroen team admitted his DS3 was the ninth chassis it had used this season – the limit is eight.

Competitors restart at 06.30 tomorrow and make the long journey south to mid-Wales for two identical loops of three tests, including the classic Hafren and Myherin. With 137.06km of action and only a 15-minute service in Newtown separating the loops, it will be a challenging day.



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Discussion Starter #4

SS4: Ogier fastest but Kubica crashes out

Overnight Wales Rally GB leader Sebastien Ogier continued to set the pace on the opening stage of day two, as the action shifted south to mid-Wales and the gravel tracks of Hafren forest.

But while Ogier enjoyed a terrific run through the 32km Welsh classic, the stage brought an early end to Robert Kubica’s challenge, when the Pole crashed his Citroen 5km before the end.

Friday dawned overcast and dry, with a chilly temperature of four degrees Celsius, but rain yesterday meant roads were damp and muddy. All World Rally Cars left service with four soft-compound Michelin tyres, carrying one spare.

Jari-Matti Latvala, the Wales Rally GB winner in 2011 and 2012, was first to tackle the stage, but the Finn arrived at the finish control concerned that things weren’t going so well on his first Wales in a Volkswagen Polo R.

“It was a clear run, nothing major wrong, but the time is not going to be that good,” he said. “I like these stages but I can’t get the same feeling in the car that I have had in the past.”

Sure enough Latvala’s time was beaten by his team-mate Ogier, who was a clear 12 seconds faster. “The balance is not so good, and I’m understeering quite a lot, but following Jari-Matti’s lines in the road is probably a help,” he said.

Thierry Neuville got closest to Ogier’s time, and was 9.7sec slower in his Ford Fiesta RS to consolidate second overall. “It could have been better but we had a problem at a hairpin corner and nearly stalled,” said the Belgian.

Mikko Hirvonen and Evgeny Novikov rounded off the top five times, before the stage was stopped briefly following Kubica’s crash.

The Pole, making his World Rally Car debut here in a Citroen DS3, went off 27kms from the start and rolled. The Citroen team has confirmed that both he and new co-driver Michel Ferrara were uninjured. We’ll bring you more information when we get it…



SS5: Sweet Sordo in the groove

Sweet Lamb may be short but it is a favourite of Dani Sordo and the Spaniard duly delivered by setting an impressive fastest time in his Citroen DS3.

Sordo was quickest by 1.2sec through the 4.26km moorland test and fastest time seemed no surprise to him. “I said to my friends yesterday that I like this stage and I’m always fast here. I like it, I don’t know why, and I know all the corners,” he said.

Leader Sebastien Ogier was second in his Volkswagen Polo R and extended his advantage over Thierry Neuville to 17.1sec. The Frenchman admitted second in the start order was proving a benefit.

“We can see a bit of a line and maybe that helps. At the start it’s amazing, you can see almost the whole stage. It was quite slippery, of course, but it’s a nice show for the spectators with a watersplash and jump,” he explained.

Team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala was third, just 0.9sec behind Ogier, but the Finn is clearly finding it tough running first in the start order.

“The road is a bit better than during the recce, it’s not as slippery. But there are some places that I didn’t expect to be slippery which were. It’s difficult to drive first on the road as I don’t have the confidence and I’m hesitating under braking. I hope I don’t lose too much time this morning to keep the fight meaningful,” he said.

Evgeny Novikov was fourth in his Ford Fiesta RS, only three-tenths of a second adrift of Latvala, and the Russian admitted he was driving on the limit. Less than half a second behind was Mikko Hirvonen’s DS3 and the Finn remains in fourth place.

Neuville was only sixth, the Belgian admitting that he couldn’t match Ogier’s pace in his Fiesta RS.

“He is going too quick for us. We’re learning the stages and my new pace notes are OK, but I can’t follow the rhythm and my confidence in the grip isn’t there. I’m checking my notes, you never know if one is too fast and then it’s finished,” he explained.



SS6: Ogier leads while Hirvonen rolls

Sebastien Ogier leads at the midpoint of Friday's competition on Wales Rally GB, the Frenchman emerging unscathed from a trio of forest stages in mid-Wales that claimed two World Rally Cars.

Ogier heads to the remote 15-minute service in Newtown with a lead of 13.5sec from his Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. Ford Fiesta RS pilot Thierry Neuville is third, 21.9sec further back.

Ogier began today’s second leg of the rally as overnight leader, and moved further ahead with a fastest time through the opening Hafren test.

But Ogier’s stage dominance ended there, with a determined Dani Sordo taking fastest time through Sweet Lamb (SS5) and an increasingly confident Jari-Matti Latvala quickest on the last of the trio, Myherin (SS6).

Despite the rapid competition, Ogier seemed relaxed when he reached the Myherin stop control in his Volkswagen Polo R. “It’s okay, but I had no split times in the stage and I fell into the wrong driving rhythm,” he said. “No alarm. Its not too bad, okay, losing five seconds to Jari-Matti is not good, but it’s okay.”

Myherin is Latvala’s favourite Welsh stage and marked a turning point in the Finn’s performance after a cautious start today. “I really pushed hard, there’s not so much left to give,” he said. "I found it hard at the beginning where it was very slippery but I got a good feeling as things went on. The car feels great, I went a bit softer with the set-up. Maybe I just took too long to wake up today?”

Neuville is 35.4sec off the lead and hasn’t been entirely comfortable on the muddy, gravel stages – managing only seventh fastest through Myherin. “I don’t know why, but I’m getting too much wheelspin,” he explained. “I’m staying on the road, just not going forward. It’s very slippery, and in the beginning I saw the splits and didn’t understand them. After that I slowed the rhythm and tried to learn the roads, which are all new for me.”

Better known for his speed on asphalt, Citroen DS3 driver Sordo was the surprise of the morning, but with his pre-rally five-minute penalty he remains way down the standings in 16th.

After a confidence boost on Sweet Lamb, a stage he knows well, Sordo looked on course for another top time on Myherin. Just one second down to Latvala at the 14km point, the Spaniard then had to slow suddenly to avoid the wreckage of his team-mate Mikko Hirvonen’s rolled DS3 which had come to a stop in the middle of the road.

Hirvonen had been fourth before the crash, which was described by Sordo as ‘a big one’. His exit capped a miserable morning for Citroen that began with the retirement of World Rally Car debutant Robert Kubica with a roll on SS4.

Mads Ostberg is fourth, 22sec behind Neuville, after a morning spent experimenting with different settings on his Fiesta RS to try and find more grip.

Evgeny Novikov is fifth, 10.7sec further back, and reporting ongoing launch control problems. Andreas Mikkelsen is sixth, with Martin Prokop seventh.


In WRC 2, Welshman Elfyn Evans leads by 9.5sec, but Finland's Jari Ketomaa narrowed the gap slightly during the morning loop. Mark Higgins is a further 16.8sec back in third. All three drivers are at the wheel of Ford Fiesta R5 cars.

Several drivers had an interrupted run through the opening Hafren stage after Robert Kubica's roll and received notional times. However, Higgins was fastest through Sweet Lamb and Ketomaa topped the time charts in Myherin.



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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
SS7: Ogier heads Volkswagen clean sweep

Slippery and understeer – two words used by every one of the top drivers as the second pass through Hafren Forest provided far more challenging conditions than the initial pass this morning.

Although the mud had been cleaned from the surface, the stones beneath were wet and slimy and offered little grip. However, Volkswagen trio Sebastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen completed a clean sweep of the top places in their Polo Rs.

Latvala held the upper hand for most of the test until Ogier raised his pace near the end to finish 1.7sec ahead. Mikkelsen was 13.0sec behind in third.

“We had to push at the end because Jari-Matti was a bit ahead of us in the splits. It was more slippery than this morning and it was hard to stay on the line,” said Ogier, who increased his lead to 15.2sec over Latvala.

Despite the more slippery conditions, Latvala was bubbling after a difficult morning. “I’m feeling a lot better now. Hafren is always very difficult second time through. There is no grip in the turns and lots of understeer. It’s the same every year and you have to work very hard with the steering,” he said.

Mikkelsen, too, was happier. The Norwegian found a better rhythm but echoed the thoughts of his team-mates about the conditions and resorted to using the handbrake to keep his Polo R on the right line.

Thierry Neuville was fourth in his Ford Fiesta RS, 13.8sec behind Mikkelsen. He retained third overall but the Belgian now lies 49.2sec behind the fast disappearing duo ahead.

“There was a lot of understeer, but we had a good drive and I can’t do much better,” said Neuville, whose performance can’t have been helped as he completed the stage with his distinctive orange spectacles steamed up!

Fifth and sixth were Qatar M-Sport team-mates Evgeny Novikov and Mads Ostberg but Ostberg rushed away from the finish to work on his Fiesta RS. “It took us a bit by surprise. We made some adjustments to the car to deal with the ruts but it was horrible. It was absolutely impossible to drive,” he said.

Perhaps seventh fastest Dani Sordo summed up the conditions best. “It’s worse than before. The mud is cleaning and the wet stones beneath are very, slippery,” he said.



SS8: Ogier untouchable

Volkswagen’s Sebastien Ogier kept up his attack through the short Sweet Lamb repeat, setting the fastest time and stretching his rally lead over team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala to 17.9sec.

Latvala was the first to tackle the stage in his Polo R, and the first of many drivers to report that the gravel road had become smoother and more slippery than on the earlier pass as SS5.

“The grip in the braking areas is okay but we had lots of understeer in the corners,” he explained. “There is a line to follow, but it seems quite polished, that’s why it’s difficult. I also screwed up the first junction a bit, but apart from that all okay...”

Ogier was next to arrive at the finish control, the Frenchman anxious to discover Latvala’s time. He relaxed on discovering Latvala was 0.9sec slower. “We used the lines well in there I think, that was a good stage,” he said.

Dani Sordo was second quickest, 0.8sec off Ogier’s time, with Evgeny Novikov edging closer to fourth place by going third fastest. “I am pushing. That’s how it is. I have to push. I have no other choice in my position,” said the Russian.

Thierry Neuville remains third overall in his Ford Fiesta RS, but his time through Sweet Lamb was only seventh fastest. Looking at the times of Ogier and Latvala on the white board, the Belgian shook his head.

“It’s impossible to follow them,” he said. “Okay, I’m the quickest Ford, and after a careful start I did my best. Without the Polos in front we are quite good…”



SS9: Ogier extends GB lead

Sebastien Ogier won four of today's six speed tests in the second and longest leg of Wales Rally GB to build a 20.1sec lead over team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.

After a commanding win in the opening Hafren test by almost 10sec, the Frenchman was fastest on all three afternoon tests in a Volkswagen Polo R. Thierry Neuville, second after the opening leg in a Ford Fiesta RS, could not live with the pair and is 62.6sec off the lead in third.

The dank forests of mid-Wales became increasingly difficult as the day progressed. A slimy layer of mud was cleaned during the first pass, to leave wet and polished stones on the surface when they were repeated.

“It was more slippery this afternoon than this morning and it was hard to stay on the driving line. But we used the lines quite well,” explained Ogier, who had the benefit of following Latvala in the tests and seeing his braking points.

Latvala made a cautious start but ended the morning by winning his favourite Myherin test. His confidence surged and a softer set-up on his Polo R encouraged him further.

“I really pushed hard and there wasn’t much left to give. I found it hard at the beginning where it was very slippery but I got a good feeling as things went on. Maybe I just took too long to wake up,” said Latvala, who almost pushed too hard and was fortunate to escape a high-speed moment in the final stage.

Neuville followed his usual strategy of perfecting his pace notes in the morning loop, but admitted there was no more speed to find this afternoon.

“I did my best and I think I drove very well. But there was so little traction on the slippery stones,” explained the Belgian.

Qatar M-Sport Fiesta RS team-mates Mads Ostberg and Evgeny Novikov are split by just 3.7sec in fourth and fifth, but they are more than 90sec off the lead. Ostberg regretted altering his car’s set-up this afternoon while Novikov lived with a daylong problem affecting the launch control at stage starts.

Andreas Mikkelsen is sixth in another Polo R, just 1.1sec behind Novikov, with Martin Prokop’s Fiesta RS in seventh, more than three minutes adrift. Leading WRC 2 runners Elfyn Evans and Mark Higgins are eighth and tenth, with Dani Sordo sandwiched between them in ninth.

Sordo, saddled with a five minute penalty before last night’s start, was fastest on the second stage and climbed 36 places in his Citroen DS3.

Robert Kubica rolled his DS3 out of seventh in the opening stage and Mikko Hirvonen compounded a disastrous rally for the factory Citroen squad by rolling his similar car out of fourth two stages later after a pace note error.

Drivers restart tomorrow at 06.00 and face two identical loops of two tests in Dovey Forest. After the longest stage of the day in Dyfnant, crews return to Deeside via two passes of the short Chirk Castle test. It all adds up to 98.42km of action.



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Discussion Starter #6
Evans leads close fight in WRC 2

Local driver Elfyn Evans heads a three-way battle for victory in the WRC 2 category of Wales Rally GB after Friday's second leg.

Evans, from mid-Wales, leads a trio of Ford Fiesta R5 drivers separated by less than 45sec. He stretched his overnight 13.2sec advantage over Mark Higgins to 26.4sec during Friday’s six stages.

Finland’s Jari Ketomaa remains third, the same position he occupied on Thursday night, and is 44.3sec behind Evans.

Evans didn’t win a stage all day, but was the most consistent driver of the trio in the slippery and inconsistent road conditions.

“It’s been okay, we’ve not had masses of grip, and I think we’ve taken a few more risks,” he said. “The conditions are so mixed that you’re in the ditch one minute and then thinking you should have gone faster the next. There’s still a long way to go and you have to use your head in these stages."

Higgins kept Ketomaa at bay, despite experimenting with different suspension settings and getting a puncture in SS7, which forced a more cautious approach. “We had to be careful in the final two stages because another flat and we would have been out,” he said.

The leaders gradually pulled clear of the rest of the WRC 2 drivers, many of whom hit problems. Yazeed Al Rajhi is best of the rest in fourth, 57sec behind Ketomaa, while Eyvind Brynildsen is fifth after suffering all day with a misfiring engine and a throttle problem later on.

Edoardo Bresolin is sixth, with Fiesta R5 pilot Tom Cave seventh despite delivering the performance of the day.

The British youngster began the day last in class after work to fit a new gearbox on Thursday night overran by 26 minutes, giving him a 4m 20s time penalty. He responded by setting fastest times on five of Friday's six stages.

“I got my mojo back,” grinned Cave at the end of Myherin. “It’s all about learning the car. The more time I get in it the quicker I’m going to get, and the confidence has been good all day, so I just kept on pushing. I have nothing to fight for now, apart from setting good stage times. I feel I can drive at this pace all day.”



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Discussion Starter #7

SS10: Mikkelsen makes his move

Light rain and hill fog greeted competitors as the third leg of Wales Rally GB began and enormous crowds were still flooding into the first of four stages in the Dovey Forest complex as the action began.

Andreas Mikkelsen was fastest out of the blocks. The Norwegian was quickest over the gravel by 1.2sec in his Volkswagen Polo R and moved ahead of both Mads Ostberg and Evgeny Novikov into fourth place.

“I think we had an advantage running early on the road but it was a good start,” he said.

Team-mate and leader Sebastien Ogier was 1.2sec behind in second and he extended his advantage to 23.2sec over Jari-Matti Latvala. “I was a bit surprised by the grip, like everyone. It was better than yesterday, a good stage,” said the Frenchman as he headed off down the short road section to the Dyfi test.

Latvala was only fifth in his Polo R but the Finn had no dramas to report. “All OK, but too slow, too slow,” he explained.

Evgeny Novikov made a good start with third fastest. The Russian was 2.3sec behind Mikkelsen and 1.3sec ahead of Ford Fiesta RS colleague Thierry Neuville, who emerged relatively unscathed after a brush with a straw bale at a chicane.

“My braking was a bit too late. We planned to go faster though the chicane but it wasn’t possible. My door is damaged and we lost two or three seconds,” said the Belgian.

Behind Latvala was Mads Ostberg, but the Norwegian saw his advantage over Novikov slashed to just 1.1sec in the standings and he was far from happy.

“I had no rhythm. The pace notes were chaotic so we lost a lot. The car feels very good but it was a bad stage from inside the car. We need to do so some adjustments in the reading of the notes so I hope that will happen,” he said.



SS11: Kubica and Novikov crash out

Andreas Mikkelsen was the pacesetter once again as the action shifted to the slippery roads of Dyfi, and a stage that ended the day for Robert Kubica and Evgeny Novikov.

At the wheel of a Volkswagen Polo R, a confident Mikkelsen negotiated the 21km test 0.2sec quicker than his team-mate, rally leader Sebastien Ogier.

“This one was much trickier than the first,” he said. “The grip is changing all the time and it’s easy to do a mistake. For us it’s okay though, a clean stage with no problems. Let’s continue like that.”

Ogier too seemed to take the muddy forest roads in his stride. “It was a clean drive. I was looking at Latvala’s splits and when I saw near the end that I was faster I was a bit more careful. I have a good feeling with the car, it’s not a big attack because these are new stages for me,” he said.

But it was a very different story for Latvala in the third Polo. The Finn was 3.3sec slower than Ogier and arrived at the finish control shaking his head. “I don’t have the feeling, I’m sorry to say that, but it’s just not happening,” he explained.

Kubica rejoined the rally today after rolling his Citroen DS3 WRC out of Friday’s competition on the opening stage. Unfortunately, his luck showed no sign of improvement on Dyfi and he went off 3.7km from the start. The circumstances of the crash are not yet known but Citroen Racing quickly reported that Kubica and co-driver Michel Ferrara were uninjured.

Ford Fiesta RS driver Novikov went off shortly after, at the 6km mark. The Russian was third fastest on today's opening stage and was in the thick of the fight with Mikkelsen and Mads Ostberg for fourth place.

Ostberg, who was fifth fastest, saw where his M-Sport team-mate Novikov had crashed. “He was off in a very fast place, braking into a right-hand corner. We slowed down quite a lot but couldn’t see them, but there were people there, and they waved us on, so we continued,” he said. “For us it was okay, we lost some time at the end where it was very slippery but apart from that quite good.”

Thierry Neuville was third quickest and another driver to slow at the scene. The Qatar M-Sport team confirmed that Novikov and co-driver Ilka Minor were uninjured.



SS12: Confidence returns for Latvala

Same stage but a very different demeanour from Jari-Matti Latvala.

After the first run through Gartheiniog this morning, Latvala cut a deflated figure. Low in confidence and only fifth fastest, he was not happy but just two hours later the buzz was back as Latvala set fastest time in his Volkswagen Polo R.

He edged team-mate Sebastien Ogier by just seven-tenths of a second, but the time gap didn’t matter to Latvala. He was buoyant again.

“It’s getting better. I had a slow morning and I couldn’t get the feeling. I had marked too many slippery places in my notes in the recce and I was too cautious. I’m here, the notes are fixed and it’s easier to drive,” he explained.

Ogier was calm and collected as he reflected on his 25.6sec lead. “There’s still a fight and Jari-Matti is still pushing. I’m in no drama, just doing the job, taking no crazy risks and driving to control the gap,” said the Frenchman.

Many felt the stage was even more slippery in the second pass. But it didn’t deter Andreas Mikkelsen whose experience of Wales from the early days of his career helped provide his German team with a 1-2-3 finish in the stage after completing 1.9sec behind Latvala.

“Everything is OK, no problems. Conditions are tricky and I’m trying to keep on the road but no moments and I’m happy with my driving,” said Mikkelsen, whose Polo R was missing its rear bumper.

Fourth was Thierry Neuville, whose advantage over Mikkelsen in third overall has been eroded to 23.8sec. “I’m driving at my own rhythm. I have no splits so I didn’t see that Andreas was pushing. I’m just driving at my speed and I think we will get through,” said the Ford Fiesta RS pilot.

Mads Ostberg was fifth but the Norwegian admitted he couldn’t match Mikkelsen’s speed in their fight for fourth overall. “We’re driving really well. There are not a lot of places that I could gain any more pace if I drove the stage one more time, but we’re losing time and I don’t know why,” he said.

Sixth was the sole surviving Citroen DS3 of Dani Sordo. Having overhauled Elfyn Evans for seventh as he recovers from his five minute penalty, the Spaniard’s next target is Martin Prokop. The Czech driver is 1min 21.2sec ahead.



SS13: Latvala fastest

Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala maintained his stage-winning momentum through the repeated Dyfi, but rally leader Sebastien Ogier kept the Finn’s progress to a minimum.

Latvala, lying second overall, credited his improved pace to the same bolder approach to his driving he had tried on the previous stage. “I was too cautious with my notes before and had too many slippery sections marked when in fact it wasn’t that bad,” he said.

“I was losing half a second with each one, and with so many that time quickly added up. Now it’s a lot more comfortable to drive. It’s going much better.”

Ogier was second quickest in his idential Polo R, completing 0.6sec slower than Latvala, and acknowledging that he was keeping a close eye on his team-mate.

“The stage was okay, a good one, but we’re not really in a position where we need to push,” he said. “We just control the gap. We are happy with that.” As he left for the refuel at Ceinws, that gap was exactly 25 seconds.

Third overall, Ford Fiesta RS driver Thierry Neuville was another to be watching his mirrors as he sought to defend his position from a hard-charging Andreas Mikkelsen.

Neuville began Dyvi 23.8sec ahead of the Norwegian, having lost 4.2sec of his cushion on the previous stage. Over the 21km stage, and without the benefit of split times that weren’t working in his car, he extended the gap to 25.2sec.

“I drove a bit faster because he’s pushing and I want to have this gap,” said Neuville, who is on course to finish the season as runner-up in the drivers’ championship. “It’s difficult without split times, it’s hard to know where you are – which is a bit strange - but I’m enjoying these roads a lot.”

Mikkelsen was fourth quickest. “Another clean stage, no problems, no moments. I tried to be more aggressive with the car and play with it in these conditions,” he said.

Mads Ostberg was just 1.1sec slower than Mikkelsen, to remain less than 11 seconds adrift in the overall standings. But a downbeat Ostberg felt the hard-packed state of the repeated stages was blunting his attack.

“We are still going at quite similar speeds, and after some small adjustments my car is going a bit better, but when it's slippery I have no chance,” Ostberg explained. “It’s the polished rocks. I don’t know how he’s getting traction on them because I have no chance. I’m attacking everywhere, but one kilometre of these polished rocks and I’m three seconds down.”



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Discussion Starter #8
SS14: Three in a row for Latvala

Jari-Matti Latvala claimed his third consecutive stage win when he edged out a resurgent Mads Ostberg through Dyfnant, but more importantly for the Finn he made sizeable inroads into Sebastien Ogier’s Wales Rally GB lead.

Latvala was 7.9sec quicker than his Volkswagen Polo R team-mate to reduce the deficit to 17.1sec with just two passes through the short Chirk Castle spectator stage remaining in today’s third leg.

The excitement in Latvala’s voice was clear when he said: “Sometimes you really get a big kick when you do a good stage. Ogier has been really quick but he is also human and he cannot do a perfect run in every stage.”

Ogier was unperturbed by his time, which was fourth quickest. “Yes, we lost a bit of time but it’s not a big drama. We can afford to lose a bit. There was nothing particular wrong, I was just too slow and too careful,” explained the Frenchman.

Ostberg delivered his best performance so far in his Ford Fiesta RS after some strong words on the telephone from father Morten.

“I’ve been driving very hard all day but I’ve not understood things. The balance was good but the times weren’t there. We were lacking traction, especially in the uphill sections, and losing a lot of time – perhaps a second per kilometre.

“I had a call from my father and he told me to listen. He said if I wanted to finish where I was then carry on with the car as it was. But he told me if I wanted to improve then I should fully open the (suspension) rebound. I’ve always listened to him and I did so again!” said Ostberg.

Andreas Mikkelsen maintained his impressive showing with third fastest time, 6.4sec behind Latvala. But Ostberg’s pace means there is now only 4.8sec between the duo.

Thierry Neuville was fifth in his Fiesta RS, despite a minor panic at the start. “I was a bit late at the start and didn’t have time to fix my seat belts, but once we got into the stage it was OK,” said the Belgian.

Dani Sordo completed the top six in his Citroen DS3.






Ogier leads in Wales with one day to go

Sebastien Ogier will take a lead of 20.3 seconds into the final day of Wales Rally GB as he chases his first victory on the World Championship counter.

The Volkswagen Polo R driver began Saturday’s third leg with a lead of 20.1sec over his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, and he maintained that advantage despite a determined challenge from the Finn.

Ogier wasn’t fastest on any of the day’s seven stages, but judged his pace perfectly on the slippery forest roads of mid-Wales to round off the day with a clean run through the short asphalt stage at Chirk Castle in front of thousands of spectators.

“We just conserved the gap today, that was the plan,” said the Frenchman, whose current personal best in Wales is the 11th he achieved in 2011.

“I wanted to keep Jari-Matti at the same difference and we did that. Now there are fifty kilometres to go, but Rally GB is never finished before the end. It’s very tricky and we have to stay concentrated. We need to do the same job we’ve done up to now.”

Between them, Ogier’s team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen and Latvala won all of the day’s five forest stages, with Mikkelsen fastest on the first two and Latvala taking a hat-trick in the afternoon.

But while Latvala was encouraged by his ability to take time out of Ogier on the latter tests, he ended the day concerned by his lack of pace earlier on.

“I don’t have a clear answer, and I wish I did,” he said. “It seems that especially in the morning on the gravel I don’t find the rhythm and it takes a couple of stages for me to get into it. I need to concentrate tomorrow. Maybe I’m loading too much pressure on myself but to beat Ogier you have to be ready in all conditions.”

Thierry Neuville is third on his last outing in a Ford Fiesta RS before a switch to Hyundai for 2014. The Belgian had a largely trouble free day, but was kept under pressure from Mikkelsen behind.

A lack of split times in Neuville’s car in the afternoon didn’t help him judge his speed, but the Belgian competed the day with a 20sec advantage. “I’ve always been close to the fastest except on the long stage, so I can be really pleased with my day,” he said.

Mikkelsen was satisfied too, having come out best in a three-way battle for fourth that became a duel on SS11 when Evgeny Novikov rolled out. “It’s been a great day, I’m happy that we managed to pull a little time back, [from Neuville] and we set some great times with no moments. It’s been fantastic,” he said.

Mads Ostberg is fifth, just 7.3sec further back, in his Qatar M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS. The Norwegian got a big step closer to Mikkelsen on the final forest stage, thanks in part to some suspension set-up advice from his father, and has fourth place in his sights on Sunday.

“It’s been a pretty good day for us,” he acknowledged. “We’ve found some improvements today and we can definitely try to fight back. I’m off to bed now for a good sleep. Tomorrow I’ll start with a good breakfast and then it’s flat-out!”

After Ostberg there is a gap of almost five minutes to Ford Fiesta RS driver Martin Prokop in sixth.

Dani Sordo is seventh, and Citroen’s sole remaining factory entry after Robert Kubica crashed out today for a second time. The Pole restarted after a crash on day two, but went off the road on SS11 after a pace-note misunderstanding.

WRC 2 leaders Elfyn Evans, Jari Ketomaa and Mark Higgins round off the top ten.



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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Saturday Highlights:

Video: [video][/video]


SS17: Mikkelsen spins

The battle for fourth place on Wales Rally GB took a dramatic turn on Sunday’s opening test when Andreas Mikkelsen, who held the position overnight, spun his Volkswagen and dropped to fifth.

The Norwegian began the stage with a 7.3sec advantage over fellow countryman Mads Ostberg in fifth, but the spin, close to the flying finish, meant the pair swapped places, with Mikkelsen trailing his rival by 1.2sec.

Arriving at the control with no visible damage to his Polo R, Mikkelsen insisted the battle with Ostberg was not over, and he hadn’t ruled out catching Thierry Neuville in third either.

“I basically had a spin and lost 10 seconds. Okay, it’s a shame, but the game is still on,” he said.

Ostberg was second fastest through the repeated test, in conditions that were damp and muddy after overnight rain. “It’s a good start, the car is working well,” he said.

Rally leader Sebastien Ogier was the stage winner, to maintain a 20sec gap over his Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala in second.

Neuville was fourth fastest, to remain relatively comfortable in third, but was judging his pace on instinct alone.

“We still have no radio and no split times, so I have no choice but to go flat-out because we don’t know the speed of our rivals. On these roads we could easily lose 10 seconds,” he said.



SS18: Ostberg edges clear

The all-Norwegian battle for fourth in Wales Rally GB edged slightly towards Mads Ostberg when he clawed more fractions of a second from Andreas Mikkelsen through the Penllyn test.

Ostberg’s first fastest time of the weekend came at a crucial time for the Ford Fiesta RS pilot as it extended his advantage over Mikkelsen to 1.9sec.

“I feel we’re going really well. It’s a close fight and it’s enjoyable. It’s more stressful battling like this, but we’re trying to enjoy it and focus on doing our best,” said Ostberg.

Mikkelsen, who slipped behind Ostberg after a spin in today’s opening test, hasn’t given up the battle. “There are still four stages to go so nothing is certain,” said the Volkswagen Polo R pilot, before reminding everyone that he holds the stage record for the final asphalt Great Orme test.

Jari-Matti Latvala was third and took 1.4sec back from leader Sebastien Ogier, but the Finn admitted the chances of catching his Volkswagen team-mate were slim.

“My pace is fine but we have too much difference. I should have started the rally with better speed. I got the spark too late and I can’t catch him by driving unless he makes a mistake, but still neither of us can relax,” he said.

Ogier was fifth and Thierry Neuville rounded off the top six in his Ford Fiesta RS, despite an error close to the finish.

“It was a mistake in the pace notes,” he explained. “It was too optimistic. I had to slow a little and put the car sideways to be able to take the corner and lost about five seconds. It’s a bit strange when we’ve nearly finished the rally and still have to drive fast because the guys are pushing and we have no split times.”



SS19: Neuville wins Power Stage points

Thierry Neuville scooped three bonus drivers' championship points with the fastest time on the repeated Clocaenog, the Wales Rally GB Power Stage.

The Belgian piloted his Ford Fiesta RS through the slippery test, run on Thursday night as SS3, 0.5sec quicker than Evgeny Novikov in a similar car. Mads Ostberg collected the final bonus point for third fastest, making it a Fiesta 1-2-3.

Clocaenog was the last forest challenge of Wales Rally GB, and the last realistic opportunity for drivers to make a difference to their positions.

But for Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelsen, one last push for fourth almost took him out of the rally altogether - the Norwegian arriving at the stop control with fir tree branches poking from the bodywork of his Polo.

“We tried everything but we were just too fast in a corner,” he explained. “The right rear hit a bank and spun us round in fifth gear – which was not so nice. We are very lucky to be here at all!”

With the gap to Ostberg now up to 17.5sec, the battle for fourth appears to be over, while at the top of the leaderboard a furious Jari-Matti Latvala felt he had blown his last chance to catch Ogier.

“I stalled engine on the junction and I lost a lot of time,” he said. “What can I do? I can’t be anything else other than second on this rally and I’m really not happy about that.”

Ogier ended up fourth quickest but was content to have got through cleanly. “I have no idea how competitive the time was - that’s not the point,” he said at the finish control. “For me it’s all about winning the rally, so no risks at all.”



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Discussion Starter #10



Ogier wins in Wales

Sebastien Ogier rounded off a dominant debut WRC season at Volkswagen with victory today on the final round of the championship, Wales Rally GB.

It was the ninth win of the year for the Frenchman, who drives a Polo R and who secured the FIA drivers’ title at October’s Rallye de France.

Ogier took the lead in Wales on Thursday’s opening stage and controlled his pace perfectly, fending off a sustained attack from his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, a two-time winner here, on the slippery forest roads of mid and north-Wales.

After celebrating with co-driver Julien Ingrassia at the end of the decisive Great Orme stage, Ogier said he was delighted to have eclipsed his previous best in Wales of a lowly 11th in 2011.

“I’m so happy, and big thanks to the team once again - the car was perfect,” he said. “I came here knowing this rally was not the best for me in the past, and even with that we managed to win a battle with a team-mate who feels at home here. It was another great victory for us and the end of a perfect season. It’s going to be a hard challenge to do better next year...”

Latvala finished as runner up, 21.8sec behind Ogier in Volkswagen’s second Polo R. The Finn had an inconsistent rally that featured stage winning highs as well as frustrating lows when he couldn’t find a confident feeling at the wheel.

A final day push for the lead started well, with Latvala narrowing the gap to Ogier to just 19.5sec after the two opening stages. But a stall at a junction on Clocaenog (SS19) cost him six seconds and ended the charge.

“I’m disappointed because I won this rally in 2011 and 2012 and I was hungry for the third victory, but it didn’t work out this year.” he said. “Speed wise it was good but there have been too many little mistakes, and a bit of hesitation.

“It’s like I haven’t had the rhythm all the weekend. That’s the problem and that’s what I need to concentrate on next year. The speed is there, that’s the main thing, now the rhythm needs to be right.”

Belgium’s Thierry Neuville was third, 1m 02.7s further back, to round off a remarkable season with the Qatar World Rally Team and, more importantly, secure second spot in the WRC drivers’ championship.

“I’m really, really happy with that, it’s a result we couldn’t have imagined at the beginning of the season, with a new car and new team,” said Neuville, who bagged three bonus points by winning today’s Power Stage in his Ford Fiesta RS.

“The team have done such a great job and Nicolas and I worked hard to achieve this. I’m really pleased and I have to thank everybody for the help we have had. Qatar and M-Sport were just beautiful.”

Ford Fiesta RS driver Mads Ostberg was fourth, 27.7sec behind Neuville, after a tense duel with his fellow Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen. Ostberg moved ahead when Mikkelsen spun on Sunday’s opener, then got a lot more comfortable when Mikkelsen did the same again two stages later.

“It was a good fight today, just a bit of a shame we didn’t find this feeling in the car earlier,” said Ostberg. “But it’s nice to have a positive day and have shown good speed. We have learned a lot this year, I’m looking forward to starting again in 2014 – I will be back in Monte Carlo in a world rally car...”

Finishing fifth, 15.2sec further back, Polo R driver Mikkelsen said: “For sure it has been a good weekend. Okay, it has not ended the way be wanted, sadly two mistakes cost me fourth place, but we showed good speed without too many mistakes. Overall it’s been an amazing year.”

Martin Prokop was sixth in a Fiesta RS, more than five minutes behind Mikkelsen, with Dani Sordo seventh, and the sole factory Citroen finisher, having dropped out of contention before the start with a five-minute penalty.

The lead trio in the WRC 2 category, Elfyn Evans, Jari Ketomaa and Mark Higgins rounded off the top ten.



Evans claims maiden victory in WRC 2

Elfyn Evans secured a breakthrough victory in the WRC 2 support category at Wales Rally GB this afternoon after dominating the four-day event in a Ford Fiesta R5.

The 24-year-old Welshman made the most of local knowledge after taking the lead on the second of the 22 speed tests on Thursday night. He was never again headed and after building a comfortable lead he measured his pace to win by 63.1sec.

Evans, who won the WRC Academy title last season, stepped up to the major support series this season. He finished second on the asphalt rallies in Germany and France before sealing top spot in the mud-caked forests of north and mid-Wales.

“It feels great to win my home round. Today I concentrated on driving cleanly and not doing anything silly. It has been a great learning experience with the M-Sport team and I’m grateful to them for delivering such a fantastic car,” said Evans.

Ketomaa, who took maximum points in Finland earlier in the season, led initially but was hampered by a misfire and fell to third behind Mark Higgins. With his Fiesta R5 restored to full health, he moved back ahead yesterday and headed the Isle of Man driver by 64.8sec.

“It’s a pity we had problems with the car but in motorsport things don’t always work as they should. We were very lucky to escape a huge fifth gear moment this morning and the misfire returned again in tight hairpins and uphill sections,” said Ketomaa.

Higgins suffered similar misfire issues yesterday, but the 42-year-old triple British champion was happy with a podium on his first appearance at the rally for five years.

“We had a couple of little niggles but it was a great weekend. I didn’t want to do anything silly today so I settled for what I had. There was a great atmosphere in the forests and the new venue for the rally was a great success,” said Higgins.

Eyvind Brynildsen ended a troubled season in fourth, 2min 21.5sec ahead of Welsh youngster Tom Cave.

Cave, incurred a hefty time penalty after changing the gearbox in his Fiesta R5 on Thursday night. But he stormed back up the order with a string of stage wins on Friday and also survived a sticking throttle.

Italy’s Edoardo Bresolin completed the top six in a Fiesta RRC.



British champ Korhonen wins WRC 3 in Wales

Finland's Jukka Korhonen added victory in the WRC 3 category at Wales Rally GB this afternoon to his British Championship crown.

It was Korhonen’s first appearance in WRC 3 but as his rivals fell by the wayside, he kept out of serious trouble to take victory by 7min 38.4sec over Keith Cronin. Korhonen now hopes to be a regular face in next season’s WRC 3 campaign.

Bryan Bouffier led after the short opening leg, with Cronin more than a minute down after a puncture. However, the Frenchman retired after overshooting a corner in the second leg and when Cronin also retired after going off the road, Korhonen moved into the lead.

He survived technical troubles during the afternoon but with his car restored to full health, he was able to ease through the final two days to take victory. Cronin restarted under Rally 2 rules but had no chance of reeling in Korhonen.

Both Sebastien Chardonnet, who secured the WRC 3 title in October’s Rallye de France, and fellow regular Quentin Gilbert were entered. However, both had already started their six nominated events and were ineligible for points.

Both could, however, score in the Citroen Top Driver series, which ran in tandem with WRC 3. Gilbert claimed maximum points and a fine 16th overall, but second for Chardonnet gave him the Top Driver title.



59 Days to go until the start of WRC 2014...

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