Three days of high-octane entertainment reached a climax at Dayinsure Wales Rally GB today (30 October), with tens of thousands of fans lining the legendary Welsh forests as FIA World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier sped to a hard-fought success in the series’ closest finish of the year.
In Wales’ ‘Year of Adventure’, Britain’s round of the all-action WRC delivered throughout, with a sparkling Ceremonial Start in Colwyn Bay, a hugely popular return to Chester, the fantastic RallyFest Stage at Cholmondeley Castle, a buzzing Deeside Rally Village and 22 of the most demanding and spectacular speed tests to be found anywhere around the globe.
Following the completion of the live Power Stage, the crews headed to Llandudno for the final podium celebrations, with fans thronging the streets of the seaside resort to catch a glimpse of their rallying heroes.
Ogier proved himself once again as he conquered the event’s classic challenge – making Dayinsure Wales Rally GB the first WRC round the Frenchman has won four times in a row, and in so doing securing the Manufacturers’ crown for Volkswagen for a fourth consecutive year. He joins Hannu Mikkola and Petter Solberg in an elite club of four-time winners on British soil.
Ogier tamed some of the most iconic roads in world rallying with today’s final leg being no exception, from the high-speed test of Clocaenog to the fast and wide Alwen and Brenig, which boasts one of the most dramatic finishes on the WRC calendar on top of the Llyn Brenig dam.
“To draw equal on wins here with Petter and Hannu is incredible – they’re two of the giants of our sport,” Ogier said. “It’s always a huge challenge to win in Wales. It’s funny – a few years ago, this was one of my least favourite rallies on the calendar as I really found it difficult to master and now it’s one I always really enjoy. The stages are beautiful and you’re always on the limit and close to the edge.
“For me, one of the highlights of the weekend was meeting so many spectators in Chester and Cholmondeley – it was a great idea to include a donut in the middle of the stage there, because people love to see these cars sliding around. I think we’ve made a lot of fans happy this weekend, which is really rewarding; I’m already looking forward to returning next year!”
The rally winner had to fend off a determined charge throughout the event from Ott Tänak, with the Estonian winning more stages than anybody else as he valiantly took the fight to the most successful driver of the current era and ultimately closed to within barely ten seconds.
“I really enjoyed this rally,” reflected the DMACK World Rally Team driver. “It’s always one of the toughest events of the year and GB is a true classic on the WRC calendar with a lot of history behind it. These stages are some of the best in the world and in what were pretty challenging conditions at times, it was an exciting fight with Seb all the way through.”
Underscoring Dayinsure Wales Rally GB’s international appeal, the final top eight finishers comprised eight different nationalities. Belgian ace Thierry Neuville prevailed in a Hyundai scrap for the final spot on the podium with New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon to secure the Korean manufacturer’s maiden rostrum finish in the UK, while Britain’s Kris Meeke placed fifth on the competitive swansong for Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s Citroën DS3 WRC.
Spaniard Dani Sordo wound up sixth, with Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala – a driver who has competed in Wales every year since 2002 – recovering to seventh after an opening day driveshaft failure. Norwegian Mads Østberg completed the top eight for M-Sport World Rally Team, with Frenchmen Stéphane Lefebvre and Eric Camilli rounding out the points-scorers in ninth and tenth.
Leading Welshman Osian Pryce was unfortunately eliminated on the final day by a radiator leak, while Tony Jardine and Olympic gold medallist Amy Williams reached the finish ramp in 39th position in a Mitsubishi Evo. In the supporting WRGB National Rally, Bruce McCombie dominated in his Mitsubishi Evo, with multiple British Rally Champion Jimmy McRae 15th in a Vauxhall Magnum.
“What a wonderful weekend it has been,” enthused event Managing Director Ben Taylor. “The move to a half-term date made for better weather for spectators and a new challenge for competitors; it was fantastic to see so many families in the Deeside Rally Village, at Cholmondeley, in Chester and out on the stages.
“In fact, it was great to see so many fans of all ages enjoying the action and I would like to congratulate Sébastien, Julien and Volkswagen Motorsport on their success. We must also thank everybody involved in making this rally such a great success, especially the 2,000 volunteer marshals without whom none of this would be possible.”
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