WRC Sebastien Ogier clinches closest WRC win
JORDAN RALLY, April 14-16th, 2011
2011 FIA World Rally Championship, round 4
2011 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 3
For immediate release
Saturday, April 16th, 2011
FRENCHMAN OGIER SEALS NAILBITING JORDAN
VICTORY IN CLOSEST WRC FINISH IN HISTORY
· Latvala settles for second; Loeb third; Petter Solberg crashes
· Portugal’s Bernardo Sousa claims victory in SWRC category
· Al-Attiyah’s engine woes gift maiden MERC victory to UAE’s Al-Ketbi
· UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi takes one-point MERC series lead
DEAD SEA (Jordan): Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia emerged victorious from the closest finish in the history of the FIA World Rally Championship at the Jordan Rally on Saturday.
The Citroën Total World Rally Team crew entered the final Power Stage, near the Dead Sea, trailing Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila by half a second and the fastest time gave them a winning margin of just 0.2 seconds after 14 punishing gravel special stages in the Jordan Valley.
“Just an incredible day. I had to push like hell. It is an amazing feeling,” said a triumphant Ogier, who claimed a second successive championship win. “I had to ‘clean’ the road on the first loop this morning and to win like this is amazing. To win the Power Stage as well and get the extra points is a perfect weekend for me.”
Latvala duly claimed second position: “I pushed really hard and went wide and made a couple of little mistakes in the last stage,” said the Finn.
Defending World Champion Sébastien Loeb finished third, Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen was fourth and Britain’s Matthew Wilson rounded off the top five.
A fascinating four-driver duel had developed between Ogier, Loeb, Latvala and Norway’s Petter Solberg over Saturday morning’s stages in the Jordan Valley. Solberg crashed out of contention with two stages remaining and Loeb began to slow over the last loop of stages as a fierce battle waged between Ogier and Latvala for the win.
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah held a comfortable lead in both the SWRC and MERC categories until engine problems forced him to stop with a piston failure five kilometres into the Yakrut stage. His demise handed the SWRC victory to Portugal’s Bernardo Sousa and gifted the UAE’s Rashid Al-Ketbi with his first ever victory in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship in a Fazza Skoda Fabia S2000.
“In the end it was okay and we were not pushing a lot,” said Sousa, who beat Estonian Karl Kruuda’s Skoda Fabia S2000 by 21.7 seconds, despite suffering rear suspension problems on his Ford Fiesta. “We had to take it easy on the shocker. I am delighted. I really need a little more experience for the title (SWRC) but to start the year with 25 points is perfect.”
Al-Attiyah’s demise also ensured that the UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi moved into a one-point lead in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship after three of seven rounds, courtesy of his second overall in the MERC rally in a Ford Fiesta S2000.
Saturday - WRC
Ogier headed into the Yakrut stage with a 31.6 second lead on Saturday morning, but Loeb was on a charge from the outset and shaved 6.6s off his team-mate’s advantage through the opening 14.16km. Latvala, Solberg and Hirvonen also beat the overnight leader as the pressure began to mount on the French youngster. Engine woes forced Al-Attiyah out of the running and Bernardo Sousa took over the reins at the top of the SWRC leader board.
Loeb edged a further 1.6s closer to Ogier through Bahath, but Hirvonen and Latvala topped the stage times and Latvala closed to within 2.4s of the World Champion. Ogier duly headed into the 20.44s of the Mahes stage with a 23.3s lead.
Loeb overshot a hairpin in the Mahes stage and dropped a few seconds to Ogier and slipped behind a flying Latvala, who moved to within 19.7s of the leader. Solberg finished the stage with a rear tyre hanging off the rim and Hirvonen set his second successive fastest time.
Ogier completed the first loop of four stages by dropping just 0.8s to Latvala at the Baptism Site and reached service with a useful 18.9s advantage. “We did a good job this morning,” said the youngster. “It was not maximum on the first one but I pushed hard on the next three.” Loeb beat Ogier by three seconds and found himself 20.7s behind his Citroën rival with four enthralling stages to run.
Latvala posted a sensational time through SS17 to reduce Ogier’s lead to just 10.2s and Loeb also whittled the Frenchman’s advantage down to 16.7s. Solberg left the road 3.5km into the special and was unable to retake the stage.
The flying Finn was in inspired form through Bahath 2 and clawed another five seconds back on the leader to trail by just 5.3s heading back to Mahes. Loeb dropped time to both drivers and settled into a comfortable third position following Solberg’s demise.
Ogier lost time avoiding a large rock in the middle of the Mahes stage and Latvala duly snatched a tiny 0.5s advantage heading towards what promised to be a sensational finish of ‘biblical proportions’ through the 10.5km of the Baptism Site special. Finland’s Kimi Räikkönen lost fifth place to Britain’s Matthew Wilson after collecting a puncture.
Live television and the media spotlight were on the two rallying gladiators - Ogier and Latvala - through the final Power Stage, which was run in reverse order for the leading 15 cars.
Hirvonen laid down the gauntlet with a time of 5m 21.7s in his quest for the extra three WRC points. Latvala could only manage 5m 22.4s after sliding wide on a couple of corners and losing a tiny amount of time.
All attention focused on Loeb and Ogier. The World Champion posted 5m 22.0s after making a small mistake at a corner, but he confirmed third overall. Ogier held his nerve to clinch a famous win in the most exciting and closest finish in the history of the special stage WRC.
Al-Attiyah began the final eight stages with a massive 10m 44.2s lead over Al-Ketbi’s Skoda Fabia S2000. Kuwait’s Mufeed Mubarak held third and Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi rejoined the fray in fourth via SupeRally, despite missing four stages on Friday following an alternator failure before the third stage. Michel Saleh had left the road in Jordan River on Friday and also rejoined the event.
But disaster struck Al-Attiyah’s Ford Fiesta around 5km into the first stage of the morning at Yakrut. Engine problems, which may have been linked to a slight misfire he sustained at the end of day one, forced the Qatari out of the running and handed the overall lead to Al-Ketbi. The Emirati was fastest through Yakrut and opened up a 7m 45.9s lead over Mubarak, with Al-Qassimi a distant third.
Jordan’s Mazan Tantash was quickest through Bahath and Mahes, but Al-Ketbi extended his overall lead to 8m 23.6s in the 14th stage and to 9m 24.1s after SS15. Al-Qassimi managed to pass Saleh and slotted into third overall. Despite sustaining a flat tyre near the end of the Baptism Site stage, Al-Ketbi reached the mid-point service with a lead of 9m 36.3s.
The Emirati’s lead grew to 10m 56.5s after Bahath and problems for Mubarak in the penultimate stage pushed Al-Qassimi into second place and handed Al-Ketbi a massive 11m 11.3s lead to take into the final stage. There were no last minute dramas for the Dubai driver and he earned a long overdue first win in the regional series by the margin of 10m 50.2s.
Jordan Rally WRC – positions after 14 stages (unofficial):
1. Sébastien Ogier (F)/Julien Ingrassia (F) Citroën DS3 WRC 2h 48m 28.2s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2h 48m 28.4s
3. Sébastien Loeb (F)/Daniel Elena (F) Citroën DS3 WRC 2h 48m 55.9s
4. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2h 51m 12.9s
5. Matthew Wilson (GB)/Scott Martin (GB) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2h 54m 13.1s
6. Kimi Räikkönen (FIN)/Kaj Lindstrom (FIN) Citroën DS3 WRC 2h 54m 43.1s
7. Federico Villagra (RA)/Jorge Pérez-Companc (RA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2h 57m 46.9s
8. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2h 58m 11.9s
9. Dennis Kuipers (NL)/Bjorn Degante (B) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 3h 02m 55.7s
10. Bernardo Sousa (P)/Antonio Costa (P) Ford Fiesta S2000 3h 03m 33.7s
11. Karl Kruuda (EE)/Martin Järvedja (EE) Skoda Fabia S2000 3h 03m 55.4s
Jordan Rally MERC – positions after 14 stages (unofficial):
1. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE)/Khalid Al-Kendi (UAE) Skoda Fabia S2000 3h 19m 52.9s
2. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Steve Lancaster (GB) Ford Fiesta S2000 3h 30m 43.1s
3. Mufeed Mubarak (KT)/Saad Al-Melaifi (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X 3h 33m 10.3s
4. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ahmad Ghaziri (RL) Subaru Impreza STi 3h 33m 35.5s
5. Mazan Tantash (HKJ)/Zeid Abu Zeid (HKJ) Subaru Impreza STi 3h 34m 27.4s
6. Essam Al-Nejadi (KT)/Anwar Al-Sharah (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 3h 39m 40.0s
7. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KT)/Ahmad Al-Khrass (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 3h 41m 04.2s
8. Nancy Al-Majali (HKJ)/Nadia Shnoudeh (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 3h 51m 53.8s
9. Rami Hijazi (HKJ)/Ramzi Mansour (HKJ) Subaru Impreza STi 3h 59m 25.7s
10. Mirza Hatk (HKJ)/Faisal Hakki (HKJ) Fiat Stilo 4h 24m 01.4s
2011 FIA Middle East Rally Championship
Positions after round 3 of 7:
Drivers’ Championship (unofficial*)
1. Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 51 pts
2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 50 pts
3. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE) 43 pts
4. Essam Al-Nejadi (KT) 27 pts
4. Mufeed Mubarak (KT) 27 pts
6. Ammar Hijazi (HKJ) 20 pts
6. Mazan Tantash (HKJ) 20 pts
8. Nancy Al-Majali (HKJ) 14 pts
9. Michel Saleh (RL) 13 pts
10. Meshal Al-Nejadi (KT) 12 pts, etc
* pending FIA clarification
For further media information:
2011 Jordan Rally Press Office, Main Media Centre, King Hussein Ben Talal Convention Centre, Dead Sea, Jordan, Mobile: + 962 79 9036490, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com