After nine straight seasons of the FIA World Rally Championship being won by Sébastien Loeb, the cycle is finally broken by… another Sébastien, this time Volkswagen’s Sébastien Ogier.
Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia sealed the 2013 WRC title after the first Power Stage of Rallye France, scoring enough points to ensure the duo can no longer be caught at the top of the table.
Volkswagen also leads the Manufacturers’ Championship with three races to go, making it more than likely to become the first manufacturer in the history of the World Rally Championship to claim its maiden WRC title in its debut season.
That’s not the only first in this record year for the team.
It’s first time a new driver pairing have conquered the pinnacle of rallying, the WRC, for just short of a decade. Likewise no driver or co-driver has ever been crowned World Champions whilst driving for a manufacturer making its debut in the World Rally Championship.
The Polo R WRC has been a dominant force in this year’s championship with Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila also scoring strongly, working with the charismatic Jost Capito who moved from Ford SVT early last year to spearhead VW’s WRC campaign.
Capito guided Ford to two manufacturers’ world titles and was full of praise for Ogier’s performance, “I think the most impressive thing is that he developed that car. He came here with not so much experience in WRC and he was involved in a programme to develop a car from scratch. To bring that car to a WRC title in its first year is his biggest achievement.”
Ogier finished the Power Stage in third position, one tenth of a second behind Ford’s Thierry Neuville with Citroen’s Dani Sordo a further seven-tenths ahead.
Sébastien Loeb, who is competing in his final WRC rally, finished stage 1 in 7th, but then took wins in stages 2, 3 and 4. Loeb currently leads the rally by 3.7 seconds ahead of Latvala, Neuville, Sordo and Ogier.
Tension between the French rally champions is palpable, none more so than because Loeb seems to have stolen Ogier’s thunder… again.
Following yesterday’s opening stage, Ogier spoke about being overjoyed at clinching his first world rally championship, “I could give everyone in the world a big hug. The feeling is impossible to describe. To have won the World Championship title in France is an absolute dream come true.”
“As a little boy, I used to marvel at the cars and top drivers at the Rally Monte Carlo with my father in my home town of Gap – and now Julien and I are World Rally Champions. It is crazy.”
Ogier’s co-driver, Julien Ingrassia commented “It is possibly the best day of my life – and definitely of my career! If anyone had told me at the start of the year that Séb and I would already be World Champions with so much of the season still to go, I would immediately have told them they are mad.”