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2014 Rally de France-Alsace in pictures

2014 WRC Rally France

It’s been a massive weekend of motorsport. We’ve had the Bathurst 1000, the 6 Hours of Fuji and the Russian Grand Prix is currently sending the world to sleep. So if you’re still awake take this chance to relive the 2014 Rally de France-Alsace, won by Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala.

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Jari-Matti Latvala wins 2014 Rally de France-Alsace

2014 Rally de France-Alsace

Jari-Matti Latvala won his first tarmac rally after claiming Rally de France-Alsace on the weekend. It’s his 12th WRC victory and, amazingly, it’s the 20th win from 24 starts for the Volkswagen Polo R WRC.

Following the demise of Sebastien Ogier’s chances on the opening day due to a faulty gearbox sensor, Latvala dominated the rally, despite early competiton from his junior Volkswagen teammate Andreas Mikkelsen.

In the end, a self-assured Latvala won by almost 45 seconds from Mikkelsen. Kris Meeke added to his resumé and 2015 employment chances by finishing third for Citroën. Dani Sordo was the best placed Hyundai in fourth, while Ford’s best result was the P5 claimed by Mikko Hirvonen.

Robert Kubica was sitting pretty, heading for fourth on the last day. It would have been his best WRC result, but he crashed out once again.

Ogier finished a lowly thirteenth but he did manage to earn himself maximum bonus points in the power stage. Although that wasn’t enough to wrap up his second world drivers’ title. He’ll have to wait for Rally Spain later this month, where he’ll need to earn one more point than Latvala to secure the championship.

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Sebastien Ogier wins 2013 Rallye de France-Alsace

2013 Rallye de France-Alsace

Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have capped off their world championship by coming from behind to claim victory in Rallye de France-Alsace.

After the euphoria of the opening day when their championship was finally secured in the Power Stage the leading duo made a poor start to the rally proper. They ended Day 2 down in fifth place and well off the pace.

Ford driver Thierry Neuville was looking good thanks to a wise tyre choice which allowed him to end the going fastest in all the afternoon stages. An unfortunate puncture on Day 3 ended Neuville’s hopes of a maiden victory. He has shown much promise in 2013 and his career is sure to reach greater heights in the coming years.

Dani Sordo was again showing Citroën he has the pace on tarmac and inherited the lead from Neuville, but by the day’s end Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala had carved out a narrow edge to head the field into the final day.

Day 4 shaped as a classic with the first four drivers—Latvala, Sordo, Ogier and Loeb—separated by just five seconds. In wet and muddy conditions Ogier’s class shone through. He ended the opening stage of the day with a seven second lead over Sordo, with Latvala a further six seconds behind the Citroën driver.

Sadly, for all-time greats and nine time world champions, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, their rally ended after Loeb lost control on a fast right hander, spearing off the road and into the bushes where the car came to rest on its roof. Thankfully both men were okay, but it was an unfortunate end to rallying’s best ever career.

Citroën had adorned their car with a great looking black and gold livery with the pair’s impressive statistics featured all over the car. While they did move their all-time tally of stage wins from 896 to 900, there were no additions to their 116 podiums or 78 rally victories. Still, it’s an amazing record, which is sure to remain unmatched.

Ogier was never really troubled for the remainder of the day and he took victory by 12.2 seconds from Dani Sordo. Jari-Matti Latvala was third, 19.5 seconds behind his teammate.

There’s nice symmetry in Ogier being crowned world champion in his home country as the title finally escapes Loeb’s clutches. The Alsace region is where Loeb grew up and while he’ll be disappointed to have ended his career upside down the crowd support he has enjoyed this rally will stay with him for years to come.

With two more events left on the 2013 calendar Volkswagen enjoys an 80 point lead over Citroën in the manufacturers’ championship and will be hoping it can wrap that title up at the next event in Spain later this month.

Volkswagen WRC

Sebastien Ogier wins 2013 World Rally Championship

Julien Ingrassia and Sebastien Ogier

Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have now officially claimed the 2013 World Rally Championship after finishing third in the Powerstage at the Rally de France-Alsace.

It caps off a season of dominance for the Volkswagen duo who have won six of the 10 rallies so far, and with three rallies still up for grabs (including Rally France) you’d expect the new world order to add to their tally.

Normally the nominated Powerstage is run towards the end of the rally, but for Rally France the nominated stage was SS1. Citroën driver Dani Sordo won the stage and collects three world championship points.

The only man who could stop Ogier winning the title was Ford’s Thierry Neuville, but to catch the Volkswagen ace he needed to win the Powerstage. Neuville, like Sordo a tarmac surface specialist, could only manage the two points offered for second place and with that Ogier’s title was secured. For good measure Ogier and Ingrassia finished third in the Powerstage and claimed a single championship point.

“I am absolutely overjoyed,” exclaimed Ogier. “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. For the last few days I have been trying not to think too much about it, in order to avoid making any mistakes. The relief now is immense.

“However, I am also well aware that rallying is a team sport. This success would never have been possible without our fantastic team at Volkswagen. Whether trucker, mechanic or race engineer, I have to thank everyone. One thing is for sure—we will celebrate in style now!”

“It is possibly the best day of my life—and definitely of my career,” enthused Ingrassia. “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. We were so close in Australia three weeks ago, but now the title win is a reality.”

It’s hard not to be happy for Ogier/Ingrassia and Volkswagen who have injected the WRC with a new enthusiasm. Nobody would have expected the Polo R WRC to make such an impact in its debut season, least of all the establishment at Citroën.

We’ll have more coverage of the rally over the next few days, but for now there’s some extra material from Volkswagen after the break.