Ogier wins 'new-look' Wales Rally GB

Organiser's hopes that this year's Wales Rally GB will be reinvigorated by moving the final event of the FIA World Rally Championship season from its previous base in Cardiff to Flintshire seem to have been well founded with claims of 'unprecedented' support from rally fans following the switch to the north and mid Wales regions of the principality. In fact, the event appeared so successful that officials had to limit access to the Rallyfest stage at Kinmel Park following some issues at Chirk Castle on Saturday.

In the thick of the action, 2013 world champion Sebastien Ogier maintained his lead in the rally to clinch victory at the finish in Llandudno. This was Ogier's ninth win in the 13-rally championship, a record only bettered in the past by outgoing champion Sebastien Loeb; the Citroen factory driver only competing in four of the FIA Championship events this season.

The 29 year old Volkswagen Polo WRC driver finished WRGB ahead of his Finnish team mate Jari-Matti Latvala, winner in Britain for the past two years with Ford. Ford's 2013 team leader; Thierry Neuville claimed the final podium position but secured second place in the 2013 championship. Volkswagen had conclusively secured the manufacturers' title in Spain last month.

To the delight of the partisan Welsh fans, Elfyn Evans from Dolgellau stormed clear to win the WRC2 class in his Ford Fiesta WRC. Speaking after crossing the finish line, the 24-year-old son of Welsh rallying legend Gwyndaf Evans said: "It feels great ... a fantastic car and a great experience to see large spectator numbers lining every stage. I don't know about next year yet. We've had a few disappointments but the team has worked hard." Fellow British drivers Marc Higgins; 10th overall and Tom Cave; 12th overall were commendably second and third respectively to Elfyn's win in WRC 2

IRDC member and veteran rally competitor Tony Jardine finished the WRC rally in a very respectable 23rd place overall and won class 3 convincingly by 3 minutes driving a Mitsubishi Lancer. Tony's co-driver Amy Williams is no stranger to international competition, being Britain's Olympic Skelton gold medal winner, but now competing in her first international rally.

Rally organisers International Motor Sports chief executive Andrew Coe is quoted as saying "We're thrilled with the response and interest in this year's new-look Wales Rally GB. Moving the event to north Wales has proved a huge success and we're seeing unprecedented spectator numbers." However, he did admit that this had led to some fans being unable to get access to the Chirk Castle stage on Saturday.

"We're aware that many of these were existing ticket holders and were disappointed. For that we apologise. The venue's car parks simply reached capacity and with the nature of a rally taking place in largely remote areas there was simply no alternative."

This year's rally saw the race headquarters move from Cardiff to a purpose-built 250,000 site at Queensferry in Flintshire and the organising team hoped the move would attract new fans to the event from the catchments areas of the nearby English cities of Liverpool and Manchester.

In the Wales Rally GB's 'national' category, IRDC chairman Shaun Martin, co-driven once again by Anthony Concannon, experienced several character-building challenges' that typify the spirit of rallying at this level. These included a duff coil pack sapping power from their Subaru Impreza on the first day and dropping them to 41st, but with the offending item changed the pair charged back into contention setting competitive stage times on Saturday including the classic Welsh rally stages of Dyfnant and Clocaenog to finally cross the ramp in Llandudno as worthy finishers on Sunday.

As usual, Shaun was quick to credit the team's gritty performance to his loyal sponsors, co-driver and service team of Nigel Griffiths, Steve Martin and Craig Golder for their efforts above and beyond the call of duty in getting the Subaru and its crew to the end of the grueling three-day event.




17th November, 2013