Ogier rejoins WRC - and wins Rally Spain!

Sebastien Ogier clinched his first World Rally Championship win of the season as he helped Toyota secure the 2022 manufacturers' title at Rally Spain. Ogier and co-driver Benjamin Veillas managed to stave off a challenge from Hyundai's Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe on Sunday to seal victory on Spain's asphalt roads by 16.4s. The eight-time world champion, competing in a partial season this year, took the rally lead from new world champion teammate Kalle Rovanpera on Stage 3 during a rain-affected Friday morning. However, he briefly lost the advantage to Neuville before the midday service.

Ogier immediately responded to reclaim the lead on Friday afternoon and from there the Frenchman never looked back. Three stage wins on Saturday helped increase the lead to 20.7s heading into the final day.
Neuville managed to nibble six seconds out of the advantage on Sunday morning, before Ogier claimed a seventh stage win of the rally to put the victory out of the Hyundai driver's reach. He then wrapped up the victory in style by winning the rally-ending powerstage.

It was the first victory for the 38-year-old since he clinched his eighth world title at Rally Monza last November, and a maiden triumph for the Ogier/Veillas partnership, after the latter took over the co-driver role from Julien Ingrassia this year. Newly crowned world champions Rovanpera and Jonne Halttunen led the rally on Friday morning but were unable to match Ogier across Saturday as the gap ballooned following a technical issue on Stage 14. The Finn slipped behind Neuville into third at the end of Saturday and dropped further back after suffering a front-left puncture caused by a protruding drain on Stage 17.

However, a third-place finish, 34.5s behind the victorious Ogier, helped Toyota record a sixth WRC manufacturers' crown (1993-94, 1999, 2018, 2021, 2022). Hyundai's Ott Tanak and Martin Jarveoja battled two doses of hybrid issues on Friday and survived a wild off on Saturday to finish fourth, some 44.0s adrift. After losing time to a puncture on Friday, local hero Dani Sordo ended the rally with two stage wins to net a distant fifth.

Toyota's Elfyn Evans struggled to find the sweet spot in his GR Yaris throughout the rally. A puncture on Friday cut the Welshman adrift of the lead group, before a second puncture caused by the loosened drain cover on Stage 17 ended any hopes of reeling in Sordo, as he settled for sixth. Takamoto Katsuta brought the fourth Toyota GR Yaris home in seventh after the Japanese benefited from a front-left puncture suffered by M-Sport's Craig Breen, one of three caused by a drain on Stage 17.

Breen was another driver that struggled to find the rhythm in his Ford Puma across Friday and Saturday before the puncture on Sunday dropped him from seventh to ninth, in his final WRC event alongside retiring co-driver Paul Nagle. Adrien Fourmaux, returning to the WRC after missing the last two events, inherited eighth but was lucky to reach the finish after a brush with the barriers on Stage 17.

The top 10 was completed by M-Sport's Pierre-Louis Loubet, who endured a challenging rally. The Frenchman showed flashes of pace but lost a minute to a front left puncture on Stage 3 and suffered an exhaust issue at the end of Stage 4. Teammate Gus Greensmith was the only Rally1 driver to suffer a major drama when he crashed out on Saturday's Stage 11, which resulted in officials cancelling the stage. The Briton did return on Sunday in a repaired Ford Puma to run through the final four stages. In WRC2, Teemu Suninen took a comfortable victory by 32.5s from Yohan Rossel, while Lauri Joona claimed the WRC3 title with a win.

The FORUM 8 Rally Japan in the final round of the 2022 World Rally Championship 11-13th November

23rd October, 2022