x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Ogier pips Latvala to Rally Jordan in closest margin in WRC history

The Citroen driver wins at the Dead Sea by just 0.2secs, while Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi is the new leader in the Middle East Rally Championship.

Sebastien Ogier claimed victory at Rally Jordan by just 0.2secs after Jari-Matti Latvala’s bid to overhaul him came up just short.

The Citroen driver led by 31.6 seconds at the end of Friday’s 12 stages but was reined in by the BP Abu Dhabi Ford’s Latvala of Finland, who led by 0.5secs heading into stage 20.

However, Ogier triumphed in the 10.5km Power Stage to win the rally by the narrowest margin in championship history — beating the previous mark of 0.3secs when Marcus Gronholm pipped Sebastien Loeb at the 2007 Rally of New Zealand.

“It’s been an incredible day,” said Ogier.

“I had to push like hell today. It’s an amazing feeling. Jari-Matti was so fast and I had to drive flat out. I’m so happy to end like this.”

“I pushed very hard and if I lose I can be satisfied with second place,” Latvala said as he climbed out of his car. “I pushed as much as I can.”

Ogier becomes the first driver to claim the maximum 28 points on offer at a race this season, for the overall victory and for winning the Power Stage.

The result means Ogier is third in the overall standings and trails fellow Frenchman and Citroen teammate Loeb by five points in top spot.

Mikko Hirvonen, who won stages 14 and 15, is two points behind Loeb while Latvala is fourth, three points behind Ogier.

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh al Attiyah held a comfortable lead in both the SWRC (Super 200 World Rally Championship) and MERC (Middle East Rally Championship) categories until engine problems forced him to stop with piston failure 5km 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 the Fazza Skoda Fabia S2000.

“In the end it was okay and we were not pushing a lot,” said Sousa, who beat the Estonian Karl Kruuda’s Skoda Fabia S2000 by 21.7secs, 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 Sheikh Abdullah Al Qassimi, the UAE driver, moved into a one-point lead in the Middle East Rally Championship after three of seven rounds, courtesy of his second overall in the MERC rally in a Ford Fiesta S2000.