Sweden team-by-team

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Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team

1 Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena – 8/10

A disastrous qualifying stage left Loeb out in the cold in Sweden, and he only got to show his true pace on the final morning. He was able to kick great lumps out of Ogier’s lead but the damage was done. Worryingly for Citroën, the man who is only contesting four events this year was the only one to take any points away from Scandinavia.

2 Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen – 3/10

Disaster begat disaster for Hirvo on an event to forget. The WRC now moves to a string of gravel events, where he knows he has to deliver event wins.

Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team

4 Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson – 8/10

Not-very-mad-Mads was back again, driving his second event at the head of the M-Sport squad in conservative style. He did enough to be the fastest non-Sébastien on the event, but the hoped-for sparkle was notably absent.

5 Evgeny Novikov/Ilka Minor – 6/10

Novikov had his sensible head on and drove a quiet rally to reach the finish. It’s not what he’s known for, but it keeps the repair bills down a bit.

Qatar World Rally Team

6 Matthew Wilson/Giovanni Bernacchini – 1/10

Last-minute substitution for an indisposed Nasser Al-Attiyah, Matthew wasn’t very fast and then crashed.

11 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul – 7/10

Neuville bounced back from his Monte disappointment to put in a strong performance and to record the longest jump at Colin’s Crest.

15 Juho Hänninen/Tomi Tuominen – 6/10

Officially that’s the end of the road for the former IRC champion… but you can expect to see him back in an M-Sport car before long. Didn’t sparkle as much as many had hoped in the snow, but unless your name is Sébastien not many people did.

Volkswagen Motorsport

7 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Antilla – 7/10

Latvala took a measured approach and delivered a solid finish.  Losing out on the podium to the Mads Østberg in what used to be his team-leading car at M-Sport was cruel. Ogier has delivered Volkswagen’s debut victory, so the pressure is not going to decrease on the likeable Finn.

8 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia – 10/10

A fantastic drive, with a relaxed and happy Ogier revelling in being the fastest Sébastien for the majority of the event. His eighth win at the sport’s top level was taken in style, and of course he now has his name in the record books as the first man to guide a Volkswagen to overall victory in the WRC. Throw in a strong position in the WRC points and the weekend could scarcely have gone better.

Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team

10 Khalid Al Qassimi/Scott Martin – 1/10

AL Qassimi doesn’t have much in life that he really needs to worry about. Which must be nice.

14 Dani Sordo/Carlos Del Barrio – 3/10

Sordo is handy on asphalt. This was a snow rally. Wasn’t stellar.

Lotos Team WRC

14 Michál Kosciuszko/Maciek Szczepaniak – 4/10

It’s hard to tell whether the likeable Pole is good, bad or indifferent. So we’ll reserve judgement.

Jipocar Czech National Team

21 Martin Prokop/Michal Ernst – 7/10

Prokop used his experience to good effect and popped up into the points for the second time.

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Sweden final: Ogier seals Volkswagen victory

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Sébastien Ogier withstood an early burst of pace on the final morning from nine-time champion Sébastien Loeb’s Citroën to claim the first victory for the new Volkswagen team and its Polo R WRC car on the Rally Sweden.

“This morning Sebastien was putting a lot of pressure on. He was flying into the stages. We tried to follow him without maximum risk but we had to push because he was so fast,” said a delighted Ogier. “To win like that is amazing.”

To keep things symmetrical, Mads Østberg held out to take third place in the M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC, putting the three main teams in the top three places. Which is nice. The young Norwegian kept the second Volkswagen of Jari-Matti Latvala off the podium.

Fifth to ninth places were all taken by M-Sport built Fiesta WRCs. Tenth overall and first in WRC2 was claimed by the M-Sport built Fiesta RRC of Saudi driver Yazeed Al Rajhi.

There was jubillation for Ogier at his eighth WRC win and for the  landmark first victory of the €100 million Volkswagen effort. At Citroën the disappointment of Loeb losing out from poor road position earlier in the rally was compounded by the complete absence of his team-mates from the action. With Loeb only taking part in four events, the pressure is on team leader Mikko Hirvonen and his team-mate Dani Sordo to take the fight to VW – and neither man shone in Sweden.

40th WRC Season Review Pt.1 – The Rallies

We start the WRF run-down of the 2012 season – the 40th in the history of the WRC – with the events that filled the calendar: on which a lot of disappointment followed for most people, apart from those at Citroën.

The year began with the most famous rally of them all, Monte Carlo, returned to the WRC calendar for its 80th running after three years of self-imposed exile on the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. This should have been a massive cause for celebration, but because there was nobody promoting the WRC in 2012 it sort of fell on deaf ears.

Unsurprisingly, given the nature of the occasion, Sébastien Loeb was in majestic form and dominated the event on which he had burst onto the WRC stage with his spellbinding drive as a young cub back in 2002. He danced the little DS3 up, down and round the Alpes Maritimes and duly delivered his sixth confirmed win for Citroën in consummate style.

Sordo had a fractured year after Monte heroics

A total of 81 other cars were entered – as per most events of the year – of which Dani Sordo shone for Prodrive’s MINI squad to claim second and the fiery Sébastien Ogier ran hard in the top six at the wheel of his Škoda Fabia S2000 entered by Volkswagen Racing. Jari-Matti Latvala had a short run of blistering speed in his works Ford but crashed, while incoming team-mate Petter Solberg played it conservatively and got told off by team principal Malcolm Wilson, who felt that manufacturer points were of secondary importance at this stage in the season.

The Rally Sweden brought four leaders through the course of the WRC’s all-snow event – none of whom were called Loeb, who shunted on SS7 and finished sixth sfter restarting. Latvala took victory for Ford, leading former team-mate turned Citroën number 2 Mikko Hirvonen. Mads Østberg completed the podium in his Adapta-prepared Ford.

Onward to the heat and dust of Mexico, where things all looked rather more familiar with Loeb and Elena claiming their sixth win on the event. Hirvonen finished second and Solberg third after Latvala crashed heavily when he thought that the M-Sport Fiesta of Evgeny Novikov was stranded on the stage. It wasn’t, but he still went off just in case.

Mads Østberg took his first WRC win in Portugal

In Portugal an uncharacteristic opening day shunt put Loeb out of the running and gave Mikko Hirvonen an open goal for his first Citroën win. Unfortunately, however, the post-event scrutineers found that his car didn’t match up to expectations and so victory passed to Østberg after a sterling performance from the young Norwegian, who picked up the Ford baton when the works Fiestas of Latvala and Solberg crashed out on consecutive stages.

In Argentina, Loeb charged from fourth in the early running to take yet another victory, this time in front of Hirvonen and Østberg on a 700km ‘endurance’ event that the Frenchman openly disliked. Jari-Matti Latvala was sidelined from the works Ford squad with a broken collarbone from a skiing accident, with Dani Sordo deputising for him and retiring on the final day. Solberg led the early stages but shunted.

Latvala and Solberg spent a lot of the year in the scenery

The Citroën steamroller flattened the Acropolis, with Loeb leading Hirvonen home to another 1-2 finish in Greece, with Latvala returning to take third. In New Zealand Loeb headed home in front of Hirvonen once again, this time with Solberg finishing third.

In Finland both Latvala and Solberg stayed the course, thus they finished in third and fourth places, while Loeb led Hirvonen home in yet another Citroën 1-2.

For those still awake at the back, that’s where the 2012 WRC was won: four gravel rallies in a row with four successive 1-2 results for Citroën.

Switching to asphalt and the Rallye Deutschland saw Loeb victorious once again, with Latvala slipping through past Hirvonen to take second. Latvala has focused a tremendous amount of energy on his asphalt driving… which is nice.

The 80th Rally GB was without doubt one of the disappointments of the season, being pushed back from its role as a season-ending spectacular of fog, snow and mud to become just another late summer gravel event and thus drawing an entry of just 31 cars. It was something of a ‘home’ victory parade at the end for Ford’s charger Latvala, who remembered how to drive on gravel, while Loeb held out for second after a great scrap with Solberg.

All this meant that Loeb only really had to turn up for his home event, the Rallye de France-Alsace, in order to seal his ninth and Citroën’s eighth WRC crown. He did show up and duly won, while in his wake Petter Solberg had one of the most remarkable accidents in recent WRC history, when he tore through a vineyard, the spectator areas and took down a power line all in one accident – fortunately without injury.

The Rally Italia-Sardegna saw Loeb take time off from dominance and celebrate his record-making title success with a little crash. Latvala also crashed, and Solberg hit a rock, leaving Hirvonen unmolested for his first Citroën win ahead of M-Sport youngsters Novikov and Ott Tänak.

And finally we had the RACC Rallye de España – with gravel on the opening day and asphalt for the balance of the event, this year with lashings of rain. Loeb ground out another masterful victory, Latvala didn’t crash and therefore beat Hirvonen to second place. Solberg did crash on the first day, but in the big picture it was all a bit academic.

And that was the 2012 season in a nutshell. In Part 2 we have the teams.