MADS ØSTBERG TAKES BRILLANT SECOND PLACE!
Mads Østberg and Torstein Eriksen held off a fightback from former three-time Rally Finland winner, Jari-Matti Latvala, in the closing stages to secure a hard-earned second place. Meanwhile, Craig Breen and Scott Martin moved up into eighth position during today's final leg, whilst Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson gradually got their feeling back in the car after rejoining under Rally 2 rules.
It's no easy task to head into the final leg – covering 45.72km on four stages – just 5.4s ahead of a driver of the calibre of Latvala, a three-time winner of the event. However, Mads Østberg managed to pull off the impressive feat of holding off the experienced Finn, thus securing a superb runner-up spot, his best result at the rally after two third places (2013 and 2015). The result was also Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT's third podium this season, following the second and third places claimed in Sweden and Mexico respectively.
The flying Norwegian confirmed straight away this morning that he meant business: he struck a telling blow with the fastest time on the opening stage of the day, Citroën's fifth stage win of the weekend, extending his advantage to 6.3s. However, Latvala, close to his best form again at his home round, narrowed the gap to just 2.5s ahead of the Ruuhimäki Power Stage showdown and its unending series of jumps. Yet again, Mads held his nerve to beat the Finn by three tenths after five minutes of intense driving at an average speed of 122.5kph, securing second place by just 2.8s!
Whilst still limited by his position in the running order (3rd), Craig Breen nonetheless set some decent times, especially on SS21 where he missed out on the stage win by 4.2s or on the Power Stage, where he ended 1.7s behind the overall winner. The Irishman also took advantage of the misfortune of one of his rivals to finish eighth overall, at a rally where his own result dealt a body blow at the start with a puncture (SS2).
Back in action today under Rally 2 rules after his mistake on Saturday's leg, Khalid Al Qassimi concentrated on making it to the end, whilst gradually rebuilding his confidence.
WHAT THEY SAID
"It was a difficult weekend for us, with the puncture on Friday that proved very costly, leaving us to clean the road for two days. We nevertheless managed to show our pace whenever the conditions enabled us to do so. It was nice, especially, to finish with a good time on the Power Stage, which means we can now look ahead to Germany with optimism."
"I'm really, really happy to fighting at the front again on these incredible stages! It's the best thing I've ever done in my racing career. I'm also delighted for everyone at Citroën. The guys did a fantastic job to get us in this position and I'm proud to be a part of this team. I knew from our pre-event test that this C3 WRC was the best car that I'd ever had on this rally and I'm pleased that we managed to show it this weekend."
Khalid Al Qassimi
"Although it was a difficult rally for us, with our mistake yesterday morning, I'm pleased we were able to rejoin the action today and enjoy these incredible stages. Above all, I'm delighted for the team, whose hard work has been rewarded by a great result."
FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
- Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2 :35:18.1
- Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 32.7
- Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 35.5
- Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:35.6
- Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:15.0
- Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:19.2
- Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:29.5
- Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 3:08.4
- Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:51.8
- Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +8:37.4
37. Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:06:10.2
DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
- Thierry Neuville – 153 points
- Sébastien Ogier – 132 points
- Ott Tänak – 107 points
- Esapekka Lappi – 70 points
- Dani Sordo – 60 points
- Andreas Mikkelsen – 57 points
- Jari-Matti Latvala – 55 points
- Elfyn Evans – 52 points
- Mads Ostberg – 48 points
- Kris Meeke – 43 points
- Craig Breen – 39 points
MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
- Hyundai WRT – 228 points
- M-Sport Ford WRT – 202 points
- Toyota Gazoo Racing – 201 points
- Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 153 points