Ogier’s title bid on hold after engine trouble
STRASBOURG, France (AP) — Defending world rally champion Sebastien Ogier lost nearly nine minutes on rival Jari-Matta Latvala when his engine cut out during the second stage of the Rallye de France on Friday.
Ogier, who won his title at this race last year, has six wins for Volkswagen this season and entered the race with a 50-point lead over Latvala with only two races to go.
The Frenchman could clinch the title by finishing six points ahead of Latvala, but unless the Finn has a massive setback, Ogier must wait until the next race in Spain in three weeks.
“I had a big failure with the engine, and I don’t know why,” Ogier said. “I tried to catch up but it was impossible.”
Latvala, looking to win his fourth race of the season, led Andres Mikkelsen by 8.2 seconds after winning four of seven stages, with Kris Meeke 23.1 behind in third. Ogier trails Latvala overall by 8 minutes, 52 seconds.
Latvala started the day strongly, winning the first special — a mostly uphill grind of about 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) up Col de la Charbonniere — with Ogier placing second.
“It wasn’t a great start for us and I’m not particularly happy with the car,” Ogier said after Stage 1.
Mikkelsen, who is third in the overall standings, won the second and longest special of the day, about 34 kilometers (21.1 miles) from Vosges to Pays d’Ormont ahead of Meeke and Latvala, with Ogier losing more than four minutes.
Latvala clinched the third stage ahead of Mikkelsen to regain the lead, while things got even worse for Ogier, who was hit by a time penalty.
Mikkelsen trimmed Latvala’s lead by winning the fourth, with Ogier getting some satisfaction by placing second.
“It’s a bit late now, we just want to drive and have fun,” Ogier said. “It’s not easy when there’s nothing at stake.”
Latvala won the fifth stage, again from Vosges to Pays d’Ormont, to pull away from Mikkelsen, while Ogier had suspension trouble and was 20 seconds behind Latvala, who won the sixth stage ahead of Mikkelsen, and with Ogier battling to fifth place.
The seventh and shortest stage, held in the evening in Strasbourg, was shared by Mikkelsen and Spain’s Dani Sordo, with Ogier sixth behind Meeke and Latvala.