For Sebastien Ogier and Volkswagen, this result in Sweden is the culmination of all their thorough preparation. In only his second outing for the team, the Frenchman emerged victorious. Having posted nine fastest times over the weekend, he finished 41.8 seconds ahead of Sebastien Loeb in the CitroŽn. "It's just incredible and a huge surprise," said a delighted Ogier. "We never expected to be so dominant." By claiming maximum points in the power stage, the 29-year-old moves up to the top of the World Championship standings. The podium party was completed by M Sport driver Mads ÷stberg.
The battle of the Sebastiens
Ogier laid the foundation for success with a solid qualifying performance. This entitled him to choose the best starting position, which gave him an advantage over his chief rival. In fact, the huge deficit incurred by Loeb on Day One then remained constant through to the end. "We really failed to deliver in qualifying and had to accept the consequences," said Loeb. "But Seb Ogier also drove a perfect rally without any errors."
For the third year in a row, Mads ÷stberg celebrated a podium finish in Sweden, though it looked an unlikely outcome on Friday after a series of technical problems. A repair was necessary on the intermediate stage, which made him late for the next special stage and led to a time penalty. "It was clear to us then that we couldn't win," said Ostberg. "But it was a great fight-back nonetheless."
Latvala completely baffled
If points were awarded for tightly fought duels and thrilling encounters, Jari-Matti Latvala would have been Man of the Rally. For approximately half of the weekend, he was running neck and neck with Loeb, even getting himself ahead for a brief spell. But after posting his best time yet for VW, Latvala unaccountably seemed at odds with his Polo and dropped back behind ÷stberg. "I really tried everything. I simply seem unable to drive at a consistent speed, and I have no answer to that," said a rueful Latvala.
Thierry Neuville crossed the finish line fifth, thereby besting fellow Ford drivers Juho Hšnninen, Martin Prokop, Henning Solberg and Evgeny Novikov. Victory in the WRC2 class went to Yazeed Al Rajhi in the Ford Fiesta RRC, who also finished tenth overall.
Dramatic highs in the rally
CitroŽn suffered a major setback at the outset when favourite Mikko Hirvonen lost control of his DS3 WRC and had to be winched out of a ditch. This cost him 24 minutes and any chance of a points finish. Dani Sordo was the second CitroŽn driver to meet the same fate. He dropped out of the Top Ten, but by Sunday had worked his way back up to eighth. The Spanish driver was, however, unable to complete the rally after clipping a boulder, skidding in the snow and coming to an abrupt halt. M Sport driver Evgeny Novikov was looking secure in fifth until he rolled over on the third-to-last special stage, smashed his windscreen and slipped to ninth.