LONDON (Reuters) – World champion Sebastien Ogier won Wales Rally GB for M-Sport Ford on Sunday to close the gap on Hyundai’s overall leader Thierry Neuville to seven points with two rounds remaining.
The Frenchman prevailed after a close battle with Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala, who had seized the lead in the morning only to fall behind again on the penultimate stage in north Wales.
Ogier, who has now won five times in Britain, finished with an advantage of 10.6 seconds. Toyota’s Finnish driver Esapekka Lappi completed the podium.
Belgian Neuville’s hopes of winning had disappeared on Saturday when he slid into a ditch but he came back strongly to finish fifth.
His hopes of any further gains were thwarted by the final stage being shortened following an incident unrelated to the rally near the finish in Llandudno.
Estonian Ott Tanak, who was Neuville’s closest rival after winning three races in a row before arriving in Britain, failed to finish in the top 10 after retiring on Saturday but salvaged some bonus points in the power stage.
Neuville now has 189 points to Ogier’s 182 with Tanak on 167. Toyota lead the manufacturers’ championship with 317 to Hyundai’s 297.
“We have given it everything this weekend. The mistake yesterday ended any chance of scoring a podium but we’ve pushed hard to reclaim a few lost positions. The championship is far from over,” said Neuville.
“From a fan point of view, it’s getting exciting between me, Sebastien and Ott. I’d rather have a bigger lead than we have now, but we can’t dwell on what’s happened in recent rallies,” added the Belgian.
The next round is Rally Catalunya in Spain on Oct. 25-28.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)