Rallly Portugal, the fourth meeting on the WRC’s 2013 schedule, proved once again that the secret to success in modern motorsports is to be named Sebastien. Hit the jump for our recap, a few videos and some of the most amazing photos of the season.
Coming into a series as a new manufacturer with an entirely new car and team is a daunting task regardless of the series. Volkswagen has done somehow done the impossible and managed to dominate the veteran M-Sport and Citreon teams during the first third of the 2013 season. The VW Polo R is simply the car to beat in the WRC.
Of course the car isn’t the only thing keeping VW out front. The partnership of Sebastien Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia has proven to be as consistent and fast as the dominant championship pairing of Frenchmen Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena. With three wins in four rallys, including last weekend’s Rally Portugal, Ogier has more than double the championship points of Citroen’s Mikko Hirvonen.
Even though Ogier managed to take home the top trophy it wasn’t with out some difficulty. Early on the first day M-Sport driver Mads Ostberg was in full attack mode hoping to repeat his 2012 victory in Portugal. Ogier had gambled on the soft tire, which simply didn’t have the durability to withstand the punishing mountain stages. It looked like it was going to be a great battle over the three days of racing but then this happenend.
As a result, Ostberg was out. He did rejoin the rally on the second day, under Super Rally rules, and he battled back to finish 8th overall a good result for the struggling M-Sport team.
Ostberg wasn’t the only one to suffer difficulties on the narrow mountain roads of Portugal’s Algarve region. Ogier’s teammate Latvala lost a driveshaft on Sunday and was forced to run with only rear wheel drive, losing his second place overall to a charging Hirvonen. Ogier’s lead was also in danger due to a slipping clutch but the team manage to minimize the damage to maintain their advantage over Hirvonen.
Khalid Al Qassimi continued his tradition of bringing up the rear of the WRC field, but this picture was pretty amazing. I’m sure the fact that Al Qassimi is a member of one of the Unite Arab Emirates royal houses has no bearing on his presence in an Abu Dhabi sponsored car. I can’t hate the guy too much though, if I were wealth Sheikh I’d probably be doing the same thing.
Rally Portugal also marked the debut of Robert Kubica in the WRC support class, WRC-2. Kubica was running well before multiple mechanical problems and punctures dropped him down the order. Kubica did manage to fight back to 6th place in his category, scoring points and showing that he still has the drive and determination to compete at the top level of motorsports.
Let’s hope this is just one more step on Kubica’s climb back to an F1 drive.
That about does it for our Rally Portugal recap, I’ll leave you with some great video from Rallylange and the official playlist from the WRC channel. Don’t forget to scroll down to check out the photo gallery and let us know what you think about the WRC in the comments below.