Many people say that Rally Portugal is the first proper, classic rally of the season, after three, more or less, special events in Monte Carlo, Sweden and Mexico. As such, Portugal is also considered to be a sign of a true form and pace of both driver(s) and team(s). But no matter how proper or special, conventional or unusual the rally is, Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia can and will win them all. You can throw flu at them, you can scare them with technical issues on the last day, but this crew will just adapt to the circumstances – which translated means, they will be pushing like hell in a stunning display of speed and skill.
For most part, it wasn’t exactly a smooth ride for Ogier and Volkswagen in Portugal. With flu draining away his energy over the first two days, matters looked even worse when both Volkswagen crews ran into technical difficulties on the last day of the event. Jari-Matti Latvala was safe in second place, but on SS 12 it all went wrong for him. Luckily, with car reduced to two wheel drive, he was able to finish the first run through massive 52 kilometer stage, and get the car back to service. Latvala’s problems enabled Mikko Hirvonen to capitalize with the climb to second place, while Latvala held on to third over the remaining two stages.
Then came perhaps the most impressive display of Ogier’s ability to deliver when and where it’s needed: against the opponents who had little or nothing to lose, namely Dani Sordo or Mads Ostberg, Ogier had everything at risk on the last rerun of that 52 kilometer monster, which incidentally also ran as power stage. And he made it look so easy once again – winning the last stage, collecting three extra points and claiming the overall victory.
Mads Ostberg was second on the power stage, and adds two extra points to his championship bid after disappointing retirement from the battle for the lead on the first day of the event. Third place overall, and third on the power stage, went to Jari-Matti Latvala, who will, no doubting, be happy with his performance in Portugal.
What Ogier did in Portugal was pretty much fantastic, but he was not the only one to shine. I would definitely like to point out that we finally saw a rise in form and confidence in at least two other drivers. Mads Ostberg, we know is fast and when he connects all the dots, will be a real threat to Ogier. But it was Dani Sordo in particular that was the star of Portugal, rising his game and putting bad things behind him. Jari-Matti Latvala was equally impressive, he even managed to put his own self control under control. There is much more to expect from all three drivers in the rest of the season, I am sure of that.