France’s Sebastien Ogier was yesterday on the brink of a fourth successive world rally championship after moving into the lead of the Rally de Espana, whilst teammate and title rival Andreas Mikkelsen crashed out on Saturday.
Mikkelsen had been lying in third in the race when he smashed into a barrier on the 12th speed stage and flipped his Polo R before coming to a stop against a tree.
The Norwegian now cannot catch Ogier, who needs to register just one point to be mathematically assured of the title.
However, Ogier looked set to seal his fourth championship in style after usurping local hero Dani Sordo to lead the race by 5.8 seconds with just four stages across 62km remaining yesterday.
“It is beginning to get closer after Andreas’ abandonment,” Ogier said. “We would have preferred that he continued, but it does not change our race in our battle with Sordo. It lifts the pressure for the title, but for the constructors’ title we have to avoid a Hyundai one-two. The ideal scenario would be to celebrate the title with the victory.”
For Ogier to be denied the title, he would have to miss out on the points this weekend and the remaining two races of the season, whilst Belgian Thierry Neuville needs to win all the remaining races plus the power stage at each rally.
Mikkelsen’s retirement allowed Hyundai’s Neuville to move up to third in the race, but he is a distant 1 minute, 3.9 seconds behind Ogier.
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