Solberg shock after Rally France
SPRAYING IN VAIN: Norway's Petter Solberg celebrated third place after the 2011 Rally of France but his excitement was short-lived - his car was disqualified for being underweight.Image: AFP
HAGANEAU, France - Citroen driver Sebastien Ogier rekindled his bid for a first World championship title by winning the Rally of France on Sunday while former champion Petter Solberg was controversially disqualified.
Overnight leader Ogier finished six seconds ahead of Spaniard Dani Sordo in a Mini Cooper with Norway's Solberg third but more than a minute off the pace, in his privateer Citroen. Solberg, the 2003 World champion, was later disqualified when his car was found to be four kilos too light.
HIRVONEN GOES THIRD
Team manager Ken Rees said: "We don't understand. We weighed the car many times. It is a catastrophe for Petter and our team because we have already had problems with a budget to finish the season.”
The decision promoted Ford Focus driver Mikko Hirvonen to third in the race standings and he now has 196 points in the championship standings, the same as leader Sebastien Loeb with two races left - Spain and Britain.
27-year-old Ogier claimed his seventh rally victory and is three points behind Loeb and Hirvonen. "It was a very long weekend with a lot of pressure," Ogier said before Solberg's disqualification.
"Dani and Petter made life difficult for me, it was hard to take the rally lead and hold it. I feel relieved and happy to have managed this race well without taking too many risks."
He added: "It's a very good feeling. It was difficult at the end because there was a lot of pressure after the problem for Seb (Loeb). It's very important for the championship but now I must do two good rallies."
Loeb, chasing an eighth World title, was forced out of this 11th leg of the 13-rally season when his Citroen’s engine packed up.
FIRST HOME WIN
Ogier, who comes from Gap in southern France, won 10 special stages and gained a bonus point for finishing third in the event-closing Power Stage which was won by Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala.
It was his first win on home soil and his fifth this season after Portugal, Jordan, Greece and Germany. Ogier also won in Portugal and Japan in 2010 on his way to fourth place in the overall World championship series.
Mini is back competing in the world Rally championship after a lengthy absence.
"Two rallies on tarmac and two podiums is amazing and feels like a victory," Sordo, Loeb's former Citroen team mate, who has finished on the podium 30 times, told WRC.com.
"It’s an incredible result, very nice and in the end I am very happy."
New standings after Sunday's final day of the Rally of France and the disqualification of Petter Solberg
1 Sébastien Ogier (FRA/Citroën DS3) 3hr06min20.4
2 Dani Sordo (ESP/Mini John Cooper Works) +6.3
3 Mikko Hirvonen (FIN/Ford Fiesta RS) +3min26.6
4 Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN/Ford Fiesta RS) +3min30.3
5 Dennis Kuipers (NED/Ford Fiesta RS) +6min42.0
6 Henning Solberg (NOR/Ford Fiesta RS) +7min08.3
7 Mads Ostberg (NOR/Ford Fiesta RS) +7min58.3
8 Ken Block (USA/Ford Fiesta RS) +8min25.5
9 Pierre Campana (FRA/Mini John Cooper Works) +8min38.7
Petter Solberg (NOR/Citroën DS3)
Sébastien Loeb (FRA/Citroën DS3), Kimi Räikkönen (FIN/Citroën DS3)
Ogier: 10 (2,3,5,9,11,13 dead-heat,14,15,17,22 dead-heat)
Latvala: 7 (4,16,18,20,21,22 dead-heat,23)
Sordo: 4 (6 dead-heat,8,12,19)
P Solberg: 4 (6 dead-heat,7,10,13 dead-heat),Loeb 1 (1)
Drivers' points standings
1= S Loeb (FRA), M Hirvonen (FIN) 196
3 S Ogier (FRA) 193
4 J-M. Latvala (FIN) 131
5 P Solberg (NOR) 110
6 M Ostberg (NOR) 62
7 M Wilson (GBR) 53
8 D. Sordo (ESP) 43
9 H Solberg (NOR) 40
10 K Räikkönen (FIN) 34
Teams’ points standings
1 Citroën Racing 372
2 Ford 318
3 Stobart-Ford 133
4 Petter Solberg WRT 98
5 Ice1 Racing 48
6= FERM-Ford, Abu Dhabi-Ford 34
8 Munchi's-Ford 32
9 Monster-Ford 19
10 Van Merksteijn Motorsport 12