Motorsport: Ogier claims world rally title

French driver Sebastien Ogier clinched his first world rally title overnight, succeeding compatriot Sebastien Loeb who won the past nine championships.

Ogier, in a Volkswagen, wrapped up the crown in the Power Stage on the opening day of the Rally of France.

He was assured of the title when Belgium's Thierry Neuville, the only man who could delay the celebrations, managed just second place on the stage which was won by Spain's Dani Sordo.

Ogier was third while Loeb, who has raced in only four events in his retirement season, was down in seventh spot.

Neuville needed to take the three points on offer to the winner of the Power Stage to keep alive his slim hopes of snatching the title.

But he now stands 82 points behind Ogier with just 81 points on offer in the last three races - in France, Spain and Great Britain.

Ogier, 29, and co-driver Julien Ingrassia, capped a fine first full season in the world rally championship for German manufacturer Volkswagen.

Loeb, 39, had pledged to push Ogier all the way in France, but his challenge fizzled out on Thursday.

"I'm so happy. Before the stage I was a bit confused about whether it would happen, but we're here and we managed to do it,'' said Ogier after seeing Neuville finish just 0.7sec off Sordo's pace.

"Eight year's we've worked for this!'' added Ingrassia.

Neuville, who had needed to win the last three rallies while also hoping that Ogier would finish without another point, remained upbeat.

"We knew already that we couldn't really win, so it doesn't change anything,'' said the Belgian.

"What's important is that we were quicker here than Jari-Matti Latvala and I hope to get one or two more points this weekend. Can I win? I don't know, we will try, but we want second in the championship more, so points are the priority.''

Mikko Hirvonen is fourth overnight, with Andreas Mikkelsen fifth and Latvala sixth. Loeb is seventh, 2.9sec off the lead.

- AFP

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