(Reuters) - Frenchman Sebastien Ogier claimed a thrilling victory in Finland on Saturday to strengthen his grip on the World Rally Championship with five rounds remaining.
Volkswagen driver Ogier reached the finish in Jyvaskyla with a 36.6 seconds advantage over Belgian Thierry Neuville to win his fifth rally of the season and move 90 points clear in the standings as he chases his first world title.
In reaching the finish first in his Polo, Ogier became only the fifth non-Nordic driver to win the classic test of driving skill around the lakes and forests of Finland.
“I had a dream about winning here,” the Frenchman said.
“A lot of points for the championship and victory in Finland make it a perfect weekend.”
Huge crowds packed the stages in central Finland where four drivers led during the opening seven tests and only 11 seconds covered the top four at the mid-point.
Ogier built a comfortable lead on Friday and was able to drive within himself on the final day when battle raged for second place between Ford Fiesta drivers Neuville and Norwegian Mads Ostberg - the duo trading places through the final stages.
Ostberg span off while avoiding a large rock in the penultimate stage and ended up 21 seconds adrift of Neuville.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said the Belgian. “We did a great job. Yesterday we lost time with a puncture but otherwise it was a smooth, clean run. Before the rally I couldn’t have imagined this result was possible.”
Writing by Martyn Herman in London; Editing by Ken Ferris