(Reuters) - French driver Sebastien Ogier won Rally Sweden, the second round of the season, to go top of the world championship standings on Sunday in the first victory for his Volkswagen team and their Polo car.
Ogier, 29, took the lead from Citroen’s nine-times world champion compatriot Sebastien Loeb on Friday and stayed ahead for the rest of the event on snow and ice, rounding out the final leg with a win in the power stage for bonus points.
Monte Carlo winner Loeb, who is not defending his title and is competing in only four events this season, finished runner-up and 41.8 seconds behind his former team mate.
Ogier, who has now won eight world championship rallies in his career, has 46 points to Loeb’s 43 with Norwegian Mads Ostberg third on 24.
Ostberg finished third and 42.7 seconds behind Loeb after a final leg with five stages in Norway. Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala - last year’s winner with Ford - was fourth for Volkswagen.
The French one-two marked the worst showing by regional drivers in the event’s history. Ogier was only the second non-Nordic driver, after Loeb in 2004, to win in Sweden.
“The win here was amazing but also a big surprise,” said the Frenchman, who said he had a perfect car all weekend.
”We have spent so much time and effort with the team in preparation - all of last year - but we never expected to have this performance so soon.
“It couldn’t be better. This morning Sebastien was putting a lot of pressure on. He was flying into the stages. We tried to follow him without maximum risk but we had to push because he was so fast. To win like that is amazing,” Ogier told the official wrc.com website.
Loeb said there was nothing more he could have done and congratulated his compatriot.
“We didn’t get a good road position, then we changed the car set-up to try and improve things but that led to two mistakes on the first day and the loss of about 30 seconds,” said the champion.
”OK, Sebastien Ogier didn’t make any mistakes. He has done the perfect rally. There was nothing more I could do.
Volkswagen, who have never won the world championship, are making their return to the series this season.
The third round is in Guanajuato, Mexico, from March 7-10.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond