NEWS: VW Motorsport & Sébastien Ogier Make WRC History En France
In what was surely one of the most thrilling and close-fought WRC events in recent years, WRC Rally France secured local heroes Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia their first WRC championship title and has surely crowned the most successful WRC debut car ever – VW's Polo R WRC as victor, with an 80 point lead in the manufacturers' championship, with seven wins under their belt. Amazing season debut I think you will agree...?
It was clear Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia would be crowned the new World Champions in the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championships after the opening stage of the Rally France: Following the result of the Power Stage, in which bonus points are on offer to the first three cars, Ogier/Ingrassia could no longer be caught at the top of the overall standings by their last remaining rivals, Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Ford). As such, Ogier/Ingrassia dethroned record World Champions Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Citroën) at their home rally to claim the title for the first time in their careers – with Loeb adding further insult to injury, crashing out of the event... after recording his 900th special stage win, stamping his imortaility on the sport forever.
Then event also threw up another first: never in the history of the WRC had a driver/co-driver pairing won the World Championship at the first attempt with a manufacturer making its debut in the World Rally Championship. VW has made history.
Volkswagen Board Member for Technical Development, Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neusser, and his predecessor Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, father of Volkswagen’s WRC project and Audi Board Member for Technical Development since July, were in Strasbourg to witness the moment the title was won. “This is an incredibly emotional moment for me,” said Dr. Neusser. “I am pleased to be here today to see Sébastien Ogier claim the first title for Volkswagen in our debut year in the World Rally Championship. I would like to thank the outstanding team, which has performed perfectly all year.”
“I am proud that our WRC project, which we launched over two years ago, has already yielded a title today,” said Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg. “I am particularly pleased that Volkswagen has become the first manufacturer in the history of the World Rally Championship to claim its maiden WRC title in its debut season. In my current role as Audi Board Member, I would also like to congratulate the entire Volkswagen team on behalf of Audi. With Audi winning the DTM on last weekend and the WRC title this weekend, this is the perfect end to what, for me personally, has been my most successful week in motorsport to date. I would like to thank the team behind this success from the bottom of my heart. They have done an outstanding job.”
With the Drivers’ Championship in the bag, Sébastien Ogier was given permission by Volkswagen to go all out to win his home rally. Day one as World Champions saw Ogier/Ingrassia take a cautious approach to the Rally France, coming home fifth overall at the end of the first 120.63 kilometres. However, Saturday was all about the World Champions: Ogier/Ingrassia won five of the seven special stages. In doing so, the Volkswagen pair climbed to within 1.5 seconds of their team-mates at the top of the overall standings, Latvala/Anttila. Going into the final day, four pairs – two for Volkswagen and two for Citroën – were separated by just five seconds. An ideal situation for both Volkswagen duos with regard to the Manufacturers’ Championship.
The big step towards the Manufacturers’ title followed on Sunday: first and third – Volkswagen scored 40 points towards the Manufacturers’ Championship, meaning they can now wrap up the title at the next round in Spain, regardless of what their opponents do.
Meanwhile, "Mr Reliable" Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila lined up at the eleventh WRC rally of the season charged with the task of securing as many points as possible towards the Manufacturers’ Championship. Right from the word go, the Finnish duo played their role perfectly: they led going into the final day of the rally, which had been made particularly difficult by heavy rain overnight. Steering clear of any risks, the pair went on to finish third overall. In total, Latvala/Anttila claimed top-three finishes on twelve of the 20 special stages.
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8 said: “That is definitely the most amazing rally weekend of my career: first the World Championship title and now victory at my home rally – absolutely fantastic! What an extremely difficult final day. This morning was so incredibly slippery, but my gravel crew did a fantastic job. I obviously feel for Sébastien Loeb, but he was going all out to win, and that sort of thing can happen in such difficult conditions. It could have happened to anyone today. Today is the highlight of our season, and I am absolutely overjoyed. I would like to thank my guys. We have done a great job all season. I am really proud of what we have achieved.”
Victory at the Rally France saw Sébastien Ogier bring an end to Citroën’s long winning run on asphalt. Citroën’s asphalt era began 2,961 days ago with success for Loeb/Elena at the 2005 Rally Germany. Before today, the last non-Citroën driver to win a purely asphalt round of the World Rally Championship was Markko Märtin (Ford) at the 2004 Rally Spain. Volkswagen so far has eight wins to its name in 2013: seven for Ogier/Ingrassia, and one for Latvala/Anttila.
And talented WRC newcomer, Andreas Mikkelsen/Paul Nagle (N/IRL) ended their asphalt debut with the Polo R WRC in seventh place. The Rally France was a learning process for both driver and co-driver. After a strong start, a shower cost the pair a better position on Friday. On Saturday, Mikkelsen/Nagle struggled with the set-up of their 315-hp World Rally Car. In particularly difficult conditions on Sunday, Mikkelsen/Nagle improved to seventh place. The pair finished in the top five on four special stages.
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7 said: “Congratulations to Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. They were the best this weekend and fully deserved both their win and the World Championship title. They have proven this season that they are outstanding in all conditions and on all surfaces. I am very happy with third place. We produced a flawless display and were consistently quick. That gives me a lot of confidence for the forthcoming rallies. We achieved our goal of scoring important points in the Manufacturers’ Championship. The title is now within touching distance for the team. The poor run over the last three rallies was difficult, and I am glad to have come out the other end. It is a shame for that Sébastien Loeb crashed out on his last rally. However, that in no way detracts from all his incredible performances in recent years.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9 added: “The Rally France was my first asphalt rally with the Polo R WRC. We certainly could not assume that we would immediately be up there with the front-runners. However, I was expecting a little bit more. However, we now know what we have to work on in order to come back stronger in the future. I particularly learned a thing or two about the set-up of the car. We had to be patient, particularly on Saturday, in order to get the best of our material. In the end, it was all about gaining as much experience as possible in difficult conditions. Sunday was much better for us, when the road conditions were particularly hard to judge.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director added: “The Rally France was a great success. On the one hand for rallying in general, and on the other hand for Volkswagen. It does not get any more exciting than the last four days. Ahead of the final day, any one of four drivers could have won. In the end, the new World Champions* – Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia – came out on top. Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila scored valuable points towards the Manufacturers’ Championship. Volkswagen now has every chance of winning this title too in Spain. As Volkswagen Motorsport Director, you cannot ask for more. This weekend we claimed the title in the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championships, won the rally, and took a big step forward. There will be some celebrating this evening.”
As a foot note, to highlight the Polo R WRC's immense achievement in its innaugural season, after Rally France finished and 200 WRC special stages had passed in the 2013 season, the Volkswagen Polo R WRC had 119 stage wins to its name. In achieving this outstanding record, Volkswagen showed a love of milestones: Sébastien Ogier won the World Rally Car from Wolfsburg’s 50th (Mexico) and 100th (Greece) special stages, while the 150th (Germany) went to Jari-Matti Latvala. And the Finn narrowly missed out on another stage win by just 0.6 seconds on the Polo R WRC’s 200th stage.
|FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Rally France – final results|
|1. Sébastien Ogier/Julian Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen||2h 53m 07.6s|
|2. Daniel Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (E/E), Citroën||+ 12.2s|
|3. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miika Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen||+ 19.5s|
|4. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Ford||+ 1m 14.1s|
|5. Evgeny Novikov/Ilka Minor (RUS/A), Ford||+ 3m 10.9s|
|6. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Citroën||+ 3m 37.7s|
|7. Andreas Mikkelesen/Paul Nagle (N/IRL), Volkswagen||+ 4m 04.2s|
|8. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Ford||+ 4m 35.2s|
|9. Robert Kubica/Maciej Baran (PL/PL), Citroën||+ 9m 31.4s|
|10. Romain Dumas/Denis Giraudet (F/F), Ford||+ 11m 55.8s|
|FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Rally France – Power Stage results|
|1. Daniel Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (E/E), Citroën||3m 20.8s|
|2. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Ford||+ 0.7s|
|3. Sébastien Ogier/Julian Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen||+ 0.8s|
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), points standings*
1. Sébastien Ogier, 238 points; 2. Thierry Neuville, 143; 3. Jari-Matti Latvala, 125;
4. Daniel Sordo, 117; 5. Mikko Hirvonen, 111; 6. Mads Østberg, 81; 6. Sébastien Loeb, 68; 8. Evgeny Novikov, 57; 9. Martin Prokop, 49; 10. Andreas Mikkelsen, 40.
1. Volkswagen Motorsport, 339 points, 2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 259 Punkte;
3. Qatar WRT, 157; 4. Qatar M-Sport WRT, 156; 5. Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT, 59;
6. Jipocar Czech National Team, 51; 7. Volkswagen Motorsport II, 40; 8. Lotos WRC Team, 20.
Roll on Wales Rally GB, where we will be reporting live from the event.