WRC: Rally Italy sees Volkswagen back on top of the podium
A big step forward in the race for the World Championship: Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) and Volkswagen made a big point with victory at the Rally Italy. Ogier and Ingrassia’s third win in a row on Sardinia allowed Volkswagen to significantly extend its leads in the Drivers’, Co-Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championships. After almost half the season in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Ogier/Ingrassia are now 66 points clear of their closest rivals, while Volkswagen holds a 65-point lead. The road to the Polo R WRC’s fifth win of the season at the sixth rally of the year was literally a rocky one: faced with extremely tough conditions, scorching heat and the longest day of rallying for over a decade, the World Rally Car from Wolfsburg proved to be the fastest and most reliable. 14 special stages went to Volkswagen in Italy. Despite set-backs, Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) were able to fight their way back to finish sixth in Italy. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene, returning for the second time under Rally 2 regulations, finished third behind their two team-mates to claim a bonus point on the Power Stage.
Top class: TurbOgier on the podium for the 25th time with Volkswagen
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are the weekend’s biggest winners, and not only courtesy of their third victory in a row on Sardinia: they paced themselves intelligently at a rally that placed the car under enormous strain, ramping up the pressure at exactly the right time to move into the lead, and then defending that lead cleverly in the closing stages. All the top teams suffered set-backs at the Rally Italy, as the tough conditions took their toll – except Ogier and Ingrassia. Ogier/Ingrassia took their place on the podium for the 25th time with the Polo R WRC – 21 times as winners and four times as runners-up.
Sheer willpower rewarded with points: Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila
In contrast, Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) lost time on several occasions. However, they showed an exemplary attitude to score valuable World Championship points for themselves and Volkswagen. Two punctures on Friday and Saturday initially cost them about three minutes, while damage to the suspension following a collision with a rock on the racing line cost a further five. Despite this, Latvala/Anttila and a valiant mechanic – coupled with a magnificent driving display – ensured the damage was kept to an absolute minimum. In total, the Finnish duo won seven special stages – more than their team-mates. The final result: an outstanding sixth place, given the set-backs.
A courageous point on the Power Stage: strong finishing sprint from Andreas Mikkelsen
Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) also claimed a moral victory. The duo were forced to retire on Friday after unfortunately hitting a hole in the road, and also failed to complete the Saturday. However, rejoining the race under Rally 2 regulations for the second time, they took their chance on Sunday to ensure they did not leave Italy empty-handed: Mikkelsen/Fløene scored one World Championship point, courtesy of third place on the Power Stage, on which points are awarded to the fastest three cars. They were only beaten by their team-mates Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia and Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila. For Volkswagen, these marked the 53rd, 54th and 55th time that one of the duos had picked up bonus points in 31 Power Stages.
Almost 30 degrees – Rally Italy a real scorcher and a bone-shaker
The kind of high temperatures that have virtually become a tradition on Sardinia made the Rally Italy a real scorcher – with air temperatures of around 29 degrees and up to 43 degrees out on the road. Faced with an extremely rutty gravel route, including large rocks, the drivers and co-drivers had to remain fully focussed at all times. This was a particularly tough challenge on Saturday: at 212.83 kilometres, this was the longest day of rallying since the 2002 Safari Rally. The long days meant the team was also pushed to its limit. The mechanics were working until shortly before midnight – the alarm then woke them again at five in the morning. However, the team provided the perfect backing for Ogier, Latvala and Mikkelsen and guaranteed three perfectly-prepared Polo R WRCs every morning.
Formula for success: the Rally Italy in facts and figures
The 27th victory for the Polo R WRC in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) and podium number 52 since the World Rally Car made its debut in January 2013: Volkswagen added new chapters to its remarkable success story on Sardinia. The Polo R WRC now has 406 stage wins from 592 special stages, having added a further 14 in Italy. Since the project started at the Rally Monte Carlo in 2013, the Polo R WRCs have completed a total of 30,108.95 kilometres against the clock. That is the equivalent of about three quarters of the way around the earth at rally speed.
Quotes after day three of the Rally Italy
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“The win here on Sardinia was very important in our fight for the world championship. We now have a big lead over our rivals. The decisive factor for the success in addition to a perfect car and a fantastic team was that Julien and I were in perfect harmony this weekend. This is nothing unusual, but there were so many new stages here and the days were so long, that we both needed to be fully focussed the whole time. On top of that is the heat in the cockpit and the demanding and harsh stages – at the end of the day you are absolutely shattered when you fall into bed. This has been the most physically demanding rally of the season so far. Which is why I am so delighted and proud of this success in Italy.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“The Polo R WRC continued to perform well today, but after yesterday’s events it wasn’t really possible to make up any ground. That’s why we focussed on the Power Stage. Successfully. All in all, I should be happy with sixth place and a total of ten points after the Power Stage considering the problems I had this weekend. Despite this, there are also some positives to take away. We were fast over the entire distance. We can build on that for Poland. I’m looking forward to it already!“
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“It wasn’t going to be possible to get anything other than points on the Power Stage today. I really went for it, and with success. I did well on the Power Stage, I didn’t make any mistakes and did the best I could with the starting position. It’s good that we took something that counts away. But naturally I am disappointed that we had something of a difficult rally here – and we will learn from this. I’m already looking ahead to the next rally weekend in Poland. It suited me well last year and we staged a great duel with Sébastien Ogier for the win. I hope that we can build on that in two weeks.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“The Rally Italy had many highs and lows for Volkswagen. And ultimately a happy ending. The third win in a row here for Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia sees them take a big step forward in the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championship, and it is also worth its weight in gold for Volkswagen in the Manufacturers’ Championship. Winning this hot rally, which is very demanding on the car, is far from easy and certainly not a stroll in the park. We learned that the hard way with Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen. However, both made the most of difficult situations after the set-backs. I have the utmost respect for their effort too. I am pleased for the entire team and we can look back on an extremely successful first half of the season together. All the cogs fit together perfectly throughout the entire team – from driver to mechanic, engineer to chef, and logistician to medical department. We can all be very proud of that.“