Wolfsburg (09 March 2014). Faster and with greater stamina than Speedy Gonzales – Volkswagen enjoyed an outstanding double success at the Rally Mexico. In doing so, winners Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) and runners-up Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) cheated the regulations and extreme conditions at the third round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). En route to the seventh Volkswagen victory in a row, the two leaders in the World Championship laid the foundations for their one-two on the opening day.
They were faced with the obstacle of being first and second onto the route. Despite this, they had still battled their way to first and third place by the end of the first third of the rally. That all-action display was followed by a flawless second day, which saw Ogier and Latvala move to the top of the standings and open up a substantial lead, which just kept growing. On the final day, Ogier and Latvala comfortably controlled the pace to claim the fourth one-two for the Polo R WRC in 16 outings in the World Rally championship. Ignoring the break between seasons, this was the seventh victory in a row for Volkswagen. Come the end of the rally in Mexico, Ogier/Ingrassia were a mighty 5:28.6 minutes ahead of the best-placed non-Volkswagen driver.
The world’s fastest street sweeper: awesome effort from the Volkswagen duo
The WRC regulations meant the two Volkswagen drivers were faced with a luxurious problem on the opening day of the rally. As first, second and fourth in the World Championship, they had the dubious honour of opening the route. In few other rallies is this such a major disadvantage as in Mexico. More and more of the layer of loose gravel is swept out of the way with every World Rally Car that passes. The disadvantage is calculated at about 0.1 seconds per kilometre and per competitor. However, the Volkswagen pairings of Ogier/Ingrassia and Latvala/Anttila produced an energetic display to negate this hindrance. Eight of eleven stage wins went to Wolfsburg on day one alone.
Bonus points on the Power Stage, World Championship lead extended in all three classifications
With victory in Mexico, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia moved into the lead in the overall standings of the World Rally Championship – just ahead of their Volkswagen team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila. Ogier and Ingrassia lead both the Driver and Co-Driver classifications with 63 points, followed by Latvala and Anttila with 60 points. Between them, the two cars increased the lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship significantly. Volkswagen now has 115 points to its name – 55 more than its closest rival Citroën. Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula are fourth overall with 24 points.
XXL team performance – Polo R WRC #9 perfectly restored to working order
The day’s rallying twice ended ahead of schedule for Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN). On Friday, the Volkswagen duo hit a stone when exiting a corner on the “El Chocolate” special stage and damaged the rear-right suspension, bringing their day to a premature end having previously been running second. On Saturday, a mistake in the pace notes resulted in Mikkelsen/Markkula rolling their car when they cut too much off a corner and were flipped over by a hole in the road. Thanks to the outstanding job done by their mechanics, the number nine Polo R WRC was back as good as new by the time it took to the road for Sunday’s special stages. They managed to get the World Rally Car back into top condition within the three-hour time limit specified in the regulations. Mikkelsen/Markkula used the Sunday to gain as much experience as possible at rally pace, setting four top-three times in the process.
High altitude, heat, homework – Polo R WRC, the cleverest World Rally Car
Absolutely reliable and equipped with an intelligent engine control unit, the Volkswagen Polo R WRC set the technological benchmark at the Rally Mexico. The special stages took the teams from about 1,800 metres to 2,800 metres above sea level. The higher you get, the lower the air pressure, oxygen content in the air and cooling efficiency of the engine sink. At temperatures around the 30-degree mark, the objective was to minimise the loss of performance. The Volkswagen engineers took care of the software intelligence of the World Rally Car from Wolfsburg well in advance of the rally in Central America. The engine control unit is used without modification from Monte Carlo right through to the final round in Great Britain.
Physical and mental strength the key to success
Like their World Rally Cars, the Volkswagen drivers and co-drivers arrived at the Rally Mexico as well prepared as physically possible. Fitness was a key to success, particularly on the seven special stages at over 30 kilometres in length, which were tackled at high altitude and in scorching heat. Here too, Volkswagen left nothing to chance: the staff at the sports clinic in Bad Nauheim were tasked with looking after the physical condition of the team. Fitness and diet plans, regular performance tests throughout the season and comprehensive on-site care are part of the everyday rally routine at Volkswagen.
Facts, facts, facts – Volkswagen up there with the best
Volkswagen secured a place in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) record lists with victory number seven in a row. The wins in Australia, France, Spain and Great Britain last year were followed by triumphs in Monte Carlo, Sweden and Mexico this season to produce the second-longest winning run in WRC history. Sébastien Ogier claimed his 18th overall win in the World Rally Championship, with eleven of these successes coming in Volkswagen colours.
Quotes after day three of the Rally Mexico
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Mexico really is a fantastic country for us! I like the rally, and it seems to like me. I picked up my first win as a junior here back in 2008 and took overall victory with Volkswagen last year – and now here I am, back on the top step of the podium. It is a fantastic feeling. Our entire team did a sensational job all weekend, and the Polo R WRC was once again super reliable and super quick in extreme conditions. I was hungry for this win after my mistake in Sweden! That is why Julien and I refrained from taking any risks on the final day. We really wanted to get this win under our belts. And it goes without saying that I also wanted to get my hands on the Power Stage points. Although we will now have to act as street sweepers for the opposition at the next round in Portugal, the World Championship points are more important than anything else.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“I am really very happy with second place. Having been first onto the route on day one, which meant we were quite a long way off the lead, we set our sights on a place on the podium. The Rally Mexico was hard work and also very demanding on the cars. The Polo coped admirably with the stresses and strains of the high altitude and soaring temperatures, and our team also did a perfect job. Thanks for that. That was the best Rally Mexico so far for Miikka and me. We came through without any mistakes and finished runner-up for the first time. We are still almost level with our team-mates, without having to start first again in Portugal.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“A tough rally for us. Retiring twice is not exactly what we had in mind. I just made too many mistakes. Thanks to the great job done by my mechanics, I was still able to gain a few kilometres of experience at the Rally Mexico on Sunday, which will allow us to push hard again next year. All in all, we learned an awful lot here – unfortunately we did it the hard way. I will analyse it in detail over the coming days, and will prepare as well as possible for the coming rally in Portugal. We will come back stronger, and hopefully return to the podium there.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“A one-two in these difficult conditions and given the new regulations regarding the starting order is more than we had expected coming into the Rally Mexico. I take my hat off to Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and our engineers, who made this success possible. The performance of the two drivers was undoubtedly outstanding. However, the one-two is also a team success. Whether the chassis department or the engine department, the Polo R WRC was perfectly prepared for the difficult conditions. The champagne tastes particularly good today, as success in Mexico is always a bit special. It is the first gravel event of the year, and virtually a home event for Volkswagen. After all, our models are part of the scenery here. Everything came together here in Mexico, and we are very proud of what we have achieved.”
And then there was …
… Volkswagen Mexico. From the roadshow in Mexico City to the guest services in León and out on the special stages, our Mexican colleagues ensured everything was perfectly organised. Thank you! Volkswagen Mexico also celebrated its 50th anniversary in León.
And then there was also …
… the chef in the Volkswagen team. Daniel Zillgen spent the past few days meticulously ensuring that only American or Argentinean meat was served. In the case of Mexican meat, there is a risk that the drug Clenbuterol was used during breeding. This particular drug is also a banned doping substance.
Words & Photos: VW Motorsport