- Third win of the 2014 WRC for Ogier/Ingrassia, fourth for Volkswagen
- Record achievement – longest winning run in WRC history for the Polo R WRC
- Volkswagen increases its lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship
Wolfsburg (06 April 2014). Volkswagen claimed a hard-fought win at the toughest rally of the year. In difficult, variable conditions, defending champions Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) secured the fourth victory of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship for the Polo R WRC – the eighth in a row for Volkswagen including the events at the end of last season. The duo’s 19th triumph was far from a walk in the park – the Rally Portugal featured three different manufacturers on the podium, duels that came down to tenths of a second, and three different leaders over the course of the rally. The Volkswagen pairing of Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) ended the rally fourth overall. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) fought back after a crash on Friday. In doing so, they picked up valuable points in the Manufacturers’ Championship and finished runner-up behind Sébastien Ogier on the closing Power Stage, on which bonus points were up for grabs for the fastest three drivers.
“The Rally Portugal was just as we expected – difficult for the team and drivers, but ultimately successful,” said a delighted Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neußer, Volkswagen Board Member for Technical Development. “Our duo of Ogier/Ingrassia once again showed their class in difficult conditions. But the team also did another fantastic job. The way they managed to get Jari-Matti Latvala’s back up and running within the allotted time after his crash was mighty impressive. Another reason this trip to Portugal has been so worthwhile for me is that it is great to experience the enthusiasm of the many fans lining the route and cheering our drivers on so magnificently.”
“Recce”, tyres, rally action – the stories from the Rally Portugal
The rally in Portugal soon developed into an eventful and successful week for the Volkswagen team. The prologue to the success story came courtesy of Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia, who won the “Fafe Rally Spring” show event in front of 140,000 spectators. Persistent heavy rain then made for particularly difficult conditions at the Rally Portugal: the “Recce” had to be delayed at times, and special stages were shortened due to soft ground on the saturated route. Despite the return of the sunshine, the Friday of the rally was dominated by the tricky issue of tyre selection – Michelin’s softer compound emerged as the ideal choice over the course of the rally. With only 16 soft tyres available, pacing the tyres was top priority by Sunday.
From Australia to Portugal – a winning run to go down in WRC history
Victory for Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia marked the eighth consecutive triumph for the Polo R WRC. This sees Volkswagen equal the longest winning run in the history of the World Rally Championship. The team won in Australia, France, Spain and Great Britain in 2013, and has since added victories in Monte Carlo, Sweden, Mexico and Portugal this season. The record was previously held by WRC rival Citroën, who achieved the same feat in 2011. After just 17 outings for the Polo R WRC in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), the World Rally Car from Wolfsburg has now equalled that record.
Anniversaries and celebratory arias: the numbers behind the victory in Portugal
Volkswagen celebrated another milestone in the history of the Polo R WRC at the Rally Portugal. The 315-hp four wheel-drive powerhouse contested its 300th special stage on Friday. Just as it had on its previous anniversaries – 50, 100, 150 and 250 – the Polo R WRC celebrated its latest achievement with another stage win. Seven special stages later it had brought up another milestone: the 200th stage win since making its debut in 2013. By the end of the Rally Portugal, Volkswagen had won 204 of the 312 special stages it has contested since the start of last season – a success rate of 65 per cent. Of 850 possible top-three times, 459 have gone to the Polo R WRC. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia’s victory marked the 24th podium and 14th win in 17 rallies since 2013 for Volkswagen.
The #2 Polo R WRC returns from the dead – a super-human (Portuguese) effort
A truly energetic performance was behind the return of Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila to the Rally Portugal. Minor mistake, major consequences – running second and challenging for the lead at the time, the Finnish duo’s Friday came to a premature end. Within the three hours allotted, head mechanic Jose Azevedo and his predominantly Portuguese crew had the Polo R WRC back up and running at his home event. It was an effort worth its weight in gold, for both Latvala/Anttila and for the Volkswagen team: the team went on to pick up a further four valuable points in the Manufacturers’ Championship. Latvala/Anttila repaid their crew’s show of strength with two stage wins. At the end of the rally, the Finnish pair finished runner-up on the Power Stage to pick up two bonus points for the driver and co-driver competitions.
Fourth place: damage limitation for Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula
Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula endured a testing weekend in the third Polo R WRC. Making their second start at the Rally Portugal with the World Rally Car from Wolfsburg, they decided ahead of the event to create a new set of pace notes. However, the strong rain and resulting poor visibility during the “Recce” meant their pace notes were less detailed than desired. The Norwegian/Finnish duo set about a damage limitation exercise without taking too many risks. Unlike in Sweden and Mexico, the times were not on a par with their team-mates. However, fourth place in Portugal represented a decent result at a rally, at which all the competitors struggled to come to terms with tough and difficult conditions.
Out front in all three competitions – blue and white dominate the WRC standings
The successful Rally Portugal sees Volkswagen extend its leads in the Drivers’, Co-Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championships. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have 91 points to their name – 29 more than their team-mates and closest rivals in the World Championship Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila. Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula are currently fourth overall. In the Manufacturers’ Championship, Volkswagen increased its lead over rival Citroën by 14 points to 69.
Quotes after day three of the Rally Portugal
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Four wins in five years. It is no exaggeration: the Rally Portugal is one of my very favourites! The whole week has been fantastic for Julien and me. First the fantastic show in front of more than 100,000 fans at the ‘Fafe Rally Sprint’, and now the icing on the cake with our title defence at the Rally Portugal on the Algarve. The encouragement and support of the fans is rather special here. We only took as many risks as needed on soft tyres on the final day. Despite this, our goal was obviously to pick up the three points on the Power Stage, although Jari-Matti did not make it easy for me. The lead in the World Championship is now a bit larger, but the opposition is not sleeping – Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Østberg showed that. I heard that Markku Alén is the uncrowned king with five wins in Portugal. We can achieve that too next year. That is our goal.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“The Rally Portugal has shown once again that it is deservedly seen as one of the most difficult rallies in the world. Our pace was very good, so we had the opportunity to finish on the podium. Unfortunately, however, an avoidable little mistake on Friday had pretty big consequences. That was very disappointing and put paid to any chances of a good result. We then altered our strategy and targeted the Power Stage. We kept some soft tyres back, in order to be mount an assault on the bonus points – and that paid off, as we finished runner-up. The gap to our team-mates at the top of the championship has grown, but there is still a long way to go this season. We can be confident about our performance going into the event in Argentina, and will hopefully challenge for victory again there.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“All in all the Rally Portugal did not go as I had hoped, although the eventual result was not so bad. We decided to write some new pace notes. However, the heavy raid during the ‘Recce’ made visibility so poor that I could not really put any faith in the new pace notes. The variable conditions at the start of the rally also made me a bit cautious. I lost a lot of time, but the last thing I wanted to do was to take too many risks. That paid off, in terms of the result at least: fourth place is the best we could really have hoped for as it turns out. I was happy with my own performance again on Sunday. The rhythm was good. I am looking forward to the coming rally in Argentina.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“The fourth success of the season, a host of new milestones, and a fantastic winning run – what the entire Volkswagen team achieved this weekend, despite the difficult conditions, is simply outstanding. I am incredibly proud of everyone involved. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were in a league of their own, put their foot down at exactly the right moments, and fully deserved to win. Andreas Mikkelsen and Mikko Markkula made the best of a difficult situation, showing great maturity in the process. The same goes for Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila. Despite their crash on Friday, they managed to limit the damage, score valuable points for us in the Manufacturers’ Championship, and pick up points for themselves on the Power Stage. They can be grateful to the Volkswagen mechanics, without whose energetic efforts none of that would have been possible. As Motorsport Director, I can only be one thing about all that: proud.”
And then there was …
… the “French Connection”. At the Rally Portugal, the winning pairing of Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia formed a unique liaison with Francois-Xavier „FX“ Demaison, Technical Project Leader for the WRC at Volkswagen. The “father of the Polo R WRC” was acting as car engineer at the fourth rally of the season, while Gerard-Jan de Jongh was at the birth of his second child. “FX” had stepped into the same role for Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila when their race engineer Fabrice van Ertvelde took a brief “paternity leave”.
And then there was also …
… Sébastien Ogier’s 19th victory in the World Rally Championship. A special win for two reasons: Ogier drew level with Markku Alén in the all-time list. With five wins to his name, Alén is the uncrowned king of Portugal and was on the Algarve to watch this year’s event. Ogier now has four victories in Portugal to his name, and is hot on Alén’s heels. Win number 19 also had a practical advantage: Ogier was presented with his weight in olive oil at the presentation ceremony – a gift from the organisers.
Words & Photos: VW Motorsport