Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia could secure both the driver and co-driver titles with a win at the ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Volkswagen lines up at the Rally Germany in the role of both the hunter and the hunted. Should their closest rivals have a bad weekend, World Championship leaders Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia (F/F) could secure both the driver and co-driver titles with a win at the ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Volkswagen also leads the Manufacturers’ Championship going into its home event. Six of the season’s eight rallies so far have been won by the Polo R WRC – on ice, snow and gravel. The 315-hp World Rally Car from Wolfsburg will be given its next baptism of fire on the asphalt route between Cologne and Trier from 22 to 25 August. Still in its debut season, the Polo R WRC will line up at its first purely asphalt rally. And it faces some tough opposition: for almost a decade, Citroën has been unbeatable on this surface in the WRC. As such, Volkswagen is not necessarily favourite to win its home event, at which Ogier/Ingrassia will once again be joined by works duos Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) and Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN).
For technicians: 95 millimetres lower and far more rigid – the Polo R WRC
There is a big difference between the asphalt and gravel variants of the Polo R WRC, particularly when it comes to ground clearance. 95 millimetres to be precise. The Michelin grooved tyres typically used on gravel rallies, on 17-inch wheels with 215-millimetre treads, make way for the slick variants on 18-inch wheels with 235-millimetre treads. The chassis is modified to meet the specific demands faced on asphalt, and is given a far more rigid set-up. The Polo R WRC will be competing for the first time with this configuration and on these track conditions, apart from a few kilometres on asphalt at the Rally Monte Carlo in January. Volkswagen Motorsport is leaving nothing to chance ahead of this debut: the team and all three driver/co-driver pairings spent July’s tests around Veldenz preparing meticulously for the Rally Germany.
For experts: the character of the Rally Germany
Narrow, winding streets and tight hairpins lined by vineyards along the Mosel on the one hand, quick routes and the infamous Panzerplatte with its ruthless boulders on the other – the Rally Germany is an anomaly on the WRC calendar. While the World Rally Cars scale the vineyards hairpin by hairpin on special stages like “Dhrontal”, thus providing fans with the unique opportunity to follow the action from on high, the Baumholder military training area has a completely different feel to it. The trademarks here are the huge boulders (Hinkelsteine), which are actually designed to stop tanks in their tracks. Thousands of fans on this site, which is usually off limits to the public, are often witnesses to dramatic events – such as twisted suspensions, which inevitably lose out in a tussle with the mighty boulders. At the same time, the route in Baumholder is also designed to allow fans to see as much of the WRC cars as possible – hence the name “‘Arena’ Panzerplatte”.
For aficionados: start at Cologne Cathedral
The Rally Germany will start out from in front of a venerable backdrop when it gets underway on Thursday. The World Rally Cars will launch their campaigns at the ninth round of the season in grand style from Roncalliplatz, in front of the imposing Cologne Cathedral. After the flying visit to the gothic cathedral, the stars of the WRC will race through the centre of Cologne to Harry-Blum-Platz, before they head towards Trier and the first two special stages. The Rally Germany ends on Sunday with the “Dhrontal” Power Stage. Only at the end of 16 special stages and 371.92 kilometres against the clock will the fastest man be crowned the winner.
For mathematicians: Ogier and Ingrassia with a chance to clinch the title
Should they pull a further 22 points clear of the chasing pack at the Rally Germany, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia would be out of reach in both the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ competitions in the World Rally Championships. The Volkswagen works duo currently hold a commanding 90-point lead over their closest rivals, the fellow Volkswagen pairing of Jari-Matti Latvala und Miikka Anttila, and Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul (Ford). So what are the chances of Ogier and Ingrassia securing the title in Germany? Extremely slim.
Victory in the World Rally Championship is rewarded with 25 points, with the fastest car over the Power Stage at each rally picking up a further three points. As such, Ogier/Ingrassia would have to lead by at least 112 points ahead of the remaining four rallies in order to complete the upset in the debut season with the Polo R WRC as early as the Rally Germany. Even if their opponents leave Germany empty-handed, second place and victory on the Power Stage – 18 plus three points (21 in total) – would not be sufficient. Should Ogier win the rally and clock the fastest time on the Power Stage, then Jari-Matti Latvala and Thierry Neuville must finish at least seventh to deny the Volkswagen duo an early celebration.
Incidentally: Sébastien Ogier recently equalled his personal best of five wins in one season with victory at the Rally Finland. He now has twelve race wins to his name in the World Rally Championship.
For historians: Ogier/Ingrassia and their outstanding success in 2011
Ten rallies, nine times Loeb, ten times Citroën – anyone looking back over the recent history of the Rally Germany will find few anomalies in the winners list since 2002. There is one, however: Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia triumphed in 2011 – still with Citroën at the time – making them the only driver/co-driver pairing to have defeated record world champion Sébastien Loeb in the vineyards around Trier.
Their team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila can also point to top results at the Rally Germany. Last year’s second place was the best result to date for the Finnish duo. Andreas Mikkelsen also has fond memories of the Rally Germany. As a 19-year-old in 2008, he clocked his first fastest stage time in the World Rally Championship. Mikkelsen tied with Sébastien Loeb and Petter Solberg on the popular “Circus Maximus” spectator stage. Last year, at the wheel of the less powerful Škoda Fabia S200, he picked up another point on the same stage, setting the third fastest time.
Quotes ahead of the Rally Germany
Jari-Matti Latvala, Polo R WRC #7
“I particularly like the ‘Arena Panzerplatte’ stage on the Rally Germany. Routes like that have their very own unique allure and should feature far more often on rallies. Otherwise, some of the roads are very reminiscent of Finland. There are a lot of wide roads, on which you can really put your foot down. Especially as the entire Rally Germany is held on asphalt. The vineyard areas on the Mosel have their very own flair, which is unique to the World Rally Championship. When it is dry there, those sections are brilliant. But woe betide it should rain! The roads then become muddy and it is extremely difficult to control the car. I finished runner-up last year – my best result here to date. I would like to achieve at least that again, in order to present our dedicated team with a good result at its home rally.”
Sébastien Ogier, Polo R WRC #8
“I am trying to take a totally happy-go-lucky approach to the Rally Germany. A win would obviously be a hugely important step towards the title. And the World Championship is my dream for this season. However, when you look at the current standings, I do not necessarily have to win at all costs. My goal will be to maintain my lead in the Drivers’ Championship. Having said that, victory in Germany would be fantastic for my team. They more than deserve it. Our team is making all the difference at the moment. We head to Germany full of confidence. To be perfectly honest: why shouldn’t we win there?”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Polo R WRC #9
“The Rally Germany will be a very special event, for both the team and the drivers. It is particularly important for Volkswagen to achieve a good result at its home rally. Everyone involved will be especially focussed. The Rally Germany is the first real asphalt rally of the year, and consists of many different types of asphalt. There are three different kinds of special stage. On the one hand you have the military special stages, with quite aggressive concrete. Then there are the vineyards with their narrow, gravelly roads. And then you also have the roads with perfectly flat asphalt. For me, the Rally Germany is the most challenging asphalt rally. Prior to the rally we had a test on asphalt, at which our car was excellent. I am now really looking forward to the Rally Germany.”