Eight special stages, seven best times – the Volkswagen factory duo Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) have made their mark on round ten of the FIA World Rally Championship in Australia.
Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) have secured fifth place in the overall standings one third of the way into the event, despite starting from an unfavourable position.
As one of the first World Rally Cars to tackle the Special Stages, they cleared all the loose dust and gravel off the track. Andreas Mikkelsen/Paul Nagle (N/IRL) finished the first 94.54 kilometres of 352.36-kilometre time trials in seventh position in the overall standings.
Saturday is the longest day at the Rally Australia. The teams will cover another 132.68 kilometres in the course of six Stages, including completing “Nambucca” twice which, at 49.90 kilometres, is the longest Special Stage in round ten.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7): “We’ve set ourselves the goal of playing it safe and primarily collecting points for the Manufacturers’ Championship and we’re on course to do that at the moment. Our early starting position this morning certainly didn’t give us an advantage – it was very slippery and we had to clear the track for the cars behind us.
The afternoon went better; we worked our way up from eight to fifth position, which will give us a better starting position on Saturday. Saturday could prove crucial for the rally: the Nambucca Stage is almost 50 kilometres long, so everyone will have to pay close attention to their tyres.”
Sébastien Ogier (Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8): “It was a perfect day for us – a really good start to the rally. This morning’s Stages were incredibly slippery, so we had to be really careful. There was a lot of loose gravel on the tracks, which made it difficult to find a good line. That’s why we didn’t go all out to attack because we really didn’t want to crash out of the rally early on because of some stupid mistake.
The grip level was much better this afternoon, so Julien and I had loads of fun in the Polo R WRC. I’d like to say a special thank-you to the organisers for extending the starting interval to four minutes because the rally cars in front were throwing up an incredible amount of dust. All bets are off tomorrow because the weather experts are forecasting rain tonight.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9): “It was a really eventful day for us. Things went very well on the loop this morning until we came to a point where our pace notes were too optimistic. The track went over a blind crest then into a left-hand bend which tightened – more so than I expected. Luckily, there was a lane branching off so I could turn off towards the emergency exit.
Then we sat there, virtually blinded by dust. We had to wait for it to clear before we could keep going. This afternoon brought another scary moment, when I broadsided a bank. After that, it felt like the car had a slow puncture. Luckily, it didn’t. All in all, we’re nevertheless pleased with what we achieved. But the rally is far from over.”
Jost Capito (Volkswagen Motorsport Director): “It was a good, very successful day for Volkswagen at the Rally Australia. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were on top form today – they couldn’t have been better. Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila also made the most of their opportunities, although they had to cope with clearing the track as one of the first World Rally Cars today after a disappointing qualifying.
With that in mind, fifth place in the overall standings is a really good result. Andreas Mikkelsen and Paul Nagle also performed well in the Special Stages today. All in all, we’re satisfied with the first third of the event Down Under. But all of the competitors will face tough challenges in the next two days. We need absolute concentration right to the very end and the whole team will have to work hard without making any mistakes.”