Nine rallies, nine class victories: Volkswagen Motorsport has successfully continued its test programme for the coming season in the World Rally Championship. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia (F/F) won the strongly represented Super 2000 class at the WRC Rally Great Britain in Wales, finished in 12th overall and collected valuable experience on the many fast and at times slippery gravel stages.
Their teammates Kevin Abbring and Frédéric Miclotte (NL/B) finished in 25th after sustaining suspension damage and also gained crucial insights into the tradition-steeped rally for the team. Volkswagen Motorsport fields two Fabia S2000 cars of the Group’s Škoda brand in order to prepare under competition conditions for the 2013 season in which Volkswagen will compete with the new Polo R WRC.
“Now the final phase of our preparations begins for next year’s World Rally Championship. On one side we’re working hard on the Polo R WRC, at the same time we’re preparing the team for the new task. Our aim in Wales was to get to know the rally under competition conditions and to gain as much experience as possible. Bringing both cars to Cardiff was important for the entire team. The ninth class win shows that the crew is already working with a high degree of routine and is competitive,” explained Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito.
Right from the start, the Super 2000 class was dominated by Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. The French pairing scored the top times in 16 of the 19 special stages (325 km SS/1,600 km in total). Already after the first leg which ran from the Welsh coastal town of Llandudno to the south, Ogier/Ingrassia were running more than a minute ahead of the opposition and thanks to a faultless effort extended their advantage bit by bit. “On the first day the conditions were sometimes pretty difficult, as the stages were muddy and very slippery. On Saturday, however, it was a different experience because dry tracks on the Rally Great Britain by now have been in short supply. All up, the fast gravel stages were great fun,” explained Sébastien Ogier, for whom this marked his eighth class victory this season. “Our goal was to familiarise ourselves with the event and to reach the finish – which I managed to do here for the first time without Rally 2 regulations. The fight in our class was decided early, at the same time we posed no threat to the many stronger WRC cars.” At the end of the rally in Wales, the 28-year-old resumes the test programme with the Polo R WRC with which Volkswagen aims to contest the World Rally Championship in the future.
Kevin Abbring and Frédéric Miclotte also used their start on the British Isles to further their wealth of experience. On Friday, Abbring had reckoned with good weather and hence set-up his 270 hp Škoda Fabia specifically for this – but it worked out differently. The stages were wet and slippery. “Our set-up was too rigid, we didn’t have enough grip on the slippery passages. And because of the limited possibilities in the remote service we couldn’t do much about it either,” Abbring analysed. But on Saturday morning he managed to make up ground and moved up into second in class after the eighth special stage.
In stage nine, the Dutchman damaged the right front suspension of his Fabia. Abbring commented, “Unfortunately a huge stone lay on the track and a wishbone link broke. We couldn’t continue driving and had to retire from the rest of the stage on Saturday.” The Volkswagen team repaired the damages in the Service Park in Cardiff, Abbring received a 25-minute time penalty as per the Rally 2 regulations, and was back in action on Sunday. “Basically we can be very happy. Our speed was good and I quickly found a good rhythm,” said Abbring, who scored two best times on Sunday and worked intensively on his pace notes with his co-driver Frédéric Miclotte. “I’ve developed my pace note system over the years and by now couldn’t fall back on my old notes. But the pace notes we made here will help me in the future.”