Volkswagen has celebrated another successful weekend in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), extended its lead in the drivers’ and co-drivers’ championship, and retained its position as the number one manufacturer.
Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) took second place behind record-breaking world champion Sébastien Loeb (Citroën), claiming their fifth podium place in this season’s WRC after their fifth outing with the Polo R WRC.
With their double victory in the final Power Stage, the two Volkswagen drivers also secured five extra points in the drivers’ competition.
One third into the season, Ogier/Ingrassia are now 54 points clear at the top of the drivers’ and co-drivers’ leader board, while Volkswagen is 14 points ahead of Citroën in the manufacturers’ championship.
Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) finished the Rally Argentina in eighth place under Rally 2 regulatiuons and achieved some impressive top times in their second event with the Polo R WRC.
Tiny errors make all the difference: Séb beats Séb – Loeb ahead of Ogier
The whole rally was a thrilling battle for first place starring Sébastien Ogier in the Polo R WRC and Sébastien Loeb (Citroën). Sébastien Ogier took the lead in the overall rankings early on with best times in five stages, but lost out following a mistake.
In the seventh special stage, Ogier missed a braking point, skidded off the course and had to reverse. The error cost him 40 seconds and went some way towards deciding who would win the battle of “Séb vs. Séb”.
Sébastien Ogier started the last day of the Rally Argentina with a change of tactics. Instead of attacking mercilessly, the WRC leader maintained his lead over third place until the so-called Power Stage, when the three best teams are awarded extra points. Then he used his choice of tyres – a soft Michelin compound – to seize second position behind his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.
Jari-Matti Latvala put in an untouchable final spurt on the last day of the Rally Argentina. All four stages on Saturday went to Latvala – including the Power Stage. Like his team-mate Ogier, Latvala secured five best times. With this performance, he managed to relegate Evgeny Novikov to fourth place during the 13th and penultimate special stage.
New challenges for the Polo R WRC – Argentina puts the cars to the test
Rough roads with violent jolts – the Rally Argentina made different demands of the World Rally Cars than the gravel rallies which preceded it in the 2013 season. Instead of constant vibrations like the ones they endured during the last event in Portugal, the chassis of the Polo R WRCs had to absorb substantial forces.
However, the construction of the 315-horsepower four-wheel drives from Wolfsburg proved just as tough and fast in the unique conditions of the Rally Argentina: the Volkswagen team won ten of the 14 special stages and bagged eight additional top-three times.
Well-oiled wheels: outstanding teamwork secures podium finishes
The Volkswagen team functioned like well-oiled wheels throughout the Rally Argentina – from precise weather forecasts to the meticulous, reliable work of the mechanics during the eight services and the drivers’ and engineers’ choice of tyres.
Right at the start of the rally, Volkswagen Motorsport’s weather team gave the drivers a small advantage: soft tyres were the right choice for Thursday’s rallying.
The Volkswagen mechanics had their moment of glory on Friday, keeping the Polo R WRCs in tip-top condition with their perfectly organised service although a number of minor repairs were needed.
Then on Saturday, the Volkswagen engineers helped the team to succeed on the final day with a brave but wise decision: once again, they were right to select soft tyres, and this move paved the way for Jari-Matti Latvala to secure a place on the podium and Sébastien Ogier to finish second.
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7: “Today was the best day’s rallying since I joined Volkswagen. The team spirit, the car – everything reached a whole new level today, including the driver. I’m absolutely thrilled to be standing on the podium for the first time in Argentina.
Things often haven’t gone that well here in the last few years, so I’m really pleased to have achieved my goal. The rally was very exciting and varied. Especially in the final phase, we gave our all to secure third place. All in all, finishing second and third is a great result for the whole team.”
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8: “Second place is a brilliant result in terms of the world championship and our success was down to the whole team. I need to say a special thank-you to my crew this time – they were a great support. It was an incredibly challenging and difficult rally and my own performance wasn’t entirely flawless.
It’s a shame that I couldn’t keep fighting it out against Sébastien Loeb right to the end. I would like to congratulate him on winning. Now it’s time for me to look to the future. We’ve got a test to do before the next rally in Greece. We’ll make further improvements to the Polo R WRC then so that we can fight for first place again in four weeks’ time.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9: “Today was quite a finale and we had several more thrilling duels. We really enjoyed the day and the whole rally. Everything is moving in the right direction – our new system for the pace notes, our changes to the set-up and the results of the special stages.
We’re learning more with every metre we cover, and I feel really at home in the Polo R WRC. We’ve still got lots of ideas about what we can do in future rallies to improve further. On Friday afternoon, we deliberately set out to complete the special in a good time.
We didn’t expect to record exactly the same time as my team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala though. Unfortunately, we asked too much of the car in the process. It is my job to combine speed with reliability in the coming rallies. I’m already looking forward to tackling that challenge.”
Jost Capito, Director of Volkswagen Motorsport: “The Rally Argentina showed that the factory teams are very well matched. Every victory is hard won. Our congratulations go to Sébastien Loeb, who made the fewest mistakes here in Argentina.
But we can be very happy with our performance too. As a manufacturer, it feels almost like we’ve won already, having consolidated our lead over our biggest rivals in all of the championships. Every single member of the team made a contribution. I’m proud of everyone.
The team has put in a breathtaking performance during the first third of the season. The Rally Argentina was a constant rollercoaster ride – pure adrenaline. There’s certainly no shame in ultimately losing against the nine-times world champion with a new team like ours.”