Just one small step from achieving the main goal: with three races still to go, one single world championship point is all that stands between Volkswagen duo Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) and the Driver and Co-Driver titles. The French pair has its sights set on picking up that all-important point in the Polo R WRC at their home rally, when the region around Strasbourg hosts the Rally France from 03 to 06 October. Round eleven of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) promises to be a true master class and could well feature a mighty duel with a great champion: among those out to deny Ogier/Ingrassia will be nine-time winners and defending champions Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (F/MC, Citroën). This duel has already been played out three times in 2013. Ahead of the Rally France, the score stands at 2:1 in favour of Citroën Séb – a source of great motivation for his namesake in Volkswagen colours.
Ogier/Ingrassia now hold an 83-point lead over their only remaining title contenders Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B). Should the Ford duo fail to win the Power Stage, then Ogier/Ingrassia will already get their hands on the title as early as the first evening of the rally.
However, there is more at stake for Volkswagen at the Rally France than just winning the Driver and Co-Driver titles. With just three races remaining, the Wolfsburg-based outfit currently leads defending champions Citroën by 48 points in the Manufacturers’ Championship, with a maximum 43 points per round on offer. “Our goal is to maintain this lead, or even extend it if possible,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “Firstly, however, we want to do everything in our power to ensure that Sébastien and Julien finally achieve their dream of winning the World Championship title at their home rally. Furthermore, the duel between Sébastien Ogier and local favourite Sébastien Loeb also promises to be particularly exciting. These two superstars are sure to be in full cry in front of their home crowd. The fans can look forward to some top-drawer rallying.”
Latvala/Anttila set sights on Manufacturers’ points
The Rally France is the second event of the season held solely on asphalt. As at Volkswagen’s home rally around Trier at the end of August, the drivers must tackle fast and sometimes very narrow sections in Alsace, some of which head through the local vineyards. Last year, Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) finished runner-up here to claim their best result to date at an asphalt rally. Should the two Finns in the number 7 Polo R WRC achieve a similar success this year, Volkswagen would take a big step towards winning the Manufacturers’ Championship in their rookie season in the World Rally Championship. Paul Nagle (IRL) will once again be in the passenger seat as the co-driver for Andreas Mikkelsen (N) in the third Polo R WRC. Mikkelsen’s regular co-driver Mikko Markkula (FIN) is still recovering from a back injury he sustained at the Rally Finland, but is making good progress.
Can anyone end the French dominance on asphalt?
The two manufacturers competing for the driver and co-driver crowns in the World Championship travel to France determined to end a unique winning run in the WRC. For almost a decade, Citroën has won every single asphalt rally in the WRC – primarily thanks to Sébastien Loeb. Ford driver Thierry Neuville, for example, will be going all out to end this run: the Belgian came within touching distance of claiming his first win on the asphalt of the Rally Germany. Volkswagen also has a point to prove on this surface: Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila have a score to settle on asphalt, since a single mistake saw them drop back down the field when leading the Rally Germany. Ogier already has two victories at asphalt rallies to his name, and is out to add to this tally on his home streets.
Rally France – the crowd puller: WRC fever infects an entire region
French fans will give their rally heroes a frenetic greeting on their home soil – and will flock in their thousands to the route. Friday’s “Massif de Grand Crus–Ungersberg” special stage poses a wide variety of challenges over the course of its 13.04 kilometres. One section of the stage is very reminiscent of the Rally Germany. Negotiating the vineyards and half-timber houses at rally speed demands ultimate precision. The second half of the stage heads uphill along a winding country road – up Ungersberg. This is in stark contrast to the short “Haguenau” special stage, which leads the drivers through the home town of record-breaking world champion Sébastien Loeb – and on his very last WRC rally. Julien Ingrassia is also looking forward to the final great duel of the two “Super Sébs” in their home country of France: “Nine years age difference, nine years between them setting out in rallying and – hopefully – nine years between both of their first WRC titles. Despite the many parallels, these are two completely different success stories: one that is set to come to an end on 5th October, and another that is just getting going. I can hardly wait!”
Quotes ahead of the Rally France
Jari-Matti Latvala, Polo R WRC #7
“We had a great team result at the Rally Australia, although I personally had hoped for better than fourth place. As such, I would like to get back on the podium in France – as I did last year. Parts of the Rally France are similar to the Rally Germany: asphalt, technically demanding sections of route, and then faster passages and a number of stages through woodland. On the whole, however, the routes through the vineyards are a bit quicker than in Germany. For this reason, the Polo R WRC will have a similar set-up to the Rally Germany. The main difference will be the shock absorbers, which will be a bit harder in France. Sébastien Loeb will be making his final appearance. The fans will obviously be most interested in his speed and the duel between Loeb and Sébastien Ogier. However, our goal as a team is to extend our lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship – that is what we will be focussing on.”
Sébastien Ogier, Polo R WRC #8
“Australia was a great rally for Volkswagen, and for me too obviously. Despite this, the feeling at the finish was a bit of a strange one: we had won, but just missed out on securing the World Championship by one point. However, it soon dawned on us that it is only a matter of time until we take the final step. It is possible that we might score the final illusive point as early as the Power Stage, which opens the rally in France. As such, we have completed 99 per cent of the job. However, our goal in France is once again to win the rally and score more points for Volkswagen in the Manufacturers’ Championship. Generally speaking, it is already clear that this will ultimately be a very special season. It is fantastic what we have achieved. Should we finish on top in the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championships, it will definitely have been a magical, perfect season.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Polo R WRC #9
“I am looking forward to the Rally France. Last year, in the Škoda Fabia S2000, I was embroiled for long periods of the rally in a thrilling duel with Sébastien, before I had problems with my engine. As such, I am excited to see how things pan out this time. However, this is my very first asphalt rally in the Polo R WRC, as Mikko’s injury unfortunately meant I was unable to start in Germany. I have had lined up at the Rally France twice in the past, and the fast asphalt stages really seem to suit me. It is a bit quicker there than at the Rally Germany, and it can also be extremely slippery if it rains. My goal is primarily to complete more kilometres and gain more experience on asphalt in the Polo R WRC. For this reason, I will not be going all out on the attack, but will first try to find a good rhythm.”
Volkswagen in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)
In entering the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Volkswagen is adding another chapter to its motorsport success story. Volkswagen claimed overall victory at the Rally Dakar with the Race Touareg in 2009, 2010 and 2011 – celebrating a hat-trick of titles at the toughest marathon rally in the world. The Polo R WRC is the first World Rally Car produced by the Wolfsburg-based company, which now lines up with its own works team in the pinnacle of rallying. The series offers Volkswagen the opportunity to prove itself on a global platform in direct sporting competition. No model is more suited to the challenge than the Polo – one of Volkswagen’s most heavily produced and distributed models in the world.