A cool result in hot conditions: Ogier and Volkswagen in the lead in Italy

A flat tyre that knocked the Volkswagen duo Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila in Sardinia.

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, Volkswagen Polo WRC, Volkswagen Motorsport
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, Volkswagen Polo WRC, Volkswagen Motorsport

Photo by: XPB Images

Some literally hot rally action and a strong performance: Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) are in the lead in Rally Italy with their Volkswagen Polo R WRC. In the seventh event of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) season, the current championship leaders took the lead straight away in the first special stage – and went on to gradually extend this lead with two more fastest times and top-three placements in all the other stages. With eight special stages completed, Ogier/Ingrassia are 46.6 seconds ahead of Mikko Hirvonen (Citroën) and 49.7 seconds in front of Thierry Neuville (Ford). After a flat tyre that knocked the Volkswagen duo Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) back to twelfth place, the two Finns pluckily grappled their way back up the ranking and wrapped up the first of the two rally days in fifth place overall, thanks to six out of a possible eight top-three times. Their team colleagues Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) finished in a strong sixth place.

Half time in Sardinia – with the end of Friday’s proceedings in Olbia, the Volkswagen Motorsport team has now also completed the first half of the WRC season. And Volkswagen has surpassed all expectations by holding the lead not only in the driver/co-driver standings, but also in the Manufacturers’ Championship. And the first day of Rally Italy was anything but easy. The entrants were put to the test in the first half of the rally by ‘Micky’s Jump’ on special stages one and six, a loose layer of sand on top of the gravel, narrow tracks lined by natural rocks, and the intense heat. And in addition to the heat, a key issue was how the tyres were used over the full distance. A total of 147.12 timed kilometres and a night-time stage to wrap things up turned the longest day of the year into a 16-hour marathon for the drivers and co-drivers. And it was another highly successful day for Volkswagen, with the car make clinching six fastest times in the eight special stages of the day.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7 “The day was actually very good – we were the fastest in the field along with Séb and Julien. If only we hadn’t had that flat tyre in the first stage. There were jagged rocks sticking out of the ground along the sides of the course after about five kilometres, and they were obviously what damaged our tyre. The tyre went flat, but we decided to carry on anyway. If we had changed the tyre, we would have had to have gone back in behind the first WRC-2 car, which had started only a minute behind us – and driving in a cloud of dust would have robbed us of even more time. We gained a lot of ground in the course of the day thanks to our good times, and tomorrow we will again try to gather pace and not leave the teams in front of us in peace. The icing on the cake was the two final stages today – the best I’ve had since I’ve been driving the Polo.”

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8 “That was a very good first day for us, but we’re still only half way through Rally Italy. The Polo R WRC is running like a dream, and we didn’t have a single problem with it today. And the conditions certainly aren’t easy – the gravel stages were especially slippery this morning. My driving style which isn’t too hard on the tyres no doubt helped me to extend my lead today. The tyres are really put to the test in extreme temperatures like today’s. I tried to drive as smoothly and as foresightedly as possible, and not to brake too aggressively. In general, it was important for me not to take too many risks – and that will be my strategy for tomorrow too. Nevertheless, after two rallies without a win, I really want to experience that sensation again of being the one at the top of that podium. For me, one of the real highlights was ‘Micky’s Jump’ on the Monte Lerno stage, which was undoubtedly one of the most spectacular and highest jumps of the season. You can’t recoup any lost time there, but it looks great for the spectators and we drivers love it when we go flying like that too. It’s a fantastic feeling!”

Andreas Mikkelsen and Mikko Markkula, Volkswagen Polo WRC, Volkswagen Motorsport
Andreas Mikkelsen and Mikko Markkula, Volkswagen Polo WRC, Volkswagen Motorsport

Photo by: XPB Images

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9 “All in all, it was a good, valuable and also challenging day for us. We’re perfectly happy with our performance. We damaged the steering slightly in a hole during the very first special stage, and we had to complete two more stages like that. But the mechanics were able to fix it in the remote service during the lunch break, because we already had the spare part we needed on board. Things then went really well in the afternoon and this showed me where I can make further improvements. Knowing how to use the tyres is a major issue here in Sardinia, and this is an area in which I can definitely learn some more. I still treat the tyres much too roughly in comparison to my team colleagues. But we do have one or two ideas as to how I can adapt my driving style. I am very happy with how things have gone on day one here in Italy.”

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director “It’s been a really fantastic day for Volkswagen. Today, our drivers and co-drivers demonstrated what the Polo R WRC is capable of. And in addition, they all showed that their driving is of the same high calibre. Sébastien Ogier’s driving style was fast, intelligent and gentle on his tyres. Jari-Matti Latvala had a spot of bad luck right at the start, but was still absolutely on a par with the others in terms of stage times. And Andreas Mikkelsen put in a good performance too. Then there was the fact that today was the longest day for the team – not just of the calendar year, but also in terms of organisation. Every single member of the team had an important role to play and every cog and wheel fitted together snugly today.”

And then there was ...

... the most important approximately 2.5 kilogrammes on board the Polo R WRC. The intense heat of Rally Italy meant that the three driver/co-driver pairings had the largest volume of drinks on board all season – eight and a half litres of isotonic electrolyte solution each per day. This power elixir is prepared by Willy Verhoeven, who looks after the six team members’ well-being and replenishes their stocks during every service. In Sardinia, Verhoeven was also the first member of the Volkswagen team to prepare the Polo R WRC vehicles for the Friday of rallying: at 04:30, he was attaching camel bags inside the 315 hp four-wheel drives from Wolfsburg.


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Jari-Matti Latvala , Mikko Hirvonen , Miikka Anttila , Mikko Markkula , Andreas Mikkelsen , Sébastien Ogier , Julien Ingrassia , Thierry Neuville
Teams Citroën World Rally Team , Volkswagen Motorsport
Article type Leg report
Tags capito, endurance, italy, latvala, marathon, mikkelsen, ogier, sardinia, volkswagen, vw polo r, world rally, wrc