This was the first time Volkswagen have missed out on a podium place in a season which has seen the team pick up six rally wins in eight rallies.
It was the home rally of all races where Volkswagen would fall short of their own high expectations for the first time since joining the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) in January 2013. This was the first time Volkswagen have missed out on a podium place in a season which has seen the team pick up six rally wins in eight rallies.
And all this despite World Championship leaders in the Drivers’ and Co-drivers’ categories Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) and Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) both having their Polo R WRCs out in front at different stages of the rally, which was watched by a crowd of 200,000.
Dani Sordo’s win at the Rally Germany means Citroën remain undefeated on asphalt for almost ten years. Latvala/Anttila finished the ninth race of the season in seventh, whilst Ogier/Ingrassia were 16th.
“The Rally Germany was my first visit in my new function,” said Dr Heinz-Jakob Neußer, who is head of technical development at Volkswagen and is responsible for the Motorsport programme. “I am very impressed with the professional nature of the brand’s profile and the skill shown by the engineers and mechanics.
Due to adverse weather conditions, we had to contend with various set-backs. The mechanics have put in an excellent performance to repair the cars for the final Power Stage, from which we were able to collect four additional points. We were also able to win eight of the fifteen stages, demonstrating how competitive our Polo R WRC is and the amount of effort our drivers put in. We are looking forward to the upcoming rallies and will be doing everything we can to bring World Championship titles to Wolfsburg.”
In the team’s début season, Volkswagen continue to lead all three categories at the WRC’s highest level after nine of the thirteen World Championship races. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia continue to hold a comfortable advantage in the Drivers’ and Co-drivers’ standings; both drivers have a second chance to wrap up the title at the upcoming World Championship race in Australia, which will be taking place from 12 to 15 September.
Ahead of this race, their lead over Ford’s Thierry Neuville stands at 75 points. If Ogier/Ingrassia manage to extend their lead to 84 points or more after the Rally Australia, they can no longer be caught.
Volkswagen also continue to lead the way in the Constructors’ Championship with an advantage of 26 points.
Damage limitation: Ogier/Ingrassia win Power Stage
The Rally Germany had begun perfectly for World Championship leaders Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia. After notching up two of stage wins on Thursday, they went into day two as the overall leaders. However, the French duo came off the track on a particularly slippery section, damaging their Polo R WRC’s suspension in the process.
This resulted in them having to sit out the rest of the day. In accordance with Rally2 regulations, they were allowed to resume on Saturday and recorded three fastest stage times from a possible five. Sunday’s Power Stage then softened the blow of earlier disappointments: with a fastest time in the final stage of the day, which awards the top three drivers with extra points, the French pairing added a valuable three points to their overall tally.
Great performance goes unrewarded: Latvala/Anttila show excellent form on asphalt
Jari-Matti Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila’s best performance on asphalt went unrewarded. After taking the lead at the start of the second day, the Finnish pair continued to build on their advantage until the eleventh stage. On the ‘Arena Panzerplatte’ stage, Latvala/Anttila clipped the passenger door of their Polo R WRC on one of the notorious ‘Hinkelsteine’ concrete blocks.
The duo then had to compete with a door that kept on popping open. This resulted in the co-driver Anttila having to hold the door shut with his right hand whilst skimming through the pace notes with his left during the following stage. After there was slight delay in communicating the instructions, Latvala/Anttila slid from the track and were forced to retire.
Just as their team-mates did the day before, the Finnish pair resumed under the Rally2 regulations and picked up some valuable points for Volkswagen in the three World Championship categories. They were also rewarded with an additional point in the Power Stage after a third-placed finish.
Premature exit for Mikkelsen/Markkula
Andreas Mikkelsen and Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) were forced to withdraw from the Rally Germany due to health concerns. Co-driver Mikko Markkula suffered a fracture to his seventh thoracic vertebra as well as damage to his eighth thoracic vertebra at the Rally Finland three weeks ago.
The injuries were only diagnosed immediately prior to the Rally Germany. Therefore, Volkswagen Motorsport withdrew Mikkelsen/Markkula from the race for heath and safety reasons. Markkula had complained about having back pains at the Rally Finland, which subsided over the following days.
However, the pain returned during the reconnaissance runs in Germany on Monday. The team decided to send Markkula for an MRI scan, which confirmed the injuries. The pair were consequently withdrawn from the race.
Celebrities and bosses: Volkswagen welcomes many guests to its home race
German actors Erol Sander and Ingo Naujoks did not pass up the chance to check out some WRC race action in and around Trier. Neither did presenter Andrea Kaiser and Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner, who, along with motor racing legends Carlos Sainz, Luis Moya and Jacky Ickx, kept their fingers crossed for the Volkswagen team.
TV chef Mario Kotaska also made sure there was plenty of currywurst to go round with a stall he especially set up. Top bosses at Volkswagen also paid the drivers a visit, including Dr Heinz-Jakob Neußer, who superseded Dr Ulrich Hackenberg as the brand’s head of technical development.
Volkswagen’s ambassador Felix Baumgartner had another reason to be joyful, as he was given his new company car in Volkswagen’s service area: a 340-horsepower Touareg V8 TDI with a 4.2-litre eight-cylinder engine.
Statements, fourth day of the Rally Germany
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7: “Let’s start with the positive: I have improved on my performances on asphalt from the past. I had never led an asphalt-based rally before and the times show that I am getting better on this surface. Of course, there is still room for improvement, but I’m happy that I was able to pick up some more points for the team in the Constructors’ championship after yesterday’s disappointment, even though the result was anything but perfect for me personally.
Nevertheless, I’ll be going into the upcoming rallies with confidence and will do everything I can to give my team the best chance in the fight for the Constructors’ Championship. I’m happy for Dani Sordo, who is celebrating his first ever World Championship rally win here in Germany. I know how Dani must be feeling right now. He deserved the victory.”
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8: “Of course, that is not how we hoped the weekend would pan out, but we were still able to make the best of it. The win in the Power Stage at the end was a nice success and may still prove to be important in the shake-up for the World Championship. I’m sorry for the team that we were not able to win our home rally.
I’m really happy for Dani Sordo, because he has had a tough season so far and a first World Championship win is always something special. I’m now looking forward to Australia and Julien and I will be trying to edge ever closer to that World Championship title.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9: “I was really looking forward to the Rally Germany and am disappointed that we couldn’t participate in our team’s home rally. Yet the safety of my co-driver Mikko Markkula obviously comes first. I hope that he can recover from his two fractures quickly so that we can compete together in the WRC again soon.
Both Mikko and I have developed a completely new note taking system that only he is familiar with. It wasn’t possible to find a replacement so soon before the rally. At least we were able to do the reconnaissance for the rally and can use that again in the following years.”
Jost Capito, Director of Volkswagen Motorsport: “To win eight of the fifteen stages is a good sign and matches the amount we have been achieving prior to the Rally Germany. The Polo R WRC is also competitive on asphalt. However, our home race did not go as we had imagined or hoped it would. And that’s disappointing for us.
Both Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala led the rally at some stage, but both were forced to retire in this position. We were close to victory, but missed out due to a few little mistakes. In sport, you can’t plan success, though, and you can’t take anything for granted.
This is especially the case in the WRC, where it’s about every little detail and no mistakes can be made. And it is exactly this which makes our sport so fascinating. We will now work hard to be successful at the Rally Australia. We send our congratulations to Dani Sordo for his deserved maiden victory in the WRC, which was long overdue.”
And then there was ...
... the last Spaniard to win in the WRC. Before Sordo’s success, you have to go back to 18 June 2004 to find the last rally win by a Spaniard. That was Carlos Sainz at the 2004 Rally Argentina. Today, Sainz works as an advisor for Volkswagen Motorsport.