13 June 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Double podium and an extended championship lead for VW at Rally Italy

2016 Volkswagen Polo R WRC, Rally Italy: Latvala/Anttila

Following Rally Portugal, the sixth round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship was won by the fifth different driver this season. Belgian Thierry Neuville and his co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul lifted the trophy in Sardinia at the 2016 Rally Italy, with Volkswagen crews Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila second and Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia third.

Just as with last month’s WRC outing in Portugal, while Volkswagen Motorsport failed to win the Italian round of the championship, the podium places helped push its lead still further. The Hanover-based team is now 70 points of nearest rival Hyundai Motorsport, while current three-time world champion Ogier is 64 points clear of second-placed Dani Sordo in the driver standings.

High temperatures and dust
The high 30-degree temperatures and vast quantities of dust proved challenging for the 2016 event drivers. Ogier and Ingrassia once again ‘swept’ the stages open, thanks to their first place in the championship table. While the running order may change for 2017, 2016’s regulations yielded few chances for the French pair to challenge for the lead, the duo swapping over 87 per cent of the roads for other competitors.

Ogier was resigned to the fact that he and Ingrassia wouldn’t win in Italy, but had become a winner in the family stakes: ‘Going into the rally, I knew that third place would be the best possible result Julien and I could hope for without others slipping up. As such, I am very happy to be on the podium. Given the big gap to the front-runners and to those behind us, our priority was simply to get to the finish in one piece.

‘The Power Stage was like driving on the beach – it was that sandy. We have once again significantly increased our lead in the world championship. With that in mind, it has been an ideal weekend. I would like to say a special thank you to my wife Andrea for waiting to give birth to our first child. The next few days will certainly be more exciting for me than any rally!’ the Frenchman continued.

Many traps for the unwary
The deep ruts, boulder-strewn roads and poor surfaces once of the 2016 Rally Italy once again offered many traps for the unwary. And it was these surfaces which caught out Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger who struck a rock in sixth gear on the ‘Coiluna-Loelle’ stage. The front right suspension of the no 9 Polo R WRC broke, forcing the fifth-placed Norwegian pair out of the rally.

The young Norwegian driver was disappointed with his outcome: ‘That is certainly not how I imagined Rally Italy ending. On Saturday, on the penultimate stage of the day, we hit a rock at almost full speed after a long right-hander. Even with the best will in the world we could not avoid it. The big impact broke the suspension there and then. That was just unlucky, but is part and parcel of rallying.

‘Increased chance of winning’
‘Sunday offered us the opportunity to test a few set-up variants on the Polo R WRC for the coming rallies. We hope we will benefit from that in Poland. We have always done well there in recent years – and that is obviously our goal again this year. We deliberately did not attack on the Power Stage, in order to start third instead of second at the next round. This will significantly increase our chance of winning.’

It was better news for Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila held off Ogier and Ingrassia’s challenges and emerged as runners-up. The Finns also took third place in the Power Stage points, while it was Ogier and Ingrassia who once again proved to be fastest. But the Sardinian result ensure that the Finns are now once again in the race for second place in the drivers’ standings – five crews are within 12 points of each other in positions two to six.

‘A successful weekend for us’
Latvala welcomed the podium finish: ‘A successful weekend for us. As a team, we were able to stretch our lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship. We would obviously have liked to be stood on the top step of the podium, but, after my disappointing performance here in recent years, second place is a great success. Plus, we closed the gap to the front-runners in the Drivers’ Championship. We will push hard again in Poland!’

Rally Italy maintained the Polo R WRC’s reputation as the most successful rally car ever, with 37 victories and only eight events from which it didn’t emerge triumphant. A win rate of 82.22 per cent is unrivalled, with the three Volkswagen Motorsport crews making it onto the podium an amazing 78 occasions since 2013. At least one of the driver/co-driver pairings has featured on the podium steps at 43 out of 45 rallies.

The seventh round of the 2016 Fia World Rally Championship, the 2016 Rally Poland, takes place from 30 June to 3 July around Mikolajki, north of Warsaw.

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
RALLY ITALY FINAL RESULTS

1 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai: 3h 35m 25.8s
2 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen: + 24.8s
3 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen: + 1m 37.8s
4 Dani Sordo/Marc Martí (E/E), Hyundai: + 2m 54.0s
5 Ott Tänak/Raigo Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford: + 5m 26.4s

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Sébastien Ogier, 132
2 Dani Sordo, 68
3 Andreas Mikkelsen, 67
4 Mads Østberg, 58
5 Hayden Paddon, 57

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Volkswagen Motorsport, 178
2 Hyundai Motorsport, 108
3 M-Sport, 90
4 Hyundai Motorsport N, 78
5 Volkswagen Motorsport II, 74

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