04 October 2016 ~ 0 Comments

In front at Rally France: Ogier and Volkswagen victorious in Corsica

2016 Volkswagen Polo R WRC, Rally France: Ogier/Ingrassia

Three-time world rally champions Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are one step nearer to claiming a fourth consecutive drivers’ title in the World Rally Championship (WRC) after claiming a debut victory at Rally France, held on the island of Corsica from 29 September to 2 October.

Fortieth Polo R WRC win
The French duo awarded the 318bhp all-wheel drive Polo R WRC its 40th victory on the asphalt roads through the mountains and the 390.92kms of stages on the event known as the ‘Rally of 10,000 Corners’ (there are in fact just 659 ‘real turns’). They themselves scored the 36th win of their career and dominated the Corsican stages from the word go.

The reigning champions won half of the ten special stages, and set all the best times of the first day – a first since Volkswagen Motorsport entered the WRC in 2013. Ogier and Ingrassia were back on home turf and back on an asphalt surface, and they took full advantage. The smooth surface needed no ‘sweeping’ unlike the gravel tracks of the mid-season events where the pair have posted slower stage times, due to their first place starting positions.

Early dominance
Ogier and Ingrassia’s early dominance showed world champion skills and through a blend of a powerful performance, the right tyre choices for the mixed dry and damp stage conditions, and a cool determination, the Frenchmen set the pace and kept it there, right until the end of the event. Team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger were chasing hard, along with Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul in their i20 WRC.

Coincidentally, the French pair’s leading chasers were also the crews which could deny them a fourth consecutive WRC title. Ogier and Ingrassia’s win meant that their lead in the Drivers’ Championship is now 68 points: a third place and a point on the Power Stage at Rally Spain would see them crowned champions for the fourth time.

That’s regardless of other results, with only Mikkelsen/Jæger and Neuville/Gilsoul able to stop the current champions taking another trophy: the other Volkswagen Motorsport crew of Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila finished fourth in France and are sadly now out of title contention.

‘It feels fantastic’
Ogier was ecstatic with his and Ingrassia’s win: ‘What we really wanted this weekend was to get the win at our home rally. It is the first time that Julien and I have won a WRC event on Corsica and it feels fantastic. It’s a real classic. We had a strong start on Friday and were able to manage the lead on Saturday and Sunday.

‘It went perfectly. I couldn’t be happier. The chances of being able to celebrate the championship title here were only really theoretical, but now we have a real possibility of clinching it at the next event in Spain. We are so close to getting our fourth star. It’s fantastic and naturally we will turn all of our attention to that now. We want to take the momentum from Corsica with us. But we won’t be driving tactically at all, we want to fight for the win there, too,’ he enthused.

Mikkelsen and Jæger had to settle for third place in Corscia, with the French podium Mikkelsen’s 19th of his career (and with the Polo R WRC) in 75 appearances. The young Norwegians drove a controlled rally and kept the pressure up on Neuville and Gilsoul right to the end of the event to score their fifth podium of the 2016 season. The number 9 Polo R WRC crew also took second place on the Power Stage behind Ogier and Ingrassia to score valuable points in the Manufacturers’ Championship.

‘A strong rally’
Mikkelsen was happy to be in the winners’ results: ‘A strong rally, I’m very pleased with the result. And we’re finally on the podium again, it feels like an eternity since the last one in Poland. We picked up a lot of points, partly thanks to the second place on the Power Stage, and this means that we didn’t lose too much ground on Thierry Neuville in the battle for second place in the championship – that was the aim.’

Although the remaining Volkswagen crew of Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila also chose tyres well, a misjudged car set-up and a cautious pace yield a fourth place result for which Latvala blamed himself: ‘Unfortunately we didn’t manage to get any points from the Power Stage because I was a little bit too cautious in places. Overall we aren’t overly happy with our performance – but I only have myself to blame. In terms of set-up, we went in a direction that didn’t work.’

66 points clear
After Rally France, Volkswagen Motorsport is 66 points clear of its nearest rival – Hyundai Motorsport – in the Manufacturers’ Championship and, along with Ogier and Ingrassia’s drivers’ title, could clinch the makers’ prize at the next round of the series, Rally Spain. To emerge victorious, the German outfit must score 20 points more than Hyundai. Nominated drivers Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala can score a maximum 43 points.

Volkswagen Motorsport heads to Rally Spain (13-16 October) with 83 podium finishes, and the event will mark the 50th appearance of the Polo R WRC. With 40 wins from 49 rallies, the super-Polo is the fourth model to enter the 40s club: only the Lancia Delta and the Subaru Impreza (46 each) and the Ford Focus (44) are the other models to have 40 wins or more to their name. Of the 894 special stages the Polo R WRC has contested since its debut, 600 have been won by Volkswagen Motorsport.

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

RALLY FRANCE FINAL RESULTS

1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen: 4h 07m 17.0s
2 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai: + 46.4s
3 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen: + 1m 10.0s
4 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen: + 1m 35.6s
5 Craig Breen/Scott Martin (IRL/GB), Citroën: + 2m 18.6s

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Sébastien Ogier, 195
2 Andreas Mikkelsen, 127
3 Thierry Neuville, 112
4 Hayden Paddon, 102
5 Jari-Matti Latvala, 101

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Volkswagen Motorsport, 293
2 Hyundai Motorsport, 227
3 Volkswagen Motorsport II, 136
4 M-Sport, 132
5 Hyundai Motorsport N, 106

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