22 October 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Ogier and Ingrassia claim fourth WRC drivers’ championship title at Rally Spain

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

Volkswagen Motorsport’s Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have been crowned 2016 World Rally Championship (WRC) drivers’ champions*, after taking victory at Rally Spain. The Polo R WRC-driving duo were awarded their fourth Drivers’ Championship after just 11 events from the 2016 series, with two rounds still to go. The 321.08km-long Rally Spain took place around Barcelona and the Costa Daurada region of the country from 14-16 October.

Quartet of titles
The Spanish podium was Ogier’s and Ingrassia’s fifth win of the season, and their ninth in 11 events. The quartet of titles lifts the French pair alongside other multiple champions Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Mäkinen, with only compatriot Sébastien Loeb having more wins to his name. Ogier has spent a total of 952 days at the top of the drivers’ standings, and with each title the dominant Frenchman has gained the championship with events to spare.

The 2016 Rally Spain win was the gallic duo’s 37th victory and their 30th with Volkswagen Motorsport since the German manufacturer’s WRC campaign began in 2013. However, the mixed surface gravel and asphalt event wasn’t an easy fight. Local driver Dani Sordo led the way in his Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC, with Ogier and Ingrassia losing 17 seconds on day one to the Spaniard thanks to wet weather and mud-covered routes.

Cool determination
Day two saw the French pair claw back precious time, though. The rest of the stages were run on asphalt, and Ogier turned his time deficit into a 5.8-second lead, and won five of the eight special stages. On Sunday, day three, that lead was extended still further thanks to the Gap-born driver’s cool determination and he and Ingrassia finished a whole 15.6 seconds ahead of Sordo and Marc Marti, while Belgian Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC crew Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul were behind their team-mates in third.

Ogier was enthusiastically upbeat: ’I feel fantastic! The fourth world championship title for Julien and me, it is impossible to describe how this feels. It is an honour to be mentioned in the same breath as such big names as Kankkunen and Mäkinen. I would like to say a huge thank you to our team at Volkswagen. Without them, Julien and I would not be here today. They do a fantastic job all year and we have had a perfect car all season. I had great fun at the wheel of the Polo R WRC once again this weekend.

‘The tension ahead of the closing Power Stage was obviously greater than usual, given the fact that we were within touching distance of the title, and bearing in mind the mistake we made last year. But we’ve done it. Despite the more difficult regulations, and despite the strong opposition. I am extremely proud of this title. It is now time to celebrate in style with my team and my wife – and when I get home I can show my young son Tim the trophy that daddy won. I dedicate this world championship title to him.’

Substantial damage
Ogier’s nearest rivals entering the Spanish round were his Volkswagen Motorsport team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger, but the Norwegians’ hopes of winning the championship were dashed when they were forced to retire. A fast right-hand corner caught the third-placed pair out, and their Polo R WRC skidded into a barrier and subsequently rolled. Substantial damage to the car meant that it couldn’t be repaired with materials in the service park, and so a restart under Rally 2 regulations was sadly out of the question.

‘Congratulations on the title and respect for this victory to our team-mates Sébastien Ogier
and Julien Ingrassia,’ said a deflated Mikkelsen. ‘Anders and I are pleased for them. They set the benchmark again in 2016. For us personally, the Rally Spain obviously did not end as we would have hoped. After victory last year, we wanted to do well again here and certainly to extend our lead over third place in the world championship. However, that was not to be.

‘We came into a right-hander too quickly on Saturday, drifted wide, hit the barriers and rolled. That was 100 per cent my mistake. The battle for second place in the world championship is now wide open again, and we will have to be at our very best in the remaining rallies to achieve the goal we have been aiming for since the start of the season. We will work hard to make that possible.’

Premature end
It was disappointment, too, for the Polo R WRC #2 of Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila. Day one came to a premature end for the Finns when they struck a barrier and had to retire. There was a happier ending, though, as the pair returned on days two and three under Rally 2 regulations and won five stages and valuable points for Volkswagen Motorsport’s Manufacturers’ Championship hopes. Latvala and Anttila also recorded the fastest time on the closing Power Stage and were rewarded with three bonus points. Ogier and Ingrassia finished second.

Latvala was celebratory, even in defeat: ‘Congratulations to my team-mate Sébastien Ogier on his fourth drivers’ title. That puts him in the same league as my Finnish compatriots Tommi Mäkinen and Juha Kankkunen. That is a fantastic effort, not only from him, but from the entire Volkswagen Motorsport team. For me, the Rally Spain, as has so often been the case this year, was over far too soon.

‘After the suspension damage on Friday, we had no chance of getting ourselves back in contention. Despite this, we did manage to win some special stages and eventually managed to contribute four points towards the Manufacturers’ Championship. Perhaps we will be able to wrap up this title at the next rally in Great Britain. That will definitely be the goal.’

Individual results
After the Spanish event, Ogier and Ingrassia are first in the Drivers’ Championship, with Mikkelsen and Jæger second, and Latvala and Anttila sixth. Mikkelsen and Jæger are, however, level on points with Neuville and Gilsoul. However, they keep their noses in front thanks to better individual results. Ogier and Ingrassia are also the first world champions in the history of the FIA World Rally Championship to win the title without having won an all-gravel rally.

Volkswagen Motorsport travels to the next round, Rally Wales GB (28-30 October), with a 62-point lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship. As such, the team has a great chance of winning the world championship title for the fourth time in a row, regardless of other results. To do so, Volkswagen Motorsport must take a lead of 43 points into the Rally Australia.

https://youtu.be/qUT6NIs73oo

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

RALLY SPAIN FINAL RESULTS

1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen: 3h 13m 03.6s
2 Dani Sordo/Marc Martí (E/E), Hyundai: + 15.6s
3 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai: + 1m 15.0s
4 Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai: + 1m 27.8s
5 Mads Østberg/Ola Fløene (N/N), Ford: + 3m 24.4s

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Sébastien Ogier, 222
2 Andreas Mikkelsen, 127
3 Thierry Neuville, 127
4 Hayden Paddon, 114
5 Dani Sordo, 111

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Volkswagen Motorsport, 322
2 Hyundai Motorsport, 260
3 M-Sport, 144
4 Volkswagen Motorsport II, 136
5 Hyundai Motorsport N, 124

*Subject to confirmation from the FIA.

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