24 August 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Victory among the vineyards: Ogier and Volkswagen win Rally Germany

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

After the one-two-three result of 2015, the pressure was on for Volkswagen Motorsport to win again at its home event of 2016, the Rally Germany of 18-21 August. Set around and in the lush vineyards of Trier and the Mosel region, the first all-asphalt event of the season included the legendary Baumholder military track stages, as well as fast Eifel mountain roads and smooth Saarland stages.

Current and three-time world champion Sébastien Ogier was desperate to be back on the top step of the podium, the French driver having had to spend most of the 2016 season ‘sweeping’ the hitherto gravel roads for the competitors behind him, thanks to his first place in the running order. The ninth round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) had a lot to play for and released its secrets over three tarmac action-packed days.

Masterly form
Conditions were not easy, even for the reigning world champion – wet concrete and dry asphalt made tyre selection a risky business. But, the Frenchman and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia once again displayed their masterly form. The French duo fought for the lead with team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger over the first two days, with Ogier and Ingrassia coming out on top on the fearsome 25-mile ‘Panzerplatte’ stage.

And once they had first place, they didn’t let it slip from their grasp. The first time the pair have won a 2016 event since February’s Rally Sweden, Ogier and Ingrassia were initially unhappy with their soft tyre choice for a resulting dry stage, but still managed to record a time 13.5 seconds faster than Mikkelsen and Jæger, after a place-swapping duel separated by just tenths of a second. The French crew eventually won the event by a massive 20.3 seconds over Hyundai Motorsport’s Dani Sordo and Marc Martí.

‘Fantastic feeling’
A jubilant Ogier was in celebratory mood: ‘A fantastic feeling to be back at the top of the podium after this long dry spell. I am over the moon to have repeated last year’s success at Rally Germany. The home win is extremely important to our team, Julien and I made great progress in the direction of the title in the championship standings.

‘The weekend wasn’t easy for me since I really wanted to win here and then it is easy to be a little bit too motivated going into the race. Then there was the weather, which changed constantly and was extremely difficult to predict. In the end, I waited patiently for my opportunity, and with the times on the Panzerplatte in particular, built up the crucial lead over my rivals,’ he enthused.

Wet weather forecast
Ogier and Ingrassia bolstered their championship lead to 59 points with the Rally Germany victory. Mikkelsen and Jæger, the French duo’s second-placed rivals are now on 110 points, after having to eventually settle for fourth place at the German event. Taking into account a wet weather forecast, the final day of the rally saw the Norwegian young guns opt for three soft and three hard tyres for the closing three stages.

The promised rain never came, however, and with the 20kg extra tyre-carrying penalty and overheating brakes due to the increased effort and aim of a three-way second place-finish battle, the Norwegian crew came home behind the Hyundai teams of Dani Sordo and Marc Martí, and Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul. But, there was no doubting that Mikkelsen and Jæger had put up a valiant battle.

‘Difficult tyre selection’
‘Overall I am very pleased with our performance, but the result could have been better with a little more luck. The entire weekend was dominated by the difficult tyre selection and every service ended with a decision being made at the last second. We opted for a totally different strategy on several occasions – this made things interesting, but it wasn’t always the right decision,’ reflected Mikkelsen.

‘We went on full attack again on Sunday, since we were competing against two very fast Hyundai in the three-way battle for second place. We wanted to give Jost Capito another rally that was as successful as possible one last time. Anders and I have a great deal to thank Jost for, so we were definitely going to give it our all. Unfortunately, in doing so the brakes overheated and this took me out of the running. It’s a shame, but fourth place is a small consolation,’ he continued.

Finnish heartbreak
For the third Polo R WRC of Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila, it was another story of Finnish heartbreak. A damaged gearbox on the opening day saw the Finns out of the running, and re-enter the event under Rally 2 regulations. But, the no 2 Polo crew pulled out all the stops back in the vineyards and took second place on the Power Stage, securing two bonus points for Volkswagen Motorsport’s 2016 Manufacturers’ Championship hopes in the process. An overall eighth place finish could have been a lot worse.

Latvala was gracious in defeat: ‘Congratulations to my team-mate Sébastien Ogier. He picked up valuable points for Volkswagen in the championship this weekend. Unfortunately, this rally was over far too soon for Miikka and me. Two points on the Power Stage were only a slight consolation at the end, but at least they were something. Naturally I am disappointed, we had definitely aimed for more, but motorsport can be like that at times.’

81 podium finishes, 39 wins
The 2016 Rally Germany was the last for Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. Moving to F1 and the McLaren team, the 58 year-old German has been instrumental in Volkswagen Motorsport’s success in the WRC since the Polo R WRC made its debut in January 2013. With a massive 81 podium finishes – including 39 wins – Ogier’s Rally Germany win was a fitting send-off.

‘A very emotional moment for me. Today was my last outing at a rally for Volkswagen before I move to my new job in September. That makes it all the sweeter that we have something to celebrate, thanks to the victory for Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. They drove a magnificent rally and I am particularly pleased to see the pair of them back on the top step of the podium after something of a barren spell,’ a jubilant Capito commented.

‘Changeable conditions’
‘As much as they have had to suffer on gravel tracks as a result of the rules requiring them to open the route, thereby meaning they have no chance of winning, they used the slight advantage that this starting order has on asphalt. But it wasn’t easy here, either: changeable conditions made it tricky to select tyres and left no room for errors,’ he continued.

Capito praised his two other crews: ‘And I am just as proud of the performance of Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger, who showed themselves to be worthy rivals at the start of the rally. Unfortunately, this wasn’t quite enough for second place in the end, although they both invested everything they could. Jari-Matti Latvala was unlucky this time, his gearbox damage prevented him from showing what he can do here. I think that he will return even stronger at Rally France.’

Capito leaves Volkswagen Motorsport on a high: with a lead of 55 points over Hyundai Motorsport, the German outfit has every chance of winning the championship for a fourth consecutive time. Ogier and Ingrassia could successfully defend their titles in the drivers’ and co-drivers’ standings, too, before the season’s end if they were to win the next event: the 2016 Rally France takes place on the island of Corsica from 29 September to 2 October.

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
RALLY GERMANY FINAL RESULTS

1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen: 3h 00 26.7s
2 Dani Sordo/Marc Marti (E/E), Hyundai: + 20.3s
3 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai: + 20.4s
4 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen: + 27.2s
5 Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai: + 3m 34.8s

48 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen: + 36m 33.3s—

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Sébastien Ogier, 169
2 Andreas Mikkelsen, 110
3 Hayden Paddon, 94
4 Thierry Neuville, 94
5 Jari-Matti Latvala, 89

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Volkswagen Motorsport, 256
2 Hyundai Motorsport, 201
3 M-Sport, 122
4 Volkswagen Motorsport II, 121
5 Hyundai Motorsport N, 96

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