26 January 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Un, deux, trois… Third Rally Monte-Carlo win for Ogier and Volkswagen

2016 Volkswagen Polo R WRC, Rally Monte-Carlo: Ogier/ingrassia

Regulation limitations meant that defending 2015 FIA World Rally Champion Volkswagen Motorsport may not have changed much about its all-conquering 2016 Polo R WRC or its driver line-ups, but there was evidently little need to – reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier took his third win at this season’s opener, the 2016 Rally Monte-Carlo from 21-24 January.

Legendary event
Ogier’s win at the legendary event meant that it was his and co-driver Julien Ingrassia’s 33rd career victory – they join an esteemed line-up of three-time Monte winners including Sébastien Loeb, Tommi Mäkinen, Sandro Munari, and Walter Röhrl. The 318bhp four-wheel drive Polo R WRC meanwhile takes it place among the Monte’s three-win great cars, the Citroën Xsara, Lancias Stratos and Delta, Mitsubishi Lancer, and the Porsche 911.

The Polo R WRC is also the most successful car in rally history, thanks to its impressive win ratio of 87.5 per cent – that equates to 35 victories from 40 rallies. The 430Nm motorsport supermini which accelerates from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds has minimal changes for 2016, with only a stronger front sub-frame and suitably beefed-up rear axle wishbones, along with modified engine pistons.

The 2016 Rally Monte-Carlo started well for Ogier, the Frenchman coming second in the shakedown, his team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala fifth and sixth respectively. Notching up the fastest time on stage one, Ogier and Ingrassia ended the first day in second place, behind the trailblazing British Citröen driver, Kris Meeke.

Ever-changing weather
The opening, treacherous night stages with ever-changing weather conditions left Volkswagen Motorsport’s Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger behind Ogier and Ingrassia in third, while Latvia and co-driver Miikka Anttila followed down the field in seventh place.

Day one saw Ogier and Meeke trade places at the top of the leaderboard, with the French-born driver eventually taking the lead on the final stage. Over the run of the first eight stages of the rally, the lead changed hands no less than five times. Latvala clawed his way back up to third place, while Mikkelsen sat one place below his Finnish team-mate.

The five special stages on day two clocked up 173.96 kilometres, half the distance of the 377.59km event. Once again, slippery conditions varied from sheer ice to asphalt surfaces, and tyre choice was critical. Ogier was masterful in his command of the rally, though, and ended the day ahead of Mikkelsen by two minutes.

Mikkelsen and Jæger chose spiked tyres for the morning loop – the only crew to do so – which enabled them to make up time on their rivals. Meek meanwhile had retired due to gearbox problems on his DS 3 WRC after coming off the road briefly on the penultimate stage of the day. The Norwegians survived a high-speed spin to head off competition from Belgian and Hyundai drive Thierry Neuville.

One-race suspended ban
There was similar disappointment for Latvala and Anttila. The Finns left the road on stage 11, and skidded into a ditch, and then though a field. A spectator was lightly caught up in the melee, but was uninjured. The duo attempted to repair their Polo R WRC, but had to retire due to a late checkpoint arrival.

Although the spectator – a photographer – involved was not injured, FIA officials handed Latvala and Anttila a one-round suspended ban and £3,800 (€5,000) fine after it was disputed that Latvala claimed he didn’t see the photographer due to the mud and water obscuring his view and because the pair didn’t stop at the scene of the incident, as stipulated in the regulations. The ban will only be enforced if the Finns were to be found guilty of another breach of regulations.

A regretful Latvala commented: ‘My co-driver and I fully accept the stewards’ decision. The safety of spectators and participants must take top priority at any rally. We very much regret the incident and will do everything possible to avoid this kind of thing happening again in the future. At the same time, we are pleased that the spectator got off so lightly this time, and that nothing serious happened.’

Bonus points
The third day of the 2016 Rally Monte-Carlo saw Ogier edge his Polo through the final leg of the event (and the infamous Col de Turini) as well as pick up bonus – and there maximum rally – points by winning the live TV Power Stage, his and Ingrassia’s 26th such victory. Mikkelsen finished third.

Overall, though, event victory was Ogier and Ingrassia’s for the taking, Mikkelsen and Jæger on the second step of the podium, making the first 2016 FIA Rally Championship Volkswagen one-two finish. Mikkelsen’s podium finish was his 15th, while new co-driver Jæger crowned his WRC debut with his first podium, something that no other current co-driver can claim to have achieved.

‘Emotional moment’
An ecstatic Ogier was pleased with his result: ‘Winning in Monte-Carlo is such an emotional moment for me! It is just an indescribable feeling to win this iconic rally for the third time. The conditions were so tricky. It was so icy and slippery. I am really happy with this success. I would like to thank the entire team, which did a fantastic job this weekend.

‘My ice spies were awesome. Jean Joseph Simon was doing the job for me for the first time here. It was really tough for them to provide us with accurate predictions regarding the state of the roads. The Polo ran superbly. Then there were the many, many fans cheering on Julien and me – it was just a perfect weekend!’

Mikkelsen echoed his French team-mate’s sentiments: ‘An absolutely fantastic start to the WRC season. Second at the “Monte” – that is always going to be rather special. However, it was also the first rally with my new co-driver Anders Jæger – and to stand on the podium together is simply fantastic. I knew that Anders was talented, but he did a perfect job all weekend, for which he deserves my greatest compliment.

‘Typical “Monte”’
‘It was a typical “Monte”, making it the toughest possible debut for him. The many changes in the weather and varying road conditions, ranging from ice and snow to dry asphalt, meant we had to make a lot of amendments to the pace notes. We drivers also had to be wide-awake all the time. It is thanks to my ice spies, Bernt Kollevold and Timo Alanne, that we are stood on the podium as runners-up today. Not to forget the entire team, who all did a perfect job again.’

Outgoing Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito once again praised his winning team: ‘To start the WRC season with a one-two is, in itself, a fantastic achievement. To do that at the Rally Monte-Carlo makes it all the more special. At no other rally is the perfect interaction between drivers, co-drivers, engineers, mechanics, and ice spies, right down to the logisticians, catering and physio team, so vital.

‘It is absolutely fantastic how all the cogs fit together in our team. I think the most frequently asked question by far at Volkswagen Motorsport is “can I help you?” That shows our team spirit. Sébastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen could trust the team implicitly – and performed fantastically themselves. This one-two is deserved, and we are proud of it.’

The second round of the championship is Rally Sweden, which takes place around Karlstad from 11-14 February. It is the only ‘pure’ winter round of the 2016 World Rally Championship.

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

RALLY MONTE-CARLO FINAL RESULTS

1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen: 3h 49m 53.1s
2 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen: + 1m 54.5s
3 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai: + 3m 17.9s
4 Mads Østberg/Ola Fløene (N/N), Ford: + 4m 47.7s
5 Stéphane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau (F/F), Citroën: + 7m 35.6s

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS
1 Sébastien Ogier, 28
2 Andreas Mikkelsen, 19
3 Thierry Neuville, 15
4 Mads Østberg, 12
5 Stéphane Lefebvre, 10

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS
1 Volkswagen Motorsport, 25
2 Hyundai Motorsport, 25
3 M-Sport, 20
4 Volkswagen Motorsport II, 18
5 Hyundai Motorsport N, 6

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