16 February 2016 ~ 0 Comments

No sign of thawing: Ogier and Polo R WRC take third Rally Sweden win

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

Fresh from victory at the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship’s (WRC) opening round last month, Sébastien Ogier lifted the trophy at the series’ second event, the 12-14 February Rally Sweden. Aided by his loyal and equally talented co-driver Julien Ingrassia, Ogier finished the shortened 331.21km-long event almost 30 seconds ahead of Hyundai Motorsport’s Hayden Paddon. It was the third time the French duo had taken the Swedish spoils.

Shaky start
The 64th running of the Swedish WRC event got off to a shaky start with unusually temperate weather melting ice from the traditionally slippery stages. Insufficient snow and ice jeopardised the whole event. Soft ground saw the event cut from 21 to just 13 stages, but studded tyres were still used on the rally which is based around the town of Karlstad, west of Stockholm, and also slips into the Norwegian forests for a short time.

Despite protestations about the non-cancellation of the event, Ogier and Ingrassia once again put on a masterful display, clearing the stages of snow for the following pack. By the end of the first day, the Frenchmen were 26.9 seconds ahead of New Zealander Hayden Paddon in the new Hyundai i20 WRC, who in turn led Mads Østberg’s Ford Fiesta RS by 6.8 seconds.

Two incidents
Ogier’s day one run wasn’t without incident. Although he and Ingrassia won all three morning stages, two incidents almost put paid to their Swedish chances. The pair overshot in one of the afternoon stages which eroded their lead by a few seconds.

They later lost more time when Ogier’s Polo R WRC hit a tree and bent a steering arm. Citroën’s Kris Meeke had been Ogier’s closest rival until his and Paul Nagle’s DS3 WRC hit a buried stone and sent them into early retirement.

Andreas Mikkelsen and Andreas Jæger ended the first day in sixth place. The Norwegians were in second place behind Ogier before they too hit a tree. The resulting spin cost them 20 seconds and sent them four places down the leaderboard.

Volkswagen team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila ended the first stage early and in Rally 2 regulations for the day two start, thanks to a damaged front left driveshaft and rear-wheel drive only power on the pair’s rally Polo.

Stage sweeping
Yet again, it really wasn’t Latvala’s event. Day two started with a puncture for the Finn, and even victory in three of the four stages wasn’t enough to rocket him and Anttila up the rankings. The Finnish pair even benefited form the faster times enabled by the stage sweeping which was led by Ogier, but it was still in vain: Latvala and Anttila finished in 26th place.

Latvala was again resigned to defeat, but remained upbeat: ‘Naturally, my second home rally didn’t go at all according to plan. It is always a bitter pill to swallow when a competition is over so early from a sporting perspective. However, it is also important to reflect on the positive aspects of the weekend.

‘The car felt fantastic, we were totally competitive and we proved that with best times on some stages. Unfortunately, I had to take to the track first on the closing power stage, which meant that I wasn’t really in with a chance of picking up any points.

‘We have a good starting position for the next event in Mexico however, and we have to make use of it. Hopefully the conditions will be on our side, and I wouldn’t be averse to a little more luck than in the first two events of the season.’

Extra points
It was a more hopeful story for the Norwegian contingent. The end of day two saw Mikkelsen and Jæger in up two places to fourth, 25.1 seconds behind Østberg. The young pair also held their nerve and their standing until the end of the event, scoring extra points in the Power Stage, ensuring their solid finish just one place outside of the podium.

Ogier remained at his unflappable and unerringly cool best, though, taking first place and maximum points in the Power Stage, the 27th time he and Ingrassia have done so. For Volkswagen, Ogier’s Power Stage result marked the 33rd time in 40 rallies the manufacturer has come out on top in the bonus point round.

Like Latvala, Mikkelsen was disappointed with his result: ‘Naturally, fourth place is not what we were aiming for at the Rally Sweden. We definitely wanted to be fighting for the win. However, to achieve this, we had to drive on full attack right from the start.

‘Ultimately we made too many mistakes. Naturally, we will learn from this. I gave it my all once again on the power stage today and picked up two bonus points. On balance we made the best of the situation.”

Fourth consecutive Swedish win
The 2016 Rally Sweden victory was the fourth consecutive Swedish win for both Volkswagen Motorsport and the Polo R WRC since its first World Rally Championship entry in 2013, and 36th triumph in 41 rallies. The Swedish win was Ogier and Ingrassia’s 34th overall victory.

Understandably, the confident Frenchman was once again thrilled with the outcome: ‘Winning in Sweden again is an incredible feeling. I just love this rally. The conditions were far from ideal at the start of the week after the thawing and all the rain.

‘But that makes it all the more pleasing that we eventually had a really good, wintery Rally Sweden. Yesterday, we probably had to take the greatest risk of our career in order to win. But it paid off, and I am just really happy.’

‘Fantastic effort’
Still ever-full of praise for his squad after its staggering 36th truimph, Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito said: ‘To win Rally Sweden four times is a fantastic effort from the entire team, but particularly from Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. With the very special conditions created by the weather, winning this rally took a will to attack and a flawless display in equal measure.

‘The fact that going at full throttle 100 per cent of the time doesn’t necessarily guarantee success was demonstrated by Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger. Like their team-mates they gave it their all, but minor errors made the difference between victory and fourth place. Jari-Matti Latvia and Miikka Anttila missed out on fighting for the win early on, but despite the setbacks, they delivered a good performance.’

The third round of the series, the 2016 Rally Mexico will take place around the León, the country’s fifth largest city, from 3-6 March.

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
RALLY SWEDEN FINAL RESULTS


1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen: 1h 59m 47.4s
2 Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai: + 29.8s
3 Mads Østberg/Ola Fløene (N/N), Ford: + 55.6s
4 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen: 1m 10.8s
5 Ott Tänak/Raigo Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford: + 1m 50.7s

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS


1 Sébastien Ogier, 56

2 Andreas Mikkelsen, 33
3 Mads Østberg, 27
4 Hayden Paddon, 18
5 Dani Sordo, 18

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS


1 Volkswagen Motorsport, 54

2 Hyundai Motorsport, 49
3 Volkswagen Motorsport II, 30
4 M-Sport, 27
5 DMACK, 18

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