19 June 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Ogier snatches third Sardinian Volkswagen victory at 2015 Rally Italy

2015 Volkswagen Polo R WRC, Rally Italy: Ogier/Ingrassia

Fresh from Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila’s victory and its podium lock-out at last month’s Rally Portugal, Volkswagen Motorsport headed to Sardinia for the 2015 Rally Italy with emboldened confidence.

The sixth round of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Volkswagen Motorsport had nothing to prove but still wanted to win. World champion Sébastien Ogier did just that, taking victory ahead of Hyundai Motorsport’s very capable Hayden Paddon and John Kennard.

Lure of a hat-trick
The German outfit won the Sardinian-based event in both 2013 and 2014, so the lure of hat-trick was strong. The Polo R WRC crews started off the 394km event in fourth, fifth and eighth places after the preliminary shakedown run through, but soon gained ground. Sébastien Ogier and Latvala finished the first day on the dusty tracks in second and third places respectively, behind New Zealand’s Paddon.

Andreas Mikkelsen meanwhile was forced out of contention by striking a hole in the road on the ‘Grighine Nord’ stage which damaged a wheel rim and a rear shock absorber, as well as parts of the fuel system. After attempting to fix the malady at the roadside, the Norwegian and his co-driver Ola Fløene abandoned their efforts and rejoined the event under Rally 2 regulations on day two.

Gripping battle
The second day – the longest rallying day for 13 years – saw Frenchman Ogier stage a gripping battle with the plucky Haddon for first place. The young driver was finally surpassed on stage 17, with Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia over two minutes in front by the day’s end. The Polo R WRC also took its 400th WRC stage win.

While Ogier was yet again dealt a perfect hand, both Latvala and Mikkelsen suffered setbacks. Latvala started the day in third postion overall, but tyre damage on stage 13 forced him and Anttila to change the tyre. Suspension damage occurred on stage 17 thanks to a rock on the driving line. Running repairs saw the Finns limp their way to service, and slip down to sixth place in the standings.

Mikkelsen and Fløene’s potential longest day ended up being a short one due to further suspension damage. Once again, the duo restarted the event under Rally 2 regulations on day three. The Norwegian duo finished the event in 36th place.

Third consecutive Italian victory
Once the impressive Paddon had been dispatched, though, the event was Ogier’s. The 2015 Rally Italy marked his and Ingrassia’s third consecutive Italian victory, as well as the pair’s 25th podium with the Polo R WRC.

It was also the fourth time the men have been on the top step of the winners’ rostrum in 2015, and Ogier now has a commanding 66-point lead over his nearest rival Mads Østberg. Volkswagen Motorsport is now 65 points clear of Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT in the Manufacturers’ Championship.

‘The win here on Sardinia was very important in our fight for the world championship. We now have a big lead over our rivals. The decisive factor for the success in addition to a perfect car and a fantastic team was that Julien and I were in perfect harmony this weekend,’ Ogier enthused.

‘This is nothing unusual, but there were so many new stages here and the days were so long, that we both needed to be fully focussed the whole time. This has been the most physically demanding rally of the season so far. Which is why I am so delighted and proud of this success in Italy,’ the double world champion continued.

Considerable willpower
Overall, Latvala and Anttila completed the 2015 Rally Italy in sixth place once all the setbacks had been considered. The Finnish duo also won seven special stages – more than their team-mates and demonstrated considerable willpower to battle on through to the end.

Jari-Matti Latvala was reflective but upbeat: ‘The Polo R WRC continued to perform well today, but after yesterday’s events it wasn’t really possible to make up any ground. That’s why we focussed on the Power Stage. Successfully.

‘All in all, I should be happy with sixth place and a total of ten points after the Power Stage considering the problems I had this weekend. Despite this, there are also some positives to take away. We were fast over the entire distance. We can build on that for Poland. I’m looking forward to it already!’ said the Finn.

Ogier was boosted by a win on the final competitive element of the event, the Power Stage. In a similar situation to 2014’s event, it was important for Latvala to score points, too, and he did the job, finishing in second place on the final stage. Mikkelsen completed the bonus Power Stage points lock-out.

‘Difficult rally’
‘It wasn’t going to be possible to get anything other than points on the Power Stage today. I really went for it, and with success. I did well on the Power Stage, I didn’t make any mistakes and did the best I could with the starting position. It’s good that we took something that counts away,’ said a dejected Mikkelsen.

‘But naturally I am disappointed that we had something of a difficult rally here – and we will learn from this. I’m already looking ahead to the next rally in Poland. It suited me well last year and we staged a great duel with Sébastien Ogier for the win. I hope that we can build on that in two weeks.’

The 2015 Rally Italy marked the 27th victory for the Polo R WRC in the FIA World Rally Championship and podium number 52 since the car made its debut in January 2013. The powerhouse from Wolfsburg now has 406 stage wins from 592 special stages, having added a further 14 in Italy.

The next event and seventh round of the 2015 World Rally Championship, the 2015 Rally Poland, takes place from 2-5 July.

2015 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

RALLY ITALY FINAL RESULTS
1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen: 4h 25m 54.3s
2 Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyudai: + 3m 05.4s
3 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai: + 4m 22.5s

4 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (GB/GB), Ford : + 5m 34.8s
5 Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Citroën: + 7m 50.1s

2015 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS
1 Sébastien Ogier, 133
2 Mads Østberg, 67
3 Andreas Mikkelsen, 64
4 Jari-Matti Latvala, 56
5 Elfyn Evans, 53

2015 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS
1 Volkswagen Motorsport, 179
2 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 114
2 Hyundai Motorsport, 113
4 M-Sport, 99
5 Jipocar Czech National Team, 34

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