30 June 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Polos on the podium in Poland: Volkswagen’s WRC success continues

2014 Volkswagen Polo R WRC, Rally Poland: Ogier/Ingrassia

In a now-familiar scenario, Volkswagen Motorsport came out on top once more at Rally Poland last weekend (26-29 June). World Rally Champions Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia scored the 17th victory for the Polo R WRC, out of the 20 rallies in which it has competed.

It was a Volkswagen 1-2, as Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene finished second at the event in Eastern Europe. Team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila put in a storming catch-up drive to complete the event in fifth place.

The Polish win was the 21st for Ogier and Ingrassia and the Frenchmen now have a 50-point lead ahead of team-mates Latvala and Anttila. It’s a Volkswagen 1-2-3 in the Drivers’ Championship, as Mikkelsen and Fløene sit under Latvala and Anttila. The first non-Volkswagen driver is Citroën’s Mads Østberg in fourth place.

The 315bhp, four-wheel drive Polo R WRC now has 30 podium positions under its tyres from 20 events. It was the first time the Volkswagen Motorsport team had lined up for Rally Poland, the seventh event of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar.

As usual, Ogier stormed through the fifth gravel rally of 2014, with a pace of 73mph over the 304.21km-long event. With the lead constantly alternating between him and Mikkelsen over the opening stages, the Frenchman was put under real pressure by the young Norwegian and had to put pedal to the metal to stay ahead.

Mikkelsen really was on fire, clocking up an average pace of 84mph over the 12.89km of the Wieliczki 2 stage – he went at full pelt for 80.21 per cent of this stage, setting a new fastest time record in the process.

Ogier was pleased he stayed ahead: ‘It’s just brilliant – this win was an important one in the world championship stakes! Julien and I had a perfect rally here in Poland. The stages were incredibly quick – and the huge numbers of fans along the way were simply brilliant. As a driver, you can enjoy every single kilometre.

‘On the final day there were some wonderful stretches again where I had to force myself not to go at full pelt. Because obviously we didn’t want to jeopardise our lead too much. I’d like to say a huge thank you to my team, who provided me with a perfect car every day. The Polo R WRC is simply a great car to drive.’

Mikkelsen meanwhile was equally grateful: ‘Second place and my second podium finish in the WRC – it’s a great result. It was an honour for me to battle it out with the reigning world champion for the top spot for so long.

‘We will endeavour to gradually improve to the levels of Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala – and we took a big step in that direction here. For now, though, I’m going to celebrate the fact that I came second and recognise what we achieved this weekend.’

Rally Poland took the drivers as far as Lithuania, with the latter runs of the country’s stages cancelled due to high numbers of spectators and large potholes which had appeared on the stage routes.

Latvala damaged the front left suspension of his Polo R WRC during the 14th stage, and his mechanics faced a mammoth list of work ti get the car back and ready after Saturday’s lunchtime service.

But, Volkswagen’s service crews are renowned for pulling out all the stops, and thats exactly what they did. With help from Ogier’s mechanics, Latvala’s crew replaced the front dampers, the entire front axle (including the steering), the front left spindle, the front underbody, the windscreen wiper engine, the windscreen, the engine cover, as well as the front left wing and mudflap. All in a mere 28 minutes.

The effort was worth it as Latvala and Anttila moved from seventh to fifth place overall, winning an additional five special stages and were in the top three at all times. Indeed, Latvala finished just seven tenths of a second behind Mikko Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford).

The ever-conscious Latvala recognised his achievement. ‘It was a rally with some ups and downs, but ultimately a happy ending. I lacked confidence at the beginning and the vehicle set-up wasn’t right, and then we lost a lot of time due to the damaged damper.

‘But ultimately what matters the most is that we managed to hit the right pace again and were therefore able to partially close the gap to the front-runners. I have now also overcome my demons from Rally Poland in 2009, as I managed to win the stage where I was forced to pull out back then.’

Volkswagen Motorsport remains unbeaten since Rally Australia in 2013, while Ogier and Ingrassia have clocked up an amazing 11 wins in a row. Volkswagen has scored the fastest times in 244 of the 365 special stages which it has contended in 2013 and 2014.

Also, 565 out of a possible 1019 top-three times have been clinched by the Polo R WRC. And in Poland, the Wolfsburg-based World Rally Car secured 18 out of a possible 22 fastest times and 44 out of a possible 66 top-three times.

With the championship breaking for a month, Volkswagen Motorsport has extended its lead ahead of Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT in the manufacturers’ standings to 147 points. This means that the earliest the German outfit can be knocked from the top spot is Rally France in October.

With Ogier driving as he is, you really wouldn’t bet against VW being toppled. The 2014 World Rally Championship resumes with Rally Finland, which runs from 31 July to 3 August.

2014 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
RALLY POLAND FINAL RESULTS

1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen: 2h 34m 02.0s
2 Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N), Volkswagen: + 1m 07.7s
3 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai: + 2m 13.5s
4 Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Ford: + 2m 32.4s
5 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen: + 2m 33.1s

2014 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Sébastien Ogier, 166
2 Jari-Matti Latvala, 116
3 Andreas Mikkelsen, 83
4 Mads Østberg, 66
5 Mikko Hirvonen, 52

2014 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Volkswagen Motorsport, 262
2 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 115
3 M-Sport, 90
4 Volkswagen Motorsport II, 82
5 Hyundai Motorsport, 80

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