28 April 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Retirements force Volkswagen out of podium places at Rally Argentina

2015 Volkswagen Polo R WRC, Rally Argentina: Mikkelsen/Fløene

After seven consecutive victories and 20 podiums, Volkswagen’s luck finally ran out at Rally Argentina, which took place on 23-26 April. The fourth round of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship was cruel to the team from Wolfsburg, and forced all three Polo R WRCs to retire from the event.

In a hopeful twist, world champion Sébastien Ogier managed to claw back three valuable points from a Power Stage win, but that was all the German outfit managed to achieve on the 316km event. The 2015 world champion finished 17th overall, but lead the event after the first opening stage.

On a more positive note, the Volkswagen Motorsport crews won eight of the twelve special stages, but the retirement disappointments meant that the podium was the first since Rally Australia in 2013 without a Volkswagen driver. The Argentinian result came as a setback to the German team after Ogier’s hat-trick of recent wins.

Loss of power
Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia pulled out early due to a fuel supply problem with their car. A loss of power on stage two of day one forced them out of the running, but the French pair started day two under Rally 2 regulations. Ogier’s victory on the final leg made it Volkswagen’s 22nd Power Stage win.

‘Naturally I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t get a win here in Argentina at my third attempt. However, it was nothing to do with the demanding and harsh track conditions or the fantastic fans cheering us on and supporting us drivers so enthusiastically,’ said Ogier.

‘Up to this point Julien and I had enjoyed a perfect start to the season – and this time we were unlucky. That’s part and parcel of motorsport and proves that wins are never guaranteed. I don’t blame the team at all; they all did their best as always. We’ll be back next year and hopefully I will be able to make my dream of a first win here come true,’ he continued.

The very same stage which knocked out Ogier and Ingrassia had a similar treat in store for Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene. A puncture soon escalated into a bigger setback than they had expected and curtailed any plans to take event victory.

After a Rally 2 regulation restart the Scandinavian duo aimed to take the Power Stage win, but crashed after severely striking a rock and retired with irrepairable suspension damage.

‘This definitely wasn’t our rally. Tyre damage on Friday turned out to be a major problem, resulting in a damper breaking and then the servo pump. Hindsight is a wonderful thing – we should have changed the flat tyre on the stage,’ Mikkelsen commented.

‘As a result, we had to really go for it on the Power Stage. I risked everything there today and had a good feeling after winning the previous stage on the same stretch of route. But I wanted it too badly, hit a rock and ripped off the rear tyre.

‘Obviously I am disappointed, as I had big plans and wanted to be fighting for the win here. But I will soon put it behind me and turn all of my attention to the Rally Portugal in four weeks’ time,’ the Norwegian continued.

Fuel supply problems
The final day brought more drama for Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila. Like Ogier and Ingrassia, the Finns suffered fuel supply problems. They were running third in the overall ranking on the penultimate stage when retirement became the only option.

Latvia noted: ‘It definitely wasn’t our weekend – even though I was on course to finish on the podium until right before the end. ‘El Cóndor’ is one of my favourite stages and I had big plans for today. But we had problems with the fuel supply on the way to the start.

‘We tried to repair it, but had to retire four kilometres before the end of the stage. It’s a bitter blow for us all, the team and the fans. After three “zeroes” in the last three rallies I need to start picking up points again. My focus is on Portugal now.’

Overall victory on the event went to Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle in their Citroën DS3 WRC. The Irish pair were followed by their team-mates Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson. Brits Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt claimed the third spot on the podium with their M-Sport Ford Fiesta.

As the championship heads to Rally Portugal on 21-24 May, Volkswagen still tops the overall driver and manufacturer leaderboards, leading joint next-placed Citroën and Hyundai by 18 points. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have a 33-point lead over Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson, with Volkswagen team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene four points further behind.

2015 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
RALLY ARGENTINA FINAL RESULTS


1 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën: 3h 41m 44.9s
2 Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Citroën: + 18.1s
3 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (GB/GB), Ford: + 3m 27.4s
4 Martin Prokop/Jan Tománek (CZ/CZ), Ford: + 6m 26.1s
5 Dani Sordo/Marc Martí (E/E), Hyundai: + 10m 46.7s

2015 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Sébastien Ogier, 84
2 Mads Østberg, 51
3 Andreas Mikkelsen, 47
4 Elfyn Evans, 41
5 Kris Meeke, 35

2015 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Volkswagen Motorsport, 103
2 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 85
2 Hyundai Motorsport, 85
4 M-Sport, 71
5 Jipocar Czech National Team, 32

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