28 October 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Spanish celebrations: Mikkelsen claims maiden WRC win at Rally Spain

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

At last! Volkswagen’s rising rallying star Andreas Mikkelsen took his first FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) win at the recent Rally Spain, which took place in the Catalonia region from 22-25 October. The penultimate round of the 2015 series, the last two runnings of the event were won by Mikkelsen’s team-mate and current world rally champion Sébastien Ogier.

Seventh 2015 one-two
The young Norwegian Mikkelsen has risen through the rallying ranks and was part of Volkswagen’s S2000 programme which readied the squad for WRC glory using Skoda Fabia S2000s in the lead-up to a full world championship assault in 2013.

Mikkelsen and his co-driver Ola Fløene’s Spanish win gave Volkswagen Motorsport its seventh 2015 one-two in Spain, ahead of Finns Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila. After 63 starts and 12 podium positions, Mikkelsen and Fløene finally stood on the top step on the rostrum and took their well-deserved plaudits.

Sébastien Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia were forced to retire after a rare slip-up saw them hit a crash barrier on the asphalt section of the event and render their Polo R WRC undrivable due to the severity of the damage the car sustained. The result didn’t matter however: Ogier and Ingrassia have already been crowned overall 2015 world rally champions*.

Dramatic end
It was a close and dramatic end to a spectacular event, the only one on the WRC calendar to mix both gravel and asphalt surfaces. (The Volkswagen Motorsport mechanics changed over 4044 individual parts including wheels, gearbox, chassis geometry and dampers, and transformed the Polo R WRC from gravel muncher to asphalt skimmer in around 75 minutes!)

A puncture on the 12th stage brought Latvala’s duel with rally leader Ogier to a premature end, with the Finn losing almost a minute. But, through a determined drive, he bounced back into second place and into another fight, this time with Mikkelsen. A game of cat and mouse then saw Latvala suffer another puncture in stage 20, while Mikkelsen spun his car on stage 21 which cost him time.

Cruelly dashed
With Ogier set for his eighth win of 2015, disaster struck on the Power Stage. An all-asphalt final stage saw Ogier and Ingrassia divert from the racing line and strike a crash barrier at speed. Polo R WRC #1 was so damaged, the French duo had no other option but to retire, their hopes of a 32nd career win cruelly dashed.

Ogier was disappointed but happy for his winning team-mates: ‘I was too fast in a long left-hander and went a little too wide on the exit. We made contact with the crash barrier, which knocked us slightly off line and the wheel caught on a post holding the crash barriers.

‘That ripped the wheel off – and it was all over. Unfortunately this mistake cost us the win. However, I am very pleased for Andreas and Ola, who fully deserve their first win in the World Rally Championship.”

‘The perfect stage’
With Mikkelsen 1.4 seconds ahead of Latvala going into the stage, victory was the young Norwegian’s when he finished 1.7 seconds in front of his Finnish team-mate. Overall, Mikkelsen finished the Spanish event 3.1 seconds ahead of Latvala and was elated at the outcome. We at PoloDriver are chuffed the rising star has finally secured his first WRC victory.

An ecstatic Mikkelsen could barely contain his excitement: ‘We have waited so long and worked so hard for this moment. When it finally arrived, we could hardly believe it: we have won our first World Championship rally!

‘Today was exactly the opposite of what happened to us in Sweden. I am overjoyed, but don’t think it has fully sunk in yet. I am sure that will take a few days. We gave it our all on the Power Stage, and finally came up with the perfect stage at this rally.

‘That would certainly have been enough for second place, but the victory is obviously the icing on the cake. It is a shame for Seb and Julien, but the most important thing is that they were not hurt in the crash. It has been an incredible weekend for us, which we will certainly celebrate in style today.’

‘An exciting battle’
Latvala was pleased with his second place: ‘When you look at the way the rally panned out, I think we can be very happy with the result. Right from the word go today, an exciting battle for second place developed with my team mate Andreas Mikkelsen.

‘With six tyres, I had opted for the safer strategy, while Andreas went for the more aggressive – and probably better – strategy with five. My advantage had just about disappeared by the end of the morning. I then suffered a slow puncture on the 21st stage, which ultimately blew any hopes of finishing runner-up.

‘I did eventually finish a rather fortunate second after Sébastien Ogier crashed out. The most important thing is that nothing happened to him and Julien. Congratulations to Andreas and Ola on their maiden win in the World Rally Championship. I will attack again in Wales in three weeks – hopefully with a little better fortune.’

All-conquering Polo R WRC
The Spanish win was the eleventh win of the season for the all-conquering Polo R WRC, and its 33rd victory since it made its debut on the Monte Carlo Rally in January 2013. The small car from Wolfsburg also claimed 17 out of 23 stage wins on the mixed gravel and asphalt surfaces in Spain.

Going into the final event of the championship, as in 2014, Volkswagen crews will finish in the first, second and third world champion drivers’ standings. The last round of the 2015 World Rally Championship season is the Rally Great Britain, which will take place on the tracks of Wales from 12 to 15 November.

2015 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

RALLY SPAIN FINAL RESULTS
1 Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N), Volkswagen: 3h 21m 04.8s
2 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen: + 3.1s
3 Dani Sordo/Marc Martí (E/E), Hyundai: + 21.2s
4 Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Citroën: + 1m 06.3s
5 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën: + 1m 08.2s

2015 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS
1 Sébastien Ogier, 238
2 Jari-Matti Latvala, 180
3 Andreas Mikkelsen, 154
4 Mads Østberg, 110
5 Kris Meeke, 94

2015 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS
1 Volkswagen Motorsport, 387
2 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 206
3 Hyundai Motorsport, 202
4 M-Sport, 173
5 Volkswagen Motorsport II, 116

*Subject to confirmation by the FIA.

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