25 August 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Tricky in Trier: Ogier and Latvala crash out of Rally Germany; Mikkelsen is third

2014 Volkswagen Polo R WRC, Rally Germany: Latvala/Anttila

In an almost repeat of 2013, Volkswagen Motorsport’s two top drivers spectacularly crashed out of the 2014 ADAC Rallye Deutschland (Rally Germany), which ran around the Trier vineyard region of the country from 21-24 August. Stages included the legendary ‘Panzerplatte’, ‘Dhrontal’ and ‘Grafschaft’.

2014 World Rally Championship leader Sébastien Ogier went off the road on Saturday, with the then rally leader Jari-Matti Latvala following suit the following day.

However, as consolation, the third Volkswagen Motorsport driver Andreas Mikkelsen finished the event on the bottom step of the podium.

Overall victory went to Hyundai Motorsport’s Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul driving an i20 WRC. The Belgians’ Spanish team-mates Dani Sordo and Marc Marti were one place behind them.

Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia’s exit was the first major surprise of the event. The Frenchmen skidded off the road while in the lead on the final stage of the opening day, falling a long way down the leaderboard.

Re-starting under Rally 2 regulations on day two, the pair suffered another off, hitting the armco barrier at a dramatically high speed.

Both were thankfully unhurt, but the roll cage of Polo R WRC #1 was so extensively damaged, it could not be repaired on-site within the stipulated three-hours permitted by FIA regulations.

The motorsport governing body made the call, and Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito regrettably withdrew the car from the event.

A disappointed Ogier said: ‘The crash happened about one kilometre after the start of stage eight. We were in sixth gear on a long straight. Then came a slight right-hand bend over a crest.

‘The jump was further than expected, the rear kicked out upon landing and I lost control of the car. We then crashed into the barriers and came to a halt on an embankment with small trees.

‘At that moment, the most important thing was when Julien and I realised that we were both okay. We were taken to hospital for routine check-ups, but came out of it unscathed.

‘The Polo R WRC did not escape so lightly, as the crash was unfortunately rather severe and the roll cage was damaged slightly. This means we are not able to re-join the rally tomorrow, for safety reasons.

‘This weekend is definitely one to forget for us. It is like an exact repeat of last year, and we are solely responsible. I am only looking ahead now.

‘The Rally Australia gives us another opportunity to secure the Manufacturers’ title for Volkswagen and to extend our lead in the Drivers’ Championship. We will show our fighting spirit down under.’

Latvala’s off was even more bittersweet, coming after Ogier’s slip-ups with a maiden VW Rally Germany victory in sight. Made all the worse following the Finn’s storming performance at sat month’s Rally Finland where he and co-driver Miikka Anttila won the event.

Leading at the start of Sunday, a mistake 70 kilometres from the end of the rally cost the Finns any hope of a second consecutive win. The dream of victory ended on stage 15 out of 18, ‘Drohntal’.

As the weather turned and conditions got very slippery, the Finn left the road after a long left-hand bend and skidded into one of Trier’s many vineyards, hitting a barrier as they tried to get back on the tarmac.

Once again, the Finnish team had dominated the event up until that point, opening up a leading gap of almost one minute. Latvala and Anttila were never out of the top five on the first 14 special stages, and clocked the fastest time on eight.

Latvala was apologetic: ‘We had victory within our grasp. I feel incredibly bad at the way we crashed out, especially for the team. I could have given them this win, but unfortunately I made a mistake with grave consequences.

‘The conditions were extremely difficult today – it alternated constantly between dry and wet sections. A long left-hander, in which the road seemed dry, proved to be more slippery than I thought.

‘The car ended up sideways on the exit from the corner and we skidded into the vineyard. Because we could not get back up the hill, I tried to get back onto the road by heading downhill. Unfortunately we hit a solid barrier in doing so and had to give up.

‘As far as the championship is concerned, the gap to Sébastien remains the same. All I can do is try again to catch him at the next rallies, and to help Volkswagen seal the Manufacturers’ title with races to spare in Australia.’

Mikkelsen meanwhile enjoyed a considered drive, rewarding Volkswagen Motorsport with a first Rally Germany podium place. It was also the first podium for the Norwegian and his co-driver Ola Fløene on asphalt, benefitting from their team-mates’ unfortunate luck.

The young Norwegian was pleased with his result: ‘The conditions at Rally Germany were extremely difficult. The weather called the shots on all three days and created really slippery conditions.

‘It was even more difficult on Sunday, and all of the top drivers had at least one hairy moment on the opening stage of the day. Unfortunately one such moment brought my team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala’s rally to a premature end.

‘It is a shame, as the team had more than earned a home win and, as always, had gone all out for the win. I hope my third place is a little consolation. I am pleased with my first WRC podium on asphalt.’

The Rally Germany finish was also the 33rd for Volkswagen over the course of the past 22 rallies since the manufacturer made its debut with the Polo R WRC at the 2013 Rally Monte Carlo.

Rally Germany remains the only event on the WRC calendar that Volkswagen is yet to win and the result also brings to an end Volkswagen’s record-breaking run of twelve back-to-back rally wins.

Volkswagen Motorsport Direct Jost Capito was reflective: ‘We are obviously disappointed. We were so close to a home win, but a small mistake had big consequences.

‘Unfortunately Jari-Matti Latvala was unable to convert his dominance into a victory. However, mistakes happen in rallying and they are part of the sport. We are only human, after all.

‘However, after a record run of twelve successive wins, we need not feel too bad about one failure. It would appear that luck is not on our side in Germany. We win as a team and lose as a team.

‘Today we lost out on a possible victory with Jari-Matti, but we gained a podium place with Andreas Mikkelsen. Congratulations to Thierry Neuville and Hyundai on their first win in the World Rally Championship!’

But, every cloud has a silver lining. The results of Rally Germany mean that the 2014 World Rally Champion will again be behind the wheel of a Polo R WRC.

Only Ogier, Latvala, and Mikkelsen still have a mathematical chance of winning the Drivers’ title with four rallies remaining.

Ogier is now 113 points clear of fourth-placed Citroën driver Mads Østberg with only 112 points still available. Ogier and Latvala’s co-drivers, Julien Ingrassia and Miikka Anttila, will battle it out for the title in the Co-Drivers’ Championship.

The German manufacturer looks also set to win the title at the next round of the season, Rally Australia. Currently leading by 167 points, a lead of 129 points after the rally down under would suffice to give Volkswagen its second successive Manufacturers’ title.

Seventh place for either Ogier or Latvala would suffice, even if rival Citroën were to finish one-two. The 2014 Coates Hire Rally Australia runs from 11-14 September.

2014 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

RALLY GERMANY FINAL RESULTS
1 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai: 3h 07m 20.2s
2 Dani Sordo/Marc Marti (E/E), Hyundai: + 40.7s
3 Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N), Volkswagen: + 58.0s
4 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (GB/GB), Ford: + 1m 03.6s
5 Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Ford: + 1m 10.5s

2014 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Sébastien Ogier, 187

2 Jari-Matti Latvala, 143

3 Andreas Mikkelsen, 110

4 Mads Østberg, 74

5 Mikko Hirvonen, 73



2014 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Volkswagen Motorsport, 305

2 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 138
3 Hyundai Motorsport, 131

4 M-Sport, 128

5 Volkswagen Motorsport II, 109

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