10 March 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Viva Volkswagen! 2014 Rally Mexico one-two for Ogier and Latvala

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

Heading to Rally Mexico (6-9 March) leading the 2014 World Rally Championship, Volkswagen Motorsport stayed on top with a one-two finish for Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala. The fourth Volkswagen one-two in WRC history, it all started on Thursday night with a 1km Super Special stage in the town of Guanajuato. The Volkswagen top two finished the fast and furious action around the UNESCO World Heritage site first and third, while the young Volkswagen pilot Andreas Mikkeslen came in fifth.

Rally Mexico is renowned for its tough, dusty and high-altitude conditions, and Ogier and Latvala faced a bigger challenge – being first and second on the stages due to their overall championship positions. After the opening Super Special stage, the second day delivered more flawless action from the Frenchman and the Finn, who opened up a substantial lead over the competition. The final day saw the pace controlled and the Volkswagen stars claimed a fourth one-two for the German outfit.

Sébastien Ogier was rightly ecstatic: ‘Mexico really is a fantastic country for us! I like the rally, and it seems to like me. Our entire team did a sensational job all weekend, and the Polo R WRC was once again super reliable and super quick in extreme conditions. I was hungry for this win after my mistake in Sweden! And although we will now have to act as street sweepers for the opposition at the next round in Portugal, the World Championship points are more important than anything else.’

With dust and loose gravel to contend with, the leading Polo R WRCs were effectively street sweepers, but mighty ones at that: Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia were 5:28.6 minutes ahead of the best-placed non-Volkswagen driver at the end of the event on Sunday. The French pair are now back in the lead at the top of the championship points table, nosing ahead of Latvala and his co-driver Miikka Anttila.

Latvala was reflective, but happy: ‘I am really very happy with second place. Having been first onto the route on day one, which meant we were quite a long way off the lead, we set our sights on a place on the podium. Rally Mexico was hard work and also very demanding on the cars. The Polo coped admirably with the stresses and strains of the high altitude and soaring temperatures, and our team also did a perfect job.’

With the double finish, Volkswagen Motorsport is now 55 points ahead of nearest rival Citroën in the Manufacturers’ Championship, while Mikkelsen and his co-driver Mikko Markkula are fourth overall.

It wasn’t plain sailing for the young Norwegian, though. On Friday the pair suffered damaged suspension when they hit a rock exiting a corner on the ‘El Chocolate’ stage, forcing retirement from second position. Saturday meanwhile saw Polo R WRC #9 roll, when a mistake in the pace notes saw a corner cut and the car hit a hole in the road, flipping it over.

But, as ever, the super-competent Volkswagen Motorsport mechanics worked miracles, and the battered Polo was back as good as new for the final day’s action on Sunday. Repairing the rolled car took just under three hours, the time limit specified in the WRC regulations. As it was Mikkelsen and Markkula’s first time at Rally Mexico, they used the final day of the event to gather experience rather than championship points.

Mikkelsen acknowledged his errors. ‘A tough rally for us. Retiring twice is not exactly what we had in mind. I just made too many mistakes. Thanks to the great job done by my mechanics, I was still able to gain a few kilometres of experience at Rally Mexico on Sunday, which will allow us to push hard again next year. All in all, we learned an awful lot here – unfortunately we did it the hard way.’

The Polo R WRC proved faultless as usual, dealing unflappably with Rally Mexico’s difficult conditions. With the special stages taking teams from 1800 to 2800 metres above sea level, rally cars can suffer. The higher they go, the cooling efficiency of the engine decreases due to the lower air pressure and oxygen content in the air, but the Polo R WRC was prepared well with software intelligence, minimising performance losses.

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director was more than happy with his team’s results. ‘A one-two in these difficult conditions and given the new regulations regarding the starting order is more than we had expected coming into Rally Mexico. I take my hat off to Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and our engineers, who made this success possible. The performance of the two drivers was undoubtedly outstanding.

‘However, the one-two is also a team success. Whether the chassis department or the engine department, the Polo R WRC was perfectly prepared for the difficult conditions. The champagne tastes particularly good today, as success in Mexico is always a bit special. It is the first gravel event of the year, and virtually a home event for Volkswagen. After all, our models are part of the scenery here. Everything came together here in Mexico, and we are very proud of what we have achieved.’

2014 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
RALLY MEXICO: FINAL RESULTS


1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen: 4h 27m 41.8s
2 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen: + 1m 12.6s
3 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai: + 5m 28.6s
4 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (GB/GB), Ford: + 6m 49.3s
5 Martin Prokop/Jan Tománek (CZ/CZ): Ford + 9m 54.4s

2014 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Sébastien Ogier, 63
2 Jari-Matti Latvala, 60
3 Mads Østberg, 32
4 Andreas Mikkelsen, 24
5 Elfyn Evans, 20

2014 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Volkswagen Motorsport, 115
2 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 60
3 M-Sport, 40
4 Hyundai Motorsport, 31
5 Volkswagen Motorsport II, 28

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