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07 April 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Potent in Portugal – Ogier and Volkswagen claim third 2014 WRC win


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

Rally Portugal from 3-6 April, the toughest event so far of the 2014 World Rally Championship season, saw Volkswagen emerge victorious for the third time this year. World Champions Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia fought hard to take their third podium, scoring the Volkswagen Polo R WRC’s record eighth consecutive event victory – the longest winning run in WRC history.

Ogier and Ingrassia’s team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila finished 14th after a major crash rendered the Finnish duo’s Polo R WRC undrivable on day two of the event. A super-human overnight effort by the crew’s mechanics saw the car restart the next day under Rally 2 regulations, looking as a good as new. Challenging for the lead from second place on the Friday saw Latvala make a minor mistake, which then flipped and rolled the #2 315bhp Polo.

But, picking up four valuable points for the Manufacturers’ Championship proved the efforts were worthwhile. Latvala and Anttila then went on to take two stage wins, and also finished runners-up on the Power Stage, picking up a further two bonus points.

Latvala was reflective: ‘The Rally Portugal has shown once again that it is deservedly seen as one of the most difficult rallies in the world. Our pace was very good, so we had the opportunity to finish on the podium. Unfortunately, however, an avoidable little mistake on Friday had pretty big consequences. That was very disappointing and put paid to any chances of a good result. We then altered our strategy and targeted the Power Stage.’

The final Volkswagen crew, Andreas Mikkelsen and Mikko Markkula, also endured a varied event. Making their second Rally Portugal start in the Polo R WRC, the pair created a new set of pace notes. However, the heavy rain and poor visibility during the recce meant their new notes didn’t correlate with the changing conditions. Mikkelsen and Markkula decided to set about a damage limitation exercise, and not take any risks. But, a fourth place finish is still something worth savouring.

‘The Rally Portugal did not go as I had hoped, although the eventual result was not so bad. We decided to write some new pace notes. However, the heavy rain during the ‘Recce’ made visibility so poor that I could not really put any faith in them. The variable conditions at the start of the rally also made me a bit cautious. I lost a lot of time, but the last thing I wanted to do was to take too many risks. That paid off, in terms of the result at least: fourth place is the best we could really have hoped for,’ commented Mikkelsen.

For Ogier and Ingrassia, though, the Rally Portugal victory was the icing on a difficult-to-bake cake. The ingredients were all there, from an early win on the pre-rally ‘Fafe Rally Sprint’ (in front of 140,000 spectators) to the powerful Polo R WRC. But, the French pair’s 19th triumph wasn’t easy, with the lead changing and three different manufacturers on the podium during the event.

‘Four wins in five years. It is no exaggeration: the Rally Portugal is one of my very favourites! The whole week has been fantastic. First the show in front of more than 100,000 fans at the ‘Fafe Rally Sprint’, and now the icing on the cake with our title defence at the Rally Portugal on the Algarve. The encouragement and support of the fans is rather special here. We only took as many risks as needed on soft tyres on the final day. I heard that Markku Alén is the uncrowned king with five wins in Portugal. We can achieve that too next year. That is our goal,’ said a determined Ogier.

With saturated surfaces and tyre choices proving significant, Rally Portugal was demanding. But Volkswagen Motorsport came through it, extending its lead in the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championships. The record-breaking Polo R WRC now stands with the Citroën DS3 WRC as the car which has achieved the most wins in one run. The record was previously held by Citroën, who scored the same feat in 2011.

The rally monster from Wolfsburg also celebrated another milestone in Portugal. Contesting its 300th special stage on Friday, just as it had on its previous anniversaries – 50, 100, 150 and 250 – the Polo R WRC celebrated its latest achievement with another stage win. Seven special stages later it had taken another milestone: the 200th stage win since making its debut in 2013.

By the end of the Rally Portugal, Volkswagen had won 204 of the 312 special stages it has contested since the start of last season – a success rate of 65 per cent. Of 850 possible top-three times, 459 have gone to the Polo R WRC. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia’s victory marked the 24th podium and 14th win in 17 rallies since 2013 for Volkswagen.

The WRC crews head next to South America for the Rally Argentina from 8-11 May.

2014 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

RALLY PORTUGAL: FINAL RESULTS

1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen: 3h 33m 20.4s
2 Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Ford: + 43.2s
3 Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Citroën: + 1m 12.4s
4 Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN), Volkswagen: + 4m 50.5s
5 Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor (N/A), Ford: + 5m 10.2s

2014 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Sébastien Ogier, 91

2 Jari-Matti Latvala, 62

3 Mads Østberg, 48

4 Andreas Mikkelsen, 36
5 Mikko Hirvonen, 36

2014 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Volkswagen Motorsport, 144

2 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 75

3 M-Sport, 60

4 Hyundai Motorsport, 45

5 Volkswagen Motorsport II, 40

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09 July 2013 ~ 0 Comments

Silver for Ekström at European Rallycross Championship in Sweden

2013 FIA European Rallycross Championship, Sweden: Mattias Ekström

After just two weeks behind the wheel of Marklund Motorsport’s guest driver rallycross Polo R, Mattias Ekström took second place at his home track of Höljes in round six of the FIA European Rallycross Championship last weekend. The three-times Race of Champions winner and DTM star placed fourth at the X Games Munich in the Red Bull-liveried Polo the weekend before Sweden, and the Swede was first in heats three and four, with the fastest times of the meeting. In the semi-final, Ekström started third, played his joker on the first lap, chasing down the rest of the pack from last place. As every other driver played their jokers, the Swede crept ahead, stealing the lead from Timmy Hansen, and finishing one second ahead.

Ekström started from third in the final, behind Andreas Bakkerud and Petter Solberg, dropping to fourth behind Hansen as he played his joker. Ekström stayed close behind, keeping tight to Hansen as they both moved forward a position when Solberg pulled out on lap three. Shortly after Bakkerud took his joker, Ekström flew past Hansen, continuing to hold him back for the remaining two laps, awarding the DTM regular a well-deserved second place in only his first RallycrossRX competition. ‘The whole experience of this weekend has really been 10 of 10 – the way the event is run, the spirit of the spectators, and the passion and commitment of the Marklund Motorsport team is incredible. I’ve said it before but the way the car handles is amazing, I’ve never felt the way I have this weekend in my entire career, and I really hope I’ll be back on a rallycross track soon,’ enthused Ekström.

As in Munich, it was a more disappointing weekend for Marklund Motorsport’s lead driver Anton Marklund. A knock with Kristoffersen lead to a puncture on the first lap, putting Marklund in 28th place after heat one and then 32nd overall as he was driven off the track by a race-ending crash with Valle in heat two. Although he set fast times on day two of the meeting – winning his third heat and placing second in his fourth – Marklund was unable to reach the semi-finals in Höljes. ‘What a great result for the team – Mattias had amazing pace, he’s an incredible driver and really showed how awesome the Polo R Supercar can be! I had a tough weekend, and was knocked out of the running in my first two heats, but even though I had a better day today it just wasn’t enough to get me any further,’ commented Marklund.

[Imnages: Johnny Loix, QBA/Qnigan.com]

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20 November 2012 ~ 0 Comments

Disappointing final flourish on Rally Spain ahead of 2013 Polo R WRC campaign

2012 Rally Spain: Ogier/Ingrassia

With the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship now at a close, it was a mixed last round for Volkswagen Motorsport’s pair of Škoda Fabia S2000s. Rally Spain (8-11 November) saw a retirement at the end of the first day for Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, while Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Andreas Mikkelsen and his co-driver Ola Fløene finished 21st after day one’s stages due to an accident. Following the cermonial start in Barcelona, slippery conditions on gravel and tarmac made life difficult for the drivers, but both Ogier and Mikkelsen admirably closed the gap between their S2000 cars and the more powerful WRC racers.

Volkswagen Motorsport then started to run out of luck. Ogier and Ingrassia’s bonnet lifted, losing them time, and shortly afterwards Mikkelsen and Fløene were struck by Petter Solberg and Thierry Neuville, damaging their suspension. Just after the start of Special Stage 6, Ogier and Ingrassia had to retire due to a drivetrain fault, and although Mikkelsen and Fløene completed the event to Rally 2 regulations, they did gather valuable experience for 2013. Although their rally pairing ended this season, Mikkelsen hopes to be named the third Polo driver for Volkswagen Motorsport’s assault on the 2013 WRC rounds, alongside Ogier and Finn Jari-Matti Latvala.

‘At “Monte” at the beginning of the year we crashed, and now at the season finale we have had technical problems. Other than that, the season went superbly,’ said Ogier, expressing his satisfaction with his first year for Volkswagen. ‘And, honestly speaking, I’m also proud of ten class victories. Whenever we saw the finish we were the quickest S2000 car. But I’m also glad that the year of transition is over. Now I’m incredibly excited about the beginning of the hot phase with the Polo R WRC – and about being able to compete with the top-flight drivers again at Rallye Monte Carlo.’

Volkswagen Junior Andreas Mikkelsen assessed the season in a positive light as well. ‘For me, it’s been a brilliant year. Of course I’m proud to be the first driver in history to have defended my IRC title,’ says the pleased Norwegian. ‘And the year with Volkswagen was enormously important for me, too. Driving in such a large team and getting to know the processes was completely new to me. I’m happy that I received good feedback from the team and very much hope to become the third Volkswagen WRC driver next year.’

Before the start of the ‘Monte’, the Volkswagen Motorsport team will head to Mexico, France and Sweden to push the Polo R WRC still further. The 300bhp, four-wheel drive, 1.6-litre rally car will make its much-aniticipated and long-awaited competitive debut on the Rallye Monte Carlo on 15 January 2013. All eyes will, finally, be watching it.

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