Rally drivers speak reverentially of Formula 1 in the forest: Volkswagen driver Sébastien Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia recorded the seventh consecutive S2000 class win in the so-called ‘Finnish Grand Prix’. The French duo, which will compete for Volkswagen with the Polo R WRC in the top class of the World Rally Championship in 2013, secured tenth position overall behind winner Frenchman Sébastien Loeb. Volkswagen Board Member Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg and Finnish racing legends like Ari Vatanen, Juha Kankkunen, Mika Salo and Tommi Mäkkinen followed the action at this, the season’s most dangerous and fastest WRC round. Ogier’s and Ingrassia’s team mates Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene from Norway finished 10th in the class.
Ogier: “I’m satisfied with tenth place. On the fast gravel tracks like the legendary Ouninpohja stage we extracted absolute everything that was possible from our Škoda when compared to the significantly more powerful WRC cars. Obviously next year we aim to be higher up with the Polo R WRC.” Exactly one year after Volkswagen’s debut in the World Rally Championship the Volkswagen crew produced a flawless performance for the near 300,000 enthusiastic and vocal fans along the 18 special stages over 303.52 kilometres. Huge demands are made of both man and machine at speeds of up to 200 km/h along forest tracks and jumps of almost 50 metres. Most prominent retirement of the 114 registered starters: US superstar Ken Block.
“It’s my first visit to a rally and I can say I’m impressed,” said Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Board Member for Technical Development of Volkswagen. “It’s fascinating to see with just how much enthusiasm the fans along the stages cheer on their heroes. I’m obviously very pleased with the excellent performances our driver pairings have produced during these demanding stages. The anticipation for 2013 and our entry with the Polo in the WRC are accordingly great.”
“With its hard and fast gravel tracks this Rally Finland certainly numbers to the most challenging and spectacular rallies this year,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “The entire team deserves great praise for doing a great job and for quickly solving the small problems that appeared. The driver teams were in good form despite the difficult and tough conditions and collected valuable experience for our WRC programme next year.”
Volkswagen winning streak continues at 1000 Lakes Rally
Exactly one year ago the Volkswagen Motorsport team competed in Finland, the land of a thousand lakes, in a WRC rally again for the first time since 1991. Unfortunately the cars did not make the finish last year, this time the 270 hp Fabias from Group brand Škoda fielded by Volkswagen fulfilled expectations – even if the brutal demands made of the material in the Finnish forests did not go unnoticed. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia had to battle with a faulty damper on the tenth special stage. Team mates Andreas Mikkelsen and co-driver Ola Fløene lost almost nine minutes, which could not be made up, on the same stage due to an electronic problem. On the final stage the Norwegians were also unlucky to suffer a puncture, which cost about another five minutes on the 33.01 kilometre Ouninpohja stage. Thanks to his fighting performance throughout the entire rally the 22-year old Mikkelsen, who currently leads the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) for Škoda UK with co-driver Fløene, still finished in 27th position in the overall standings.
This year Volkswagen Motorsport fields two Fabia, from group brand Škoda, in the FIA World Rally Championship in order to prepare in competition for its entry with the Polo R WRC in 2013.