Sébastien Ogier en Julien Ingrassia zijn voor de vierde, achtereenvolgende keer tot wereldkampioen gekroond door de Rally van Spanje winnend af te sluiten. In hun Volkswagen Polo R WRC boekten zij in Catalonië de vijfde overwinning van het seizoen. Hun negende podiumfinish van het seizoen was aanleiding voor een groots overwinningsfeest aan de Spaanse Costa Brava.

De Fransen kunnen niet meer van hun koppositie in het 2016 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) worden verdreven. Teamgenoten Andreas Mikkelsen en Anders Jæger waren in de Rally van Spanje van start gegaan als hun naaste belagers in de titelrace. Maar de hoop van de Noren om het kampioenschap te kunnen winnen, ging in rook op toen ze gedwongen waren de rally te verlaten na een sortie de route. Jari-Matti Latvala eindigde op de achtste plaats en zorgde voor nog meer punten voor het constructeurskampioenschap dat Volkswagen in het volgende evenement, de Rally van Engeland, binnen hoopt te halen. Dat zou dan ook de vierde opeenvolgende titel zijn in het kampioenschap voor de merken.

WRC Rally Catalunya 2016

WRC Rally Catalunya 2016

Kankkunen, Mäkinen and Ogier – up there with the biggest names in rallying
952 days in a row at the top of the table: Sébastien Ogier is only the third World Rally Champion to be crowned champion four years in a row in the pinnacle of rallying, and the fourth four-time world champion in the history of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). He is now on a par with Juha Kankkunen (FIN) and Tommi Mäkinen (FIN). Only his compatriot, nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb (F) has more titles to his name.

Four titles, each wrapped up with a win and races to spare – the Ogier/Ingrassia way
Eleven rallies, nine podium finishes, five of which were wins: victory number 37 of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia’s careers, their 30th with Volkswagen, tasted particularly sweet. The four-time world champions remained true to form, securing the title with a win for the fourth time in a row. They previously wrapped up the 2013 title at the penultimate rally in France, before achieving the same feat in Spain in 2014. In 2015, they claimed an extremely hard-fought victory at the Rally Australia to win the title before the end of the season. Victory at the 2016 Rally Spain – the only rally on the WRC calendar to be held on both gravel and asphalt – was also contested passionately.

The masterstroke: irresistibly quick and considered at the Rally Spain
The Rally Spain in Catalonia developed into a thrilling battle for the lead between local heroes Dani Sordo/Marc Martí and eventual winners Ogier/Ingrassia. The weather added to the challenge on the opening day, which was held predominantly on gravel. Ogier/Ingrassia lost 17.0 seconds to Sordo/Martí on roads that were muddy in places and drying in others. However, they bounced back on Saturday, the first of two days on asphalt, to convert this deficit into a 5.8-second lead, with wins on five of the eight special stages. Ogier extended his lead on Sunday and ultimately finished 15.6 seconds clear of the rest of the field.

WRC Rally Catalunya 2016

WRC Rally Catalunya 2016

Setback for Mikkelsen, Latvala is back
In contrast, Mikkelsen/Jæger and Latvala/Anttila in the second and third Polo R WRCs suffered disappointments. Friday came to a premature end for Latvala/Anttila, who were running third in extremely wet and slippery conditions when they hit a barrier and were forced to retire. However, they returned under Rally 2 regulations on Saturday and Sunday to win five stages and score valuable points for Volkswagen in the race for the Manufacturers’ Championship courtesy of eighth place in the Manufacturers’ classification. Their Volkswagen team-mates Mikkelsen/Jæger were unable to return under Rally 2 regulations: the pair second in the world championship got out of shape in a fast right-hand corner on Saturday – also whilst running third – skidded into a barrier and rolled. The Polo R WRC could not be repaired with the materials on site.

Ogier/Ingrassia first, Mikkelsen/Jæger second, Latvala/Anttila sixth: the WRC standings
Mikkelsen/Jæger remain second in the overall standings behind their team-mates Ogier/Ingrassia. After the Rally Spain, the Norwegian Volkswagen duo is level on points with Neuville/Gilsoul. However, they keep their noses in front thanks to better individual results. Latvala/Anttila head to the final two rallies of the season in Great Britain and Australia sixth in the world championship. Volkswagen travels to Great Britain with a 62-point lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship. As such, the team has a great chance of winning the world championship title for the fourth time in a row, regardless of other results. To do so, Volkswagen must take a lead of 43 points into the Rally Australia.

The icing on the cake: Latvala ahead of Ogier on the Power Stage
Latvala/Anttila enjoyed a good end to the Rally Spain. They clocked the fastest time on the closing Power Stage and were rewarded with three bonus points. Ogier/Ingrassia finished second to complete the Volkswagen success in this discipline. Victory has now gone to the Wolfsburg-based manufacturer on 38 of the past 49 Power Stages.

And then there was …
… a first in the World Rally Championship. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are the first Driver/Co-Driver world champions in the history of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) to win the title without having won an all-gravel rally.

And then there was also …
… the “Breakfast of Champions”. Sébastien Ogier started his big day, on which he would be crowned World Rally Champion for the fourth time, by polishing off his usual omelette for breakfast. This was his 200th in total since he started driving the Polo R WRC for Volkswagen.

WRC Rally Catalunya 2016

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Rally Spain – final result
01. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, 3h 13m 03.6s
02. Dani Sordo/Marc Martí (E/E), Hyundai, + 15.6s
03. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai, + 1m 15.0s
04. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai, + 1m 27.8s
05. Mads Østberg/Ola Fløene (N/N), Ford, + 3m 24.4s
06. Ott Tänak/Raigo Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford, + 5m 24.9s
07. Kevin Abbring/Sebastian Marshall (NL/GB), Hyundai, + 7m 31.3s
08. Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler (CZ/CZ), Škoda, + 9m 05.1s
09. Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson (S/S), Škoda, + 9m 20.4s
10. Craig Breen/Scott Martin (IRL/GB), Citroën, + 9m 57.1s

14. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen, + 21m 34.4s

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Overall Standings*

Drivers’ Championship
1. Sébastien Ogier, 222 points; 2. Andreas Mikkelsen, 127; 3. Thierry Neuville, 127; 4. Hayden Paddon, 114; 5. Dani Sordo, 111; 6. Jari-Matti Latvala, 104; 7. Mads Østberg, 90; 8. Ott Tänak, 60; 9. Kris Meeke, 54; 10. Craig Breen, 36

Manufacturers’ Championship
1. Volkswagen Motorsport, 322 points; 2. Hyundai Motorsport, 260; 3. M-Sport, 144; 4. Volkswagen Motorsport II, 136; 5. Hyundai Motorsport N, 124; 6. DMACK, 74; 7. Jipocar Czech National Team, 18; 8. Yazeed Racing, 4

* Provisional.