Volkswagen Motorsport kan terugkijken op een succesvol WRC-weekend op Sardinië tijdens de Rally van Italië. Jari-Matti Latvala en Miikka Anttila eindigden als tweede met hun Polo R WRC, op de derde plaats gevolgd door hun teamgenoten Sébastien Ogier en Julien Ingrassia, eveneens in een Polo R WRC. Door deze uitstekende resultaten zijn de kansen op de verschillende FIA WRC-titels weer aanzienlijk toegenomen. Ogier had het nadeel dat hij als leider in het kampioenschap als eerste de stoffige, onverharde rallypaden op moest, waardoor hij erg in het nadeel was. Hij kon daardoor geen beslissende rol spelen in het gevecht om de eindoverwinning op het fraaie Italiaanse eiland. Toch wist Ogier beslag te leggen op een plaats op het podium, terwijl hij ook de snelste was in de Power Stage.
Jari-Matti is back, Seb was never away!
Jari-Matti Latvala would be one of the first to admit that the Rally Italy has so far been something of a double-edged sword with Volkswagen. Puncture in 2013, puncture in 2014, puncture in 2015 – so read the Finn’s record on Sardinia coming into this year’s event. However, Latvala had always picked up points whenever he appeared on the Mediterranean island with the Volkswagen Polo R WRC, and had actually finished third on two occasions. This year, JML was spared any major mishaps, and the result was his best finish on Sardinia with the Polo R WRC.
A flawless rally and a podium were the Finn’s own goals coming into the rally, and Latvala delivered. Throughout the entire rally, he was in contention for the win, producing a thrilling duel with eventual winner Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) on the opening two days, and battling to overcome the tough conditions caused by the surface and the weather. The reward: second place, and with it the best result on Sardinia since he joined Volkswagen.
A clear statement in the overall classification: having been deserted by Lady Luck of late, he bounced back emphatically and is right back in the middle of the battle for second place in the Drivers’ Championship.
Sébastien Ogier also had cause to be happy with his weekend’s work – in two regards. By his own admission, he was unable to challenge for victory due to his starting position. As such, he focussed on his lead in the World Championship standings – mission accomplished, and more besides. Andreas Mikkelsen, Hayden Paddon (Hyundai) and Mads Østberg (Ford) – Ogier’s closest rivals – all suffered set-backs on Sardinia. The world champion did not and collected also three point by winning the Power Stage.
The 2016 season is now six rallies old – and the Frenchman has finished on the podium at each event. There is absolutely no need to pose the question of whether there could be a more worthy championship leader. Having arrived on Sardinia with a 47-point lead over his closest rivals, Ogier leaves the island with a 64-point advantage over Dani Sordo (Hyundai), who is currently second overall.
The world champion also won his second, and probably more important for Ogier, race against time. In the run-up to the rally, he announced his desire to leave the Sardinia early should his wife go into labour. The dad-to-be won this race and can now look forward to and focus on the birth of his first child on the back of a profitable trip to Italy.
Mikkelsen’s quest to finish on the podium ended on Saturday. Up until stage 14, the Norwegian had been embroiled in an exciting battle for third place, before unluckily hitting a stone in the middle of the road and damaging his suspension – with serious consequences.
Although a third Volkswagen win in a row on Sardinia was not to be, the standings in both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ World Championship send a clear signal – the 2016 Rally Italy was a good one for both Latvala and the Wolfsburg-based car maker. Volkswagen leads the Manufacturers’ Championship by 70 points. As for the Flying Finn, well he will be determined to go one better on Sardinia in 2017.
“We will push hard again in Poland!”
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Going into the rally, I knew that third place would be the best possible result Julien and I could hope for without others slipping up. As such, I am very happy to be on the podium. After the extremely long and tiring day yesterday, today was more of a relaxing cruise. Given the big gap to the front-runners and to those behind us, our priority was simply to get to the finish in one piece. The Power Stage was like driving on the beach – it was that sandy. We have once again significantly increased our lead in the world championship. With that in mind, it has been an ideal weekend. I would like to say a special thank you to my wife Andrea for waiting to give birth to our first child. I cannot wait to get home. The next few days will certainly be more exciting for me than any rally!”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“A successful weekend for us. As a team, we were able to stretch our lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship. We would obviously have liked to be stood on the top step of the podium, but, after my disappointing performance here in recent years, second place is a great success. Plus, we closed the gap to the front-runners in the Drivers’ Championship. Congratulations to Thierry Neuville. He did a great job all weekend and deserved to win. We will push hard again in Poland!”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“That is certainly not how I imagined the Rally Italy ending. On Saturday, on the penultimate stage of the day, we hit a rock at almost full speed after a long right-hander. Even with the best will in the world we could not avoid it. The big impact broke the suspension there and then. That was just unlucky, but is part and parcel of rallying. Sunday offered us the opportunity to test a few set-up variants on the Polo R WRC for the coming rallies. We hope we will benefit from that in Poland. We have always done well there in recent years – and that is obviously our goal again this year. We deliberately did not attack on the Power Stage, in order to start third instead of second at the next round. This will significantly increase our chance of winning. It is not nice for the spectators to see us ease up, but those are the rules we have to work with in order to achieve our goals come the end of the year.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“Volkswagen significantly extended its lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship and took an important step towards defending its titles. As such, we can be very happy with the Rally Italy. Congratulations to Hyundai and Thierry Neuville, who produced a great performance and were better than us this time. Jari-Matti Latvala bounced back with second place – respect. Sébastien Ogier got the absolute maximum from his starting position. As first onto the route on this extremely loose gravel on Sardinia, he simply had no chance to compete for the win with those starting later on. Despite this, his performance was outstanding – even if the result does not quite reflect it. Andreas Mikkelsen was unlucky this time and, despite a good performance, was denied a possible podium finish. I think this will make him even more of a force to be reckoned with at the coming rally in Poland.”