The crowning moment – Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are 2013 World Rally Champions*. The result of the opening stage – for a change the Power Stage – of their home event, the Rally France, means the Volkswagen works duo can no longer be caught at the top of the table in the premier league of rallying. And still with more than two rounds to go until the end of the season. The success sees Ogier/Ingrassia make motorsport history on several fronts at the wheel of their Polo R WRC. For them personally, this is their maiden Driver and Co-Driver title in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Not only that, but it is the first time a new pairing have conquered the pinnacle of rallying, the WRC, for just short of a decade. At the same time, no driver or co-driver had ever been crowned World Champions whilst driving for a manufacturer making its debut in the World Rally Championship. With the Polo R WRC, Volkswagen is making its first appearance in the WRC in 2013, and has already exceeded all expectations in its rookie season. Volkswagen also leads the Manufacturers’ Championship with three races to go.

Volkswagen Board Member for Technical Development, Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neusser, and his predecessor Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, father of Volkswagen’s WRC project and Audi Board Member for Technical Development since July, were in Strasbourg to witness the moment the title was won. “This is an incredibly emotional moment for me,” said Dr. Neusser. “I am pleased to be here today to see Sébastien Ogier claim the first title for Volkswagen in our debut year in the World Rally Championship. I would like to thank the outstanding team, which has performed perfectly all year.”

“I am proud that our WRC project, which we launched over two years ago, has already yielded a title today,” said Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg. “I am particularly pleased that Volkswagen has become the first manufacturer in the history of the World Rally Championship to claim its maiden WRC title in its debut season. In my current role as Audi Board Member, I would also like to congratulate the entire Volkswagen team on behalf of Audi. With Audi winning the DTM on Sunday and the WRC title today, this is the perfect end to what, for me personally, has been my most successful week in motorsport to date.”

Championship win confirmed on Power Stage at the Rally France

The Power Stage, on which bonus points are awarded to the top three drivers, opened the Rally France on Thursday evening, and promptly produced the deciding moment in the World Rally Championship. Ogier/Ingrassia crowned a dominant season so far by finishing third to clinch the title in front of their home crowd. Their only remaining rivals for the title coming into the rally, Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B, Ford), came home second and are therefore no longer able to catch the French duo. Having completed ten rallies, Ogier/Ingrassia currently have six wins and two second places to their name. Ogier/Ingrassia had already scored 25 points on Power Stages this season alone prior to today’s stage – as many points as are awarded for winning a rally. In winning the title, Ogier/Ingrassia succeed record World Championship winners Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (F/MC, Citroën), who had won the previous nine World Rally Championships.

The remaining Volkswagen drivers also got off to a good start at the Rally France. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) ended Thursday’s sprint in sixth. Andreas Mikkelsen/Paul Nagle (N/IRL) in the third Volkswagen Polo R WRC will start day two from fifth place.

Quotes after day one of the Rally France

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7
“To be crowned World Champion at the first attempt with a new team, and a new car, is a performance that cannot be described in words. My most heartfelt congratulations to my team-mates Sébastien Ogier, who thoroughly deserve to be celebrating the title today. It must be a great feeling for them to be crowned champions in front of their home crowd. My goal is to be in contention among the front-runners, as there are valuable points up for grabs for Volkswagen in the Manufacturers’ Championship. I want to do my bit for the team, and that is all I am concentrating on now.”

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
“I am absolutely overjoyed! I could give everyone in the world a big hug. The feeling is impossible to describe. To have won the World Championship title in France is an absolute dream come true. For the last few days I have been trying not to think too much about it, in order to avoid making any mistakes. The relief now is immense. As a little boy, I used to marvel at the cars and top drivers at the Rally Monte Carlo with my father in my home town of Gap – and now Julien and I are World Rally Champions. It is crazy. However, I am also well aware that rallying is a team sport. This success would never have been possible without our fantastic team at Volkswagen. Whether trucker, mechanic or race engineer, I have to thank everyone. One thing is for sure – we will celebrate in style now!”

Julien Ingrassia, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
“It is possibly the best day of my life – and definitely of my career! If anyone had told me at the start of the year that Séb and I would already be World Champions with so much of the season still to go, I would immediately have told them they are mad. We were so close in Australia three weeks ago, but now the title win is a reality.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“I am absolutely delighted for my team-mates Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. Today is their big day. They are more than worthy World Champions and I am proud to line up alongside them for Volkswagen. The entire team has done an outstanding job. This rally, which is so important for Volkswagen, has started with a bang – just as we had hoped. I am looking forward to the next few days, as this is my first time on asphalt with the Polo R WRC. My goal is to improve bit by bit and help Volkswagen as much as possible in the fight for the Manufacturers’ title by scoring some good results.”

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“Sébastien and Julien have spent almost two years working very hard for this success. They took a step back last year, and have subsequently performed fantastically at this season’s rallies. They fully deserve to be the new World Champions. At the same time, this is also the greatest sporting success in the history of Volkswagen Motorsport. Our team succeeded at the first attempt in developing a winning car – the Polo R WRC – and defeating opposition with far greater experience.”

And then there was …

… the only thing that managed to stop Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. A few metres into this morning’s Shakedown, which took place ahead of the Power Stage, the eventual World Champions were confronted with a dastardly obstacle. On their first run, a hydraulic barrier, usually used to stop everyday traffic, started to rise out of the road directly in front of them. Ogier/Ingrassia were forced to wait for the barrier to be lowered again before they were able to continue.

A brief profile of the World Rally Champions*

Sébastien Ogier
Date/place of birth: 17 December 1983 in Gap (F)

The Frenchman comes from the small town of Gap, not far from the special stages that form the iconic Rally Monte Carlo. It was here that he started watching the greats of rallying as a young boy. Former World Champion Ari Vatanen is one of his heroes. And the two rally legends still enjoy a close relationship: Ari’s son Kim Vatanen has been Ogier’s manager for years. However, his passion for motorsport goes further than just rallying: he and his father François share an admiration for Formula One icon Ayrton Senna. Sébastien started pulling his first drifts at the ripe old age of eight, when he was given a crosskart and promptly set about ensuring that no country lane around Gap was safe. He has always had a thing for speed, firstly as a ski instructor – a job that ran parallel to his school education in the French Alps. Ogier then trained as a mechanic, before winning the “Rally Jeunes”, a competition for juniors run by the French motorsport federation the FFSA. This formed the basis for a rally career that began in the Peugeot 206 Cup (2006: 6th; 2007: 1st).

After winning the World Junior Championship in 2008, Ogier lined up for the Citroën works team as the team-mate of compatriot Sébastien Loeb. His first WRC victory followed in Portugal in 2010. In 2011 he claimed five wins – as many as Loeb – on his way to third place in the World Championship. At the end of the season Ogier switched to Volkswagen, where he contested the entire 2012 season in a Škoda Fabia S2000 in preparation for the Wolfsburg-based manufacturer’s WRC debut the following year. Whilst driving the S2000 car, Ogier also played a role in developing the Polo R WRC alongside test drivers Carlos Sainz and Dieter Depping. The German World Rally Car’s incredible record in its first season is evidence of the perfect job he did. In February, Ogier became only the second driver from outside of Scandinavia to win the Rally Sweden. In total, Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia currently have six wins to their name in 2013; the latest victory in Australia was the 13th of their illustrious careers, and their most dominant performance of the season.

Ogier’s Hobbies: “Any sport you can do outdoors”. The Frenchman, who lives near Geneva, loves being out in the countryside: skiing, mountain biking, mountain climbing, and jogging are among his hobbies. And he loves his mother Chantal’s French cooking.

Julien Ingrassia
Date/place of birth: 26 November 1979 in Aix-en-Provence (F)

During the rally, the key figure for Ogier is his co-driver Julien Ingrassia, with whom he has shared the cockpit since the start of his career. 34-year-old Ingrassia’s first experience as a co-driver came as a youngster in a Peugeot 205 GTI prepared by a schoolmate. He then went on to compete in junior competitions throughout France. The Business Studies graduate became aware of the name Sébastien Ogier at the 2005 “Rally Jeunes”. He applied to Peugeot to be his co-driver, and the two met up to get to know each other a little while later. Between 2006 and now they have formed a rally dream team together.

In the cockpit, Ingrassia is the calming influence that offsets Ogier’s more fiery temperament – perfectly organised, and like Swiss clockwork when it comes to his procedures. Outside his office in the Polo R WRC, the permanently good-humoured Frenchman also knows how much he owes to the fans. As such, he often turns up as “Mister Mysterio”, dressed in a Mexican wrestling mask. As a self-confessed rock fan, he also plays a mean AC/DC solo on air guitar. Among his hallmarks are the surprising songs he entertains people with via his MP3 player at every press conference. Ingrassia shares a love of nature with his driver, and is particularly fond of wildlife.

* subject to confirmation from the FIA.

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