The crowning of the new World Champions* at their home event, a magnificent thriller of a rally, and a big step for Volkswagen: the Rally France will go down as one of the greatest in the history of rallying. The events as they happened: on Thursday, Volkswagen duo Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) won the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ titles in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) in their Polo R WRC. By Saturday, the race for victory at the Rally France had developed into potentially the most exciting showdown in the history of the WRC. And on Sunday, Volkswagen increased their lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship to 80 points courtesy of a seventh victory of the season for Ogier/Ingrassia and third place for Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN). A maximum 86 points are still up for grabs in this important championship at the final two rallies in Spain and Great Britain. Andreas Mikkelsen/Paul Nagle (N/IRL) finished the Rally France seventh in the third Polo R WRC.
The coronation – Ogier/Ingrassia crowned World Rally Champions* with Volkswagen
It was already clear that Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia would be crowned the new World Champions* in the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championships after the opening stage of the Rally France. Following the result of the Power Stage, in which bonus points are on offer to the first three cars, Ogier/Ingrassia could no longer be caught at the top of the overall standings by their last remaining rivals, Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Ford). As such, Ogier/Ingrassia dethroned record World Champions Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Citroën) at their home rally to claim the title for the first time in their careers. And there was another first: ever in the history of the WRC had a driver/co-driver pairing won the World Championship at the first attempt with a manufacturer making its debut in the World Rally Championship.
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 last weekend and the WRC title this weekend, this is the perfect end to what, for me personally, has been my most successful week in motorsport to date. I would like to thank the team behind this success from the bottom of my heart. They have done an outstanding job.”
Long live rallying – four-way battle a great advertisement for the WRC
With the Drivers’ Championship in the bag, Sébastien Ogier was given permission by Volkswagen to go all out to win his home rally. Day one as World Champions* saw Ogier/Ingrassia take a cautious approach to the Rally France, coming home fifth overall at the end of the first 120.63 kilometres. However, Saturday was all about the World Champions*: Ogier/Ingrassia won five of the seven special stages. In doing so, the Volkswagen pair climbed to within 1.5 seconds of their team-mates at the top of the overall standings, Latvala/Anttila. Going into the final day, four pairs – two for Volkswagen and two for Citroën – were separated by just five seconds. An ideal situation for both Volkswagen duos with regard to the Manufacturers’ Championship.
The big step towards the Manufacturers’ title followed on Sunday: first and third – Volkswagen scored 40 points towards the Manufacturers’ Championship, meaning they can now wrap up the title at the next round in Spain, regardless of what their opponents do.
Mister Reliable: Jari-Matti Latvala guarantees Manufacturers’ points
Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila lined up at the eleventh WRC rally of the season charged with the task of securing as many points as possible towards the Manufacturers’ Championship. Right from the word go, the Finnish duo played their role perfectly: they led going into the final day of the rally, which had been made particularly difficult by heavy rain overnight. Steering clear of any risks, the pair went on to finish third overall. In total, Latvala/Anttila claimed top-three finishes on twelve of the 20 special stages.
Volkswagen ends Citroën’s winning run on asphalt
Victory at the Rally France saw Sébastien Ogier bring an end to Citroën’s long winning run on asphalt. Citroën’s asphalt era began 2,961 days ago with success for Loeb/Elena at the 2005 Rally Germany. Before today, the last non-Citroën driver to win a purely asphalt round of the World Rally Championship was Markko Märtin (Ford) at the 2004 Rally Spain. Volkswagen so far has eight wins to its name in 2013: seven for Ogier/Ingrassia, and one for Latvala/Anttila.
Learning process: patient and mature display from Mikkelsen/Nagle
Andreas Mikkelsen/Paul Nagle (N/IRL) ended their asphalt debut with the Polo R WRC in seventh place. The Rally France was a learning process for both driver and co-driver. After a strong start, a shower cost the pair a better position on Friday. On Saturday, Mikkelsen/Nagle struggled with the set-up of their 315-hp World Rally Car. In particularly difficult conditions on Sunday, Mikkelsen/Nagle improved to seventh place. The pair finished in the top five on four special stages.
Quotes after day four of the Rally France
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7
“Congratulations to Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. They were the best this weekend and fully deserved both their win and the World Championship title. They have proven this season that they are outstanding in all conditions and on all surfaces. I am very happy with third place. We produced a flawless display and were consistently quick. That gives me a lot of confidence for the forthcoming rallies. We achieved our goal of scoring important points in the Manufacturers’ Championship. The title is now within touching distance for the team. The poor run over the last three rallies was difficult, and I am glad to have come out the other end. It is a shame for that Sébastien Loeb crashed out on his last rally. However, that in no way detracts from all his incredible performances in recent years.”
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
“That is definitely the most amazing rally weekend of my career: first the World Championship title and now victory at my home rally – absolutely fantastic! What an extremely difficult final day. This morning was so incredibly slippery, but my gravel crew did a fantastic job. I obviously feel for Sébastien Loeb, but he was going all out to win, and that sort of thing can happen in such difficult conditions. It could have happened to anyone today. Today is the highlight of our season, and I am absolutely overjoyed. I would like to thank my guys. We have done a great job all season. I am really proud of what we have achieved.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“The Rally France was my first asphalt rally with the Polo R WRC. We certainly could not assume that we would immediately be up there with the front-runners. However, I was expecting a little bit more. However, we now know what we have to work on in order to come back stronger in the future. I particularly learned a thing or two about the set-up of the car. We had to be patient, particularly on Saturday, in order to get the best of our material. In the end, it was all about gaining as much experience as possible in difficult conditions. Sunday was much better for us, when the road conditions were particularly hard to judge.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“The Rally France was a great success. On the one hand for rallying in general, and on the other hand for Volkswagen. It does not get any more exciting than the last four days. Ahead of the final day, any one of four drivers could have won. In the end, the new World Champions* – Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia – came out on top. Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila scored valuable points towards the Manufacturers’ Championship. Volkswagen now has every chance of winning this title too in Spain. As Volkswagen Motorsport Director, you cannot ask for more. This weekend we claimed the title in the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championships, won the rally, and took a big step forward. There will be some celebrating this evening.”
And then there was …
… the record after 200 special stages. By the time the final special stage of the Rally France had drawn to a close, the Volkswagen Polo R WRC had 119 stage wins to its name. In achieving this outstanding record, Volkswagen showed a love of milestones: Sébastien Ogier won the World Rally Car from Wolfsburg’s 50th (Mexico) and 100th (Greece) special stages, while the 150th (Germany) went to Jari-Matti Latvala. The Finn narrowly missed out on another stage win by just 0.6 seconds on the Polo R WRC’s 200th stage.
A brief profile of the World Rally Champions*
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.
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 the official publication of the results by the FIA.