-Volkswagen triumphs at opening round of the WRC in Monte Carlo
-Defending champions Ogier/Ingrassia claim second “Monte” win of their careers
-All three Polo R WRCs in the points at the iconic rally
Triumph at the Rally Monte Carlo – Volkswagen opened the new season of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with a dream result. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) produced an irresistible fightback and an outstanding driving display to secure victory on the first weekend of the 2014 season. The success at the “Monte” is their 17th victory in the WRC, and their tenth with Volkswagen. The win was the duo’s second at the rally classic, having previously won in 2009 when the event in the Mediterranean principality did not form part of the world championship. Second place went to Ford driver Bryan Bouffier, who won here in 2011, with Citroën’s Kris Meeke taking third.
The competitors at the notorious “Monte”, also known as “The Unpredictable One”, faced extremely difficult weather and road conditions. Rain in the valleys, snow at altitude – as has often been the case in the past, tyre selection was the decisive factor at the “Monte”. Volkswagen ended the classic with all three Polo R WRCs in the points. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) and Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) picked up valuable points in fifth and seventh place respectively.
Typical “Monte” – tricky tyre selection makes for excitement, weather for chaos
The sudden onset of winter in the French Maritime Alps and heavy rain in the valleys – the start of the Rally Monte Carlo literally caught everyone cold. Based on the weather data available, the Volkswagen drivers opted for virtually tread-free slicks for the first three special stages of the “Monte”. With the shock arrival of snow in the principality, this made driving a real challenge. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia and their team-mates lost a lot of time in these conditions. The World Champions found themselves back in ninth place. They showed their undoubted class from the fifth stage onwards, however, finishing consistently in the top-three from then on in and winning seven special stages. By the midway point of the “Monte” they had moved into the lead and never looked back.
Weather conditions were so extreme that the 14th special stage of the Rally Monte Carlo had to be cancelled. So much snow fell on the notorious Col de Turini between the first and second loop on Saturday that the second run had to be neutralised, with some World Rally Cars stuck in the snow.
The comeback kid: Jari-Matti Latvala and the double fightback
Sébastien Ogier’s team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila twice thrilled fans at the Rally Monte Carlo with a remarkable comeback. On the Friday of the rally, “JML” fought his way back from 18th to seventh place overall. He then climbed another position on Saturday, before a puncture saw him drop back down the field. However, he had battled back from eighth to fifth by the end of the day. Latvala/Anttila were in the top-three on eight of the special stages at the “Monte”, clocking the fastest time on three occasions.
Points reward for “Monte” trainee Mikkelsen
Lessons learned, points scored – Andreas Mikkelsen’s first outing in a World Rally Car at the Rally Monte Carlo was rewarded with six World Championship points. Together with co-driver Mikko Markkula, Mikkelsen showed the necessary caution on all 14 special stages. However, even that was not enough on the tenth stage: on slicks at the time, Mikkelsen/Markkula slid slowly off the snow-covered road in a slow corner between Sisteron and Thoard. Despite losing a lot of time they were able to continue, with the help of the fans, and capitalised with a series of top times on the final day.
Bonus points for Latvala/Anttila and Ogier/Ingrassia on the Power Stage
Three extra points for Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila, and two bonus points for Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia – Volkswagen claimed a one-two on the Power Stage. Five of the six bonus points up for grabs on the Power Stage – the final stage of a rally, on which points are awarded to the top three cars – went the way of the manufacturer from Wolfsburg.
Dream start: Ogier/Ingrassia and Volkswagen lead the World Championship
Victory at the first rally of the year and two bonus points on the Power Stage mean the reigning World Champions lead the WRC after the opening act of 2014. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia leave their home rally with 27 points to their name, while Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila are fourth with 13 points, courtesy of their Power Stage victory. Volkswagen also holds an early lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship: 37 points went to Wolfsburg, 33 to Citroën.
Quotes, day three of the Rally Monte Carlo
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“What a perfect start to the season! The team did a fantastic job. I am overjoyed. It is an amazing feeling to win the Rally Monte Carlo in these difficult conditions – especially now that the Monte is a round of the World Championship again. For that reason, this win obviously ranks above the victory in the IRC in 2009 for Julien and me. Even more so when you consider the last three days: the fightback in extreme rain, and then the snow chaos on the Col de Turini. I really wanted to win my home rally here. I will celebrate the win appropriately – with my family, my girlfriend and the entire Volkswagen team.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“I am really happy with fifth place. That was the goal we had set ourselves right from the word go. I have finally brought an end to my poor run at the Rally Monte Carlo. The conditions out on the route were very, very difficult in places – as was the tyre selection, which we did not get right at the start. The stages in the mountains were hard work, but it was worth it. We scored important points. I am particularly pleased with the extra points from the Power Stage. We now head to the Rally Sweden full of confidence.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“An incredibly strenuous rally for us. There were so many conditions we had never come across before. Like many others, we found ourselves driving with slicks on snow and spikes in the rain. The tyre selection was definitely extremely difficult. However, I learned a lot at the Rally Monte Carlo. I am very happy that we finished in the points. That was always our goal, and I am still flabbergasted how difficult it was to achieve that goal.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“I am very proud of the entire team today. The drivers, co-drivers, engineers and mechanics all did an outstanding job. Sébastien Ogier’s performance was worthy of a champion, while Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen also did a magnificent job. Together with their engineers, and using the information available from the ice spies and weather crews, they always made intelligent tyre selections – even if they did not always turn out to be perfect. But that is just typical of the ‘Monte’, which is always unpredictable and temperamental. To have all three Polo R WRCs in the points and to have won the iconic ‘Monte’ for the first time as a team is an outstanding success.”
And then there was …
… Nicolas Vouilloz, the ice spy for Sébastien Ogier, who is known as the “inventor of tyre crossing”. In unclear and fluctuating weather conditions, rally drivers are increasingly opting for a mixed tyre set-up in a cross configuration. For example, slick and wet tyres are used at the same time, with slicks fitted on the front left and rear right, and wets in reverse. “We tried this out years ago at tyre tests with Michelin, and it worked better than having different tyres on the front axle to the rear axle. We were probably the first to use it in competition,” said the 37-year-old from Nice, who has proven to be more than adept at overcoming the extreme on two wheels too: Vouilloz was crowned World Downhill Mountain Bike Champion on ten occasions.