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Volkswagen in a league of its own in Germany

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By Olivier Ferret

21 August 2015 - 21:44
Volkswagen in a league of its own (...)

Unbeaten on all eight special stages – Volkswagen enjoyed a perfect opening day at its home round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). All eight stage wins on day one of the Rally Germany went to drivers at the wheel of a Polo R WRC, as did all but one top-three positions. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN/FIN) and Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) occupy the top three positions after one third of round nine of the season and, with two days remaining, hold a comfortable advantage over the rest of the field. However, the action on the demanding vineyard stages around Trier was far from drab: for vast stretches there was nothing in it between Ogier and Latvala, as they battled it out for the lead. At one point, the two Volkswagen drivers were separated by just one tenth of a second – literally a blink of an eye. After 136.30 of 374.43 kilometres against the clock, and an afternoon surge from world champion Ogier, just 9.5 seconds separate the top two in the World Championship. Andreas Mikkelsen trails the leading duo by just 25.4 seconds, but is sitting pretty in third place, over half a minute ahead of his closest rival.

Having successfully negotiated the opening leg, another two tough days of rallying await the teams and drivers: on Saturday they had to the Baumholder military training ground, where they take on the legendary “Panzerplatte” five times. Day two has a very different character to Friday. Today’s vineyard stages are followed by special stages lined by the notorious “Hinkelsteins” – massive rocks originally intended to stop tanks in their tracks. The drivers and co-drivers cannot afford to make a single mistake as they slalom through these immovable obstacles if they wish to keep alive their hopes of a podium finish.

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“Julien and I had a really great start to the Rally Germany. It was still slippery in some places this morning, which is why I opted to be a bit more cautious rather than take any unnecessary risks. Particularly since we ended up in the vineyard on the ’Moselland’ stage last year. Then the afternoon loop went perfectly for us and we really pushed. The set-up of the Polo was better than in the morning. But Jari-Matti isn’t far off. On Panzerplatte on Saturday we definitely need to pick up where we left off today.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

“Overall we are pleased with the day. However, it was very difficult to get the right feeling for braking. I managed it well in the morning, which meant we were fast. I didn’t want to continue taking too many risks in the afternoon – with the track getting dirtier and dirtier. Unfortunately this meant that I lost a little more than nine seconds to my team-mate Sébastien Ogier. However, second place is a good result at the end of the day and we still have a few special stages to go. And we saw just how quickly things can change here last year. Now I am looking forward to Panzerplatte in particular.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“It wasn’t easy to get into a good rhythm on asphalt from the word go today. It is six months since we last competed on this surface. I made a few minor errors, in the morning in particular, and frequently braked much too early. This meant I wasn’t able to match the pace of my team-mates Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala. Hats off to their performances. We gained more momentum in the afternoon, but had a brief moment of panic when the rear right of my car came into light contact with something on the seventh stage. Then we were a bit more cautious after that. Overall I am pleased with the day and am looking forward to tomorrow. I really like the stages on Baumholder in particular.”

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director

“We have had promising starts to the Rally Germany for the past two years – but today surpassed any of those. To take every top-three result but one and to win every single stage is almost unbelievable. It shows how seriously we are taking our mission to win on home soil. The team has left nothing to chance and is working perfectly together. However, the greatest praise is reserved for our drivers and co-drivers today: it doesn’t get any better than that – and that goes for Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen, as well as Julien Ingrassia, Miikka Anttila and Ola Fløene. We have taken the first step towards success at the Rally Germany. However, we are well aware that we have another two tough days ahead of us, on which we will have to maintain full concentration – from drivers to mechanics, co-drivers to engineers. We will definitely not let up.”

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