Volkswagen lead from the off in Wales
Ogier first, Latvala third – Volkswagen opened its account at the Rally Great Britain in impressive fashion. The Wolfsburg-based manufacturer won two of the first three stages, which were held in the pitch-black Welsh night. Newly-crowned World Rally Champions Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) were responsible for the two stage wins and lead the final round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) after 25 kilometres of the 300-kilometre rally. Their team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) are third overall after a hat-trick of top-three times, while the third Polo R WRC pairing of Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) are also in touch with the leaders in sixth place.
The opening three stages of the Rally Great Britain demanded perfect interaction between driver and co-driver. As all three stages through the Welsh forests – “Gwydyr”, “Penmachno” and “Clocaenog” – had not featured on the route for the past two years, accurate pace notes were the key to success in the dark on Thursday evening.
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7
“After qualifying, I opted to start first – and this decision appears to have been the right one. I was able to match the pace of Sébastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville, who had decided to start later. The three of us at the front of the field have been involved in a really close tussle so far. The night stages were quite tricky: sections with good grip alternated with some very slippery spots. Finding the right rhythm for these conditions and pacing yourself intelligently is the key to being successful here in Great Britain. The first two stages went really well for us, but it was a bit more slippery on the third. Despite this, I think starting first will still be a good decision come tomorrow.”
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
“A great start to the Rally Great Britain for us. It didn’t take me long to find my rhythm after qualifying. Whatever happens here, I can take a very relaxed approach. The Rally Great Britain is not normally one of my favourites. It is very easy to make a mistake and crash out. For this reason, it is particularly important to adopt the mindset that the rally is not over until the very last stage. It was not easy in the dark today, and it is extremely slippery on the muddy gravel roads. The coming days will definitely be a real challenge – particularly on Saturday and Sunday, when we are on the road all day without a midday service. This puts a lot of strain on the car and tyres.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“For me, the start of the Rally Great Britain is like returning home. This is where I started my career. I really like the countryside in Wales and feel right at home here. However, the conditions are also particularly difficult and I must adapt my driving style in the Polo R WRC to suit the slippery sections. I love night stages and they are quite simply a fantastic experience in a World Rally Car. I am happy with the start I have made here in Wales, although I did pack too much information into my pace notes. This resulted in me losing time, particularly on the second stage. However, I am already looking forward to the next three days of rallying.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“Any team always like to get off to a good start at a rally. And we made almost the perfect start today thanks to impressive performances from Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala. Sébastien and Jari-Matti both showed their class with first and third places in particularly testing conditions and on slippery surfaces. Over the next few days, we will see an exciting battle develop between them and the drivers from Citroën and Ford for victory at the final rally of the season. As a rally fan, you cannot ask for more than that.”
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