Volkswagen leads amidst drama at home round of the WRC
Ogier starts under Rally2 regulations on Saturday after slip
Mixed feelings for Volkswagen: Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) opened up a commanding lead on day one of the Rally Germany. The duo currently second in the World Championship is 37.0 seconds ahead of Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (IRL/IRL, Citroën) after 103.12 of 326.02 kilometres against the clock and six of 18 special stages. However, the duel of the day was between the recent winners of the Rally Finland and their team-mates Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), who skidded off the road whilst leading on the final special stage of the day and were unable to finish the opening leg. They will re-join the race under Rally2 regulations on Saturday, but with a ten-minute penalty. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) in the third Polo R WRC are fourth overall after a dramatic start to the Rally Germany.
The opening day of the Rally Germany led the competitors close to the border between Germany and Belgium and included a mixture of classic and new special stages. “Sauertal” made its debut last year. “Waxweiler” was making its first appearance on the itinerary. In contrast, “Moselland” is typical of the Rally Germany – a race against the clock through the vineyards and a whole lot of handbrake turns in about 60 hairpins and junctions. The Volkswagen drivers made the most of the advantage they have earned through their positions in the World Championship – first, second and third. They opened the route, which then became slightly dirtier and thus slower with every World Rally Car. All six stage wins went to the Polo R WRC – three each for Ogier/Ingrassia and Latvala/Anttila.
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Unfortunately I braked a little too late in a right-hander eight kilometres into the last stage. That is why our Polo R WRC skidded off the road, into the vineyards and eventually over a two-metre wall and back onto the road – unfortunately not the right one. There was no way back onto the route for Julien and me. Fortunately the car was still intact, so we were able to drive back to the service park under our own steam. We are obviously very disappointed, as we were leading and wanted to present Volkswagen with a win at its home rally. With a ten-minute penalty, it will be very hard for us to fight our way into the points now. But we will keep on fighting. Our goal is now the three points on offer in Sunday’s Power Stage.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“It is obviously a great shame for Sébastien and Julien that their chances of winning evaporated on the final stage of the day – up until then we had been embroiled in a great, hard-fought duel for the lead. When I received the news from the team by SMS, I took my foot off the gas a little. With a lead of over half a minute, we now hold all the aces to win the Rally Germany for Volkswagen for the first time. We must remain fully focussed in order to achieve this goal. It will not be an easy job mastering the coming stages and the unsettled weather conditions.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“I took a very cautious approach to the start of the Rally Germany, in order to gradually get used to the conditions on the asphalt. Despite this, I still caught the outside of a corner with my rear wheel at the start of the third stage, and damaged the rim in the process. That cost a bit of time. We altered the set-up of our Polo for the afternoon, in order to solve the slight understeer we were getting. That paid off. I am very happy with day one here in Germany. My goal of achieving a top-five result, if possible, has not changed. In this regard we are on track and even have a chance of a podium. I am excited to see what we can achieve over the next two days.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala were in a class of their own today. Unfortunately this electrifying duel for the lead at the Rally Germany came to a premature end, as a small mistake had big consequences for Sébastien. His slip on the final stage of the day means he will no longer have a say in the race for the podium. They will resume under Rally2 regulations on Saturday and, like the rest of the team, will do their utmost to ensure that we achieve our goals here in Germany. Above all, this is to win the Manufacturers’ Championship. Although we have suffered a set-back today, it is still possible to wrap up the World Championship here. It is now down to every individual to make this dream a reality. This includes Andreas Mikkelsen. He is putting in a very good performance, although he only has little experience of these conditions with the Polo R WRC. Fourth place is a fantastic result.”
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