Volkswagen put to altitude test in Rally Mexico

Ogier and Abbring follow in the footsteps of Beetle-driving heroes


By Franck Drui

7 March 2012 - 20:10
Volkswagen put to altitude test in (...)

Two runs, two wins in the S2000 class of the FIA World Rally Championship – the start into the season was very successful for the Volkswagen Motorsport squad. An extreme challenge is now awaiting the team at Rally Mexico, the third WRC round held from 08 to 11 March. At an altitude of over 2,000 metres the special stages are the geographically highest ones of the whole season. The first gravel event of the year will see the Volkswagen factory team run with the Dutchman Kevin Abbring and his new co-driver Frédéric Miclotte from Belgium alongside Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F).

"After the first two rounds of the season in Monaco and Sweden were shaped by winter weather we’re now in for a totally different challenge with the dusty gravel tracks in Mexico,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. "But the temperatures of up to 30 degrees and the special stages at altitudes of over 2,000 metres make high demands as well. That’s why we’re again aiming to gather valuable experiences for fielding the Polo R WRC next year.”

Hard tracks and less output at altitudes above 2.000 metres

In total, the drivers have to complete 24 special stages in Mexico covering over 407 timed kilometres. The third special stage, "Guanajuatito”, with a length of more than 54 kilometres is one of the longest of the year. The bumpy sections make extreme demands on "man and material”. Due to the low oxygen content of the air at an altitude of 2,000 metres the engines’ output drops by approximately 20 per cent. "Despite special engine tuning we’ll have less engine power in Mexico than at other rallies,” says Sébastien Ogier. "As drivers, we’ve got to adjust to that. In addition, the high temperatures make it necessary for us to drink a lot so that our concentration won’t suffer during the special stages.”

In Mexico, Ogier is again aiming to gather as many findings as possible for the fielding of the Polo R WRC in 2013. "Due to the performance disadvantage compared with the WRC cars we’re shooting for a finish as the best S2000 team, as we last did in Sweden,” says the Frenchman whose best result at four runs in Mexico was third overall in 2010 and who was leading the rally last year up until an accident on the final day. "This is my first ever gravel rally in the Škoda Fabia S2000. The car felt really good in Sweden, so I’m hoping that the conditions here will suit it well too. Besides that, I love gravel tracks like those at Rally Mexico.”

Return of Kevin Abbring and seven Beetles with rally history

As planned, the Dutchman Kevin Abbring is running in the second Fabia S2000 fielded by Volkswagen Motorsport in Latin America. The 23-year-old driver is a member of the Volkswagen Junior Team and taking turns in the cockpit with the Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen this season. At his most recent run at Rallye Monte Carlo, Abbring clinched S2000 class victory. "For me, this rally is totally new,” says Abbring who is running with his new Frédéric Miclotte for the first time. "That’s why the recce is even more important for me. This will be the first rally with my new and highly experienced co-driver Freddy Miclotte. We practised together in the past few weeks and optimised our road-book.” The young Dutchman is set on continuing the good performance he showed in Monte Carlo: "The many gravel stages are good for me, not least due to my experiences in the 2010 French Gravel Championship. I am looking forward to the spectator stage through the tunnels in Guanajuato on Thursday, with tens of thousands of spectators.”

This season, Volkswagen is contesting WRC rounds in the smaller S2000 class with two Fabia S2000 cars of the Group’s Škoda brand. The runs serve as preparation for the 2013 season when Volkswagen will compete in the top class of rallying with the Polo R WRC. In Mexico one of the first chapters in Volkswagen’s motorsport history was written when, in 1954, seven Beetles contested the legendary Carrera Panamericana. All of the models in the field, which quickly won the hearts of the local fans, reached the finish of the 3,211-kilometre road race across the Latin American country. From 1964 on, the legendary Beetle was produced in Puebla, Mexico. On 30 July 2003, the 21,529.464th and last Beetle built left the assembly line.


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