The 13th running of the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill presented…
3..2..1, World Champion*! Volkswagen wrapped up the title in the Manufacturers’ Championship of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with a one-two-three at the Rally Australia. With three rallies still remaining this season, the best result in the history of the team means Volkswagen can no longer be caught at the top of the overall standings. Winners in Australia, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), and team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila, who finished runner-up down under, successfully defended the title in record time. This is the earliest in a season that a World Championship title has been won for 25 years. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) finished third in the final Polo R WRC to round off a perfect team result. The three Volkswagen crews also top the standings in the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championship. Ogier/Ingrassia and Latvala/Anttila will battle it out between themselves at the remaining three rallies to see who is crowned World Champion at the end of the season.
All good things come in threes – especially when it comes to popping champagne corks: Volkswagen’s one-two-three at the Rally Australia was the first in the team’s history in the World Rally Championship. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia claimed the 19th victory for the Polo R WRC in only its 23rd outing. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila added podium number 35 to the 315-hp World Rally Car from Wolfsburg’s impressive record since making its debut at the 2013 Rally Monte Carlo. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene secured podium number 36, for good measure.
The route to the historic success was anything but a stroll in the park: the Rally Australia put both man and machine to the test with its very technical, winding rollercoaster sections through the forests of New South Wales on the one hand, and high-speed passages over open land on the other. Constantly varying gravel surfaces – from rough, coarse grit to smooth, clayey, loamy ground – and the relentless switching between light and shadow made life difficult for the drivers and co-drivers. Over the course of the 20 special stages, the World Rally Cars completed 302.26 kilometres against the clock. The longest and most distinctive stage was “Nambucca”, which took the crews on a marathon 48.92-kilometre route through forests with steep uphill sections, across farmland and over small wooden bridges.
World Champion* after just three quarters of the season – only once in the history of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) has a manufacturer wrapped up the Manufacturers’ Championship sooner than Volkswagen in 2014. With nine of ten possible victories to its name – six of them one-twos – Volkswagen has already successfully defended its title. Ogier and Latvala also spearheaded the team that took the Manufacturers’ title to Wolfsburg in 2013 – with the biggest winning margin in the history of the WRC (145 points). Volkswagen goes into the remaining three rallies of the season – in France, Spain and Great Britain – with a lead of 194 points.
And then there were two: All-Volkswagen duel in the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championship
Even before the Rally Australia it was already certain that the battle for the title in the WRC Drivers’ Championship would be played out between the three Volkswagen drivers – Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen. After the result down under, the three-way battle has now been whittled down to a duel. Although Andreas Mikkelsen was able to significantly increase his advantage over fourth place, he can no longer have a say in the destination of the Drivers’ title. And so it is that the duel that has dominated the season will also determine who wins the World Championship: Sébastien Ogier vs. Jari- Matti Latvala. This duel has already produced three of the top ten closest finishes in the World Rally Championship. Ogier defeated Latvala by just 0.2 seconds in Jordan in 2011, while Latvala finished a mere 2.4 seconds ahead of Ogier in New Zealand in 2010. The closest finish since the two drivers have been in Volkswagen colours came at this year’s Rally Finland, when Latvala came home just 3.6 seconds ahead of Ogier to win his home event. In Australia, 6.8 seconds was all that separated the champion and his challenger.
Bonus points for the leading two on the Power Stage: Latvala ahead of Ogier
Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila won the Power Stage, on which bonus points are up for grabs for the first three crews, to pick up an extra three points towards the Drivers’ and Co- Drivers’ Championship. Second place, and with it two World Championship points, went to their Volkswagen team-mates Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia. Over the last two years in the World Championship, Volkswagen duos have won 16 of 22 Power Stages, bagging extra points on 39 occasions in total.
Facts and figures from the Rally Australia
20 special stages, 17 stage wins – Volkswagen enhanced the already impressive record of the Polo R WRC at the Rally Australia. Since the World Rally Car made its first competitive outing at the 2013 Rally Monte Carlo, the four-wheel drive powerhouse has won a remarkable 297 of 428 stages. It has also ended special stages in the top three on 679 occasions. The Rally Australia’s 20 special stages yielded a further 42 top-three results for the Volkswagen drivers.
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Absolutely fantastic. I am made up for our team! They really deserve this success so much. It is hard to put this feeling into words. The fact that we have wrapped up the World Championship title with the first ever all-Volkswagen podium is an incredible success. We can really be proud of ourselves today, here at the other end of the world. Julien and I tried to control our slender advantage over my team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala right through to the finish – and it worked out. I think we put on an exciting duel at the top for the fans. It is awesome that Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene rounded off this triumph for the team. A win would be enough for me to secure the Drivers’ title now. It would be magnificent to pull it off in France.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“A fantastic success. I am delighted for the entire team. The Manufacturers’ title is a great recognition of the fact that everyone at Volkswagen has been utterly committed to being successful, and also shows that the Polo is the best rally car around. We also produced some first-class racing again – Miikka and I tried to put Sébastien and Julien under pressure right up until the finish, but they were unbeatable. Congratulations on a deserved win. I am very happy with my own performance. Unfortunately we lost crucial seconds with the wrong tyre selection, which probably cost us the win. In any case, it is phenomenal to stand here on the podium with all three Polos. There can be no better way to win a World Championship title.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“What an incredible result for the entire team. World Champions, and with the team’s very first one-two-three to boot. I am delighted for all the mechanics, engineers and helpers who have made this possible, here in Australia and throughout the entire season. We had a huge lead over fourth place going into the final six special stages, but we could not do much in the way of catching the two cars ahead of us. Caught in no man’s land, our priority was to control our pace so that we did not make any mistakes and brought the result home. My goal ahead of the rally was to defend my advantage over fourth place in the World Championship. We have actually managed to increase it. I am absolutely delighted with my fourth podium of the year. Today is just a fantastic day.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“What a way to put the icing on the cake at the end of such an impressive season! Winning the Manufacturers’ title with a one-two-three – it doesn’t get any better. Last year we surpassed all expectations, particularly our own. Even then, everyone in the team consistently pushed themselves to their limits to win the World Championship. It is always more difficult to successfully defend the World Championship title than it is to win it in the first place. What the team has achieved this season, and the extent to which it has improved, demands my utmost respect. A chain is only ever as strong as its weakest link, as they say. With us, every link is as strong as the next. I would like to thank my colleagues. Volkswagen is proud of them. And this title is for everyone at Volkswagen around the world, whose support has been magnificent.”