Victory in Mexico – Volkswagen and Ogier in a league of their own
16 stage wins and a lead of three and a half minutes: Sébastien Ogier (F), at the wheel of the Volkswagen Polo R WRC, won the third round of the 2013 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Altitude, heat, hundreds of thousands of fans – alongside co-driver Julien Ingrassia (F), Ogier dominated the Rally Mexico from start to finish to claim his second win of the season, following the duo’s success at the Rally Sweden. The Volkswagen pairing won all but seven of the 23 special stages and demonstrated remarkably consistent speed: thanks in no small part to the Ogier factor, the number 8 Polo R WRC was among the fastest four cars on every stage. The icing on the cake was Ogier’s victory on the Power Stage, which earned him a further three points towards the World Rally Championship.
Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) in the second Polo R WRC also proved their undoubted driving prowess. After incredible misfortune forced the Finns to retire from day two’s action just metres into the first special stage of the day, they took advantage of the Rally 2 regulation to rejoin the rally with a bang on Saturday and Sunday. The duo finished in the top three on six of the ten special stages held on days three and four in their number 7 Polo R WRC. Latvala’s tour de force came on the Power Stage: despite having to clear the route for everyone else, as the first man out onto the dirty route, he still managed to clock the third-fastest time to earn himself a bonus point towards the World Rally Championship.
Challenge 1 – the heat: man and machine come out on top in Mexico
Temperatures reaching around 30 degrees Celsius mean that Mexico is not only one of the hottest rallies of the World Championship season when it comes to sporting action. The route profile, with long descents from high altitudes, and searing temperatures not only heat the brake fluid to boiling point, but also ask huge questions of the driver himself. In these difficult conditions, the Volkswagen Polo R WRC once again demonstrated its durability, while the Volkswagen drivers benefitted from their excellent fitness.
The route of the Rally Mexico took its competitors through central Mexico, around the cities of León, Guanajuato and Silao. The character of the stages was defined by fine gravel and dusty sections. The 23 stages took place at altitudes of between 2,671 and 1,795 metres and covered a total 394.88 kilometres against the clock.
Challenge 2 – the altitude: Polo R WRC powerful in the extreme conditions in Mexico
Special stages at almost 2,700 metres above sea level result in a loss of up to 30 per cent of an engine’s performance. The Volkswagen engineers prepared meticulously for this particular challenge, and modified the 315-hp engine in the Polo R WRC to cope with the altitudes it would face on the special stages. In doing so, the Motorsport department demonstrated the performance of Volkswagen engines at a special location. In January 2013, Volkswagen opened the group’s 100th plant in Silao, in close proximity to the special stages themselves. The plant produces engines – predominantly for the American market.
Challenge 3 – the service: perfect team performance
The victory at the Rally Mexico is one for the entire Volkswagen team. Engineers, mechanics, logistics – every cog fit perfectly into place within the Volkswagen outfit, as they took on the third rally of the season with the Polo R WRC. Each of the team’s eight services, which are temporally restricted by the regulations, ran like well-rehearsed choreography and provided Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala with perfect material throughout the rally.
The fourth round of the 2013 FIA World Rally Championship will take place in Portugal from 11th to 14th April. Jari-Matti Latvala and Sébastien Ogier will be joined in the Volkswagen team by Andreas Mikkelsen, who will also drive a Polo R WRC.
Quotes, Day Four of the Rally Mexico
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7
“No sooner had the rally started than things took a turn for the worse for us. We had to give up after a matter of metres on Friday, due to suspension damage we received when we hit a stone. After that, we tried a few things with the car and I worked on my driving style. By the end of the rally, I felt more comfortable than ever in the Polo. I now have a better understanding of the handling characteristics. That gives me a lot of motivation ahead of Portugal. Winning a point on the Power Stage was obviously a nice way to finish.”
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
“What a fantastic feeling. The Polo R WRC was perfect for every single minute of the Rally Mexico. I can only thank my team for that. This victory at our debut on gravel is very special and will always have a special place in my heart. We will definitely celebrate it in style tonight. We take every win as it comes. This morning I took an extremely cautious approach on the first special stage and steered around every stone. However, from midway through I put my foot down again. We obviously have a big lead now in the World Championship, but there are still another ten rallies to come.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“To be honest: never in our wildest dreams did we expect this kind of success at our very first gravel rally with the Polo R WRC. We prepared meticulously for the World Rally Championships, and left nothing to chance in the run up to the Rally Mexico. As such, the win in Mexico is a success for the entire team, which worked together perfectly this weekend. Not only on-site, but also at home in Hannover and Wolfsburg. It is impossible to overrate Sébastien Ogier’s performance: the Ogier factor was what made the difference here. It allowed us to challenge for the win right from the word go. Respect. Jari-Matti Latvala’s performance was no less impressive. He was really unlucky right at the start of the rally, but fought back magnificently and was rewarded for his efforts with the World Championship point he won on the Power Stage. Again, respect. The suspension damage he suffered has shown us that we can still improve with the Polo R WRC.”