- Slender lead for Volkswagen driver Sébastien Ogier in Portugal
- Volkswagen Worldwide Sales up 5.2% First Quarter
Triumph on the Algarve, two Volkswagen drivers on the podium: Sébastien Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia (F/F) have won the Rally Portugal ahead of Mikko Hirvonen (Citroën) and their Volkswagen team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN). Under the watchful eye of Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg (Member of the Board of Management for the Volkswagen brand), Andreas Mikkelsen and Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) completed a very good team performance for Volkswagen with sixth place on their competitive debut in the Polo R WRC. “It was great to be present at such a magnificent success,” said Dr. Hackenberg, who is responsible for technical development. “I was very impressed by the manner in which the team earned this success, and how delighted they were by it. It is just fantastic to see how well the entire team is working together. This provides great backing for our drivers, who did an extraordinary job.”
The fine team performance at the fourth round of this season’s FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) sees Volkswagen move to the top of the Manufacturers’ Championship. Sébastien Ogier also extended his lead in the Drivers’ Championship, courtesy of his third win of the season.
A test of technology: both man and machine pushed to the limit
The second gravel rally of the season really put man and machine to the test. The conditions, with narrow, winding passages on rough, stony surfaces alternating with fast sections taken at full throttle, were the toughest encountered so far this season. Illness meant Sébastien Ogier was below strength going into the fourth rally of the year, but the Frenchman still held a slender lead at the end of day one. He extended his advantage at the top of the standings with four stage wins on Saturday, and retained his grip on the lead right through to the finish. The World Championship leader did have a bit of a shock at the start of the final day: the connector between the front and rear axles, which allows the handbrake to be used in tight hairpins, temporarily refused to close, causing him to lose time. A short service later, however, the number 8 Polo R WRC was back to full strength as it set off on the remaining stages.
Jari-Matti Latvala also had a worrying moment on Sunday: the driveshaft on the front-right of the car broke, forcing Latvala to tackle the 52.30-kilometre Almodovar stage – the longest on the rally – with just rear-wheel drive. Latvala consequently had to surrender second place overall, but superbly overcame the hindrance to hold off Evgeny Novikov (Ford) and earn his place on the podium.
A test of strategy: tyre selection secures victory on “Power Stage”
Even early on in the rally, Volkswagen’s top two drivers were already looking to save their tyres for the closing “Power Stage”. Additional points towards the Drivers’ Championship were up for grabs for those crews finishing first, second and third on the 52.30-kilometre special stage. And it proved to be a good decision. Starting on fresh Michelin tyres, the Volkswagen drivers were able to launch one last attack at the end of the rally: Sébastien Ogier picked up the three bonus points for clocking the fastest time on the “Power Stage”, while team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala earned one extra point for his third place.
A test of teamwork: Volkswagen service ensures podium finishes
The service played a key role at the Rally Portugal. The Volkswagen mechanics in the Service Park at the “Estádio Algarve” had a total of five time slots – of 15, 30 or 45 minutes – in which to repair the three Polo R WRCs. Given the tough conditions in Portugal, this barely gave the mechanics and engineers sufficient time, in which to replace worn parts and check the technology, which really took some punishment over the course of the four days. The 58-man Volkswagen team did an outstanding job, consistently sending the 315-hp four-wheel drive powerhouse from Wolfsburg back onto the stages in perfect condition.
A test for the newcomers: impressive start for Mikkelsen and Markkula
Andreas Mikkelsen and his co-driver Mikko Markkula, made a great start at the wheel of the third Polo R WRC, which was making its first outing of the season. Mikkelsen did exactly what the team had asked of him, gaining valuable experience in the World Rally Car under competitive conditions and crowning his reliability with sixth place overall and eighth World Championship points.