- Volkswagen crews to battle it out amongst themselves for the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ titles
- Out on final day: Latvala/Anttila retire whilst leading
- Third place at the Rally Germany: Podium for Mikkelsen as consolation
Crunch time in the World Rally Championship – the result of the Rally Germany means that the 2014 World Rally Champion will again be behind the wheel of a Volkswagen. Only Sébastien Ogier (F), Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) and Andreas Mikkelsen (N) still have a mathematical chance of winning the Drivers’ title with four rallies remaining. However, the works team from Wolfsburg had a disappointing home rally. While Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) did record Volkswagen’s first podium at the manufacturer’s home round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), the team was denied a maiden victory in Germany on a dramatic final day. Leading at the start of Sunday, a mistake about 70 kilometres from the end of the rally cost Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) any hopes of a second win in a row. As such, the Rally Germany remains the only event on the WRC calendar that Volkswagen is yet to win. The result also brings to an end Volkswagen’s record-breaking run of twelve back-to-back rally wins. Despite this, the team was still able to celebrate with Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene, who finished third in extremely difficult conditions.
Magnificent performance goes unrewarded: Latvala dominates before crashing out
The dream of victory ended with a mistake on stage 15 of 18, “Drohntal”, for Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila: in difficult conditions, with the route extremely slippery in places, the Finn left the road in a long left-hander and skidded into a vineyard. They then hit a barrier whilst attempting to return to the road, bringing their rally to an end. Up until that point the Finnish duo had dominated the rally. As in previous years, the flying Finns had produced an outstanding display on asphalt to open up a gap of almost a minute. Latvala/Anttila, who won recently in Finland, were never outside the top five on any of the first 14 special stages. Indeed, the duo currently second in the World Championship clocked the fastest time on eight stages.
Two firsts: third for Mikkelsen and Volkswagen
The first podium for Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene on asphalt, and the first for Volkswagen at the Rally Germany: the Norwegian duo achieved two firsts in finishing third. Mikkelsen and Fløene claimed their third podium in the World Rally Championship, and the 33rd for Volkswagen over the course of the past 22 rallies since the manufacturer made its debut with the Polo R WRC at the 2013 Rally Monte Carlo.
Early out for the champions: two slip-ups from Ogier/Ingrassia
Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) were left to ponder over their early exit from the Rally Germany. The World Championship leaders skidded off the road whilst leading on the final special stage of the opening day, and subsequently fell well back down the standings. This was followed on Saturday by another crash, which brought their challenge to an end. The damage suffered to the safety cage in the second crash could not be repaired in the allotted time.
It’ll be one of us: all-Volkswagen battle for the Drivers’ Championship
One thing is certain after the Rally Germany: one of the three Volkswagen drivers – Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen – will win the World Drivers’ Championship. Going into the remaining four rallies in Australia, France, Spain and Great Britain, Sébastien Ogier is now 113 points clear of fourth-placed Citroën driver Mads Østberg (N) with only 112 points still available. Ogier and Latvala’s co-drivers, Julien Ingrassia and Miikka Anttila, will battle it out for the title in the Co-Drivers’ Championship, as Ola Fløene only took his place alongside Andreas Mikkelsen part way through the season.
Although Volkswagen was unable to wrap up the Manufacturers’ Championship in Germany, the German manufacturer looks set to win the title at the Rally Australia. Currently leading by 167 points, a lead of 129 points after the rally down under would suffice to give Volkswagen its second successive Manufacturers’ title. For example, seventh place for either Ogier or Latvala would suffice, even if rival Citroën were to finish one-two.
Three days, three faces, three challenges in the region around Trier
A spectacular show in front of around 200,000 spectators: the Rally Germany posed three different challenges for the competitors over the three days. The rally started with the special stages near the border between Germany and Belgium, while Saturday was dominated by four stages on the iconic “Panzerplatte” on the Baumholder military training ground. Day three threw up two Rally Germany classics, in the form of “Dhrontal” and “Grafschaft”. Weather conditions alternating between rain and sun, as well as the plentiful mud thrown onto the roads as the World Rally Cars cut the corners, transformed some of the special stages into ice rinks.
Quotes after day three of the Rally Germany
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“This weekend is definitely one to forget for us. It is like an exact repeat of last year, and we drivers are solely responsible. The disappointment is obviously twice as great for Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikka Anttila, and I can imagine how they must feel after we crashed out the day before. However, we ought not forget that we, as a team, have enjoyed a fantastic run of twelve wins in a row with Volkswagen. That is something we can all be proud of. I am only looking ahead now. The Rally Australia gives us another opportunity to secure the Manufacturers’ title for Volkswagen and to extend our lead in the Drivers’ Championship. We will show our fighting spirit down under.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“We had victory within our grasps. I feel incredibly bad at the way we crashed out, especially for the team. I could have given them this win, but unfortunately I made a mistake with grave consequences. The conditions were extremely difficult today – it alternated constantly between dry and wet sections. A long left-hander, in which the road seemed dry, proved to be more slippery than I thought. The car ended up sideways on the exit from the corner and we skidded into the vineyard. Because we could not get back up the hill, I tried to get back onto the road by heading downhill. Unfortunately we hit a solid barrier in doing so and had to give up. As far as the championship is concerned, the gap to Sébastien remains the same. All I can do is try again to catch him at the next rallies, and to help Volkswagen seal the Manufacturers’ title with races to spare in Australia.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“The conditions at the Rally Germany were extremely difficult. The weather called the shots on all three days and created really slippery conditions yesterday. It was even more difficult on Sunday, and all of the top drivers had at least one hairy moment on the opening stage of the day. Unfortunately one such moment brought my team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala’s rally to a premature end. It is a shame, as the team had more than earned a home win and, as always, had gone all out for the win. I hope my third place is a little consolation. I am pleased with my first WRC podium on asphalt.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“We are obviously disappointed. We were so close to a home win, but a small mistake had big consequences. Unfortunately Jari-Matti Latvala was unable to convert his dominance into a victory. However, mistakes happen in rallying and they are part of the sport. We are only human, after all. However, after a record run of twelve successive wins, we need not feel too bad about one failure. It would appear that luck is not on our side in Germany. We win as a team and lose as a team. Today we lost out on a possible victory with Jari-Matti, but we gained a podium place with Andreas Mikkelsen. Congratulations to Thierry Neuville and Hyundai on their first win in the World Rally Championship!”
And then there was ...
... a special congratulation. The Volkswagen mechanics congratulated Hyundai on its first victory in the WRC since it joined the championship at the 2014 Rally Monte Carlo by forming a guard of honour for the winning team at the Rally Germany – including confetti