That thud you can hear is the sound of Citroën’s confidence crashing to the ground as they watched Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia dominate all weekend to claim victory in Rally Sweden. It’s Ogier’s eighth WRC win but his first for Volkswagen, of course. A remarkable achievement for him and the new Volkswagen Polo R WRC.
In just two races Ogier has finished second and first and has established a 24 point championship lead over Citroën’s Mikko Hirvonen, the driver tipped to take over Loeb’s crown in 2013.
Hirvonen’s Rally Sweden aspirations were dashed early on after a relatively sedate rollover saw him embedded in a snow bank. It took over 20 minutes to dig himself out by which point any hopes of victory were gone.
Ogier, though, was calmness personified and after establishing a comfortable lead on day 1 was never seriously threatened. Sebastien Loeb piled on the pressure on the final day, but Ogier was composed and held on for a dominant win.
In truth the slender 1.8 second winning margin flattered second-placed Loeb.
Rally Sweden is notoriously tricky and its record shows that Scandinavian or Finnish drivers usually win the event. Now we can add Frenchman to that list as Ogier joins Loeb as the only non-northern Europeans to taste success in Sweden.
“That is an indescribable feeling! We were screaming with joy in the car,” explained Ogier after the rally. “It is simply incredible to claim the first victory for Volkswagen and the team at only our second rally. This is probably the greatest moment of my career.
“The Polo R WRC was perfect the entire time. The guys did a fantastic job of preparing the car. So much can happen in Sweden. The conditions in the snow are so difficult – winning here, as only the second central European and ahead of the best rally driver of all time, makes me enormously proud. We had to give 100 per cent, right down to the final day, because Sébastien Loeb was really going for it right through to the finish.”
We think Sebastien Ogier could be our motorsport hero for 2013. It’s an early call and there’s still a long way to go in the WRC season. However, Ogier appears to have a calming personality that oozes charisma and makes us want him to succeed. Maybe it’s just because we’re (generally) Volkswagen fans, or perhaps it’s because we could be witnessing a serious challenge to Citroën’s recent dominance. Something the WRC desperately needs.
A huge contrast in conditions awaits the teams for the next event when they head to central Americas for Rally Mexico (7–10 March).
Ogier triumphs in Sweden – Volkswagen claims maiden victory in the World Rally Championship
Wolfsburg (10 February 2013). A milestone for Volkswagen in motorsport: Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia (F/F) have won the Rally Sweden at the wheel of the Polo R WRC. In doing so, Volkswagen has already far exceeded its own expectations of what is the team’s debut season in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). In only its second competitive outing, the 315-hp World Rally Car from Wolfsburg emerged triumphant on the Scandinavian ice and snow against strong opposition – including nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb (Citroën).
Eleven best times from 22 special stages – Ogier and Ingrassia led the overall standings right from the word go, and refused to be shifted from the top spot until they reached the finish on Sunday afternoon. Ogier set the foundation for the success in qualification on Thursday, when he clocked the fastest time to finish seven places ahead of the multiple world champion. Loeb eventually ended the rally 41.8 seconds behind his fellow Frenchman. Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) finished fourth in the second Polo R WRC to complete an outstanding team result for Volkswagen.
A special win: Sébastien Ogier’s eighth victory in the World Rally Championship
Sébastien Ogier and Volkswagen’s win at the Rally Sweden will take a special place in the history books of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC): Ogier’s eighth success is only the second by a central European at the Rally Sweden since 1950. Up until now, the event had been won almost exclusively by Nordic drivers – Sébastien Ogier joins multiple world champion Sébastien Loeb as only the second winner of the “Sweden” to come from outside of Sweden, Norway and Finland. Loeb was the first to break the Nordic countries’ stranglehold in 2004.
Ice, snow and cold – extreme weather, unique conditions
The Rally Sweden is one of a kind on the calendar of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). It is the only rally held exclusively on ice and snow. The teams use special Michelin “Sweden studs” and the winter specs for the World Rally Cars at the Rally Sweden, as well as special Castrol oils for the engine, gearbox and differentials. The Polo R WRC was surprisingly strong in the extraordinary conditions in Sweden: in total, the car picked up 28 top-three results over the course of the 22 special stages.
Power Stage turns the balance: Ogier takes over at the top of the World Rally Championship
Sébastien Ogier won the so-called Power Stage, which is making its first appearance this season, to move ahead in the overall WRC standings. Extra World Championship points are up for grabs for the drivers finishing first, second and third. Ogier now leads the Drivers’ Championship, three points ahead of Loeb.
The next round of the World Rally Championship takes place from 7th to 10th March in Mexico, with the rally centred around León.
Quotes, Day Three of the Rally Sweden
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7
“I am delighted for the entire Volkswagen team. To win a race so early in a debut season is something very special. I would have liked to finish on the podium myself. That was certainly possible here at the Rally Sweden with the Polo R WRC. However, I must still adapt my driving style a bit. Huge compliments go to my team-mate Sébastien Ogier, who showed just what was possible. He was really impressive all weekend. I will do everything in my power to get on a par with him at the forthcoming rallies.”
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
“That is an indescribable feeling! We were screaming with joy in the car. It is simply incredible to claim the first victory for Volkswagen and the team at only our second rally. This is probably the greatest moment of my career. The Polo R WRC was perfect the entire time. The guys did a fantastic job of preparing the car. So much can happen in Sweden. The conditions in the snow are so difficult – winning here, as only the second central European and ahead of the best rally driver of all time, makes me enormously proud. We had to give 100 per cent, right down to the final day, because Sébastien Loeb was really going for it right through to the finish. I feared that he would make up more time this morning, particularly on the opening ‘Mitandersfors’ stage. However, that was not the case. Now I am just overjoyed.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“This is a big day for Volkswagen in motorsport. To win the second round of the World Championship under our own steam is a real milestone. The Rally Sweden is one of a kind. The Polo R WRC worked perfectly in these conditions, and Sébastien Ogier took full advantage. He was in a class of his own here. However, Jari-Matti Latvala also performed well. Within the team, all the cogs fit into place perfectly. Today I am just very proud of the guys.”
And then there was …
… Sébastien Ogier’s car engineer Gerard Jan de Jongh. The Dutchman has waited seven years for his first WRC victory as the engineer responsible for the car. Today that dream came true. However, de Jongh will not be up all night partying – he has been down with a bad dose of the flu since Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia crossed the finish line.
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Rally Sweden – Final results
1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 3h 11m 41.9s
2. Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (F/MC), Citroën
3. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Ford +1m24.5s
4. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen +1m30.6s
5. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Ford +5m06.4s
6. Juho Hänninen/Tomi Tuominen (FIN/FIN), Ford +5m43.1s
7. Martin Prokop/Michal Ernst (CZ/CZ), Ford +11m25.4s
8. Henning Solberg/Emil Axelsson (N/S), Ford +11m42.7s
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), standings driver championship
1. Sébastien Ogier – 46
2. Sébastien Loeb – 43
3. Mads Østberg – 24
4. Dani Sordo – 15
5. Jari-Matti Latvala – 14
6. Mikko Hirvonen – 12
6. Martin Prokop – 12
8. Bryan Bouffier – 10
8. Thierry Neuville – 10
10. Juho Hänninen 8