Sebastien Ogier wins 2013 Rally de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

Sebastien Ogier’s good fortune has continued after he fought back to win Rally de Espana on the weekend. Jari-Matti Latvala’s second place ensured Volkswagen secured the manufacturers’ championship in style, too, registering the team’s first one-two finish.

Rally de Espana is a diverse event covering tarmac and gravel with the extra dimension of night stages. The severe dust during the gravel stages made things very tricky for the drivers.

Ogier started in his usual fashion, building a lead over his rivals. However, he suffered a puncture cutting a corner a little too aggressively and dropped down to fourth place. Latvala and Dani Sordo, in his home event, assumed the battle for the lead.

Sadly, both endured bad luck which put both men out of contention. Latvala’s car had a leaking fuel line on the final day which caused a small fire and scuppered any hopes of Volkswagen duel to the finish line. Alas, Sordo’s misfortune was worse, hitting a small rock which wrecked his suspension and forced him into retirement on the final day while a podium position was his for the taking.

In the difficult gravel stages Ogier was superb fighting his way back from a deficit of over 40 seconds. He put on a rallying masterclass, made his own luck and took the win by over 30 seconds in the end.

Earlier this year Sebastien Ogier raced in the Porsche Supercup at the Monaco Grand Prix, where he became friends with Sean Edwards. After the rally Ogier dedicated his win to Edwards and his family.

It’s been a magical debut season for Volkswagen in 2013 and with just Rally Wales GB in mid-November left on the calendar they’ll be hoping they can finish the season with another victory.

A special note for Robert Kubica, too, who won the WRC2 championship with his class victory in Spain. We’ll have more on that later.

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

Volkswagen are World Champions* – manufacturers’ title following one-two victory in Spain

Part two of the World Champions’ story: Volkswagen has won the manufacturers’ title in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with an outstanding one-two victory at the Rally Spain. That means all the WRC titles* for 2013 will go to the car maker from Wolfsburg. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) claimed the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ crown three weeks ago at the Rally France. The French duo went on to score an impressive win – their eighth this season – ahead of their team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) at the “Rally de España”. As a result, Volkswagen has an unassailable lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship with one round still to go this season. Winning three titles in its debut year with the Polo R WRC is Volkswagen’s greatest motorsport achievement to date.

Title wins that will go down in history – Volkswagen’s debut

Volkswagen’s achievements in the 2013 WRC season are unparalleled. The German team clinched all of the titles in the top category of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) in its debut year – the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championship and the manufacturers’ trophy. No other manufacturer has managed to win a World Championship in its first year since the World Rally Championship began. Even in the history of Formula 1, no car maker has yet taken the title in its opening season through their own efforts. Volkswagen’s performance has exceeded all expectations. Originally, it was considered to have set itself ambitious goals by aiming for podium finishes in year one, round wins in the second year and championship titles in its third year.

Volkswagen drivers shine in extreme conditions

On its last day, the Rally Spain turned into a real showdown between the Volkswagen pairings Ogier/Ingrassia and Latvala/Anttila. Following a puncture on day two, Ogier started the final 138.54 kilometres on gravel fourth overall, with Latvala in the lead. On the third and final day, the Volkswagen duos rose to the different challenges they faced. While Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila opened the road on the concluding gravel stages of the Rally Spain, forcing them to clean the optimum line for the cars behind them, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia faced another problem. The new World Rally Champions* tackled the course fourth in a cloud of dust thrown up by their toughest rivals as they fought to win the round. This obviously didn’t slow down the season’s dominant duo too much: Ogier/Ingrassia put in best times on four of the six Special Stages on Sunday alone, plus two more top-three times. Only one other driver/co-driver pairing really shone on Sunday: Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula recorded two best times in the third Polo R WRC.

An extra pair of eyes in the dust: co-drivers play a crucial role on Sunday

Clouds of dust thrown up by the car in front, low morning sun – the conditions on Sunday posed a huge challenge for drivers and co-drivers alike. Thanks to a precise reading of the pace notes, pairings like Ogier/Ingrassia were able to gain up to 20 seconds on their direct competitors in the dust, despite poor visibility. Trust between the driver and co-driver is absolutely crucial in situations like this. When reading the pace notes, the co-drivers have to rely completely on their instincts – there are no clues to fall back on in zero visibility. “It was really tough going for us co-drivers,” said Julien Ingrassia, Sébastien Ogier’s right-hand man.

The all-rounder: 13 of 15 best stage times go to the Polo R WRC

The Rally Spain was the only round in this season’s WRC series to cover both asphalt and gravel. The Volkswagen Polo R WRC proved to be a great all-rounder in these unique conditions: 13 of 15 best stage times and 26 of 45 possible top-three times went to the World Rally Car from Wolfsburg. The all-wheel-drive triumphed seven times on the nine asphalt stages and on all six gravel sections. Since the Polo R WRC first lined up in the WRC at the Rally Monte Carlo, it has racked up 132 of the 215 possible best stage times – that’s 61.4 per cent. Sébastien Ogier has put in 101 best stage times single-handedly so far this year.

Quotes following day three of the Rally Spain

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7
“I’m absolutely delighted for the team. Volkswagen more than deserved to win the World Championship title this year. The Polo R WRC is a real World Champion car. Even though we had a few technical problems at the end today, it got us over the finishing line again and we won the very first one-two victory in the WRC with the team. I would’ve liked to have fought with Sébastien Ogier for victory in the round right to the bitter end because we had a fair duel without tactical instructions until just before the finish. I’m still pleased with second place. It gives me confidence ahead of the forthcoming Rally GB in Wales, which is definitely one of my favourite rallies. I can hardly wait to tackle it.”

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
“What an incredible rally, and what a fantastic season! Our team really deserved the World Championship title. I’m incredibly proud to be part of the Volkswagen team. And of course I’m ecstatic that Julien and I managed to secure the win here in Spain. I promised beforehand that I would try everything – and it worked. It has to be said that it was extremely difficult early this morning though. Driving through the dust thrown up by the cars in front was like being in the thickest of fog – zero visibility. At times, we had to slow down in the middle of full-speed stretches because we couldn’t see anything at all. We made a strong comeback in France and left as World Champions. Now we’ve managed to play catch-up big style in Spain – and we’re World Champions again!”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“Volkswagen are World Champions! I’m so pleased for the team – they’ve just been great this season. It’s just a fantastic bunch of people. I wanted to give them something back today too and tried to perform as well as possible. I felt comfortable in the Polo R WRC right from the start this morning and adjusted to gravel really quickly. Starting so far back certainly wasn’t a disadvantage, but all that dust was. But we did a good job during the recce and I had a lot of confidence in the pace notes. Seeing your own name right at the top of the list of times twice is great, of course. On the third stage of the day, I slid off the road after a long right-hand bend that went into a sharp left-hand turn. This afternoon, I wanted to go on the attack again, but I hit something on the straight. After that, the steering wheel was wonky. Later on, the suspension got damaged too, which is why we couldn’t take part in the last Special Stage. Nevertheless, I’m not dissatisfied with the Rally Spain.”

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“Winning all three World Championship titles in one season is simply unbelievable. Given that this is the first season we have competed in the World Rally Championship with the Polo R WRC, it is an even greater achievement. Winning the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ World Championship was an absolute highlight for the whole team. It was a dream come true for Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia in particular at their home event three weeks ago. But the Manufacturers’ World Championship is even more important for a car maker because it proves that it’s not just the driver who’s exceptional – the product is too.”

And then there was …

… Santiago Cañizares. The former Real Madrid and FC Valencia goalkeeper is a big rallying fan. He paid a visit to the Volkswagen Motorsport team and his compatriots Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya at the Rally Spain. Cañizares has 46 caps for Spain and commentates on the WRC for Canal+ in his home country. In his free time, he enjoys playing with his three vintage rally cars: a Porsche 911, a Renault Alpine and a Renault 5.

* Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA.

FIA Rally World Championship (WRC), Rally Spain, final results

1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 3h 33m 21.2s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 32.9s
3. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Citroën + 1m 13.7s
4. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Ford + 1m 33.9s
5. Evgeny Novikov/Ilka Minor (RUS/A), Ford + 2m 01.0s
6. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Ford + 2m 26.0s
7. Martin Prokop/Michal Ernst (CZ/CZ), Ford + 4m 55.8s
8. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Ford + 6m 55.7s
9. Robert Kubica/Maciej Baran (PL/PL), Citroën + 11m 14.1s
10. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari/Killian Duffy (QA/IRL), Ford + 13m 26.8s

FIA Rally World Championship (WRC), Rally Spain, results powerstage

1. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Ford 15m 36.8s
2. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen + 2.8s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 3.2s

FIA World Rally Championship(WRC), points standings – Drivers’ classification (top 10)

1. Sébastien Ogier – 265
2. Thierry Neuville – 158
3. Jari-Matti Latvala – 144
4. Mikko Hirvonen – 126
5. Daniel Sordo – 117
6. Mads Østberg – 89
7. Sébastien Loeb – 68
8. Evgeny Novikov – 67
9. Martin Prokop – 55
10. Andreas Mikkelsen – 40

Manufacturers’ classification

1. Volkswagen Motorsport – 382
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 274
3. Qatar M-Sport WRT – 174
4. Qatar WRT – 169
5. Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT – 63
6. Jipocar Czech National Team – 57
7. Volkswagen Motorsport II – 40
8. Lotos WRC Team – 20

 

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

Hirvonen claims podium spot in Spain

After two days on tarmac, Rally de España concluded on the gravel roads of southern Catalonia. Unfortunately, Dani Sordo and Carlos d el Barrio were unable to complete their home event, as they were forced to retire when fighting for one of the top-three places. Meanwhile, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen grabbed the third and final podium spot.

Held on the super fast tarmac roads around Reus, Saturday’s long day ended with an intense period of mechanical work in the service park. The Citroën Racing team spent the 75 minutes available to convert the DS3 WRCs to their ‘gravel’ configuration, given that Sunday’s final leg would be held on the dusty roads up in the neighbouring hills, with three stages each of which would be run twice.

The day’s action began with the Gandesa test. Rather unexpectedly, hanging dust turned out to be main topic of discussion at the end of the stage, as opposed to problems related to sweeping the racing line. As the conditions remained largely the same on all of the stages, the issue kept cropping up throughout the morning. By midday, Dani Sordo still held onto second place overall, despite having conceded a few seconds to Jari-Matti Latvala. “I’m pleased to have more or less matched my main rival. My fears turned out to be unfounded, as I felt pretty good in the car right from the word go,” commented the Spaniard. “Ogier has fought back and is now just a few seconds behind. I’m going to try and hold him off but his starting position is still better than mine.”

Also very much on the pace of the leading drivers, Mikko Hirvonen had moved up into fourth overall during the first loop: “I set some good times, but it could have been much better. At certain points, there was so much dust that I just had to stop. I had no choice, really – we couldn‘t even see the road in front of the car! I am going to try and drive quickly this afternoon; I still have a slim chance of grabbing a place on the podium…”

The Finn certainly wasn’t thinking, however, that he would move up in the standings thanks to the retirement of Dani Sordo. After clipping a rock on the penultimate stage, the no.3 DS3 WRC driver was forced to park his car at the side of the road. Mikko Hirvonen therefore took over from him in third place, a position he held onto until the end: “First of all, I’m really sorry for Dani and Carlos, who had had a great race, both on tarmac and on gravel. I’m pretty happy with my weekend, as we managed to stay among the leaders during the tarmac stages. It’s good to be back on the podium. I’ll now be trying to finish off the season in style at Wales Rally GB.”

After making noticeable progress on tarmac, Khalid Al-Qassimi had to adapt to the slippery conditions on the final leg. The Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team driver finished 11th, just outside the points: “Like everyone else, I was hampered by the dust in the first few stages. But most of all, I struggled to make the most of the changes we had made to the set-up. We didn’t do any testing before this rally, so I spent more time getting to grips with how the car worked on the gravel. I’m nonetheless pleased to have made it to the end of the rally without making any mistakes.”

“This rally served up a plethora of difficulties, and I’d like to highlight the high quality work done by all of the members of our team,” concluded Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “As regards performance, reliability and strategy, we have had a very good race. Dani didn’t make it to the finish, but he had to push as hard as possible to fight off our rivals, and you can’t do that without taking some risks. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Volkswagen, who have succeeded Citroën as Manufacturers’ World Champions. They have had a great season and deserved to win the title.”

 

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

Neuville recovers fourth in Fiesta-dominated top-ten

The Qatar M-Sport squad put in a solid performance in the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) at RallyRACC Rally de España this weekend with the Cumbrian outfit’s range of Ford Fiesta rally cars accounting for 60 per cent of the overall top-ten.

Having been on course for another podium before a puncture put paid to his efforts, Thierry Neuville finished the event in fourth position with Evgeny Novikov fifth, Mads Østberg sixth and Hayden Paddon completing his competitive debut in a new-generation world rally car in eighth place respectively.

There was a mission in store for the Qatar M-Sport technicians yesterday evening as they converted the fleet of Ford Fiestas from their asphalt to gravel specification – ready for today’s loose-surface tests.

Despite this being done during the longest service of the year, the team had to work quickly in near perfect synchronisation. Changing everything from the suspension components, gearboxes and brakes to the jack foot height and sumpguards, the transformation of each car was completed in just 75 minutes.

Embarking on the final tests, the crews turned their hand back to gravel. Running third on the road with less than a 30 second deficit to the battling duo ahead, Qatar World Rally Team’s Neuville looked well placed to challenge.

But as low sun and hanging dust played havoc with the status quo, it looked as though he and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul would have a fight on their hands, and when they picked up a right-rear puncture through the first pass of ‘Pesells 1’ (SS11), they found themselves relegated to fifth place overall.

Determined as always, Neuville was focused on recovering as many points as possible for his championship campaign. With his adversary, Jari-Matti Latvala, finishing second – and taking just one point from the points-paying Power Stage – the Belgian’s fourth place and Power Stage victory was enough to see his advantage reduced by just four points. With a 14-point margin going into the final round, the 25-year-old will be resolute on maintaining the upper hand.
In the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, Novikov and co-driver Ilka Minor continued their good run through the Spanish terrain. Keeping his Fiesta RS WRC firmly planted to the stages, the Muscovite found the perfect balance between being cautious when necessary and unleashing his customary dose of ‘maximum attack’ when comfortable.

Having set some strong times over the course of the event, Novikov was combining speed with a clever and considered approach. His strategy paid dividends, and he and Minor added another top-five finish to their 2013 tally.

Progressing on the loose-surface terrain, Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson were demonstrating their true potential behind the wheel. Benefiting from a better road position on the morning stages, the Norwegian was back where he belonged – posting top-three stage times on two of the three stages.

As the road cleaned for the afternoon loop, Østberg remained on form – piloting his Fiesta RS WRC to another hat-trick of top-three stage times to secure sixth place overall.

In the third Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC, Paddon and co-driver John Kennard were finding their feet on what was their first taste of a modern world rally car. With no gravel testing, it was somewhat of a baptism of fire for the New Zealander.

Adapting the set-up to suit his driving style for the afternoon loop, Paddon upped the pace. Comfortably in the top-ten on individual stage times, the youngster finished his competitive debut in the Fiesta with a creditable eighth place finish.

Elsewhere, in WRC 2, there was disappointment for Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt. Recovering well from yesterday’s final stage incident, the pairing were on course to climb the leader board with a second fastest time through the first stage of the day (SS10). Unfortunately the duo would go no further as their Ford Fiesta R5 developed a clutch issue before the first pass of ‘Pesells’ (SS11).

With just one round remaining in this year’s FIA World Rally Championship, the team are now focussed on securing a good result on home soil at Wales Rally GB – a favoured hunting ground for both the team and their young crews.

Thierry Neuville (4th) said:

“Most importantly we have only lost four points to Jari-Matti [Latvala] in the championship, even if I think we could have done better – especially on the Tarmac. OK, we didn’t feel 100 per cent confident with the set-up, but when we made some changes on Saturday afternoon we were able to set fastest times and win the Power Stage. All of these are positive things.

“Also don’t forget that this was the first time for us in the stages today. Especially with the dust, the conditions were very difficult which meant that checking the pacenotes wasn’t easy. At the same time, it was the first time for us doing a rally where a strategy can pay.

“We maybe didn’t see our best performance here this weekend, but we have certainly learnt a lot and it wasn’t a bad weekend by all means.”

Evgeny Novikov (5th) said:

“I am quite happy with our performance this weekend. We pushed to the maximum when we felt confident and played it clever when the conditions were a bit more tricky and I think that that was a good strategy for us. We were able to set some good times and to finish in the top-five which was my goal for this weekend.”

Mads Østberg (6th) said:

“I am very happy and very relieved this afternoon. The last few months have been quite difficult and I was really struggling to find the rhythm and get in the right frame of mind. It is so nice to start the day and be fast – to have the confidence, enjoy the ride, know you’re not going to make a mistake and still be fast. It’s a very good feeling. I’ve had this feeling before, but it has been some time so I am very happy to be back at the top, at least on gravel.”

Hayden Paddon (8th) said:

“Of course it is good to get to the finish as that was obviously one of our goals. This weekend has been a big learning curve for us though. We were a bit disappointed with how today went because we never really got a feeling for the car and struggled for confidence. We made some improvements this afternoon and made some good progress, but there is still a long way to go. We just need to go home, do some homework, and figure out what the answers are.”

Elfyn Evans (DNF) said:

“Performance wise, I think we can take a lot from this rally. Especially on Saturday, we might not have been able to match Robert [Kubica], but when compared to some of the world rally cars I think we had good pace.

“Unfortunately, I made a silly mistake on yesterday’s Super Special and that affected our retirement today when the [Ford] Fiesta R5 developed an issue with the clutch. Obviously it is very disappointing for the whole team, but we just need to keep focussed and look forward to GB.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“Sadly we have not achieved the result we were hoping for this weekend, but to come away with Thierry [Neuville] still holding a strong second place in the Drivers’ Championship is not bad at all. He has 14 points over Jari-Matti [Latvala], so I think we can all look forward to a good battle between them in GB.

“It is very satisfying indeed to see so many of our Ford Fiestas in the top-ten. That in itself is a fantastic result and testament to all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes back at base.”