Sebastien Ogier led a dominant Volkswagen team to victory at Rally Australia on the weekend. Volkswagen drivers filled all three podium steps in order of seniority, with Jari-Matti Latvala finishing just 6.8 seconds behind Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen a bit over a minute further behind.
With that Volkswagen successfully defended its manufacturers championship and in record time too. There’s three rallies left in the season and with a 50 point lead Ogier is favourite to claim his second world championship, ahead of teammate Latvala.
On the forest tracks around Coffs Harbour CitroÃ«n driver Kris Meeke showed good early pace fighting for a podium position until a 61 second penalty was handed to him for cutting a corner illegally. That left him back in fifth battling with Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen, a three time winner down under.
Meeke’s pace was still strong and he was able to claim one position back by the end of the rally, finishing over eight seconds ahead of Hirvonen.
Kiwi driver Hayden Paddon continued his good efforts with Hyundai coming home in sixth place, his best WRC finish to date and one place ahead of team leader Thierry Neuville.
Australia’s Chris Atkinson finished tenth for Hyundai after finding conditions difficult on the first day.
“Itâ€™s not been the easiest of weekends as I struggled to get into a rhythm early on in the rally,” Atkinson said. “That has had a knock-on effect for the remaining days, as I was first on the road. That has dictated the extent I have been able to push so instead we just focused on finishing the rally. Itâ€™s nice weâ€™ve been able to get all three cars inside the top ten.”
Volkswagen’s press release is available after the break and we’ll have a photo gallery for you later in the week.
#ShowDownUnder â€“ Volkswagen is World Rally Champion* again, courtesy of one-two-three in Australia
- Successful title defence in the Manufacturersâ€™ Championship
- Earliest championship win in the WRC for 25 years
- SÃ©bastien Ogier wins, ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen
3..2..1, World Champion*! Volkswagen wrapped up the title in the Manufacturersâ€™ Championship of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with a one-two-three at the Rally Australia. With three rallies still remaining this season, the best result in the history of the team means Volkswagen can no longer be caught at the top of the overall standings. Winners in Australia, SÃ©bastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), and team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila, who finished runner-up down under, successfully defended the title in record time. This is the earliest in a season that a World Championship title has been won for 25 years. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola FlÃ¸ene (N/N) finished third in the final Polo R WRC to round off a perfect team result. The three Volkswagen crews also top the standings in the Driversâ€™ and Co-Driversâ€™ Championship. Ogier/Ingrassia and Latvala/Anttila will battle it out between themselves at the remaining three rallies to see who is crowned World Champion at the end of the season.
The Sign of Three: Polo R WRC claims its first one-two-three down under
All good things come in threes â€“ especially when it comes to popping champagne corks: Volkswagenâ€™s one-two-three at the Rally Australia was the first in the teamâ€™s history in the World Rally Championship. SÃ©bastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia claimed the 19th victory for the Polo R WRC in only its 23rd outing. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila added podium number 35 to the 315-hp World Rally Car from Wolfsburgâ€™s impressive record since making its debut at the 2013 Rally Monte Carlo. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola FlÃ¸ene secured podium number 36, for good measure.
The route to the historic success was anything but a stroll in the park: the Rally Australia put both man and machine to the test with its very technical, winding rollercoaster sections through the forests of New South Wales on the one hand, and high-speed passages over open land on the other. Constantly varying gravel surfaces â€“ from rough, coarse grit to smooth, clayey, loamy ground â€“ and the relentless switching between light and shadow made life difficult for the drivers and co-drivers. Over the course of the 20 special stages, the World Rally Cars completed 302.26 kilometres against the clock. The longest and most distinctive stage was â€œNambuccaâ€, which took the crews on a marathon 48.92-kilometre route through forests with steep uphill sections, across farmland and over small wooden bridges.
The Sign of Three: Successful title defence in record time
World Champion* after just three quarters of the season â€“ only once in the history of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) has a manufacturer wrapped up the Manufacturersâ€™ Championship sooner than Volkswagen in 2014. With nine of ten possible victories to its name â€“ six of them one-twos â€“ Volkswagen has already successfully defended its title. Ogier and Latvala also spearheaded the team that took the Manufacturersâ€™ title to Wolfsburg in 2013 â€“ with the biggest winning margin in the history of the WRC (145 points). Volkswagen goes into the remaining three rallies of the season â€“ in France, Spain and Great Britain â€“ with a lead of 194 points.
And then there were two: All-Volkswagen duel in the Driversâ€™ and Co-Driversâ€™ Championship
Even before the Rally Australia it was already certain that the battle for the title in the WRC Driversâ€™ Championship would be played out between the three Volkswagen drivers â€“ SÃ©bastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen. After the result down under, the three-way battle has now been whittled down to a duel. Although Andreas Mikkelsen was able to significantly increase his advantage over fourth place, he can no longer have a say in the destination of the Driversâ€™ title. And so it is that the duel that has dominated the season will also determine who wins the World Championship: SÃ©bastien Ogier vs. Jari-Matti Latvala. This duel has already produced three of the top ten closest finishes in the World Rally Championship. Ogier defeated Latvala by just 0.2 seconds in Jordan in 2011, while Latvala finished a mere 2.4 seconds ahead of Ogier in New Zealand in 2010. The closest finish since the two drivers have been in Volkswagen colours came at this yearâ€™s Rally Finland, when Latvala came home just 3.6 seconds ahead of Ogier to win his home event. In Australia, 6.8 seconds was all that separated the champion and his challenger.
Bonus points for the leading two on the Power Stage: Latvala ahead of Ogier
Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila won the Power Stage, on which bonus points are up for grabs for the first three crews, to pick up an extra three points towards the Driversâ€™ and Co-Driversâ€™ Championship. Second place, and with it two World Championship points, went to their Volkswagen team-mates SÃ©bastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia. Over the last two years in the World Championship, Volkswagen duos have won 16 of 22 Power Stages, bagging extra points on 39 occasions in total.
Facts and figures from the Rally Australia
20 special stages, 17 stage wins â€“ Volkswagen enhanced the already impressive record of the Polo R WRC at the Rally Australia. Since the World Rally Car made its first competitive outing at the 2013 Rally Monte Carlo, the four-wheel drive powerhouse has won a remarkable 297 of 428 stages. It has also ended special stages in the top three on 679 occasions. The Rally Australiaâ€™s 20 special stages yielded a further 42 top-three results for the Volkswagen drivers.
Quotes after day three of the Rally Australia
SÃ©bastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
â€œAbsolutely fantastic. I am made up for our team! They really deserve this success so much. It is hard to put this feeling into words. The fact that we have wrapped up the World Championship title with the first ever all-Volkswagen podium is an incredible success. We can really be proud of ourselves today, here at the other end of the world. Julien and I tried to control our slender advantage over my team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala right through to the finish â€“ and it worked out. I think we put on an exciting duel at the top for the fans. It is awesome that Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola FlÃ¸ene rounded off this triumph for the team. A win would be enough for me to secure the Driversâ€™ title now. It would be magnificent to pull it off in France.â€
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
â€œA fantastic success. I am delighted for the entire team. The Manufacturersâ€™ title is a great recognition of the fact that everyone at Volkswagen has been utterly committed to being successful, and also shows that the Polo is the best rally car around. We also produced some first-class racing again â€“ Miikka and I tried to put SÃ©bastien and Julien under pressure right up until the finish, but they were unbeatable. Congratulations on a deserved win. I am very happy with my own performance. Unfortunately we lost crucial seconds with the wrong tyre selection, which probably cost us the win. In any case, it is phenomenal to stand here on the podium with all three Polos. There can be no better way to win a World Championship title.â€
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
â€œWhat an incredible result for the entire team. World Champions, and with the teamâ€™s very first one-two-three to boot. I am delighted for all the mechanics, engineers and helpers who have made this possible, here in Australia and throughout the entire season. We had a huge lead over fourth place going into the final six special stages, but we could not do much in the way of catching the two cars ahead of us. Caught in no manâ€™s land, our priority was to control our pace so that we did not make any mistakes and brought the result home. My goal ahead of the rally was to defend my advantage over fourth place in the World Championship. We have actually managed to increase it. I am absolutely delighted with my fourth podium of the year. Today is just a fantastic day.â€
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
â€œWhat a way to put the icing on the cake at the end of such an impressive season! Winning the Manufacturersâ€™ title with a one-two-three â€“ it doesnâ€™t get any better. Last year we surpassed all expectations, particularly our own. Even then, everyone in the team consistently pushed themselves to their limits to win the World Championship. It is always more difficult to successfully defend the World Championship title than it is to win it in the first place. What the team has achieved this season, and the extent to which it has improved, demands my utmost respect. A chain is only ever as strong as its weakest link, as they say. With us, every link is as strong as the next. I would like to thank my colleagues. Volkswagen is proud of them. And this title is for everyone at Volkswagen around the world, whose support has been magnificent.â€
* Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA.
And then there was …
… the perfect parking place. To welcome the new champions, the Volkswagen mechanics unrolled brand-new service awnings for the three Polo R WRCs. At the closing service, ahead of the podium ceremony, the three World Rally Cars from Wolfsburg were parked in their own places as usual, where the sign above them read: â€œChampions Parking Onlyâ€.
FIA Rally World Championship (WRC),
Rally Australia â€“ Final Results
1. SÃ©bastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 2h 53m 18.0s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 6.8s
3. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola FlÃ¸ene (N/N), Volkswagen + 1m 18.0s
4. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), CitroÃ«n + 1m 44.0s
5. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Ford + 1m 53.6s
6. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai + 2m 56.2s
7. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai + 4m 28.2s
8. Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (GB/GB), Ford + 5m 10.0s
9. Robert Kubica/Maciej Szczepaniak (PL/PL), Ford + 6m 39.8s
10. Chris Atkinson/Stephane Prevot (AUS/B), Hyundai + 9m 29.4s
FIA Rally World Championship (WRC),
Rally Australia â€“ Power Stage Results
1. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen 5m 20.7s
2. SÃ©bastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen + 1.2s
3. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), CitroÃ«n + 3.8s
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Overall Standings
1. SÃ©bastien Ogier 214
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 164
3. Andreas Mikkelsen 125
4. Mikko Hirvonen 83
5. Thierry Neuville 79
6. Mads Ã˜stberg 74
7. Kris Meeke 67
8. Elfyn Evans 61
9. Martin Prokop 37
10. Henning Solberg 26
11. Juho HÃ¤nninen 20
12. Bryan Bouffier 18
13. Dani Sordo 18
14. Hayden Paddon 16
15. Robert Kubica 14
16. Ott TÃ¤nak 11
17. Benito Guerra 8
18. Chris Atkinson 7
19. Pontus Tidemand 6
20. Jaroslav MelichÃ¡rek 4
21. Dennis Kuipers 4
22. Nasser Al-Attiyah 3
23. Lorenzo Bertelli 2
24. Matteo Gamba 2
25. Craig Breen 2
26. Yuriy Protasov 2
27. Jari Ketomaa 1
28. Karl Kruuda 1
29. Khalid Al-Qassimi 1
30. Julien Maurin 0
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 348
2. CitroÃ«n Total Abu Dhabi WRT 154
3. M-Sport 146
4. Hyundai Motorsport 141
5. Volkswagen Motorsport II 109
6. Jipocar Czech National Team 40
7. RK M-Sport WRT 25
8. Hyundai Motorsport N 22