A thriller that resulted in a success story: Volkswagen reached the half-way point of the Rally Monte Carlo in first, second and third. Day two of the opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) was initially dominated by the duel between Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) in their Polo R WRC and Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (F/MC) in a Citroën. The Volkswagen duo had gradually reeled in and passed its rivals over the course of the first five of Friday’s six stages, before the battle for the lead was turned on its head as Loeb/Elena dropped massive amounts of time on the final special stage. The other Volkswagen duos, who had also driven intelligently to worked their way up the overall standings, also benefitted from the late drama: after 175.09 of 355.48 kilometres against the clock, Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) find themselves in second place, followed by Andreas Mikkelsen/Andreas Fløene in third.
The WRC competitors were faced with extremely variable and difficult conditions. The road surface on the three special stages, each of which was tackled twice, alternated constantly between wet asphalt, snow and ice – all of which was exacerbated at times by thick fog. This all made the task of selecting from Michelin’s soft slicks, studded and winter tyres particularly difficult. In the morning, the three Volkswagen crews opted for a combination of four studded tyres and two winter tyres. In the afternoon, Ogier/Ingrassia headed out with four studded tyres and two slicks, while Latvala/Anttila and Mikkelsen/Fløene went for a mixture of two slicks, two studded, and two winter tyres.
Quotes after day two of the Rally Monte Carlo
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“It was a tough day with extremely difficult conditions. I must pay a big compliment to my ice spies, who did a fantastic job. The duel with Sébastien Loeb was not only thrilling for the fans, but was also exciting for Julien and me in the cockpit. Whilst he had the advantage on one stage, I was able to make up ground on the next. In the end it proved important that I never lost my cool, even despite the gap early on. When we moved into the lead for the first time after the penultimate stage, I was able to take a deep breath. Loeb’s crash on the final stage is obviously a shame for many rally fans, as it means our duel for the lead is over. However, despite our lead, the next couple of days will be anything but easy. The conditions, with the mixture of ice, snow and asphalt, remain extremely difficult. As such, it demands maximum concentration right through to the finish. Hopefully I will then be able to pay my fans back for the incredible support and passion I enjoy here at my home event.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“My goal at the start of the rally was to finish in the top four – and nothing has changed in that regard. I have not had any particularly good results at the ‘Monte’ in the past, and I still have a lot to learn when it comes to the weather, tyre selection and the route. As such, I am happy with my position and what I learned today. Looking ahead to the championship, it is more important to score a lot of points here than to risk everything trying to win. If you compare the World Championship to the Rally Dakar, we only actually reach the finish at the end of the year. I do not intend to lose sight of our main goal.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“We bet everything on safety today. I think our tyre selections in the morning and the afternoon were both good. This allowed us to implement our plan to ensure we made it through the day in one piece. That was far from easy, however, as there was thick fog on some of the stages, which meant there were times when you could not see five metres ahead of you. It is also a real challenge to judge the grip in such fluctuating conditions. It is superb to come out of a day like this in third place – even if we did benefit from the misfortune of Sébastien Loeb and Kris Meeke. However, this is only an intermediate result. There is still a long way to go to the finish in Monaco, and we must continue to drive as intelligently as we have done in order to secure a good result.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“I am sure there were a few heartbroken fans this afternoon. The two Sebs were running the show at the ‘Monte’ until Sébastien Loeb unfortunately lost time in his Citroën. Up until then, it had been first-class WRC action. Sébastien Ogier and his engineers made a good tyre selection today. He drove sensibly and gradually fought his way into the lead for Volkswagen. It is a typical ‘Monte’ scenario: the changing conditions make it particularly difficult to judge the level of grip. Respect to our drivers. We have had just as much fun watching the performances of Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen, who have both driven patiently and intelligently, as we did witnessing the battle for the lead. Second and third places round off a marvellous day for Volkswagen.”
And then there was ...
... a home visit, rally style. On the fifth special stage of the Rally Monte Carlo, the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) passed the small town of Forest Saint Julien – the birthplace of Sébastien Ogier. And the end of the special stage “Les Costes–St Julien” was actually within shouting distance of his parents' house. A rally can't get any closer to home than that.
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