Rally France.

29 September – 02 October 2016.

 

Red-hot coverage, exclusive background reports, interviews, the latest photos – simply everything on the 2016 Rally France. You are always up to date here.

Timetable

 

Note: All times in the timetable are given in CEST (as of: 05/09/2016).

Thursday, 29/09/2016

Time SS Name Liaison SS km Liaison
08:00   Shakedown (Sorbo-Ocagnano)      

Friday, 30/09/2016

Time SS Name Liaison SS km Liaison
08:58 SS 01 Acqua Doria–Albitreccia 1 25.78 km 49.72 km  
11:06 SS 02 Plage du Liamone–Sarrola-Carcopino 1 59.87 km 29.12 km 21.91 km
14:24 SS 03 Acqua Doria–Albitreccia 2 25.78 km 49.72 km  
16:32 SS 04 Plage du Liamone–Sarrola-Carcopino 2 59.87 km 29.12 km 127.06 km

Saturday, 01/10/2016

Time SS Name Liaison SS km Liaison
09:22 SS 05 La Porta–Valle-di-Rostino 1 26.73 km 53.72 km  
11:03 SS 06 Novella–Pietralba 1 36.10 km 30.80 km 41.27 km
15:20 SS 07 La Porta–Valle-di-Rostino 2 26.73 km 53.72 km  
17:01 SS 08 Novella–Pietralba 2 36.10 km 30.80 km 41.27 km

Sunday, 02/10/2016

Time SS Name Liaison SS km Liaison
08:58 SS 09 Antisanti–Poggio-di-Nazza 68.77 km 53.78 km 63.32 km
12:08 SS 10 Porto-Vecchio–Palombaggia (Powerstage) 08.00 km 10.42 km 04.66 km

Sunday, 02/10/2016


Images Day 3 (8)


Final report

One hand on the title.

 

Victory on half of the ten special stages, including a clean sweep on day one of the rally on Corsica: Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, in the Volkswagen Polo R WRC, left the opposition fighting for second place at the Rally France, and took another step towards defending their title with the victory at their home rally. The three-time world rally champions can wrap up their fourth title at the Rally Spain (13-16 October). Only Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) and fellow Volkswagen driver Andreas Mikkelsen, who was third on Corsica, can still deny Ogier and Ingrassia the title.

 

“We really wanted to win this rally,” said Ogier after win number 36 of his WRC career, and the 29th for Volkswagen. “This is our first victory on Corsica and it feels so good on such a historic rally.” After victory at the 2013 Rally France, Ogier left France empty-handed for two years in a row before now claiming his third WRC success at his home rally. Ogier’s triumph on Corsica was also the first victory for new Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets. “Congratulations to Sébastien and Julien. I could not have wished for a better debut,” said Smeets, who replaced his predecessor Jost Capito in France.

 

Mikkelsen, who found himself in eighth place after the opening stage, produced a virtually flawless performance to gradually work his way up the overall standings. By the halfway point, he had climbed into third place and closed to within just 5.4 seconds of Neuville later on, who ended the rally in second place. Mikkelsen also finished second on the closing Power Stage to pick up two bonus points in the Drivers’ Championship. The third Volkswagen driver on Corsica, Jari-Matti Latvala, finished fourth, 25.6 seconds behind Mikkelsen.


Final classification after 10 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time / Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 4h 07m 17.0s  
2 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul +46.4s  
3 A. Mikkelsen / A. Jæger +1m 10.0s  
4 J. Latvala / M. Anttila +1m 35.6s  
5 C. Breen / S. Martin +2m 18.6s  
6 H. Paddon / J. Kennard +2m 36.1s  
7 D. Sordo / M. Martí +3m 06.9s  
8 E. Camilli / B. Veillas +4m 53.9s  
9 M. Østberg / O. Fløene +5m 37.7s  
10 O. Tänak / R. Mõlder +6m 26.6s  

Quotes from the Volkswagen team

“I couldn't be happier."

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“What we really wanted this weekend was to get the win at our home rally. It is the first time that Julien and I have won a WRC event on Corsica and it feels fantastic. It's a real classic. We had a strong start on Friday and were able to manage the lead on Saturday and Sunday. It went perfectly. I couldn't be happier. The chances of being able to celebrate the championship title here were only really theoretical, but now we have a real possibility of clinching it in Spain. We are so close to getting our fourth star. It's fantastic and naturally we will turn all of our attention to that now. We want to take the momentum from Corsica with us. But we won't be driving tactically at all, we want to fight for the win there, too.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“Unfortunately we didn't manage to get any points from the Power Stage because I was a little bit too cautious in places. Overall we aren't overly happy with our performance – but I only have myself to blame. In terms of set-up, we went in a direction that didn't work. Now we are looking to the future, since we want to do much better at the Rally Spain and finish on the podium again there at least. Last year we were involved in a thrilling battle for second place with our team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen, which we want to win this time.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“A strong rally, I'm very pleased with the result. And we're finally on the podium again, it feels like an eternity since the last one in Poland. We picked up a lot of points, partly thanks to the second place on the Power Stage, and this means that we didn't lose too much ground on Thierry Neuville in the battle for second place in the championship – that was the aim. Now I'm looking forward to the Rally Spain, of which I of course have fond memories. I got my first rally win in the World Rally Championship there last year.”

 

Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“40 wins for the Polo R WRC – that is a fantastic record for our team, and we will travel to Spain for the Polo R WRC’s 50th rally full of confidence, The Rally France in Corsica is a big challenge in many regards – it is full of corners, and the weather is temperamental and very hard to predict. This makes it all the better to be able to rely on a well-oiled team. I am proud of this achievement, as the Rally France was also my first as Motorsport Director. I could not have wished for a better ‘debut’. Congratulations to Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia – they dominated the rally on day one, and then did a perfect job of converting their advantage into victory.”


Number of the rally

4,800

 

The entire Rally France in Corsica, which is also known as the “Rally of 10,000 Corners”, had around 4,800 turns over 390.92 kilometres in 2016. Its nickname has historical reasons. The longest edition of the "Tour de Course" was held in 1982 with 1,176.10 kilometres of special stages. In those days, the rally in Corsica was the second-longest on the WRC calendar, after the Safari Rally. The same is true in 2016: only the Rally Mexico had more classified kilometres - 8.79 more to be precise.


Day 3 in France.

Saturday, 01/10/2016


Images Day 2 (8)


Day Report

In complete control.


“I can feel something, I can feel something,” screamed WRC Live reporter Colin Clark at the end of the penultimate stage on day two of the Rally France, as though he had been struck by lightning. Fortunately, he was spared the electric shock. In actual fact, the radio icon in rally circles had simply felt the first drops of rain on this late Saturday afternoon in Corsica. The rain had been forecast, and indeed here it was falling on stage eight, transforming the final few kilometres into a slippery challenge for all the WRC drivers.

 

However, Sébastien Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia seemed unimpressed, as they once again left everyone in their wake in their Volkswagen Polo R WRC. With a crossover combination of hard and soft tyres on their world rally car from Wolfsburg, the three-time world champions mastered the final challenge of the day superbly again. “The conditions were a little trickier on the final stage,” said Ogier at the stage end. “We just wanted to get through the day, so we were in cruise mode.” The successful French duo were in complete control in their Volkswagen, just as they have been ever since the start of the Rally France on Friday morning.

 

The fact that Ogier and Ingrassia were only sixth fastest on the eighth special stage did not bother the pair on top of the overall classifications of the Rally France at all. They had won the previous two stages and extended their lead over their closest rival Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) to 46.5 seconds on day two. The Volkswagen duo is ideally-placed going into the finale of the Rally France on Sunday. Just two stages, with a total distance of 64.2 kilometres against the clock, remain. Ogier and Ingrassia can already afford to ease off the gas little.

 

Meanwhile, Andreas Mikkelsen und Jari-Matti Latvala –  also in the Volkswagen Polo R WRC – are currently third and fourth, and can both justifiably set their sights on a podium finish. As it stands, rain is not forecast for Sunday on Corsica. Should it start to rain, however, the rally world will soon be informed on the radio – by Colin Clark.


Classification after 8 of 10 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time / Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 3h 27m 10.0s  
2 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul +46.5s  
3 A. Mikkelsen / A. Jæger +1m 08.0s  
4 J. Latvala / M. Anttila +1m 41.3s  
5 C. Breen / S. Martin +2m 04.9s  
6 H. Paddon / J. Kennard +2m 42.7s  
7 D. Sordo / M. Martí +3m 03.9s  
8 E. Camilli / B. Veillas +4m 18.2s  
9 M. Østberg / O. Fløene +5m 10.5s  
10 E. Evans / C. Parry +5m 47.0s  

Quotes from the Volkswagen team

“I found a good rhythm.”

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“I did not want to take too many chances today, as the risk of suffering a puncture is quite high on these long stages. Given the lead we had, Julien and I could afford to lose a few seconds to the opposition. However, that does not mean that we were slow. Our priority was to drive a clean line. The rain made things even more exciting in the afternoon, but the combination of four hard and two soft Michelin tyres was definitely the correct choice. Right now, it looks as though Julien and I have a very good chance of finishing on the top step of the podium at our home rally. However, the 53-kilometre stage tomorrow morning demands full concentration – one mistake can shake everything up again.”


Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“I never really had a good feel for the brakes today, and was not really happy with my times. Unfortunately, this meant I was unable to attack as I had hoped. Instead, I just had to do what I could. We tried out a slightly softer set-up towards the end, which worked well. All in all, fourth place is a good result, although not what I had hoped for. However, we will not give up in the battle for the podium.”


Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“I had a good feel for the car this morning, and went on the attack a bit. We fought our way into third place and made up some good time on Thierry Neuville, who is ahead of us in second place. We then lost a little ground in the afternoon, as we found it tough to match the opposition’s pace, particularly on a drying route. All in all, we are happy and are obviously hoping for a podium finish tomorrow. However, we have far from given up on second place. It will definitely be interesting again tomorrow, as the longest stage of the rally is still to come.”


Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“The Rally France on Corsica proved a test for the entire team today - and all the pieces came together perfectly. Not only were the drivers and co-drivers put through their paces today, but the weather crew also had to be wide awake, with showers difficult to predict. Sébastien Ogier extended his lead, while Andreas Mikkelsen climbed into third place and will certainly have one eye on second place. Jari-Matti Latvala may have lost a position, but is still well in the race in fourth. All in all, we are very happy after this demanding day.”


Number of the day

600

... stage wins for the Volkswagen Polo R WRC. That is the record for the world rally car from Wolfsburg after day 2 of the Rally France. In total, 892 tries were needed for this latest highlight. This means that Volkswagen duos have won almost two out of three special stages since the 2013 Rally Monte Carlo when the Polo R WRC was introduced.


Midday Report

Ogier continues to dominate.

 

World champion Sébastien Ogier continues to hold a commanding lead at the Rally France on Corsica, without ever really having to extend himself. The Frenchman appears to have found a perfect, efficient rhythm on day two of his home rally. He was third fastest on the opening stage of the day, before winning the second stage with an identical time to his team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen. Ogier has extended his lead over second-placed Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) to a comfortable 53.6 seconds.

As well as clocking the fastest time on stage six, Mikkelsen was also second quickest on stage five (53.72 km) - a stage he described as the “most difficult” of his career. The Norwegian consequently leapfrogged ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala and into third place. This is also partly due to the fact that the Finn had “plenty of room for improvement” and was not enjoying his time in the Volkswagen Polo R WRC: “I simply don’t have any confidence in my driving. I can’t get a good feeling with the car here on Corsica.”

JML finds himself fourth at the midway point on day two, 1:13.8 minutes off the lead and 14.8 seconds behind Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen and Neuville (Hyundai) are battling it out for second place. Neuville had his nose just in front at midday, with Mikkelsen poised to pounce just 5.4 seconds back. Should the ongoing battles out on the route not provide enough excitement, the rain forecast for this afternoon could add some extra spice to proceedings. Fasten your seat belts, there is still a veeeery long way to go at this Rally France.

 

Overall standings after SS 6:

 

1. Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) 2h 32m 12.8s

2. Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) +53.6s

3. Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) +59.0s

4. Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) +1m 13.8s

5. Craig Breen (Citroën) +1m 30.7s


Day 2 in France.

Friday, 30/09/2016


Images Day 1 (9)


Day Report

Flying on Corsica.

 

“The pace of Sébastien here is very impressive. He is flying.” What Jari-Matti Latvala told the media on Corsica early on Friday evening speaks volumes for the performance of his team-mate Sébastien Ogier on day one of the Rally France. After four special stages and almost 160 kilometres against the clock, the three-time world rally champion has shown emphatically that he is going all out to wrap up his fourth world championship title as quickly as possible.

 

He is dependent on results going his way on Corsica, but another win would be a big step in the right direction. Furthermore, Ogier has struggled with technical issues on his last two appearances at the Rally France. As such, victory at his home rally this season would be doubly satisfying for the Frenchman. And things are looking good for Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia after day one.

 

While the French duo in the Volkswagen Polo R WRC led the second-placed car (at this point Kris Meeke/Citroen) by just four seconds after the opening stage, this lead grew to a commanding 44 seconds over the next three special stages. Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville is currently second ahead of Saturday’s action on Corsica.

 

Ogier’s team-mate Latvala made a slow start, but was able to fight back to third place overall by the end of the day. The Finn is 58 seconds off the lead and 14 seconds behind Neuville in second place. The third Volkswagen driver on Corsica, Andreas Mikkelsen, lies fourth after day one, just 1.3 seconds behind Latvala.

 

Fans and teams can now look forward to an exciting second day at the Rally France. Saturday features a further four special stages, with exactly 169.04 kilometres against the clock. It is safe to assume that the world champion fully intends to fly again.


Classification after 4 of 10 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time / Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 1h 37m 52.8s  
2 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul +44.0s  
3 J. Latvala / M. Anttila +58.0s  
4 A. Mikkelsen / A. Jæger +59.3s  
5 C. Breen / S. Martin +1m 18.7s  
6 H. Paddon / J. Kennard +1m 26.2s  
7 E. Camilli / B. Veillas +2m 00.7s  
8 E. Evans / C. Parry +2m 36.3s  
9 D. Sordo / M. Martí +2m 39.1s  
10 M. Østberg / O. Fløene +2m 41.9s  
       

Number of the day

0.279

... seconds. That is how much time advantage Sébastien Ogier gained on Rally France's day 1 per kilometre on Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) in second place overall. On Friday, 157.68 timed kilometres were scheduled on Corsica. After four special stages Ogier lead the rally by exactly 44 seconds ahead of P2.


Quotes from the Volkswagen team

“A lot still can happen here.”

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“An ideal opening day for Julien and me – beautiful stages, superb weather and a perfect car. The key to stage one was to find our rhythm. Looking at the lead we opened, we appear to have done just that. It was pretty hot in the cockpit in the afternoon, particularly on the long 50-kilometre stage. We have a similarly demanding day ahead of us tomorrow, particularly if the weather deteriorates. However, we obviously want to continue as we were today, to make sure we win in the end. That is definitely the goal at our home rally.“

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“We were a little too cautious at first, but gradually found our rhythm the further into the rally we got. We can make a few improvements here and there, for example when braking, but apart from that we are racing the right way for the Rally Corsica. That only makes the outstanding times set by our team-mate Sébastien Ogier all the more astonishing. Hats off to his performance. We will obviously try to stick with him tomorrow and on Sunday. If we can, we have a good chance of finishing on the podium.“

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“We are not so much focusing on winning the world championship, but more on securing second place. With that in mind, we are going nicely in fourth place. I struggled to know how hard to brake in the morning. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of time as a result. Apart from that, though, it was a good day for us, but we have two more challenging days ahead to come.“

Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“We could hardly hope for a better start to the Rally France. Sébastien Ogier was clearly in a league of his own, while Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen are also well-placed. First, third and fourth is more than we had expected and hoped for. However, everyone in the team is well aware that we are only one third of the way into the rally and we still have a lot of work ahead of us. If we remain as focused as we have been so far, there is a good chance we will be rewarded with a strong result.”


Midday report

Ideal start for Ogier.

 

“The opening stage is key at this rally.” This was how many of the WRC drivers described stage one ahead of the start of the Rally France. Why? Because the crews had little time to get a feel for the rally before launching into the 49.72-kilometre stage. There is no easing one’s way into this one. The Tour de Corse kicks off in uncompromising manner right from the start of stage one.

World champion Sébastien Ogier wasted no time in finding his rhythm. The Frenchman won the first two stages at his home rally. Whatever the key was to a perfect start, Ogier had found it. Seb needed just 30:24.1 minutes to complete the opening marathon stage. And there was no let-up on stage two from the championship leader, who covered the 29.12 kilometres in a time of 18:39.6 minutes.

Ogier’s team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen are yet to find the aforementioned key, but are still within striking distance. They were both about 20 seconds slower than Ogier on the opening stage. Mikkelsen was then 10.1 seconds off the fastest time on stage two, while Latvala was 14.0 seconds behind Ogier. The midday result: sixth place for Mikkelsen, seventh for Latvala.

The world champion leads the Rally France after two long or special stages. His closest rival is Kris Meeke (Citroën). The Brit trails Seb by 14.7 seconds in second place, with Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) a further 17.5 seconds back in third. The big question for this afternoon is whether Andreas and Jari-Matti can find that elusive key?

 

Result after SS 2: 

 

1. Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) 49m 03.7s

2. Kris Meeke (Citroën) +14.7s

3. Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) +17.5s

4. Dani Sordo (Hyundai) +18.9s

5. Hayden Paddon (Hyundai) +29.7s

6. Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) +30.5s

7. Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) +32.1s

 


Day 1 in France.

Thursday, 29/09/2016


Images Opening Day (8)


Shakedown report

On track on Corsica.

 

Wide awake going into the autumn of the WRC year – Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) started their campaign at their home round of the World Rally Championship (WRC) with a fastest time. Each of their three runs in the Polo R WRC would have been quick enough to put the defending champions first or second in the Shakedown ahead of the Rally France on Corsica. Their Volkswagen team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) ended “free practice” on the 5.4-kilometre asphalt route with the second fastest time, while Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (N/N) were eighth fastest. The winding slow to medium-quick sections on the Shakedown gave the teams a taste of things to come over the next three days on Corsica.

The Rally France officially opens on Thursday evening with the ceremonial start in Ajaccio. The race itself gets underway on Friday morning with the first of ten special stages.

 

 

 

Shakedown result: 

 

1. Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) 3m 51.7s

2. Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) 3m 52.5s

3. Kris Meeke (Citroën) 3m 53.1s

4. Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) 3m 53.4s

5. Dani Sordo (Hyundai) 3m 54.4s

...

8. Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9)  3m 55.5s


Quotes from the Volkswagen team

“The set-up is right for the rally.”

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“It is nice to be back on Corsica, and the conditions are perfect this year. The Shakedown went well and the set-up is right for the rally. That is important, as Julien and I need to be wide awake from the very first stage on Friday. Those 50 kilometres demand the utmost concentration from driver and co-driver. And it is physically tiring. Unlike other rallies with similarly long stages, there are as good as no straights here. It is important to have perfect pace notes and find a good rhythm from the word go. My first goal is to win my home event here in France. I obviously also have one eye on the world championship and know that I could possibly win the title here – however, that is all theoretical, as my rivals would have to be unlucky for that to happen.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“We had a really good test before the Rally France, but did not ultimately have time to try out all we wanted to with the set-up. We caught up with that today. By the end of the Shakedown we were really happy with our Polo R WRC and I think that was shown in our times. The route also gave us a good taste of what we can expect from the rally, although it was a little more tempting to cut the corners and throw mud onto the road than it will be tomorrow. All in all, it was a really good start to the rally.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“That was a really representative stage for the Rally France here on Corsica. Very tight and winding. Perhaps one of the best shakedowns, when it comes to preparing for a rally. We tried a few new set-up variants, which were not actually ideal. Despite this, I am happy, as everything ran perfectly apart from that. It is good to have got a feel for the asphalt on Corsica again. We are ready to get going, and I am looking forward to it.”

Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“The rally on Corsica is a genuine classic on the WRC calendar and a real challenge for the driver, co-driver and team. Getting a good result here is a matter of prestige. It is extremely important to find the right rhythm from the word go – not only for the crews in the cars, but also for the team that prepares the three Polo R WRCs. A Shakedown always offers an excellent opportunity hit the ground running in the actual race. We certainly managed that today – from a sporting, organisational and technical point of view. As far as Volkswagen is concerned, the rally cannot start soon enough. We are ready.”


Rally France preview. The video.

Tuesday, 27.09.2016


Title déjà vu for Seb?

A natural wilderness. A thing of beauty. Unique. A paradise in the heart of the Mediterranean. Steep slopes and craggy cliffs meet sandy beaches and azure blue water. More beautiful than any postcard. That is Corsica. An appropriate place to be crowned world champion? Oui! Certainly from Sébastien Ogier’s point of view. The Frenchman would definitely have nothing against winning his fourth title in a row in front of his home crowds. Seb claimed the world championship on home soil three years ago – when the French leg of the WRC was held in Alsace. Déjà vu? Perhaps!

 

The likelihood of wrapping up the title on the Mediterranean island is not all that great. In order to have any chance at all, he must first win the rally – and that will be far from easy. For many, the Tour de Corse is one of the most challenging asphalt rallies there is. It feels like 10,000 corners, with no straight longer than 150 metres, a rough surface, demanding routes, and extremely long special stages, which put the tyres and brakes under particularly great strain – and really put the drivers through their paces.

 

Ogier discovered for himself last year just how demanding the Rally Corsica. The newly-crowned world champion was forced to retire with tyre and gearbox problems. As such, Seb has a score to settle with the “wild beauty” that is Corsica.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala travels to France with better memories – particularly fond ones, in fact. 2014: First victory on asphalt – in Alsace. 2015: Win number two on asphalt – this time on Corsica. And 2016? The hat-trick? Why not? The conditions suit JML. He likes the many winding passages, and his experience will help him: on the one hand on the Recce, when the key is to study the extremely long special stages as closely as possible. On the other hand, when it comes to looking after tyres and brakes.

 

And the third of the Volkswagen trio, Andreas Mikkelsen, will also be a force to be reckoned with at the Tour de Corse. The Norwegian proved at the recent Rally Germany that he is really quick on asphalt. He also showed last year that he likes the winding streets on Corsica, when he battled his way to third place in difficult conditions. Although second-placed AM is currently Ogier’s closest rival in the title race, the Norwegian’s main focus is on those behind him, with team-mate Latvala, Hayden Paddon and Thierry Neuville (both Hyundai) all gunning for the runner-up spot in the world championship.

 

However, the possible connotations it may have for the world championship standings are not the only reason this is a special rally for Volkswagen. Sven Smeets takes the reins as Motorsport Director for the first time since his predecessor Jost Capito bid farewell just a few weeks ago. How about winning the Drivers’ World Championship on his first outing? There are certainly worse ways to mark your debut.


Quotes from the Volkswagen team

“I hope the weather plays ball this year.”

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Firstly, I hope that the weather on Corsica plays ball this year, after parts of the rally had to be cancelled last year due to torrential rain. There are a number of new sections of route, and many of the special stages have been altered. As such, it is important to do an accurate Recce. I like these kind of changes, as it makes the rally a completely new challenge. On the whole, Corsica is far from an easy rally. As in Germany, where four drivers were still in contention towards the end of the rally, I expect the race on Corsica to be a similarly close affair. After Julien and I failed to hit top form here for the past two years, my own personal goal is to finally drive well again at the Rally France and to challenge for the win.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“I have won the last two rallies in France, and am obviously hoping for a good result again this year. I like driving on the asphalt in Corsica. The surface is very rough and also quite bumpy in places. You cannot cut the corners so much. That means that you get less dirt on the roads and the grip level is consistently high. I like asphalt rallies like this one, so I am really looking forward to Corsica. The routes there have a huge number of corners, and there are actually no straights longer than 150 metres. I think that will suit me. There are only a few stages, but they are very long. Tyre management can be crucial on such long stages.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“I am looking forward to the Rally France, because a unique asphalt rally awaits us on Corsica. The special stages, which are few in number but very long, are full of corners and technically demanding. Previous races there have shown that you need to look after your tyres and brakes, and to be very fit. If you simply floor it without thinking, you will be punished at this rally. In my opinion, the first special stage will be key, as you must immediately find your rhythm for the entire rally. Although I probably prefer a more varied rally, with a mix of short and long stages, my co-driver Anders and I are ready and in top form ahead of this challenge. Although the championship is still up for grabs, I am actually focussing more on the men behind us – Paddon, Neuville and Jari-Matti. I am out to extend my advantage over these guys with a podium result.”

Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“What feels like 10,000 corners on just ten special stages – the Rally France on Corsica is a real challenge for the drivers and co-drivers. As one of the classics on the WRC calendar, it is rather special. The whole team is looking forward to Rally France, even though it’s not an easy event from a logistically point of view. Particularly Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are particularly looking forward to the event. They have a slim chance of being crowned world champions with races to spare. However, so too are their team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger and Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila, who are out to prevent precisely that. Our rivals at Citroën, Hyundai and M-Sport-Ford are determined to win this prestigious rally. There will certainly be plenty of material for the headlines.”


Number for the Rally

53

World champions in 53 points, at the latest: the title race is in the final straight. Supposing Ogier/Ingrassia’s closest rivals – Volkswagen team-mates Mikkelsen/Jæger – score maximum points from now until the end of the season, the French duo must score a further 53 points to be crowned world champions for the fourth time. They could achieve this, for example, by finishing fourth at the remaining four rallies and winning the Power Stage twice.