Rally Portugal 2014


Eighth consecutive win for Volkswagen Motorsport.


Great work, Séb and Julien – you couldn’t have done any better! The Volkswagen duo scored a commanding win in Portugal and also picked up three bonus points for the drivers’ and co-drivers’ rankings for their fastest time in the final Power Stage. As a result, the reigning world champion Ogier is back at the top of the leader board.


Ogier of France experienced some minor problems with his tyres and the damp weather in Portugal during the first special stages, but got better and better starting on the second day. He overtook the overall leader Mikko Hirvonen of Ford, who likewise put in a strong performance, and held on to his lead in his Polo R WRC right up to the end of the day. Hirvonen had then abandoned all hopes of winning by the final day of the rally, leaving Ogier to casually cruise to victory.


Sébastien Ogier was naturally delighted with his win: “This is my fourth victory here in five years. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Rally Portugal is one of my absolute favourite events! The reception we are given and the support shown by the fans is extra special here. On the last day, we didn’t take any unnecessary risks on the soft tyres. All the same, we were aiming to collect those three bonus points in the Power Stage, even though Jari-Matti didn’t make it easy for me.”

Nevertheless, the world champion warned against getting too cocky about things based on this result, and also revealed his future plans: “We have now extended our lead in the world championship, but our competitors certainly won’t ease up – Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Østberg have shown us that. I hear that Markku Alén is the king of Rally Portugal, with five wins under his belt. We can win again next year – that’s now our goal.”


Ogier’s teammate Jari-Matti Latvala had a tough time this weekend: the Finn had to abandon all hopes of a victory early on, after having rolled his car on Friday. Both Latvala and his co-driver Miikka Anttila were fortunately unharmed. The Volkswagen mechanics worked their magic overnight and managed to make the wrecked Polo R WRC roadworthy again, giving Latvala the opportunity to work his way back up through the field. In the end, Latvala achieved the second-fastest time in the Power Stage, behind his teammate, which scored him two bonus points.


The Finn’s summary of the proceedings was, understandably, somewhat low-key: “Scoring just two points for coming second in the Power Stage isn’t exactly what I had been expecting in this rally,” admitted Latvala, who worked his way up to 14th place after his accident on Friday. “But fortunately there’s still a lot of the season left, and I certainly haven’t given up all hopes of clinching the championship title.”


And what of the third Volkswagen driver? Andreas Mikkelsen of Norway struggled with his Polo R WRC on the first day. He was simply unable to find the right rhythm, and therefore had to drive very cautiously in order not to run the risk of flying off the course again, as he did in Mexico. As a result, he gradually fell away from the front-runners. But then there was a turning point: things got steadily better for Mikkelsen on the second day, and he finished the day strongly in fourth place, scoring points in the process. It was a positive result for Andreas: “It took me a while to get into a rhythm,” explained the Norwegian. “To be honest, I was kind of frustrated after the first special stage. But fortunately I managed to pick up the pace more and more in the course of the rally.”

Volkswagen Motorsport wins again with another strong team showing. The video.

Rally Portugal 2014: final results

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 3:33:20.4    
2 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 3:34:03.6 +43.2  
3 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 3:34:32.8 +1:12.4  
4 A. Mikkelsen / M. Markkula 3:38:10.9 +4:50.5  
5 H. Solberg / I. Minor 3:38:30.6 +5:10.2  
6 M. Prokop / J. Tománek 3:41:47.6 +8:27.2  
7 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 3:41:52.7 +8:32.3  
8 J. Hänninen / T. Tuominen 3:42:12.0 +8:51.6  
9 N. Al-Attiyah / G. Bernacchini (WRC 2) 3:43:35.1 +10:14.7  
10 J. Ketomaa / K. Lindström (WRC 2) 3:43:46.7 +10:26.3  


The rally in detail

Looking for something specific? You will find a detailed rally review here. Experience the coverage of the 2014 Rally Portugal a second time around: every single day and every single special stage.


Click through each day’s picture gallery and watch video clips of each stage. The whole thing is rounded off with all of the pre-event reports and interviews. Happy reading!

Sunday, 06.04.2014

Power Play in Portugal. Volkswagen Motorsport wins again with another strong team showing at the fourth rally of the year. The video.

Aktuelle Bilder (21) 22:50 Uhr (MESZ)

Classification after 16 of 16 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 3:33:20.4    
2 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 3:34:03.6 +43.2  
3 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 3:34:32.8 +1:12.4  
4 A. Mikkelsen / M. Markkula 3:38:10.9 +4:50.5  
5 H. Solberg / I. Minor 3:38:30.6 +5:10.2  
6 M. Prokop / J. Tománek 3:41:47.6 +8:27.2  
7 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 3:41:52.7 +8:32.3  
8 J. Hänninen / T. Tuominen 3:42:12.0 +8:51.6  
9 N. Al-Attiyah / G. Bernacchini (WRC 2) 3:43:35.1 +10:14.7  
10 J. Ketomaa / K. Lindström (WRC 2) 3:43:46.7 +10:26.3  

16:00 (CEST)

“The Rally Portugal is one of my very favourites!”
Statements from the Volkswagen team.


Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Four wins in five years. It is no exaggeration: the Rally Portugal is one of my very favourites! The whole week has been fantastic for Julien and me. First the fantastic show in front of more than 100,000 fans at the ‘Fafe Rally Sprint’, and now the icing on the cake with our title defence at the Rally Portugal on the Algarve. The encouragement and support of the fans is rather special here. We only took as many risks as needed on soft tyres on the final day. Despite this, our goal was obviously to pick up the three points on the Power Stage, although Jari-Matti did not make it easy for me. The lead in the World Championship is now a bit larger, but the opposition is not sleeping – Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Østberg showed that. I heard that Markku Alén is the uncrowned king with five wins in Portugal. We can achieve that too next year. That is our goal.”


Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“The Rally Portugal has shown once again that it is deservedly seen as one of the most difficult rallies in the world. Our pace was very good, so we had the opportunity to finish on the podium. Unfortunately, however, an avoidable little mistake on Friday had pretty big consequences. That was very disappointing and put paid to any chances of a good result. We then altered our strategy and targeted the Power Stage. We kept some soft tyres back, in order to be mount an assault on the bonus points – and that paid off, as we finished runner-up. The gap to our team-mates at the top of the championship has grown, but there is still a long way to go this season. We can be confident about our performance going into the event in Argentina, and will hopefully challenge for victory again there.”


Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“All in all the Rally Portugal did not go as I had hoped, although the eventual result was not so bad. We decided to write some new pace notes. However, the heavy raid during the ‘Recce’ made visibility so poor that I could not really put any faith in the new pace notes. The variable conditions at the start of the rally also made me a bit cautious. I lost a lot of time, but the last thing I wanted to do was to take too many risks. That paid off, in terms of the result at least: fourth place is the best we could really have hoped for as it turns out. I was happy with my own performance again on Sunday. The rhythm was good. I am looking forward to the coming rally in Argentina.”


Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director

“The fourth success of the season, a host of new milestones, and a fantastic winning run – what the entire Volkswagen team achieved this weekend, despite the difficult conditions, is simply outstanding. I am incredibly proud of everyone involved. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were in a league of their own, put their foot down at exactly the right moments, and fully deserved to win. Andreas Mikkelsen and Mikko Markkula made the best of a difficult situation, showing great maturity in the process. The same goes for Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila. Despite their crash on Friday, they managed to limit the damage, score valuable points for us in the Manufacturers’ Championship, and pick up points for themselves on the Power Stage. They can be grateful to the Volkswagen mechanics, without whose energetic efforts none of that would have been possible. As Motorsport Director, I can only be one thing about all that: proud.”

14:30 (CEST)

“Argentina is going to be tough”.

After the victory at the Rally Portugal, Sébastien Ogier will have to start the next WRC race first

The top of the table is the position that every driver has their eye on. But this also comes with a major disadvantage in the 2014 season, at least at the gravel rallies: Whoever is at the top of the table has to start the first leg first and sweep the streets for the competition.

“I've never won in Argentina,” said Portugal winner Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1), looking ahead to the next WRC race in May. “If the weather is dry it will be another difficult rally for me.”

On the other hand, the world champion was unstoppable in the same circumstances in Portugal. Starting the first leg with the aforementioned handicap, he wasn't unnerved by his intermediate third place. When the start order was reversed on Saturday there was no stopping Ogier.

On Sunday he went easy on his tyres on the first two Special Stages, even accepting a slight loss of time to rival Mikko Hirvonen (Ford). With a superior stage win on the closing Power Stage, Ogier proved that this tactic was worth its weight in gold.
With the Power Stage victory he secured the maximum number of points, 28, and stretched his lead in the table to 29 points ahead of team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2). “It was extremely important, now I can take a slightly more relaxed approach to the next rallies.”

However, Latvala was not satisfied with the weekend in Portugal. “Only two points for second place in the Power Stage isn't what I expected from this rally,” admitted the Finn, who managed to move up to 14th after his crash on Friday. “Fortunately the season is still long and I haven't given up the fight for the title just yet.” Latvala's collection is also still missing the winners' trophy from the Rally Argentina. “It's going to be an interesting battle with Sébastien.”

After a hesitant start, Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) was pleased to finish fourth after a final spurt. “It took me a while to get into the swing of things,” said the Norwegian. “To be honest, after Special Stage 1 I was slightly frustrated. But fortunately I managed to keep upping the pace as the rally went on.”

13:15 (CEST)

Today’s victory in Portugal sees Volkswagen once again make rallying history: Sébastien Ogier’s triumph on the Algarve is the eighth WRC victory in a row for the team from Hannover. The winners’ trophies went the way of Volkswagen in Australia, France, Spain and Great Britain at the end of 2013, and the team has this year added victories in Monte Carlo, Sweden, Mexico and now Portugal. The Polo R WRC’s eighth WRC success in a row means Volkswagen pulls level with its rivals at Citroën, whose longest winning run of eight rallies dates back to 2011.

13:00 (CEST)

A commanding victory and three extra points.

Fantastic, Séb and Julien – you couldn't have done better! The Volkswagen pair didn't miss a trick on the final rally day and brought home a solid victory. And the cherry on the top was Séb seizing a fantastic stage win on the closing Power Stage (Loulé 2) and three extra points for the drivers' standings.

Team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala also delivered a strong performance in the final kilometres, finishing second fastest and taking home two extra points. Small consolation for the man from Finland who lost any chance of victory when he rolled his car early on Friday.

The third Volkswagen driver in the team can also be pleased with his result: Andreas Mikkelsen, who had major problems getting into the swing of things at the start, improved as the rally went on. The Norwegian finished a strong fourth overall – more than a consolation result.

11:15 (CEST)

The grand finale awaits – Mikkelsen now fourth.

The WRC drivers only have one Special Stage left to tackle – then they are done. After the 15th stage (S. Brás de Alportel 1), Sébastien Ogier still has a commanding lead. Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) managed to close the gap slightly but cannot snatch victory.

Pleasing: Ogier's team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen is really going for it and has overtaken Henning Solberg (Ford) in the overall standings. After an unsuccessful opening leg, the Volkswagen driver in the Polo R WRC #9 has now seized fourth place overall. Well done Andreas!

10:20 (CEST)

Séb relaxed and heading for victory.

The champion has activated “cruise control”: On the first Special Stage of the day (Loulé 1), finishing with the fifth fastest time was sufficient for the Volkswagen driver to increase his already reassuring lead over chaser Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) even further. The gap now stands at 43.2 seconds. Hirvonen has clearly resigned himself to the fact that he is not going to win and has now set his sights on second place. The best time on this SS went to Ogier's team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, ahead of Mads Østberg (Citroën). Andreas Mikkelsen was the third fastest over the line.

Dani Sordo on the other hand suffered a bout of bad luck: The Hyundai driver, who was fourth in the overall standings, was forced to retire his i20 due to a technical defect. As a result Henning Solberg (Ford) moves up to fourth in the overall standings, behind Østberg. Andreas Mikkelsen trails by only 2.7 seconds. This means that the Norwegian in the Polo R WRC has a good chance of moving up a place.

Sunday: the special stages of the third day.

07:15 (CEST)

Saturday, 05.04.2014

19:30 (CEST)

The Polo R WRC loves nothing more than to make history: the 315-hp four wheel-drive powerhouse claimed its 200th stage win today, clocking the fastest time on the Santa Clara 2 stage at the Rally Portugal. It promptly added a further two stage wins to its collection. Its record is nothing short of impressive: of the 309 special stages it has contested since its debut in January 2013, the Polo has been the fastest car on an incredible 202 occasions – that is a success rate of 65 per cent.

19:00 (CEST)

Ogier in a league of his own again.

First and second for Volkswagen on Saturday’s final special stage. Sébastien Ogier was once again top dog when the drivers returned for a second crack at the Malhão stage. He was followed in second place by another Polo R WRC: team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala found his rhythm to cross the finish line just 4.6 seconds slower than Ogier, who clocked the fastest time of 13:49.2 minutes. Rival Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) was unable to match the pace of the Volkswagen pair. The Finn dropped more time and is now 38.1 seconds off the lead.

“That was a superb day for us. I am very happy. We were spot on with our tyre selection. I didn’t really have to push all that hard at the end,” said a positive World Champion.

Andreas Mikkelsen, who lies sixth overall, was also satisfied with the way the second leg had panned out: “Generally speaking the day was okay. We are heading in the right direction.

17:48 (CEST)

Séb still on course for win – No chance for Hirvonen.

Sébastien Ogier continues to put more and more distance between himself and his closest rival Mikko Hirvonen (Ford): the Volkswagen driver refused to open the door to the Finn on the 32-kilometre Santana da Serra 2, pulling a further eleven seconds clear with a fastest time of 23:00.6 minutes. Ogier’s lead now stands at a commanding 20.8 seconds. “The route was tricky, although it was not as muddy as it was this morning. We pushed hard at the end,” reported the Frenchman in the Polo R WRC.

Team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala clocked the third-fastest time behind Hirvonen. And what about Andreas Mikkelsen? The third Volkswagen driver has simply not found his stride in Portugal and lost a further 36.3 seconds. “I had virtually no grip, which is why we lost dropped a lot of time again,” said the disappointed Norwegian. The good news is that the power steering on his Polo R WRC appears to be working again.

16:50 (CEST)

Flying Frenchman and a milestone for fans of statistics.


Sébastien Ogier remains in the fast lane in his Polo R WRC: the Volkswagen driver put his foot down again when he returned to the Santa Clara special stage at the start of Saturday’s second loop. The result: another great stage win in a time of 12:04.7 minutes. A historic success, as this was already the 200th stage win for the Polo R WRC. Here’s to the next 200!

Séb has extended his lead over second-placed Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) to 9.8 seconds. Citroën’s Mads Østberg has climbed into third place overall following the retirement of Ott Tänak (Ford). However, the Norwegian is already 45.8 seconds off the lead.

Ogier’s team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen has been struggling with a faulty power steering. The Norwegian dropped over a minute on this special stage.

Classification after ten of 16 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 2:14:45.3    
2 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 2:14:47.7 +2.4  
3 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 2:15:20.2 +34.9  
4 D. Sordo / M. Marti 2:15:37.7 +52.4  
5 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 2:16:05.4 +1:20.1  
6 A. Mikkelsen / M. Markkula 2:17:32.1 +2:46.8  
7 H. Solberg / I. Minor 2:17:46.2 +3:00.9  
8 M. Prokop / J. Tománek 2:19:43.3 +4:58.0  
9 J. Hänninen / T. Tuominen 2:20:04.0 +5:18.7  
10 J. Ketomaa / K. Lindström (WRC 2) 2:21:11.7 +6:26.4  

15:00 (CEST)

Four aces in the game of tyre poker.

Sébastien Ogier with upper hand tactically.

The big topic of discussion during Saturday’s lunchtime service: which tyres to start on for special stages 11, 12 and 13? The softer compound was definitely the right choice in the morning. However, most drivers have now used up their contingent of this variety – 16 for the whole rally – or have at least worn them down significantly. Only World Champion Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) still has at least four aces in his hand in this game of tyre poker. He was armed with hard tyres on Friday afternoon, while the opposition were already burning up another set of the softer compound.

The gravel tracks are still damp in many places. Plus, the comparatively low air temperature of about 20 degrees and overcast sky are not particularly helping the surface to dry out quickly.

“I need to check out the latest information from our weather crew. Before then, I cannot comment on the tyre selection for this afternoon,” said a secretive Ogier as he arrived at the service. He moved back into the lead courtesy of two stage wins (SS 8 and 9) this morning. However, the lead is not top of his list of priorities. “I must also think of the World Championship. It does not make any sense for me to take too many risks at the moment. If I can stay in front at this pace, I will be more than happy.”   
Ogier can also start considering his tactics because his closest rival in the World Championship table looks unlikely to finish in the points at the Rally Portugal.


Team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2), who is back in action following his crash on Friday, has claimed one stage win on Saturday morning (WP 10) and made up place after place in the standings. However, the 15-minute penalty he picked up for missing three special stages on Friday look like costing him a place in the top ten. “I was a bit nervous on the first to stages,” the Finn admitted. “Only on the third stage was I happy with myself. Thankfully the conditions on the route are a little easier than yesterday. The dry and damp sections do not alternate so frequently.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) arrived at the midday service in sixth place. “I am gradually finding my rhythm again,” said the Norwegian.

14:20 (CEST)

The three-way battle becomes a two-way battle.


After the morning stint, Sébastien Ogier is still in the lead. The Volkswagen driver finished the 22-kilometre Special Stage Malhão 1 just 1.9 seconds behind his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.

“Overall it was a successful morning,” said Ogier clearly pleased, and added, somewhat relieved: “We finally chose the right tyres.”

The Estonian Ott Tänak (Ford) was unlucky, retiring after a take-off. The man previously in third had been quick all weekend.

Ogier's toughest competition Mikko Hirvonen was blocked by Tänak's wrecked vehicle and lost a lot of time, but this will be credited. The vehicles behind also had to wait on the track.

13:00 (CEST)

Super Séb! Lead for Volkswagen Motorsport.

“Pedal to the metal” was the Volkswagen driver's motto on the longest Special Stage at the Rally Portugal (Santana da Serra 1). Ogier drove the 32-kilometre section in 23:10.2 minutes – the fastest time! This saw the Frenchman take 8.7 seconds off the previous leader Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) and regain the lead in the overall standings. He now has a 2.4 second advantage over Hirvonen. “It was a good Special Stage for us. Long may it continue,” Ogier said happily at the finish.

Team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen finished sixth and seventh fastest. This stage is followed by the 22-kilometre Malhão 1, before the vehicles arrive in the service park for the lunchtime check.

11:50 (CEST)

The hunt is on.


The thrilling three-way fight for the lead at the Rally Portugal starts again: On the eighth Special Stage (Santa Clara 1), Sébastien Ogier set the fastest time – but his rivals are still hot on his heels: Mikko Hirvonen (Ford), who is still leading in the overall standings, finished only 0.2 seconds behind the Volkswagen driver, closely followed by Ott Tänak. The Ford privateer continued to put in a strong performance.

“It wasn't a bad start to Saturday. The track is a bit wetter than we expected, but our competitors have to fight with that just as much as we do,” explained Ogier at the finish.

Team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala was also quick in his newly repaired Polo R WRC and finished 5.7 seconds behind Ogier. Andreas Mikkelsen clocked the eighth quickest time and is in eighth place overall.

11:00 (CEST)

Number 2 lives again.

The Volkswagen mechanics have repaired Jari-Matti Latvala's car.

The Volkswagen Motorsport mechanics have done it: Jari-Matti Latvala can start the second stage of the Rally Portugal. And you can only see the damage caused by the flip on SS 5 on Friday if you inspect the Polo R WRC closely.

At 21:06 on Friday evening the engineers got to work. A technical scrutineer had given the green light to start repairs – the accident did not damage any of the safety-related parts of the vehicle. A maximum of eight people were allowed to work on the car at any one time, while the others prepared individual components in the background or were on hand to pass tools to those working on the car.

The front-left side member, which was crushed in the crash, was the first thing to be fixed. The Polo R WRC then received new mudguards, a new bonnet, radiator, lamps and numerous small parts. Work that, if done in a regular garage, they would tell the customer “You can pick up your car next week”. But after only three hours, at exactly 0:06 on Saturday morning the number 2 Polo R WRC rolled into the Parc Fermé – ready to race.

“It's incredible what the mechanics have achieved,” praised Jari-Matti Latvala. “Thanks to their fantastic work, I can continue in the rally.” At 8:34 local time, the Finn and co-driver Miikka Anttila picked up their company car from the Parc Fermé. After a brief check in the service area, it was off to SS 8. Almost as if nothing had happened.

Back for good. The second day of the Rally Portugal. The video.

Aktuelle Bilder (18)
19:45 Uhr (MESZ)

Classification after 13 of 16 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 3:03:39.8    
2 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 3:04:17.9 +38.1  
3 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 3:05:06.5 +1:26.7  
4 D. Sordo / M. Marti 3:05:26.5 +1:46.7  
5 H. Solberg / I. Minor 3:08:09.7 +4:29.9  
6 A. Mikkelsen / M. Markkula 3:08:24.6 +4:44.8  
7 M. Prokop / J. Tománek 3:11:01.3 +7:21.5  
8 J. Hänninen / T. Tuominen 3:11:10.4 +7:30.6  
9 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 3:11:11.2 +7:31.4  
10 N. Al-Attiyah / G. Bernacchini (WRC 2) 3:13:04.5 +9:24.7  

20:30 (CEST)

“That was really a very good day for us.”
Statements from the Volkswagen team.


Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“That was really a very good day for us. The Polo was perfect again! A few sections of the route were still damp and slippery, but we were spot on with our tyre selection this time. However, I still tried not to drive too aggressively, in order to save the tyres as much as possible. This rally represents a good opportunity for Julien and me to extend our lead in the World Championship, so we are not taking too many risks or going flat-out at any cost. I obviously want to win here in Portugal for the fourth time, but Mikko Hirvonen is very quick out there. The lead might look comfortable, but the same applies every time: to win it, you must first complete the rally.”


Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“We owe a great debt of gratitude to our mechanics. They showed huge commitment, working until midnight to repair our Polo, which was severely damaged. It was a difficult task, but the team provided us with a perfect car this morning – as underlined by the fastest time on the third stage. For us, today was all about finding a good rhythm, whilst at the same time saving the tyres in order to be able to attack in Sunday’s Power Stage. The points up for grabs in the Power Stage could still prove very important in the championship. We accepted the disadvantage of being on hard tyres this afternoon, in order to save some soft tyres for tomorrow.”


Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“A day of two halves for me. The morning was just as the whole rally ought really to have been for me. I had greater confidence in the car and my pace notes, and everything was heading in the right direction. We climbed two places without having to take too many risks. Then the power steering failed in the afternoon, and I ended up competing in a strong-man competition as well as doing my job as a rally driver. We found the cause and solved the problem, but we could not find any real grip on the hard tyres. Not the best choice, but I am still happy with the day.”

20:00 (CEST)

Counterattack from the tyre whisperer.

Perfect tactics see Sébastien Ogier extend his lead to just short of 40 seconds.

His greatest praise came from rival Dani Sordo (Hyundai). The Spaniard simply could not fathom how Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) could be so quick without ruining his tyres. The World Champion in the Volkswagen Motorsport fold won all three of Saturday afternoon’s special stages. In doing so he increased his lead over his closest rival Mikko Hirvonen (Ford), who led overnight, from just 2.4 seconds at the midday break to a commanding 38.1 seconds by the end of the second leg.

“The secret was definitely pacing the tyres perfectly,” Ogier confirmed. The Frenchman started the afternoon loop on four brand-new, soft Michelin Latitude Cross tyres. In contrast, the opposition were on well-used soft tyres – at best – or were forced to turn to the harder compound. This was a clear disadvantage on a route that was still damp in places and in relatively low temperatures.

“The hard tyres never got above lukewarm,” explained Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2), who also started the afternoon on the hard compound. Nevertheless, the Finn, who re-joined the action this morning following yesterday’s crash, still managed to climb to 17th place overall by the end of the day. Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) ended the leg in sixth place.

Sébastien Ogier even has a few soft tyres in reserve for Sunday’s final leg. “It could be that we don’t actually need them any more tomorrow,” said the rally leader on his arrival at the service on Saturday evening. Typically warm Portuguese weather is finally expected on Sunday – a case for the harder compound. The final day features a further three special stages, including the closing “Power Stage”, on which extra World Championship points are up for grabs.

Saturday: the special stages of the second day.

09:00 (CEST)

19:20 (CEST)

Mud-slinging in Portugal: after the heavy rainfall of recent days, an incredible quantity of mud was thrown onto the windscreen of the Polo R WRC as the WRC aces hurtled along the damp gravel tracks of the Algarve. That meant the windscreen wipers and the pump in the wiper fluid container were in continuous operation. The latter contains exactly five litres – which is usually enough to last a complete rally. If the rest of the rally here in Portugal is as muddy as it was today, the mechanics are going to need to top it up rather more frequently …

15:00 (CEST)

In front despite being cautious.

The Volkswagen drivers can afford to take one spare wheel more than their competitors.

They played it safe and are still in the lead. Volkswagen works drivers Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) and Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) started the three Special Stages on Friday morning with two spare wheels on board. This put them at a disadvantage of about 25 kilograms, since their rivals took only one spare wheel. Despite this, Ogier is in first place at the lunch break and team-mate Latvala is only 0.4 seconds behind in second. Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) trails them with a gap of 1.9 seconds.

“We weren't able to gain any experience of half dry, half wet conditions during testing,” said Latvala. “So we weren't entirely sure how long the soft tyres would last.” However, the latest generation of Michelin Latitude Cross tyres were flawless. Latvala was even able to win SS 4, which was much drier than the two previous stages, coming home more than seven seconds ahead of Ogier. “


And that is despite taking on all three Special Stages in the morning with the same set of tyres,” revealed the Finn.
The Volkswagen drivers rested the spare wheels. “We might need them later,” said Latvala. “After all, we already used a set of the soft tyres on Thursday evening on the Super Special Stage in Lisbon.” The works drivers are allowed to use a total of 16 tyres with a soft compound.

Ogier also considered heading into battle on a mixture of soft and hard tyres for the afternoon's stages. The same three Special Stages will be driven again. However, at the moment it looks like they will be much drier. “We need to wait for the final information from the weather crew. But I'll definitely be tuning the suspension more stiffly,” said the World Champion before lunch. “I also think I will take only one spare wheel with me.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) arrived at the lunch service at the football stadium in Faro in ninth place overall. “I was very cautious,” explained the Norwegian. “I’ve lost a little confidence after the accident at the Rally Mexico.”

Friday, 04.04.2014

18:30 (CEST)

Ogier third overall overnight –
Hirvonen new leader.

A thrilling day of rallying has drawn to an end. Volkswagen driver Sébastien Ogier finds himself third overall after the opening leg of the Rally Portugal. In the face of stern competition, the Frenchman had to settle for fifth place on Friday’s final special stage (Almodôvar 2). “Being first out onto the route was obviously not exactly an advantage today. Let’s see what happens tomorrow,” said Ogier in the finish area.

Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) clocked the fastest time to move to the top of the overall standings. Fellow Ford driver Ott Tänak also impressed and heads into the overnight break in second place. Just 6.5 seconds off the lead, Séb is still right in contention.

Team-mate dropped another 24.6 seconds on the top car, but appeared to be growing in confidence: “I have more confidence in the car now that the day is over,” said the Norwegian, who is in ninth place after day one.

Jari-Matti Latvala, who was forced to retire for the day after rolling out on SS 5 (Silves 2) is hopeful that it will be possible to repair his Polo R WRC, in order to re-join the action under Rally2 regulations tomorrow.

17:40 (CEST)

Tight at the top.

It remains exciting: the sixth special stage of the Rally Portugal (Ourique 2) went to Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville – but Sébastien Ogier was able to retain his slight overall lead over Mikko Hirvonen (Ford), despite only setting the fifth fastest time on the stage. Once again, the Volkswagen driver was not entirely happy with his tyre selection: “The route on this stage was a bit wetter than on the previous special stage. It was quite slippery on the hard tyres. Anyone on the softer compound obviously has the better cards here,” said the Frenchman at the finish.

Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen continues to struggle with the handling of his Polo R WRC. “I had massive understeer and am really having to fight the car in the corners,” said the Norwegian, who dropped over 17 seconds on the leaders and remains ninth overall.

16:40 (CEST)

Séb goes fastest – Jari-Matti rolls out for the day.

Friday afternoon started with highs and lows for Volkswagen. While Sébastien Ogier clocked the fastest time on the second run of the Silves stage, team-mate Jari-Matti was struck by misfortune: the Finn rolled his Polo R WRC just after a crest and has had to retire from the rally for today. The good news is that both Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila are both unhurt. As it stands, however, the team is uncertain as to whether it will be possible to repair the car and re-start under Rally2 regulations on Saturday morning.

The overall standings are still a close affair: Ogier leads, five seconds ahead of Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) who is closely followed by privateer Ott Tänak. The Ford driver from Estonia continues to set a good pace.

13:50 (CEST)

Stage win for Jari-Matti –

Volkswagen one-two.

Non-stop action on the fourth Special Stage (Almodôvar 1): The final stage before the lunch service saw another change at the top. Jari-Matti Latvala set a fantastic best time of 16:31.8 minutes, with team-mate Sébastien Ogier finishing second. This enabled the Frenchman to regain his lead in the overall standings – closely followed by Latvala, who is only 0.4 seconds behind.
Things didn't go so well for Hyundai man Dani Sordo, who lost more than 19 seconds and dropped from first to fifth in the overall standings.

Ex-Formula One driver Robert Kubica caused excitement yet again: the Pole hit a rock, lost a wheel and went flying. Kubica's damaged Ford blocked the road and the drivers behind him were stuck in a traffic jam.

While Séb and Jari-Matti are gaining ground, things are still not going too well for the third man in the team: Andreas Mikkelsen is just not able to get going at the Rally Portugal. The Norwegian lost a lot of time again and is now trailing by more than a minute.

13:00 (CEST)

Séb battling with his tyres –

Sordo takes the lead.

The third Special Stage of the Rally Portugal brought with it a new leader in the overall standings: Hyundai driver Dani Sordo secured another best time on the Ourique 1 section, which was reduced from 25.04 to 20.7 kilometres. The Spaniard is now the ninth man to take the top spot.

Sébastien Ogier, who was the fourth fastest, struggled with his tyres at the finish line: “It was difficult to drive, the track is very muddy in places. We made a bit of a mistake with our tyre selection this morning.”

Ogier is now in third in the overall standings, behind Sordo and Ott Tänak (Ford). However, he is not far behind, with a gap of only 3.4 seconds. Jari-Matti Latvala is in tenth place. Andreas Mikkelsen, who is still driving cautiously, is thirteenth.

Clear as mud. Muddy roads and a dramatic roll. Friday. The video.

Aktuelle Bilder (12)
16:56 Uhr (MESZ)

Classification after 7 of 16 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1. M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 1:25:05.6    
2. O. Tänak / R. Molder 1:25:09.3 +3.7  
3. S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 1:25:12.1 +6.5  
4. M. Østberg / J. Andersson 1:25:31.2 +4.8  
5. D. Sordo / M. Marti 1:25:31.3 +25.7  
6. T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 1:25:47.6 +42.0  
7. H. Solberg / I. Minor 1:26:47.9 +1:42.3  
8. A. Mikkelsen / M. Markkula 1:27:21.8 +2:16.2  
9. M. Prokop / J. Tománek 1:28:04.8 +2:59.2  
10. J. Ketomaa / D. Lindstrom (WRC2) 1:28:52.8 +3:47.2  

20:30 (CEST)

Concentrate on what lies ahead.”
Statements from the Volkswagen team.


Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“The conditions were not easy – particularly in the morning. The level of grip on offer changed constantly. We took a cautious approach: as first out you cannot follow the tracks of the cars in front. The special stages had dried out considerably by the second run. However, hard tyres were still not the ideal choice. Despite this, Julien and I are very happy to be up there with the front-runners. Generally speaking, today was an exciting day for the fans, as it has been a long time since we have had so many drivers so tightly bunched.”


Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“Because it had rained an awful lot over the past few days, the road conditions were difficult to judge – we opted for a cross-over of hard and soft tyres. I had more understeer than expected in a left-hander and had to take a wide line. When I then got back on track, I hit a deep hole on the right-hand side, which threw the car into the air. We were on two wheels for a moment, before hitting a bank and rolling. It is obviously disappointing, but it is not the end. We must put this kind of set-back behind us and concentrate on what lies ahead.”


Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“I have had better days of rallying since joining Volkswagen. We decided before the rally to write new pace notes. Unfortunately, however, it rained so heavily during the ‘Recce’ that we could hardly see anything, which is why the pace notes are not as detailed as we would like. The unpredictable road conditions, together with the fact that I did not have 100 per cent confidence in the pace notes, made me very cautious. The result here in Portugal is that we dropped an enormous amount of time. However, I did not want to take too many risks after my two mistakes in Mexico.”

20:15 (CEST)

High hopes ahead of Saturday.

The opening leg did not go entirely to plan.

Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) trailed leader Mikko Hirvonen by 6.5 seconds at the end of the first leg. “Today was not ideal,” was the World Champion’s summary of his opening day. Ogier was not entirely happy with his choice of tyre on either the morning or the afternoon loop. “We set off on hard tyres after the service. Unfortunately, however, the route was still damper than expected in a lot of places.”

In contrast, the new leader Hirvonen opted for the softer compound – which proved in hindsight to be the better choice. However, the Finn now has fewer of these tyres at his disposal for the rest of the rally. “Should it rain again, we will definitely have an advantage,” said Ogier. The aforementioned 6.5 second gap to the leader is hardly a reason for the Frenchman to panic. “Mikko also benefitted from a relatively late starting position today. Tomorrow there will be just one car between us, so we will have practically identical conditions. This rally is far from over.”

The Volkswagen Motorsport mechanics have a different, but no less difficult, task ahead of them on Friday evening. They must attempt to repair Jari-Matti Latvala’s Polo R WRC within the three hours permitted by the regulations. If successful, the Finn will re-join the action on Saturday. “That was clearly my fault,” said Latvala, apologising to his technicians for rolling is car. He started the fifth special stage on a crossover – hard tyres front-right and rear-left, and soft on the opposite two corners. “That made the handling a little unusual, and I did not adapt quickly enough.”

Having approached a left-hander too quickly, the car understeered towards the outside of the corner. “In trying to regain control of the car I slid into a hole,” explained Latvala. The Polo R WRC was thrown into the air, landing heavily in a bank. The result was serious damage to the front of the car. The car has not yet returned to the service. Only then will it be possible to determine whether or not a repair is at all possible.

Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9), meanwhile, is picking up momentum. “My confidence is returning gradually,” explained the Norwegian, who took a steadier approach after crashing out of the previous round of the World Championship in Mexico. Mikkelsen was ninth overall at the end of the first leg in Portugal.

11:50 (CEST)

Off to a slippery start on Friday –

Sordo show provides excitement.

It's time to get serious in Portugal: After yesterday's Super Special Stage in Lisbon, the WRC drivers now need to show what they're made of on the rain-soaked gravel. The 21.5-kilometre Special Stage Silves 1 opened today's proceedings, and Hyundai driver Dani Sordo took full advantage of his starting position at the rear of the field. He benefited from the “clean-up operation” performed by those in front of him, who swept the loose gravel from the track. This resulted in the man from Spain setting the fastest time, but Sébastien Ogier, who was fourth fastest, retained his lead in the overall standings. “The track was slippery and I didn't want to risk everything straight away,” reported the Volkswagen driver.

Ogier is 1.9 seconds ahead of Ott Tänak (Ford), with Sordo just behind in third place.

Ogier's team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen, who approached this special stage very cautiously, are currently placed fifth and thirteenth.

Friday: the special stages of the first day.

08:45 (CEST)

Thursday, 03.04.2014

Ready for the adventure in the Algarve. Thursday. The video.

Aktuelle Bilder (06)
21:09 Uhr (MESZ)

Classification after 1 of 16 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 2:52.7    
2 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 2:54.0 +1.3  
3 A. Mikkelsen / M. Markkula 2:54.9 +2.2  
4 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 2:55.6 +2.9  
5 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 2:56.3 +3.6  
6 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 2:57.0 +4.3  
7 O. Tänak / R. Molder 2:57.2 +4.5  
8 R. Kubica / M. Szczepaniak 2:57.5 +4.8  
8 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 2:57.5 +4.8  
10 J. Hänninen / T. Tuominen 2:58.0 +5.3  

20:00 (CEST)

All good drivers come in threes:

Perfect start to the Rally Portugal.

The first 3.27 kilometres of the Rally Portugal could hardly have gone better for Volkswagen Motorsport. The Super Special Stage – Lisboa – was won by Sébastien Ogier in the #1 Polo R WRC. The World Champion finished ahead of his team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala (#2) and Andreas Mikkelsen (#9).

The French World Champion clocked the fastest time of 2:52.7 minutes, closely followed by Latvala (+1.3 seconds) and Mikkelsen (+2.2 seconds) in second and third place respectively. The best-placed WRC driver not in a Polo R WRC was Belgium’s Thierry Neuville (Hyundai), finished 2.9 seconds behind Ogier in fourth place.

The Super Special Stage was the first of 16 special stages at the Rally Portugal. Six stages are scheduled for both Friday and Saturday, with the final three special stages taking place on Sunday.

Best wishes to Jari-Matti Latvala

on his 29th birthday.

Thursday: the special stage of the first day.

08:00 (CEST)


Wednesday, 02.04.2014

You never know where there may be a surprise lurking.”
Statements from the Volkswagen team.


Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“We had no problems on the Shakedown, and the Polo R WRC is in great form. We were on soft tyres. It looks ok for us at the moment, as it has rained. That means there will not be so much loose gravel on the roads when we are the first car onto the route on Friday. That is definitely a small advantage for us. On the other side of the coin, however, we will not be able to follow the line taken by other cars, and you never know where there may be a surprise lurking.”


Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“I am very happy with the handling of the Polo R WRC. The route was still a bit damp, but it was good to drive on with soft tyres. If it does not rain from now on, large parts of the stages will probably dry out quickly, particularly on open terrain. However, it could stay damp under the trees. This makes tyre selection difficult. It might be possible to set faster times on soft tyres, but if it is not damp enough they will also wear quickly. The right decision could ultimately be crucial.”


Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“The Shakedown took place on mud, with damp patches and also some dry sections today, so we were faced with a little bit of everything. For us, today was all about finding our rhythm and getting a feel for the conditions. The route got quicker from one run to the next. All in all, we are happy with the time we set on our two runs.”

Latvala fastest in Shakedown.

Sun returns after chaotic, rain-dominated practice.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) clocked the fastest time in the Shakedown at the Rally Portugal. With a time of 3:05.2 minutes, the Finn was about two seconds quicker than team-mate Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1), who was third fastest. Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) ended the practice session in tenth place.

“The conditions in the Shakedown were very difficult,” said Latvala. “They alternated constantly between dry and wet.” The cause of the difficulties was the heavy rainfall of the last few days, which even caused interruptions in the free practice – a number of special stages with what would normally be harmless water crossings were simply not passable. “That was one of the most demanding practices of my career,” said Latvala. “You had to be incredibly focussed. The road was as smooth as glass in many places, but in other spots you were confronted by massive puddles. Then there was the fog, which made it very difficult to see in some places.”

The weather improved significantly on Wednesday, with the sun actually making an appearance in the afternoon. “In open areas, the Shakedown roads were already completely dry. In the trees, however, it was still damp and here are still a few puddles around. That will probably still be the case on Friday,” said Ogier, looking ahead to the special stages on the opening leg. “The trick is to select the right tyres.”

The works drivers have access to just 16 soft tyres for the entire rally, including the shakedown. These offer far greater grip on damp gravel than the harder compound. For this reason, the Volkswagen drivers took advantage of the new rule, in use for the first time in Portugal, which reduces the mandatory number of runs in the Shakedown from four to two.

The rain that fell earlier in the week does have a positive side for Ogier and Latvala. As first and second in the World Championship, they are also first and second out onto the route – usually a definite disadvantage at gravel rallies. “However, the rain has washed pretty much all the dust and small stones from the route,” said Latvala. “That saves us having to do it.”

Monday, 31.03.2014

“I have a completely different feel for the Polo R WRC this year.”
Statements from the Volkswagen team.


Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Portugal is definitely one of my favourite rallies on the calendar. It was here that I claimed my maiden win in the WRC in 2010, and Julien and I have won here three times in the last four years. With that in mind, we arrive at the fourth round of the World Championship full of confidence. The Rally Portugal certainly has two faces: when it is dry, the surface is very hard and offers a lot of grip. When it rains, however, the ground becomes very soft and muddy, giving you very little traction. I normally much prefer it when it is dry. However, we are first onto the route this time, so a little rain on the first day would not be bad for us.”


Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“I have never made such a good start to a season – 60 points from three rallies and just three points behind the World Championship leader, my team-mate Sébastien Ogier. Last year I finished third at the Rally Portugal to claim my first podium with Volkswagen. In the past it has been a difficult rally for me. However, that 2013 result has given me a lot of confidence. I have a completely different feel for the Polo R WRC this year. We have a well-oiled basic set-up and it is just a matter of making detailed improvements. As has so often been the case over the last ten years, my birthday falls on a rally weekend. As such, I am used to not partying too hard. Instead, it is a time for working hard. However, I am really looking forward to it, and would like to give myself a present in the form of a top-three finish.”


Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“Last year Portugal was my first rally with the Polo R WRC, and sixth place was a good result for Mikko and me. It is nice to return here with Volkswagen. The Rally Portugal is known for its corners, which are often hard to see. On top of that, it is constantly uphill and downhill. That makes it a very attractive rally, but also a very difficult one for the drivers. For this reason, the Recce will be very important, in order to acclimatise to the layout. We have taken a step forward since last season. We now have the speed to mix it with the front-runners. However, it is important for me to work on my consistency. The goal for the coming events is to pick up some more podiums.”

Grande casino.


Rally Portugal to start in seaside resort of Estoril.

After an absence of more than a decade, Estoril will once again feature in this year’s Rally Portugal. The start ramp for the fourth event of the current WRC season has been set up outside the casino in Estoril, a seaside resort just outside of Lisbon.

The first special stage (Thursday, 18:01) has an even more impressive backdrop, namely the Hieronymite Monastery in the Lisbon suburb of Belém, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. “With the thousands of fans, this special stage is a great experience with an incomparable atmosphere,” says Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1), who won last year’s Rally Portugal.

In contrast to the rest of the rally, the stage around the monastery will be on asphalt – albeit driven using gravel tyres, as stipulated by the regulations. “Obviously, that’s not the best match,” says Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2). “You really have to concentrate on not braking too late as if you were driving on slicks.”

Rally Portugal serves as an important yardstick for the rest of the season, as it is the first event which is driven under what you might call standard conditions, after the wintry Alpine conditions of Rally Monte Carlo, the snow and ice in Sweden and the high altitudes in Mexico.

“Because of this, Rally Portugal can usually tell us a lot about the current balance of power among the teams,” explains the Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. The teams up in front in Portugal usually do well in Argentina, Sardinia and Australia too.

Once the rally has got under way in Lisbon on Thursday evening, the rally armada will head southwards to the Algarve city of Faro. The rally comprises 16 special stages and covers a total distance of just under 340 kilometres.

Saturday, 29.03.2014

19:40 UHR (MESZ)

Tuesday, 25.03.2014

Spectacular jumps ahead of Rally Portugal:
Séb and Julien to compete in the Fafe Rally Sprint.


Having had to pull out of last year’s Fafe Rally Sprint at short notice due to a bout of the flu, the reigning WRC champion Sébastien Ogier is determined not to miss out this time around, and is scheduled to line up for the event held in the run-up to Rally Portugal. Together with his co-driver Julien Ingrassia, Ogier will drive his Polo R WRC on a 6.3-kilometre stretch of the historic Lameirinha special stage, wowing the more than 100,000 anticipated fans as he goes.


“I’m very excited to be taking part in the ‘Fafe Rally Sprint’ for the first time,” according to Sébastien Ogier. “I have heard a lot from other the drivers and our Portuguese mechanics about the famous jumps. I’ve also seen pictures with the thousands of fans from 2013. It seems like an incredible atmosphere and I love the dual nature of it. Of course we will give it our best shot in front of so many fans.

Teams have to fight it out during two qualifying rounds to make it into the final of the “Fafe Rally Sprint”. Whoever clocks the fastest time will be crowned champion. In addition, there is the unofficial, but much beloved by the fans, distance jump over one of the most challenging jumps of them all. The record distance of 73.5 m was set back in 2000 by Armin Schwarz in the Škoda Octavia WRC.

The 2014 Fafe Rally Sprint in northern Portugal will be the third time that this event is held. The stretch which is driven for the sprint was once part of the official Rally Portugal until it was moved some 600 kilometres further south, to Faro. Other WRC drivers have also announced that they will be taking part, including Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg (both with Citroën), last year’s winner Dani Sordo (Hyundai) and the Ford drivers Elfyn Evans and Ott Tänak.

Monday, 24.03.2014

“Determination in everything he tackles.”


From an early age, Sébastien Ogier had a penchant for speed, and spent his childhood rocketing down the ski slopes around his home town of Gap. It wasn¹t all that easy at first, though, and little Séb really had to knuckle down. His first skiing instructor Jean-Louis Milelli, who the reigning rally world champion is still friends with today, reminisces.


Mr Milleli, you have known Sébastien Ogier since he was a child and taught him to ski. What was your impression of him back then?
He joined our skiing club when he was quite young. A lot of the boys that I and my friend Bernard trained in our group already had more experience than him. That wasn’t easy for Sébastien, as it’s a competitive sport. But he knuckled down straight away and soon brought himself up to a high level.
When did you first meet Séb? And what was special about the meeting?
It must have been 20 years ago, when Séb was about nine years old. I noticed that he was shy as a young boy, but he integrated into the group well and soon had a lot of friends. What stood out for me was his determination, which is still reflected today in everything he tackles. He already proved to be a bit of an all-round talent as a boy. When we went to a holiday camp a few years later when he was aged around 12 to 14, we once went karting. It was obviously love at first sight: you could instantly tell he liked it.

Would you have encouraged him to pursue a career as a skier too?
Well, you don’t really encourage people to pick a particular career path – these things come naturally. A child will gravitate towards the area in which they achieve the most success. It’s a natural process.
Would you say skiing has had an influence on his career as a rally driver? Are there similarities between the two disciplines?
 There are a lot of similarities. For example, you have to have an appetite for risk and the courage to travel at high speeds. In France, there have been a number of skiers who have gone on to become rally drivers. That said, I don’t think skiing has had any bearing on Sébastien’s career. It may have taught him to be able to identify the ideal line. There’s also the fact that a skiing career usually starts well before the age of 18, whereas you first need a driving licence in order to get behind the wheel – unless you’re karting.
Do you still spend some time with him? If so, what do you most like to do together?
 We don’t see each other very often as Sébastien has a very full schedule. But we did celebrate his birthday here together last year, for example. And in 2012, he joined us on a circular hike that I organised in Corsica.
What has been your best shared experience?
I am now the president of the sports club that Sébastien used to belong to. Back in 2012 when he was driving for Škoda, the club took 30 kids along to Rally Italia Sardegna. We hired a coach and were there for the entire rally. The kids were allowed to take a look at everything and we had a great holiday itinerary. We all had a fantastic time.