Rally Australia 2013.

 

Victory in Rally Australia – WRC title just out of reach.



It was a weekend of almost unparalleled excitement: Sébastien Ogier scored a confident victory in Rally Australia – and just missed out on clinching the WRC title at the same time. All he would have needed to secure an early overall victory was one more point in the rally.



Held Down Under, the tenth rally of the season saved all of the excitement literally until the very last minute. Sébastien Ogier and his co-driver had a comfortable lead when things suddenly started to happen in quick succession: it all started 15 kilometres before the end of the final special stage, when their teammates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila were frustrated by a flat tyre. Then the Citroën driver Mikko Hirvonen of Finland put an end to Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia’s hopes of winning the championship before the end of the season, when he likewise suffered a flat tyre and had to forfeit second place to the WRC title pursuer Thierry Neuville, who is now once again theoretically in with a chance of clinching the championship title.



Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia scored an impressive tally in Australia, with 22 special stage wins, 19 fastest times and two second places. The team put in its best performance of the season so far and also achieved the most dominant victory of 2013. “What a crazy end to this rally! Obviously, I’m happy about winning here in Australia, but when you’re on course to win the championship all the way and then lose that over the final kilometre, it’s obviously a little disappointing. Apart from that, we had a fantastic rally Down Under. In the upcoming Rally France, I will secure the championship title with another victory and will also take the team one big step closer to winning the Manufacturers’ Championship”, Sébastien Ogier said.



Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila finished in fourth place and likewise picked up some important WRC points. The Finnish pair slowly but surely moved their way up in the rally in spite of a qualifying session that went wrong. Volkswagen has therefore extended its lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship by 22 points to an overall margin of 48 points. Latvala/Anttila scored a win in one of the special stages and were among the top three in ten others. “Right from the start, we aimed to score as many points as possible for the Manufacturers’ Championship – and we managed to do this. Things didn’t go quite as smoothly as we would have hoped, however – we got into some spins and then we were hit by that flat tyre towards the end,” said Jari-Matti Latvala in summary of the events.



The Andreas Mikkelsen/Paul Nagle pairing (N/IRL) also made a good impression in their Australia debut, winning the first special stage and then starting in first place on the Friday. The pair then dropped back due to some minor mistakes, but did a good job of defending their position and ultimately finished in a respectable sixth place. Andreas Mikkelsen: “My Rally Australia was characterised by highs and lows. But overall, we’re very happy with having finished in sixth place. We had a good Rally Australia debut and I enjoyed working with my co-driver Paul Nagle, who stepped in at short notice to stand in for my usual co-driver Mikko Markkula.”



With a total tally of 212 points, Ogier/Ingrassia have a lead of 83 points over their closest rival Thierry Neuville (Ford) ahead of the next rally in France (3 to 6 October 2013). In the Manufacturers’ Championship, Volkswagen Motorsport is ranked first with 299 points, followed by the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team on 251 points.


Four days of pure tension Down Under. Terrific performance by the Volkswagen Team. The video.


Rally Australia 2013: final results

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 3:19:55.0    
2 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 3:21:27.1 +1:32.1  
3 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 3:21:57.1 +2:02.1  
4 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 3:22:52.4 +2:57.4  
5 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 3:23:12.2 +3:17.2  
6 A. Mikkelsen / P. Nagle 3:23:32.6 +3:37.6  
7 E. Novikov / I. Minor 3:27:26.2 +7:31.2  
8 N. Quinn / G. Macneall 3:33:05.2 +13:10.2  
9 K. Al Qassimi / S. Martin 3:35:12.6 +15:17.6  
10 A. Al-Kuwari / K. Duffy (WRC2) 3:37:22.7 +17:27.7  

Impressions

The rally in detail

Looking for something specific? You will find a detailed rally review here. Experience the coverage of the 2013 Rally Australia 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, 15.09.2013



Latest pictures (24)
11:00 (CEST)


Classification after 22 of 22 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 3:19:55.0    
2 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 3:21:27.1 +1:32.1  
3 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 3:21:57.1 +2:02.1  
4 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 3:22:52.4 +2:57.4  
5 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 3:23:12.2 +3:17.2  
6 A. Mikkelsen / P. Nagle 3:23:32.6 +3:37.6  
7 E. Novikov / I. Minor 3:27:26.2 +7:31.2  
8 N. Quinn / G. Macneall 3:33:05.2 +13:10.2  
9 K. Al Qassimi / S. Martin 3:35:12.6 +15:17.6  
10 A. Al-Kuwari / K. Duffy (WRC2) 3:37:22.7 +17:27.7  

23:59 (CEST)

Always up-to-date with the

“Wolfsburger Morgenpost” for all rally fans.

Special issue for the IAA for download as a PDF* here.

 

Download PDF* here

 

*the "Wolfsburger Morgenpost" issues are only available in German

 


11:45 (CEST)

What a crazy end to the rally!”
Statements from the Volkswagen team.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7

“Right from the start, we were aiming to collect as many points as possible for the Manufacturers’ Championship, and we succeeded. However, things didn’t go quite as smoothly as we would have liked – the car span and we had a puncture too right at the end. For me, the rally felt a bit like we were struggling through the desert before finally arriving in Dakar at the end. But all that matters ultimately is the result, and it was a good one for Volkswagen.”

 

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
“What a crazy end to the rally! Of course I’m pleased to have won here in Australia, but it’s pretty disappointing to be on course to win the World Championship title the whole time and then lose it again in the last kilometre. Apart from that, it was a fantastic rally for us Down Under. We won 19 of the 22 Special Stages and collected three points in the Power Stage too. The Polo R WRC worked perfectly throughout the weekend, the team did a great job – but in the end we just weren’t quite lucky enough to make the dream of winning the crown come true today.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“The Rally Australia had its ups and downs for me. On Thursday, I had a chance to savour the feeling of leading in a World Championship rally for the first time. Friday got off to a great start, but little mistakes cost us a lot of time. I had to pay for them again on Saturday as one of the first World Rally Cars on the track. And Sunday? I did all I could to get the car over the line and help the team in the Manufacturer’s Championship. That meant going into ‘cruise mode’ and not going on the attack. I’m sure it would have been more fun if we’d done things differently. All in all, we’re really pleased with sixth place though.”

 

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“The Rally Australia became really dramatic in the last few kilometres. From the point of view of the Manufacturers’ Championship, everything that happened in the Power Stage was good for Volkswagen. Unfortunately, it also meant that Sébastien Ogier was unable to clinch the title early. He did a fantastic job, won more convincingly than at any other event this season, and did everything right. He would’ve deserved to go away as World Rally Champion today, but the decider will have to wait. Now he’s got the opportunity to seize the title once and for all at his home rally in France.”


09:04 (CEST)

Down to the rim:

Latvala suffers tire damage out of the blue.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7) was shocked. “I swear we didn’t hit anything and had not driven over something at any point.” The only explanation the Finn could offer for the tire damage in the last stage was this: “we drove over a passage a few moments before, where bed rock with very sharp edges soared out of the ground. It is possible that this was the point where the tire got slashed.”


On almost the exact same spot, Citroën’s Mikko Hirvonen caught it too and it cost him second place in the rally, which he had held up until then. It was an event that somewhat turned the rally on its head and for the time being thwarted Sébastien Ogier’s (Polo R WRC #8) bid to snatch the Drivers’ Championship title.


“Whilst on a straight I all of a sudden felt vibrating,” Latvala recounted those decisive seconds in his own words. “Then the tread slowly started to disintegrate.” As is always the case in such situations, the mud guard was also damaged. The rubber shreds whirled around and smashed the plastic mud guard into pieces. “Thankfully there was enough of the tire left that we could finish the remaining 15 kilometers of the stage without having to change the wheel,” Latvala added. Fortunately, the lost time of approximately one minute didn’t cost the pair a loss of position in the overall standings, Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila remained in fourth.


By contrast, Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) did drop a place in the course of the final day’s rallying. “For us it wasn’t about the result, but more about finishing the rally in order to gain experience for next year,” explained the Norwegian driver, who ended the rally in sixth place.


10:30 (CEST)

“We would have loved

to celebrate the title in Australia.”

Not a trace of disappointment. “Of course we would have loved to have been able to celebrate the World Championship title here in Australia,” Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8) remarked on his way into the service park. “But at the end of the day it wasn’t our fault that it didn’t pan out like that, we did everything that was within our power.”


A convincing win and victory on the Power Stage – unfortunately it’s not possible to gain more than 28 points in a single rally. Therefore this is more than reason enough for the whole team to raise a glass of Champagne together. Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia were two of the last ones to find out that ultimately it wasn’t quite enough. “We were receiving the splits in the car, which is why we only discovered the final stage results and the drama unfolding around us once we had crossed the finish line,” Ingrassia explained.


The drama in question centered around Citroën’s Mikko Hirvonen being forced to surrender the second place he had occupied for almost the whole rally to Ford’s Thierry Neuville due to a damaged tire. As a result, the Belgian took a surprise second place in the standings and theoretically could still catch Sébastien Ogier in the Championship race. It could still happen in theory, but in reality Neuville would have to win all three remaining rallies with maximum Power Stage points and hope that Ogier doesn’t pick up a single point from any of the last three rounds. Neuville himself rated his chances of success as “highly unlikely”.


By the same token, the World Championship title could just as easily be decided in the very first stage of the upcoming Rally France (3rd – 5th October). This is because at the Rally France, the Power Stage is the first stage to be run. If Neuville fails to secure victory here, then Sébastien Ogier will be crowned champion after all.


07:00 (CEST)

Ogier takes the Power Stage but will have to wait a little longer for the Championship title.

 

What drama! The last few meters of the Rally Australia saw the final judgement of the 2013 World Championship race postponed till another day. Even though Volkswagen driver Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8) pulled off victory in the Power Stage and captured a perfect 28 points, it wasn’t enough to secure the title as rival Thierry Neuville finished second in the stage and moved up to second overall. This meant that the Frenchman was denied clinching the World Championship title here in Australia by just a single point.

 

Ogier recorded his 19th stage win of the weekend at the 29.44-kilometer-long SS22 (Shipmans 2). His time of 14:44.9 minutes was 2.8 seconds faster than Neuville and 9.4 seconds better than that of third-placed Evgeny Novikov (Ford). Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) took fifth in the Power Stage and Jari-Matti Latvala eighth.


Therefore Sébastien Ogier celebrates a comfortable victory at the 2013 Rally Australia with a winning overall time of 3:19: 55.0 hours. Joining the Frenchman on the podium are Ford’s Thierry Neuville (+ 1:32.1) and Citroën’s Mikko Hirvonen (+ 2:02.1). Latvala ended the rally in fourth position and Mikkelsen finished sixth. 


05:55 (CEST)

Volkswagen drivers still second to none.

The time is now for Ogier to clinch the title.

 

You can cut the tension with a knife: SS22 will soon be under way and with it the final act of this year’s Rally Australia. In the closing power stage, Volkswagen driver Sébastien Ogier in the Polo R WRC #8 has the chance to capture the World Rally Championship title earlier than expected and write history in the process. If the Frenchman is nervous, then he’s not letting it show.


Ogier was unperturbed as he clocked his 18th fastest time of the weekend and drove to victory in SS21 (Wedding Bells 2). The Frenchman required just 11:11.2 minutes to conquer the 22.24 kilometer stage and came home 1.2 seconds in front of Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7) in second. Ford’s Thierry Neuville finished third, a further 1.6 seconds off the pace.

 

Going into the last stage, Ogier’s overall time of 3:05:10.1 hours is 1:04.1 minute faster than the Citroën of Mikko Hirvonen. Ogier’s nearest championship rival, Ford’s Thierry Neuville, is a further 25.2 seconds behind Hirvonen in third place overall. Latvala and Mikkelsen occupy positions four and six.


05:20 (CEST)

Volkswagen dominance undaunted.

Ogier wins SS20 ahead of Latvala.

 

There are only around 50 kilometers left to race in the two final stages of the Rally Australia, yet Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8) continues to drive quickly and faultlessly as if it was just any normal race. The Frenchman could be crowned World Rally Champion for the first time in just over if it carries on like this.

 

During the third to last stage (Bucca 2), the Volkswagen driver was once again unassailable as he completed the course in a time of 6:07.7 minutes. Only team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7) was able to keep up with the Frenchman over the 10.89-kilometer-long circuit. The difference between the two men was just two tenths of a second as the Finn crossed the line in second position, Andreas Mikkelsen (#9) finished in sixth.

 

Ogier (2:53:58.9) now leads the rally by almost a minute over the Citroën of Mikko Hirvonen. The gap between Ogier and Ford driver Thierry Neuville, his closest rival in the championship standings, has grown to almost one and a half minutes. Latvala is currently occupying the fourth spot, whilst Mikkelsen is in sixth.


03:05 (CEST)

16th fastest time for Sébastien Ogier. Just three

more stages to go for the Championship title?

 

Who can stop this man and this car? Sébastien Ogier driving the VW Polo R WRC #8 once again left the competition in the dust during SS19 (Shipmans 1). The Frenchman completed the 29.44 kilometer circuit in 15:08.7 minutes and snatched his sixteenth stage win here in Australia. Trailing by 2.3 seconds, Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7) took second place ahead of Mikko Hirvonen (Citroën), who was 2.7 seconds slower than Ogier. Andreas Mikkelsen (#9) took seventh spot.

 

With an overall time of 2:47:51.2 hours, Ogier is unchallenged at the top of the overall standings with just three stages left to race at the Rally Australia. A first WRC drivers’ title is within touching distance, even more so because second-placed Hirvonen (+53.3 seconds) again extended his advantage over Ogier’s closest championship rival, Thierry Neuville. The Ford driver is languishing 1:22.8 minutes behind the overall leader in third place. Latvala follows in fourth position and Mikkelsen remains in sixth.


02:12 (CEST)

Only 92 kilometers to go to the title.

Ogier extends his advantage.

 

Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8) is cruising towards his first ever World Championship title. Despite holding a commanding lead in the Rally Australia, the Frenchman put his foot down in SS18 and extended his advantage even further. The Volkswagen driver recorded his fifteenth stage win of the weekend at Wedding Bells 1. It took Ogier 11:29.0 minutes to complete the 22.24-kilometer-long course. His time was 1.4 seconds quicker than second-placed Thierry Neuville in the Ford and 4.5 seconds faster than team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7), who came third. In the fifth to last stage of the Rally Australia, Andreas Mikkelsen (#9) could only finish in seventh position.

With around 92 kilometers left to race, Ogier (2:32:42.5 hours) has pulled even further away from Mikko Hirvonen. His lead has increased by almost five seconds and he is now 50.6 seconds ahead of the Citroën driver. Thierry Neuville (+1:18.3) holds onto third, one place ahead of Latvala and Mikkelsen is in sixth position overall.


01:30 (CEST)

Confident start to Sunday’s action.

Ogier can write history today.


The last leg of the Rally Australia kicked off with something of a novelty: for the first time this weekend, the tenth of this year’s thirteen WRC events, it wasn’t a Volkswagen driver who crossed the line in first position. However, at SS17 (Bucca 1) Sébastien Ogier driving the VW Polo R WRC #8 was only one tenth of a second behind the stage winner, Citroën’s Mikko Hirvonen. The Finn completed the 10.89-kilometer-long course in 6:19.5 minutes, so there was only a hair’s breadth in it. Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7) clocked the third fastest time of this stage and Andreas Mikkelsen (#9) finished in fifth position behind Mads Østberg in the Ford.


After the opening stage of what could prove to be an historic Sunday, as Ogier might well be crowned WRC Drivers’ Champion here, there was little change in the overall standings: the Frenchman (2:21:13.5 hours) continues to command a substantial lead of 45.8 seconds over Mikko Hirvonen. Ogier’s closest championship rival, Ford driver Thierry Neuville, could only manage a sixth place finish in SS17 and is now 1:16.9 minutes off the lead. Latvala is still is fourth place overall in the Rally Australia, Mikkelsen dropped down from fifth to sixth, but is only 0.3 seconds behind Mads Østberg.

Saturday, 14.09.2013


Classification after 16 of 22 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 2:14:53.9    
2 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 2:15:39.8 +45.9  
3 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 2:16:05.3 +1:11.4  
4 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 2:16:41.5 +1:47.6  
5 A. Mikkelsen / P. Nagle 2:17:04.7 +2:10.8  
6 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 2:17:07.3 +2:13.3  
7 E. Novikov / I. Minor 2:21:30.5 +6:36.6  
8 N. Quinn / G. Macneall 2:24:04.7 +9:10.8  
9 K. Al Qassimi / S. Martin 2:25:16.9 +10:23.0  
10 A. Al-Kuwari / K. Duffy (WRC2) 2:26:54.0 +12:00.1  

11:30 (CEST)

“The title is within our grasp.”
Statements from the Volkswagen team.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7

“We’re now in a very good position to collect important points for the Manufacturers’ Championship. That was our aim right from the start and we’ll concentrate on that tomorrow rather than our position in the drivers’ competition. I’ve had two good afternoons so far, but the mornings have had their ups and downs. This morning, the car span on the first bend of SS 02 on cold tyres, which was annoying. We’re determined to put in a good performance throughout the day tomorrow.”

 

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
“I’m really pleased right now – it was another perfect day for us. Hopefully tomorrow will be just as good. The Polo R WRC’s set-up was ideal again today. It might look easy from the outside, but it most certainly isn’t when you’re sitting in the cockpit. Something could happen any time, as Kris Meeke’s experience today showed. My goal for tomorrow is to try and maintain my rhythm, stay focused, and enjoy every kilometre out on the track – because the Stages are incredibly beautiful. The grip level was high too, especially this afternoon. And we had a slight advantage by starting the Stage last. There’s no doubt that the World Championship title is within our grasp, but we’ve still got a long day to go with six challenging Special Stages.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“It wasn’t exactly easy being one of the first World Rally Cars to tackle the track today. But I made mistakes yesterday and I had to pay for them again today. It was like driving on marbles. But I think we made the best of it. The long, almost 50-kilometre Stage we completed twice today was nothing short of fantastic and it was a lot of fun. This afternoon’s rerun was the most enjoyable, of course, once the line had been cleared a bit more. The car swerved badly right at the beginning of the ‘Valla’ Stage and I hit something with the back. Apart from that, I had clean runs in today’s Special Stages. All in all, I’m satisfied.”

 

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“The Rally Australia is going perfectly for Volkswagen. The Polo R WRC has won all of the Special Stages so far. I couldn’t ask for more as Motorsport Director. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have put themselves in an outstanding position with a chance of winning the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championship early tomorrow. In other words, tomorrow is a crucial day in the World Rally Championship 2013. Jari-Matti Latvala regained ground again today and could score important points in the Manufacturers’ Championship tomorrow. Andreas Mikkelsen put in a good performance today too, although he didn’t have the best starting position. We’re happy. But tomorrow will be another tough day and we are anything but complacent.”


10:30 (CEST)

All stages won on Saturday.

Ogier heading towards World Championship.

 

It was an impressive demonstration of his strength: To wrap up the day, Sébastien Ogier has also won SS 16 (Coffs 6) and therefore finished all special stages of today in first position. This means that all 16 special stages so far at the Rally Australia were won by Volkswagen drivers in the Polo R WRC.

 

To end Saturday Ogier prevailed on the 1.6 kilometre long track in 1:21.4 minutes over Ford driver Thierry Neuville (+1.1 seconds) and Volkswagen team mate Jari-Matti Latvala (+1.5 seconds). Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) finished in fourth position – in front of Mikko Hirvonen (Citroën).

 

Ogier is leading in the overall classification by a clear margin (2:14:53.9 hours). With a gap of now 45.9 seconds follows Hirvonen; Neuville is 1:11.4 minutes behind the World Championship leader from France. The Volkswagen drivers Latvala and Mikkelsen in fourth and fifth place still can hope for a podium finish on Sunday.


10:15 (CEST)

Again he can’t be beat.

Will Ogier secure the perfect day?

 

After tasting victory in seven of Friday’s eight Special Stages, Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8) has the chance of recording a flawless leg. The French driver has won all of the opening five of today’s sixth stages. Even during SS15 (Coffs 5) there was no beating the indomitable driver of Rally Australia. Ogier completed the 1.6 Kilometer circuit in 1:23.3 minutes and pushed Ford’s Thierry Neuville (+0.2 seconds) and team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (+1.1 seconds) into the second and third spots respectively. Andreas Mikkelsen driving in the VW Polo R WRC #9 finished fifth, one place behind Citroën’s Mikko Hirvonen, who surrendered another 1.7 seconds to overall leader Ogier.


08:10 (CEST)

That completes the dozen: Ogier clinches

his twelfth stage victory in Australia.

 

There are still some 130 kilometers left to race at Rally Australia, but is there anyone left who can stop Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8) before the weekend is out? During Saturday’s SS14 (Valla 2) and for the twelfth time this weekend, the Volkswagen driver was the faster in the field. It took the Frenchman 8:34.4 minutes to complete the 14.84 circuit and he was 2.3 seconds faster than Thierry Neuville in the Ford. Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7) and Andreas Mikkelsen (#9), who finished third and fourth respectively, rounded off a spectacular stage result for the Volkswagen Motorsport team.


Ogier’s time of 2:12:09.2 hours means that he has extended his advantage over Mikko Hirvonen to 42.2 seconds in the overall standings; the Citroën driver could only finish sixth and was 7.5 seconds off the pace. Neuville (+ 1:10.1 minutes) is immediately ahead of the two Volkswagen drivers Latvala and Mikkelsen. A strong stage performance from the Norwegian driver was enough for him to leapfrog Ford’s Mads Østberg into fifth.


07:15 (CEST)

Ogier pulls even further away.


It goes on and on and on. It seem that Sébastien Ogier‘s (Polo R WRC #8) early march towards the drivers’ championship cannot be halted. Even SS13 of Rally Australia couldn’t dampen the fortunes of the Frenchman. At the 49.9 kilometer-long Nambucca 2, the Volkswagen driver notched up his third stage victory on Saturday and eleventh overall win so far at this year’s Rally Australia. With a time of 27.41.3 minutes, Ogier came home 7.1 seconds faster than the Citroën of Mikko Hirvonen and a further 1.1 seconds ahead of Ford’s Thierry Neuville, his closest championship rival. Jari-Matti Latvala (#7) finished in fourth position and Andreas Mikkelsen (#9) came home in sixth.


During the tenth of this season’s thirteen rallies, Ogier currently has an overall time of 2:03:34.9 hours and is 34.7 seconds ahead of Hirvonen and more than a minute in front of Neuville. Latvala and Mikkelsen follow in positions four and sixth. 


03:38 (CEST)

Invincible Ogier –
Misfortunate Latvala.

The two leading drivers of Rally Australia were neck and neck during stage twelve: Sébastien Ogier was again fastest during the 14.84 km Valla 1 stage. Hot on his heels was Citroën’s Mikko Hirvonen, who really put his foot down and crossed the finishing line 2.3 seconds behind the leader in second place.


There was misfortune for Jari-Matti Latvala, who sustained tire damage on the course and subsequently lost time. The Finn needed 20.2 seconds more than the pace-setter Ogier in order to complete the stage, but Latvala will have an opportunity to get his Polo R WRC up and running again during the midday interval. Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen was also up against it and crossed the line in sixth position, 10.7 seconds slower than Ogier.


The overall standings at the half-way point of Saturday’s rally action: Ogier is still unchallenged at the top of the overall standings and now has a 27.6 second advantage over Hirvonen, whilst Thierry Neuville’s Ford is in third (+59.6 seconds). Latvala is currently in sixth place overall, one minute and 32.5 seconds off the leader and Mikkelsen is just behind him in seventh position, a further 11.2 seconds off the pace.


02:40 (CEST)

Successful start to Saturday’s action:
Ogier clocks the fastest time in SS11.

It was a dream start to the Saturday stages of the rally: Sébastien Ogier has taken victory during the first Nambucca stage, the longest of the entire Rally Australia at 49.9 km. He extended his lead over closest rival Mikko Hirvonen by a further 5.3 seconds as the Citroën driver finished the stage second fastest.


Team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala came home third with a time 14.1 seconds slower than the stage winner and Andreas Mikkelsen finished in seventh place (+29.2 seconds). In the overall standings, Ogier’s lead is now a comfortable 25.3 seconds. The Ford of Thierry Neuville is in third position, trailing by 55.1 seconds.


05:38 (CEST)

Séb has everything under control.


Nobody can say that Citroën’s Mikko Hirvonen hasn’t given it his best shot. During the ‘Nambucca 1’ stage, the man currently in second position overall fought a fierce battle with front-runner Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8). Yet, it didn’t matter how hard the winner of the previous three Australian rallies battled, Ogier always came up with an answer.


“The team were relaying Mikko’s splits into the cockpit and I adjusted my speed accordingly,” the Frenchman explained. Seven split times were recorded for Nambucca. No sooner than Hirvonen, who was also being provided with Ogier’s splits, was nine tenths of a second up at one point, the Volkswagen driver hit back and by the next split point Ogier had his nose in front again by 1.1 seconds. Hirvonen finally admitted defeat: “in driving terms, Séb is a tough nut to crack,” the Finn was forced to concede. Going into Saturday’s midday interval, the gap between him and Ogier, winner of both the morning stages, had grown to 27.6 seconds.

 

The first half of the second leg of this rally wasn’t going so well for Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7). The Finn lost around 20 seconds during SS12 due to a flat tire. “I made a mistake when warming up the tires,” he ruefully confessed. In contrast to other rallies, in Australia, the teams are only permitted to change tires at designated places. “This issue was fairly immediate before the start of SS12,” explained Latvala, who needed to remove his replacement from the trunk to change his front right wheel. “I didn’t think about it at the start of the stage, but the tire, which needed to be replaced, was still cold. This is the reason that I slid out and crashed into the embankment at only the first bend. This explains why the tire pulled away from the wheel trim.” Latvala drove the remainder of the nearly 15 km stage with a flat tire and as a result dropped down to sixth position overall.

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) went into the midday interval one position further behind. “I made a mistake yesterday and have therefore slipped down in today’s road position,” explained the Norwegian, who went out fourth and still failed to find a clean racing line. “Now I’m paying the price.”


06:33 (CEST)

Long run: Nambucca is the

royal stage of Rally Australia.

 

Question: what have Guanajuatito, Almodovar, Ascochinga and Nambucca all got in common? Correct, these are the names of Special Stages, which are 50 kilometers or more in length. Guanajuatito (54.85 km) is part of Rally Mexico, Almodovar (52.30 km) is run in Portugal, Ascochinga is the location for a Special Stage (51.88 km) in the Argentinian Andes and Nambucca (49.90 km) is the royal stage at Rally Australia.


“I like these long stages. Whenever the journey time is around 30 minutes, it’s always a lot of fun.” Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8) commented. This held true for the first stage around ‘Nambucca’ on Saturday morning, even though he wasn’t too sure about the circuit after practice. Compared with the last Rally Australia, around half of the 50 km-long blockbuster circuit is new. “Plenty of gravel on the course and in some place you can even see the bare rocks. In addition there are a few sections with really rough Tarmac. I’m keen to see, how the tires bear up,” Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7) said before the start of the stage.


Amazingly the tires – all the top drivers had selected a hard compound – were generally in a very good condition at the end of the stage. “I can imagine that this might change by this afternoon,” Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) commented during the midday interval. “First of all, it will be at least five degrees warmer and secondly, we are all familiar now with the stage. There will be one or two drivers, who will definitely go out and attack harder than this morning.”


11:15 (CEST)

It’s all right as long as it’s comfortable.

 

When rally drivers talk about a ‘comfort zone’, they’re not talking about the leather living room suite back home. Comfort zone is the speed at which the car is practically driving itself. When every line is right and heart-stopping moments are rare.

Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8) didn’t leave the comfort zone for even a second of Saturday’s action. That, in the process of clocking one fastest time after the other, he was able to put one over on the competition was a logical consequence for the Frenchman.


“Why should I drive slower? Doing so would mean losing concentration and the chances of making a mistake would increase.” At the end of the second part of Rally Australia, Ogier has a 45.9 second lead over Mikko Hirvonen in the Citroën.

Nevertheless, the Frenchman rejects any notion of capturing a potential WRC drivers’ title after crossing the finish line. “On Sunday there are still more than 120 kilometers of Special Stages left to race and a lot can still happen.”


This is exactly what Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7) is hoping to avoid. After Kris Meeke in the second Citroën works team suffered engine failure, Latvala’s main objective is to get points on the board for the manufacturers’ standings. Therefore, he will have to forego the battle for third place in Rally Australia with Ford’s Thierry Neuville and ultimately any aspirations for the title of championship runner-up. “Our first priority is to capture the manufacturers’ title for Volkswagen. There are still enough rallies remaining for the duel with Thierry.”


Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) goes into the final leg on Sunday directly behind Latvala in the overall standings. The Norwegian driver had a go at a new driving style on the 50-kilometer-long stage ‘Nambucca 2’. “I tried to drive diagonally as little as possible in order to spare the tires.”

Friday, 13.09.2013


Classification after 10 of 22 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 58:46.6    
2 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 59:06.6 +20.0  
3 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 59:24.7 +38.1  
4 K. Meeke / C. Patterson 59:25.2 +38.6  
5 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 59:44.8 +58.2  
6 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 59:48.3 +1:01.7  
7 A. Mikkelsen / P. Nagle 59:50.4 +1:03.8  
8 E. Novikov / I. Minor 59:55.8 +1:09.2  
9 N. Quinn / G. Macneall 1:02:49.2 +4:02.6  
10 K. Al Qassimi / S. Martin 1:03:28.0 +4:41.4  

12:15 (CEST)

They couldn’t have been better.”
Statements from the Volkswagen team.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7

“We’ve set ourselves the goal of playing it safe and primarily collecting points for the Manufacturers’ Championship and we’re on course to do that at the moment. Our early starting position this morning certainly didn’t give us an advantage – it was very slippery and we had to clear the track for the cars behind us. The afternoon went better; we worked our way up from eight to fifth position, which will give us a better starting position on Saturday. Saturday could prove crucial for the rally: the Nambucca Stage is almost 50 kilometres long, so everyone will have to pay close attention to their tyres.”

 

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
“It was a perfect day for us – a really good start to the rally. This morning’s Stages were incredibly slippery, so we had to be really careful. There was a lot of loose gravel on the tracks, which made it difficult to find a good line. That’s why we didn’t go all out to attack because we really didn’t want to crash out of the rally early on because of some stupid mistake. The grip level was much better this afternoon, so Julien and I had loads of fun in the Polo R WRC. I’d like to say a special thank-you to the organisers for extending the starting interval to four minutes because the rally cars in front were throwing up an incredible amount of dust. All bets are off tomorrow because the weather experts are forecasting rain tonight.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“It was a really eventful day for us. Things went very well on the loop this morning until we came to a point where our pace notes were too optimistic. The track went over a blind crest then into a left-hand bend which tightened – more so than I expected. Luckily, there was a lane branching off so I could turn off towards the emergency exit. Then we sat there, virtually blinded by dust. We had to wait for it to clear before we could keep going. This afternoon brought another scary moment, when I broadsided a bank. After that, it felt like the car had a slow puncture. Luckily, it didn’t. All in all, we’re nevertheless pleased with what we achieved. But the rally is far from over.”

 

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“It was a good, very successful day for Volkswagen at the Rally Australia. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were on top form today – they couldn’t have been better. Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila also made the most of their opportunities, although they had to cope with clearing the track as one of the first World Rally Cars today after a disappointing qualifying. With that in mind, fifth place in the overall standings is a really good result. Andreas Mikkelsen and Paul Nagle also performed well in the Special Stages today. All in all, we’re satisfied with the first third of the event Down Under. But all of the competitors will face tough challenges in the next two days. We need absolute concentration right to the very end and the whole team will have to work hard without making any mistakes.”


03:10 (CEST)

Sébastien Ogier takes the lead.

Lead change at the Rally Australia: in the opening Special Stage (Tuckers Nob 1) of Friday’s action, Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8) blazed a fastest time of 5:27.9 minutes in the Australian gravel and captured the lead in the overall standings in the process. The conditions were not straightforward: ‘it was quite slippery. It was definitely an advantage to tackle the section a little later on. There could have perhaps been more in it, but on the whole a good start to the day,’ the Frenchman commented after completing the stage.

Mikko Hirvonen in the Citroën took second place, 2.9 seconds behind. Kris Meeke (Cirtroën) required a further 1.6 seconds to complete the section. Ogier’s team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) and Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7) placed fifth and eighth, 4.9 and 17.2 seconds off the lead respectively. Latvala lost about five seconds due to a spin.

In the overall standings, Ogier now has a 3.3 second lead over Hirvonen. Mikkelsen is only 0.1 seconds behind him in position three, followed by Meeke (+3.4). Latvala is currently in seventh place, 17.1 seconds off the lead.


03:30 (CEST)

Another fastest time for Sébastien Ogier –
Thrilling contest developing for the lead.

Sébastien Ogier has extended his lead after clocking yet another fastest time. The Frenchman finished the fourth Special Section (Bellingen 1) in 6:26.1 minutes. Kris Meeke in the Citroën was also clocking quick splits and he completed the stage just 0.5 seconds behind the pace set by Ogier.

Ogier’s team-mate, Andreas Mikkelsen, came home in fifth, 7.2 seconds off the lead. Jari-Matti Latvala finished in eighth, 12.7 seconds further back.

Ogier is now 4.4 seconds ahead of Meeke, who moved into second position. Mikko Hirvonen in the Citroën is in third place, 8.5 seconds off the overall pace.


04:00 Uhr (MESZ)

On top going into lunch:
Ogier extends his lead.

A hat trick for Sébastien Ogier: the Volkswagen driver has also won SS5 of the Rally Australia (Newry 1), which now means he has secured a hat trick of stage wins. He goes into the lunch break with an 8.8 second lead over Kris Meeke in the Citroën. Mikko Hirvonen (Citroën) completed the stage 0.5 seconds behind Ogier to take second position and Meeke clocked 4.4 seconds slower to come in third. Jari-Matti Latvala crossed the line in seventh position, 15.1 seconds off the pace. Andreas Mikkelsen went too enthusiastically into a bend and ended up in eighth position, 24.6 seconds behind Ogier in this stage.

The overall standings at the half way point of what is today Friday: Ogier leads, Meeke is in second and Hirvonen third (+9 seconds). Thierry Neuville (Ford) is in fourth position (+25.6 seconds), Mikkelsen is sixth and Latvala is ranked eighth, 44.9 seconds off the lead.


05:55 (CEST)

On the hunt for points

in the manufacturers’ standings.

The three Volkswagen Motorsport teams came back to Coffs harbour with mixed emotions after Friday’s opening stages. Whilst everything is going according to plan for frontrunner Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8), Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) lost precious seconds thanks to a slip-up and Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7) struggled with a unfavorable road position.


‘Of course I’d like to win, but not at any cost. The stages are so slippery that it is very easy to make a mistake,’ Ogier commented. The Frenchman went out into the morning’s loop of stages, as virtually all the other competitors had done, with hard compound tires. ‘It was the right decision. The track is even rougher than expected.’ After three consecutive stage wins, Ogier leads second placed Kris Meeke in the Citroën by 8.8 seconds.


Andreas Mikkelsen was responsible for one of those blunders touched upon by Ogier. ‘In one place I braked too late and had to use the bend and then turn around. The air was so full of dust that I became disorientated for a couple of seconds.’ As a result, the Norwegian driver dropped from fourth to sixth overall.


Jari-Matti Latvala was not at all satisfied with his progress thus far today. ‘Due to my starting position I had a very messy circuit to contend with, particularly on the slow bends where I experienced serious understeer. I believe it is the second slowest start to a rally that I have ever had.’ Latvala is already trailing the overall leader by almost 45 seconds after five stages.


The Finn wants to increase the tempo in the afternoon session, ‘but I don’t want to take to many risks in doing so. My main objective is to cross the finish line in order to pick up as many points as possible in the manufacturers’ standings.’ To be sure of securing his primary goal, Latvala took two replacement wheels with him in the morning session, meanwhile most of the others competitors only packed one extra wheel.


07:02 (CEST)

Strong Performance: Ogier widens the gap.


At the Rally Australia Sébastien Ogier is once again setting the standard: the Frenchman clocked the fastest time in SS6 (Tuckers Nob 2) and extended his lead in the overall standings to 11.7 seconds. ‘I had a good grip and was able to push. It was fun,’ Ogier happily remarked after finishing the stage.


Mikko Hirvonen in the Citroën completed the short 8.44 km stage in second place, 2.7 seconds behind the time set by Ogier and Thierry Neuville in the Ford was 3.1 seconds off the leader. Kris Meeke’s Citroën finished the stage in fourth position (+3.3 seconds) and he subsequently lost his second spot in the overall standings to Hirvonen.


Jari-Matti Latvala put the pressure on and also crossed the line 3.3 seconds behind the leading time. Andreas Mikkelsen finished fifth and was 4.9 seconds off the pace.


07:42 Uhr (MESZ)

Quickest times are coming thick and fast:

Ogier can’t be stopped.

What a performance: Sébastien Ogier has won his fifth stage in a row with the fastest time in SS7 (Bellingen 2). The Frenchman clocked a time of 6:15.4 minutes for the 10.72 km stage – 1.4 seconds quicker than second placed Mikko Hirvonen in the Citroën.


Team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen placed fourth (+ 1.9 seconds) and fifth (4.1 seconds) respectively.
Ogier extended his overall lead and now has a 13.1 second advantage over the Finn.

 

Citroën driver Kris Meeke wasn’t able to keep up with the pace and found himself down in sixth position (+ 4.2 seconds). In the overall standings, the Irishman is already 16.3 seconds behind Ogier, but is still in third position.


08:20 (CEST)

A perfect day”:

Sixth win on the bounce for Ogier.

 

It’s all running like clockwork for Sébastien Ogier, who has finished SS8 (Newry 2) with the fastest time of 14:38.8 minutes. A perfect day. We couldn’t have started the rally any better”, the Volkswagen Polo R WRC driver rejoiced.

 

Surprisingly it was the Ford of Thierry Neuville, somewhat unremarkable till now, who recorded the second fastest time of the stage (+ 2.8 seconds). Mikko Hirvonen finished in third position, 5.3 seconds slower than Ogier’s leading time.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala delivered a similarly strong performance to finish 6.8 seconds behind the leader in fourth and Andreas Mikkelsen finished up in seventh place (+ 16.7 seconds).


Ogier now tops the overall standings with an 18.4 second advantage over Hirvonen. Kris Meeke lost further ground and his 25.9 second deficit puts him in third position. Latvala moved up a place to fifth, whilst Mikkelsen slips down into seventh.


10:20 (CEST)

Ogier unstoppable.

Hirvonen prevents 1-2-3.

 

Everything is still going according to plan for Sébastien Ogier in the #8 Polo R WRC. on the 1.6 kilometre short SS 09 (Coffs 3), the World Championship leader was once more unbeatable. The Frenchman won his eighth special stage in a row in 1:20.8 minutes; so far he won all seven special stages on this Friday.


Andreas Mikkelsen (#9) made it into second place with a gap of one second, Jari-Matti Latvala (#7) was another four tenths of a second slower and became fourth. Only Mikko Hirvonen (Citroën) in third place was able to prevent a 1-2-3 finish for Volkswagen Motorsport.

 

Meanwhile Ogier leads in the overall classification of the Rally Australia with roughly 20 seconds ahead of the second placed Hirvonen and almost 30 seconds ahead of Kris Meeke (Citroën) in third. Latvala is in fifth, Mikkelsen in seventh position.


10:40 (CEST)

Volkswagen drivers win all ten SS.

Latvala stops Ogier’s winning streak.

 

On the tenth and final special stage of the second day, and for the first time this Friday, the name of the winner was not Sébastien Ogier. However, for the tenth time, it was a Volkswagen driver who took the victory. Jari-Matti Latvala in the #7 Polo R WRC won the 1.6 kilometre Coffs 4 in 1:19.8 minutes and was one tenth of a second quicker than Ogier. The perfect result for Volkswagen Motorsport was rounded off by Andreas Mikkelsen’s (#9) third place.

 

Ogier (58:46.6 minztes) leads in the overall classification of the Rally Australia exactly 20 seconds ahead of Mikko Hirvonen (Citroën). Thierry Neuville (Ford), Ogier’s fiercest rival in the World Championship standings, made up one position and is now in third with a gap of 38.1 seconds. Latvala and Mikkelsen stay in fifth and seventh place.


11:25 (CEST)

Will it rain?

 

All of the teams’ weather experts have been poring over their computers and thinking so hard it hurts. The big question they are trying to answer is: Will it rain on Friday night and possibly even during the day on Saturday? Their unanimous verdict is that it’s highly likely. “In that case, the cars in the front starting positions will be at an advantage,” mooted Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8). That is bad news for the current leader – he will be last off the grid tomorrow.

 

In all likelihood, the Frenchman will then be unable to keep up his run of best times. He won seven of the eight Special Stages on Friday, leaving his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7) to claim victory in the last SS in Coffs Harbour. He now has a lead of exactly 20 seconds over Mikko Hirvonen (Citroën). “It was a perfect day. I had a lot of fun in the car, without really having to go to the limit.”


His co-pilot Julien Ingrassia also had a lot of fun. Before the two Super Special Stages, he went to see the AC/DC cover band “Thunderstruck”, who were performing in the service park. Ingrassia charged across the stage in true hard-rock fashion – wearing his driving suit with flashing devil’s horns on his head.


He and driver Sébastien Ogier then went on to bag another best time. “It could all change dramatically tomorrow. If it rains, all bets are off,” warned Ogier. The leading contender for the WRC had nothing but praise for the event organisers. “At the request of all the factory drivers, they extended the starting interval for the last Stage to four minutes. That meant no one had any problems with poor visibility due to the large amount of dust flying around.


Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) still experienced a scary moment. “We slid into an embankment at one point. After that, the car’s performance changed. At first, I thought we had a puncture. Luckily, I was wrong.” Mikkelsen also made it through the final two Super Special Stages without any problems, closing in on the driver ahead of him, Mads Östberg (Ford), who now has a lead of just 2.1 seconds. He finished the day in seventh place.

 

After a bad morning, Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7) was much happier with his performance this afternoon. “I still don’t have complete confidence in my car, especially on very fast stretches. But I’m gradually learning to trust it.” The Finn worked his way up the table from eighth to fifth place after the lunchtime service break. He hopes to climb further up the table on Saturday when the teams will tackle the almost 50-kilometre-long Nambucca Stage twice. “I think we’ll get through it without any problems and gain a few places.”

Thursday, 12.09.2013


Classification after 2 of 22 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 A. Mikkelsen / P. Nagle 2:45.3    
2 K. Meeke / C. Patterson 2:46.2 +0.9  
3 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 2:46.7 +1.4  
4 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 2:46.8 +1.5  
5 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 2:47.2 +1.9  
6 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 2:48.0 +2.7  
7 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 2:49.9 +4.6  
8 E. Novikov / I. Minor 2:51.8 +6.5  
9 K. Al Qassimi / S. Martin 2:53.4 +8.1  
10 N. Quinn / G. Macneall 2:55.6 +10.3  

13:15 (CEST)

I’m looking forward to the next few days.”
Statements from the Volkswagen team.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7

“The Super Special Stages in Coffs Harbour were a brief warm-up. As of tomorrow, we will face three very different, demanding days – starting with tight, technically challenging routes, followed by fast, flowing sections, then narrow tracks through the forests. Qualifying didn’t go as well as I’d hoped: I was obviously too cautious with the softer tyres, meaning I have to tackle the stages early on. All is not lost though because the rally is expected to be really tricky for everyone. I wasn’t happy with my performance in the last two rallies in Finland and Germany, so I really hope that I can finish well again here and collect as many points as possible for the Manufacturers’ Championship.”

 

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
“Having crashed out of the Rally Germany early on, I’m aiming for another podium finish in Australia. It goes without saying that I want to win here and bag more important points to help me secure the title of World Champion. Qualifying wasn’t 100% perfect, but I’m satisfied with how it went. Although Kris Meeke surprised us with his impressive time, we’ve got a good starting position for the slippery gravel conditions here in Coffs Harbour. After all, what really matters is the rally as a whole, and it only really gets going tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to the Special Stages. The recce showed that some of the Special Stages here are extremely fast, and that’s what I enjoy the most. On top of that, the scenery here in Down Under is absolutely fascinating. The only thing I’m a bit worried about is the snakes out in the bush – so I’m glad I’m in a car.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“Two short test days, two lots of free practice and the two Super Special Stages today – that’s pretty much all the competitive driving I’ve done with Paul Nagle as my co-driver as yet. So it’s just as well that we’ve proven to be a great team so far. But the next three days of rallying will be the real test. They’re like three rallies rolled into one: narrow and technical on Friday, an open landscape on Saturday and full speed through the forests on Sunday. The surroundings are simply stunning too – I’m looking forward to the next few days. And if there is anything I can do to help Volkswagen or Sébastien Ogier secure the World Championship title, I’ll be happy to do it. With that in mind, it’s good news that day one went so well for us with first and second place in the Super Special Stages.”


03:30 (CEST)

Ogier Second in Qualifying –
Team Mates on Fifth and Eighth.

Well if that wasn’t a thrilling start: it was really close on the 5.54 kilometre long qualifying stage of the Rally Australia. Volkswagen driver Sébastien Ogier was quick, but was caught shortly before completion by Citroën man Kris Meeke, who stands in for the Spaniard Dani Sordo in down under. The Irishman posted the best time in 2:39.268 minutes. Ogier finished only 0.336 seconds behind in second place, followed by Thierry Neuville (Ford) with a gap to first place of 0.645 seconds and Mads Østberg (Ford, +1.261 seconds).

 

Nevertheless, Ogier showed himself content with the result: “Probably it isn’t so bad to have one of the works Citroën in front of us. That way we can react to their decisions concerning the tyre choice, for example”, said the Frenchman.

It is the drivers’ unanimous opinion that the qualifying in Australia is more important than at any other World Championship round. “The special stages are extremely dirty. The first ones of the starting order will have major difficulties with the loose gravel. The later you start the cleaner, and therefore quicker, the ideal line will be”, said Ogier. Viewed in this light, the championship leader laid the foundations for a victory in the direct battle with rival Neuville in the qualifying. As second fastest Ogier is allowed to choose his starting position as second, Neuville only can chose after that.

A second problem is the dust. The special stages mostly go through thick woods; therefore the dust keeps hanging in the air for long and obstructs the visibility. The organisers are likely to meet the drivers’ wish and will increase the gap between competitors from two to three minutes.

Ogier’s team mate Andreas Mikkelsen, who starts for the first time in Australia, reached a good fifth place (+1.396 seconds). Jari-Matti Latvala finished with a gap of 2.193 seconds to leader Meeke only in eighth place. “As most of the drivers we drove with the softer tyres. I couldn’t cope with them”, explained the Finn.

The start order selection takes place at 4.15 pm Australian time (08.15 am CEST).


09:30 (CEST)

No Surprises at Starting Order Selection.

 

Kris Meeke (Citroën) had to do the first move at the starting order selection. The quickest in the qualifying chose number ten. “They don’t seem to have different information about the weather in Friday than we do”, Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8) smiled.

 

The ten drivers of the works teams and the manufacturer supported teams respectively sorted themselves in reverse order of the qualifying result, so everybody seem to expect sunshine. Because on dry roads the starting positions in the back give a competitive edge. Had the Citroën weather crew expected rain, Meeke would have chosen starting position number one.


Local hero Nathan Quinn (Mini) has to go first on the road on Friday. Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7) starts in third, Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) is sixth. Championship leader Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8) has eight “road sweepers” in front of his.


11:55 (CEST)

Great start to the Rally Australia:

Andreas Mikkelsen wins SS1.

 

Volkswagen Motorsport has celebrated its first win in the very first Special Stage of the Rally Australia. Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) completed SS1 (Coffs 1) – which is just 1.6 kilometres long – in the fastest time of 1:22.1 minute. The Norwegian was 0.9 seconds faster than Kris Meeke (Citroën) and 1.2 seconds ahead of his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (#7), who finished third.

 

Top-of-the-table Sébastien Ogier took fifth place in the Polo R WRC #8, a mere 0.2 seconds behind Ford driver Thierry Neuville (1:23.5 minute). SS2 is a rerun of this short Special Stage and is held immediately after the first race.


12:15 (CEST)

Sébastien Ogier wins SS 02.

Andreas Mikkelsen leads the overall standings.

 

Tenths of seconds are all that separate the winners from the losers in the first leg of the Rally Australia. At the end of the day, Volkswagen Motorsport emerged victorious from these close-run duels. Following a win for Andreas Mikkelsen in SS 01, Sébastien Ogier was fastest in the second Special Stage (Coffs 2). Ogier – who is currently leading the World Championship – covered the 1.6 kilometres in just 1:23.1 minute in his Polo R WRC #8. He was exactly one tenth of a second faster than Mikkelsen (#9) and Kris Meeke (Citroën), who finished in the same time.

 

“Very slippery”, said Mikkelsen, who briefly touched the barriers. “Luckily my car wasn’t damaged.” Mikkelsen is leading the overall standings with 2:45.3 minutes, ahead of Meeke (+0.9 seconds) and Jari-Matti Latvala in the Polo R WRC #7, who is another 0.5 seconds behind. In total, Ogier took just a tenth of a second longer to complete the first two Special Stages of round ten of the World Rally Championship. He is currently in fourth place.

 

“The rally really starts tomorrow”, said the Frenchman, who contrary to most of the competition started on hard tyres. “I rather save the soft tyres.” For the entire rally the drivers can choose from 16 soft tyres at most – out of a total number of 28 tyres. On Friday there are six special stages with roughly 91 timed kilometres on the itinerary of the rally.

Previews

Wednesday, 11.09.2013


10:50 (CEST)

Andreas Mikkelsen steps

into the unknown twice over.

 

Unlike his team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRXC #7) and Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8), Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) will tackle the Rally Australia for the first time this weekend. This would normally give him a huge disadvantage compared to the experienced WRC drivers, who already know the Special Stages at race speed and can draw on their existing pace notes, at least to some extent.


In this case, Mikkelsen and fellow newcomers to the event Down Under are at less of a disadvantage because the Rally Australia has only been held around Coffs Harbour once before.


The course is not the only unknown quantity for Andreas Mikkelsen, however: As his regular co-pilot Mikko Markkula has not yet recovered fully from a spinal injury he suffered at the Rally Finland, Paul Nagle will be acting as co-pilot in the Volkswagen Motorsport factory team’s third car. Nagle is Irish, so the pace notes will be in English. At least that will not pose a problem for Mikkelsen – he and his Finnish colleague Markkula also communicate in English most of the time.


15:10 (CEST)

Second potential clincher: how Sébastien Ogier can become World Champion in Australia.

His rivals may have scuppered his last attempt, stopping Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8) from securing the title at last month’s Rally Germany. But this weekend, the top-of-the-table French driver will have another chance when the tenth of 13 WRC rounds takes place in Australia.


Ogier has a 75-point lead over Thierry Neuville (Ford) going into the event around Coffs Harbour in eastern Australia. His team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7) is 86 points behind, with Dani Sordo (Citroën) two points behind him. However, as the Spaniard is not competing in the Rally Australia, Neuville and Latvala are Ogier’s main rivals for the title.


There will be three more World Championship events after the Rally Australia, with a maximum of 84 points theoretically up for grabs: three lots of 25 points for first place, plus three lots of three extra points for the best time in the various Power Stages. Mathematically speaking, Ogier will be World Champion if he leaves Down Under with a lead of 84 points or more. To do that, it is crucial that he crosses the finishing line before his two main challengers.


First rival is Thierry Neuville:

Ogier needs to increase his lead over him by nine points – for example by winning the round (25 points) and achieving the best time in the Power Stage (three). Then Neuville would have to secure at least 19 points to postpone the decider until the Rally France. Just finishing second (18) would not be enough – the Belgian would have to notch up at least one extra point in the Power Stage. To put it simply: if Ogier wins, Neuville has to take second place at least.
If Ogier “only” finishes second, things will look considerably better for Neuville. Then even taking fifth place might be enough for him to stay in with a chance of lifting the trophy.


Second rival is Jari-Matti Latvala:

The Finn has to gain at least two points on Ogier to remain in the running for the title. In other words, he needs to cross the line before his Volkswagen Motorsport team-mate.


Past events suggest that Sébastien Ogier has a slight advantage. The Rally Australia has only been based in Coffs Harbour once before. In 2011, Mikko Hirvonen won the event there ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala (when both were competing for Ford). Sébastien Ogier (then with Citroën) led briefly but had to start again following an accident. Shortly before the finishing line, he was instructed to fall in behind his team-mate Sébastien Loeb, who was chasing the title – eleventh position was less than Ogier had fought for on the track. If the statistics are anything to go by, Thierry Neuville only has an outside chance. He will be tackling the Australian event for the first time.

Monday, 09.09.2013


12:30 (CEST)

A thrilling trip: World Rally drivers

conquer the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Sébastien Ogier and teammate Jari-Matti Latvala have taken time out ahead of the crucial Australian round of the FIA World Rally Championship to see the sights of Sydney on the famous Harbour Bridge Climb today. The drivers climbed to the 134 metre peak of the Harbour Bridge for Sydney’s ultimate photo opportunity.

The view from the bridge that joins the north and south sides of Sydney spans all the Harbour out to the Pacific Ocean and includes the Opera House and, on a day such as today, hundreds of pleasure boats and ferries.

Ogier was joined by his closest rivals in the title fight, Ford driver Thierry Neuville and Volkswagen teammate Jari-Matti Latvala, plus Citroen’s Mikko Hirvonen and Kris Meeke and Ford’s Evgeny Novikov.

Thursday, 05.09.2013


13:30 (CEST)

“I still have a score to settle with Hirvonen”:

Jari-Matti Latvala before Rally Australia.

In next week’s Rally Australia, all eyes may be on Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8), who can be crowned world champion on the fifth continent ahead of time, but among all Volkswagen drivers it is Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7) who has racked up the best results to date Down Under.


In 2004 the Finn entered the rally in Oz – as the Australians like to call their country – for the first time alongside co-driver Miikka Anttila. At the time, the rally centre was still in Perth on the west coast. In 2009 the world championship race moved to the Gold Coast in the east and Latvala/Anttila came fourth in the Ford. In 2011, in the inaugural race at its current location, Coffs Harbour, both Finns even finished in second place. There was no world championship race in Australia in 2012, because it alternates with New Zealand.


“The Rally Australia is one of my favourite events,” says Latvala. The 22 gravel special stages in the mountains along the coast of New South Wales are simply made for the Finn, who has already won the Rally Greece for Volkswagen, which is also held on gravel. In 2011 Latvala had to bow to his then team colleague Mikko Hirvonen (now with Citroën). “I still have a score to settle with him,” declared Latvala.

Wednesday, 04.09.2013


14:00 (CEST)

The big trip to Down Under:

interview with Lutz Meyer, logistician.


How do the logistics for overseas rallies like Australia differ?
We travel to rallies in Europe with seven trucks. One trailer holds all the recce equipment and another one contains the big office for the engineers and the team managers. Then there are two vehicle and parts trailers for the three Polo R WRCs, a lorry transporting the wheel rims, tyre racks and the cleaning unit, plus two equipment trucks. By contrast, we use containers to transport everything to overseas rallies and live out of the containers during the event. The seven shipping containers for our equipment, repair workshop, recce vehicles, service tents, kitchen and office weigh almost 48 tonnes unladen. When they are full, they weigh in at 79 tonnes. Then there are about 18 tonnes of air freight on top of all that.


Are the overseas rallies organised at the same time?
Yes, they have to be. Not all parts are always readily available. You can’t just pack a shipping containerfull of parts if they are still needed in Europe. The rules stipulate that each team can only use a certain number of engines and gearboxes per season. These parts have to be flown to Mexico, Argentina and Australia just like the rally cars.

 

What additional organisational obstacles have to be overcome for sea freight to Australia?
There are quite a few. Australia has special quarantine rules, so the shipping containers were checked by Australian inspectors before they even left Argentina. These inspectors used disinfectant bombs to kill all the germs on our parts. On top of this, right from the start the containers had to be designed so that they could be stacked anywhere on large freighters and at sea ports. The idea is to avoid having a container which can only ever be stacked right at the top because it cannot withstand the necessary stacking load. If other containers can’t be stacked on top, it is more expensive.


Is there some freight which doesn’t go back to the team’s base in Hanover at all during the season?
Yes, there is. It includes all the standard parts which are not limited in number by the rules, such as wheel rims, bolts and underbody protectors. We booked a round trip for this kind of cargo back at the end of last year. It went straight from the Rally Mexico in early March to Argentina by ship. Then it was shipped on to Australia starting in May. These containers will come home in November.


How many members of staff are involved in organising transport and setting up or dismantling the Volkswagen service area?

Our team consists of just six people. Then there are the team managers in addition to this, who take care of booking flights and so on. But basically, these six people are responsible for setting up and dismantling and for maintaining the equipment at the track. On top of all that, they look after tyre management during the rally. That means they take the wheel rims and used tyres to Michelin, collect the new fully assembled wheels, check the air pressure and make sure the right wheels are on hand for each car during servicing. That’s really hard graft.


How much improvisation is needed before and during a rally?
As a rule, we’ve considered and planned everything beforehand, but there is always a chance that something might happen which we have to deal with spontaneously. For instance, each organiser allocates us a specific number of square metres in the service park. Despite detailed drawings and plans, we may find that there is a drain cover or a hydrant in the way of our structures. In that case, we talk to the organiser on the spot or ask the neighbouring teams whether they can spare half a metre for us. We always find a solution somehow – everyone involved in the service park helps one another.

Friday, 06.09.2013


15:30 (CEST)

“Well prepared for this challenge.”
Statements from the Volkswagen Team.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7

“I enjoy travelling to Australia, as there is a very good atmosphere there and the people are extremely friendly. The special stages require a very quick, flowing style of driving and you have to find a good rhythm. The good thing is that, as a rule, I tend to do well on these quicker rallies, as they suit my driving style. After missing out on so many points in the Manufacturers’ Championship in Germany recently, we must now concentrate on getting some good results and keeping Citroën at bay in the World Championship.”

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
“Whereas it was only really a theoretical chance in Germany, we now have a realistic opportunity to secure the title with races to spare. In Australia it is, to a much greater degree, in our own hands. I would like to win both the rally and the closing Power Stage. That is my goal. And the advantage is that I really like the Rally Australia. The special stages are very quick and very demanding. We are well prepared for this challenge. I am looking forward to this rally.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“Paul Nagle will be my co-driver in Australia, as my regular co-driver Mikko Markkula is still injured. I know Paul from earlier rallies. I raced against him at the Rally Ireland when I was 17. We also know each other from the IRC, where he was Kris Meeke’s co-driver. I have no doubt that he will do a good job. The Rally Australia is completely new territory for me. However, the other drivers will not have a great deal more experience than me, as many of this year’s special stages will be new. I think Paul and I will have a good rally. We will travel to Australia early, in order to become accustomed to everything and to get to know each other a bit better.”