Rally Spain 2013

 

Volkswagen Motorsport takes the manufacturers’ championship title in the WRC!

What a triumph! In addition to the drivers’ and co-drivers’ titles, Volkswagen Motorsport has now also won the manufacturers’ title in the World Rally Championship* – all in its debut season. Sébastien Ogier and his teammate Jari-Matti Latvala also scored a double victory in Rally Spain to earn Volkswagen Motorsport a hat-trick of results: Volkswagen is now out of the reach of the other teams in the manufacturers’ standings ahead of the final event of the season in the UK.


The penultimate event held in Spain was an action-packed affair. On Saturday, Frenchman Sébastien Ogier was initially slowed down by a damaged tyre and was languishing in sixth place for a while, but went on to put in a furious catching-up performance, notching up a stream of fastest times to work his way back up to the front of the pack. In the dusty Spanish conditions on Sunday, Ogier then engaged in a gripping duel with his teammate Latvala, who led the rally for quite some time. But the Finn was unable to stop the attacking Frenchman and a technical problem shortly before the end of the rally cost him some precious time. A little luck was involved in the final outcome too, as their competitor, the local hero Dani Sordo (Citroën), who got off to a flying start in the rally and was ranked second overall for a while, was forced to retire on the final day due to a technical defect.


The world champion* Sébastien Ogier was delighted with how things went: “What an incredible rally and what a fantastic season! Our team more than deserved to win the championship. I’m incredibly proud to be part of the Volkswagen crew. And I’m obviously also delighted that Julien and I managed to score a win again here in Spain. I promised I would give it my all before the rally – and it worked.”

 


His teammate Jari-Matti Latvala was more than happy with the result too: “I’m delighted for the team. Volkswagen more than deserved the championship title this year. The Polo R WRC truly is a world champion car. Even with a few technical problems towards the end of the rally, it still got us to the finishing line and we clinched the very first double victory in the WRC for the team.”

The third driver/co-driver duo competing for Volkswagen Motorsport, Andreas Mikkelsen and Mikko Markkula, likewise delivered some highlights on Sunday by achieving two stage fastest times. Unfortunately, however, they were then hit by damage to their wheel suspension shortly before the end of the day.

Andreas Mikkelsen: “Volkswagen is the world champion! I’m really delighted for the team, which was simply brilliant this season. They’re an absolutely great bunch. I wanted to give something back to them today and I tried to perform as well as I possibly could. But sadly we were unable to take part in the final special stage. Even so, I’m satisfied with how Rally Spain went.” 


The perfect triumph. One-two victory at the Rally Spain – Volkswagen Motorsport wins the manufacturers’ title in the WRC. The video.


Rally Spain 2013: final results

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 3:33:21.2    
2 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 3:33:54.1 +32.9  
3 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 3:34:34.9 +1:13.7  
4 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 3:34:55.1 +1:33.9  
5 E. Novikov / I. Minor 3:35:22.2 +2:01.0  
6 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 3:35:47.2 +2:26.0  
7 M. Prokop / M. Ernst 3:38:17.0 +4:55.8  
8 H. Paddon / J. Kennard 3:40:16.9 +6:55.7  
9 R. Kubica / M. Baran (WRC 2) 3:44:35.3 +11:14.1  
10 A. Al-Kuwari / K. Duffy 3:46:48.0 +13:26.8  

Impressions

The rally in detail

Looking for something specific? You will find a detailed rally review here. Experience the coverage of the 2013 Rally Spain 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, 27.10.2013



Classification after 15 of 15 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 3:33:21.2    
2 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 3:33:54.1 +32.9  
3 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 3:34:34.9 +1:13.7  
4 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 3:34:55.1 +1:33.9  
5 E. Novikov / I. Minor 3:35:22.2 +2:01.0  
6 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 3:35:47.2 +2:26.0  
7 M. Prokop / M. Ernst 3:38:17.0 +4:55.8  
8 H. Paddon / J. Kennard 3:40:16.9 +6:55.7  
9 R. Kubica / M. Baran (WRC 2) 3:44:35.3 +11:14.1  
10 A. Al-Kuwari / K. Duffy 3:46:48.0 +13:26.8  

19:00 (CET)

“Winning all three titles is unbelievable.”

Statements from the Volkswagen team.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7


“I’m absolutely delighted for the team. Volkswagen more than deserved to win the World Championship title this year. The Polo R WRC is a real World Champion car. Even though we had a few technical problems at the end today, it got us over the finishing line again and we won the very first one-two victory in the WRC with the team. I would’ve liked to have fought with Sébastien Ogier for victory in the round right to the bitter end because we had a fair duel without tactical instructions until just before the finish. I’m still pleased with second place. It gives me confidence ahead of the forthcoming Rally GB in Wales, which is definitely one of my favourite rallies. I can hardly wait to tackle it.”

 

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8

“What an incredible rally, and what a fantastic season! Our team really deserved the World Championship title. I’m incredibly proud to be part of the Volkswagen team. And of course I’m ecstatic that Julien and I managed to secure the win here in Spain. I promised beforehand that I would try everything – and it worked. It has to be said that it was extremely difficult early this morning though. Driving through the dust thrown up by the cars in front was like being in the thickest of fog – zero visibility. At times, we had to slow down in the middle of full-speed stretches because we couldn’t see anything at all. We made a strong comeback in France and left as World Champions. Now we’ve managed to play catch-up big style in Spain – and we’re World Champions again!”

 

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“Winning all three World Championship titles in one season is simply unbelievable. Given that this is the first season we have competed in the World Rally Championship with the Polo R WRC, it is an even greater achievement. Winning the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ World Championship was an absolute highlight for the whole team. It was a dream come true for Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia in particular at their home event three weeks ago. But the Manufacturers’ World Championship is even more important for a car maker because it proves that it’s not just the driver who’s exceptional – the product is too.”


Latest pictures (15)
21:07 (CET)


18:30 (CET)

Hard work.

It is his eighth win this season - and possibly the one he has had to work hardest for. "After Friday´s puncture, it was never going to be easy," said Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8), looking back. At that point, he hardly dared believe that he would manage to catch up again, having fallen almost 50 seconds behind. "It only worked because Sunday was basically like starting a whole new rally."


Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia benefited from starting fourth on the gravel stages as the optimum line was already relatively clean. However, he added: "Driving in thick dust was no fun at all." Ogier also landed another puncture (SS 10). "Luckily, we were only four kilometres from the finish and we lost next to no time." The French duo also struggled with an unexpected degree of tyre wear. Visibility was much better in the afternoon and Ogier carried on clawing his way up the table. After crossing the line, he thanked his team. "As the driver, you always think of yourself first," the Frenchman said. "But I wouldn´t be standing here now without the support of my team. They gave me a car which has worked perfectly throughout the season."

Team spirit was also on Jari-Matti Latvala´s mind (Polo R WRC #7). "I´ve been driving in the WRC for almost ten years. And now I´m part of a World Champion team for the first time. That´s a great feeling." By then, he had long since recovered from a moment of shock at the end of SS 14. "When we pulled up at the stop sign after the finish, a couple of flames suddenly licked out of the air vents on the bonnet," explained Latvala. "Luckily, the marshals reacted immediately and grabbed the fire extinguishers."

Latvala initially left the checkpoint area, where no work is allowed on the cars. A short time later, the problem had been found: a broken connection in the fuel system. Co-driver Miikka Anttila - a skilled mechanic - fixed the screw connection, and the pair carried on. "Luckily, nothing in the engine compartment was damaged. A miracle really, when you consider how many wires and sensors are in there."


Andreas Mikkelsen was unluckier still. The Norwegian had to abandon his Polo R WRC after the penultimate Special Stage. "The car is driving like a snake," he told the crew in the service park over the phone. A broken mounting in the wheel suspension was quickly identified as the cause. It would probably have been possible to repair it with the on-board equipment, but that would have been too time-consuming.


14:05 (CET)

Lead for Ogier – uncertainty for Latvala.
 
There can’t be many superlatives left. Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8) was in a class of his own again on SS 14, “Pesells 2”, leaving his rivals standing. The Frenchman completed the 26.59-kilometre section 6.5 seconds quicker than the second-fastest driver, Mads Østberg (Ford). Local matador Dani Sordo (Citroën) had to abandon his car due to a defect and failed to finish. It was Ogier’s third consecutive SS win today (Sunday), his seventh at the Rally Spain, and his 100th this season – a fantastic achievement for the Volkswagen driver.

This put the World Champion in the lead in the overall standings, knocking team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala into second place. This is not the Finn’s biggest worry, however: his Polo R WRC #7 suddenly burst into flames shortly after he crossed the line. The marshals reacted quickly and put the fire out; Latvala and his co-driver Miikka Anttila were unhurt. It was initially unclear whether the duo would be able to take part in the last stage.


Congratulations, Séb!


13:25 (CET)

The showdown begins: Ogier takes second place.

The moment of truth is drawing close. Sébastien Ogier is still going flat out and closing in on his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. Ogier put in another best time on the repeat of the seven-kilometre section "Gandesa" and overtook Dani Sordo (Citroën) in the overall standings. Just over ten seconds now separate him from top-of-the-table Latvala. No team orders will be issued: both Volkswagen drivers have been given a free hand. That means we can expect the last two Special Stages to make compelling viewing.


11:59 (CET)

No team orders – Sébastien Ogier intends to keep making up ground this afternoon.

Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8) is working his way up the leader board in leaps and bounds. However, the top spot is currently occupied by none other than his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7). So is it a classic case of team orders not to attack? Not at Volkswagen Motorsport. According to the team managers, no directives have been issued. The three Special Stages this afternoon – a repeat of the morning loop – will be a fair battle for the trophy.


This morning, Ogier – who started fourth – was approximately 0.5 seconds per kilometre faster than Latvala. "Of course the later road position gives him an advantage," said Latvala. "But I´m more impressed by how unfazed he is by the poor visibility." There is no denying that thick dust – which was also combined with low sun early this morning – made visibility extremely poor. "In conditions like this, your pace notes have to be 100 per cent accurate," commented Ogier. "If your co-pilot says that the next bend is in 100 metres, it has to be in 100 metres – not 90 or 110."


This afternoon, when all the sections have been completed by the whole field once already, the early starters will have much less sweeping to do. As first on the road, Jari-Matti Latvala will therefore lose less time. Despite his unenviable position, the Finn was still faster this morning than Dani Sordo (Citroën), who started right behind him.


"I still need to be about 0.2 seconds per kilometre faster," calculated Ogier, who goes into the afternoon loop of approximately 70 kilometres trailing by 14.4 seconds. The Frenchman´s quarry has already said that he won´t risk everything to defend his position, however. "I could still finish the season as runner-up in the World Championship. It would be better to take second place than be forced to retire," commented Latvala.


With two best times this morning, Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) capitalised perfectly on the advantage offered by starting eleventh. A mistake robbed the Norwegian of a third best time. "In the thick dust, I saw a bend too late. We bumped our way through a ditch. Luckily, the car didn´t suffer and we made it back onto the road."


10:00 (CET)

The flying Frenchman.

Sébastien Ogier must have switched on the afterburner. The Frenchman is flying - that is the only way to describe the Volkswagen driver´s incredible times. The "Terra Alta" section, which is repeated this afternoon, is just shy of 36 kilometres. Ogier completed it in 23:34.3 minutes, a whole 10.7 seconds quicker than the second-fastest contestant, Mads Østberg (Ford). As a result, Ogier has fought his way back up the overall standings and is now 2.9 seconds behind second-placed Dani Sordo (Citroën). He is trailing top-of-the-table Jari-Matti Latvala by just 14.4 seconds. That means Ogier has shaved more than half a minute off the gap since this morning - quite an achievement. It looks like we could be in for an action-packed afternoon ...


08:50 (CET)

Mikkelsen in the fast lane.

Tackling the gravel stages at the Rally Spain is like driving blind - but Andreas Mikkelsen was once again the fastest to make his way through the dust. There is no doubt that the Norwegian benefited from the drivers ahead of him on SS 11 "Pesells 1" having swept the road clear. However, his performance speaks for itself: he was a good nine seconds faster than Sébastien Ogier, who finished second. Ogier described conditions on the section as "crazy", adding: "You have to be able to rely completely on your pace notes. At times, you can´t even see your hand in front of your face."

In the overall standings, Jari-Matti Latvala extended his lead over Dani Sordo to almost ten seconds as the Citroën driver lost more time. Volkswagen team-mate Ogier moved up into third position as Thierry Neuville (Ford) landed a puncture. Mikko Hirvonen (Citroën) is fourth and Neuville is now fifth, trailing by over a minute.


08:00 (CET)

Time to face the dust!

Gravel, dust and sweat-covered brows – that is probably the best way to sum up the first Special Stage this morning (Sunday). All of the drivers agreed that visibility was appalling on the first gravel stage of the Rally Spain, the seven-kilometre section "Gandesa 1". Clouds of dust and the rising sun really put the drivers through their paces. Andreas Mikkelsen set the benchmark with a convincing best time of 4:31 minutes, no less than four seconds faster than Sébastien Ogier, who came second. This clearly illustrated the advantage of tackling the gravel road last. Team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala put in the fourth-fastest time.

Latvala is still in the lead in the overall standings. The Finn now has a 3.1-second margin ahead of Dani Sordo (Citroën), who lost ground on this section and only managed the sixth-best time. Thierry Neuville (Ford) is third and Ogier is in fourth place.


The special stages of the day

06:25 (CET)

Saturday, 26.10.2013


Latest pictures (15)
21:07 (CET)


Classification after 9 of 15 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 2:06:08.9    
2 D. Sordo / C. Del Barrio 2:06:10.5 +1.6  
3 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 2:06:38.2 +29.3  
4 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 2:06:55.4 +46.5  
5 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 2:07:06.7 +57.8  
6 E. Novikov / I. Minor 2:07:06.8 +57.9  
7 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 2:08:37.3 +2:28.4  
8 M. Prokop / M. Ernst 2:09:15.6 +3:06.7  
9 H. Paddon / J. Kennard 2:09:17.5 +3:08.6  
10 R. Kubica / M. Baran (WRC 2) 2:10:16.5 +4:07.6  

20:00 (CEST)

“We’ll go on the attack tomorrow.”
Statements from the Volkswagen team.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7

“Of course I’m pleased to be leading in the Rally Spain at the end of day two. But the terrain is about to change from asphalt to gravel. It’s not an easy situation because I’ll have to open the route as the leading driver, meaning I’ll clear the ideal line for the cars behind me. All the same, we didn’t spend a single second today driving tactically – instead, we tried to secure ourselves a bit of a lead. I hope that the weather will give me a bit of extra help tomorrow and the damp will improve grip, at least first thing in the morning. It is certainly set to be exciting because four drivers could still win. We’ll have to give 100 per cent if we want to stay in the running.”

 

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8

“Today was going pretty well for us until the sixth stage, then we got a puncture in our front left tyre in the 15th kilometre. Although we still made it to the end of the stage, it cost us more than 50 seconds. And even though starting further back is an advantage tomorrow on gravel, it certainly wasn’t a strategic move! Anyway, it will be difficult to make it right to the front tomorrow – but I never give up. We’ll definitely go on the attack 100 per cent tomorrow.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“About halfway through the first Special Stage, I slid off the track because of a understeer. It was only a small mistake, but I hit a big stone in a ditch. Then the back right suspension broke and we replaced lots of parts on the car. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the start of the next stage in time. Now we face the gravel stages tomorrow, but we’ve got a good starting position at the back of the WRC field because we retired today. I hope this will mean we can put in a couple of good SS times tomorrow.”

 

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“A little bit of bad luck can make a huge difference in the World Rally Championship, as Sébastien Ogier’s experience today showed. His puncture put him back from first to sixth place. With this in mind, Jari-Matti Latvala’s performance today was all the more exceptional – he managed to stay objective and faultless in every situation. He is leading going into tomorrow’s gravel stages, but that also means he has to tackle them first. That’s not an easy job and it’s certainly not advantageous. After switching from asphalt to gravel, absolutely anything is possible on Sunday. So it’s definitely worth following the World Rally Championship tomorrow.”


Motivation values.

A look at this season’s Power Stages is furtherimpressive testimony to Sébastien Ogier’s dominance. The eleventh Power Stage of the year took place this evening during the Rally Spain. As always, there were three bonus WRC points for the winner, two for the runner-up and three for the third-ranking driver.
 
Ogier secured second place, gaining him two extra points in the Drivers’ Championship. Assuming he makes it across the line tomorrow (Sunday), the Frenchman will have bagged 28 bonus points to date – not bad when you consider that the maximum possible number is 33. The World Champion has been among the top three on every Power Stage, winning seven times, coming second three times and finishing third once. Ogier is in a league of his own in this category too this season.
 
Ogier has not yet written off winning the “Rallye deEspaña” either. The Volkswagen driver slipped down the leader board earlier today due to a puncture and is currently in fourth place, 46.5 seconds behind his top-ranking team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala ahead of the last six Special Stages. However, the terrain changes from asphalt to gravel in the third and final leg. This means that starting first is far from advantageous. It remains to be seen how many more points the Frenchman will rack up tomorrow.


19:15 (CEST)

Working against the clock.

 

It’s an impressive “to do” list. To configure the Polo R WRCs for gravel rather than asphalt ready for Sunday, the whole chassis, the drive shafts and the differentials in the front and rear axles have to be replaced during the last evening service. This makes the car much higher on the road. The brakes are also changed because the large discs used for the 18-inch asphalt rims don’t fit underneath the gravel wheels with their 15-inch diameter.

 

At any normal garage, you would be told: “We’ll ring you next week when we’ve finished.” But the Volkswagen Motorsport mechanics have exactly 75 minutes for each Polo R WRC. What’s more, a maximum of eight mechanics are allowed to work directly on each car – and they all have to wear coloured armbands. Other members of the team are onlypermitted to work in the background or pass them spare parts. “

 

As long as you prepare thoroughly for all of the jobs, it’s not a problem,” says Gerard Jan de Jongh, the vehicle engineer responsible for overseeing the work onSébastien Ogier’s Polo R WRC. “There’s no time for dawdling though.” In theory, the mechanics are allowed to replace safety-critical parts outside of the 75-minute window. But the team even managed to fit a new windscreen to Jari-Matti Latvala’s car on Friday evening within the official service period after the glass was chipped by a stone.

 

While Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala’s cars were being reconfigured one after the other on Saturday evening, Andreas Mikkelsen’s Polo R WRC was already parked up looking somewhat lonely in the Parc fermé,where all the vehicles have to be left overnight. The mechanics were able to sort out the Norwegian’s car earlier in the afternoon – a positive side effect of hisearly retirement.


18:00 (CEST)

Short and sweet: Latvala still in the lead.

Saturday’s rallying concluded with the short, 2.24-kilometre SS 09 (“Salou”). As expected, very little changed in the overall standings over this short distance. The field remained tight, with just one second separating the seven fastest drivers at the end.

Nevertheless, Volkswagen Motorsport celebrated another partial success this evening: Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7) won the leg ahead of Thierry Neuville (Ford) and Dani Sordo (Citroën). Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8) followed right behind the Spaniard, lagging just 0.7 seconds behind his team-mate in first place.

This means Latvala will go into the last leg at the top of the leader board with six Special Stages to go. Sordo and Neuville follow him in second and third place ahead of Ogier, who still has a good chance of making it onto the podium.


16:45 (CEST)

Points mean prizes: three bonus points on the Power Stage.

Eight of the 15 Special Stages have now been completed and the top drivers remain locked in a head-to-head battle at the Rally Spain. At the end of the 26.48-kilometre Power Stage (“Colldejou 2”), the five fastest drivers were separated by less than five seconds. The three bonus World Championship points went to Thierry Neuville (Ford), but Volkswagen Motorsport also bagged three points – all on condition that the drivers finish the rally tomorrow.

Sébastien Ogier steered his Polo R WRC #8 over the line second, winning two WRC points. Jari-Matti Latvala (#7) finished third a mere 0.4 seconds behind him and was awarded one extra point as a result. The Finn succeeded in somewhat extending his narrow lead over Dani Sordo (Citroën) in the overall standings. Ogier is in fourth place, 16.6 seconds shy of Neuville, and still has his sights set on a podium finish.


15:24 (CEST)

An afternoon nail biter: one tenth of a second makes all the difference.

It could hardly be any closer: Jari-Matti Latvala beat Dani Sordo (Citroën) by one tenth of a second in the seventh Special Stage ("El Priorat 2") and is now in the lead overall at the Rally Spain. The Finn was second fastest on the 42-kilometre section, beaten only by his team-mate Sébastien Ogier, who put in the best time. "I feel good, even though I lost a bit of time compared to the first run this morning. That´s partly because of the higher temperatures though, which cause more understeer," commented Latvala after the SS.

Sébastien Ogier lost a lot of time in the previous stage (SS 06, "Colldejou 1") due to a puncture and is now fighting to catch up again: "I pushed really hard and got into a good rhythm," explained Ogier after crossing the line. The Volkswagen driver is now fourth in the overall standings.

 

 



14:50 (CEST)

No ace left to play – Ogier and Latvala tactically outmanoeuvred.

Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8) resorted to sarcasm. "That was my way of gaining a tactical advantage," the Frenchman said following a puncture in SS 06, which cost him almost a minute. Everyone expected the top driver to try and lose time at some point during the day. None of the teams want to start first on Sunday when the Special Stages are held on gravel.

In fact, Ogier and his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7) have been outmanoeuvred in their bid for the best position. Their main rival Dani Sordo (Citroën) will start after them on Saturday, meaning the Spaniard can parry all of the Volkswagen drivers´ moves. If Ogier or Latvala deliberately slow down the pace at any point, Sordo will be able to react as his crew will update him with intermediate times. "I´m afraid I haven´t got any aces left to play," joked Latvala.

The starting order for the final leg is decided after SS 08. "All I can do until then is try to extend my lead as much as possible," Ogier said during the lunchtime service break. He thinks that a lead of about a minute is needed to win from the front of the field on Sunday. "Or help from up above," added Latvala. If the course is wet, drivers in the front starting positions will be at much less of a disadvantage.

Saturday´s afternoon stages will take place without Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9). The Norwegian damaged his car´s wheel suspension system after making a slip-up (SS 04). Although Mikkelsen and his co-pilot Mikko Markkula managed to rectify the problem using on-board tools and the spare parts kept in the boot, the emergency roadside repair took too long. "Unfortunately, we´d used up all of the grace period and we hadn´t even made it to the start of the next SS," explained Mikkelsen. He drove back to the service park and will start again on Sunday under the Rally 2 rule.


12:30 (CEST)

Has it fallen flat? Ogier drops down to sixth following a puncture.

The stony tracks in Spain are treacherous indeed. Following on from Andreas Mikkelsen´s painful experience this morning, Sébastien Ogier has now fallen foul of the terrain too. During the Special Stage "Colldejou 1", the Frenchman punctured the front left tyre of his Polo R WRC, slipping more than 50 seconds behind the front of the field. Fortunately, it is now time for the midday service so the mechanics can check and repair the Polo.

By contrast, things are going very smoothly for Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala: the Finn was the fastest across the line. In a thrilling development, Latvala currently shares the lead in the Rally Spain with Dani Sordo (Citroën) - both drivers are on exactly the same time in the overall standings. The event is turning into a real nail biter. Thierry Neuville (Ford) has climbed to third place, while Ogier has dropped down to sixth overall after losing time. All is not lost for the World Champion as yet, however, because the rally switches to gravel tomorrow - and then a late starting position could actually prove advantageous.


11:14 (CEST)

Mikkelsen forced to retire.

What a shame for Andreas and Mikko! Mikkelsen/Markkula (Polo R WRC #9) have had to withdraw for today. The Volkswagen duo damaged their rear suspension during this morning´s opening stage ("Riudecanyes 2"). Unfortunately, their attempt to repair the car en route using on-board tools failed. The pair are now on their way to the service park and will restart tomorrow under Rally 2 regulations.

Read up on the rally regulations


11:00 (CEST)

Three-way battle at the top.

Asphalt specialist Dani Sordo (Citroën) is on great form: the Spaniard set the best time of 23:22.4 minutes on the longest Special Stage of the "Rallye de España" (El Priorat), putting him in second place overall. Sébastien Ogier was second fastest across the line and is number one in the overall standings with a 6.5-second lead. His team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala recorded the third-fastest time, slipping down to third position overall. He is just seven seconds behind so anything could happen yet, keeping the event exciting. On completion of the stage, the Finn was not dissatisfied with the result: "An impressive SS, it was great fun. Some of the asphalt is new, making braking a bit more difficult," Latvala commented.


09:40 (CEST)

Latvala and Sordo keep it tight –
Mikkelsen unlucky.

Saturday´s rallying started with a thrilling duel: Jari-Matti Latvala and Dani Sordo (Citroën) recorded the same time, crossing the finishing line of "Riudecanyes 2" as joint stage winners. Both put in a time of 10:26.2 minutes – almost ten seconds faster than yesterday evening. Top-of-the-table Sébastien Ogier was also much faster, but he was 3.2 seconds shy of first place and finished third. The World Champion is still number one in the overall standings with a 5.6-second lead over his team-mate Latvala.

Andreas Mikkelsen proved very unlucky, hitting a stone on a slow bend and damaging his car’s rear suspension. The Norwegian fell almost a minute behind the front of the field. It is currently unclear whether he will be able to continue.


The special stages of the day

08:25 (CEST)

Friday, 25.10.2013


Classification after 3 of 15 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 34:39.9    
2 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 34:48.7 +8.8  
3 D. Sordo / C. Del Barrio 34:52.5 +12.6  
4 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 34:59.0 +19.1  
5 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 35:07.2 +27.3  
6 A. Mikkelsen / M. Markkula 35:07.7 +27.8  
7 E. Novikov / I. Minor 35:08.4 +28.5  
8 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 35:47.6 +1:07.7  
9 H. Paddon / J. Kennard 35:48.9 +1:09.0  
10 M. Prokop / M. Ernst 35:52.9 +1:13.0  

23:59 (CEST)

“I just want to enjoy the rally here in Spain.”
Statements from the Volkswagen team.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7

“We can be very pleased with our first evening because it’s not easy starting a rally in the dark and driving fast straight away. But we managed without any problems and got into a good rhythm. I enjoyed the last stage in particular and upped my speed. You need to be consistently fast to succeed in this rally. That’s still our goal for Saturday, which will all be on asphalt, before we switch to gravel tracks on Sunday. This changeover is one of the special challenges we face here in Spain, just like the darkness this evening.”

 

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
“The rally got off to a good start for us. I took a somewhat restrained approach to the first stage this evening, but after that we did a perfect job. I just want to enjoy the rally here in Spain and have some fun – and the best way to do that is to go flat out. My aim tomorrow is to extend our lead as much as possible to give us a good chance of winning when we switch to gravel on Sunday.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“I might have been a bit too cautious in the first two Special Stages, especially on the fast stretches. But I still enjoyed them. The Polo’s set-up is perfect – it’s definitely the best asphalt car I’ve ever driven. I’ve always liked the third stage and it went really well again today. Third place on that stage is a great result. I’m very pleased with the time I put in. We got our rhythm right and now I hope that we’ll have another good day tomorrow.”


23:45 (CEST)

“Tunnel of light.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) couldn’t stop grinning. “Special Stages at night are brilliant,” said the beaming Norwegian as he drove in for the final service on Friday evening. “The beam of light creates a tunnel right in front of the car. There’s nothing to distract you – it’s complete concentration.”

 

Speeding through the night holds its own fascination for co-drivers too. “You feel like you’re in a cocoon. In the dimly lit cockpit, it almost feels like you and your driver are the only people in the world,” explains Julien Ingrassia, Sébastien Ogier’s co-driver (Polo R WRC #8). For Ingrassia, the whole thing sometimes takes on an almost spiritual dimension. “In the dark, you have to read out the pace notes even more precisely than in the day. I’m so focussed that I sometimes feel like I’m watching myself from outside my own body.” 

 

Ogier agrees: “You can only drive fast in the dark if you trust your pace notes 100 per cent. The tiniest doubt costs seconds.” It will be interesting to see how SS 03 – the last one on Friday – and SS 04, the first stage on Saturday, compare. The two are identical, so the teams’ times can be compared with one another directly. One of the main reasons why the teams enjoyed the first three Special Stages of the “Rally de España” so much is that perfect weather meant they had crystal-clear visibility. “It’s a completely different story in fog or dust during a gravel stage,” said Mikkelsen.

 

The experience is tarnished somewhat when foolish fans take cover in the darkness, however – like the one who threw a stone at Jari-Matti Latvala’s car (Polo R WRC #7). “The impact gave me quite a fright,” admitted the Finn. Luckily, the windscreen withstood the hit. “I wasn’t too worried about the little crack in the bottom left section of the screen.”


23:30 (CEST)

Dark figures.

Nothing short of dazzling: World Champion Sébastien Ogier quite literally showed his tail lights to the rest of the field in the opening kilometres of the Rally Spain. In pitch darkness, the Frenchman scored three SS best times in a row, recording an impressive average speed of 106.10 km/h to pull off this hat-trick.

 

A question of skill – no doubt – but also of good visibility. And that is ensured by no less than eight headlamps on the Polo R WRC with a brightness comparable to that of the navigational lights used at airports. The brighter the better … 


23:15 (CEST)

Good night! Ogier starts with a hat-trick – first and second for Volkswagen Motorsport.

 

Three Special Stages and three wins for Sébastien Ogier – the Volkswagen driver in the Polo R WRC #8 put in a truly world-class performance in the first leg of the Rally Spain. Following convincing wins in stages one and two, the 16.35-kilometre SS 03 (Riudecanyes 1) was a close-run thing for the Frenchman, however.

 

Ogier put in a time of 10:35.9 minutes, winning ahead of his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7), who was just one tenth slower – barely even the blink of an eye. Andreas Mikkelsen (#9) drove well to take third place, ensuring the day came to a perfect end for Volkswagen.

 

Thanks to its strong performance on Friday evening, Volkswagen Motorsport will go into the second leg on Saturday in first and second place. Ogier is leading ahead of Latvala, with local matador Dani Sordo (Citroën) following him in third, already 12.6 seconds behind the French driver. Andreas Mikkelsen rounds off the team’s strong position in sixth place.


21:15 (CEST)

No nightmares for Volkswagen.

 

Sébastien Ogier put in the strongest performance again in the second night-time Special Stage at the Rally Spain. As in SS 01, the Volkswagen driver led the whole field in his Polo R WRC #8. The World Champion took just 12:40.4 minutes to complete the 24.14-kilometre SS 02 (El Montmell).

 

With this time, Ogier once again beat Dani Sordo (Citroën) and VW team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7) into second and third place. Andreas Mikkelsen also put in a repeat performance in the Polo R WRC #9 – the Norwegian finished sixth again.


20:40 (CEST)

Ogier shines in the dark.

 

The World Champion in the Polo R WRC #8 is still hungry for success: Sébastien Ogier left his rivals in no doubt about that in the opening stage of the Rally Spain. The Volkswagen driver won the first, 21.26-kilometre Special Stage (Querol) on Friday evening ahead of local matador Dani Sordo (Citroën) and VW team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. The Finn could have put in an even better time, but he claims that spectators threw stones at the windscreen of his Polo R WRC #7. “That’s not much fun when you’re sitting in the car,” complained Latvala after the SS. Andreas Mikkelsen rounded off Volkswagen Motorsport’s successful start in the Polo R WRC #9, recording the sixth fastest time.

The first leg of the Spanish rally consists of two more Special Stages in the dark. SS 02 and SS 03 have a total length of approximately 40 kilometres. The event then continues with daytime stages on Saturday and Sunday. Volkswagen Motorsport could clinch the Manufacturers’ Championship this weekend.


The special stages of the day

18:24 (CEST)


12:30 (CEST)

The calm before the storm.


The drivers and co-drivers have some time to relax while the final preparations are made for the start of the rally in Barcelona. “Tonight’s three stages will be really tiring, so I want to be in good shape for them,” says Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8). Back in their hotel rooms, the teams also take one last look at the footage of the rally course shot during training. “It’s good to have a clear picture in your head of the crucial spots along the way, especially when you’re driving in the dark,” explains Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7).

Volkswagen Motorsport’s three teams of two will set off for Barcelona, which is around 110 kilometres away, shortly before 14:00. The first entrant is then scheduled to depart from the start ramp outside Barcelona’s impressive cathedral at 18:00, cheered on by thousands of fans. The teams then face three stages measuring 62 kilometres in total on Friday evening.

Thursday, 24.10.2013


Last pictures (15)
18:35 Uhr (CEST)


17:30 (CEST)

“I absolutely want to win”: just a few tenths of a second separate top three drivers.

The shakedown ahead of Rally Spain proved to be not all that representative – it was a course of just two kilometres peppered with chicanes on the outskirts of Salou. “This was quite different from the special stages scheduled for Friday and Saturday, which feature next to no straights,” said Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8), who achieved the third-fastest time in the shakedown, just three tenths of a second slower than Dani Sordo (Citroën). “Fortunately, we were able to prepare thoroughly for the rally during our tests last week.”


Sébastien Ogier has still to add Rally Spain to what has become an impressive tally of victories. “I think it’s going to be an interesting rally, and it’s one I absolutely want to win. So I’ll be on the attack right from the start,” announced the newly crowned world champion.


While the shakedown did give the drivers at least a taste of what they can expect during the asphalt stages on the Costa Daurada, they will have to draw on their experience when it comes to the gravel stages on Sunday. “The transition from asphalt to gravel is mainly a matter of the mind,” admitted Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7), who was a mere tenth of a second faster than his teammate Ogier in the shakedown. “You spend two whole days on surfaces with a fair bit of grip, so you really have to be focused at the start of the first gravel stage and be aware that everything is different from then on. Things are bound to go wrong if you brake into the first corner on gravel in the same way that you did previously on asphalt.”


Andreas Mikkelsen, who drives the third Polo R WRC, came fourth in the shakedown to round off the good Volkswagen team performance. There was no qualifying session for Rally Spain, which is classed as an asphalt event, so the starting order for the first three special stages on Friday evening will be based on the drivers’ WRC standings.


11:00 (CEST)

Time for the dress rehearsal.

Today (Thursday) is the final opportunity for Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8), Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #7) and Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) to fine-tune their vehicle set-ups and have their cars thoroughly checked in the shakedown before things get serious. This will entail the rally drivers driving along an asphalt stretch measuring a good two kilometres in the coastal town of Salou. The shakedown will take place from 13:00 to 18:00.

The drivers’ times in the shakedown have no bearing on the order in which they will start in the rally tomorrow. As Rally Spain starts on asphalt, there is no qualifying session – the starting order is determined by the drivers’ WRC standings. The new world champion Sébastien Ogier will therefore be the first driver to set off tomorrow, followed by Thierry Neuville (Ford) and Jari-Matti Latvala. The rally will start ceremoniously at 18:00, with the vehicles departing from a start ramp in front of Barcelona’s impressive cathedral. The drivers will then have to tackle three night-time stages.

Previews

Monday, 21.10.2013


12:00 (CEST)

It’s all in the mix.

Rally Spain, which will start in front of the magnificent cathedral in the heart of Barcelona at 18:00 on Friday, is one of a kind in the WRC calendar: only in this event is there a combination of gravel and asphalt special stages.


The event will feature stretches of winding side roads near the rally’s base in Salou during night-time driving on Friday and then also on Saturday. The asphalt is relatively smooth. “Also, a lot of the corners are cut massively,” explains Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #8). The new world champion does at least have the advantage that he will be the first to tackle the route on Friday. “The course will therefore still be pretty much untouched.”


On Sunday, the final six special stages will then be held on the gravel tracks around Gandesa. The toughest challenge will be the ‘Terra Alta’ stage measuring just under 36 kilometres, which will be driven twice. “The rally therefore won’t be decided until Sunday,” believes Jari-Matti Latvala of Finland (Polo R WRC #7). Latvala has his sights set on securing second place on the leader board. He currently trails Thierry Neuville (Ford) by 18 points.


A third Polo R WRC will be driven by the junior Volkswagen driver Andreas Mikkelsen, who will be joined by his Finnish co-driver Mikko Markkula once again. Markkula had to sit out of the last three rallies due to a spinal injury, but is now fighting fit again.


In all, Rally Spain comprises 355 kilometres and 15 special stages. The rally will finish in front of the PortAventura resort in Salou on Sunday.

Friday, 18.10.2013


15:30 (CEST)

Welcome back, Mikko!

 

Mikko Markkula (FIN) will be back at Andreas Mikkelsen’s (N) side in the Volkswagen Polo R WRC in Spain. The 32-year-old fractured two vertebrae in Finland, forcing him to miss the rallies in Germany, Australia and France. The 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion is now back in action in time for the last couple of events this season.

Wednesday, 16.10.2013


11:00 (CEST)

Another title win in Spain?
Manufacturers’ Championship title within reach.

The drivers’ world championship has already been decided, with Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia having realised their dream of clinching the title by winning in Rally France. Now all that Volkswagen Motorsport needs to do is win in the constructors’ standings too, to make it a perfect debut year. And it is in with a very strong chance of doing just that: with 339 points, Volkswagen Motorsport has a comfortably lead over its closest competitor, Citroën on 259 points. The Hanover-based team can therefore wrap up the race for the title at the next event in the calendar, Rally Spain.

Volkswagen will become the winning WRC manufacturer in Spain if …

… Sébastien Ogier and his teammate Jari-Matti Latvala pick up at least six points between them in the Manufacturers’ Championship. All it would take to achieve this is for just one of them to finish seventh in the overall standings, or for one to be in eighth place and the other in tenth place.


Even if Citroën succeeded in taking first and second place both in Spain and in the final event, Rally Great Britain in Wales (with Volkswagen going empty-handed in Wales), the two teams would be neck and neck at the end of the season, on 345 points. The regulations stipulate that in this case the team that has scored more victories is the winner – in which case the title would go to Volkswagen.

… Citroën fails to win Rally Spain. Even if both Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala failed to score any points, Citroën would have to get both of its cars across the finishing line in first and second place to theoretically be in with a chance of clinching the title. The French manufacturer would then also have to score maximum points in the final rally in Wales – and both of the Volkswagen drivers would have to fail to score a single point.

 

Monday, 14.10.2013


12:00 (CEST)

“You can’t be more motivated”: Interview with Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director.


Mr Capito, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia succeeded in making their dream of the WRC title come true in France, before the end of the season. The pair also clinched their eighth win of the season there. Looking back at the wins so far in the World Rally Championship, which would you say was the most important?
Each and every win was a very special moment in itself. Our first victory in Sweden was definitely the most emotional of them all. And the next one in Mexico was one of the most impressive engineering achievements, considering the altitudes involved. The win that was the biggest struggle for the mechanics was in Portugal and that was undoubtedly also the biggest team achievement. Our win in Greece was a huge relief, as it really showed everyone that we had signed up the top two drivers in the World Rally Championship. Our Finland triumph had the greatest prestige and our Italy win represented the slickest performance of the team as a whole. And the victory in Australia, with 21 out of 22 stage wins, probably was the most dominant one.

At the start of the season, you said your aim was to achieve podium positions. At what point did you feel you could set your sights on bigger goals?
We never even dreamt that we could win at our first attempt in the WRC, which is one of the most complex challenges for the drivers, co-drivers, engineers and mechanics. Making it onto the podium in our debut year purely on the basis of our own merits was and still is a steep goal to achieve. It was when we had already scored our third consecutive victory in Portugal, with Sébastien Ogier almost picking up full points and with our competitors making mistakes, that we began to set our sights on the championship title. 

As Motorsport Director, how do you maintain the team’s motivation?
 It’s worth remembering that we’re in our first WRC season with the Polo R WRC. So every rally was an entirely new challenge for every member of the team – a challenge that we all rose to with respect and maximum willpower. We spent a year getting ready for our debut with the help of the cars of our sister company Škoda. Everyone in the team knows what the procedure is, but is also eager to show what we are capable of in the topclass WRC. You can’t be any more motivated than that.

How did you manage to acheieve that success with the Polo R WRC so quickly?
For a start, development of the Polo R WRC is anything but over. But the basic development is already able to compete and even win, and that’s more than we had expected. Numerous parties came together and interacted perfectly to develop the Polo R WRC, and jointly delivered on this ambitious project. In addition to the motorsport division at our headquarters in Hanover, the development departments working on production vehicles in Wolfsburg also contributed a great deal.

You have achieved most of the goals of your three-year plan before the end of your first WRC season. So what’s next?
Volkswagen is in with a good chance of already winning the manufacturers’ championship in 2013. But we’ve still got a long way to go before we achieve that. And that’s the title that’s the most important to an automobile manufacturer, because it proves that not only the driver, but also the product itself, is superior. So winning that title is now our top priority. And preparations are already well under way at Volkswagen for our driver and co-driver championship titles to be defended next year.