Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia were crowned World Rally Champions for the fourth time in a row after taking victory at the Rally Spain. Ogier and Ingrassia guided their Volkswagen Polo R WRC to a fifth win of the season in Catalonia.
The VW duo finished ahead of Hyundai’s Dani Sordo/Marc Marti and Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul.
Eighth place in the Manufacturers’ classifications for Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila means Volkswagen is well-placed to claim its fourth Manufacturers’ title in a row at the Rally Great Britain.
Kankkunen, Makinen and Ogier – up there with the biggest names in rallying
952 days in a row at the top of the table: Sebastien Ogier is only the third World Rally Champion to be crowned champion four years in a row in the pinnacle of rallying, and the fourth four-time world champion in the history of the (WRC). He is now on a par with Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Makinen. Only nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb has more titles to his name.
The masterstroke: irresistibly quick and considered at the Rally Spain
The Rally Spain was a thrilling battle for the lead between local heroes Sordo/Marti and eventual winners Ogier/Ingrassia. The weather added to the challenge on the opening day, which was held predominantly on gravel. Ogier/Ingrassia lost 17 seconds to Sordo/Martí on roads that were muddy in places and drying in others. However, they bounced back on Saturday, the first of two days on asphalt, to convert this deficit into a 5.8-second lead, with wins on five of the eight special stages. Ogier extended his lead on Sunday and finished 15.6 seconds clear of the rest.
Setback for Mikkelsen, Latvala is back
Mikkelsen/Jæger and Latvala/Anttila in the second and third Polo R WRCs suffered disappointments. Friday came to a premature end for Latvala/Anttila, who were running third in extremely wet and slippery conditions when they hit a barrier and were forced to retire. They returned under Rally 2 regulations on Saturday and Sunday to win five stages.
Mikkelsen/Jæger were unable to return under Rally 2 regulations. They crashed in a fast right-hand corner on Saturday – also whilst running third – skidded into a barrier and rolled. The Polo R WRC could not be repaired with the materials on site.
“I feel fantastic! Fourth world championship title for Julien and me – it is impossible to describe how this feels. It is an honour to be mentioned in the same breath as such big names as Kankkunen and Makinen. I would like to say a huge thank you to our team at Volkswagen. Without them, Julien and I would not be here today. They do a fantastic job all year and we have had a perfect car all season.
I had great fun at the wheel of the Polo R WRC once again this weekend. The tension ahead of the closing Power Stage was obviously greater than usual. But we’ve done it. Despite the more difficult regulations, and despite the strong opposition. I am extremely proud of this title. It is now time to celebrate in style with a team and my wife. And when I get home I can show my young son Tim the trophy that daddy won. I dedicate this world championship title to him.”
“Congratulations to Sebastien on his fourth Drivers’ title. That puts him in the same league as my Finnish compatriots Makinen and Kankkunen. That is a fantastic effort but from the entire Volkswagen Motorsport team. For me, the Rally Spain was over far too soon. After the suspension damage on Friday, we had no chance of getting ourselves back in contention. Despite this, we did manage to win some special stages and eventually managed to contribute four points towards the Manufacturers’ Championship. Perhaps we will be able to wrap up this title at the next rally in Great Britain. That will definitely be the goal.”
“Congratulations on the title and respect for this victory to our teammates Sebastien and Julien. Anders and I are pleased for them. For us personally, the Rally Spain obviously did not end as we would have hoped. After victory last year, we wanted to do well again here and certainly to extend our lead over third place in the world championship. But we came into a right-hander too quickly on Saturday, drifted wide, hit the barriers and rolled. That was 100 per cent my mistake.
The battle for second place in the world championship is now wide open again, and we will have to be at our very best in the remaining rallies to achieve the goal we have been aiming for since the start of the season. We will work hard to make that possible.”