Volkswagen has got itself into an excellent position for Rally Italy. In the qualifying session for the seventh event of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) season, the three pairs of Volkswagen drivers all earned themselves the right to choose a good starting position in the start of the rally on Friday. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), who recently scored a victory in Rally Greece, achieved the fastest time in the qualifying session and elected to start the rally last, in 13th place. The current overall leaders Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) recorded the third best time and chose to start the rally from position eleven. Their team colleagues Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) qualified in eighth place and will compete from position six on Friday.
The starting positions in the field of World Rally Cars are a key success factor in Rally Italy in Sardinia. A layer of sand on top of the gravel means that the driving conditions will be slippery at the start of the special stages. But once this sand has been ‘swept away’, the vehicles’ grip improves tremendously. Volkswagen is now in an excellent position in Rally Italy, thanks to the results of the qualifying session and the driver pairs’ starting position choices.
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7, said: “I’m obviously very happy with having achieved the fastest time, which gives us a great position to start from. I had a good feeling about the qualifying session, having already tried out the soft tyres in the morning. Choosing to start as the last World Rally Car in our Polo R WRC wasn’t remotely difficult, considering the hot and dry weather conditions. Tomorrow, we will have to try to always stay on the clean part of the course. The tracks are very narrow and there are lots of large rocks and boulders scattered along the sides. We still have our sights set on making it onto the winners’ rostrum – but we’ll have to see how things shape up in the rally, because this is a very tough one for the drivers and co-drivers, as well as for the vehicles and tyres.”
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8, said: “I’m pretty happy with the qualifying session. I had aimed to finish among the top three, and I managed to do this. Being the first to hit the gravel tracks here in Sardinia is never easy because you will always lose a little time. So it was important to be fast in the qualifying session, to be able to choose a starting position at the back of the field. Congratulations to Jari-Matti Latvala, who did a great job. As far as the rest of the rally is concerned, we will have to be very focused, because the narrow gravel tracks don’t leave any scope for errors. There’s one thing that’s definitely just right – the Polo is driving nicely. And hopefully my luck will return.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9. said: “I could have done a lot better than eighth place. I chose to use hard tyres in the practice session, and didn’t switch to soft tyres until we came to the qualifying session. I didn’t think there would be such a big difference, but the car really did feel different when running on soft tyres. And then I nearly stalled the engine in a hairpin bend. I didn’t lose much time as a result of that, but it was enough to drop back a few positions in this tight field of competitors. All the same, it doesn’t look too bad for tomorrow. We’ll just have to see what we can get out of our starting position.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director, said: “With a stony substratum and a soft, sandy top layer, being able to start from the back is hugely important here in Italy. So we are obviously very happy with positions one, three and eight in the qualifying session. All three pairs of drivers and co-drivers delivered top performances at the right time today. Jari-Matti Latvala’s fastest time was the icing on the cake, and Sébastien Ogier is right up there at the front too, in this incredibly close field. Both of them have good starting positions for the rally tomorrow that will allow them to follow a clear line in the special stages. Today, Andreas Mikkelsen found out just how tight things are at the top and what difference a minor error can make – something tiny knocked him back a few places. But his starting position is still good. All in all, we put on a solid team performance today.”