Wild by nature” – it is under this motto that the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) lines up at the tenth round of the season in Australia from 12th to 15th September. For Volkswagen, the rally in the land of koalas, kangaroos and crocodiles could potentially yield another sporting milestone. Volkswagen could leave down under having already secured the World Championship titles in both the Driver and Co-Driver competitions with races to spare – and in the Polo R WRC’s maiden season. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) come into the rally with a comfortable lead in the World Championship, but must pick up maximum points and hope that the opposition does not score too many points in order to clinch the title in Australia. They could, for example, be grateful for the assistance of their Volkswagen team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) and Andreas Mikkelsen/Paul Nagle (N/IRL). The Rally Australia marks the return to gravel – the seventh round of the season on this surface.
“We head to Australia fully motivated,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “After the recent disappointment at our home event, where we failed to finish on the podium for the first time this season, we are determined to get back on the podium. We still have a good chance of winning the World Championship. I am sure our drivers, co-drivers, mechanics and engineers do not need any more motivation than that. As always in the WRC, we will have to do a perfect job. However, we have already managed that several times this season. I can assure you that everyone in the team is focussed on the task ahead and desperate to do their very best in Australia. However, we saw in Germany that having a chance of winning the World Championship does not automatically mean you will take that opportunity. The World Rally Championship is unpredictable – that is what makes it so interesting.”
The Rally Australia provides Sébastien Ogier with his second opportunity to wrap things up. To secure the title, he must pick up nine points more than his closest rival Thierry Neuville (Ford) and one more than Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. As far as the rest of the chasing pack are concerned, he need only maintain the lead he already holds. Should Ogier win both the rally and the closing Power Stage, Neuville would have to finish second in both competitions to prolong the outcome of the Drivers’ Championship. Another possibility, if not the most likely: should Volkswagen claim its first ever one-two, with Ogier winning the rally and finishing at least second on the Power Stage, then the Frenchman would be crowned champion.
The Rally Australia is a voyage of discovery for Volkswagen works driver Andreas Mikkelsen. When Mikkelsen arrives in Australia ahead of the tenth rally of the season, he will not only be making his competitive debut there, but will also be stepping onto the continent for the first time. And whilst the cockpit of the Polo R WRC represents familiar ground for Mikkelsen, here too he must adapt to some new factors. With his regular co-driver Mikko Markkula (FIN) taking an injury-enforced break, Mikkelsen is joined in the passenger seat by an experienced replacement in Paul Nagle (IRL). Like Mikkelsen, Nagle capped his time in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) by winning the title in 2009.
Quotes ahead of the Rally Australia
Jari-Matti Latvala, 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. That will be my first task. Everyone in the team knows that our car is good, and everyone is doing their utmost to achieve the number one goal: to win the title.”
Sébastien Ogier, 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, 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 will be far less familiar to me. The furthest I have ever travelled before was Thailand. The rally 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.”