Dream start as Volkswagen trio lead the way in Portugal‏

Ogier, Latvala and Mikkelsen in first, second and third

Emotional start in Estoril, perfect opening at rally pace in Lisbon – Volkswagen has made a successful start to the Rally Portugal. Top time for Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), second and third place for Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) and Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) – all three Polo R WRCs came out on top over the first 3.27 kilometres of the 339.48 kilometres that make up the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). The toughest rally of the season opened with the spectator stage in Lisbon. Having started on asphalt, the remaining 15 special stages will take place on gravel on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Not only was it an extremely successful start for Volkswagen, but also an emotional one: the three works duos from Wolfsburg were given a very warm welcome at the ceremonial start in Estoril. One man in Volkswagen colours was given a special cheer: Jari-Matti Latvala, who celebrated his 29th birthday on the Thursday of the rally.

Quotes after the start of the Rally Portugal

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director“You can’t make a better start to a rally. Whenever one of our Polo R WRCs was underway, it always looked like producing a new fastest time. It feels good, but the actual rally does not really get going until tomorrow and the first gravel stages.”

And then there was ...

... that shy young man. Rally Portugal 2008: Sébastien Ogier approaches the rally organisers. He would like to take part in the “Recce”, in order to check out the special stages for future reference. The fee to do so: 1,000 Euros. João Passos, who was responsible for that kind of enquiry back then – as he still is nowadays – strikes a deal with the whippersnapper. By way of exception, he can take part in the “Recce” free of charge. Only if he is crowned World Champion at any point in the future must he pay up. Rally Portugal 2014 – Ogier is World Rally Champion with Volkswagen – and keeps his promise by paying the fee in the form of a donation. The money goes to the voluntary fire service in Estoril, where the ceremonial start of the rally took place today.

And then there was also ...

... a very special model car. Jari-Matti Latvala celebrated his 29th birthday in Portugal on Thursday. As a present, the Volkswagen team gave him a model replica of the very same Audi that he is currently restoring in Finland – an Urquattro rally car from 1981.