Back in gravel mode, Volkswagen all set for Australian round of the WRC

Latvala, Ogier and Mikkelsen fourth, fifth and eighth fastestWRC event down under boasts unique conditions on this year’s calendar

A rollercoaster ride through the forests of New South Wales, with the added difficulty of having to switch from asphalt back into gravel mode – Volkswagen used the shakedown ahead of the Rally Australia to prepare for the tenth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) was the fastest Volkswagen duo on the 4.98-kilometre practice route, which the teams will tackle in the opposite direction on Friday as part of the opening “Hydes Creek” special stage. They ended the “free practice” session fourth fastest in the Polo R WRC, just ahead of team-mates Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) in fifth place. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) clocked the eighth fastest time of the shakedown. First and second place went to Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg (Citroën), with Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) third fastest. Interestingly, just 4.4 seconds separated the top ten.

Despite the route becoming ever faster, the Volkswagen drivers each completed just three back-to-back runs of the shakedown, choosing to save their tyres – unlike the opposition. Only a limited number of Michelin competition tyres may be used per rally, including the shakedown.

Quotes after the shakedown at the Rally Australia

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1“The stages at the Rally Australia are spectacular and the scenery is uniquely beautiful. Julien and I had a fantastic rally here last year, winning 19 of the 22 special stages. The car felt very good during the shakedown. Although the opposition is, in general, a lot closer in general this year, I still have a lead of 44 points over Jari-Matti in the World Drivers’ Championship. As a team, we are also in a position to secure the title for Volkswagen in the Manufacturers’ Championship here. I am looking forward to what will hopefully be a good weekend for us.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2“To be honest, I come into the Rally Australia feeling very positive. The shakedown went very well for us. I like the routes and the scenery around Coffs Harbour. After driving on asphalt at the most recent rally in Germany, it was important to adapt quickly to the road conditions on gravel again. My Polo felt very good and I am determined to challenge for the win again here. I have not forgotten our retirement in Germany, but I have put it behind us. When you make a mistake, but learn from that mistake, it can only make you stronger.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9“Good pace notes are essential at the Rally Australia. There are a lot of undulations, blind corners and unforgiving trees nearly everywhere along the narrow special stages. On top of that, we must adjust from driving on asphalt to gravel. For me, the shakedown was all about getting used to these specific conditions and getting a good feeling for the Polo. That is all I was focussing on for the first two of the three shakedown runs. Now the rhythm is back, I feel good, and I can’t wait to get started tomorrow.”

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director“The shakedown always provides the perfect opportunity to stock up on confidence ahead of the rally and to get the right feeling for the conditions at that particular event. We come to Australia with high hopes and would ideally like to wrap up the Manufacturers’ Championship with rallies to spare. Today’s five kilometres showed that all the systems are running perfectly and that our drivers are in good shape and fully focussed. We are ready.”