Internal duel for the lead at the Rally Australia: Champ Ogier leads LatvalaGame of chance: Tyre selection crucial in tricky conditionsMikkelsen defends third place in thrilling duel
The threat of rain, drying roads and marathon stages – Volkswagen defended its one-two-three at the top of the overall standings in tricky conditions at the Rally Australia. After 212.64 of a total 302.26 kilometres and 14 of 20 special stages, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) hold an 11.8-second lead over Volkswagen team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN). Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) are currently third after two thirds of round ten of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
The business of tyre selection proved to be particularly difficult on Saturday afternoon. As it turns out, the harder compound of Michelin’s competition tyres would have been the right choice for the second running of the 48.92-kilometre “Nambucca” stage. Sébastien Ogier opted to head out onto the route armed with three hard tyres and two of the softer compound. Jari-Matti Latvala set off with four softs and two hards, while Andreas Mikkelsen took four hards and two soft tyres with him. These individual decisions were ultimately instrumental in the lead changing hands: Ogier moved ahead of Latvala on “Nambucca”. The margins were equally small in the duel between Andreas Mikkelsen and Kris Meeke (Citroën) on day two of the rally. They swapped positions on two occasions, with Mikkelsen eventually opening up a narrow lead of 1.5 seconds on the closing spectator stages.
Volkswagen remains on title course: in order to wrap up the Manufacturers’ Championship down under, with three rallies remaining, Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala must ensure that the team leave Australia at least 129 points ahead of their closest rivals. Coming into the rally, their commanding lead stood at 167 points.
Quotes after day two of the Rally Australia
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1“That was another good run for us. I made a few mistakes and lost a bit of time in the morning, but the afternoon was good again. Making the right tyre selection played more of a role than usual today in determining who led at the end of the leg. I did not get my selection spot on, but my decision was better than that of my team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. That allowed Julien and me to open up a lead over our rivals on the 50-kilometre ‘Nambucca’ stage. However, we still have a long day with six special stages ahead of us. I obviously want to win, but, with one eye on the Drivers’ Championship, will not take any unnecessary risks.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2“We had a perfect morning. Miikka and I had a very good rhythm, really enjoyed the stages and moved into the lead. During the midday service we had to make our tyre selection for the afternoon – and unfortunately we got it wrong. It did not rain as expected. Instead it stayed dry. We had no chance of defending our lead on soft tyres that were overheating on the hard roads and no longer offered us any decent grip. But so be it, we have not lost yet and will push hard again on Sunday’s 89.62 kilometres of special stage.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9“As we predicted yesterday, we are having a really good and tight battle with Kris Meeke. Little mistakes could make all the difference between third and fourth place. We have not made a mistake all rally – with one small exception. We nearly span in a right-hander after a crest on stage twelve. I had to correct to avoid spinning and got the following left-hand bend a bit wrong. That cost two seconds. However, we regained the position we lost on the closing two spectator stages. Third place is obviously what I would prefer to see in front of my name tomorrow. However, we have a long way to go before then.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director“We are well on course to achieve our goal of winning the title in the Manufacturers’ World Championship with rallies to spare here in Australia. First, second and third is a dream result at this stage of the rally. Although we have achieved a lot, we still haven’t won anything. That is why everyone in the team is fully focussed on doing a flawless job. Our drivers and the entire team deserve utmost respect – they have put this plan into action perfectly over the first two thirds of the Rally Australia. We now want to continue to do a perfect job for the rest of the rally.”
And then there were ...
... Ed and Cal. Best friends in private, team-mates in the World Rally Championship, and bitter rivals as rugby fans. Edward Smith is a New Zealander, Callum Colquhoun an Australian. Kiwi Ed works on Jari-Matti Latvala’s Polo R WRC during WRC Rallies, while Cal, who comes from southern Australia, is part of the team responsible for Sébastien Ogier’s car.
And then there was also ...
... a special surfboard. Sébastien Ogier’s fastest accumulated time over the four spectator stages in Coffs Harbour earned him more than just recognition. “Julien and I have already picked up a nice present here. I probably won’t try it out in Australia though – I have too much respect for the sharks!”