Successful foray into Norway: Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene out in front on Day 1Set-backs whilst leading: drama for Ogier and LatvalaPerfect rally conditions in Norway and Sweden
A day out in Norway proved to be a great day for the Norwegians – Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene top the overall standings after day one of the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Having completed the only special stages on the WRC calendar in their native Norway, and with them 126 of the Rally Sweden’s 308 kilometres against the clock, the Volkswagen pair finds itself 19.1 seconds clear of second-placed Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) and a further 0.3 seconds ahead of Mads Østberg (Citroën). However, the battle for the podium positions was dominated by the Volkswagen duos for long stretches of the leg. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) moved into the lead on stage two of the rally, a position they held on to until a matter of kilometres before the end of day one – they became caught up in a snow bank on the ninth special stage “Torsby” and remained stationary for a short time. As such, they now trail their team-mates Mikkelsen/Fløene by 24.7 seconds going into Saturday’s stages, but are still well within striking distance of the front-runners.
The dream of a fourth victory in Sweden also came to an abrupt and premature end for Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila on the “Torsby” special stage. They had just moved into the virtual lead when they crashed off the road just a few hundred metres from the end of the stage, dropping just short of nine minutes as they struggled to get the car back onto the route. The Finnish duo had previously won “Finnskogen” on the first loop of the day, and in doing so presented the Polo R WRC with its 350th stage win in 504 special stages. In total, Volkswagen has now clocked the fastest time on 354 of the 510 stages it has contested since joining the World Rally Championship in 2013.
Volkswagen is currently unbeaten with the Polo R WRC at the Rally Sweden. In 2013, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia claimed the maiden victory for the World Rally Car from Wolfsburg. One year later it was the turn of Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila, who won a thrilling duel with team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula.
Quotes after day one of the Rally Sweden
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1“To put a positive spin on it: it was certainly not a boring day for Julien and me. It was one with highs and lows. Everything ran superbly in the morning: we went flat out and the conditions were perfect. The 18-kilometre ‘Röjden’ stage was particularly fantastic to drive. You enjoy every metre in the cockpit on a stage like that. Things did not run quite so smoothly for us on the second loop in the afternoon. First the windscreen wiper stopped working. Then, in our efforts to repair it, we forgot to fasten the bonnet down, which resulted in the windscreen taking a battering later on. And on the ninth stage I slid into a snow bank in a slow corner. I just braked too late. By the time you put all those set-backs together, we had lost the lead. However, the rally is far from over. Anyone who knows Julien and me knows that we will keep on fighting to the very end.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2“I am very disappointed. I was just too quick and thought I had more grip. As it turns out, I didn’t. The rear of the car got caught in a snow bank in the corner, and I then skidded into a ditch. Nothing happened to our Polo. I’d like to thanks all the fans on the route again. Without their fantastic and quick help, we would never have got out. I must now try to finish the rally in a decent fashion.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9“It is fantastic to be leading the Rally Sweden after the special stages in Norway. However, it does come as a bit of a surprise. We did not find our rhythm straight away today. Only in the afternoon did things pan out as we had envisaged. The fans in Norway cheered us on furiously, and gave us an extra boost of motivation. It is nice to be able to present them with this result after day one, even though we did benefit from our team-mates’ misfortune. And, it is only the lead after day one. We still have a lot of work to do and must continue to drive intelligently if we are to convert it into something that counts. There is still a long way to go to the finish, and I am certain my team-mate Sébastien Ogier, Mads Østberg and Thierry Neuville will not give in without a fight.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director“Dream conditions, an all-Volkswagen three-way battle for the lead for much of the day, and the kind of drama Sweden is renowned for. As a fan, what more can you ask for? To be honest, I personally would not have had anything against it remaining a Volkswagen one-two-three at the end of the day. All three Volkswagen drivers performed fantastically today, and set the pace together for a long time. However, both Jari-Matti Latvala and Sébastien Ogier were unlucky to get caught up in a snow bank and lose time. That is all part and parcel of the Rally Sweden. Andreas Mikkelsen leads the rally – I am extraordinarily pleased about that, and it is richly deserved. However, Sébastien Ogier is still in with a chance of winning, as are our rivals at Hyundai and Citroën. There is no doubt about it: the next two days are going to be exciting.”
And then there was ...
... a remarkable comparison. Thanks to the ‘Sweden Spikes’ provided by tyre partner Michelin, the grip generated by the World Rally Cars is greater on the ice and snow than it is on a typical gravel rally. Last year the three Polo R WRCs took an average 124.87 metres to accelerate from nought to 100 km/h at the start of each stage at the Rally Argentina. In contrast, it took an average of just 107.32 metres to hit the same speed on Friday at the Rally Sweden.