Volkswagen still lead the way in World Championship despite luckless Rally Argentina

Volkswagen Motorsport suffered a disappointing result at the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), but still goes into the coming rally in Portugal leading the Manufacturer, Driver and Co-Driver standings in the World Championship. The toughest rally of the year saw a podium bereft of a Volkswagen driver for the first time since the Rally Australia in 2013. However, the Wolfsburg-based manufacturer can look back proudly on a remarkable run of success that included 20 podiums and seven victories in a row. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) did manage to win the Power Stage on the final day to pick up three valuable points towards the World Championship.The Volkswagen duos also won eight of the twelve special stages with the Polo R WRC. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) contributed four stage wins, while Ogier/Ingrassia clocked the fastest time on three stages. A further stage win went to Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), who were forced to retire due to a problem with the fuel supply whilst running third overall on the penultimate stage. Victory went to Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), followed by their Citroën team-mates Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S). Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (GB/GB, M-Sport-Ford) claimed the third spot on the podium.Disappointment, followed by a happy ending: Power Stage points for OgierA problem with the fuel supply had resulted in a loss of power on stage two of the rally for Ogier/Ingrassia, and ultimately to a retirement, forcing the World Championship leaders to abandon any hope of taking victory as early as day one. As such, they went for broke on the Power Stage and won the closing stage for the third time this season. This was Volkswagen’s 22nd victory on the Power Stage, on which bonus points are awarded to the fastest three cars.Stage two also produced a puncture for Andreas Mikkelsen/ Ola Fløene, which soon developed into the biggest possible setback and curtailed any ambition they had of winning the rally. They also went all out to score points on the Power Stage, but crashed after hitting a rock on the technically demanding and narrow roads of “El Cóndor” and were forced to retire with suspension damage.Drama on the final day: Latvala/Anttila retire from third placeJari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila were running third and flying the Volkswagen flag highest right down to the final two stages on Sunday. However, the Finnish duo then had to concede defeat on the penultimate stage of the rally. A problem with the fuel supply forced Latvala/Anttila to retire.An impressive run comes to an end – 20 podiums in a row, 19 of which were winsSince the 2013 Rally Australia, Volkswagen has become accustomed to popping champagne corks. For the last year and seven months there has always been at least one Polo R WRC driver on the podium. Of the 20 podiums in a row, 19 were victories. Coming into the Rally Argentina, Volkswagen had gone undefeated at seven rallies in a row.Volkswagen defends lead in the Manufacturer, Driver and Co-Driver ChampionshipsDespite this week’s setbacks, Volkswagen was still able to defend its leads in the Manufacturer, Driver and Co-Driver standings. Ahead of the next round of the WRC in Portugal, Volkswagen leads the Citroën and Hyundai teams, who are tied in second place, by 18 points. Thanks to their three bonus points on the Power Stage, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia now hold a 33-point lead over Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson, with team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene a further four points back.Quotes after day four of the Rally ArgentinaSébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1“Naturally I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't get a win here in Argentina at my third attempt. However, it was nothing to do with the demanding and harsh track conditions or the fantastic fans cheering us on and supporting us drivers so enthusiastically. Up to this point Julien and I had enjoyed a perfect start to the season - and this time we were unlucky. That's part and parcel of motorsport and proves that wins are never guaranteed. I don't blame the team at all; they all did their best as always. We'll be back next year and hopefully I will be able to make my dream of a first win here come true.”Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2“It definitely wasn't our weekend - even though I was on course to finish on the podium until right before the end. ‘El Cóndor’ is one of my favourite stages and I had big plans for today. But we had problems with the fuel supply on the way to the start. We tried to repair it, but had to retire four kilometres before the end of the stage. It's a bitter blow for us all, the team and the fans. After three 'zeroes' in the last three rallies I need to start picking up points again. My focus is on Portugal now.”Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9“This definitely wasn't our rally. Tyre damage on Friday turned out to be a major problem, resulting in a damper breaking and then the servo pump. Hindsight is a wonderful thing - we should have changed the flat tyre on the stage. As a result, we had to really go for it on the Power Stage. I risked everything there today and had a good feeling after winning the previous stage on the same stretch of route. But I wanted it too badly, hit a rock and ripped off the rear tyre. Obviously I am disappointed, as I had big plans and wanted to be fighting for the win here. But I will soon put it behind me and turn all of my attention to the Rally Portugal in four weeks’ time.”Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director“Our goal for the Rally Argentina was to repeat last year's success. But you can't plan success in sport and every win must be fought for. This time we suffered a few setbacks, which we will learn from. Jari-Matti Latvala's late retirement is particularly bitter since he was on track to finish on the podium until the last minute. We will analyse the problems thoroughly to prevent them from recurring in the future. Our congratulations go to Citroën, winner Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg in second, as well as third-placed Elfyn Evans with his M-Sport Ford. They deserved the win.”And then there was ...... a spot of moonlighting for Silke Hansen. The weather girl not only monitors the weather and provides on-site forecasts for the Volkswagen WRC team. She also spent the Argentina weekend keeping an eye on two clouds of ash spewed out by the volcano “Calbuco” in Chile, which are currently drifting over Argentina. The big question is whether or not this will result in restrictions to air traffic: will the works team from Wolfsburg fly back to Germany on Monday as scheduled, or not? Situation report on Sunday afternoon: green light for the 30-hour trip. In 2010, the World Rally Championship had to contend with the ash cloud from “Eyjafjallajökull” in Iceland. Back then, the WRC circus was stranded after the Rally Turkey.And then there was also ...... the unsung heroes of the Rally Argentina: Julian Hübner, Dirk Heitmüller and Ewald Becker. Immediately after the “Recce” on Wednesday, the trio began the extremely intense job of servicing the three Volkswagen Golf Rs for Ogier, Latvala and Mikkelsen, the two spare “Recce” cars and a Volkswagen Crafter service vehicle. The task: to rid the dust from the road cars, which were absolutely covered in the stuff, so they could be loaded for the trip to Australia. After the Rally Argentina, the team’s containers immediately take to the seas and commence their voyage to the third overseas rally of the year in September. The import regulations in Australia are particularly strict, and the routes in Argentina particularly dusty. An extremely laborious combination for Hübner, Heitmüller and Becker. They stripped the six vehicles down to the bare minimum. After four days of screwing and unscrewing, the herculean task was just drawing to an end as we wrote these lines.