Sept 15,2014(ISN) – Sébastien Ogier led Volkswagen’s first podium clean sweep at Coates Hire Rally Australia as the German squad secured its second consecutive FIA World Rally Championship manufacturers’ title.
The Frenchman held off Jari-Matti Latvala in a tense final leg to win the three-day gravel event in New South Wales by 6.8sec in a Polo R. Andreas Mikkelsen completed the podium lockout in third, a further 1min 11.2sec behind.
Ogier’s 22nd career win, and his sixth of the season, moved him closer to a second consecutive drivers’ title. He leads Latvala by 50 points with three rounds remaining and could secure the crown at his home rally next month.
Volkswagen’s dominance was emphasised by the fact that the manufacturers’ title has not been decided so early in the season since 1989.
Ogier acknowledged his victory was not achieved with the same dominance as his 2013 win.
“This year it wasn’t possible to have that. Jari-Matti was strong but today I knew that without mistakes I would be OK. I tried to stay concentrated, pushing when it was clean and being more cautious in the tricky parts. It wasn’t a big winning margin but enough to win the rally and another crucial step towards winning the title,” he said.
Latvala held a slender lead until the pendulum swung Ogier’s way on Saturday afternoon. Although rain was forecast, he opted for harder compound Michelin tyres than Latvala.
The gamble worked as the rain stayed away and Latvala’s tyres overheated in the warm weather. Ogier turned a four second deficit into a nine second advantage in just one stage, a blow from which Latvala could not recover.
Mikkelsen fought tooth and nail with Kris Meeke for the final podium place. But after Meeke was penalised more than a minute on Saturday night for cutting a corner illegally, the Norwegian cruised to his fourth podium of the year.
The penalty dropped Meeke’s Citroen DS3 behind Mikko Hirvonen, but the Northern Ireland driver moved back into fourth to head the Finn’s Ford Fiesta RS by 9.6sec.
Volkswagen secures manufacturers’ world title
Volkswagen sealed its second FIA Manufacturers’ Championship title with a podium lockout Down Under – the best result in the history of the team. It is the earliest in a season that a World Championship title has been won for 25 years. Moved to tears at the post event press conference, VW Motorsport boss Jost Capito said the securing the title with a 1-2-3 finish was the icing on the cake.
“It doesn’t get any better. Last year we surpassed all expectations, particularly our own. Even then, everyone in the team consistently pushed themselves to their limits to win the World Championship. It is always more difficult to successfully defend the World Championship title than it is to win it in the first place. What the team has achieved this season, and the extent to which it has improved, demands my utmost respect.”
He added: “I would like to dedicate this one-two-three and the manufacturers’ title to the over 500,000 Volkswagen employees globally who support us and help us to make it possible that we can be here and do not envy that we spend the money to be successful.”
Results: 1. S. OGIER – 2:53:18.0 / 2. J. LATVALA – 2:53:24.8 / 3. A. MIKKELSEN – 2:54:36.0 / 4. K. MEEKE – 2:54:01.0 / 5. M. HIRVONEN – 2:55:11.6