Julien Ingrassia and Sebastian Ogier
Sebastien Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia were crowned World Rally Champions for the fourth time in a row after taking victory at the Rally Spain.
They guided their Volkswagen Polo R WRC to a fifth win of the season in Catalonia, finishing ahead of Dani Sordo and co-driver Marc Mart of Hyundai and Thierry Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul also of Hyundai.
Their ninth podium in eleven races triggered wild celebrations. The Frenchmen can no longer be caught at the top of the overall standings in the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen and co-driver Anders Jaeger went into the Rally Spain as their closest rivals in the title race, but the Norwegians’ hopes of winning the championship were dashed when they were forced to retire from the rally. Eighth place in the Manufacturers’ classifications for Jari-Matti Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila means Volkswagen is well-placed to claim its fourth Manufacturers’ title in a row next time out at the Rally Great Britain.
952 days in a row at the top of the table: Sebastien Ogier is only the third World Rally Champion to be crowned champion four years in a row in the pinnacle of rallying, and the fourth four-time world champion in the history of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). He is now on a par with Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Makinen. Only his compatriot, nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb has more titles to his name.
Eleven rallies, nine podium finishes, five of which were wins: victory number 37 of Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia’s careers, their 30th with Volkswagen, tasted particularly sweet. The four-time world champions remained true to form, securing the title with a win for the fourth time in a row. They previously wrapped up the 2013 title at the penultimate rally in France, before achieving the same feat in Spain in 2014. In 2015, they claimed an extremely hard-fought victory at the Rally Australia to win the title before the end of the season.
The Rally Spain in Catalonia developed into a thrilling battle for the lead between local heroes Dani Sordo and Marc Marti and eventual winners Ogier and Ingrassia. The weather added to the challenge on the opening day, which was held predominantly on gravel. Ogier and Ingrassia lost 17.0 seconds to Sordo and Marti on roads that were muddy in places and drying in others. However, they bounced back on Saturday, the first of two days on asphalt, to convert this deficit into a 5.8-second lead, with wins on five of the eight special stages. Ogier extended his lead on Sunday and ultimately finished 15.6 seconds clear of the rest of the field.
In contrast, Mikkelsen and Jaeger and Latvala and Anttila in the second and third Polo R WRCs suffered disappointments. Friday came to a premature end for Latvala and Anttila, who were running third in extremely wet and slippery conditions when they hit a barrier and were forced to retire. However, they returned under Rally 2 regulations on Saturday and Sunday to win five stages and score valuable points for Volkswagen in the race for the Manufacturers’ Championship courtesy of eighth place in the Manufacturers’ classification. Their Volkswagen team-mates Mikkelsen and Jaeger were unable to return under Rally 2 regulations: the pair secondin the world championship got out of shape in a fast right-hand corner on Saturday – also whilst running third – skidded into a barrier and rolled. The Polo R WRC could not be repaired with the materials on site.
Mikkelsen and Jaeger remain second in the overall standings behind their team-mates Ogier and Ingrassia. After the Rally Spain, the Norwegian Volkswagen duo is level on points with Neuville and Gilsoul. However, they keep their noses in front thanks to better individual results. Latvala and Anttila head to the final two rallies of the season in Great Britain and Australia sixth in the world championship. Volkswagen travels to Great Britain with a 62-point lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship. As such, the team has a great chance of winning the world championship title for the fourth time in a row, regardless of other results. To do so, Volkswagen must take a lead of 43 points into the Rally Australia.
Latvala and Anttila enjoyed a good end to the Rally Spain. They clocked the fastest time on the closing Power Stage and were rewarded with three bonus points. Ogier and Ingrassia finished second to complete the Volkswagen success in this discipline. Victory has now gone to the Wolfsburg-based manufacturer on 38 of the past 49 Power Stages.
Sebastien Ogier, said: “I feel fantastic! The fourth world championship title for Julien and me, it is impossible to describe how this feels. It is an honour to be mentioned in the same breath as such big names as Kankkunen and Makinen. I would like to say a huge thank you to our team at Volkswagen. Without them, Julien and I would not be here today. They do a fantastic job all year and we have had a perfect car all season. I had great fun at the wheel of the Polo R WRC once again this weekend. The tension ahead of the closing Power Stage was obviously greater than usual, given the fact that we were within touching distance of the title, and bearing in mind the mistake we made last year. But we’ve done it. Despite the more difficult regulations, and despite the strong opposition. I am extremely proud of this title. It is now time to celebrate in style with the team and my wife – and when I get home I can show my young son Tim the trophy that daddy won. I dedicate this world championship title to him.”
Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport Director, said: “To be crowned world champions for the fourth time with a win – that is outstanding. Today is a great day for Sebastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia and the whole Volkswagen team. They have been extremely consistent and impressive all season. Nine podium finishes, five of them wins, speak for themselves. So does the fact that they have now led the World Rally Championship but just short of 1,000 days in a row. We are very proud of the fastest Volkswagen drivers in the world. We will certainly celebrate in style today. Furthermore, the result here in Spain puts us in a good position in the battle for the Manufacturers’ title. We could now also win the title for the fourth year in a row in Wales in two weeks’ time, regardless of other results. That is obviously the goal.”
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), all-time best list of multiple world champions:
Sebastien Loeb, nine world titles (2004–2012)
Sebastien Ogier, four world titles (2013–2016)
Juha Kankkunen, four world titles (1986, 1987, 1991, 1993)
Tommi Makinen, four world titles (1996–1999)
Massimo Biasion, two world titles (1988, 1989)
Marcus Gronholm, two world titles (2000, 2002)
Carlos Sainz, two world titles (1990, 1992)
Walter Rohrl, two world titles (1980, 1982)
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