A special premiere for Volkswagen driver Sébastien Ogier: The Frenchman together with co-driver Julien Ingrassia will be competing for the first time next week for Volkswagen Motorsport at Rally France. The second Škoda Fabia S2000 will be piloted at the eleventh WRC round by the Norwegians Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene.
Volkswagen Motorsport is fielding two Fabia cars of the Group’s Škoda brand in the S2000 category for cars with less power output than the WRC vehicles in order to gather data in competitive conditions and to prepare the rally team for the processes in the World Rally Championship. In the 2013 season, Volkswagen will compete in the World Championship with the new Volkswagen Polo R WRC.
“We started at nine of the ten WRC rallies this season. You can tell that our team is gaining more and more experience in handling the routines and that the commitments are running smoothly,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “That we’re also successful in the process, having scored nine class victories to date, is gratifying of course but doesn’t change our objective in any way: Our priority, and that again goes for Rally France, is to finish in Strasbourg with both cars and to continue to gather experience. If this should produce another good result we’ll be pleased to take that as proof of the good work done by the whole team.”
Rally France: 11th round of the season with 22 tarmac stages
Rally France has been held in the Alsace only since 2010. From 1973 to 2008, the French WRC round was staged on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Obviously, Volkswagen factory driver Sébastien Ogier is looking forward to the rally in his home country with particularly eager anticipation. In 2011, by scoring overall victory, he put an end to the perennial world champion Sébastien Loeb’s string of wins that had lasted since 2005. “Naturally, I’m very much looking forward to running in France – driving in front of a home crowd is particularly nice, especially because of the tremendous support by the spectators. We won’t be able to battle for overall victory with our Škoda Fabia but will of course be giving our best to provide the team with as many empirical values for next year as possible.” The Frenchman, who hails from the town of Gap in the Alps and thus looks at Rallye Monte Carlo as a home round as well, has clinched as many as eight S2000 class victories this season. With sixth place overall at ADAC Rallye Deutschland a few weeks ago, the 28-year-old even scored the best result ever achieved by an S2000 car in the WRC to date. “Many people compare the rally in the Alsace with the German WRC round, but that’s only partially correct,” says Ogier. “We’ve got vineyard sections here as well but there are many fast and fluid stretches on wider, smoother tarmac roads – completely different from Rallye Deutschland.”
In France, the cockpit of the second Škoda Fabia S2000 from Volkswagen Motorsport will again be occupied by Andreas Mikkelsen and his co-driver Ola Fløene. The two Norwegians are contesting their fifth round of the season for Volkswagen at Rally France. And by taking third place in the final stage at Rallye Deutschland, the power stage around the Porta Nigra in Trier, they proved how strong they are particularly on tarmac. “After a few weeks without rally racing, I’m very excited about the rally in the Alsace and look forward to seeing the Volkswagen squad again,” says Mikkelsen. “In between, I ran my first marathon and am pretty happy that I can now swap my running shoes for fire-proof shoes again. I took part in the event in France two years ago and recall that we had bad weather and very difficult conditions – let’s hope that it’ll be better this time, also in the interest of the spectators. They should be enjoying the Super 2000 category too because the field in this class is well filled again and promises to be a thriller.”
This year, Strasbourg, the administrative headquarters of the Alsace, is again the start and finish of Rally France. In between, the WRC racers will be covering a total distance of 1,388.49 kilometres on four days of which 404.90 kilometres, split between 22 special stages, are timed. Even local hero Sébastien Ogier will have to explore plenty of new terrain at the event as Rally France is featuring considerable changes compared with 2011. Around 43 per cent of the special stage kilometres are new this year. The WRC rally racers are in for a combination of quick passages and slower sections with narrow corners that make for a mix that particularly challenges their driving skills. In addition, they will have to be prepared to deal with a few unpleasant surprises. As major portions of the route lead through wooded areas, fallen leaves and pine needles could make the roads very slippery particularly in wet conditions.
The rally starts on Thursday (04 October) at 7.30 in the morning with the mandatory shakedown, a free practice session. At 16.30, the first stage starts, a 3.63-kilometre special in Strasbourg. The rally day on Friday (05 October) begins at 7.45 when the service park opens. At 9.23, the first vehicle will start to the second special stage. The 22nd and last special stage will be held on Sunday (07 October) starting at 14.37 in Haguenau, the home town of World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb. The finish (from 15.50 on) and the podium ceremony will again be in Strasbourg.