Volkswagen facing the “dubious honour” of starting first in Mexico

Third event of the season and the first proper gravel rally, a chance to try and test the new rules concerning starting order for the first and then second and third day of the event. With qualifying system out of the picture, gravel events will now see crews start in the provisional championship order on day 1 of the event. Starting order for the second day will be equal to the current overall standings in the event, so whoever is leading the event will also be the first on the stages. Volkswagen Motorsport drivers are not very happy about the fact that they, Jari-Matti Latvala in particular, will act as a road sweepers on day one, but things are not exactly that bad. We saw some pretty remarkable performances even from road sweepers and besides, losing a bit of time on day 1 can be helpful as it allows for a better starting position for day 2. In the end, there are many other things to look out for in Mexico besides starting order – but it will be interesting to see how this new system will work in real world.

Here’s what Volkswagen Motorsport drivers said about their upcoming Mexican adventure.

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“I like the Rally Mexico. The goal for this year is obviously to repeat last season’s victory. The special stages in Mexico, some of which are very long, are always a big challenge for us. As the second car out, we start in the knowledge that the road conditions will improve with each car. My starting position is definitely better than that of my team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, but the guys behind us will have even better conditions. As such, we will have to perform as well as possible on the opening day, in order not to throw away any hopes of victory early on. One of our strengths last year was the engine in the Polo R WRC. We had fewer problems with the conditions, the thin air and the ensuing loss of performance than our rivals did. However, we all start from scratch again in 2014.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“The win in Sweden was a special moment for me, and has obviously given me an extra dose of confidence. We used tests in Spain to prepare meticulously for the forthcoming gravel rally in Mexico and the difficult conditions we will encounter there. The scrapping of qualifying means I, as the championship leader, have to be first out onto the route in Mexico. It goes without saying that this is a handicap. However, rules are rules. This is definitely outweighed by the pleasure of travelling to Mexico as the leader in the World Championship. I will be sporting about it and do my best whatever the circumstances. If everything goes perfectly to plan, it could still even be possible to win. However, that is not my main goal. We want at least to finish in the points. A place on the podium would be great.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“Sweden was a perfect weekend. We were in contention to win the rally, and second place was ultimately a fantastic result for Mikko and me. Once you have made it onto the podium, you obviously want to do it again. However, you cannot lose your sense of reality. We are now looking forward to Mexico, which is completely new territory for us. It will not be easy for us, as I have never actually competed at this rally. I was able to take part in the ‘Recce’ last season, which allowed me to gain an initial impression. My goal is the top five. I am definitely physically and mentally fresh going into the rally weekend. After Sweden, I went home and spent some time with my family and friends. I also went to New York for a weekend to relax a little. I’m ready to go again now though!”