VW orders drivers to bow out of WRC with Rally Australia win

Volkswagen team principal Sven Smeets has told his drivers to win Rally Australia and end the firm's time in the World Rally Championship on a high

VW orders drivers to bow out of WRC with Rally Australia win

After four utterly dominant years, VW will depart the WRC at the end of this week's Coffs Harbour event.

Team principal Sven Smeets said the squad was trying to put emotion aside.

"There's only one directive to the drivers and that's to win this one," he told Autosport.

"Of course I had to tell them there can only be one winner, but yes, the objective is to win it and go out on a high.

"That's nothing special though, that was our target on every event.

"It is emotional here, but we are focused on what we are doing."

Sebastien Ogier followed those instructions at Thursday morning's shakedown stage and was fastest ahead of team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen.

But Ogier admits that running first on the road initially gives him little hope of equalling Juha Kankkunen's tally of four wins in Australia.

The rally's move to a late spring date has meant drier, hotter weather, making the New South Wales gravel roads looser than ever.

"It's going to be really difficult," Ogier told Autosport.

"You know I'm going to tell you that - but you can see from the confirmation we got at shakedown this morning. It's getting quicker all the time.

"There will be an incredible cleaning effect. We have calculated that every car that passes [behind Ogier] is getting 0.2 seconds per kilometre faster than us.

"It's similar to Sardinia, which means it's pretty much the worst we will see this season.

"It will be no surprise that it's going to be pretty impossible for me, but we will try."

Mikkelsen believes VW's other driver Jari-Matti Latvala will be a strong favourite.

The Finn starts from sixth on the road, three cars behind Mikkelsen.

"I think Jari-Matti has this one in the bag," said Mikkelsen, who will start Australia hoping to reclaim second place in the championship standings from Thierry Neuville.

"Winning this rally is not going to be easy from where we are on the road.

"But we are one car behind Thierry and he's the target in the championship. He's 14 points ahead of us and we need those back."

DMACK Ford driver Ott Tanak was first non-VW at shakedown, 0.7s down on Mikkelsen and 0.8s off Ogier's benchmark.

Tanak starts eighth on the road and knows his position is probably the best of the leading World Rally Cars.

"Road cleaning will give us a big benefit and we have to use it," said the Estonian.

Asked if he thought his DMACK tyres would cope with the heat, hard surface and long stages, he replied: "They're as black and as round as the others. Why not?"

shares
comments
Sebastien Ogier to test for potential 2017 WRC teams next week

Previous article

Sebastien Ogier to test for potential 2017 WRC teams next week

Next article

WRC Rally Australia: Andreas Mikkelsen takes early lead for VW

WRC Rally Australia: Andreas Mikkelsen takes early lead for VW
Load comments
Does Neuville have a point with his Rally1 rant? Plus

Does Neuville have a point with his Rally1 rant?

OPINION: Thierry Neuville's diatribe against the upcoming Rally1-spec machines that will usher in the World Rally Championship's new hybrid era was remarkable in an era where drivers are usually reticent to air their views in public. But are the Belgian's concerns about speed, safety and cost entirely valid?

WRC
Sep 16, 2021
How the WRC's new flying Finn reached new heights in the Greek mountains Plus

How the WRC's new flying Finn reached new heights in the Greek mountains

After Kalle Rovanpera’s historic feat at Rally Estonia, the Finn scaled new heights at the Rally of the Gods with a commanding victory. And this time Toyota’s young star demonstrated why the future is bright with his devastating speed and consistency at the Acropolis Rally

WRC
Sep 13, 2021
The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally Plus

The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally

Five drivers have won first time out at the Rally Acropolis, transcending the tough dirt and gravel Greek roads to cement a place in rallying folklore. Here are three of the first-time winners' tales

WRC
Sep 9, 2021
Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble Plus

Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble

From being considered a likely contender to drive the next-generation M-Sport Ford Puma in 2022, Teemu Suninen's abrupt exit has created plenty of questions. The Finn's bid to become his country's next World Rally Championship winner won't be furthered by being sidelined, but there may be reason behind the decision

WRC
Sep 2, 2021
Could Spa’s cameo offer the WRC a new avenue to exploit? Plus

Could Spa’s cameo offer the WRC a new avenue to exploit?

OPINION: The Ypres Rally featured a cameo from the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in its final stage, giving WRC teams the chance to experience its iconic corners in rallying machinery. It proved to be an engaging addition to the rally, and could perhaps serve as an example for other events to visit famous circuits

WRC
Aug 24, 2021
How Hyundai's home hero delivered overdue WRC success in Belgium Plus

How Hyundai's home hero delivered overdue WRC success in Belgium

With limited recent fortune and pressure starting to mount, Hyundai needed a big result at the Ypres Rally. All the key components came together in Belgium to see home hero Thierry Neuville lead a manufacturer 1-2 and kickstart its World Rally Championship challenge

WRC
Aug 16, 2021
The new car that can resurrect Ford's WRC winning pedigree Plus

The new car that can resurrect Ford's WRC winning pedigree

M-Sport has become the first to unveil its new-for-2022 hybrid World Rally Championship challenger, the Puma Rally1. Ford has upped its support in a bid for glory, but can the new machine roll back the years and return the Blue Oval to the top of the WRC tree?

WRC
Aug 12, 2021
The rookie WRC driver aiming to continue Loeb and Ogier's legacies Plus

The rookie WRC driver aiming to continue Loeb and Ogier's legacies

French drivers have dominated the World Rally Championship across the past two decades; Sebastiens Loeb and Ogier have racked up the titles in commanding fashion. With Ogier calling it a day on full-time WRC competition from next year, France will pin its long-term hopes on rookie Adrien Fourmaux, who looks to have a bright future.

WRC
Aug 7, 2021