Courtesy of WRC Media Service
Volkswagen has pledged to end its FIA World Rally Championship era on a high note when its bows out in Australia this weekend after four years of dominance.
The German manufacturer’s decision to axe its WRC programme earlier this month after a clean sweep of drivers’, co-drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles during the last four seasons shocked the team and the sport alike.
But as the squad heads into the campaign’s final round at Kennards Hire Rally Australia (17 – 20 November), lead driver and four-time world champion Sébastien Ogier promised to do his utmost to ensure a final celebration at the Coffs Harbour event.
“It’s a strange situation for everyone at Volkswagen Motorsport,” he admitted. “The announcement of our withdrawal from the World Rally Championship at the end of the year was not the way that we, as a team, wanted to celebrate our fourth title.
“The final rally with Volkswagen – that sounds crazy. However, I’m sure I will be able to put this out of my mind during the rally. Although my starting position is not exactly promising, I will do everything in my power to ensure that we have something to celebrate together again after our final outing in Australia.”
Ogier and team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala have won 42 of the 51 rallies in the last four years in Polo R cars. Thirty-two-year-old Ogier has been responsible for 31 of those and clinched his third title on Australia’s gravel in 2015.
Mikkelsen could secure the runners-up position behind Ogier at Sunday afternoon’s finish. That and a desire to end his Volkswagen career with a strong result is pushing the Norwegian to target a win.
“Rally Australia will be very emotional, as we all know that it is the final race for Volkswagen. The team has become very close to my heart. I am very grateful for the great time together, and really want to bid farewell with a good result in Australia,” he said.
Sven Smeets replaced Jost Capito as Volkswagen motorsport director in September when Capito left to join McLaren in Formula 1. The Belgian admitted it would be a tough weekend.
“We now face our final WRC rally in Australia, and it’s going to be a very emotional weekend for everyone in the team. We will bring to bear everything that has made us so successful over the past 51 rallies: the desire of every single person involved to achieve absolute perfection, an unparalleled team spirit, and a great passion for the sport,” he said.