For the past some time Volkswagen has never let the hair down in rallies, and this time it has made a promising start to the Rally Portugal. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) recorded with the fastest time in the Shakedown in their Polo R WRC. Defending champions in the Driver and Co-Driver competitions, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), ended “free practice” prior to the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) in third place, with Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) tenth.
The Shakedown was held in Vale Judeu, between Loulé and Vilamoura, in fact not quite at a distance from the Service Park at “Estadio Algarve”. After getting brushed out in the rain of recent days, the 4.98-kilometre track gave the competitors a variety of conditions to muddle with – the muddy, damp and dry sections. The Volkswagen drivers completed the two runs required by the regulations, but no more.
Commenting after the Rally Portugal Shakedown, Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1 said, “We had no problems on the Shakedown, and the Polo R WRC is in great form. We were on soft tyres. It looks ok for us at the moment, as it has rained. That means there will not be so much loose gravel on the roads when we are the first car onto the route on Friday. That is definitely a small advantage for us. On the other side of the coin, however, we will not be able to follow the line taken by other cars, and you never know where there may be a surprise lurking.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2 commented, “I am very happy with the handling of the Polo R WRC. The route was still a bit damp, but it was good to drive on with soft tyres. If it does not rain from now on, large parts of the stages will probably dry out quickly, particularly on open terrain. However, it could stay damp under the trees. This makes tyre selection difficult. It might be possible to set faster times on soft tyres, but if it is not damp enough they will also wear quickly. The right decision could ultimately be crucial.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9 putted his gloves down and uttered, “The Shakedown took place on mud, with damp patches and also some dry sections today, so we were faced with a little bit of everything. For us, today was all about finding our rhythm and getting a feel for the conditions. The route got quicker from one run to the next. All in all, we are happy with the time we set on our two runs.”
And finally, Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director complemented everyone by saying, “The Shakedown was another boost of confidence for Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen before they get down to the serious business on Thursday. And in particularly tricky and varied conditions, which gave us a bit of a taste of what lies ahead over the coming days. The Rally Portugal is the toughest rally on the WRC calendar anyway. The rainfall we have had over the last few days will definitely not make the job any easier for the teams or drivers.”