Volkswagen’s mission to defend its titles in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) opens with a genuine motorsport classic at the Rally Monte Carlo, as the “Monte” is the oldest rally in the world. From 14 to 19 January, the French pairing of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia will line up for the first time as defending World Champions in both the Driver and Co-Driver competitions. Together with team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), they are the team to beat in the Manufacturers’ Championship, in which they can also count on able assistance from Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN). The first of the 13 rallies on the 2014 calendar is immediately one of the hardest nuts to crack in the WRC. Virtually unpredictable conditions and 15 testing special stages on asphalt, ice and snow in the French Maritime Alps, not to mention night stages and temperatures well below freezing – the Rally Monte Carlo is one of the greatest challenges in motorsport.
“We line up at the Rally Monte Carlo with start number 1 on one of our Polo R WRCs for the first time,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “This honour is reserved for the World Champion, and is something we are very proud of. However, this does not mean that we will be arrogant or complacent this season – particularly not at the iconic ‘Monte’. We will approach it with the greatest respect, maximum concentration, and absolute commitment. It is easier to win a World Championship title than it is to defend it. And that is our goal. The 2014 ‘Monte’ will give us the first indication of where we stand compared to the new-look opposition. We are looking forward to it.”
Rain in the Service Park, dry conditions at the start of the stage, snow in the middle and ice at the end – the standard madness at the Rally Monte Carlo. Selecting the right tyres for a loop consisting of three special stages is a real gamble. Winter tyres with and without spikes, soft and super-soft slicks are available to the drivers, who can call on the detailed information they receive from their trusted ice spies. Nowhere in the World Rally Championship is it more important for the weather crew to be perfectly coordinated and communicate clearly than at the legendary “Monte”.
The Rally Monte Carlo traditionally winds its way through the French Maritime Alps and thus through the hinterland of the principality. The mother of all the stages on the 2014 rally promises to be the special stage between Vitrolles and Faye. At 49.03 kilometres, it is one of the longest on the WRC calendar. The final stage, from Sospel to Breil-sur-Roya, will also play a crucial role. Its 16.55 kilometres form the Power Stage. The fastest three cars here will earn bonus points towards the championship. The anomaly: starting at just after nine o’clock in the evening, the Power Stage at the “Monte” will take place in the dark. The Service Parks are another anomaly: the cars will be maintained in Gap on the opening two days of the Rally, with the harbour in Monaco – a stone’s throw from the famous Rascasse corner from the Formula One Grand Prix – providing the backdrop to the second Service Park on the final two days.
Chassis number 15, 17 and 18 will be used at the Rally Monte Carlo for the Polo R WRCs driven by Andreas Mikkelsen, Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala. This is already the sixth rally for chassis number 15, with which Andreas Mikkelsen made his Volkswagen debut in the World Rally Championship in Portugal last season. The youngster then used the same chassis in Greece, Finland, France and Great Britain. Chassis number 17 was run solely on asphalt by Sébastien Ogier in 2013 – in Germany and France. Jari-Matti Latvala will take his place in chassis number 18 for the second time, having previously used it at the Rally Germany.