Rally Australia Review- The last hurrah for Volkswagen

Rally Australia represented the end of an era for a number of reasons. First of all, it was the last rally for the current regulations for car specification. Then came the news that Volkswagen were pulling out of the championship at the end of this year as well.

At the end of shakedown, Seb and Andreas were at the top. Ott was also right there, showing great pace in the D-Mack shod Fiesta RS WRC.

01. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, 3m 01.5s

02. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen, + 0.1s

03. Ott Tänak/Raigo Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford, + 0.8s

04. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai, +1.0s

05. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai, + 1.0s

06. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 1.1s

This were the stages awaiting the crews on Friday.

07:56AM SS1 – UTUNGUN I

08:12AM SS2 – BAKERS CREEK I

08:40AM SS3 – NORTHBANK I

09:48AM SS4 – NEWRY16 I

10:41AM SS5 – RACEWAY SSS I

01:10PM SS6 – UTUNGUN II

01:26PM SS7 – BAKERS CREEK II

01:54PM SS8 – NORTHBANK II

03:02PM SS9 – NEWRY16 II

05:00PM SS10 – DESTINATION NSW SSS I

05:08PM SS11 – DESTINATION NSW SSS II

So, at the end of stage one, with so many questions hanging over his future, Andreas won the stage to take a lead of just a little over a second from Ott. Thierry, who was one of the drivers who could finish as runner up to champion Seb was way off the pace. It didn’t start well for Jari-Matti…. He clipped some Armco on a bridge and broke his right rear suspension.

Stage one

1. A. MIKKELSEN 4:55.9

2. O. TANAK 4:57.2 +1.3

3. M. OSTBERG 4:57.3 +1.4

4. H. PADDON 4:57.3 +1.4

5. D. SORDO 4:57.7 +1.8

6. S. OGIER 5:00.3 +4.4

7. T. NEUVILLE 5:01.5 +5.6

8. E. CAMILLI 5:01.8 +5.9

9. L. BERTELLI 5:04.6 +8.7

10. E. LAPPI 5:06.5 +10.6

So, to stage two then and after he’d taken the decision to do something different with his tyres, Hayden took the lead of the event with a great time through Bakers Creek. Jari-Matti got his car temporarily fixed, but would have to wait till midday service before he’d get the car back to the point where he could push hard. This meant that through the remaining stages, he’d have to limp through. Very frustrating for the flying Finn.

Stage two

1. H. PADDON 10:05.5

2. A. MIKKELSEN 10:07.5 +2.0

3. O. TANAK 10:09.2 +3.7

4. D. SORDO 10:09.8 +4.3

5. M. OSTBERG 10:10.8 +5.3

6. E. CAMILLI 10:11.4 +5.9

7. T. NEUVILLE 10:12.2 +6.7

8. S. OGIER 10:14.0 +8.5

9. E. LAPPI 10:26.8 +21.3

10. L. BERTELLI 10:29.1 +23.6

The stages were coming thick and fast…. Just half a hour after stage two started, it was time for stage three. Andreas fought back and retook the lead from Hayden at the end of this one. Eric drove well through here as well and the experienced Mads also was showing good pace in fourth.

Stage 3

1. A. MIKKELSEN 5:49.3

2. H. PADDON 5:51.0 +1.7

3. E. CAMILLI 5:51.5 +2.2

4. M. OSTBERG 5:51.7 +2.4

5. O. TANAK 5:51.8 +2.5

6. D. SORDO 5:51.9 +2.6

7. T. NEUVILLE 5:54.0 +4.7

8. S. OGIER 5:55.8 +6.5

9. L. BERTELLI 5:59.9 +10.6

10. E. LAPPI 6:01.3 +12.0

Stage four next and just 2.6 seconds separated Andreas from Seb. Sadly, Ott spun in this one and lost 30 seconds and tumbled down the leaderboard.

Stage four

1. A. MIKKELSEN 6:22.6

2. S. OGIER 6:25.2 +2.6

3. T. NEUVILLE 6:28.7 +6.1

4. D. SORDO 6:28.8 +6.2

5. E. CAMILLI 6:32.7 +10.1

6. H. PADDON 6:35.2 +12.6

7. M. OSTBERG 6:36.8 +14.2

8. L. BERTELLI 6:46.0 +23.4

9. E. LAPPI 6:48.8 +26.2

10. O. TANAK 6:53.2 +30.6

Just Stage 5 next before the midday service and Andreas took his fourth stage win out of five. Seb was right there though, showing he wasn’t about to give up at all.

Stage five times

1. A. MIKKELSEN 1:17.6

2. T. NEUVILLE 1:17.6 +0.0

3. S. OGIER 1:17.7 +0.1

4. H. PADDON 1:18.1 +0.5

5. D. SORDO 1:18.4 +0.8

6. N. FUCHS 1:18.8 +1.2

7. E. CAMILLI 1:19.3 +1.7

8. O. TANAK 1:19.3 +1.7

9. E. LAPPI 1:19.5 +1.9

10. M. OSTBERG 1:19.6 +2.0

Jari-Matti of course was glad to get back to the service park, so the Volkswagen team could fix his rear suspension.

So, at the midday break, Andreas had a 14 second lead over second placed Hayden Paddon.

Stage six next and Andreas took that as well. He was really in the groove and doing an exceptional job. Jari-Matti would go well through here too.

Stage six times

1.A. MIKKELSEN 4:50.5

2.J. LATVALA 4:50.8 +0.3

3.S. OGIER 4:52.1 +1.6

4.D. SORDO 4:52.6 +2.1

5.O. TANAK 4:52.7 +2.2

6.H. PADDON 4:52.7 +2.2

7.M. OSTBERG 4:53.3 +2.8

8.E. CAMILLI 4:53.7 +3.2

9.T. NEUVILLE 4:54.2 +3.7

10.L. BERTELLI 4:59.7 +9.2

Stage seven and it was a stage victory for Thierry and now that Jari-Matti had a car that handled properly, he could get the hammer down. He would finish this stage in second as well.

Stage seven times

1.T. NEUVILLE 9:48.8

2.J. LATVALA 9:49.6 +0.8

3.A. MIKKELSEN 9:51.2 +2.4

4.S. OGIER 9:51.3 +2.5

5.H. PADDON 9:51.6 +2.8

6.E. CAMILLI 9:52.3 +3.5

7.D. SORDO 9:53.8 +5.0

8.O. TANAK 9:54.7 +5.9

9.M. OSTBERG 9:55.0 +6.2

10.L. BERTELLI 10:09.4 +20.6

It took till stage eight for Seb to get his first stage win of the event. He closed the gap a little to Andreas as well. Thierry was also showing good pace now in his Hyundai. He’d make some tweaks to his car during the midday service and was now more able to express himself.

Stage eight times

1. S. OGIER 5:37.5

2.T. NEUVILLE 5:39.2 +1.7

3. A. MIKKELSEN 5:40.1 +2.6

4.H. PADDON 5:40.7 +3.2

5.M. OSTBERG 5:40.8 +3.3

6.O. TANAK 5:41.0 +3.5

7.D. SORDO 5:41.3 +3.8

8.J. LATVALA 5:42.0 +4.5

9.E. CAMILLI 5:44.8 +7.3

10.L. BERTELLI 5:47.1 +9.6

At the end of this stage, Andreas had pulled further clear of Hayden, his lead now 17 seconds and Seb was getting closer to taking second place away from Hayden as well. Thierry was also pretty close to Seb as well.

So, stage nine next and this fell to ever present Seb again who went through 7.2 seconds quicker than Hayden, whose tyres were starting to give up. He would drop from second place to fourth sadly.

Stage nine times

1.S. OGIER 6:13.8

2.T. NEUVILLE 6:16.2 +2.4

3.A. MIKKELSEN 6:16.2 +2.4

4.O. TANAK 6:18.3 +4.5

5.J. LATVALA 6:19.6 +5.8

6.H. PADDON 6:21.0 +7.2

7.M. OSTBERG 6:22.7 +8.9

8.E. CAMILLI 6:23.8 +10.0

9.D. SORDO 6:24.5 +10.7

10.L. BERTELLI 6:35.3 +21.5

Stage ten and eleven were short stages at the end of the first day and Seb won them both.

Stage ten times

1.S. OGIER 1:02.4

2.A. MIKKELSEN 1:02.9 +0.5

3.J. LATVALA 1:03.8 +1.4

4.T. NEUVILLE 1:03.9 +1.5

5.M. OSTBERG 1:04.0 +1.6

6.D. SORDO 1:04.1 +1.7

7.H. PADDON 1:04.5 +2.1

8.O. TANAK 1:05.8 +3.4

9.E. CAMILLI 1:06.5 +4.1

10.E. LAPPI 1:06.5 +4.1

Stage eleven times

1.S. OGIER 1:02.0

2.H. PADDON 1:02.8 +0.8

3.T. NEUVILLE 1:02.9 +0.9

4.A. MIKKELSEN 1:02.9 +0.9

5.L. BERTELLI 1:03.4 +1.4

6.M. OSTBERG 1:03.5 +1.5

7.J. LATVALA 1:03.8 +1.8

8.D. SORDO 1:04.0 +2.0

9.O. TANAK 1:04.1 +2.1

10.E. LAPPI 1:04.5 +2.5

So, at the end of the first day down under, Andreas had a 15.4 second lead over Seb. There was also a battle between Thierry and Hayden for third, with just over a second between them.

01. Mikkelsen/Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen, 57m 16.7s

02. Ogier/Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, + 15.4s

03. Neuville/Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai, + 22.5s

04. Paddon/Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai, + 23.7s

05. Østberg/Fløene(N/N), Ford, + 38.8s

06. Camilli/Veillas (F/F), Ford, + 46.6s

07. Sordo/Martí (E/E), Hyundai, + 50.2s

08. Tänak/Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford, + 1m 30.6s

09. Lappi/JFerm(FIN/FIN), Škoda, + 2m 20.3s

10. Bertelli/Scattolin (I/I), Ford, + 2m 24.7s

16. Latvala/Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen, + 7m 53.4s

Here’s the driver’s thoughts then at the end of day one.

Volkswagen Motorsport

Sébastien Ogier (F), Julien Ingrassia (F)
Volkswagen Polo R WRC (2016)
WRC Rally Australia 2016
Photo: Helena El Mokni

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“A good start for us here in Australia. I am very happy with second place for Julien and me. The afternoon conditions were better than expected. I was flat out all day. After all, we have nothing to lose here. The heat is definitely a factor. If it is as hot as this tomorrow, it will be a very tiring 50 kilometres against the clock on ‘Nambucca’. The temperature will also play a role with the tyres. Whatever happens, I will try to stay ahead of Thierry Neuville, in order to help Andreas and Anders in the battle for second place in the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championship.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

“I don’t know how often I’ve been in this situation this year. No sooner had the rally got underway, than it was over for me again. I lost a bit of grip in a long right-hander just before a bridge on the opening stage, and caught the bridge with the rear-right tyre. It was not a big impact, but we suffered a damaged suspension as a result and had lost a lot of time by the midday service. This is obviously not how we wanted to say goodbye to the team on our final appearance for Volkswagen. We must now end the rally with dignity.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“An absolutely perfect day for us – it doesn’t get much better than that. The Polo R WRC was better than ever in the morning. The set-up was ideal and fantastic to drive. The conditions out on the route changed in the afternoon, and we struggled a bit with oversteering and understeering at times. We expected to lose a lot of time on those behind us. To lead the rally and have won five stages on the way is absolutely perfect. If we want to clinch second place in the world championship, we are almost compelled to win – and that is exactly what we are trying to achieve here. Our goal has to be to have a good lead by Saturday evening, then we will have a good chance of crossing the finish line in front on Sunday. To achieve this, however, we still have a lot of hard work ahead of us.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville said: “The morning loop went OK. Our goal was to keep up with Seb (Ogier), who was starting first on the road – just ahead of us. In those conditions, we could run quite close, better than expected to be honest. The afternoon loop went well, and we could set some fast times, which moved us up the classification. Andreas is doing well, and leading the rally, so we know we have to maintain our speed and rhythm in our fight for second in the Championship.”

Hayden Paddon said: “All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with how this opening day has gone. The first three stages were to my liking, everything was flowing and the car felt good. The only real disappointment was the fourth stage, which didn’t go to plan. We had a lot of moments, and the balance of the car wasn’t ideal. A few half spins lost us some time. We tried something different with the tyres in the first loop with a mix of hard and soft. The afternoon went without any real dramas, and I think we’re well placed for the remainder of the rally. We’re still in the hunt; I’m feeling relaxed and comfortable.”

Dani Sordo said: “It’s been a really disappointing day for us. We started well and were in the fight after the opening three stages. But the time penalty has cost us a 20-second penalty. We misjudged the time we had to make it to SS4. After changing tyres on the road section, we were under some pressure and we missed two junctions on the way to the stage. These things can happen; we are only human. But it’s still immensely frustrating. There’s a long way to go in this rally and we’ll keep pushing.”

M-Sport WRT

Mads Østberg (5th) said:

“It’s been a good day. We had quite a big moment in the morning, but we got away with it and I’m pleased to see that we are competitive and posting times to challenge the leaders.

“We seemed to lose quite a lot of time on both passes of the Newry stage (SS4 and SS9) and would have been even closer were it not for that. Okay, we were on the same pace as those around us, but there was quite a big gap to the guys ahead so we need to understand why that was.

“Apart from that, it’s been good. We’re only 15 seconds shy of the podium and it’s great to be back in the fight. We’ll do what we can to continue that fight tomorrow.”

Éric Camilli (6th) said:

“It’s been a really good day for us. We didn’t expect to be this competitive straight away so that is always great to see. We showed some really good speed in places and set the third fastest time on the third stage of the morning.

“This is our first time here and we took a lot of pleasure from the stages. We had a lot of confidence with the car and that was a big positive for us – especially after the last couple of events.

“We’ll try to continue like this for the rest of the rally and hope to secure a good result at the end.”

Day two, Saturday. These were the stages that were ahead of them all. The significant one was Nambucca. It was the longest stage of the itinerary at 50km’s. Tyre choice would be critical.

08:28AM SS12 – NAMBUCCA I

09:37AM SS13 – VALLA 16 I

10:37AM SS14 – RACEWAY SSS II

01:16PM SS15 – NAMBUCCA II

02:25PM SS16 – VALLA16 II

04:48PM SS17 – DESTINATION NSW SSS – III

04:56PM SS18 – DESTINATION NSW SSS – IV

Hayden made an excellent start to win stage 12 with Jari-Matti 2.5 seconds and second fastest and rally leader Andreas 10 seconds slower. Hayden drove a stormer to halve Andreas’ lead and move back into second place overall! This was despite dust coming into the car that he admitted was quite a distraction.

Dani also moved ahead of Eric into sixth place overall.

Stage twelve times

1.H. PADDON 28:38.6

2.J. LATVALA 28:41.1 +2.5

3.A. MIKKELSEN 28:48.8 +10.2

4.S. OGIER 28:51.2 +12.6

5.O. TANAK 28:52.7 +14.1

6.M. OSTBERG 28:57.9 +19.3

7.D. SORDO 28:58.4 +19.8

8.T. NEUVILLE 29:00.9 +22.3

9.E. CAMILLI 29:06.6 +28.0

10.L. BERTELLI 29:47.2 +1:08.6

It was great to see Jari-Matti win stage thirteen with a consummate drive in this 15km stage. He declared that he was back! Seb closed the gap a little to Andreas through this one having picked soft tyres for the morning loop. It appeared to work well for him.

Stage thirteen times

1.J. LATVALA 8:37.1

2.M. OSTBERG 8:44.9 +7.8

3.S. OGIER 8:44.9 +7.8

4.H. PADDON 8:46.0 +8.9

5.A. MIKKELSEN 8:46.1 +9.0

6.E. CAMILLI 8:46.7 +9.6

7.D. SORDO 8:47.2 +10.1

8.O. TANAK 8:48.9 +11.8

9.T. NEUVILLE 8:51.1 +14.0

10.L. BERTELLI 9:01.4 +24.3

The short blast around the Raceway stage showed that you couldn’t really separate Andreas, Dani and Seb, with all three setting the same time!

Stage fourteen times

1.A. MIKKELSEN 1:16.8

2.D. SORDO 1:16.8 +0.0

3.S. OGIER 1:16.8 +0.0

4.T. NEUVILLE 1:17.0 +0.2

5.H. PADDON 1:17.0 +0.0

6.O. TANAK 1:17.5 +0.7

7.M. OSTBERG 1:17.6 +0.8

8.E. CAMILLI 1:18.2 +1.4

9.E. LAPPI 1:18.3 +1.5

10.J. LATVALA 1:18.5 +1.7

After the lunchtime service break, it was time for the second run of the day through Nambucca. Andreas had a 13.6 second lead over Hayden with Seb a further three seconds adrift. This was not over. Well, what followed was another stage win for the resurgent flying Finn Jari-Matti, and Seb moved back ahead of Hayden with the Frenchman now four seconds ahead of the Kiwi.

Stage fifteen times

1.J. LATVALA 28:07.0

2.S. OGIER 28:07.9 +0.9

3.A. MIKKELSEN 28:12.5 +5.5

4.D. SORDO 28:13.5 +6.5

5.T. NEUVILLE 28:15.1 +8.1

6.H. PADDON 28:15.2 +8.2

7.E. CAMILLI 28:22.7 +15.7

8.M. OSTBERG 28:26.8 +19.8

9.O. TANAK 28:47.4 +40.4

10.E. LAPPI 29:11.0 +1:04.0

It was another stage victory for Thierry, but the big news from the stage was that Andreas suffered a problem with his pedals. Basically, the clutch and brake pedal for some reason became connected and pressing one would make the other react…. Andreas lost 9.8 seconds to Seb… Now the lead was just 2 seconds.

Stage sixteen times

1.T. NEUVILLE 8:31.5

2.S. OGIER 8:32.1 +0.6

3.H. PADDON 8:35.1 +3.6

4.D. SORDO 8:38.3 +6.8

5.M. OSTBERG 8:38.6 +7.1

6.J. LATVALA 8:39.3 +7.8

7.E. CAMILLI 8:39.7 +8.2

8.A. MIKKELSEN 8:41.3 +9.8

9.O. TANAK 8:44.9 +13.4

10.L. BERTELLI 8:53.0 +21.5

Now every single second counted for Andreas. In fact, you could say every tenth of a second…. There wasn’t much to separate the teammates. Seb was one second quicker through SS17, but then Andreas was two tenths quicker in SS18. Seb had Andreas in his sights and was not going give this up.

Stage seventeen times

1.S. OGIER 1:01.7

2.D. SORDO 1:02.3 +0.6

3.A. MIKKELSEN 1:02.7 +1.0

4.M. OSTBERG 1:03.1 +1.4

5.H. PADDON 1:03.1 +1.4

6.T. NEUVILLE 1:03.2 +1.5

7.L. BERTELLI 1:03.6 +1.9

8.J. LATVALA 1:03.7 +2.0

9.O. TANAK 1:04.1 +2.4

10.E. LAPPI 1:04.6 +2.9

Stage eighteen times

1.A. MIKKELSEN 1:01.3

2.S. OGIER 1:01.5 +0.2

3.T. NEUVILLE 1:02.0 +0.7

4.D. SORDO 1:02.0 +0.7

5.M. OSTBERG 1:02.4 +1.1

6.L. BERTELLI 1:02.7 +1.4

7.H. PADDON 1:02.8 +1.5

8.J. LATVALA 1:03.2 +1.9

9. E. LAPPI 1:03.3 +2.0

10.O. TANAK 1:03.3 +2.0

Overall standings at the end of day two

01. Mikkelsen/Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen, 2h 15m 06.2s

02. Ogier/Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, + 2.0s

03. Paddon/Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai, + 12.0s

04. Neuville/Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai, + 33.8s

05. Sordo/Martí (E/E), Hyundai, + 59.2s

06. Østberg/Fløene (N/N), Ford, + 1m 00.6s

07. Camilli/Veillas (F/F), Ford, + 1m 21.7s

08. Tänak/Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford, + 2m 19.9s

09. Bertelli/Scattolin (I/I), Ford, + 4m 56.6s

10. Lappi/Ferm (FIN/FIN), Škoda, + 5m 22.7s

11. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen,+ 7m 33.8s

Here are the thoughts of the drivers at the end of day two down under.

Volkswagen Motorsport

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“That was a perfect day for us. Julien and I decided to take the risk and go for it. I used the boundary markers along the track like a slalom skier, as you can tell from the dents on the bonnet. We put all our eggs in one basket with our tyre selection as well – and luckily, choosing four soft tyres paid off. Before the rally, I would not have expected us to still have such a good chance in the battle for the win. Tomorrow will be a thrilling day for the fans. Andreas and Hayden will give their all to claim the win, and I also have nothing to lose.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN), Miikka Anttila (FIN)
Volkswagen Polo R WRC (2016)
WRC Rally Australia 2016
Photo: Daniel Roeseler

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

“From a driving point of view, today was definitely one of our better days and I am very pleased with the two best times. However, my mistake yesterday means that I cannot make a decisive contribution to the overall result. So, I will be keeping my fingers crossed that my team-mates Sébastien and Andreas cross the finish line at the head of the field. And then, with the whole team, we will raise a glass to the four extraordinary years that we have experienced.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“Sunday will be really interesting, although I could live with a little less tension. We had a great day today, we were always fast and we managed to stay ahead pretty well. We lost some time later on, as some damage to the footwell meant that the clutch and brake pedals were overlapping. That was a strange situation. It doesn’t change much about the grand finale tomorrow: whether we lead by two seconds or twelve and more – it will be a tough battle for the victory, and we would be happy to win it. We have to give our all until the finish line – and that is exactly what we intend to do.”

Hyundai Motorsport

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 14 / Rally Australia / November 17-20, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon said: “It’s been a good day. We started well with the stage win through Nambucca, which set a positive tone. There was a lot of dust coming into the car on those first stages. It was a bit of a distraction, but you have to expect that in Rally Australia. We knew that Seb (Ogier) would be on a charge in the afternoon, which proved to be the case, so we just focused on keeping up the pressure. We missed a bit of speed in the afternoon loop but all in all it’s been a good improvement over last year. We’re involved in a close fight up front. It’s a good position to be in and we’ll certainly be giving it a hard push tomorrow to see what we can do.”

Thierry Neuville said: “It’s been close to a perfect day for us considering the conditions. We made a wrong tyre choice this morning, which lost us some ground in the battle for third place. I was concerned the soft tyres would be too soft for the conditions. In hindsight, we should have perhaps taken the risk but that’s easier said than done when we’re trying to secure second in the Championship. The afternoon was better and I felt I drove well. We had to manage the tyres carefully but I was pretty pleased to set the fastest time in SS16, when conditions were more equal for everybody. We’re still firmly in the podium fight and we definitely won’t give up until the rally is over.”

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 14 / Rally Australia / November 17-20, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo said: “A much more positive day for us. After incurring the 20-second time penalty yesterday, we wanted to make up some positions. We knew from our performance on Friday that we had the pace to compete with the front-runners, so I was pleased to set some good times today. We started with the long Nambucca stage so it was important to find a good rhythm quickly. We went a bit wide, and lost some time, but apart from that everything has worked well. The car has been nice to drive, even if we have had to take care with the tyres. I am feeling confident, so let’s see what we can do tomorrow. We want to finish the season strongly.”

M-Sport WRT

Mads Østberg (6th) said:

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 14 / Rally Australia / November 17-20, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: M-Sport/McKlein

“It’s been a good day and, again, we showed that we have some really good speed with the second fastest time through the second stage this morning (SS13).

“We decided to make some changes to the set-up for the second pass of Nambucca (SS15) but unfortunately that didn’t work out and we lost quite a lot of time. It was still quite slippery and we were struggling for traction. I knew already after a couple of corners that it wasn’t going to work so to do 50 kilometres like that wasn’t easy.

“We did our best, but we’ll go back to the standard set-up tomorrow and fight again. The gap to Dani [Sordo in fifth] is very small, and we want that fifth place so that is what we will fight for.”

Éric Camilli (7th) said:

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 14 / Rally Australia / November 17-20, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: M-Sport/McKlein

“Like yesterday, it’s been another good day for us. The rally is continuing very well and we are on the pace which is really good. Of course, I know I could go faster in places, but that brings more risk which is not the objective this weekend. Still, it’s really good to see that we are not so far away.

“The first pass of the long stage was not so easy as we were discovering the road for the first time, but then it got a lot better. On the next stages our times were a lot stronger and that was really good to see. Even when we lost the brakes through the second pass of Valla (SS16), we were able to manage the situation and the time was competitive.”

Sunday

07:43AM SS19 – SETTLES REVERSE I

08:06AM SS20 – BUCCA 16

09:38AM SS21 – WEDDING BELLS16 I

12:15PM SS22 – SETTLES REVERSE II

01:08PM SS23 – WEDDING BELLS16 II (POWER STAGE)

Day three dawned hot and dry just like the first two days. Just two seconds separated Andreas and Seb, with both wanting to give Volkswagen their last victory at the top of the rallying world. Would Andreas do it? All it would take would be one spin, and it would all be over.

So, the first outcome was that Mads had do what he wanted and moved ahead of Dani into fifth place. Thierry was pushing hard, and spun in the stage, losing 15 seconds. It was still nip and tuck between Andreas and Seb. Just six tenths of a second separating them at the end of the stage.

Stage nineteen times

1.A. MIKKELSEN 3:06.5

2.S. OGIER 3:07.1 +0.6

3.H. PADDON 3:08.9 +2.4

4.J. LATVALA 3:10.0 +3.5

5.O. TANAK 3:10.7 +4.2

6.M. OSTBERG 3:12.0 +5.5

7.D. SORDO 3:14.9 +8.4

8.E. CAMILLI 3:18.2 +11.7

9.L. BERTELLI 3:19.7 +13.2

10.E. LAPPI 3:20.2 +13.7

Stage twenty then and it all happened in this one. Hayden saw his podium hopes slip away after he ran wide and hit the rear right, and puncturing his tyre. He lost more than a minute and dropped from third to fifth…. It was this stage that also saw Seb make a mistake! Incredible stuff! On the exit of a left-hander he struck a bank, and this spun him around. Precious seconds ticked away whilst he got the car turned around. The upshot of it all was that he lost nearly twenty seconds to Andreas and thus his hopes on victory.

Stage twenty times

1.A. MIKKELSEN 17:22.5

2.J. LATVALA 17:41.3 +18.8

3.S. OGIER 17:42.1 +19.6

4.D. SORDO 17:42.3 +19.8

5.T. NEUVILLE 17:46.7 +24.2

6.M. OSTBERG 17:51.1 +28.6

7.O. TANAK 17:53.8 +31.3

8.E. CAMILLI 18:13.9 +51.4

9.H. PADDON 18:36.1 +1:13.6

10.E. LAPPI 18:48.1 +1:25.6

Okay, so was the drama over for this event, or would there be another sting in the tail for someone? Well, young Frenchman Eric had been going really well, setting some top times on his debut down under. It would all unravel for him. He got a bit greedy on a right-hander which had a small bank which he put his front left wheel onto, and this tipped the car over into a roll and onto its side.

Stage twenty-one times

1.A. MIKKELSEN 3:40.8

2.J. LATVALA 3:41.0 +0.2

3.S. OGIER 3:41.3 +0.5

4.T. NEUVILLE 3:42.5 +1.7

5.D. SORDO 3:42.6 +1.8

6.H. PADDON 3:43.1 +2.3

7.O. TANAK 3:45.3 +4.5

8.M. OSTBERG 3:45.4 +4.6

9.E. LAPPI 3:53.0 +12.2

10. N. FUCHS 3:55.7 +14.9

Just two stages left then…. Andreas was nearly there…. Seb took stage twenty-two with Andreas coming in third fastest letting Seb edge a little closer, but only a few seconds conceded there.

Stage twenty-two times

1.S. OGIER 3:05.1

2.H. PADDON 3:06.5 +1.4

3.A. MIKKELSEN 3:07.9 +2.8

4.T. NEUVILLE 3:09.2 +4.1

5.D. SORDO 3:09.3 +4.2

6.J. LATVALA 3:09.6 +4.5

7.M. OSTBERG 3:09.7 +4.6

8.O. TANAK 3:11.0 +5.9

9.L. BERTELLI 3:16.5 +11.4

10.E. LAPPI 3:16.7 +11.6

So, we came to the last stage on the last event of the year. Seb took the three power stage points, Thierry the two points and Dani third quickest through took one. Andreas had done it though. His third WRC victory, beating his 4-times world rally champion teammate. That’s no easy feat at all.

Stage twenty-three times

1.S. OGIER 3:36.8

2.T. NEUVILLE 3:38.0 +1.2

3.D. SORDO 3:39.5 +2.7

4.H. PADDON 3:39.6 +2.8

5.J. LATVALA 3:40.7 +3.9

6.A. MIKKELSEN 3:41.8 +5.0

7.M. OSTBERG 3:42.2 +5.4

8.O. TANAK 3:43.1 +6.3

9.L. BERTELLI 3:49.9 +13.1

10.E. LAPPI 3:51.1 +14.3

So, the final standings are as follows.

01. Mikkelsen/Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen, 2h 46m 05.7s

02. Ogier/Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, + 14.9s

03. Neuville/Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai, + 1m 12.6s

04. Paddon/Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai, + 1m 26.7s

05. Sordo/Martí (E/E), Hyundai, + 1m 28.3s

06. Østberg/Fløene (N/N), Ford, + 1m 41.5s

07. Tänak/Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford, + 3m 04.3s

08. Lappi/Ferm (FIN/FIN), Škoda, + 7m 32.3s

09. Latvala/Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen, + 7m 56.9s

10. Bertelli/ Scattolin (I/I), Ford, + 8m 00.1s

Volkswagen end their involvement at the top level of the rally world with a one-two and Thierry finishes in third. This meant that he kept his second place in the championship. After the poor results in 2015, this year has been remarkable for him.

So, let’s hear from the drivers for the last time this year.

Volkswagen Motorsport

Anders Jæger (NOR), Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)
WRC Rally Australia 2016
Photo: Toni Welam

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“What a fantastic weekend, and what a wonderful result at the end of our season. Today has been a very special day, as it was our last appearance as a team. I was so desperate to win this rally for Volkswagen. It is fantastic to have achieved that. Volkswagen is the team that gave me the opportunity to step up into the top class of the WRC. They put a lot of faith in me and made so much possible for me. They will always have a special place in my heart. Everything came together at the final rally. Everything, absolutely everything, worked perfectly – it was simply the optimum of what we have achieved together in four years in the World Rally Championship. On the one hand, it is a bit of a shame that we just missed out on second place in the championship. On the other hand, that is not so important. If I had been given the choice of winning our final rally together or finishing runner-up in the world championship, I would always have chosen the win.”

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“I was a bit wide exiting a left-hander at the end of the ‘Wedding Bells’ stage, and spun. In the huge dust cloud, it took me a few moments to work out where the road was. We lost almost 20 seconds as a result. However, I have no regrets. Julien and I were really going for it all weekend, and had had a great battle with Andreas up to that point. He deserved the win. The most important thing is that our fantastic team bids farewell to the World Rally Championship with a victory. This is a very emotional moment for me. I have so much to thank the team for. Volkswagen Motorsport has been like a family to Julien and me. I have made a lot of friends and will never forget the wonderful moments we have had together over the past few years. A fantastic journey is coming to an end, and I am proud to have been a part of it.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

“I enjoyed the final few kilometres in the Polo R WRC on today’s Power Stage. We had some good special stages today and yesterday, and made good progress through the field. We can be happy with our performance over the past few days. Unfortunately, we made light contact with a wall on a bridge on the opening stage, and destroyed the rear suspension in the process. We lost a lot of time as a result, and had no chance of challenging for either the podium or the win. I would have liked to have done that – primarily to give our team a fitting leaving present. Our team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen and Sébastien Ogier claimed a deserved one-two. Congratulations to them both. We will celebrate as a team again this evening, before our time together in the World Rally Championship comes to an end. It is sure to be very emotional.”

Hyundai Motorsport

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 14 / Rally Australia / November 17-20, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville said: “I am delighted with how this rally has gone. We had some tricky conditions on the first days with our road position, so it hasn’t been easy. We concentrated on keeping our driving clean and we’ve been able to achieve our objectives – a podium finish and second in the Championship. It was particularly nice to end the rally with some Power Stage points. We’ve had the speed in the car all weekend so I’m happy to complete the season in this positive manner. Thanks to the team for a job well done this year. We had a difficult start but since Sardinia we’ve been able to show the speed and consistency necessary to be genuine contenders. I am already looking forward to 2017.”

Hayden Paddon said: “We didn’t want to go down without a fight. We started this morning’s opening stages knowing we’d have to push for the win, but we were determined to give it our best shot. We might not have had the speed to achieve the victory, but a podium would still have been a great way to end the year. For that reason, I was pretty devastated with what happened. We ran slightly wide on a corner, which popped the tyre off the rim, and we had to drive 20km with a puncture. We got over it quickly and knuckled down for the final stages, moving back up to fourth. Not quite the result we wanted, but perhaps representative of our roller-coaster season. There have been ups and downs, but all in all there are plenty of positives and experiences to take forward to next season. Our thanks go to the whole team and to all our fans for the support. We’ll be back next season, stronger than ever!”

Dani Sordo said: “We wanted to give it a big push today to see how strongly we could finish the rally – and the 2016 season. We were in a very close battle with Hayden for fourth, and we gave it a good attempt. Of course, whether you finish fourth or fifth in these circumstances doesn’t really matter but it was nice to score a Power Stage point for our efforts. Without the time penalty on Friday, we could have been fighting for the podium but these things happen. Thank you to the team for their work this season. We might have missed a victory along the way but we have taken a few podiums. It’s been a positive season and definitely gives us something to build on.”

M-Sport WRT

Mads Østberg (6th) said:

“It’s been a good rally and I’ve been quite happy with the weekend. Like in Finland, we were able to set some really competitive times and were fighting close to the front. Unfortunately, there were just a few stages where we lost too much time and the big battles got away from us. Apart from that, it’s still been a really good weekend. We might only be sixth, but we had some really good stages and it was good to be back in the fight.

“It’s also been nice to have been at the very first rally with this Fiesta, and here again at its final outing in the WRC. I’ve had a lot of success in this car, especially from 2011 to 2013 where I had some really strong performances. It really took me forward in the championship and helped me gain a position as a manufacturer driver. The car really has meant a lot to me over the years.”

Éric Camilli (DNF) said:

“This time we didn’t deserve not to finish the rally. I don’t know if the word ‘unlucky’ exists in rallying as there are so many factors that can contribute to making you go off the road, but this one I think might be that.

“I thought the road would be very slippery, but in fact it was not. I turned in too early and went too deep into the corner. We went up on two wheels and rolled the car. It’s not a mistake because of experience, or a wrong pace note, or too much speed or anything like that, it’s just one of those things. We just need to forget about it and focus on the good race we were having before that moment.

“I really enjoyed the Australian stages and we were running a really good rally. We set a lot of good times and the most important thing was that our pace was very close to everyone else. We were in the battle and quite a few times we were setting times better than those with a lot more experience. We didn’t expect that, and for sure next year we will come back stronger.”

D-Mack WRT

Ott Tänak said: “Apart from the problems on Friday, it was a really enjoyable rally. The stages here are great fun to drive, with some nice, flowing sections. Overall it’s been a positive season and we’ve worked really hard with the DMACK technicians to move things forward. There have been highs and lows but the progress this year has been impressive.”

Last of all, the thoughts of the team principles.

Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport Director

“Today is a very successful day for Volkswagen on the one hand, and an emotional goodbye to the world rally championship on the other. To bid farewell with a one-two is simply fantastic. Despite the difficult situation, the entire team gave their all and was thoroughly professional right down to the final metre. I am incredibly proud of our performance here at the Rally Australia – and over the past few years. I would like to thank everyone in Hannover, Wolfsburg and at the rallies, as well as our partners, who have all contributed to our success. We have achieved a lot and head into our future in motorsport full of confidence.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR), Anders Jæger (NOR)
Sébastien Ogier (F), Julien Ingrassia (F)
Volkswagen Polo R WRC (2016)
WRC Rally Australia 2016
Photo: Toni Welam

Hyundai Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We knew we’d be in for a thrilling final day. There were a few final twists in the tale of the 2016 season, but overall we can be satisfied with our debut Australian podium. Well done to Thierry and Nicolas on their performance and claiming second place in the Drivers and Co-drivers’ Championships. They have had a fantastic season, particularly since their win in Sardinia. It was a pity for Hayden that his incident this morning prevented a push for victory. Dani, too, was also unfortunate not to be able to fight for a better result. As a team, we have had a strong year. The New Generation i20 WRC has done us proud but it’s the result of hard work by the entire team. We have shown a lot of progress and maturity this year, and I am personally grateful to every individual member of Hyundai Motorsport for their valuable contributions. I would also like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Volkswagen Motorsport for being such fierce competitors. They have set the benchmark very high. We will miss competing against them, but will continue to be inspired by their achievements.”

M-Sport WRT Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“It is the end of an era as we say goodbye to the current Ford Fiesta RS WRC – a car which has delivered a lot of success over the past six years. Closing this chapter is made all the more special exactly 20 years after signing the contract with Ford.

“For two decades we have been competing at the head of the FIA World Rally Championship and I’m sure that further success lies ahead. I’m convinced that we have produced another rally-winning car with the new Ford Fiesta WRC and the whole team are now fully focussed on next season where we’ll be determined to make a return to the top step of the podium.

“Before we wave goodbye to 2016 however, we must commend Volkswagen Motorsport and thank them for their commitment to our sport. Their achievements have been marked and the whole service park has benefitted from their involvement. I speak for the whole team when saying that it has been a pleasure to compete with them and they will be sorely missed. We hope to see them return in the future for more close-fought competition.”

So, the final championship standings.

Drivers’ Championship

1. Sébastien Ogier, 268 points

2. Thierry Neuville, 160

3. Andreas Mikkelsen, 154

4. Hayden Paddon, 138

5. Dani Sordo, 130

6. Jari-Matti Latvala, 112

7. Mads Østberg, 102

8. Ott Tänak, 88

9. Kris Meeke, 64

10. Craig Breen, 36

Co-drivers’ Championship

1. Julien Ingrassia, 268 points

2. Nicolas Gilsoul, 160

3. Anders Jæger, 15

4. John Kennard, 138

5. Marc Martí, 130

6. Miikka Anttila, 112

7. Ola Fløene, 102

8. Raigo Mõlder, 88

9. Paul Nagle, 64

10. Scott Martin, 36

Manufacturers’ Championship

1. Volkswagen Motorsport, 377 points

2. Hyundai Motorsport, 312

3. Volkswagen Motorsport II, 163

4. M-Sport, 162

5. Hyundai Motorsport N, 146

6. DMACK, 98

7. Jipocar Czech National Team, 18

8. Yazeed Racing, 4

Warren Nel

23rd November 2016

Twitter @Warren_S_Nel

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