Ahead of the furious finale: Latvala and Ogier clock identical times in “Free Practice”
Mikkelsen forced to skip Shakedown, but starts as planned on Friday
Two Polo R WRCs inseparable at the top of the times list – Volkswagen made a top-class start to the Rally Great Britain. The fastest time in the Shakedown ahead of the 13th and final round of the season in the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) was recorded by both three-time world champions* Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) and Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN).
The two Volkswagen duos made the switch from the asphalt of the Rally Spain to the slippery Welsh gravel perfectly, despite not having completed any tests prior to the rally: they clocked the fastest time of 2:01.4 minutes for the 3.32-kilometre Shakedown stage “Clocaenog”, ahead of Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL, Citroën). The route was characterised by the typical slippery mud, which became increasingly rutted from one car to the next – a taste of what the drivers can expect in the thick Welsh forests on the weekend’s special stages.
In contrast, Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) were not able to take part in the Shakedown. Mikkelsen had not felt 100 per cent on Thursday, and opted to return to Germany for a medical check-up by the team doctors, as a precautionary measure. The results came back clear, meaning the winner from Rally Spain will join his colleagues at the Ceremonial Start on Thursday evening, before starting the rally as planned on Friday.
* Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA.
Quotes after the Shakedown at the Rally Great Britain
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Julien and I have prepared as well as possible for the Rally Great Britain. I really like it here, and this year’s rally once again features some wonderful stages. As expected, the conditions are slippery and demanding. However, I have coped well with them for the past two years. We had a special guest at the Shakedown, in the form of Audi’s Le Mans engineer Leena Gade – I think she rather enjoyed getting away from the racetrack and into the mud.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“The Shakedown went very well and I felt very comfortable in the Polo R WRC from the word go – although we did not do any testing in the run-up to the Rally. We agreed a basic set-up with our engineer whilst we were in Spain, and we were spot on from the outset. Despite this, we still tried out a few different things, in order to be prepared for the changing conditions. I am really looking forward to the start of the first stage. Wales is like a second home rally for me, and I always enjoy coming back here. A good result would be a nice way to end the 2015 season.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“Unfortunately we had to skip the Shakedown today. I was not feeling 100 per cent yesterday. We sat down with the doctors and decided I should go for a thorough check-up, as a precaution. That did not reveal anything, so we were given the green light for the rally. I’m okay, but I have obviously missed out on the experience I would have gained on the Shakedown. I usually find it easy enough to switch from asphalt, as we had last time out in Spain, to the gravel we have here in Great Britain. I am looking forward to the rally now. I want to find the special rhythm you need here in Wales as quickly as possible, then push really hard. This is where I used to live, did my driving test and started my career. As such, I am really motivated to end the season in style in my second home.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“The conditions at the Rally Great Britain are always unique in Wales. Our goal for the Shakedown was naturally to adapt to these conditions and to prepare as well as possibly for the next three days. Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala showed they are in top form, both clocking identical fastest times. Andreas Mikkelsen would also have liked to have had this confidence boost, but he had to miss today’s Shakedown, as he was not feeling well yesterday. Our doctors preferred to give him a thorough check-up and have given him the green light to start the rally. We are looking forward to a furious finale, with all three of our winning crews in top form.”