For the first time in 10 years, the FIA World Rally Championship trophy has two new names engraved on it.
Sat 07.12.13, 2:02AM
For the first time in 10 years, the FIA World Rally Championship trophy will have two new names engraved on it. In their debut season with Volkswagen Motorsport, the all-French crew of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia claimed the title on their home round of the Championship, Rallye de France Alsace. Tonight, the newly-crowned FIA World Rally Champions were presented with the prestigious trophy at the annual FIA Prize-Giving in Paris.
This year’s Championship saw the introduction of a number of regulation changes aimed at helping to reduce costs while raising the sporting challenge and increasing media coverage. The series was however once again fought out over 13 events on a variety of different surfaces, one of the defining features of this unique sport.
2013 saw Volkswagen Motorsport join the FIA World Rally Championship and the German marque set the stages alight with its all-new Polo R WRC. After a year of test and development work with its Super 2000 car, the season could not have got off to a better start for the team, with Ogier claiming second overall in the famous Rallye Monte-Carlo. Victories then followed, with Ogier and Ingrassia taking three consecutive wins on the rallies in Sweden, Mexico and Portugal. As in Monte-Carlo, Ogier was forced to finish second behind multiple World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb in Argentina, and fuel pressure problems saw him in a lowly and unusual 10th position on the following Acropolis Rally. However, wins in Italy and Finland set the duo up for a shot at the title on the team’s home round in Germany. Disappointment followed when they went off the road early in the event, seeing the title fight head to Australia. Despite a faultless drive and another victory, the title still eluded the Frenchmen and, fittingly the series was finally won on the asphalt roads of Rallye de France Alsace after an epic battle by five of the world’s top rally drivers. More wins in Spain and on Wales Rally GB rounded off a near perfect season for the all-French crew.
Thierry Neuville came into his own this season, the Belgian and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul coming tantalisingly close to their maiden WRC victory in France. However, consistent performances saw them finish second in the Championship with the Qatar World Rally Team, ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila in the second Polo R WRC.
Commenting on his nine victories this season and first world title, Sébastien Ogier said: “Now that the season is over, I can look back on what has really been an incredible year. If anyone had predicted before the start of the season that Julien and I would end up with nine wins and the World Championship title to our name, we would probably have sent him straight to our team doctor. For Julien and me it´s a dream come true and we are both extremely proud and honoured to have received the FIA trophy this evening. But it also belongs to the team which did a great job in our debut year. They made this fantastic success possible by providing me with a magnificent car.”
In the FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers, Ogier’s nine victories combined with Latvala’s win in Greece sealed the brand’s first world title in a remarkable first season. This is the first time that any manufacturer has won a world title in a debut competitive season.
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director, said: “We are very proud to have received the FIA trophies for all three titles in the World Rally Championship on this glamorous evening. Never in our wildest dreams did we reckon on such a fantastic result in our first season in the WRC. I would like to say a big thank you to everyone in the Volkswagen Team, from mechanics to truck drivers, race engineers to marketing staff; the commitment shown by every single person was instrumental in us achieving the greatest success in the history of Volkswagen Motorsport. And not forgetting the Polo R WRC, which not only demonstrated competitive speed right from the outset, but has also proven to be extremely reliable. That is an extraordinary effort in a debut year and our three driver pairings each produced outstanding performances too. Particularly Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, whose commanding nine wins make them more than worthy winners of their Driver and Co-Driver titles in the World Championship.”
The FIA World Rally Championship support series were more popular than ever this year with amended regulations permitting drivers to nominate points-scoring rounds event by event. In the newly-created FIA WRC 2 Championship for four-wheel drive cars, former Formula One driver Robert Kubica and co-driver Maciek Baran enjoyed a remarkable debut year. Amid tough competition from a field of 39 entrants, the Poles claimed victory on five of their seven nominated events to win the title with one round remaining. In the Teams championship, Seashore Qatar Rally Team won the title. Within the WRC 2 category, a separate Cup is presented to the winning Production Car crew and this season the award went to Peru’s Nicolas Fuchs and Argentinean Fernando Mussano.
Seventeen drivers fought for the FIA WRC 3 Championship title but it was yet another Sébastien who claimed the honours at Rallye de France Alsace. Sébastien Chardonnet’s two victories and three second places in the series for two-wheel drive cars was enough for him and Thibault de la Haye to seal their first title on the world stage. Charles Hurst Citroën Belfast claimed the Teams championship title.
The FIA Junior WRC Championship has a format that not only awards points in the overall classification, but sees drivers pick up a point for every stage win during an event. The WRC’s feeder series is an important stepping stone for aspiring youngsters and, with its single-make formula for cars, tyres and fuel, ensures a level playing field for all competitors. Sweden’s Pontus Tidemand along with Norwegian co-driver Ola Floene took the honours this season with three victories to their name.