(4/10/2013) JUST less than three weeks after Volkswagen driver Sebastien Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia left Australia without the coveted FIA World Rally Championship, the French pair has clinched the sport’s biggest prize on the first stage of their home event.
The result of the points-earning Power Stage of Rallye de France – for a change run first rather than last on an event – meant the pair could no longer be caught at the top of the table, even though two more rounds of the 2013 season remain to be run.
Ogier and Ingrassia had high hopes of winning their maiden championship on the closing stage of Coates Hire Rally Australia on the NSW Coffs Coast on 15 September, only to fall one point short despite winning the rally in one of their most dominant performances of the year.
Exuberant scenes greeted Ogier and Ingrassia as they returned to the Volkswagen Motorsport service park in Strasbourg on Thursday night.
Team members wearing specially-prepared ‘World Champions’ T-shirts waved banners and sounded horns as Ogier steered his Polo R WRC into its parking place. The noise reached a crescendo as the crew leapt out of the car and jumped onto the bonnet to celebrate.
Ogier and Ingrassia hugged motorsport director Jost Capito, who had already started the celebrations as the car crossed the finish line of the 4.55km street test.
“I am absolutely overjoyed! I could give everyone in the world a big hug,” Ogier exclaimed.
“The feeling is impossible to describe. To have won the World Championship title in France is an absolute dream come true.
“For the last few days I have been trying not to think too much about it, in order to avoid making any mistakes. The relief now is immense.
“As a little boy, I used to marvel at the cars and top drivers at the Rally Monte-Carlo with my father in my home town of Gap – and now Julien and I are World Rally Champions. It is crazy.
“However, I am also well aware that rallying is a team sport. This success would never have been possible without our fantastic team at Volkswagen. Whether trucker, mechanic or race engineer, I have to thank everyone.”
Ogier knew before he tackled the Power Stage that the title was his. Thierry Neuville, the only man who could deny him, needed maximum bonus points from winning the test to keep the battle alive. However, he was slower than stage winner Dani Sordo and so Ogier, in the last pair to start the test, did so already as world champion.
“It was a strange feeling to realise I was champion, but I still had to drive the stage. I was shaking a lot inside the car and I didn’t expect that. But I was happy because it meant that I had a lot of emotion and sometimes I’m not emotional enough,” he said.
The success sees Ogier and Ingrassia make history on several fronts at the wheel of their Polo R WRC.
Not only is this their maiden Driver and Co-Driver title in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). It is also the first time a new pairing has conquered the pinnacle of rallying for just short of a decade – Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena having won the past nine titles.
No driver or co-driver had ever been crowned World Champion while driving for a manufacturer making its debut in the series.
With the Polo R WRC, Volkswagen is making its first appearance in the WRC in 2013 and has already exceeded all expectations in its rookie season.
Volkswagen leads the Manufacturers’ Championship.