The 2015 FIA World Rally Championship if officially here and the Volkswagen team are happy with the Rallye Monte-Carlo shakedown, despite being outpaced by the Citroen pairing of Sébastien Loeb and Kris Meeke.
Slippery conditions faced the rally teams on the 3.52km Chateauvieux stage and it was reigning champion Sébastien Ogier who took the advantage for the German manufacturer, finishing the shakedown in third place.
“The shakedown went well for Julien and me.” said Ogier. “The new Polo R WRC not only looks good, it also feels great on the road. But one thing’s for sure: the conditions at this ‘Monte’ won’t be easy. With temperatures around freezing it will be difficult to predict where there will be ice and snow, and where the asphalt will still be clear. The ice spies will play an important role once again.
“There are also lots of new special stages that I’m not familiar with at this year’s Rally Monte Carlo. The fact that Sébastien Loeb is returning for this rally naturally makes it even more exciting for the many fans – but no doubt there are plenty of other drivers who want to fight for the win in these unpredictable conditions.”
Andreas Mikkelsen showed promising pace to finish just 10-tenths behind team-mate Ogier, “The shakedown was good for putting a few kilometres on the clock and testing a few tyre combinations. But it wasn’t really that representative of the ‘Monte’. With all the mud it was more like the Rally Great Britain.
“However, it will also be difficult to predict the conditions accurately in the coming days, since they change very quickly. For example, during the ‘recce’, the 51-kilometre stage was covered in snow on the first pass, but was bare asphalt on the second pass. So it will be interesting.”
Jari-Matti Latvala rounded out the shakedown just outside the top-ten in eleventh. “The conditions at the shakedown weren’t the best today.” admitted Latvala. “It got very muddy very quickly, making it very slippery. Despite all that we were able to improve the tuning of the Polo R WRC. I’m looking forward to the rally starting properly on Thursday. Then we’ll see how we measure up against our rivals.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director added: “The winter break was long enough, we’re really looking forward to the Rally Monte Carlo and the coming days. We’ve brought plenty of excitement with us – a new car and a new look for the whole team.
“We’re highly motivated to repeat last year’s success, and are excited to see how well the new Polo R WRC does compared with its rivals. The shakedown is always the best opportunity to get used to the special conditions of a rally. We took advantage of that today. But the real start is on Thursday evening with the first two special stages.”