Defending champions Volkswagen Motorsport are looking forward to getting the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship season under way at the iconic Rallye Monte-Carlo.
With an unchanged driver line-up (with the exception of new co-driver for Andreas Mikkelsen), the champions are looking to start the season with a win, but Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito is realistic about the challenge that faces the team.
“The Rally Monte Carlo is often exactly what Monaco is renowned for: a gamble,” said Capito. “The unsettled weather makes tyre selection a lottery. On the one hand, you need the driver and co-driver to cooperate perfectly. On the other, you also need the ice spies, weather crew and service team to work in harmony. In this regard, there is no greater challenge in the World Rally Championship. And that is precisely why we are so looking forward to it, as we are well prepared.”
The team revealed their 2016 Volkswagen Pole R WRC a few days ago, the car remains largely the same aside from some minor changes to the front-end of the car and the pistons.
Three-time drivers champion Sébastien Ogier is delighted that the season is once again opening with Rallye Monte-Carlo, “I cannot imagine a better rally, with which to start the new season. I have won the ‘Monte’ for the past two years, and would obviously like to win it again this year.
“For me, it is the most important rally of the year. The key factor is tyre selection. We drivers are very dependent on our ice spies. It is all about interpreting the weather conditions correctly and understanding the unique weather in the Alps.”
Ogier lead team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala home to a dominant Volkswagen 1-2-3 to start the season last year after early dominance from Citroen, few will doubt the ability of the champions as we start the new season.
“The Rally Monte Carlo is something very special every year,” said Latvala. “The conditions in the mountains can pretty much change from one minute to the next. The roads on the sunny side of a mountain are completely different to the shaded side, where they are often icy.
“The better the communication with the ice spies, the more likely you are to get a good result at the ‘Monte’. The presentation alone – to be stood in front of the Royal Palace and hopefully receive a trophy – is the ultimate motivation for me at every ‘Monte’.”
For Mikkelsen there is an unknown factor for him to contend with due to a change of co-drivers over the off-season. “I will admit that the Rally Monte Carlo is not one of my favourite rallies,” he said . “I finished third here last year, and that would be an outstanding result again in 2016.
“I will be driving alongside my new co-driver Anders Jæger from now on. It will certainly take a while for us to get up to 100 per cent. I have an extremely positive feeling after all the tests with Anders. I am sure we will find our rhythm after a few special stages.”