Volkswagen can seal WRC crown in Australia
SYDNEY (AP) — Volkswagen teammates Sebastian Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala will be released from team orders and allowed to pursue their personal battle for the world drivers’ championships at the Rally of Australia starting Friday in New South Wales state.
Ogier and Latvala jointly need only five points from the rally, the 10th of 14 rounds of the World Rally Championships, to clinch the manufacturers’ championships for Volkswagen. If the German team achieves that goal, it will be the earliest point of the season that a WRC title has been decided in 25 years.
Volkswagen is already assured of the drivers’ crown as, with four rounds remaining, Latvala and teammate Andreas Mikkelsen are the only drivers in a position to catch Ogier who leads the title race with 187 points.
Volkswagen’s motorsport director Jost Capito said there would be no pressure on Ogier and Latvala to drive to team instructions.
“Rally Australia is one of the highlights of the year,” Capito said. “With the current situation in the world championship it has the potential to be particularly exciting in 2014.
“In the Ogier versus Latvala duel, both drivers have been given the go-ahead to fight for victory. We also have a good chance of being able to celebrate winning the manufacturers’ title early.
The 44 point gap that currently separates Ogier and Latvala in the drivers’ standings is the same that existed before Rallye Deutschland, the previous WRC round in which both crashed and failed to finish. Until that point the Volkswagen pair had won every round of the season with Ogier claiming five victories and Latvala three.
Rally Australia is contested mostly on gravel roads which are fast but notoriously slippery and can be challenging for early starters who sweep the roads for later cars.
“Switching back from asphalt to gravel is always harder than the other way around,” Latvala said. “But we had a test in Finland before the rally to get used to the feeling once again.
“I hope that I can fight for the win. But we also need to keep an eye on the competition outside of our team. I think that Citroën and Hyundai also have a good chance of winning.”
The rally starts with technical, narrow and winding stages on Friday and concludes Sunday with more than 100 kilometers of fast stages through rainforest.