2015 WRC season review – Third year of Volkswagen's domination
After world titles in 2013 and 2014 Volkswagen Motorsport and Sebastien Ogier continued their domination in world rallying during 2015 and clinched the third consecutive Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ titles. Volkswagen’s international driver line-up at the wheel of three 320-hp Volkswagen Polo R WRC cars scored 12 victories at 13 events.
Reigning world champion Frenchman Sebastien Ogier was the winner eight times, Finn Jari-Mati Latvala won three times and Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen triumphed for the first time in his WRC career at Rally Catalunya. Only non-Volkswagen driver who won WRC event in 2015 was Citroen’s Kris Meeke at Rally Argentina.
Ogier scored eight wins in 2015
32-year-old Sebastien Ogier scored eight victories in 2015 and increased total number of WRC wins to 32, so he is now second on the list of the drivers with the most wins in the history of World Rally Championship, behind Sebastien Loeb (78 wins). With three titles, Ogier became fourth on the list of multiple world champions, behind Loeb (9 titles), Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Mäkinen (4 titles both).
Four (or three and a half) factory teams competed in 2015 championship, with Volkswagen, Citroen and Hyundai backed by manufacturers and M-Sport World Rally Team as semi-factory outing. Only change in driver line-up compared to 2014 was the retirement of Mikko Hirvonen, so M-Sport hired Estonian driver Ott Tanak as Hirvonen’s replacement.
1-2-3 victory for Volkswagen at Rallye Monte-Carlo
Nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb was also back in the competition, but only at Rallye Monte-Carlo. Loeb was the early leader of the rally in Citroen DS3 WRC but lost the first place to Ogier on the seventh stage. Ogier scored his second consecutive victory in Monte-Carlo, ahead of two teammates Latvala and Mikkelsen.
Sebastien Ogier won the second round of the championship in Sweden, just six seconds ahead of Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville. Ogier took the victory on the very last stage of the rally, after previous leader Andreas Mikkelsen hit the snowbank, lost 40 seconds and dropped to third.
Here’s the video of Ott Tanak’s crash in Mexico:
Rally Mexico – third victory for Ogier
Sebastien Ogier was unbeatable in Mexico. The third round of the championship and the first gravel rally of the season will be remembered by an unusual accident of Ott Tanak during the third stage. Estonian lost control of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC and went off the road and into the lake. Tanak and his co-driver Raigo Molder managed to evacuate from the car before it submerged. Tanak’s car was recovered from the reservoir and the M-Sport mechanics were able to repair the car for use the next day.
After a few more crashes and retirements (Meeke, Kubica, Paddon, Neuville, Latvala) Citroen driver Mads Ostberg caught the second place behind Ogier, while Andreas Mikkelsen scored his third consecutive third place finish.
Maiden WRC win for Kris Meeke at Rally Argentina
Lots of crashes and technical issues marked the fourth round of the season (Rally Argentina). Ogier suffered early mechanical problems and stopped at the second stage of the rally. He recovered later and finished 17th, but he scored points by winning the Power Stage. The winner of the rally was Kris Meeke.
It was his first ever WRC victory and the first win of a British driver since 2002, when Colin McRae won at Safari Rally. Meeke dedicated the victory to McRae, who had been his mentor. Mads Ostberg secured 1-2 victory for Citroen, while M-Sport’s Elfyn Evans was third.
Again 1-2-3 for Volkswagen at Portugal
At Rally Portugal we saw one more 1-2-3 victory for Volkswagen. The winner was Jari-Matti Latvala, eight seconds ahead Sebastien Ogier. Andreas Mikkelsen was third, for the fourth time this season. One stage was cancelled because of a forest fire.
On the Rally d’Italia Sardegna Sebastien Ogier scored his fourth win of the season. The hero of the first day was young New Zealander Hayden Paddon with Hyundai i20 WRC. He won three Friday’s stages and took the comfortable lead ahead of Volkswagen’s Latvala and Ogier. Ogier overtook Paddon after SS17 and controlled the race after that. He won with a three-minute advantage over Paddon, while Thierry Neuville scored one more podium place for Hyundai.
Latvala’s third victory in Finland
Sebastien Ogier started the seventh round of the championship (Rally Poland) with the fastest time on the opening Super Special and he finished in the same way, by winning the rally. Mikkelsen finally moved forward and after four third places he finished second in Poland. M-Sport’s Ott Tanak scored the last podium place.
The Rally Finland, commonly known as Finnish Grand Prix because of high speeds, was the eighth round of the championship. Jari-Matti Latvala scored his second win of the season and third win on his home event. Sebastien Ogier was very close, but at the end he missed the win for 14 seconds. Citroen’s Mads Ostberg completed the podium.
Third 1-2-3 victory for Volkswagen
The third 1-2-3 victory for Volkswagen followed at Rally Deutschland. Sebastien Ogier won ahead his team-mates Latvala and Mikkelsen. Ogier and Latvala dominated at asphalt roads and won 20 of 21 stages. Same two drivers were in front at Rally Australia, the tenth round of the championship. With his seventh win of the season Ogier secured his third championship title, with three rallies still to go. Volkswagen Motorsport also took the title after that round.
Eleventh round at French island Corsica was marked by bad weather and floods, which damaged the roads resulting in several stages being cancelled. Jari-Matti Latvala won the rally, ahead of Elfyn Evans and Andreas Mikkelsen.
Mikkelsen won in Spain after Ogier’s crash
After seven podium places in previous 11 events, Andreas Mikkelsen finally scored his first ever WRC victory at Rally Catalunya. He won after an incredible last stage and Ogier’s crash, while he was leading. Latvala finished second and Hyundai’s Dani Sordo cheered the home crowd with third place finish.
Two Volkswagen drivers were on the podium again at the last round of the championship – Wales Rally GB. Sebastien Ogier won the rally and Andreas Mikkelsen was third. Kris Meeke was between them. Meeke’s podium and Mads Ostberg’s seventh place secured second place for Citroen in Manufacturers’ standings, ahead Hyundai.
In the drivers’ standings Volkswagen’s trio of Ogier, Latvala and Mikkelsen were on the top, ahead Citroen’s Ostberg and Meeke. Thierry Neuville, Elfyn Evans, Dani Sordo, Hayden Paddon and Ott Tanak completed Top 10. Czech driver Martin Prokop was a best privateer at 11th place, ahead of former F1 star Robert Kubica.
Watch the short video recap of 2015 WRC season: