“No one has come close to VW’S stats”

Motor Sport News - - Rally News -

Where did those four years go? Han­nover, of course.

Hard as it is to be­lieve, Volk­swa­gen’s four-year stay as a World Rally Cham­pi­onship force is at an end. Past Sun­day, the Polo R WRC will be con­fined to history. The fast has-been in the sport’s history.

In the past cou­ple of weeks, I’ve writ­ten more than the odd word about our cham­pi­ons. This week? How about some num­bers to go with them?

Try 986. That’s the num­ber of days Se­bastien Ogier has led the driv­ers’ cham­pi­onship for suc­ces­sively. That’s im­pres­sive. But not quite as good as Volk­swa­gen it­self: the Ger­man firm has been out front in the makes’ race for a cool 1,346 days.

In case you were won­der­ing, no­body’s even come close to those num­bers be­fore.

Nor has any­body man­aged 85 podium re­sults and 42 wins from 51 ral­lies con­tested. And not once has any team won 12 ral­lies in one sea­son. Volk­swa­gen hasn’t ei­ther; it’s done it twice.

And, don’t for­get, it has also won 12 ral­lies back-to-back. Twice. Each time, the per­fect 13 just es­caped them. It’s al­most a re­lief, isn’t it!

By the time it’s done the Polo R WRC will have con­tested 958 spe­cial stages in the last four years. It hasn’t done badly: be­fore turn­ing a wheel in New South Wales, at least one Polo has been in the top three 1,524 times. All three have been in the top three 104 times. That’s al­most one in ev­ery nine stages con­tested. That’s just un­rea­son­able.

You want more? OK, how about the pow­er­stage? Fifty starts, 38 wins. So far. Num­ber 39 on Sun­day? Wait and see. Talk­ing about Sun­day, will that mean a 20th VW 1-2 in four years or maybe a fifth podium lock-out?

Enough. We get it: Volk­swa­gen’s got the WRC sussed. With the new rules com­ing for next sea­son, it’s un­likely the world cham­pi­onship will be dom­i­nated in such fashion again by a sin­gle man­u­fac­turer. And, as much as we must stand back and ad­mire what Volk­swa­gen has achieved, a good few might well be breath­ing a sigh of re­lief.

Me? I’m not one of them. I re­main ter­ri­bly dis­ap­pointed our cham­pi­ons won’t be there for the rest to take a shot at next sea­son. And bor­der­line trau­ma­tised that we won’t be see­ing that latest and great­est Polo.

The only thing that re­mains to be seen is whether or not An­dreas Mikkelsen can get back past Thierry Neuville and end his time as a Volk­swa­gen em­ployee sec­ond best in the world.

Sup­pose it would be nice for the Nor­we­gian. But, let’s be hon­est, do we re­ally care that much about who’s sec­ond? Yes, in­deed, it’s bet­ter than third. But it’s also the first loser.

Prob­a­bly more in­ter­est­ing is Es­apekka Lappi and Skoda’s long-haul bid for the WRC2 ti­tle. Third place will be enough for the Finn to deny his coun­try­man Teemu Suni­nen, who has ended his sea­son level-peg­ging on points with El­fyn Evans – the Welsh­man los­ing out on count­back.

So, for one last time Volk­swa­gen…

The fi­nal­ists for this year’s John Eas­son Award have been an­nounced, with the win­ner claim­ing £5000 to put to­wards en­try fees in 2017.

The award – run by the 2300 Club – will be con­tested by English rally cham­pion Sam Bil­ham, Fi­esta ST Tro­phy cham­pi­onship run­ner-up Ge­orge Le­p­ley and Ju­nior Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship com­peti­tor Meirion Evans.

The trio will at­tend an in­for­mal in­ter­view on Novem­ber 27, where the judges will choose their win­ner. In­cluded on the panel of judges are award scheme man­ager Allan Durham, cham­pi­onship win­ning co-driver Ian Grindrod and MN’S group na­tional editor Jack Benyon.

Le­p­ley ap­plied for the award last year and didn’t make the fi­nal­ists, but worked hard to be con­sid­ered again in 2016.

“Af­ter I didn’t make the fi­nal, I con­tacted them to find out what I needed to do to make the fi­nal and it was mainly a few tweaks to the pre­sen­ta­tion,” said Le­p­ley. “I’m look­ing for­ward to go­ing and propos­ing my 2017 plans and my cur­rent CV, and see if we can come out on top.”

Welsh driver, Evans cred­ited the or­gan­is­ers for keeping the award go­ing as a rel­a­tively small club, of­fer­ing one of the big­gest sin­gle cash prizes in UK ral­ly­ing.

“It’s run by the club and the fact they keep it run­ning ev­ery year is great. It costs noth­ing to en­ter so it’d be silly not to, and it’s a fan­tas­tic award. We want to go and do events fur­ther afield next sea­son. I think they’re quite keen on the win­ner be­ing an am­bas­sador for the award.”

York­shire­man Bil­ham will take part in the fi­nal for the sec­ond year in a row.

Evans is one of the award trio

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