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GP Week : Issue 165
RALLY >>> FEATURE Former Citroen team driver Sebastien Ogier had the greatest opportunity of his rally career in 2011 when he signed to drive for Volkswagen. Before him lay a full and exhaustive programme of testing the new World Rally Car, but to keep himself in race trim he was given a programme of contesting WRC events in 2012 with a Skoda Fabia S2000. Since he joined the VW run Skoda team at Monte Carlo, where he crashed, he has raced eight times, then finished best non-works car seven times and five times finished in the top eight places of a WRC event. Sebastien has become the benchmark by which other S2000 drivers are being matched. Not many other drivers compare, which made the speed of Esapekka Lappi in Finland even more impressive. Driving-wise it sounded like driving S2000 was going down one rung in the ladder for the man who had been Sebastien Loeb’s WRC teammate and had already won seven world championship rallies, but it has already turned out to be a very intelligent plan. The VW team Fabia S2000s are a little different to the cars run by Skoda Motorsport. Are the shock absorbers the only difference? SO: Yes. We are not working on developing the Fabia, we just take the car as it is from Skoda. Our objective is the development of the Polo, and we can gain a lot of good experience for the Polo by using the Polo's Sachs shock absorbers on the Fabia instead of the Reigers usually fitted to the Fabia. The behaviour of our Fabia is similar to the Polo but we think it is important to start using the Sachs dampers and we have already started to improve them. To what extent have you had to adapt to greater technology when driving a World Rally Car? SO: I think the WRC does not have so much extra technology compared with the S2000. The main difference is the engine, which is normally-aspirated on our S2000 cars, the WRC has more torque. With the normally aspirated S2000 you have to be close to maximum revs all the time if you want to use all the available power. The turbocharger has much more technology but it is quite different to the days of the first turbo cars. If you see the videos of the old type of turbo car they had massive power but it was very difficult to use because the reaction time lag was so long. Now it is easy to use the turbo engines and I think they are also now more easy to drive fast. The rest of the technology in these cars is quite close. Jost, despite assurances from your predecessor Kris Nissen, who said that the team would be running three WRC cars in their official programme in 2013, messages have been coming that plans had changed. What is the situation? JC: We will start with two cars in 2013 and then we will check. We will start with two cars and see how the team develops and when we believe the team is capable of running three cars then we will consider a third car. VW has commitments to Ogier, but when will the identity of his teammate be announced? JC: It is not fixed yet. We will say when everything is ready to be announced. We will have two equal cars with two permanent drivers with equal status driving the whole year. For a third car we keep all the options open for now. You know we have a youngster programme, and a third car is intended to support the youngsters, to get them up to speed, to get them to be capable in the future to do the full WRC. Has VW formulated plans yet about involvement in non-WRC formulae? JC: No. At the moment we are focussing completely on WRC. The WRC programme is not set up to be a customer programme. We will not jeopardise the existing Skoda customer programmes. We work very closely with Skoda on their current and future programmes. So in future we will do what is right for the group. Can we assume that Skoda and VW will not overlap in the formulae in which they operate? JC: That is not sorted yet but we do not compete against each other. At the moment we are really focussing on the WRC and we have to bring that home first. 44 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: