Volkswagen anticipating tougher WRC challenge in 2016

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Volkswagen team principal Jost Capito is anticipating a tougher challenge in 2016 as the German marque goes in search of its fourth consecutive World Rally Championship title.

In-keeping with the holiday season, Volkswagen released a video earlier this week showing three-time rally champion Sebastien Ogier lighting an advent candle – with his rally car, naturally.

Ogier has won the last three world titles with Volkswagen after Sebastien Loeb’s departure from the WRC, who had claimed nine straight championships between 2004 and 2012.

VW continued its preparations for the 2016 season with a six-day test around the Col de Perty in France that saw its drivers complete over 1,000km in preparation for the first rally of the season in Monte Carlo.

Ogier was joined on the test by his co-driver, Julien Ingrassia, as well as fellow lead VW drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen.

“Despite a lack of snow, the tests on and around the Col de Perty near the town of Laborel were worth their weight in gold,” a statement from VW read.

“The three driver/co-driver duos trialled set-up variants for the Polo R WRC and tested various combinations of the Michelin tires to be used next year.”

Capito was keen for VW to hit the ground running as he believes the team will face a tougher challenge from its rivals in 2016.

“Everyone wants to make the best possible start to the new season and take as much momentum as possible into the coming rallies,” Capito said. “As such, tests are of great importance, in order to prepare for the tough tasks ahead.

“For the third time in a row, we go into the season as the team to beat, and we will be up against stronger opponents than before: Hyundai has a new car, while M-Sport-Ford has strengthened its squad of drivers and co-drivers.

“As such, we go into the season with heightened senses – and, thanks to the tests, with sufficient experience for the Monte.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III