At the Great Britain Rally in Wales the Dutchman Kevin Abbring with co-driver Lara Vanneste impressed as the winner of the S2000 classification, and in twelfth place overall clinched the so far best result for the Volkswagen team. The German junior driver Sepp Wiegand with Dakar winner Timo Gottschalk as co-driver was forced to retire at the 13th round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) after having run in third place of his class for a long time.
"The Great Britain Rally with fast gravel stretches and unpredictable weather represents one of the biggest challenges in the WRC. Kevin Abbring showed a very strong driving performance and did a good job of presenting himself together with his co-driver Lara Vanneste,”said an obviously pleased Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. "But Sepp Wiegand convinced us as well. He continually improved throughout the weekend and proved his talent. We'll continue to observe both drivers."
At the fourth test run across a total distance of 354 kilometers of special stages the Volkswagen factory team had again sent two Fabia S2000 cars from the Group's Škoda brand across the starting ramp in order to evaluate young talents. From 2013 on, Volkswagen will compete in the top category of rally sport with the Polo R WRC that is concurrently being developed. Nissen: "The first rally runs in Finland, Germany, Spain and Great Britain have given us important findings for our WRC entry in 2013 with respect to fielding the vehicles, the organization of the team and the related logistics.”
Kevin Abbring (22) together with his Belgian co-driver Lara Vanneste (21) piloted the four-wheel drive 270-HP Fabia S2000 to first place in the S2000 classification. Overall, the pairing occupied an outstanding twelfth place in the Great Britain Rally. The young Dutchman merely lost the lead in class briefly after the eleventh leg in heavy fog. "I'm very happy. The car was running superbly and had very good balance, which was important on the slippery ground. I felt that the team trust me and hope that I haven't disappointed them. It's a great opportunity to be driving in such a professional squad as the Volkswagen team.”
The German pairing Sepp Wiegand (20) and co-driver Timo Gottschalk (37) was struck by misfortune. Five special stages before the end the rally was over early on Sunday morning for the car designated as number 57. Dakar winner and seasoned rally campaigner Timo Gottschalk was forced to retire after the day's first stage due to severe stomach cramps. Despite the retirement Wiegand, who had switched from motocross to rally racing only a year ago, was pleased with his first run at a gravel rally. "For me it's been the most difficult rally I've driven so far,” the young German admitted afterwards. "Fog, mud and, to top it off, constantly changing conditions – the track is extremely challenging.”
Praise was also expressed by Dakar winner and co-driver Gottschalk: "Naturally, Sepp has still got to learn a lot, but he's a very quick learner. In the end we weren't very far from the top drivers in class. He certainly has a lot of talent, particularly considering that he's only been driving rallies for a year. It's just a shame that we didn't reach the finish.”
The next run planned by the Volkswagen factory team with two Fabia S2000 cars of the Group's Škoda brand is the legendary Monte Carlo Rally (18–22 January 2012) which is back on the WRC calendar for the first time after 2009.