The starting signal will be given at the iconic event: Sébastien Ogier (28) and co-driver Julien Ingrassia (32) are contesting their first rally run for Volkswagen from 18–22 January – and right at the legendary Rallye Monte Carlo. The rally that has been held since 1911 is part of the FIA WRC calendar for the first time in three years, marking the opening event for this year’s season consisting of a total of 13 rounds. Alongside the Frenchman Ogier the Volkswagen factory team is competing with the Dutch junior driver Kevin Abbring (22) and his co-driver Lara Vanneste (21).
In 2012 Volkswagen is contesting the entire WRC in the smaller SWRC class with two Fabia S2000 cars of the Group's Škoda brand. The runs serve as preparation for the 2013 season in which Volkswagen will compete in the top class of rally racing with the Polo R WRC.
"After Sébastien's impressive victory in December as a Volkswagen factory driver at the Race Of Champions we are very much looking forward to finally contesting our first joint rally,”says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. ‘Monte' is the mother of all rallies in general, which makes it a great place for this premiere. With its changeable conditions of asphalt, ice and snow, it's one of the most challenging events on the calendar. And even though we're not competing for championship points this season we'll naturally be giving our best at each run.”
The 80th Monte running with 18 special stages covers a total distance of 433 kilometers. On his first showing there in 2009 Sébastien Ogier immediately secured overall victory. "Monte is a legend and a very special rally,” says Ogier, who finished last year's WRC in third place. "I'm happy to see it back on the WRC calendar and about being able to contest my first rally there with the Volkswagen team. For us, this year will primarily be about gathering experience and concurrently developing the Polo in order to compete with a strong and competitive package in 2013."
Kevin Abbring and Andreas Mikkelsen in Junior Program for 2012
Alongside Ogier the Volkswagen factory team will compete at Monte with Kevin Abbring. Together with his Belgian co-driver, Lara Vanneste, the Dutchman already contested the Rally of Great Britain in 2011, securing victory in the SWRC class.
Abbring is looking forward to working with Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen's new rally factory driver: "Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are fantastic driver colleagues. Sébastien is currently one of the world's best three rally racers. It's a great honor for me to be in the same team with him and to compete in the same car.”
For the Rally of Sweden (09–12 February) the second racer alongside regular driver Ogier has been confirmed as well: The Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen (22), who already showed his skills for Volkswagen at the Finland Rally last year, will be competing in Scandinavia together with co-driver Ola Floene (42). Last year's IRC (Intercontinental Rally Challenge) champion and Škoda UK racer Mikkelsen will be sharing the second rally car with Abbring this season as part of the Volkswagen Junior Program.