12 March 2016 ~ 0 Comments

¡Ay, caramba! Latvala puts in a spiky performance to win 2016 Rally Mexico

2016 Volkswagen Polo R WRC, Rally Mexico: Latvala/Anttila

After a disappointing start to the season, Jari-Matti Latvala staked his intent on the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) and put in a dominant drive to cross the finish line first at Rally Mexico. It was sigh of relief for the Finnish Volkswagen Polo R WRC driver and his co-driver Miikka Anttila: the pair suffered retirement in the season-opening Rally Monte-Carlo and setbacks during Rally Sweden which resulted in a 26th-place finish.

French Polo R WRC crew and reigning world champions Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia once again put in a storming drive and did all they could to temper Latvala’s indomitable spirit. However, the pair had to relinquish the win this time around, coming home on the second step of the podium. Ogier and Ingrassia won the event in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Latvala and Anttila’s win meanwhile was their Rally Mexico first, and the 16th of the pair’s careers.

Huge challenges
Held around the city of León on 3-6 March, Rally Mexico temperatures can reach 30 °C and the event also has the season’s highest point at 2,746 metres above sea level, creating huge challenges for both drivers and their cars. It also has the longest stage: at 80km (49 miles), ‘Guanajuato’ tested both the endurance and the concentration of man and machine.

It started perfectly respectable for the Latvala and Anttila, the pair fourth in the pre-event shakedown standings, behind team-mates Ogier and Ingrassia in third. Norwegian Polo R WRC pilots Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger topped the times, but were to suffer later during the actual event.

Stage one ran through the World Heritage Site of Guanajuato, with the rally cars running under the historic venue through the disused maze of silver mine shaft tunnels which run underneath it. Ogier and Ingrassia took the lead over Hyundai Motorsport’s Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul. Latvala and Anttila ended the street stage third, with Mikkelsen and Jæger one place behind.

Five best stage times
Day one saw Latvala edge ahead of Ogier with five best stage times – earning himself a nickname of ‘La Bala’, ‘The Bullet’ – putting in a determined and unflappable drive. Latvala’s eighth-place running order position helped.

Ogier was first and ended up sweeping the stages clear of debris for cars that followed. Latvala tactically chose soft and hard compound tyres for the morning’s loop, while Ogier and Mikkelsen opted for soft tyres in the morning, hard in the afternoon.

By the end of the longest day of the whole event, Latvala was 32.1 seconds ahead of his in-house French rival. Sordo was third behind Ogier, while Mikkelsen was fourth ahead of the second day’s action.

Latvala once again dominated the proceedings on the second day of Rally Mexico. Six out of a possible nine best stage times went to him and Anttila, and their lead was boosted to 1.35 minutes. All Ogier and Ingrassia could do was to consolidate their second place and build up a comfortable lead over the leading Hyundai of Sordo.

Early retirement
Sadly, it wasn’t the same happy-ending story for Mikkelsen and Jæger. Running in fourth, the duo narrowed the gap between to Hyundai Motorsport’s Dani Sordo but then hit a buttress on a wide left-hand corner on the ‘Otates’ stage. Early retirement was the pair’s only option, their Polo R WRC leaving the road.

On the third and final day, Ogier and Ingrassia set the pace, and clocked the fastest time on the Power Stage, taking the maximum three bonus points on offer. Their lead is now extended in the drivers’ standings by 38 points. Rally Mexico was Ogier and Ingrassia’s 100th WRC start.

Rally Mexico victors Latvala and Anttila scored two points thanks to their second fastest time, making them sixth in the drivers’ table. And although Mikkelsen and Jæger left Mexico empty-handed, the pair are still third in the overall standings with 33 points.

Volkswagen increased its advantage in the manufacturers’ standings by 28 points and it now leads closest rival Hyundai by 33 points.

‘Good set-up and right tactics’
The Mexican result was the end of a seemingly never-ending run of bad luck for Latvala and he relished the win: ‘I am very happy and satisfied. This is a fantastic result, not just for me, but for the whole team. After the disappointing results in the first two events, it was important to finally pick up points. I managed that with the win.

‘Naturally, I had a good basis with my starting position this weekend, but the longest rally of the season still had to be mastered. We found a good set-up and also chose the right tactics. However, we will by no means be resting on our laurels, rather we will take the momentum with us to Argentina,’ said the modest Finn.

‘Best-possible result’
Ogier was upbeat and happy with his second place: ‘All in all, second place for Julien and I was the best-possible result this weekend. Thanks to victory on the Power Stage, we picked up 21 important points in the championship standings, which is what counts overall.

‘Naturally, I would have hoped to stage a more exciting duel with Jari-Matti for the many fans. But there was no way that was possible; our road conditions on the first two days were far too different. That’s not taking anything away from his performance, though: Jari-Matti thoroughly deserved the win and my congrats go to him and Miikka,’ the Frenchman continued.

‘A total success’
Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito once again was full of good words for his squad: ‘The Rally Mexico was a total success for Volkswagen – especially as winning here is far from a matter of course.

‘At no other rally do we hit the same heights as here – a Herculean task for the engine department, for whom the thin air poses a tricky problem when it comes to engine management. The rally also features the longest special stage on the calendar: a big challenge for the chassis department.

‘We did a top-class job of overcoming these challenges as a team. Our drivers and co-drivers deserve the utmost respect. Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila made the most of their starting position and intelligently took advantage of being one of the last cars onto the route.

‘On the other side of the coin, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia superbly overcame the disadvantage of opening the route. All in all, this one-two is a huge effort, and one that we at Volkswagen are very proud of.”

Twelfth consecutive victory
The Rally Mexico win was the 37th for the Polo R WRC and the 12th consecutive victory for Volkswagen Motorsport – the longest winning run in the history of the World Rally Championship.

With 32 victories from 42 events, the Polo R WRC is also the car with the greatest win ratio in WRC history, overtaking the Citroën C4 WRC. Fourth in the all-time list, the Hanover-prepared Polo sits under the all-conquering Subaru Impreza, Lancia Delta and Ford Focus.

The fourth round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship is Rally Argentina, which takes place from 21-24 April.

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
RALLY MEXICO FINAL RESULTS

1 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen: 4h 25m 57.4s
2 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen: + 1m 05.0s
2 Dani Sordo/Marc Martí (E/E), Hyundai: + 3m 37.9s
4 Mads Østberg/Ola Fløene (N/N), Ford: + 5m 36.4s
5 Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai: + 6m 22.6s

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Sébastien Ogier, 77
2 Mads Østberg, 39
3 Andreas Mikkelsen, 33
4 Dani Sordo, 33
4 Hayden Paddon, 29

2016 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Volkswagen Motorsport, 97
2 Hyundai Motorsport, 64
3 M-Sport, 45
4 Volkswagen Motorsport II, 30
5 DMACK, 26

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