10 October 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Finns take Rally France: Volkswagen’s Latvala and Anttila victorious in Corsica

2015 Volkswagen Polo R WRC, Rally France: Latvala/Anttila

In a repeat of 2014, Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila took victory at the 2015 Rally France, held on the island of Corsica from 1 to 4 October. Last year the Finnish pair and their Polo R WRC won the French event, staged in the Alsace region of the country. M-Sport’s Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt were second, while Volkswagen Motorsport team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene rounded out the podium.

Notable by their absence, soon-to-be-confirmed* 2015 world champions Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia finished the event in 15th place, after a brace of maladies affecting Polo R WRC #1. A slow puncture on day one lost the French duo 1 minute and 40 seconds and they were then handed a 10-minute penalty for changing the gearbox outside of a regular service. The pair started the Corsican event again under under Rally 2 regulations.

Adverse weather conditions
Adverse weather conditions – which included heavy rainfall and landslides – led to the cancellation of two of the nine 2015 Rally France stages. That didn’t stop Latvala, though, who, along with Anttila, are only the second Finnish crew to win an event on the Mediterranean island after Markku Alén and Ilkka Kivimäki took the spoils in 1983 and 1984.

An elated Latvala said: ‘I am struggling to put it all into words. It is a fantastic feeling to win here on Corsica. The conditions were not easy again today, as we were constantly switching between dry and damp sections. And my lead over Elfyn Evans was not exactly what you would call comfortable.

‘Despite this, I wanted to avoid taking too many risks, to extend my lead in a controlled and cool manner, and to wrap up the win. I did exactly that. I would like to dedicate my victory to my idol Henri Toivonen, who lost his life in Corsica. That is another reason why today is such a special day for me.’

A second win on asphalt
The Finns’ top podium spot marks the pair’s second win on asphalt (not a rallying Finns’ traditional winning surface), their 15th in total and eighth in the Volkswagen Polo R WRC. The win also bolsters Latvala’s second place standing in the overall drivers’ points table and makes it more difficult for third-placed Volkswagen driver Mikkelsen to gain ground on the 30 year-old.

Mikkelsen and Fløene’s podium was the seventh of the year from a total of 11 events and the pair’s 12th place on the winners’ steps for Volkswagen Motorsport. With two rallies left in the 2015 calendar, the young Norwegian is just 34 points behind Latvala, and with 28 points up for grabs at each event, who knows: Mikkelsen’s star might just be about to rise still further.

Mikkelsen commented: ‘The bottom line is, we are very happy with the way the Rally France panned out. Third place is a good result, although we were pushing really hard to catch Elfyn Evans in second place towards the end. We fought back really well, but unfortunately just came up short.

‘Congratulations to Jari-Matti Latvala and Elfyn – they both drove a strong rally. I was perhaps a little too defensive at the start, but I still struggle a bit with the switch from gravel to asphalt. I can, and will, work on that. However, Saturday and Sunday worked out as I had hoped. We drove a sensible, but still fast, pace. As such, Ola and I can be happy with our performance.’

Power Stage win for Ogier
aOgier and Ingrassia meanwhile collected their 25th Power Stage career win and the top prize of three bonus points. Twenty-two of those victories have been when the Frenchmen have been piloting a Polo R WRC. Added to that, the world champions-in-waiting* won both the longest and the fastest stages of the French event.

However, as well as the slow puncture issue and the gearbox change time penalty, Volkswagen Motorsport was also fined €10,000 due to the non-pressing of the ‘OK’ button in the car, which signalled to the Service Park that Ogier and Ingrassia were fine, even though the #1 Polo was at a halt.

A slightly disappointed Ogier said: ‘Julien and I ended the rally with another fantastic day in the Polo here on Corsica. The conditions and profile of the route were very nice and spectacular today. Our strategy of fitting four soft tyres for the second stage of the day was perhaps a little too risky, but generally speaking I am very happy with the way the rally ended.

‘And we won the Power Stage, which was a nice way for us to end this Rally France. Next year I will do everything in my power to ensure that the Tricolore is back flying the highest, after two Finnish victories in a row. For now, however, I would like to congratulate Jari-Matti and Miikka.’

‘Proud of this win’
Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito was, once again, pleased with his team: ‘What a nerve-wracking Rally France. Storms, the most difficult conditions for years, and three outstanding Volkswagen drivers on top of their game. We are proud of this win.

‘Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila drove a tactically intelligent rally, holding back in the extreme weather and then attacking when and where they had to. They were worthy winners – I take my hat off to them. The same goes for Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene. The fact that only the reigning world champions and champions elect have claimed more podium finishes this year tells you everything.

‘Speaking of the world champions: unfortunately Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were the victims of several doses of bad luck at their home race here on Corsica. However, victory on the Power Stage showed that they are still hungry for success and will fight right through to the finish.’

Rally Spain, the twelfth and penultimate round of the 2015 World Rally Championship will take place south of Barcelona around the Costa Daurada holiday resort of Salou from 22 to 25 October.

2015 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
RALLY FRANCE FINAL RESULTS

1 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen: 2h 39m 46.7s
2 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (GB/GB), Ford: + 43.1s
3 Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N), Volkswagen: + 46.3s
4 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën: + 1m 33.4s
5 Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai: + 1m 53.6s

15 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen: +9m 07.3s

2015 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Sébastien Ogier, 238
2 Jari-Matti Latvala, 160
3 Andreas Mikkelsen, 126
4 Mads Østberg, 98
5 Thierry Neuville, 86

2015 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Volkswagen Motorsport, 369
2 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 184
3 Hyundai Motorsport, 183
4 M-Sport, 170
5 Volkswagen Motorsport II, 91

*Subject to confirmation by the FIA.

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