08 June 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Latvala heads Volkswagen podium
lock-out at Rally Portugal

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

Volkswagen Motorsport’s Jari-Matti Latvala finally broke his results drought at Rally Portugal (21-24 May) and won the fifth event of the season. He and his co-driver Miikka Anttila also paved the way for an historic VW one-two-three result.

Contrast in fortunes
Team-mates Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia finished second, while Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene stood on the third step of the winners’ rostrum. It was a Volkswagen Motorsport podium lock-out and a contrast in fortunes for the German team, who suffered a disastrous Rally Argentina which saw all three Polo R WRCs retire.

The Rally Portugal result marks the third time Volkswagen Motorsport has claimed all three podium positions since it started competing in the FIA World Rally Championship in 2013. The Hannover-based crews also took all the top spots in the Power Stage, and collectively became the first manufacturer to collect 122 points at one event.

First win since 2014
His Portugese victory was Latvala’s first win since 2014’s Rally France back in October. The sixteen-stage, 350km gravel event was reinvented for 2015, and took in some of the classic Portugal stages – such as ‘Fafe’ – some of which hadn’t been run since 2001.

Latvala started the event in third place at Shakedown, and led the standings by the end of day one, 11.1 seconds ahead of Citroën’s Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle. Ogier was a further 25.9 seconds down the table, while Mikkelsen was 4.9 seconds behind Meeke.

Stormed up the leaderboard
It was all change on day two, though as Ogier and Ingrassia stormed their way back up the leaderboard and completed the 165km of stages with a time 9.5 seconds behind their Finnish team-mates. Meek and Nagle were shunted down to third place, while Mikkelsen and Fløene sat in fourth.

Tyre choices proved critical and reflected the overall order of results. Latala and Ogier chose a mix of hard and soft compounds for the morning and afternoon loops, whereas Mikkelsen opted for soft Michelins for both sets of stages.

Nail-biting conclusion
Latvala led Ogier by 10.4 seconds going into the final stage, but the Finn finally took victory over the Frenchman by 8.2 seconds. The chasing Mikkelsen meanwhile was another 16.4 seconds behind. In a nail-biting conclusion, only 28.6 seconds separated the top three Volkswagen crews.

Latvala was ecstatic with his performance: ‘That was a very important win! Not just for me, but for the entire team. That was the right response to the poor result in Argentina. For me personally, it was important to get back in the points after my long lean period – and to do that with a win is awesome.

‘It was an exciting battle with Sébastien Ogier, who really put us under pressure. However, I resisted it at the crucial moment. Thank you to my team for their work and support when things were not running so smoothly lately. I am looking forward to the next rallies.’

‘World Championship remains our priority’
Ogier was in reflective mood: ‘We can be proud of our performance this weekend. Julien and I really did not have easy conditions here in Portugal, but we still made the most of what we had. From a driving point of view, that was possibly one of my best rallies. And second place extends our lead in the World Championship. That is important.

‘Congratulations to Jari-Matti, who was particularly strong on the all-important penultimate stage. I would obviously have preferred to pick up my fifth win and pulled level with Markku Alén, but in the end it was not worth risking everything. The World Championship remains our priority.’

Mikkelsen was pleased with his outing, his first in the new 2015-specification Polo R WRC. ‘I am really happy and delighted with my own performance. However, I am even more pleased with the new Polo R WRC, which I drove for the first time here. What an incredible car Volkswagen has built! It behaved exactly as I would want it to under every circumstance and is just great to drive.

‘We were constantly operating within ourselves this weekend, so as to avoid any major mistakes, and were ultimately right with our tyre selection. Third place and a point from the Power Stage is a great result and I am particularly pleased for the team that we made it a one-two-three. Between us, we could not have done a better job. It is a great feeling to have been involved and to have done my bit.’

‘Outstanding triumph’
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director praised his spectacularly triumphant team: ‘What a great reaction from the entire team here in Portugal after the huge disappointment in Argentina! Portugal was Volkswagen’s most successful rally since we lined up with the Polo R WRC, and a lot of people have made a valuable contribution to this outstanding triumph.

‘Jari-Matti Latvala produced a strong, mature display and, like Sébastien Ogier, made the most of what he had to play with. Andreas Mikkelsen also put in a very fine performance on his debut with the second-generation Polo R WRC. I take my hat off to all three. They once again had a dream team behind them, who did a flawless job. Every one of them did their utmost to banish the memory of Argentina. I am incredibly proud of our team.’

In other stats, Volkswagen Motorsport took 11 of the 15 possible best stage times (73.33 per cent) and achieved the record of the season so far. In total, the Polo R WRC crews have amassed 392 out of a possible 569 best stage time since January 2013 – 69 per cent of the total.

The triumphant VW result sees Ogier stay at the top of the overall Drivers’ Championship leaderboard, with Mikkelsen regaining his second place. Latvia is now fifth, moving up an incredible four places. Volkswagen s now 43 points ahead of nearest rival Citroën as the teams gear up for Rally Italy, held between 11-14 June in Sardinia.

2015 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
RALLY PORTUGAL FINAL RESULTS

1 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen: 3h 30m 35,3s
2 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen: + 8.2s
3 Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N), Volkswagen: + 28.6s
4 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën: + 48.7s
5 Ott Tänak/Raigo Molder (EST/EST), Ford: + 1m 56.8s

2015 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Sébastien Ogier, 105
2 Andreas Mikkelsen, 63
3 Mads Østberg, 57
4 Kris Meeke, 47
5 Jari-Matti Latvala,46

2015 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,
MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Volkswagen Motorsport, 146
2 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 103
2 Hyundai Motorsport, 94
4 M-Sport, 81
5 Jipocar Czech National Team, 34

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