14 February 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Latvala leads – third Rally Sweden victory sees Finn edge ahead in WRC standings

2014 Volkswagen Polo R WRC: Rally Sweden, Latvala/Anttila

With two previous Rally Sweden victories under his belt, Jari-Matti Latavala was aiming for a hat-trick at the Scandinavian round of the 2014 World Rally Championship, run from 5-8 February. And with his second victory for Volkswagen Motorsport, he got it.

Fighting an exciting duel with team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen saw the Finn emerge victorious, while his Norweigan foe took second. The Swedish forests weren’t kind to world champion Sébastien Ogier, though, who after suffering an off into a snow bank, finished sixth.

Volkswagen’s second one-two of the season came in difficult conditions, with milder than expected weather thawing out the snow-covered tracks, making grip difficult. The Polo R WRC proved it mettle once again, though, taking the top 43 of 69 possible top three times, 18 of which were stage wins.

There were even moments when all three Volkswagen driver pairings were in the top three of the Rally Sweden leaderboard, wiping the floor with their competitors. Latvala’s victory also propelled him to the top of the Drivers’ Championship table (for the first time), five points ahead of Ogier.

‘It’s amazing to have won the Rally Sweden for the third time. This victory is especially important to me as I won my first ever WRC rally here in 2008. Clinching the victory was no easy task, the difficult conditions and solid times from my teammates meant that I had concentrate fully and give it my best,’ Latvala enthused.

‘Due to the thawing snow we drove over a lot of gravel and had to be shrewd when it came to sparing the tyres. Andreas Mikkelsen didn’t make it easy yesterday, he drove a strong rally and fully deserves to be on the podium. It was brilliant that we were allowed to fight in out fairly and weren’t obliged to bow to team orders and is unique in this format.’

Always seemingly the bridesmaid to Ogier’s bride, Latvala had previous form in Sweden and it showed. The Finn made 18 appearances in the top three finishing times, clocking up his 300th stage win of his career.

His duel with Mikkelsen kept rally fans on the edge of their seats and it wasn’t until the final leg on Saturday to decide which of the Volkswagen drivers would finish first. Only 3.6 seconds separated the old hand and the young pretender at the start of Saturday morning.

Mikkeslen made a rare error after a spin on the 18th special stage, relieving the pressure on Latvala. Both also made good use of their 28-tyre allocation during the event, with six tyres left each at the start of the final day’s two loops. Looking after the Polo R WRCs’ studded tyres proved to be the key to rally success.

Latvala also scored two extra points by coming in second during the Power Stage, behind M-Sport driver Mads Østberg. His overall event runner-up finish saw Mikkelsen step onto the WRC podium for the first time, as well as place fourth in the overall drivers’ standings.

‘My first time on the podium! I have longed so much for this result. The final day here in Sweden was once again a real challenge. With the slushy snow and exposed gravel, which characterised the second loop, it was certainly not easy. I had a whiff of victory for long parts of the race – which felt great. After a small mistake, I wasn’t able to keep up the pressure on Jari-Matti Latvala,’ commented Mikkelsen.

‘Instead, I turned my concentration on maintaining the gap between myself and Mads Østberg in third place and in the end it was a close run thing. However, all said and done we thoroughly deserved our second place. We will celebrate in style tonight,’ the young Norwegian continued.

Ogier meanwhile didn’t have things quite so easy. Following a rare driver error, he dropped to 20th place, with him and co-driver Julien Ingrassia fighting their way back up the leaderboard to finish sixth. Picking up valuable World Championship points in the process, the French pairing set the fastest time on ten of Rally Sweden’s stages.

Ogier’s slip was uncharacteristic. Steering in a little too late when heading into a corner, and skidding into a snow bank, it was with the help of the spectators that he and Ingrassia were able to continue. The Swedish fans pushed the snow-stricken Polo R WRC out from the wall of snow and sent the pair on their way again to begin their fightback.

Ogier was disappointed, but upbeat: ‘Sixth place is the consolation prize for us. Sure, Julian and I would love to have repeated the success of last year, but after my mistake on Friday, eight points are the best we could have hoped for.

‘But by setting 10 fastest times here we’ve demonstrated that we will be a force to be reckoned with again next year, since Rally Sweden is one of my absolutely favourite events in the WRC calendar.’

Ogier also claimed a new world record at Rally Sweden. The Volkswagen works driver travelled a massive 41 metres through the air before landing after the infamous ‘Colin’s Crest’ jump. In doing so he eclipsed the previous best, set by American Ken Block, by a full four metres.

Overall, Rally Sweden saw Volkswagen Motorsport extend its lead by 12 points in the Manufacturers’ Championship. With 72 points, the Hannover-based outfit is 16 points ahead of Citroën and 50 in front of M-Sport Ford.

2014 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

RALLYE SWEDEN: FINAL RESULTS



1 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen: 3h 00m 31.1s
2 Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN), Volkswagen: + 53.6s

3 Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Citroën: + 59.5s

4 Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Ford: + 2m 26.9s
5 Ott Tänak/Raigo Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford: + 3m 00.5s

2014 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS


1 Jari-Matti Latvala, 40
2 Sébastien Ogier, 35
3 Mads Østberg, 30
4 Andreas Mikkselsen, 24
5 Bryan Bouffier, 18


2014 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP,

MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS


1 Volkswagen Motorsport, 72

2 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 56

3 Volkswagen Motorsport II, 26
4 M-Sport Ford, 22
5 Hyundai Motorsport, 8

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