Finnish party in Alsace – Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila won the Rally France and made history in the process. The Volkswagen duo is the first Finnish pairing for just short of 15 years to win an all-asphalt round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
With their fourth win of the season, the twelfth of their career and the fifth in a Polo R WRC, Latvala/Anttila kept the race for the title in the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championship well and truly alive. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) finished runner-up to complete the historic result and present Volkswagen with its seventh one-two of the season. Fans must remain patient to discover which Volkswagen duo will eventually secure the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ title in the World Championship: Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) ended their home leg of the World Rally Championship in 13th place, but did win the Power Stage to pick up three valuable bonus points.
Victory for Latvala/Anttila was Volkswagen’s 20th in the World Rally Championship with the Polo R WRC – from 24 outings. The manufacturer now has 38 podium finishes to its name since first lining up at the Rally Monte Carlo in January 2013.
“In finishing first and second, we have continued exactly where we left off with the superb result in Australia,” said Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neußer, Volkswagen Board Member for Technical Development. “Our drivers all drove at the highest level. Jari-Matti Latvala is not only among the very best on snow and gravel, but is also extremely quick on asphalt. He is now a member of the exclusive club of rally drivers who have won on every surface.
Our rising star Andreas Mikkelsen is a regular feature on the podium, and it is only a question of time until he picks up his first win. Sébastien Ogier showed his extra class with the outstanding Power Stage win. The World Championship remains exciting and our fans cannot wait to discover which Volkswagen driver will ultimately be crowned world champion.”
Mission accomplished – Latvala/Anttila claim maiden win on asphalt
14 years, eleven months and 23 days – that is how long has passed since Tommi Mäkinen became the last Finn, before today, to win an all-asphalt round of the World Rally Championship. That is exactly 5,471 days between the Mitsubishi driver’s success at the 1999 Rally San Remo and Jari-Matti Latvala’s win at the 2014 Rally France.
The long-awaited first win of Latvala/Anttila’s career on this surface was confirmed at 12:47:33 on Sunday afternoon. And it came about in dominant fashion: Latvala/Anttila took the lead of the Rally France on the opening stage, and surrendered it only briefly for just one stage to team-mates Mikkelsen/Fløene. They won nine of the 18 special stages, finishing in the top three on six of the remaining nine stages. Their only compatriots ever to win on asphalt before today were Tommi Mäkinen and Markku Alén.
High speed: The Rally France is a real challenge on asphalt
With its fast but narrow asphalt roads through thick forests and small villages, the Rally France represents a genuine challenge for the teams. The consistently high speed made this the fastest asphalt rally in the history of the WRC. With an average speed of 115.07 km/h, the Rally France was the third fastest rally of 2014, after the Rally Finland (122.09 km/h) and the Rally Poland (118.5 km/h). Volkswagen won 17 of the 18 special stages with the Polo R WRC, the Volkswagen duos occupying a total of 42 top-three positions over the course of the rally.
High five – Podium joy for Mikkelsen/Fløene
Sweden, Poland, Germany, Australia, and now France – Andreas Mikkelsen celebrated his fifth podium of the season in Alsace, adding another highlight to what has been a dream year in the World Rally Championship. This was also the fourth podium of co-driver Ola Fløene’s career – and a valuable one at that. Second place in France sees Fløene, who only took his place at the side of Andreas Mikkelsen in the Polo R WRC at the fifth rally of the season, climb into third place overall in the Co-Drivers’ Championship.
As such, the dream of finishing third overall is drawing ever closer for both Mikkelsen and Fløene: Andreas Mikkelsen is now 50 points clear of Mikko Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford). Should he still hold an advantage of at least 28 points after the coming Rally Spain (23-26 October), he will be out of reach in third place.