Dominance followed by drama:
Latvala/Anttila still up front in their home event
Victory within reach for Ogier/Ingrassia,
Mikkelsen/Fløene comfortably in fourth place
Volkswagen Polo R WRC celebrates 600th top-three time since January 2013 .
With a combination of driving expertise and nerves of steel, Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) held on to their Rally Finland lead in the Volkswagen Polo R WRC in what became a real thriller. They clearly set the pace on the Saturday morning of their home rally and continuously pulled away from their teammates Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), then lived off this lead in the afternoon. Like the majority of the top drivers in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), they hit a large pothole during the seventh of the day’s ten special stages, thereby damaging the front right-hand brake line. Latvala/Anttila, who are second overall in the WRC, repaired the damage during the subsequent liaison section, but nevertheless had to defend their lead with braking power on only three of the four wheels.
As a result, their lead over Ogier/Ingrassia, who likewise damaged their Polo R WRC on the same pothole, dwindled from 31.1 to 3.4 seconds. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene performed well to finish in fourth place overall. With 36.60 timed kilometres to go on Sunday, they are currently 53.6 seconds ahead of their closest rivals, Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN, M-Sport Ford).
During the day’s five special stages, which were each driven twice, Latvala/Anttila were the ones to set the standards in the morning: they were comfortably ahead in four of the stages, and only missed out narrowly to their teammates Ogier/Ingrassia once. They also got off to a great start on the second runs in the afternoon, but were then reined in later on. On the 17th stage, the Volkswagen drivers scored the 33rd three-way success in the special stage history of the Polo R WRC. This also marked the 600th top-three time achieved by the World Rally Car from Wolfsburg since Volkswagen joined the WRC at the legendary Rally Monte Carlo in January 2013.
Quotes, day 2, Rally Finland
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“First of all, I would like to congratulate Jari-Matti Latvala on his achievement – he really put in an impressive performance today. If he hadn’t have had difficulties with his brakes, it would have been impossible for us to wear down so much of the 30-second lead he built up this morning. Jari-Matti deserved to win today, and coming second would have been perfectly OK for me in terms of the world championship. Julien and I do now of course have a chance of winning here. But we are facing the most difficult stage of the entire rally on Sunday, namely the Myhinpää stage. It won’t be easy for us to drive at the limit. But one thing’s for sure: it’s definitely going to be an exciting final day for the rally fans.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“Things can go like clockwork if you have faith in your car, the set-up and your own driving style. And that’s exactly what happened to me today. I feel very at ease and comfortable in the car, and we have got a great rhythm. My plan for today was to take some time off Kris Meeke of Citroën and my teammate Sébastien Ogier here and there, in order not to be under too much pressure. This plan panned out this morning in particular. But we had a bit of a scare in the afternoon during the second run of the Jukojärvi stage when we hit a large pothole, which gave us some braking problems, meaning we had to ease off the accelerator a little. We didn’t have any braking power on the front right-hand wheel for the last 30 kilometres of the day. Even so, we managed to hold on to our lead. It was hard work today, and it won’t be easy to defend our lead all the way to the finishing line tomorrow. But I still have my sights set on winning Rally Finland.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“Today was all about the traditional Rally Finland stages, and I felt very comfortable driving them. Based on my overall position in the rally, I played it safe today and didn’t take any risks. I now have a bit of a time buffer over Mikko Hirvonen behind me, which means I can tackle the final day of the rally in a controlled manner. Kris Meeke is 48.4 seconds ahead of me, in third place overall. Even if everything goes as normal, it will unfortunately not be possible to close this gap over the remaining 36.60 kilometres. So it looks like Ola and I will finish in fourth place. If that is the case, we will most definitely be the fastest Norwegians in Rally Finland.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“With such a high pace in Rally Finland, even minor things can make the difference between winning and losing. Jari-Matti Latvala was in a league of his own today in terms of driving skills, and was able to take a lot of time off the reigning world champion Sébastien Ogier this morning. Like most of the top drivers, he hit a large pothole during the 20th special stage and then had to defend his lead with only three out of four brakes working. But he achieved this magnificently and is still in the lead. The final day of the rally will be another exciting one for everybody. A Latvala vs. Ogier duel has already kept us guessing on a number of occasions this season. Andreas Mikkelsen in the third Polo R WRC put in an extremely strong performance today, comfortably held on to fourth place and significantly increased his lead over his closest rival. All in all, we at Volkswagen can be proud of what the team has achieved. There are a further 36.60 timed kilometres to be overcome tomorrow, but we are more than ready.”
And then there was ...
… a veritable magic potion: JM Coffee. Finland can lay claim to having the highest per capita coffee consumption. And Jari-Matti Latvala’s enthusiasm for coffee is such that he even has his own variety. A pack of JM Coffee features not only his likeness, but also Volkswagen’s striking rally stripes. He drinks a healthy dose of the hot drink before the special stages get under way. And it pays off, as JML succeeded in winning five stages on Saturday alone. And on top of everything else, Jari-Matti’s coffee is good for giving you strong nerves.