Jari-Matti Latvala took a peek around the shadow of Sebastien Ogier by winning Rally Sweden on the weekend. It was a dominant result for Volkswagen with rising star Andreas Mikkelsen claiming second and his first WRC podium result.
Defending Rally Sweden winner Ogier gave Volkswagen cause to hope for a clean sweep of the podium when he led the rally in its early stages. An uncharacteristic and simple mistake saw the world champion run wide on a corner into a soft snow bank. No damage was done to him or the car, but his victory chances were shot after taking four and half minutes to get back on course. The best he could manage was a climb back to sixth position.
Mads Ostberg was happy to pick up Ogier’s slack and did so by coming home in third, his first podium result for Citroën. The Norwegian stepped up to take maximum points in the power stage as well.
In fourth place was Mikko Hirvonen who was almost on the pace but not quite in the Fiesta RS WRC. He’ll be happy to lock away some good championship points. Something his teammate Elfyn Evans wasn’t able to do. The Welshman’s inexperience showed in Sweden, although he was heading for a top 10 finish until a late off pushed him out of points contention.
Kris Meeke, who did so well in the very difficult conditions in Monte Carlo, was one of many drivers to succumb to Sweden’s snow banks and he finished in P10, more than 11 minutes behind Latvala.
The raw pace of Robert Kubica can’t be denied, but his propensity to find trouble where others don’t must be starting to become a concern. It’s true that conditions found in Sweden are never likely to be his favourite, but he had a tough time all the same and finished a lowly 24th more than 36 minutes off the pace.
And then we get to Hyundai who endured another trying weekend. Thierry Neuville was joined by Juho Hanninen for driving duties at this event and both were putting in respectable performances running comfortably in the top 10. On Day 2 both drivers clipped rocks on the apex of a corner which put them out of contention for the day. Neither driver was out of shape prior to their respective incidents, it was just bad luck for both.
The Hyundais resumed under Rally 2 conditions on the final day and were able to chalk up some good experience. Hanninen’s 36m leap was enough to win the prize for the Colin’s Crest longest jump. Ogier managed a record 41m jump later in the day, but it wasn’t eligible for the prize as it wasn’t on his first run.
Latvala now leads the championship from Ogier and Ostberg. It was at this event in 2013 that Ogier took the lead in the world championship and he hadn’t relinquished the top position until now.
Rally Mexico is the next rally on the calendar, taking place in early March. Chris Atkinson will get his turn in the Hyundai i20 WRC and will be hoping he has more luck than his teammates have experienced so far in 2014.
More after the break.
Volkswagen one-two in Sweden: Old hand Latvala pips youngster Mikkelsen
- Gold: Jari-Matti Latvala claims his 2nd victory for Volkswagen, his 3rd in Sweden
- Silver: Second and a first WRC podium for Andreas Mikkelsen
- Sébastien Ogier fights back to finish sixth
Volkswagen claimed its second one-two of the season at the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) and Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) not only clinched a frenetically celebrated one-two, but also put on an extremely gripping duel for the fans. In difficult conditions at the Rally Sweden – thawing temperatures, snow and rain made for a difficult combination – the Polo R WRC proved to be the fastest car for the second time in a row. 43 of 69 possible top-three times, of which 18 produced stage wins, and a one-two-three at the top of the overall standings for a while – Sweden was once again a happy stomping ground for Volkswagen in 2014.
The team’s Nordic drivers – Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen – were embroiled in a spectacular duel for long periods of the rally, scrapping for every fraction of a second. In the end, they could both consider themselves real winners: Latvala celebrated his ninth WRC victory, the third at the Rally Sweden and the second in Volkswagen colours – and also moved to the top of the Drivers’ Championship in the process. Mikkelsen made his first appearance on the podium at the pinnacle of rallying. World Champions Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) ended the Rally Sweden in sixth place after a mighty fightback, having previously dropped back to 20th overall following a rare driver error.
“We are delighted that Jari-Matti Latvala’s fine performance this weekend has paid dividends,” said Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neußer, Volkswagen Board Member for Technical Development. “This win was fully deserved and the result of some intelligent driving. Andreas Mikkelsen – the junior member of our team – showed in the trickiest of conditions that he has the potential to compete with the best in the world. Sébastien Ogier was a bit unfortunate with his slip-up. Despite this, he was once again the man to beat this weekend, claiming ten stage wins.”
Duel of the weekend: Latvala vs. Mikkelsen
Finland 13 – Norway 10: the all-Volkswagen duel between Latvala and Mikkelsen had fans on the edge of their seats for pretty much the entire Rally Sweden. It took until Saturday’s final leg to decide which of the two team-mates would emerge victorious from their gripping head-to-head. The morning started with just 3.6 seconds separating the old hand and the youngster. Only after a slight mistake from Andreas Mikkelsen in extremely difficult conditions did Jari-Matti Latvala feel the pressure fall from his shoulders. Mikkelsen lost crucial seconds after spinning on the 18th special stage. A glance at the statistics reveals the extent, to which the Volkswagen drivers dominated the Rally Sweden: Latvala made 18 appearances in the top three, Mikkelsen 13. Jari-Matti Latvala also picked up the 300th stage win of his career in Sweden.
Fightback of the weekend: Ogier recovers to claim sixth
Steered in a fraction of a second too late, skidded into a snow wall, but able to fight on thanks to a little help from the fans – Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia experienced both faces of the Rally Sweden on Friday. Although their mistake cost them the lead, the World Championship winning duo in the Polo R WRC were able to continue at the only snow rally of the season. A run of stage wins saw them recover from 20th place to earn valuable championship points. In total, Ogier/Ingrassia set the fastest time on ten stages.
Valuable commodity: looking after studded tyres the key to success
A thin layer of ice and snow on the first loop, followed by gravel that has been raked to the surface on the second loop – not exactly ideal conditions for the standard studded tyres used at the Rally Sweden. Wherever the gravel had risen to the surface, the drivers risked breaking the tungsten spikes on the Michelin “X-ice North 2” tyres should they push too hard. Both Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen made good use of their 28 tyres during their battle for overall victory. They both set off on Saturday’s final two loops with six brand-new Michelin tyres.
Lead extended – Volkswagen Motorsport tops the Manufacturers’ Championship
The lead increased by twelve points: Volkswagen leads the Manufacturers’ Championship after the second win of the year. The works team, consisting of Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala, currently has 72 points to its name – 16 more than Citroën and 50 ahead of M-Sport-Ford.
Power Stage yields two bonus points for Jari-Matti Latvala
Victory in Sweden saw Jari-Matti Latvala move to the top of the World Championship for the first time in his career, and as if that were not enough, he also picked up bonus points on the Power Stage. Second place behind Citroen driver Mads Østberg on the closing special stage, on which extra points are awarded to the fastest three cars, mean Latvala now has 40 points to his name. He is followed five points back in second place by World Champion Sébastien Ogier. Andreas Mikkelsen is fourth in the Drivers’ Championship with 24 points.
Quotes after day three of the Rally Sweden
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Sixth place is the conciliation 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. We made a clean run of it on the final day, despite the incredibly slippery conditions. Also, 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. Congratulations to Jari-Matti and Miikka, who put in a fantastic performance, just as Andreas and Mikko did. The team has another reason to celebrate and in the World Championship it is always exciting.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC#2
“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 Miikka and I had concentrate fully and give it our best. 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. It’s not down to this that I feel very content at Volkswagen.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC#9
“First time on the podium! I have longed so much for this result. To have achieved it practically on my doorstep is awesome! 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 team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala. 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. To have made this breakthrough in the world championship here at Rally Sweden, with some of the toughest conditions in years, makes me feel particularly proud. My team, my co-driver Mikko Markkula and I have earned a beer or two today. We will celebrate in style tonight.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“We have the best rally drivers in the world under contract and with the Polo R WRC, they had the quickest and most reliable car here in Sweden. We’ve always known this, but now the results tell you all you need to know. Jari-Matti Latvala clinched this victory with a perfect performance, but he also had to fight it out. He went into battle with Andreas Mikkelsen, who impressed us all. Hats off to both of them, but also to Sébastien Ogier, ten fastest times and a strong comeback speak for themselves. On this occasion he didn’t have the luck of the brave and has to come to terms with the fact that getting stuck in snow is a part of rallying. The team now has the luxurious problem of having to open the next rally in Mexico with the championship leader and second and fourth placed drivers in the standings. But we’ll gladly put up with that. I am unbelievably proud of the result and of the team, whose hard work has paid dividends once again.”
And then there was …
… Sébastien Ogier’s new record. 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.
And then there was also …
… Prince Carl Philip of Sweden, who paid the Volkswagen team a spontaneous visit on Saturday afternoon. As Duke of Värmland, where the Rally Sweden is held, the man third in line to the Swedish throne knows his way around more than just the local geography. Last year, Carl Philip of Sweden lined up at the Rally Sweden himself, taking part in a support class at the wheel of a vintage Porsche 911.
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Rally Sweden – Final Results
01. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen 3h 00m 31.1s
02. Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN), Volkswagen + 53.6s
03. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Citroën + 59.5s
04. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Ford + 2m 26.9s
05. Ott Tänak/Raigo Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford + 3m 00.5s
06. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen + 4m 29.9s
07. Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor (N/A), Ford + 4m 47.5s
08. Pontus Tidemand/Ola Fløene (S/N), Ford + 5m 38.2s
09. Craig Breen/Scott Martin (IRL/GB), Ford + 8m 55.4s
10. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën + 11m 18.0s
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Rally Sweden – Power Stage Results
01. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Citroën 8m 36.8s
02. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 1.1s
03. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Ford + 2.9s
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Overall Standings*
1. Jari-Matti Latvala, 40 points;
2. Sébastien Ogier, 35;
3. Mads Østberg, 30;
4. Andreas Mikkelsen, 24;
5. Bryan Bouffier, 18;
6. Kris Meeke, 17;
7. Mikko Hirvonen, 13;
8. Ott Tänak, 10;
9. Elfyn Evans, 8;
10. Henning Solberg, 6
1. Volkswagen Motorsport, 72 points;
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, 56;
3. Volkswagen Motorsport II, 26.;
4. M-Sport, 22;
5. Hyundai Motorsport, 8;
6. RK M-Sport WRT, 4