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2015 Rallye Monte Carlo in pictures

2015 Rallye Monte Carlo

Before Rally Sweden kicks off next weekend, take some time to relive Volkswagen’s dominantion of Rallye Monte Carlo, where the reigning world champions went Ogier one, Latvala two and Mikkelsen three!

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Sebastien Ogier wins 2015 Rallye Monte Carlo

2015 Rallye Monte Carlo

The Volkswagen Polo R WRC may have a new look but it’s still the dominant force in world rallying as the team’s record-breaking clean sweep of the podium at the Rallye Monte Carlo proved.

Sebastien Ogier again showed he will be the man to beat in 2015, taking victory by almost one minute ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala. While Andreas Mikkelsen finished third to make it a perfect result for Volkswagen.

In his one-off appearance for Citroën nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb showed the world he still has blistering pace. Loeb set the scene by going fastest on the opening stage and taking the lead of the rally. He stayed there until SS7 when Ogier fought his way in front.

Loeb’s chances of victory ended after he hit a rock on SS8, which forced him out for the day. He rejoined under Rally 2 regs and fought back to finish eighth overall. The French maestro also won more special stages than any driver during the event.

Mads Ostberg finished fourth for Citroën. Hyundai’s best result came from Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo, who finished fifth and sixth respectively. While Elfyn Evans was the best placed Ford driver in P7.

Rally Sweden is next up, taking place in mid-February.

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2014 Rally Spain in pictures

2014 WRC Rally Rally-Spain

Rally Spain is the only mixed surface event on the WRC calendar. The opening day is on gravel, the remaining two days are on tarmac. It’s a huge test for the crews to work on the cars and make significant changes to setups during relatively short service stops. It’s also a big test for the drivers, who switch from cars with massive suspension travel and small brakes to firm riding track-day weapons with huge brakes.

The surface change played a key role in Sebastien Ogier’s victory, too, with teammate Jari-Matti Latvala struggling on day one, only to find his feet on the smooth tarmac roads in Catalunya. What was a lead of around 30 seconds after the first day was whittled back to a lead of 11 seconds by the rally’s end. Still, that was enough for Ogier to secure back-to-back world championships.

You’ll see from the images below that the dust on those gravel roads not only affected the outcome of the rally, but provided some truly spectacular images as well. Of note in Spain also, Ken Block took some time out from burning rubber to make one of his rare WRC appearances.

Volkswagen WRC

No changes for Volkswagen’s WRC “dream team”

Sebastien Ogier, Andreas Mikkelsen, Jari-Matti Latvala

Volkswagen Motorsport has announced it will retain the services of its current driver lineup into the 2015 WRC season.

Sebastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen currently fill the first three positions in the chase for the drivers’ championship; Ogier needs to score only a single point more than Latvala in this weekend’s Rally Spain to successfully defend his world title. Between them they’ve accumulated 38 podiums, including 20 wins, from the 24 rallies Volkswagen has competed in.

Reading the quotes from the drivers below it’s just one big love in at Volkswagen, which is both a sign of great team harmony and that maybe WRC egos are more congenial than those found inf Formula 1.

The talents of Ogier and Latvala are well known, so in 2015 Andreas Mikkelsen will be the driver to watch, we think. His results are becoming more consistent as he gains experience and a maiden WRC win cannot be too far away.

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2014 Rally de France-Alsace in pictures

2014 WRC Rally France

It’s been a massive weekend of motorsport. We’ve had the Bathurst 1000, the 6 Hours of Fuji and the Russian Grand Prix is currently sending the world to sleep. So if you’re still awake take this chance to relive the 2014 Rally de France-Alsace, won by Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala.

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Jari-Matti Latvala wins 2014 Rally de France-Alsace

2014 Rally de France-Alsace

Jari-Matti Latvala won his first tarmac rally after claiming Rally de France-Alsace on the weekend. It’s his 12th WRC victory and, amazingly, it’s the 20th win from 24 starts for the Volkswagen Polo R WRC.

Following the demise of Sebastien Ogier’s chances on the opening day due to a faulty gearbox sensor, Latvala dominated the rally, despite early competiton from his junior Volkswagen teammate Andreas Mikkelsen.

In the end, a self-assured Latvala won by almost 45 seconds from Mikkelsen. Kris Meeke added to his resumé and 2015 employment chances by finishing third for Citroën. Dani Sordo was the best placed Hyundai in fourth, while Ford’s best result was the P5 claimed by Mikko Hirvonen.

Robert Kubica was sitting pretty, heading for fourth on the last day. It would have been his best WRC result, but he crashed out once again.

Ogier finished a lowly thirteenth but he did manage to earn himself maximum bonus points in the power stage. Although that wasn’t enough to wrap up his second world drivers’ title. He’ll have to wait for Rally Spain later this month, where he’ll need to earn one more point than Latvala to secure the championship.

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2014 Rally Australia in pictures

2014 WRC Rally Australia

In our biggest WRC gallery yet—there’s 88 photos in all—here’s your chance to relive Rally Australia. If you’re a Volkswagen fan this might be one to bookmark becuase for the first time in their WRC existence the German juggernaut claimed a clean sweep of all three podium positions.

Also taking a clean sweep were the photographers plying their trade down under. These are some of the best rally pics we’ve seen all year and we’re chuffed to be able to share them with you all.

Volkswagen WRC

Sebastien Ogier wins 2014 Rally Australia

2014 Rally Australia

Sebastien Ogier led a dominant Volkswagen team to victory at Rally Australia on the weekend. Volkswagen drivers filled all three podium steps in order of seniority, with Jari-Matti Latvala finishing just 6.8 seconds behind Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen a bit over a minute further behind.

With that Volkswagen successfully defended its manufacturers championship and in record time too. There’s three rallies left in the season and with a 50 point lead Ogier is favourite to claim his second world championship, ahead of teammate Latvala.

On the forest tracks around Coffs Harbour Citroën driver Kris Meeke showed good early pace fighting for a podium position until a 61 second penalty was handed to him for cutting a corner illegally. That left him back in fifth battling with Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen, a three time winner down under.

Meeke’s pace was still strong and he was able to claim one position back by the end of the rally, finishing over eight seconds ahead of Hirvonen.

Kiwi driver Hayden Paddon continued his good efforts with Hyundai coming home in sixth place, his best WRC finish to date and one place ahead of team leader Thierry Neuville.

Australia’s Chris Atkinson finished tenth for Hyundai after finding conditions difficult on the first day.

“It’s not been the easiest of weekends as I struggled to get into a rhythm early on in the rally,” Atkinson said. “That has had a knock-on effect for the remaining days, as I was first on the road. That has dictated the extent I have been able to push so instead we just focused on finishing the rally. It’s nice we’ve been able to get all three cars inside the top ten.”

Volkswagen’s press release is available after the break and we’ll have a photo gallery for you later in the week.

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2014 Rally Finland in pictures

2014 WRC Rally Finland

It seems to be the year of winning your home event. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg won their home grands prix in Formula 1. Now it’s Jari-Matti Latvala’s turn and he got to spray the champagne first after he won Rally Finland.

Sebastien Ogier will be hoping he can do the same when Rally France rolls around in October. He might just need to as well. Ogier is still very much the man to catch, with a 44 point lead over Latvala, but there’s still five rallies up for grabs.

After the break there’s over 70 images from the Finnish forests and, of course, plenty of spectacular “yumps”!

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Jari-Matti Latvala wins 2014 Rally Finland

2014 WRC Rally Finland

Jari-Matti Latvala has kept his faint WRC title hopes alive by scoring a hugely popular victory in Rally Finland. His 3.6 second winning margin over defending champ Sebastien Ogier doesn’t tell the full story. Ogier himself had to fight for P2 after Kris Meeke was very fast early and delivered on his undoubted potential to claim a rare podium for Citroën.

Local hero Latvala dominated the early and middle stages of the rally until a brake issue caused him to slow late on day two. Ogier, having just claimed P2 from Meeke, was able to close up on Latvala to bring the deficit to less than four seconds going into the final day.

Latvala was able to hold his nerve on the final day and even though he was second in the final power stage, only 0.1s behind Ogier, he showcased his driving style during the live televised stage with a masterful display. He was blindingly fast and in complete control at all times.

“This win in Finland is a very special moment for Miikka and me,” Latvala said afterwards. “We last managed to do this in 2010, and this win feels twice as good considering our disappointing result last year.

“I had a good feeling in the Polo R WRC right from the start of the rally, and the car was set up perfectly once again. So a big thank-you to my team for their excellent work. And I would, of course, also like to thank all the fans who supported Miikka and me throughout the rally here in Finland.

“This win was a tough cookie, though. We were in a bit of a predicament on Saturday evening when we were no longer able to use one of our brakes. Nevertheless, we didn’t give up and we kept on fighting. I’m really very happy about this result.”

He’s a likeable guy Latvala, who always speaks passionately and enthusiastically. This would have been a popular win regardless of the fact it was his home race. Add the overjoyed local crowd into the mix and the parties went long into the night.

The win is the eleventh of Latvala’s WRC career and he closes the gap slightly to Ogier, who is 44 points ahead with five rallies left to run. Volkswagen now has a remarkable 175 point lead in the manufacturers’ standings, ahead of Citroën.

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Jari-Matti Latvala wins 2014 Rally Argentina

2014 WRC Rally Argentina

It’s another belated WRC update, but this time we just wanted to make sure the rest of the field had crossed the line, such was the dominance shown by Jari-Matti Latvala en route to his second win for 2014.

Latvala enjoyed a trouble-free event and finished almost 90 seconds ahead of Sebastien Ogier. But even that doesn’t tell the full story as Ogier had put the cue in the rack around half way through the rally, figuring a secure and safe second place was better than risking a DNF in the chase for victory.

After Mads Ostberg crashed early on Day 1 Citroën’s charge was left to Kris Meeke. This would have given the team cause for concern following Meeke’s big crash in Portugal. However, the Northern Irishman delivered a solid drive and was very relieved to finish on the podium.

Andreas Mikkelsen finished fourth for Volkswagen and but for a slipped alternator belt on the opening day he would have likely given Volkswagen a clean sweep of the podium. In the end he did well to fight back from a five minute time penalty to keep Meeke on his toes.

Hyundai will be pleased with Thierry Neuville’s fifth place, bringing home some valuable points and more experience for his team.

Robert Kubica finished the rally! Even better for the former F1 star, he was the best placed Ford driver and came home in sixth place. The conditions in Argentina were treacherous at times, thanks to heavy rain in the lead up to the event, so it was no mean feat for any of the drivers, let alone the inexperienced Kubica, to get through the rally unscathed.

Ogier maintains a healthy lead in the drivers’ championship, ahead of Latvala. Mikkelsen and Ostberg are currently tied for third place. Similarly, with five wins from five events, Volkswagen has streaked away to a massive lead in the constructors’ race. The team already has more than twice the points of its nearest challenger, Citroën, with M Sport (Ford) further behind.

Latvala’s win and Ogier’s cautious approach breathes new life into the 2014 championship with the first genuine signs that Ogier’s drivers’ title is up for grabs.

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Sebastien Ogier wins 2014 Rally Mexico

2014 WRC Rally Mexico

Clichés are usually so entrenched they cannot be avoided. In Rally Mexico three clichés became clear: 1. Sebastien Ogier wins rallies; 2. the winner in Mexico MUST wear a sombrero; and 3. Robert Kubica rolls rally cars.

Business as usual, then, it would appear. Although, Ogier did have to overcome Citroën’s Mads Ostberg on Day 1 to claim the lead, before once again settling into what appeared to be a controlled rhythm of excellence.

Ostberg’s challenge ended on Day 2 after his car suffered suspension damage as Ogier began to sieze control of the rally. The reigning world champion eventually won by more than 70 seconds from teammate Jarri-Matti Latvala. Meanwhile, Ostberg struggled on to finish ninth.

In a boost for the sport Thierry Neuville achieved Hyundai’s first WRC podium, despite being more than five minutes behind the race winner. Neuville’s joy was almost short lived, though, with a holed radiator after the final stage almost making him late for time control, which would have denied him of that podium result. Some quick thinking and repairs aided by a bottle of Corona to top up the radiator were enough to bring Neuville home.

Chris Atkinson got his first taste of Hyundai’s teething problems on Day 1 when a suspension arm broke for no apparent reason, sending him down the leaderboard. It was a precursor to a raft of issues and he did well to fight back and earn the team some solid points thanks to a seventh place finish.

Ford’s hopes were carried by youngster Elfyn Evans who recorded his best WRC result with P4, with Mikko Hirvonen well behind in eighth place after an alternator problem ended his assault on Day 1. Robert Kubica rolled his car heavily twice, first on Day 1 and again the following day.

Kubica wasn’t alone, with Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelesen missing a pace note and flipping his Polo in spectacular fashion. Amazingly he landed on his wheels and was able to finish the stage, but not much more. Kris Meeke endured a troubled event in his Citroën and finished outside the top 10.

Ogier now resumes the lead of the world championship, three points ahead of Latvala, both are comfortably ahead of Ostberg in third.

The next rally will be held in Portugal across the first weekend in April, where we hope Hyundai can continue to push for another strong result. Or that anyone can make Volkswagen fight for victory.