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Jari-Matti Latvala wins 2014 Rally Sweden

2014 WRC Rally Sweden

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.

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Sebastien Ogier wins 2013 Wales Rally GB

2013 Wales Rally GB

Okay, we know this update is a week late, but you pay peanuts, you get monkeys!

So, last weekend Sebastien Ogier did what he does best and that’s dominating his teammates and opponents on the way to another WRC victory, this time at the season-ending Wales Rally GB.

Like the Seabstian in Formula 1, Ogier has done enough by himself to wrap up the manufacturers’ championship for his employer. Although Volkswagen certainly didn’t complain to see Jari-Matti Latvala pick up second place in Wales, providing the team with a perfectly suitable close to a year they would not have even dared to dream when they rocked up to Monte Carlo in January.

Equally fitting was seeing Thierry Neuville on the podium. In just his second year in the WRC he placed second overall in the drivers’ title. He’ll be hoping to emulate Volkswagen’s success in 2014 when he leads the charge for Hyundai’s re-introduction into rallying’s premier category.

And the less said about Citroën’s race in Wales and the season overall the better. They had a terrible year and may well choose to sulk off into the distance with the security of Sebastien Loeb’s WTCC campaign to console them.

The WRC now enters its dormant stage. Although, with just over 50 days until the teams re-emerge for the 2014 season there won’t be much time for reflection for Ogier and Volkswagen, who will no doubt be hoping to embarrass the competition again next year. Thankfully, Neuville, at the very least, will have other ideas.

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Sebastien Ogier wins 2013 Rally de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

Sebastien Ogier’s good fortune has continued after he fought back to win Rally de Espana on the weekend. Jari-Matti Latvala’s second place ensured Volkswagen secured the manufacturers’ championship in style, too, registering the team’s first one-two finish.

Rally de Espana is a diverse event covering tarmac and gravel with the extra dimension of night stages. The severe dust during the gravel stages made things very tricky for the drivers.

Ogier started in his usual fashion, building a lead over his rivals. However, he suffered a puncture cutting a corner a little too aggressively and dropped down to fourth place. Latvala and Dani Sordo, in his home event, assumed the battle for the lead.

Sadly, both endured bad luck which put both men out of contention. Latvala’s car had a leaking fuel line on the final day which caused a small fire and scuppered any hopes of Volkswagen duel to the finish line. Alas, Sordo’s misfortune was worse, hitting a small rock which wrecked his suspension and forced him into retirement on the final day while a podium position was his for the taking.

In the difficult gravel stages Ogier was superb fighting his way back from a deficit of over 40 seconds. He put on a rallying masterclass, made his own luck and took the win by over 30 seconds in the end.

Earlier this year Sebastien Ogier raced in the Porsche Supercup at the Monaco Grand Prix, where he became friends with Sean Edwards. After the rally Ogier dedicated his win to Edwards and his family.

It’s been a magical debut season for Volkswagen in 2013 and with just Rally Wales GB in mid-November left on the calendar they’ll be hoping they can finish the season with another victory.

A special note for Robert Kubica, too, who won the WRC2 championship with his class victory in Spain. We’ll have more on that later.

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Sebastien Ogier wins 2013 Rallye de France-Alsace

2013 Rallye de France-Alsace

Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have capped off their world championship by coming from behind to claim victory in Rallye de France-Alsace.

After the euphoria of the opening day when their championship was finally secured in the Power Stage the leading duo made a poor start to the rally proper. They ended Day 2 down in fifth place and well off the pace.

Ford driver Thierry Neuville was looking good thanks to a wise tyre choice which allowed him to end the going fastest in all the afternoon stages. An unfortunate puncture on Day 3 ended Neuville’s hopes of a maiden victory. He has shown much promise in 2013 and his career is sure to reach greater heights in the coming years.

Dani Sordo was again showing Citroën he has the pace on tarmac and inherited the lead from Neuville, but by the day’s end Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala had carved out a narrow edge to head the field into the final day.

Day 4 shaped as a classic with the first four drivers—Latvala, Sordo, Ogier and Loeb—separated by just five seconds. In wet and muddy conditions Ogier’s class shone through. He ended the opening stage of the day with a seven second lead over Sordo, with Latvala a further six seconds behind the Citroën driver.

Sadly, for all-time greats and nine time world champions, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, their rally ended after Loeb lost control on a fast right hander, spearing off the road and into the bushes where the car came to rest on its roof. Thankfully both men were okay, but it was an unfortunate end to rallying’s best ever career.

Citroën had adorned their car with a great looking black and gold livery with the pair’s impressive statistics featured all over the car. While they did move their all-time tally of stage wins from 896 to 900, there were no additions to their 116 podiums or 78 rally victories. Still, it’s an amazing record, which is sure to remain unmatched.

Ogier was never really troubled for the remainder of the day and he took victory by 12.2 seconds from Dani Sordo. Jari-Matti Latvala was third, 19.5 seconds behind his teammate.

There’s nice symmetry in Ogier being crowned world champion in his home country as the title finally escapes Loeb’s clutches. The Alsace region is where Loeb grew up and while he’ll be disappointed to have ended his career upside down the crowd support he has enjoyed this rally will stay with him for years to come.

With two more events left on the 2013 calendar Volkswagen enjoys an 80 point lead over Citroën in the manufacturers’ championship and will be hoping it can wrap that title up at the next event in Spain later this month.

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“Shit happens!”

Sebastien Ogier crashes out of 2013 Rally Germany

This weekend’s Rally Germany was supposed to be Sebastien Ogier’s crowning glory. If things went his way he could have secured the 2013 World Rally Championship. At its home event, it would have been a perfect way for Volkswagen to announce its arrival on the world rally stage. Alas, as Ogier himself said, “Shit happens.”

Ogier crashed out on Day 1 with damaged suspension. He’ll now have to wait to secure his maiden world title. Teammate Jari-Matti Latvala now leads the charge in Germany, with Ford driver Thierry Neuville close behind.

Being a tarmac event, Rally Germany is one of our favourites. On asphalt the WRC cars look their best, with bigger wheels and lowered suspension.

For hot hatch fans it doesn’t get much better. That’s why we’ve included a couple of videos from Volkswagen and Citroën for you after the break.

Volkswagen WRC

Sebastien Ogier wins 2013 Rally Finland

Volkswagen Polo R WRC, 2013 Rally Finland

Sebastien Ogier won the 2013 Rally Finland last weekend and is now starting to talk about the world championship. And why wouldn’t he, it was his fifth win for the year and he enjoys a 90 point lead over his nearest rivals and seems unstoppable.

“It is impossible to describe how I feel! This win here in Finland is a dream come true for me,” said Ogier. “And to win in Sweden as well this year—it is a great feeling to win these two rallies this year ahead of the Nordic guys like Mads Østberg, Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala.”

In second place, over 36 seconds behind Ogier was promising Ford driver Thierry Neuville, who also claimed maximum points in the power stage; the first non-Volkswagen driver to do so this year. Claiming the final podium step was Neuville’s Ford teammate, Mads Østberg.

Jari-Matti Latvala had high hopes coming into his home rally, but made a mistake on the opening day resulting in damaged suspension and the end of his hopes for victory.

Rally Finland means one thing: lots of jumps! There’s video and more photos for you after the break, which capture the air time very well. These are complemented by Volkswagen’s official word from the event.

Volkswagen WRC

Onboard with Jari-Matti at the Acropolis Rally

Jari-Matti Latvala onboard SS6 Rally Acropolis

The official WRC YouTube channel brings selected footage to the world during and after each rally. Here we ride with Acropolis Rally winner Jari-Matti Latvala on SS6. Settle yourself down and enjoy the ride!