Jari-Matti Latvala gives Volkswagen win at Rally Finland
Willie Grace | 8/5/2014, noon | Updated on 8/4/2014, 10:56 a.m.
Jari-Matti Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila have won Neste Oil Rally Finland for a second time on Sunday following a thrilling fight to the finish with their Volkswagen Motorsport teammates Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia.
The Finns had been cruising to first place when a heavy crash on Saturday afternoonleft their Polo R WRC with only three working brakes and meant they started Sunday’s trio of stages with a significantly reduced lead of 3.4 seconds. That gap increased to a slightly more comfortable five seconds when Latvala outgunned Ogier through the first visit to Ruuhimaki on Sunday morning. But Ogier hit back on the very next run, the spectacular jump-filled Myhinpaa test, where Latvala reported difficulty hearing his co-driver’s pace notes due to an intercom glitch.
Starting the final Ruuhimaki test, which also counted as the Power Stage, Latvala’s lead was down to a slender 3.7 seconds. However, he made it through the 6.79-kilometer run with his advantage still intact to record a popular home victory by 3.6 seconds as Ogier claimed the three bonus points for winning the Power Stage.
Latvala joins Finnish rally greats Timo Salonen and Ari Vatanen as a two-time winners of the event. And his victory and capture of two Power Stage bonus points means he has narrowed Ogier’s title championship lead to 44 points with five rounds remaining.
“It was really, really hard to get this victory but it was a brilliant performance and this is such a great feeling,” said Latvala, who said earlier that he wanted to win for the Finnish fans. “Everything was going perfectly, and I had a fantastic feeling, but then the problems yesterday put us in a difficult position and I was almost losing it. But we really fight back and I had to be careful on a couple of corners towards the end.”
Ogier was magnanimous in defeat to his teammate for the third time this season. “I have had so much pleasure driving on these roads,” said the reigning world champion and last year’s Finland winner. “I knew victory would be gone unless Jari made a mistake because it was impossible to make a difference. He was stronger than me but second is still fantastic after a great fight.”
Kris Meeke excelled to take third for Citroen, 12 months after his Rally Finland ended in a huge crash on the legendary Ouninpohja stage. It’s the third time that the Briton has finished on the podium in 2014. “A podium is pretty special on one of the biggest rallies of them all,” said Meeke. “Third will do but I’m still not near perfection. Jari-Matti has been the epitome of perfection in how to drive a rally car on these roads so I have to keep trying for perfection.”
Behind Meeke, Andreas Mikkelsen maintained his third place in the drivers’ standings in fourth place with Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen fifth for M-Sport. Hayden Paddon started day four in sixth place, but slipped back when his Hyundai’s power steering faltered. The New Zealander’s misfortunate handed the position to his teammate Juho Hänninen, who fought back from a roll on day two to complete the top six. Elfyn Evans also took advantage of Paddon’s woes to finish seventh with Paddon eventually making it home in eighth. Henning Solberg and WRC2 winner Karl Kruuda rounded out the top 10.
Craig Breen made it through the first Ruuhimaki stage in ninth overall but a suspected back injury meant he would go no further while he received medical assistance. Ex-Formula One racer Robert Kubica opened the road for the second day running and gained more useful experience but was outside of the point-scoring places.
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