29 – 31 July 2016.
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Impressive home race for Latvala – impressive position for Volkswagen.
Jari-Matti Latvala can be happy with his home outing in the Finnish forests. The Volkswagen driver finished runner-up behind the unstoppable Kris Meeke (Citroën) to make up ground in the World Championship. Unfortunately, the flying Finn was denied victory on the closing Power Stage. However, one point for finishing third on the Oittila stage is not to be sniffed at. Volkswagen also leaves the far north in an excellent position: Latvala climbed into third place overall in the World Championship. The top three places in the Drivers’ Championship are now occupied by Volkswagen drivers.
“I am obviously a bit disappointed not to have picked up the three extra points at the end,” said Latvala. “However, I am really happy with the overall result.” Latvala fought hard all weekend, and never shied away from the herculean task he was faced with. The Finn won three stages and his second place never really looked at risk.
The weekend was far more eventful for the other two Volkswagen drivers. Sébastien Ogier opened the route as usual, meaning he once again suffered the customary disadvantage of being the first man onto the dusty gravel roads and having to take on the role of road sweeper for the rest of the field. He then suffered a brake issue on Saturday’s iconic Ouninpohja stage, which cost the Frenchman about 30 seconds. Seb took matters into his own hands, solving the problem and continuing undeterred. However, he then skidded into a ditch in the afternoon and lost a full 16 minutes. The time loss could have been even greater, had the energetic Finnish fans not rescued him from his misery. Great scenes!
This chain of events meant Ogier was relieved of his role as road sweeper. No longer the first car on the route, he soon racked up a few stage wins on the Finnish gravel. Seb seemed to be getting all his frustration off his chest, and was clearly enjoying himself in the process. In doing so, Ogier set a record: he clocked an average speed of 134.63 km/h on the second running of the Pihlajakoski stage – the fastest average speed at this year’s rally. Unfortunately, he was to be denied the Power Stage victory he had been hoping for. “We tried our very best, but a small mistake ultimately cost us the points on the Power Stage.”
Andreas Mikkelsen can also be forgiven for being a little frustrated with the way the weekend panned out. Following Ogier’s brakes issue, the Norwegian had to take over as the first man to plough into the dust. He consequently lost so much time that he slipped from a potential podium finish – third place – right back to eighth place. Ott Tänak’s (Ford) crash saw him finish the rally in seventh place. He also narrowly missed out on the points on the Power Stage, clocking the fourth fastest time. However, Mikkelsen can rest assured that he gave it his very best shot: “We floored it all weekend and tried everything. In the end we had to settle for seventh.” The next opportunity to pick up a good result comes in three weeks’ time, at Volkswagen’s home rally around Trier.