Rally Sweden 2014

 

One-two finish in Sweden: Latvala completes his hat-trick, Mikkelsen on the podium for the first time.

 

Volkswagen driver Jari-Matti Latvala of Finland is the new king of the snow, having won Rally Sweden for the third time. His teammate Andreas Mikkelsen also put in a very strong performance to finish in second place, with this one-two victory consequently being frenetically celebrated. Sébastien Ogier had to claw his way up from the back of the field after sliding off course, but finished in a respectable sixth place.

 

Faced with challenging conditions comprising a mix of a thaw, snow and rain, the Polo R WRC once again proved to be the fastest car around. And Volkswagen again proved that they are more than at home in Rally Sweden, notching up 43 out of a possible 69 top three times – 18 of them special stage fastest times – and also having all three of its teams out in front for a time.

 

Sébastien Ogier, who was ahead of Mikkelsen and Latvala at the end of the second day, lost a lot of time when he slid into a snow drift, after which his two teammates put on a thrilling fight for the frontrunner position – a battle that was ultimately won by Latvala. It was an exciting duel that had all the fans holding their breath for the entire remaining distance. The decision between the two drivers didn’t come until the Saturday of the rally, when Andreas Mikkelsen in hot pursuit made a minor driving error and lost a few crucial seconds to Latvala. Things then got tight again as Citroën driver Mads Østberg saw an opportunity to take second place and really began to pile the pressure onto Mikkelsen. But the Norwegian kept his cool and managed to maintain his lead over Østberg up to the finishing line.

Jari-Matti Latvala was absolutely delighted with his victory – and also showed his respect for his teammate: “It’s fantastic to have won Rally Sweden for the third time. This win is extra special for me because this is also where I achieved my first ever win back in 2008. Andreas Mikkelsen didn’t make things easy for us. He put in a strong performance and more than deserves his place on the podium. It’s brilliant that we were able to fight it out fairly between us and that there is no pecking order stipulated by Volkswagen – which is something that’s quite unique. This is just one of the reasons why I feel very at home with Volkswagen.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen was equally delighted with his excellent second place: “I’ve made it onto the podium for the first time! This is the outcome that I have been longing for. It’s just amazing to have now achieved it and to have done it so close to home too. I’m especially proud to have achieved my WRC breakthrough here at Rally Sweden, in the most difficult conditions there have been for some years.”

 

Sébastien Ogier, who picked up some points in spite of dropping back in the pack, took it on the chin: “Sixth place is a positive outcome for us. Julien and I would obviously have loved to repeat our success from last year, but eight points are the best result considering my error on Friday. And with a total of ten fastest times, we proved that we will be a force to be reckoned with next year once again. Congratulations to Jari-Matti and Miikka, who put in an excellent performance, just like Andreas and Mikko. We now have another reason to celebrate within the team. And things are certainly hotting up in the championship.”


Finnish-Norwegian 1-2 victory at the Rally Sweden. The video.


Rally Sweden 2014: final results

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 3:00:31.1    
2 A. Mikkelsen / M. Markkula 3:01:24.7 +53.6  
3 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 3:01:30.6 +59.5  
4 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 3:02:58.0 +2:26.9  
5 O. Tänak / R. Molder 3:03:31.6 +3:00.5  
6 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 3:05:01.0 +4:29.9  
7 H. Solberg / I. Minor 3:05:18.6 +4:47.5  
8 P. Tidemand / O. Fløene 3:06:09.3 +5:38.2  
9 C. Breen / S. Martin 3:09:26.5 +8:55.4  
10 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 3:11:49.1 +11:18.0  

Impressions

The rally in detail

Looking for something specific? You will find a detailed rally review here. Experience the coverage of the 2014 Rally Sweden a second time around: every single day and every single special stage.

 

Click through each day’s picture gallery and watch video clips of each stage. The whole thing is rounded off with all of the pre-event reports and interviews. Happy reading!

Saturday, 08.02.2014


Skandinavian Snow Kings. Commanding Finnish-Norwegian 1-2 victory at the Rally Sweden. The video.


Aktuelle Bilder (26)
23:45 Uhr (MEZ)


Classification after 24 of 24 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 3:00:31.1    
2 A. Mikkelsen / M. Markkula 3:01:24.7 +53.6  
3 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 3:01:30.6 +59.5  
4 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 3:02:58.0 +2:26.9  
5 O. Tänak / R. Molder 3:03:31.6 +3:00.5  
6 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 3:05:01.0 +4:29.9  
7 H. Solberg / I. Minor 3:05:18.6 +4:47.5  
8 P. Tidemand / O. Fløene 3:06:09.3 +5:38.2  
9 C. Breen / S. Martin 3:09:26.5 +8:55.4  
10 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 3:11:49.1 +11:18.0  

19:30 (CET)

This victory is especially important to me.
Statements from the Volkswagen team.

 

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. 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. 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.”

 

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. I am unbelievably proud of the result and of the team, whose hard work has paid dividends once again.”


16:20 (CET)

Jari-Matti Latvala on cloud nine! The man of the moment celebrates the ninth victory of his WRC career. The Finn was incidentally the youngest driver in WRC history to win a rally at the World Rally Championship, when at just 22 years of age, he secured victory here in Sweden in 2008. Victories in Italy, New Zealand, Finland, Wales (twice) and Greece followed - as well as two further wins in Sweden. We are certain he will make it a double-figure tally during the course of the 2014 season - keep up the good work, Jari-Matti!


16:18 (CET)

Rally legend Per Eklund explains:

 

“That was a magnificent finale to a fantastic rally. Everyone was at full throttle again through the Power Stage. After all, there were still a few bonus points up for grabs. Jari-Matti Latvala was in total control all day, although the conditions were just as difficult as yesterday. And I am particularly pleased that Andreas Mikkelsen did not make any more costly mistakes on the final day, even though Mads Ostberg put him under some serious pressure and closed to within a few seconds. And then there was Sebastien Ogier’s fightback, which was obviously sensational. He is the World Champion when all said and done! I believe this rally was a motorsport highlight. It was particularly valuable from a sporting point of view.”

 

About the person: Per ‘Pekka’ Eklund is a veritable rally veteran. The Swede won Rally Sweden in 1976 in a Saab 96 V4, together with his co-driver Björn Cederberg. Per will be commentating on the action in Sweden for volkswagen-motorsport.com at the end of each rally day.


16:15 (CET)

Done it! Jari-Matti wins in Sweden –

Andreas takes second place.

He is the newly crowned king of the Swedish snow: Jari-Matti clinches victory! The Finn didn't let up in the final kilometres and masterfully defended his lead. The Volkswagen driver also notched up two additional points during the final Power Stage with the second fastest time. “To win the same rally three times is something really special. I had my first win here in 2008 and my last victory in Greece was some time ago. Therefore this win also comes as an incredible relief,” according to the victor, beaming with joy at the finish.


The other man of the moment is Andreas Mikkelsen, as he secured the first podium of his WRC career with an excellent second-place finish. The Norwegian demonstrated nerves of steel as he refused to be ruffled by the late challenge of closest rival, Mads Østberg, as the Citroën driver went on to win the final Power Stage. “Absolutely fantastic! I'm really over the moon. Thank you to my family and all my fans for their support,” Andreas Mikkelsen rejoiced after crossing the finishing line.


Hats off to the performance of Sébastien Ogier, who fought his way back to sixth overall and drives away with eight world championship points after his bad luck and severe loss of time yesterday.


14:30 (CET)

A clear run to the finish.


Only the final Power Stage now awaits the competitors in Sweden – and things are looking very good indeed for Volkswagen: Jari-Matti Latvala has a commanding lead and is fully in charge of proceedings. Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen is also on course for success. The young man from Norway, who was feeling the pressure of Citroën's Mads Østberg challenge during the previous stage, threw a few more coals on the fire to extend his advantage.


Where is reigning world champion Sébastien Ogier while all this is going on? The Frenchman recorded the fastest time over SS23 (Vargåsen 2) and has reached his target of sixth place overall – pulling ahead of Henning Solberg in the Ford. Will “Mr Power Stage” also rack up the extra points during the final stage?
 

You can find all the results here.


13:51 (CET)

Latvala can smell victory – Mikkelsen under pressure.


Come on Jari-Matti, two more stages to go and it's yours! Only 50 kilometres stand between the Volkswagen driver and victory. It would mean a third win in Sweden for the Finn. After SS22 (Torntorp 2), Latvala holds the lead in the rally by 47.2 sec. Meanwhile the battle for second spot is really hotting up: Citroën's Mads Østberg is putting his foot down and piling more and more pressure on Andreas Mikkelsen in second place. The gap is down to just 11.6 sec. Time to fight Andreas!


12:30 (CET)

Will Jari-Matti claim his hat-trick?


A third Rally Sweden crown is within Latvala's grasp – the two Norwegians are fighting it out for second place.

After the cancellation of SS21, just three special stages separate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) and his third victory in Sweden following wins in 2008 and 2012. Latvala and co-driver Miika Anttila went into the midday break on Saturday with a comparatively comfortable lead of 43 sec. ahead of team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (Polo R WRC #9). “But it's not over yet. I've had a clear lead here once before, then I suffered tyre damage and suddenly it was a really close rally again,” Latvala recollects.


In actual fact the stages are in such a terrible condition due to the warm weather, that tyre damage would hardly come as a surprise. “In a lot of places the racing line is just gravel, in some places even large stones,” Latvala recounted, who recorded fastest times in all four morning tests. Nevertheless, the racing line remains the only option. “As long as you stay on this lane, everything will be fine. A slight move to the side and suddenly the grip disappears.”


Andreas Mikkelsen knows a thing or two about this. The Norwegian went into the final day just 3.6 sec. off the lead, but a spin during SS18 cost him over half a minute. “The radiator intake was clogged with snow. That's why the engine temperature increased and the electrics went into emergency mode,” Mikkelsen explained. In such instances, the Polo R WRC's turbo engine is not running at full capacity, as it needs to maintain the temperature within a reasonable range. Because of this loss of time, Mikkelsen's compatriot, Mads Østberg in the Citroën is now hot on his tail – the young Volkswagen driver has a mere 17 sec. advantage. “The duel with Mads will continue to be exciting,” Mikkelsen commented as he looked ahead to Saturday afternoon.


Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1), who endured a similar misfortune to Mikkelsen when he lost over three minutes on Friday, climbed his way up into seventh place overall. Ahead of him in sixth lies Henning Solberg in a private Ford, just 28 sec. separate the two drivers. “It's a shame that SS21 was cancelled,” Ogier remarked. “Of course, now I have even less time to catch Henning.” That aside, the Frenchman is concentrating on securing the three extra points that up for grabs for winning the Power Stage (SS24).


11:53 (CET)

Note!

Due to delays in the process the special stage 21 is canceled. All other WPs will take place.


11:42 (CET)

Jari-Matti is going for it.

He's on fire! Jari-Matti Latvala even overcame the tricky snow-covered course of “Värmullsåsen 1” with a fastest time. The Finn conjured up a time of 8:47.2 min. in the snow – and there was plenty of it in this serpentine special stage.

 

Citroën's Mads Østberg recorded the second-fastest run and Andreas Mikkelsen crossed the finishing line narrowly down on his time. The Norwegian remains 16.6 sec. ahead of his nearest rival. The afternoon leg promises to offer up some nail-biting tension – will Mikkelsen manage to hold on to second place in the overall standings?


Sébastien Ogier, who drove flat out and almost went flying off, is still in seventh. “The course was not easy to race, however, I'm completely happy with the result. My goal is still to finish in sixth place,” the Frenchman explained.
 

You can find all the results here.


10:02 (CET)

The One-Two is still on.

Time to breathe a sigh of relief: despite leaving the road briefly on SS 18, Volkswagen driver Andreas Mikkelsen was able to continue on his way, and the Polo R WRC seems no worse for wear following its little excursion into the snow. Victory on special stage 19 (Vargåsen 1), which features the legendary “Colin’s Crest” jump, once again went to Jari-Matti Latvala. Hyundai man Thierry Neuville surprised many, putting his foot down to clock the second-fastest time. It seems Citroën driver Mads Østberg has also decided to go for it, finishing third on SS 19. Mikkelsen was just behind his fellow Norwegian.

Overall standings: Latvala leads with a 37-second lead over Mikkelsen, with Østberg in third place a further 18.2 seconds back. Sébastien Ogier has now moved ahead of Pontus Tidemand (Ford) and is running seventh.


09:30 (CET)

Jari-Matti remains on course – bad luck for Mikkelsen.

Special stage 18 (Tontorp 1) – a 19-kilometre, high-speed section – proved quite a test: the sheer volume of loose snow on the road ensured the drivers had to be on top of their game. Jari-Matti picked up another stage win, ahead of Séb. There was drama in store for Andreas Mikkelsen, however: the Norwegian ploughed into a snow wall in his Polo R WRC. While Mikkelsen was able to continue, he lost a significant amount of time and is now over half a minute behind Latvala. His lead over third-placed Mads Østberg (Citroën) is still a healthy 19.3 seconds.
 

You can find all the results here.


08:44 (CET)

Jari-Matti kicks off Saturday’s action with a stage win.

The final day of the Rally Sweden is underway – and overall leader Jari-Matti Latvala has hit the ground running: the Finn clocked the fastest time on the 17th special stage (Hara 1), ahead of Mads Østberg (Citroën) and Mikko Hirvonen (Ford). “There is a lot of snow, so you really have to concentrate hard,” reported Latvala at the finish. Incidentally, that was the 300th stage win of the Volkswagen driver’s career.

Latvala’s team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen had to settle for fourth place and lost ground in the overall standings. The gap to Latvala is now 7.5 seconds. Sébastien Ogier’s overall position meant he was earlier out onto the special stage and had to contend with more loose snow on the road. As such, he could do no better than the ninth fastest time. However, the Frenchman continues to battle his way through the field and is now up to ninth place, half a minute behind Pontus Tidemand (Ford).


08:30 (CET)

Congratulations on your 300th special stage win, Jari-Matti!

Jari-Matti Latvala clocked the fastest time on the Hara1 special stage to claim the 300th stage win of his career. Congratulations Jari-Matti – here’s to the next 300!


09:30 (CET)

McRaes giant jump.

 

“Colin’s Crest” Jump Attracts Thousands of Fans.

 

The World Rally Championship is littered with jumps. One or two of them have achieved legendary status. Take, for example, one relatively small hill near the Portuguese town of Fafe. With the cars approaching at over 100 km/h, the record here is a jump of more than 70 metres.


The special stage in Fafe no longer features on the World Rally Championship, as the Rally Portugal has moved to the Algarve in the south of the country. As such, the longest the WRC cars go airborne is on the “Yellow House Jump” at the Rally Finland – another crest approached at high speed – where the most courageous can find themselves flying over the 50-metre mark.    
The most spectacular jump at the Rally Sweden is named after former World Champion, Colin McRae. The Scottish driver, who died in a helicopter crash in 2007, regularly thrilled fans here with particularly long jumps. Every year, tens of thousands of fans flock to this 200-metre section of the route. To ensure they get the best possible view, the most hard-core fans actually camp out in the middle of the forest – in minus 20 degrees.


Since 2008, the organisers of the Rally Sweden have been awarding the “Colin’s Crest Award” to the drivers who achieve the longest leap on this veritable ice rink. The current record is held by YouTube superstar Ken Block (2011) and a young Norwegian driver by the name of Marius Aasen (2010), who both touched down at the 37-metre mark.


The special name itself bears a somewhat foreboding name: Vargåsen – “Wolf Hill”. Colin’s Crest is encountered about halfway into the 25-kilometre stage, which forms SS 19 and SS 23 on Saturday.


“You approach it at about 120, 130,” said Rally Sweden leader Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2), going on to reveal the key to surviving this giant leap in one piece. “You have to line the car up a little just before the jump. If you fly dead straight over Colin’s Crest, you will end up to the left of the road.” 


Saturday: the special stages of the day.

06:00 (CET)

Friday, 07.02.2014


Scandinavian Duel: Jari-Matti and Andreas go head-to-head for the win, Ogier bemoans misfortune. Friday. The video.


Aktuelle Bilder (18)
20:45 Uhr (MEZ)


Classification after 16 of 24 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 1:48:47.6    
2 A. Mikkelsen / M. Markkula 1:48:51.2 +3.6  
3 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 1:49:30.6 +43.0  
4 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 1:49:50.3 +1:02.7  
5 O. Tänak / R. Molder 1:49:56.3 +1:08.7  
6 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 1:51:18.8 +2:31.2  
7 H. Solberg / I. Minor 1:51:34.6 +2:47.0  
8 P. Tidemand / O. Fløene 1:51:36.0 +2:48.4  
9 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 1:52:26.0 +3:38.4  
10 E. Evans / D. Barritt 1:52:29.4 +3:41.8  

20:16 (CET)

“It would be awesome to win in Sweden for a third time.” Statements from the Volkswagen team.

 

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“That’s rallying! We skidded into a snow wall twelve kilometres into the first special stage of the day. It was a slow corner, which is perhaps why I lost my concentration a little. I missed the entry to the corner and next thing we knew we were stuck. A stupid mistake, but these things happen. Thank you to all the fans who helped us out. We obviously have nothing to lose now. The conditions are not easy, but we will do our best to still pick up valuable points towards the World Championship. The realistic goal for Julien and me is now sixth place. However, I hope for the sake of our team that Andreas and Jari-Matti top the standings come the end of the rally.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“It is obviously a great feeling to lead the Rally Sweden. At the same time, we still have a lot of work ahead of us: Saturday is the longest day, and it will be all about looking after the studded tyres as well as possible, right up until the finish ramp in Karlstad. The spikes break very quickly on gravel, and you lose an awful lot of grip then. We will continue our battle with Andreas Mikkelsen tomorrow. It would be awesome to win the Rally Sweden for a third time.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“A fantastic day for us, and I am very happy with the way the Rally Sweden is panning out for me. I am yet to stand on the podium in the World Rally Championship, and that is exactly where I would dearly love to end this rally. However, I am a born-and-bred rally driver, and victory is within my grasp. I tried to keep up the pressure on my team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, but without taking too many risks. That was a real balancing act, which we pulled off really well.”


21:00 (CET)

The Volkswagen Motorsport team is playing a high-percentage game at the Rally Sweden. Of the 16 special stages so far, Sébastien Ogier has won nine, Andreas Mikkelsen four and Jari-Matti Latvala one. As such, 14 of the 16 stages went to Volkswagen Motorsport – that is a share of 87.5 per cent. Interestingly Latvala, who leads the Rally Sweden, has won only one special stage. That puts the Finn just one victory away from claiming the 300th stage win of his rally career.


19:30 (CET)

Polo Gallops Round the Racecourse:

One-Two-Three for Volkswagen Motorsport.


Friday’s final stage – the 16th of the Rally Sweden – saw the drivers return to the 1.9-kilometre Karlstad 2 “Super Special Stage” for the second time. As at the start of the rally on Wednesday evening, the format featured a series of race-offs, with two drivers going head-to-head on the racecourse in Karlstad. This time around, the standings threw up an all-Volkswagen duel: overall leader Jari-Matti Latvala in the #2 Polo R WRC took on second-placed Andreas Mikkelsen (#9), while World Champion Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) lined up against Yazeed Al Rajhi (Ford).

 

In the end, the three Volkswagen drivers clocked the fastest times on SS16: Mikkelsen (1:36.7 minutes) won the stage, ahead of Ogier (+0.5 seconds) and Latvala (+1.2 seconds). Latvala now leads Mikkelsen by just 3.6 seconds going into Saturday’s final eight stages. Mads Østberg (Citroën) follows in third place, a further 43 seconds back. Ogier has already fought his way back to ninth place following his mistake this morning.

 

You can find all the results here.


17:40 (CET)

Tyre Test.

 

Whoever wants to win this Rally Sweden, will have to show great restraint.

 

The rain continues to fall around Hagfors, with no hint of snow or falling temperatures. “In these conditions, the special stages on Sunday will have very little to do with winter rallying,” said Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #1), who leads the rally going into the service prior to the final special stage of the day, which will take place at the trotting course in Karlstad. “Even today, we were often driving on gravel rather than ice and snow on the second loop.”


As such, the pros are agreed on one thing: tyres will play a crucial role on Saturday’s final leg. Anyone who fails to take due care with their spikes and is too impetuous with the throttle, resulting in wheelspins during acceleration or locked wheels when braking, will lose time further down the line.


Take Jari-Matti Latvala for example. The Finn’s driving style is relatively spectacular, with plenty of exaggerated drifts. “I was on the attack all afternoon, and appear to have ruined my tyres in the process.” The consequence: the flying Finn lost 8.2 seconds to the stage winner, World Champion Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1), on the penultimate special stage of the day - “Hagfors Sprint” – despite it being less than two kilometres in length. “I cannot allow that to happen again tomorrow,” said a determined Latvala.


Ogier paced his tyres perfectly. “I was perfectly placed to win the rally. But what good is that if you then make a silly mistake,” said the Frenchman, still frustrated with himself for the slip-up that cost him so much time on SS 8. As a result, the Frenchman can forget about repeating last year’s victory. “Realistically, I can still aim for sixth.” Ogier is currently just over a minute behind the sixth-placed car. With 141 kilometres of special stage to go, this is the sort of challenge that only a World Champion would set himself.

 

In contrast, Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) was generally very happy with the way his day two panned out. “As a rally driver, it goes without saying that you always want to win,” said the Norwegian, who finds himself just behind team-mate Latvala in second place. “But hey, I have never made it onto the podium at a round of the WRC before. I would be more than happy with that.”


16:35 (CET)

Ogier Still in the fast lane –  
Latvala pushing the limits.

Jari-Matti Latvala goes into the afternoon service as leader, before the drivers take to the short ‘Super Special Stage’ in Karlstad again tonight at 7 pm CET. On the last special stage, the short 1.9-kilometre “Hagfors Sprint 2”, the Finn struggled with worn tyres on his Polo R WRC and lost time to his pursuer Andreas Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen is still on course for a podium finish, or will the Norwegian even go as far as to snatch overall victory? Anything is possible, as he is only 4.8 seconds behind Latvala.

The fastest times on special stages 14 (Rämmen 2) and 15 (Hagfors) were once again set by Sébastien Ogier, who now has his sights on finishing sixth overall.


15:13 (CET)

Volkswagen drivers unbeatable.

It was a top three shutout for Volkswagen on the thirteenth special stage of the Rally Sweden. Despite trailing behind the leaders, Sébastien Ogier is enjoying being behind the wheel of his Polo R WRC. The Frenchman is still going all out and is setting fastest times stage after stage. Jari-Matti Latvala was second quickest once again and slightly increased his lead on his team-mate and rival Andreas Mikkelsen in the overall standings. There is now 7.5 seconds between them. “I wasn’t overly happy with my time. I’m a bit worried about the tyres,” stated Mikkelsen at the finish.

 

You can find all the results here.


14:00 (CET)

Séb quickest – Jari-Matti retains lead.

Sébastien Ogier has kicked off the second part of Friday’s rally with an excellent fastest time of 8:55.1 minutes. Team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen finished second and third on the second outing on the ‘Lesjöfors 1’ special stage. “I had a good feeling during this stage. The section wasn’t easy to drive, but it was ok. We aren’t going to take too many risks now,” reported Jari-Matti Latvala at the finish. The Finn is still leading the pack in the overall standings of the Rally Sweden. However, Andreas Mikkelsen remains within reach, just 6.6 seconds back.

Robert Kubica (Ford) was unlucky, losing a large chunk of time when his car careered off the road. Hyundai driver Juho Hänninen was forced to retire for the day after crashing his i20 WRC, leaving both Hyundais out of today’s race.


14:32 (CET)

Thanks to the Fans.

Sébastien Ogier Forced to Leave the Battle for Victory to His Team-Mates.

 

Sébastien Ogier is a man who speaks frankly, even about his own mistakes. “It was on a relatively slow section, perhaps that’s what caused me to lose concentration for a split second,” summarised the Frenchman, referring to the moment on special stage 8 when he waved goodbye to any chances of a second victory at the Rally Sweden. The rear of the #1 Polo R WRC hit a wall of snow, causing it to skid before finally ending up with its nose in the snow. “Fortunately there was a large group of fans in this area, who pushed us back onto the track. Without them, our rally would have been over. I’d like to extend my gratitude to those fans.”


Despite this, Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia lost roughly four and a half minutes and were thirteenth in the interim classification at the break for lunch on Friday. As such, the duo now has just one thing left to fight for: “The three bonus points awarded for victory on the Power Stage on Saturday.”


This leaves two Volkswagen works drivers fighting for overall victory in the second round of the 2014 WRC season. Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) is marginally ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9). “The ruts are getting deeper,” says Latvala, describing the effects that the temperatures, which have increased yet again, and the rain are having on the tracks. “As long as you stay on the track, the grip level is very high. But as soon as you deviate even slightly, the traction reduces drastically. This causes the rear to swerve suddenly.”


Given the worsening track conditions, Andreas Mikkelsen is resting his studded tyres. “For each of the remaining tyre changes, I now have four brand new tyres at my disposal. I’m ready to go head-to-head with Jari-Matti.”
However, Mikkelsen is not about to be reckless while doing battle with his Finnish team-mate. “My aim is to get on the podium. If Jari-Matti can increase his speed again, I’m not going to give 110 percent trying to keep up with him.”


11:45 (CET)

Gripping team battle at the top –
Jari-Matti leads going into the lunch break.

A thrilling team battle is fascinating spectators at the Rally Sweden. Volkswagen drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen are currently fighting for the top spot. On the tenth special stage (Rämmen 1), Sébastien Ogier finished fastest, ahead of Latvala, Mads Østberg, and Andreas Mikkelsen. Consequently, Latvala edged ahead of Mikkelsen in the overall standings.


The short 1.9-kilometre SS 11 (Hagfors Sprint 1) went to Ford driver Henning Solberg, with Ogier in second place.

“I’m pleased with how the morning went. We are still fighting for the lead and had a clean first leg of the day,” said a positive Andreas Mikkelsen.

In the overall standings, Mikkelsen is only 1.6 seconds behind Latvala at the halfway point on day two. This afternoon promises to be highly exciting.


You can find all the results here.


10:22 (CET)

One-Two-Three on SS 9 for Volkswagen –
The World Champion fights back.

Sébastien Ogier has the bit between his teeth after dropping time on Friday’s opening stage: nobody could match the determined Frenchman’s pace on the ninth special stage of the Rally Sweden (Fredriksberg 1). Having started the stage over four and a half minutes off the lead, Ogier has already clawed back more than 15 seconds. Team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala also produced impressive displays, clocking the second and third fastest times on the 18-kilometre section.

Andreas was happy with his performance: “We put on new tyres – that was the right decision. It is essential to get the right tyres at the Rally Sweden.” The Norwegian continues to lead the overall standings, with Jari-Matti just 3.3 seconds behind him. Mads Østberg (Ford) is currently third.


09:20 (CET)

Jari-Matti with Fastest Time – Bad Luck for Séb.

Rally Friday got off to a mixed start for Volkswagen: While Jari-Matti Latvala conjured up a fantastic fastest time in the Swedish snow on the 15-kilometre special stage “Lesjöfors 1“, team-mate Sébastien Ogier got stuck and lost a lot of time freeing his Polo R WRC from a snowdrift. “A driver error that cost us more than four and a half minutes. Now we need to work our way through the field, which is not going to be an easy task,” reported the disappointed Ogier on finishing.

The delay sees Ogier, who started the special stage as leader, slip far down the rankings. Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen, who was second fastest behind Latvala, has retaken the lead in the overall standings. Latvala is just 0.6 seconds behind in second place. Mads Østberg (Ford) is third. Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville was unlucky, suffering a technical fault on his i20 WRC.


You can find all the results here.


12:56 (CET)

Heat it up.

Special Preparation Needed for Rally Sweden, Despite Lack of Extreme Temperatures.

 

The current temperatures in Sweden are comparatively cosy. However, even when temperatures are “only“ hovering around freezing, different preparations are required for the only snow rally on the WRC calendar to those undertaken in the fiery temperatures of the midsummer rally in Mexico, for example.


“It is important to keep the body warm at all times,” says Willy Verhoeven, who is responsible for the physical well-being of the drivers at Volkswagen Motorsport. Therefore, in addition to the warm jackets and two compulsory snow shovels, the cockpit also contains a thin aluminium foil blanket. The Polo R WRCs are also equipped with heating, which is left out of the cars for rallies in warm countries to keep weight to a minimum.  


As soon as they exit the cockpit, the drivers don heavy-duty overshoes made of felt. With only the thin driving shoes on, the drivers’ toes would freeze in the short time it takes to walk from the service area to lunch. The co-drivers are, as an exception, allowed to wear normal winter boots rather than their usual driving shoes which, although fire-proof, offer little or no protection from the cold.


The Polo R WRC is also kitted out for the cold. “The oils for the engine, gears, and differentials are designed for the low temperatures,” explains Gerard Jan de Jongh, race engineer for World Champion Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1). The jack points under the side skirts can be covered, as can the rear cover fasteners, to prevent them getting clogged up with ice.
The large inlet via the windscreen, which usually directs fresh air that is relatively free of dust into the cockpit, is sealed tightly. The front window can be heated electrically, ensuring the driver and co-driver still have good visibility, even in the freezing cold. The same is true for the front door window. After all, rally drivers also need to be able to see out the side in a drift.


Friday: the special stages of the day.

06:00 (CET)

Thursday, 06.02.2014


One, two and three: Volkswagen Motorsport finishes the second day of the Rally Sweden on the first three places. Thursday. The video.


Aktuelle Bilder (20)
19:35 Uhr (MEZ)


Classification after seven of 24 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 39:56.5    
2 A. Mikkelsen / M. Markkula 40:02.3 +5.8  
3 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 40:08.7 +12.2  
4 O. Tänak / R. Molder 40:11.3 +14.8  
5 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 40:19.0 +22.5  
5 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 40:19.0 +22.5  
7 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 40:28.5 +32.0  
8 J. Hänninen / T. Tuominen 40:38.5 +42.0  
9 P. Tidemand / O. Fløene 40:41.1 +44.6  
10 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 40:43.1 +46.6  

20:10 (CET)

That was definitely the best day.”
Statements from the Volkswagen team.

 

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“To be first onto the route at a winter rally in Sweden is always difficult. As such, I was not sure what position we would find ourselves in come the evening. Anything in the top three would have been great. I am really extremely happy that we are actually leading the rally. We now go into day two full of optimism.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“I coped very well with the fast, flowing sections today. However, I unfortunately lost too much time on the short, winding stages. I had problems finding enough grip and a good rhythm on them. Tomorrow is a new day, and I start from a good position in third. Maybe I can mix things up a bit at the top of the standings.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“That was definitely the best day I have had since I joined Volkswagen. I won three stages and led the rally – and all on my own doorstep. Then there were the many Norwegian flags, my family and friends who came here to cheer me on.I actually held a slender lead going into the final special stage of the day, but decided to save my tyres for tomorrow morning. As such, I lost a bit of time. My goal remains a podium finish.”


19:20 (CET)

Three men – one aim.

Friday all set for round two of Volkswagen’s internal, three-way battle for victory

Well this is a new situation: for the first time, all three Volkswagen works drivers find themselves battling for victory. “The tests in December really paid off,” said last year’s winner Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) in the finish area at the end of the first leg, revealing the secret behind the strong team performance. “We did a lot of work on the chassis set-up, and that was definitely apparent today.”


The World Champion returned to the Service Park in Hagfors as the overnight leader. “Andreas and Jari-Matti are really not making life easy for me,” said Ogier, summing up the day. The World Championship leader did not appear at all nervous, however. “Will be the last of the top drivers out on the course on Friday, so I can adjust my speed to match the opposition.”


In order to be as well-equipped as possible for the second leg of the rally, the Frenchman was careful to look after two of the tyres used on Thursday. “We can only take four new tyres with us tomorrow. Together with the two that we only used a little, that means I basically have six fresh tyres on board.” Friday’s itinerary features four special stages, with a total distance of 58 kilometres, before the first opportunity to change tyres.


Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9), who trailed Ogier by just 5.8 seconds in an impressive second place at the end of the first full day of action, also employed the same tactic. At times, the 24-year-old Norwegian found himself leading the rally. “It was a great moment when I moved into the lead on a special stage in my home country,” he said afterwards. Mikkelsen has no intention of throwing caution to the wind in an attempt to catch leader Ogier on Friday. “My goal is not to win this rally. We will continue to drive at our own pace. If we do that, we should be looking at a podium finish.”


Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) completed the trio of Volkswagen drivers at the top of the overall standings. “I am not entirely happy with my day,” said the Finn. “I had a few problems changing gear. Somehow the gearstick got caught sometimes, particularly when shifting down. However, my mechanics will get it under control.”


Latvala does not view the 12.2-second gap to team-mate and leader Ogier as an insurmountable problem. “Only if it was 20 seconds or more would I abandon any thoughts of winning.” Looks as though the internal three-way battle is set to continue on Friday.


18:20 (CET)

The WRC cars have a few extra kilos on board at the Rally Sweden – in the form of the tyres: the regulations specify that the “X-Ice North 2 WRC” spikes can bear a maximum of 384 studs. These are made of tungsten and must not weigh more than four grams each. That makes an additional weight of up to 1.54 kilos per tyre and 6.14 kilos per set of tyres.


Rally legend Per Eklund explains:

 

“What a fantastic battle at the top. It is great for the fans, and the atmosphere out on the route is incredible. The big surprise is obviously Andreas Mikkelsen. He is driving the rally of his life. The impression I have is that the Volkswagen drivers have everything under control. I think they could even go a bit quicker if they wanted. Let’s see what the weather is like tomorrow. That could put the cat among the pigeons again.”

 

About the person: Per ‘Pekka’ Eklund is a veritable rally veteran. The Swede won Rally Sweden in 1976 in a Saab 96 V4, together with his co-driver Björn Cederberg. Per will be commentating on the action in Sweden for volkswagen-motorsport.com at the end of each rally day.


17:50 (CET)

A Great Day of Rallying:
Volkswagen Ends the Day in First, Second, and Third.

A first: After a fabulous second day at the Rally Sweden, Volkswagen Motorsport occupies the top three places in the overall standings. With a fastest time on the final special stage of the day, Sébastien Ogier was able to reclaim the top spot in the overall standings. Andreas Mikkelsen slipped into second place, but didn’t seem too disheartened at the finish line: “We lost some time because we were using old tyres. Tomorrow we will be able to use fresh material and can push hard again”. Jari-Matti Latvala also lost time on the special stage, but retains third place overall, ahead of the Estonian Ott Tänak (Ford).
 

You can find all the results here.


16:18 (CET)

Wow! Andreas Takes the Lead –
Séb and Jari-Matti Second and Third.

Has Andreas Mikkelsen secretly fitted his Polo R WRC with rocket propulsion? With another fastest time on special stage 6 (Finnskogen 2), the Norwegian has snatched the overall lead. Team-mate Sébastien Ogier is only 0.2 seconds behind, followed by Jari-Matti Latvala. Volkswagen now occupies the top three spots.

Sébastien Ogier, who had to start the special stage first and took only 0.7 seconds longer than Mikkelsen, had a fight on his hands: “No ideal line in the snow, and on top of that the rear of the car skidded a couple of times, costing me time,” explained the Frenchman.


15:40 (CET)

Excitement in the Snow.

Close finish: It initially seemed that Andreas Mikkelsen would set another best time on the second special stage in Kirkener, but that was before Ott Tänak (Ford) stepped up the pace to set a new fastest time of just 5:36.1 minutes. Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville finished just 0.5 seconds behind Tänak. Mikkelsen was third fastest, but the Norwegian believed he could have done better. He had this to say at the finish line: “A minor driver error cost us time. I came into contact with pile of snow.”

Sébastien Ogier still leads the overall standings, but his team-mate Mikkelsen is hot on his heels: the Norwegian is just 0.5 seconds behind, and the Rally Sweden is turning into a thrilling team battle. Tänak is in third place, 5.3 seconds behind, closely followed by Jari-Matti Latvala.

 

You can find all the results here.


13:50 (CET)

Home Advantage Mikkelsen: Andreas Sets Best Time.

Andreas Mikkelsen secured victory on the fourth special stage of the Rally Sweden (Finnskogen 1) with a stunning time of 8:58.9 minutes. This section of the route also runs through Norway, and Andreas made full use of his “home advantage”. The Norwegian was seven seconds quicker than overall leader Sébastien Ogier. A duel with a history: “I was involved in a hard battle here with Séb in a Škoda S2000 a few years ago,” reminisced Mikkelsen at the finish. Ford driver Henning Solberg also put in a solid performance to clock the second fastest time.


Mikkelsen’s team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala also looked lively, but had to make do with third place – 2.3 seconds behind his fellow Volkswagen driver.

In the overall standings, Mikkelsen’s excellent performance sees him move into second place, just 1.6 seconds behind Ogier. The Rally Sweden is gripping – stay tuned.


13:10 (CET)

Quick Trip to Norway –
One-Two-Three for Volkswagen on SS3.

Top-three shutout at the third time of asking: first, second, and third place for Volkswagen was the result of the second special stage of the day (Kirkener 1). Sébastien Ogier was once again the measure of all things on the seven-kilometre section in Norway. Team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala followed in second and third.

“The special stage went our way,” reported Ogier at the finish line, adding: “We will push on.” Keep it up Séb!

In the overall standings, Ogier was able to extend his lead. Latvala’s strong time enabled him to move up one spot, overtaking Ott Tänak to move into third place.

 

You can find all the results here.


12:16 (CET)

Terrific start to Thursday:
Séb moves into the lead.


Sébastien Ogier wasted little time in moving into the lead on the first full day of the Rally Sweden. The Frenchman in the #1 Polo R WRC clocked the fastest time of 4:38.1 minutes on the seven-kilometre “Torsby 1” special stage. Runner-up on Thursday’s opening stage was Estonian Ott Tänak (Ford), who came home 2.6 seconds slower than the World Champion.

 

Ogier’s team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala was just one tenth of a second further back in third place. Andreas Mikkelsen was fourth fastest. For a while, it actually looked as though Volkswagen was going to claim the top three spots, until Tänak split the flying trio from Wolfsburg.


“It is very slippery out there. It was not a perfect start, but we still have a lot of rallying ahead of us,” said Ogier, summing up his first special stage of the day.


Ogier now leads the overall standings, three seconds ahead of Mikkelsen. Tänak is a further second back in third place, followed closely by Latvala in fourth.


12:56 (CET)

Studded Tyres and Gravel – A Bad Combination.

 

Warm weather throws unexpected challenges at the drivers .


Rally Sweden is the only event on the WRC calendar that is driven entirely on ice and snow. For this reason, only studded tyres are permitted. Their design takes up several pages of the regulations.


No more than 20 studs are permitted for every ten centimetres of tread around the circumference of the tyre. This means that each tyre may have a maximum of 384 studs. The actual spikes must not exceed 20 millimetres in length or weigh more than four grams, and must be cylindrical. The diameter of the base may have a maximum of nine millimetres and the diameter of the tip must be at least 2.5 millimetres.


The X-Ice North 2 WRC tyre, which Volkswagen Motorsport partner Michelin brought to the Rally Sweden has spikes that protrude exactly 6.5 millimetres out of the rubber. The tyre size is 195/65 R 15, making it two centimetres narrower than the 215/45 R 18 slick tyres used during a gravel rally. Also, the X-Ice North 2 WRC is manufactured in two different asymmetrically structured versions for the right-hand side and left-hand side of the vehicle.


The profile is relatively rough – the idea being that the tyre should sweep loose snow aside and push through the blanket of snow to the frozen track. The spikes manufactured using the ultra-hard metal tungsten can really sink their teeth into the ice.
That is the theory anyway. In practice, the unexpectedly warm weather of Rally Sweden 2014, with temperatures around freezing, has got the adrenalin levels of the tyre technicians pumping. “Studded tyres were not made for such conditions,” explained Alessandro Barlozzi of Michelin. The biggest danger is that the tyres will lose their spikes. The rubber works harder on gravel than on ice and snow; it also heats up more. With a speed of 120 km/h, each individual spike is pushed into the surface about 17 times per second. When landing after a jump, the weight of the car is often exaggerated.


“Furthermore, studded tyres are not as well protected against damage as gravel tyres,” added Barlozzi. While tyres used on gravel rallies can survive a good number of kilometres with little or no air, if the drivers suffer a puncture in Sweden, they will need to change their tyres almost immediately.


Although drivers are allowed to take two spare wheels, only four wheels can be changed in the six scheduled tyre changes during the rally. Each car has a maximum of 28 tyres available. “Therefore, there are always at least two used tyres in use” explains Volkswagen works driver Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1). “The winner of the Rally Sweden will have to organise their tyres well.”


Thursday: the special stages of the day.

06:00 (CET)

Wednesday, 05.02.2014


Classification after one of 24 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 A. Mikkelsen / M. Markkula 1:33.4    
2 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 1:34.2 +0.8  
3 O. Tänak / R. Molder 1:35.6 +2.2  
4 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 1:35.8 +2.4  
5 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 1:36.0 +2.6  
6 H. Solberg / I. Minor 1:36.4 +3.0  
7 J. Hänninen / T. Tuominen 1:36.6 +3.2  
7 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 1:36.6 +3.2  
9 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 1:36.8 +3.4  
10 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 1:37.3 +3.9  

Rally legend Per Eklund explains:

 

“The first short special stage is obviously not decisive, but it can be important for your confidence. As such, I am particularly pleased for Andreas Mikkelsen – he really deserved this success. He was also a little fortunate, of course: it started to snow while the special stage was underway. The Volkswagen drivers were quite late out onto the course, by which time the gravel was starting to peek out through the snow again. That definitely knocked a few tenths of a second off their times, meaning Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala were also right up there among the front-runners.”

 

About the person: Per ‘Pekka’ Eklund is a veritable rally veteran. The Swede won Rally Sweden in 1976 in a Saab 96 V4, together with his co-driver Björn Cederberg. Per will be commentating on the action in Sweden for volkswagen-motorsport.com at the end of each rally day.


21:00 (CET)

One-two after the opening stage:

Volkswagen trio win their head-to-heads.


What a start for Volkswagen Motorsport at the Rally Sweden. Wednesday evening’s 1.9-kilometre “Super Special Stage” Karlstad 1 provided the appetiser to the big event, with two drivers at a time taking to a specially prepared route in a series of head-to-head duels. The format threw up fascinating battles for the three Volkswagen aces: World Champion Sébastien Ogier in the #1 Polo R WRC took on Poland’s Robert Kubica (Ford), Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) was up against Mikko Hirvonen (Ford, and Andreas Mikkelsen (#9) faced local favourite Pontus Tidemand (Ford) – in the end, all three Volkswagen drivers emerged victorious.


However, the final result did come as something of a surprise: the fastest man on SS1 was Mikkelsen (1:33.4 minutes), ahead of Ogier (+0.8 seconds). Latvala also produced an impressive display to finish fourth fastest (+2.4 seconds). Only Ford driver Ott Tank in third place was able to split the Volkswagen drivers. The Rally Sweden gets underway in earnest on Thursday, with a further six special stages scheduled.


12:19 (CET)

Driving at a slower pace.

 

The shakedown was all about sparing the tyres.

The results of the shakedown ahead of Rally Sweden were determined by the unusually mild weather. “All we wanted to do was take it easy on the tyres,” explained Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) at the end of the shakedown. This is because each driver is allowed to use a maximum of 28 spike tyres during the rally, and the Wednesday morning shakedown is included in this quota. There was little ice and snow on the short shakedown route, so much of the driving was on gravel.


Spike tyres, which are the only tyre type allowed in Rally Sweden, are not made for these weather conditions. They are made of a soft rubber compound and the spikes therefore get ripped out. Which is why most of the drivers only went at full speed during one of the stipulated four laps of the shakedown.


Jari-Matti Latvala of Finland (Polo R WRC #2) was one of them. He achieved one of the fastest times, with a time of 1m 56.2s – some seven seconds faster than the world champion Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1), who didn’t even attempt to score the fastest time. “I haven’t been behind the wheel since Rally Monte Carlo, so I wanted to refamiliarise myself with driving on snow and ice,” said Latvala, explaining his different approach.

 

He also gave the tyre technicians some valuable insights, as the exclusively prescribed spike tyres coped surprisingly well with the unexpected strains. “Spike tyres generate some extreme grip on gravel,” explained Latvala. “But the challenge is not to have completely run them into the ground after the first five kilometres.”


The only driver for whom the poor track conditions might actually be an advantage is Sébastien Ogier. At least in the first stage of the rally, he will set off first, having won Rally Monte Carlo. “With the conditions the way they are, I’m not at as much of a disadvantage as I would be if there were fresh snow on the track,” the Frenchman said, looking ahead to the rally. If there were indeed snow, he would find himself acting as a snowplough and would lose an additional second per kilometre.


Wednesday: the special stages of the day.

06:00 (CET)


Aktuelle Bilder (14)
23:10 Uhr (MEZ)

Previews

Thuesday, 04.02.2014


Rally on the rocks<br />Icy anticipation. On Wednesday the Rally Sweden starts. The video.

Thursday, 30.01.2014


Tracks in the snow.

 

Rally Sweden is the only snow-based event in the WRC calendar.

The special stage over the renowned Col de Turini had to be abandoned during Rally Monte Carlo in mid-January after not only an advance car, but also and even a four-wheel drive rally car got stuck in fresh snow. This sort of problem is highly unlikely in the upcoming Rally Sweden, as masses of snow are par for the course there.

 

“We use different tyres in Sweden to what we use in the ‘Monte’. In particular, the spikes we use are much longer, and this helps a World Rally Car to cope with much deeper snow,” explains Volkswagen driver Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2). Hailing from Finland, Latvala feels right at home in the arctic conditions and has already won Rally Sweden twice, in 2008 and 2012.


Last year, it was his teammate Sébastien Ogier of all people who stymied his hopes of securing his third victory. Ogier’s win (now driving Polo R WRC #1) marked the first rally victory for the WRC newcomers Volkswagen – in just the second rally of the season. “Rally Sweden is one of my favourite events in the calendar,” says the world champion from France, who won the season opener in Monte Carlo and who will therefore travel to Sweden as the current overall leader. “We engaged in a great duel with Sébastien Loeb last year. It was probably the best rally of my career so far.”


Ogier and Latvala are naturally among the favourites for a win this year too. The young Volkswagen driver Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) should also not be underestimated. Coming from Norway, he grew up in the home of snow-based rallies and is hoping to have the advantage of a relatively high starting position in the first stage. The starting order is based on the entrants’ WRC rankings – so setting out on fresh snow is a disadvantage for the current leader Ogier. Unlike his teammates Latvala (starting position three) and Mikkelsen (six), he won’t have any competitors driving in front of him to clear the ideal line for him.


Rally Sweden gets under way at 20:04 on Wednesday, with a super special stage on the racecourse in Karlstad. The action will then move to an airfield in Hagfors, some 80 kilometres to the north of Karlstad, where the service park is set up. In all, Rally Sweden comprises 24 special stages over a distance of 324 kilometres, and will finish on Saturday afternoon (17:24).

Monday, 27.01.2014


“He has the most energy of anyone I have ever known.”

 

Few people know Jari-Matti Latvala quite like his cousin Jaakko Liesmäki does, as the two of them grew up together. In our interview, Jaakko tells us about how the two of them used to go tobogganing together and when he realised that Jari-Matti had what it takes to be a professional rally driver.



What memories do you have of Jari-Matti?
We spent a great deal of time together when we were children. Back then he was actually pretty similar to how is now: always full of energy and very open to anything that was new to him. His passion for cars and everything to do with them was definitely in evidence. That also goes for rally sport – he showed a keen interest in it even as a small boy.

What was the best thing you did together?
There was this little hill near our grandmother’s house. Every winter we used to sledge down it at full pelt – it was brilliant fun. Jari-Matti was driving even back then: he had a little toy car which ran on petrol and you could sit in it. We used to drive around in it all the time. When he was eight years old his father gave him his first real rally car, an old Ford Escort. Jari could barely reach the pedals. We drove on a closed-off course near his parents’ land; it was our own private rally course. At some point, of course, we ended up in the ditch. We were quaking in our boots, but fortunately it all turned out alright.

When and how did you first notice that he could drive a car really fast?
His passion and talent were clear to me at a very early stage. I first noticed that he was pro material when he entered his first Finnish rally sprints at the age of 16.    He won almost every race straight away. Afterwards he went to England to really get involved in the sport. It was then I knew that Jari-Matti had what it took to become a pro.


Would you like to swap places with him?
Not really. I know that the job is also really hard. He is always travelling and has little free time. As a result we no longer see each other as often. That wouldn’t be for me, but I don’t have this absolute passion for sport like Jari-Matti. I think he enjoys every single minute – even when things sometimes aren’t going perfectly. 


What do you like to do best when you spend time together?
When we actually do manage it, he obviously always has a great deal to tell me. And we mostly play sport. It may be bowling or cross-country skiing – he always has to do some kind of competitive sport. He usually leaves me behind on skis!

What characterises Jari-Matti as a person?
His enthusiasm, his openness and above all his energy. I have never met anyone else who is so full of energy – he’s always on the lookout for competition and new challenges. Things have been this way since he was a kid.

What dreams did he have? What did he always want to do?
Apart from rally sport, travelling has always been one of his big passions. I think if he had a little more time, he would travel around the whole world and determine the pace himself – a stopover here and there if he happened to like a particular place. In practice, of course, it isn’t an option, but I think he is pretty happy with how things have worked out so far.

How does Jari-Matti drive in private? Is he just as sporty as he is in the WRC car or a little calmer?
He definitely isn’t a daredevil. Away from rally sport he drives completely normally and always sticks to the rules. He can separate the two perfectly. As soon as he sits in the rally car he is a completely different person.