Rally Finland 2014

 

A day of celebrations for Finland.

 

What a success for Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila: the two Finns are the delighted winners of Rally Finland. The duo driving a Polo R WRC managed to hold off the reigning world champions Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia in what proved to be a very close final on Sunday. It was a fantastic achievement because Rally Finland is extremely fast and is considered to be one of the toughest events in the WRC calendar. The Brit Kris Meeke came third in his Citroën, followed by Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene in fourth place in the third Volkswagen Polo R WRC.

 

It was not only the Volkswagen Motorsport team that was absolutely delighted with the Finnish duo’s victory – so too were the many fans who turned out to watch, because the rally proved to be a veritable thriller right to the end, with the winner only being established over the final few metres. Ogier/Ingrassia were within striking distance in second place up to the final Power Stage, but Latvala kept his cool and managed to defend his slender lead. This had been substantially bigger on Saturday, because the Finn enjoyed a strong start in the rally and had built up more than half a minute over Ogier over the first three days.

 

But then Latvala suddenly suffered a setback on Saturday: having hit a large pothole during the 20th special stage, a damaged brake line left him with no braking power on the front right-hand wheel, which caused him to lose around 27 seconds of his lead. Latvala therefore tackled the final three special stages on Sunday with a very slim lead of just 3.4 seconds, and demonstrated not only his driving skills, but also his mental strength. The Finnish word sisu is the most accurate way to describe the key to Jari-Matti Latvala’s success in his home event. Sisu is said to be untranslatable, but can be loosely translated as power, stamina or tenacity, and also intransigence or fighting spirit.

Jari-Matti Latvala: “This win in Finland is a very special moment for Miikka and me. 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.”

 

Sébastien Ogier: “I think the fans and also we will remember this Rally Finland for a long time to come. I may not have won, but it was still a fantastic final with a great battle all the way to the very last second. Congratulations to Jari-Matti and Miikka, who really deserved this win in their home country. They were simply unbeatable this time.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen: “Once again, Rally Finland was a very special rally, and is considered to be one of the most demanding rallies in the WRC calendar due to its particular traits. Ola and I are therefore very happy with fourth place.”

 

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director: “To my knowledge, there’s no one in the service park who doesn’t think Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila deserved this emotional home victory. I’m especially delighted for them today because they worked hard for this success and achieved it on the basis of immense willpower – in spite of some minor setbacks. We experienced the best Jari-Matti Latvala of all time, with an entirely new attitude towards rallying – highly focused, but relaxed at the same time. He was in a world of his own while he was driving and only his teammate Sébastien Ogier was able to keep up with him to the end. Andreas Mikkelsen likewise drove brilliantly and clinched fourth place in this highly demanding rally – fantastic. This one-two victory gives us the opportunity to secure the manufacturers’ championship title before the end of the season during Rally Germany.”


Volkswagen Motorsport wins in Finland to make it twelve victories in a row. The video.


Rally Finland 2014: final results

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 2:57:23.2    
2 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 2:57:26.8 +3.6  
3 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 2:58:13.8 +50.6  
4 A. Mikkelsen / O. Fløene 2:59:15.7 +1:52.5  
5 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 3:00:12.9 +2:49.7  
6 J. Hänninen / T. Tuominen 3:01:52.2 +4:29.0  
7 E. Evans / D. Barritt 3:02:49.0 +5:25.8  
8 H. Paddon / J. Kennard 3:03:41.0 +6:17.8  
9 H. Solberg / I. Minor 3:09:30.2 +12:07.0  
10 K. Kruuda / M. Jarveoja (WRC 2) 3:12:07.9 +14:44.7  

Impressions

The rally in detail

Looking for something specific? You will find a detailed rally review here. Experience the coverage of the 2014 Rally Finland 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!

Sunday, 03.08.2014


Volkswagen Motorsport wins in Finland to make it twelve victories in a row. The video.


Aktuelle Bilder (22)
15:12 Uhr (MESZ)


Classification after 26 of 26 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 2:57:23.2    
2 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 2:57:26.8 +3.6  
3 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 2:58:13.8 +50.6  
4 A. Mikkelsen / O. Fløene 2:59:15.7 +1:52.5  
5 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 3:00:12.9 +2:49.7  
6 J. Hänninen / T. Tuominen 3:01:52.2 +4:29.0  
7 E. Evans / D. Barritt 3:02:49.0 +5:25.8  
8 H. Paddon / J. Kennard 3:03:41.0 +6:17.8  
9 H. Solberg / I. Minor 3:09:30.2 +12:07.0  
10 K. Kruuda / M. Jarveoja (WRC 2) 3:12:07.9 +14:44.7  

16:00 (CEST)

A victory for fans and family.

Jari-Matti Latvala’s success is balm for Finnish souls.

The last home win at the Rally Finland came four years ago, courtesy of a certain Jari-Matti Latvala. “The fans do not deserve such a long spell without a win. I dedicate this victory to them,” said the very same Latvala after finishing just 3.6 seconds clear of Volkswagen team-mate Sébastien Ogier. “And my entire family was waiting for me at the end of the last stage. I just could not let them down.”


World Champion Ogier was full of praise: “Jari-Matti was simply unbeatable here. Even if I had produced a flawless rally, I would probably still not have been able to repeat last year’s win. But hey: there is absolutely no shame in being beaten by a Finn in Finland.”


For Latvala, the eleventh victory in the World Championship is the result of hard work. “I have never prepared so hard for one rally,” he admitted. And he showed the same focus in the way he calmly overcame the brake problem he suffered on Saturday afternoon. “Only briefly did I think that it could all be over,” he said, recalling that moment. “But a phone conversation with my engineers and mental coach Christopher Treier soon banished any doubts. It only took a few kilometres for me to get used to braking with just three wheels.”


The key to Latvala’s success was to go end the second leg in the lead – albeit by a slender margin. “That gave me the confidence to continue taking risks on the final day.”


Ogier has set his sights on taking revenge at the forthcoming Rally Germany. “The most important thing is definitely to make amends for last year and to win for Volkswagen. Ideally with another one-two,” said the World Champion. “I would have nothing against the order being reversed again.”


13:15 (CEST)

Today’s number of the day is in honour of the beaming winner of the Rally Finland. Jari-Matti Latvala set a personal best with his triumph on home ground: the victory in Finland was his third of the WRC season – something Jari-Matti had never achieved before. This is proof of a definite upwards trend and a clear sign that the Finn not only feels at home in his native Finland, but also in the Polo R WRC.


13:00 (CEST)

Congratulations on the home win:

Jari-Matti wins the Rally Finland!

He really deserved this moment: after a four-day, high-speed chase through the forests, Jari-Matti Latvala emerged as the beaming winner of the Rally Finland. The Finn in the Polo R WRC led from the very first special stage – and simply refused to be knocked off the top spot.

Despite the home advantage, it proved to be a really tough job for the Volkswagen driver: having opened up a comfortable lead over closest rival Sébastien Ogier on the back of some mighty impressive performances, Latvala was forced to fend off the attacks of a charging Ogier with just three functioning brakes on Saturday. At the end of the day, the two team-mates were separated by just a few seconds – however, Latvala showed nerves of steel over the remaining kilometres to end the rally 3.6 seconds ahead of the World Champion. An incredibly close result, a great all-Volkswagen duel, and a fantastic rally with a breath-taking finale.

The winner of the final Power Stage was Sébastien Ogier, who clocked the fastest time to pick up three bonus points. This was a close affair too: Latvala was just one tenth of a second slower over the final 6.8 kilometres, and was rewarded with an extra two points for his efforts. Third place on the Power Stage went to Citroën driver Kris Meeke. The Brit impressed over the course of the entire weekend and deservedly took third place overall. Fourth place at the Rally Finland went to Andreas Mikkelsen, who drove a flawless rally to tighten his grip on third place in the Drivers’ Championship.


09:00 (CEST)

Five-second cushion for Latvala –

team thriller draws to a conclusion.

The Finnish thriller is coming to a head: the final day of the rally is underway, and Jari-Matti Latvala still holds a five-second advantage over his closest rival Sébastien Ogier. The World Champion is hot on his heels and still within striking distance – but the Frenchman was unable to make inroads into Latvala’s lead on Sunday’s opening stage. Latvala, who was last onto the route, kept a cool head to win the stage and pull a further 1.6 seconds clear of Séb.

Latvala pushed himself to the very limit, as he revealed at the finish: “I drove like never before – flat-out the entire time. I want to give the fans here something back and win this rally.”

The next stage, the 23-kilometre “Myhinpää”, could prove decisive as the thrilling all-Volkswagen battle draws to a conclusion.


Sunday: the special stages of the third day.

06:00 (CEST)

Saturday, 02.08.2014


Latvala continues to lead the Rally Finland despite brake problems. Ogier and Mikkelsen are second and fourth. The video.


Aktuelle Bilder (22)
19:28 Uhr (MESZ)


Classification after 23 of 26 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 2:40:33.6    
2 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 2:40:37.0 +3.4  
3 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 2:41:06.0 +32.4  
4 A. Mikkelsen / O. Fløene 2:41:54.4 +1:20.8  
5 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 2:42:48.0 +2:14.4  
6 H. Paddon / J. Kennard 2:44:10.2 +3:36.6  
7 J. Hänninen / T. Tuominen 2:44:39.0 +4:05.4  
8 E. Evans / D. Barritt 2:45:20.8 +4:47.2  
9 C. Breen / S. Martin 2:49:06.7 +8:33.1  
10 H. Solberg / I. Minor 2:51:23.4 +10:49.8  

21:00 (CEST)

“I want to win – for myself and the fans.”


Latvala goes into final day with a lead of just 3.4 seconds over team-mate Ogier.


A pothole helped set up a thrilling final leg on Sunday. “A big hole had formed on the road, which was not there on this morning’s first loop. It was right in the middle of a left-hander, in which we were travelling at about 170 km/h. At this speed you are no longer able to take evasive action,” said Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2), describing the key moment on the Jukojärvi special stage.


All the top drivers were caught out by this pothole. Third-placed Kris Meeke (Citroën) was perhaps the luckiest – the Brit came out of it with nothing more than a crooked engine protector. “Our radiator was seriously dented,” said a less fortunate Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #2). “Luckily we did not lose any water.”

 

It was the leader, Jari-Matti Latvala, who came off worst. “The impact damaged a brake line on the front-right wheel,” the Finn reported. Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila used the tools on board their Polo R WRC to isolate the brake circuit in question. From then on, Latvala had to endure some adventurous handling. “The rear often broke out when braking into left-handers. Right-handers were virtually as normal.”


The Finn had to abandon any notion of winning any of Saturday’s three remaining stages. On the contrary – Latvala’s lead over team-mate Ogier, which had risen to 31.1 seconds at one point, disintegrated to just 3.4 seconds by the time he reached the end of the leg. The World Champion suddenly found himself back in with a chance, but cannot really celebrate the change in the situation. “Jari-Matti produced an impressive display all day,” came the praise from the Frenchman. “Without his misfortune, I would never have got so close to him.”


Latvala has stated his intent to go all out for the win on Sunday. “I worked so hard in the run-up to this Rally Finland, at the test and in preparations. I want to win – for myself and the thousands of Finnish fans supporting me here.”

 

With all the chaos at the top of the standings, it almost went unnoticed that Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) now has a tight grip on fourth place. All day long the Norwegian was faster than his direct rivals Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) and Mads Östberg (Citroën), who was forced to retire.


“I had just one worrying moment on the penultimate special stage. It would appear that one of the drivers in front of me had moved a bale of hay in one of the corners. All of a sudden it was right in the middle of my racing line,” Mikkelsen explained. The duel with the battered crash barrier cost him part of his front spoiler and caused slight braking problems. However, Mikkelsen refused to be knocked out of his stride and goes into the final leg with an advantage of almost a minute over Hirvonen.


20:00 (CEST)

The drivers at the Rally Finland have so far completed 323.52 kilometres on 23 of the 26 special stages. The fastest two, Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) and Sébastien Ogier (#1), took a little over two hours and 40 minutes to cover this distance. And yet the two Volkswagen drivers are separated by just 3.4 seconds going into the final three special stages, with just 37.3 kilometres against the clock remaining.


The stage is set for a thrilling final day at the Rally Finland. Latvala did hold a lead of more than half a minute over Ogier after SS 19. However, the Finn hit a pothole on the next stage and was only able to brake with three wheels on the final three special stages of the day.

 

The Volkswagen mechanics can now work overnight to whip the #2 Polo R WRC back into shape. As such, Latvala and Ogier will have a level playing field as they enter the finishing straight on Sunday, and fans can look forward to a thrilling duel for victory at the Rally Finland.


19:30 (CEST)

Latvala digs in to defend lead.


What an effort from Jari-Matti Latvala: despite a faulty brake on the #2 Polo R WRC, the Finn still negotiated Saturday’s final special stages at his home rally and managed to hang on to the overall lead, ahead of team-mate Sébastien Ogier. Latvala did concede a further 6.5 seconds to the World Champion on SS23 (Leustu 2), but with three special stages and a distance of 37.3 kilometres against the clock on Sunday, the 29-year-old still holds a slender lead of 3.4 seconds over Ogier.

 

The Frenchman won the 11.00-kilometre SS 23 with a time of 5:11.3 minutes – his fourth stage win in a row and tenth in total at this year’s Rally Finland. Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) was third fastest and strengthened his grip on fourth place overall.


18:55 (CEST)

World Champion zeroes in on first place.


Jari-Matti Latvala has just eleven kilometres to go before the day’s action is over and the wounded #2 Polo R WRC can finally be serviced. It was once again a case of damage limitation for the Finn on the 22nd special stage (Himos 2) – and he enjoyed a degree of success in this regard: Latvala clocked the fourth fastest time on the short 4.45-kilometre stage, losing just 2.9 seconds to team-mate Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1).

 

The World Champion won the stage in a time of 2:35.4 minutes, ahead of team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen (+1.0 seconds). The stage win was the Frenchman’s third in a row and ninth in total at the 2014 Rally Finland. Ogier has now closed to within 9.9 seconds of Latvala in the overall standings – it remains a thrilling battle at the head of the field.


17:30 (CEST)

Latvala in trouble, Ogier closes in.

 


The Rally Finland is heading towards a thrilling final. The main event: the duel between Volkswagen drivers Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) and Jari-Matti Latvala (#2). The leading Finn hit a big pothole on SS 20, since when he has had braking issues and seen World Champion Ogier eat into his lead.

 

Driving with just three functioning brakes, Latvala still managed to clock the third fastest time on the 21st special stage (Surkee 2). However, he did drop a further 7.3 seconds to Ogier, who won his eighth stage with a time of 7:53.4 minutes. Andreas Mikkelsen was fourth in the #9 Polo R WRC, just 0.2 seconds slower than Latvala over the 14.95-kilometre stretch.

 

Latvala continues to lead the overall standings, but his advantage over team-mate Ogier is now down to just 12.8 seconds with two special stages still to run on Saturday evening. Mikkelsen lies fourth.


16:00 (CEST)

Pure drama: Latvala loses eleven seconds to Ogier.

 

It is far from over here in Finland: the 20th special stage (Jukojärvi 2) saw leader Jari-Matti Latvala concede eleven seconds to his closest rival Sébastien Ogier, who clocked the fastest time on the 22-kilometre stage. The cause of this loss of time was apparently a problem with the brakes, caused by a pothole: “There was a big hole in the road. The brakes gave up, so we had to reset them and lost a lot of time. We will obviously have to check the brakes now,” Latvala explained at the finish.

 

The Finn’s lead still stands at over 20 seconds – but the Polo R WRC has a fair way to go before its next service. As such, it is a case of crossing fingers and hoping for now.


15:00 (CEST)

Go Jari-Matti, go!

The local favourite in the Polo R WRC is top dog in Finland: Jari-Matti Latvala proved he has his sights set on just one goal with another stage win: victory on home ground. He still has some work to go before then, but it is looking good for the Volkswagen driver so far. Latvala pulled another 1.2 seconds clear of his closest rival Sébastien Ogier on the 19th special stage “Mökkiperä 2”, extending his lead to over half a minute.


What is the secret behind the Finn’s success? “My confidence in the car and the quick stage times are down to good pace notes, which demand very meticulous preparations,” the leader explained in the finish zone.


14:15 (CEST)

“I’m totally relaxed.”

Latvala extends lead on Saturday morning.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) is riding the crest of a wave. “I feel so comfortable in the car, everything is working and I am totally relaxed,” said the beaming Finn as he arrived at the midday service. “Given the high speeds, at which we drive through the forests here, it is vital to have confidence in the car. If you have any doubt and take your foot off the gas briefly, you immediately lose a second.”


Latvala did not twitch once all morning, and extended his lead at the top of the overall standings to almost 30 seconds. “I went on the attack on the first three special stages, because I only had very little information about Séb’s splits. After that I took a slightly more relaxed approach,” explained the 2010 winner of the Rally Finland, reaching for a well-deserved coffee. “I need at least five cups a day. It is already six hours since my last one.”


“I have no chance against Jari-Matti today,” Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) was forced to admit. “He is simply quicker. Every time I tried to push harder, little mistakes started to creep in. I missed the odd braking point – and was really lucky at least once.”


However, last year’s winner, who moved into second place and opened up a slight gap over Kris Meeke (Citroën), has not thrown in the towel just yet. “The roads will have cut up dramatically by this afternoon’s second loop and there will be deep grooves. A driver can easily make a mistake then.” This is not the only reason for Latvala hoping that both his team-mate Ogier and third-placed Kris Meeke will no longer go all out on the attack.


Andreas Mikkelsen continues to put in an impressive display in the number 9 Polo R WRC. The Volkswagen Junior was able to open up a small gap ahead of the considerably more experienced Mads Östberg (Citroën) and Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) on Saturday morning. “I orientated myself according to the split times of Mads and Mikko,” revealed the man in fourth place overall. “When they took a few tenths of a second off me, I upped my tempo.”


Mikkelsen will look to follow the same strategy on the five special stages that make up Saturday afternoon’s second loop. “Kris Meeke is too far ahead in third place. I am out to defend fourth place without taking any unnecessary risks.”


12:27 (CEST)

First, second and second: Stage win for Latvala –

Ogier and Mikkelsen clock identical times.

That’s something you don’t see every day: two drivers setting exactly the same time for a special stage. Yet that is precisely what happened on the 18th special stage (Leustu 1): while Jari-Matti was able to slightly extend his lead with another stage win, Séb and Andreas both finished 1.7 seconds off the lead in second place.

Third-placed Kris Meeke (Citroën) was again unable to keep pace with the Volkswagen drivers, and lost more time as a result. Séb is now 13.5 points clear of the Brit. The duel developing between Meeke and Mikkelsen for third place promises to produce some fireworks this afternoon. The Volkswagen man has reduced the deficit to 36.5 seconds and will be looking to attack again on the second loop.


11:30 (CEST)

One-two-three for Volkswagen:

Séb pulls clear of rival Meeke.

The 17th special stage (Himos 1) was nothing more than a short sprint of 4.5 kilometres, but this was enough for Sébastien Ogier to increase his advantage over Kris Meeke (Citroën) by another 2.3 seconds, courtesy of another stage win. Ogier is now 9.3 seconds ahead of the third-placed Brit. Leader Jari-Matti Latvala came home 0.8 seconds slower than Ogier, with Andreas Mikkelsen also producing an excellent performance to clinch third place on the stage.

Next up is the ten-kilometre “Leustu 1” stage, before the drivers head to the service park for the midday break.


10:30 (CEST)

Flying Finn lives up to his name.

He’s on fire: Jari-Matti Latvala dominated the 16th special stage (Surkee 1) to add another stage win to his collection and pull a further 4.1 seconds clear of his closest rival and team-mate Sébastien Ogier. The gap back to Ogier, who was second fastest on the latest stage, is now almost half a minute. Andreas Mikkelsen was also in impressive form, clocking the third fastest time to strengthen his grip on fourth place.

The duel for second place between Kris Meeke and Sébastien Ogier remains exciting. The Citroën driver lost time on Séb again on this stage, but remains within striking distance, just 4.5 seconds behind the Frenchman. Ogier is keeping a cool head: “I am very happy with my pace here,” said the World Champion. “We were perhaps a little too cautious on the last special stage, but on the whole it has not been bad.


08:55 (CEST)

Volkswagen pair on top: Séb moves into second place.

Another one-two for Volkswagen: Sébastien Ogier leapfrogged ahead of Kris Meeke (Citroën) and into second place overall on the 15th special stage (Jukojärvi 1).


The stage win once again went to Jari-Matti Latvala, who is pulling no punches as he defends his lead. However, it could hardly have been closer between the two drivers at the top of the overall standings: Jari-Matti and Séb were separated by just 0.3 seconds on this stage. Meeke was third fastest, losing four seconds to the Volkswagen pair.

Latvala could probably have gone even quicker, as the Finn revealed at the end of the stage: “This special stage is always great fun, but I’ve never been really quick on it – and I wasn’t this year either. We got the line a bit wrong at a crossroads, but the rest was okay."


07:50 (CEST)

Strong start to Saturday:

first, second and third for Volkswagen.

The Polo R WRC continues to dominate the Rally Finland: the rally racer from Hannover was once again the fastest car on today’s opening stage (Mökkipera 1). And what of the drivers? Leader Jari-Matti Latvala started the day in determined fashion, clocking the fastest time to win the 14th special stage. Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen crossed the finish line in second place, 3.1 seconds behind Latvala. He was followed just a blink of an eye slower by World Champion Sébastien Ogier, who now lies just 0.9 seconds behind Kris Meeke (Citroën) in the overall standings.

Meeke was fourth fastest, conceding 0.7 seconds to Ogier. The Frenchman is poised to pass his rival on the next special stage and move back into second place.


06:05 (CEST)

Boing, boing, boing is a thing of the past.

Thanks to perfect chassis, Finland’s jumps have lost much of their terror.

The days of rally cars bouncing along like rubber balls are definitely over. “Check out footage from the 1980s. The cars follow each jump with a series of small hops. It was: Uuumpf, boing, boing, boing,” says Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2), recalling the era of the Group B powerhouses, which generated over 500 hp but were underdeveloped from a chassis point of view.
The 2014 Polo R WRC is a completely different animal. Even after the biggest jumps there is no sign of any afterbounce. All four wheels remain glued to the ground and steering corrections are seldom needed. While the drivers used to have their hands full keeping the cars on the road, today they can get back on the gas as soon as they land.    


This is also partly responsible for the current crop of World Rally Cars being faster than their predecessors, despite being about 200 hp less powerful. “The chassis of the Polo R WRC is so good that, aside from one or two exceptions, we can now take all the crests at full throttle,” says Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WC #1).


As such, the driver’s most important task is to ensure that the car is well positioned for the landing, even before it takes off – the road is not always perfectly straight after a crest. This sometimes results in the car virtually drifting through the air.


The jumps are more strenuous for the co-drivers than the drivers. They sit far lower in the car, meaning they only have a limited field of vision and are sometimes still reading the pace notes when they are brought back to earth with a bump.


“The jumps are not all the same,” explains Ogier’s co-driver Julien Ingrassia. “If the car is flying straight and lands with all four wheels at the same time, or with the rear wheels first, you sometimes don’t even notice the landing.” It is a different story on jumps, over which the flight path is not quite so harmonious. “If the car flies at an angle and lands with one of the front wheels first, you are pushed into your seat with four or five G. In that case, I make sure I am sat straight in the seat before the jump,” says Ingrassia. Together with the soft, cushioning chassis, this makes it possible to survive jumps of over 50 metres.


However, the co-driver must still always be prepared for a less successful, and thus unexpectedly hard, landing to take his breath away briefly. At 190 km/h, a break in the pace notes can have catastrophic consequences. “For this reason, I read the following instruction before we land on critical jumps,” explains Ingrassia.  


While the body is held secure in the seat by the belt harnesses, the head, which is put under additional strain by the weight of the helmet, is subjected to stronger braking forces. “For that reason, I adjust the strap on the HANS system to make it a bit shorter than usual,” reveals Ola Fløene, co-driver of Andreas Mikkelsen in the number 9 Polo R WRC. “This stops the head from nodding forward upon landing, without me having to use my neck muscles.”    


By the way, the drivers keep their foot down on the accelerator pedal on many jumps. In the air, the rev limiter prevents the engine from being damaged. And the strain on the drive shafts is also reduced on landing, because they more or less rotate at the right speed. Very slow rotating wheels on a car landing at 170 km/h would generate huge shearing forces on the drive shafts.  


Saturday: the special stages of the second day.

06:00 (CEST)


20:40 (CEST)

In 1978, the Autobahn-Richtgeschwindigkeits-Verordnung (recommended motorway speed regulation) was introduced in Germany, recommending a top speed of 130 km/h on motorways. Untrained drivers would be well advised to reduce their speed to walking pace on the narrow, winding gravel roads through the Finnish forests. Not the WRC drivers, however – and particularly not World Champion Sébastien Ogier in the Polo R WRC #1.


The French Volkswagen driver completed the 14.10-kilometre Pihlajakoski 2 stage in 6:39.8 minutes on Friday afternoon. That is an average speed of 130.66 km/h! This was the first time that a driver had broken the 130 km/ barrier on a special stage this season – and it happened at the fastest rally of the year.


13:40 (CEST)

Three-way battle at the top with no room for mistakes.

Just 13.1 seconds separate Latvala, Ogier and Meeke going into the midday break.

The 250th stage win for the Polo R WRC since making its debut in the World Rally Championship was the icing on the cake for Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2). “The morning really went perfectly,” said the Finn as he arrived at the 30-minute midday service. Latvala extended his lead over team-mate Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) to 8.4 seconds over the first four special stages of the day.


“We did have one big moment, however,” Latvala admitted. “I had a small mistake in my pace notes in the very first special stage of the morning. I was not expecting a quick left-hander to narrow as it did towards the end, and I was much too quick.” Luckily there was nothing in the way as the car took a brief diversion through the roadside ditch.


This year’s new special stages, for which all the top drivers have had to write new pace notes, caused more than the odd moment of concern. “I have changed the calls a bit,” Ogier reported. “Everything should come together this afternoon, then I will be able to attack Jari-Matti harder.”


Ogier is also hoping that his starting position is proves to be less of a disadvantage when he takes on the same special stages in the afternoon’s second loop. “The roads were still damp on three of the special stages, so the starting position did not make any difference,” the Frenchman explained. “Only on the Kakaristo stage did I notice any disadvantage due to the loose gravel.”
Kris Meeke (Citroën), who started seventh in the running order, promptly took advantage and clocked the fastest time. The Brit currently lies third, just 4.7 seconds behind Ogier. “As well as Jari-Matti, I can’t afford to let Kris out of my sight,” Ogier said, looking ahead to the afternoon.


Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) continues to home in on fourth place. After Juho Hänninen’s (Hyundai) roll, however, yesterday’s four-way battle for the lead has been reduced to a three-man showdown. Mikkelsen is fifth, sandwiched between Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) and Mads Östberg (Citroën).


“I took a while to find the right rhythm this morning,” said Mikkelsen. He also left part of the rear-right mudguard out on the route. “I ploughed through a ditch on one occasion, but fortunately no important parts were damaged. Only the last two stages really went to plan for us.”


Classification after eight of 26 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 1:01:26.5    
2 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 1:01:34.9 +8.4  
3 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 1:01:39.6 +13.1  
4 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 1:02:05.6 +39.1  
5 A. Mikkelsen / O. Fløene 1:02:16.8 +50.3  
6 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 1:02:17.6 +51.1  
7 H. Paddon / J. Kennard 1:02:57.1 +1:30.6  
8 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 1:02:59.4 +1:32.9  
9 E. Evans / D. Barritt 1:03:19.3 +1:52.8  
10 M. Prokop / J. Tománek 1:03:43.1 +2:16.6  

Friday, 01.08.2014


20:00 (CEST)

One-two-three to mark halfway point.

 

Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) could be forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief as his trials on the gravel finally drew to an end on Friday. The 2.20-kilometre Harju 2 stage was primarily on asphalt, meaning the World Champion, who has been the first man on the route all day, no longer had to sweep the road for the opposition. The result: Ogier clocked the fastest time of 1:46.3 minutes on SS 13 to win his fifth special stage at this year’s Rally Finland.

 

The other two Volkswagen drivers rounded off the outstanding result at the halfway point of the rally: Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) was just 0.3 seconds slower than Ogier and set the second fastest time, while Andreas Mikkelsen (+0.5 seconds) came home third to complete a Volkswagen one-two-three to end the day.

 

Latvala continues to hold a healthy overall lead at his home rally. Ogier currently lies third behind Citroën driver Kris Meeke. Mikkelsen is fourth at the halfway point of the Rally Finland.

 


18:45 (CEST)

Latvala eases to hat-trick.



 

Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) is in the zone! The Finn is flying from one stage win to the next at the Rally Finland. The Volkswagen driver claimed his eighth stage win – his third in a row – on the twelfth special stage, Painaa 2. Latvala completed the 7.49 kilometres in 3:48.5 minutes, finishing ahead of Mads Østberg in his Citroën (+0.5 seconds) and Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen (+0.9 seconds)  in second and third.

 

Latvala’s team-mate has not enjoyed quite such a perfect run on day two: the first man onto the route, World Champion Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) once again battled with the loose gravel, eventually having to make do with fifth place. Andreas Mikkelsen (#9) was sixth. With one final special stage to come on Friday, the Volkswagen drivers are currently first (Latvala), third (Ogier) and fourth (Mikkelsen) overall.

 


17:40 (CEST)

Seventh heaven for Latvala.

 

Finnish Volkswagen driver Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) remains unstoppable at his home rally. The eleventh special stage, Kakaristo 2, saw the 29-year-old claim his seventh stage win at the 2014 Rally Finland. Latvala completed the 20.50-kilometre section in 10:22.1 minutes.

 

This top time pushed team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) into second place, with the Norwegian just one second slower than the overall leader. World Champion Sébastien Ogier (#1) continues to battle hard as he looks to overcome the disadvantage of being the first man out onto the gravel roads. Ogier was fifth fastest, losing about eight seconds to Latvala.

 

The Frenchman dropped into third place overall behind Citroën driver Kris Meeke. Latvala now has a healthy lead over the Brit after eleven of 26 special stages. The biggest winner on SS 11 was Mikkelsen, who climbed from sixth to fourth in the overall standings.


17:00 (CEST)

Hard work behind the wheel.

 

He is at it again: Jari-Matti Latvala won the tenth special stage (Päijälä 2) to extend his lead at the Rally Finland. His lead over team-mate Sébastien Ogier is now up to just short of 12 seconds. As championship leader, Séb has the dubious honour of being first onto the route today, meaning he must assume the role of road sweeper. The loose gravel makes driving more difficult and costs time. The situation is set to change on Saturday, when the field starts in reverse order. If things remain as they are, Séb will be the last of the WRC drivers to start, with only Latvala following him.

 

However, Latvala is not finding it a stroll in the park, as he revealed: “It was really hard work keeping the car on the racing line. It demands a lot of concentration.”


16:00 (CEST)

One tenth of a second makes all the difference.

It doesn’t get any closer than that: Sébastien Ogier finished just 0.1 seconds ahead of Kris Meeke (Citroën) to win the ninth special stage (Pihlajakoski 2). Leader Jari-Matti Latvala came home third, half a second back. The three leaders are fighting for every fraction of a second – and the fans lining the route are being treated to a great fight for the Finnish rally crown.

Jari-Matti Latvala was not entirely happy with the result, but knew exactly how he lost the valuable tenths of a second: “Séb is doing a good job. I made a slight mistake on this special stage and knew immediately that it would cost us the stage win. One small slip-up is all it takes. We will be more careful from now on.”


12:15 (CEST)

The World Champion turns up the heat –

Latvala plays it cool.

Sébastien Ogier has the bit between his teeth as he looks to close the gap on leader Jari-Matti Latvala. However, he has only made minor inroads so far: Séb did clock the fastest time on the eighth special stage (Painaa 1), but was only able to eat 0.9 seconds into Latvala’s lead. The gap currently stands at 8.4 seconds.

The World Champion is clearly enjoying the duel with his team-mate: “I am getting to grips with the conditions – let’s see what we can do. It was really close with Jari-Matti. A great rally so far. I’m loving it,” said a happy Frenchman.


11:20 (CEST)

A close affair.

A thrilling battle for the lead has broken out in Finland. Citroën driver Kris Meeke was unbeatable on the seventh special stage (Kakaristo 1). The Brit finished just ahead of Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) and Jari-Matti Latvala. He is now less than four seconds behind second-placed Ogier – time to put your foot down, Séb!

Latvala kept a cool head, avoided making any mistakes and crossed the finish line in third place. The Finn extended his lead at the top of the overall standings to 9.5 in his Polo R WRC.

Good news: Andreas Mikkelsen is gaining some momentum. The Norwegian clocked the fourth-fastest time on SS 7, just three seconds slower than Meeke. The Volkswagen duo of Mikkelsen/Fløene is now fifth overall.


10:20 (CEST)

French pursuit.

The all-Volkswagen duel between Jari-Matti Latvala and a charging Sébastien Ogier is intensifying: stage six (Päijälä 1) once again went to Latvala, but team-mate Ogier also put pedal to the metal to finish the second longest stage on the rally (23.38 kilometres) just four tenths of a second behind the leader. Latvala’s biggest challenge now is to resist the pressure being applied by the Frenchman and to avoid making any mistakes.

The Finn’s lead at the top of the overall standings has now grown to 6.1 seconds – still little more than a blink of an eye, as everything could change with even the slightest mistake out on the route. Citroën driver Kris Meeke is also producing an impressive race: the Brit clocked the third fastest time and currently lies third overall, 14.2 seconds off the lead. In stark contrast, Hyundai driver Juho Hänninen endured a miserable stage: the Finn rolled his car on SS 6, resulting in a large loss of time and his dropping back from fourth to ninth. His i20 WRC no longer looks like it has just rolled out of a car showroom, but he does appear to be able to continue.


Jari-Matti Latvala leads his home rally. Ogier and Mikkelsen are third and fourth. The video.


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21:54 Uhr (MESZ)


Classification after 13 of 26 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 1:34:42.4    
2 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 1:35:02.1 +19.7  
3 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 1:35:03.7 +21.3  
4 A. Mikkelsen / O. Fløene 1:35:46.6 +1:04.2  
5 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 1:35:47.8 +1:05.4  
6 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 1:35:49.7 +1:07.3  
7 H. Paddon / J. Kennard 1:36:54.0 +2:11.6  
8 E. Evans / D. Barritt 1:37:21.8 +2:39.4  
9 J. Hänninen / T. Tuominen 1:37:33.5 +2:51.1  
10 C. Breen / S. Martin 1:40:01.5 +5:19.1  

21:00 (CEST)

Latvala pulls clear, Ogier plots fightback.

 

Volkswagen drivers first, third and fourth at the halfway point.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) can at least relax a little. He finds himself 19.7 seconds ahead of Kris Meeke (Citroën) and 21.3 seconds clear of team-mate Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) – a half-decent lead after just over half of the distance against the clock at this year’s Rally Finland. Definitely more comforting than the 4.5-second advantage he held on Thursday evening.

 

“I made a few changes to the pace notes on today’s first loop,” Latvala revealed. “That worked well, and I was able to relax a lot more on the second loop in the afternoon. And when you are relaxed about your driving, you are automatically quicker.” A change to his personal style of driving also contributed to today’s success. “In the afternoon I concentrated on driving the cleanest line possible. That was quicker than attacking and taking big risks.” The Finn was indeed about half a second per kilometre faster on the second loop than he was the first time he tackled today’s special stages in the morning. In total, Latvala won five of Friday’s seven special stages, including the 250th stage win for the Polo R WRC.

 

Sébastien Ogier was not entirely happy with the way Friday’s leg panned out. “Every kilometre at the Rally Finland is a joy for a rally driver. Given my tricky starting position, I made the best of the situation. I am obviously still annoyed that I lost second place to Kris Meeke,” said the Frenchman. The starting ordered is reshuffled for Saturday, meaning Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia must no longer play the role of road sweeper, but will take to the road further down the field. “The rally starts again for me tomorrow,” said a confident World Champion.

 

The challenge did not go unnoticed by team-mate Latvala. “You can never underestimate Séb. A 21.3-second lead is far from a foregone conclusion against the World Champion.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) remains embroiled in a thrilling three-way battle for fourth place. After 194 kilometres of special stage, just 1.2 seconds separate the Norwegian from Mads Östberg (Citroën), with Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) a further 1.9 seconds back. “Fortunately I have them both in front of me tomorrow,” said Mikkelsen as he arrived at the end of the leg. “I will get their spit times sent through to me in the car, and can pace myself accordingly.”

 

That is not the young Volkswagen driver’s only reason to be confident he can hold onto fourth place on Saturday. “I know tomorrow’s special stages from last year. It shouldn’t be too much of a problem to up the pace a little if necessary.”


09:10 (CEST)

Impressive Finns and a battling World Champion.

He continues to make the absolute most of his home advantage: Jari-Matti Latvala once again set the pace on Friday’s opening special stage (Pihlajakoski 1). Another Finn also excelled on the 14.10-kilometre section, finishing just 0.4 seconds behind Latvala’s fastest time: Juho Hänninen (Hyundai). World Champion Sébastien Ogier battled his way to the third quickest time. In the overall standings, Ogier is now 5.7 seconds behind leader Latvala. As such, the day is set up nicely for an all-Volkswagen duel for the lead.

“The grip is good, but I was just lacking a bit of confidence to go all out. Hopefully we won’t lose too much time,” said Ogier after the finish. Don’t worry, Séb, there is still a long way to go and anything can happen!


06:05 (CEST)

Yellow houses and film star bosoms.

The jumps are not the only spectacular things on display at the Rally Finland.

The Rally Finland used to be known as the “1000 Lakes Rally”. However, it could just as easily have been named the “1000 Jumps Rally”. Nowhere else do the cars spend as much time in the air. The Ouninpohja stage alone includes about 170 jumps. In 2013, Sébastien Ogier's Polo R WRC left the ground (with just two wheels on some jumps) a remarkable 77 times on this stage alone, resulting in a total flight time of 30.4 seconds."

However, this legendary special stage does not feature on the route in 2014 – not in its traditional form, at least. Because the original 33-kilometre stretch allows average speeds to exceed the self-imposed limit of 130 km/h, it has been reduced to form the Kakaristo stage, which is just over 20 kilometres in length.
Among those to fall victim to the red tape is the most famous of all jumps in Finland, the Yellow House Jump – named after a yellow wooden house at the side of the route. In 2003, Markko Märtin catapulted his Ford Focus exactly 57 metres through the Finnish forests at over 170 km/h. This distance is still the official record within the World Rally Championship.

Official, because the flight distances at the Yellow House Jump re measured with specially-positioned distance markers. Longer jumps may occur elsewhere, but they are not as precisely measured. For example, Armin Schwarz, at the wheel of a Skoda Octavia, flew a remarkable 73.5 metres over the iconic jump on the Fafe special stage at the 2000 Rally Portugal. Citroën driver Sébastien Loeb is reported to have lost contact with the ground for about 85 metres on the Ballica special stage at the 2010 Rally Turkey.

Regardless of the distances achieved, the rallying version of the puissance holds an almost magical allure for fans and drivers all over the world. So magical that many of the crests have been given their own name. Take one point on the Panzerplatte stage at the Rally German, which is known as “Gina” – because the topography of the double crest is reminiscent of the 50s film star Gina Lollobrigida’s ample bosom. “Colin’s Crest” is named after the deceased former World Champion Colin McRae. Nowadays, a proper spectator arena has emerged around the 45-metre jump on Sweden’s Vargasen special stage.

It may not be the longest, but “Micky’s Jump” on the Italian leg of the WRC produces the highest jumps. The artificially created crest on the Monte Lerno on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia has the landscaping skills of a woodsman by the name of Micky to thank for its title. Also the work of diggers is the high-speed “El Brinco” jump on the special stage of the same name in Mexico.

Like the Yellow House Jump, the triple jump at Bunnings in Western Australia also no longer features in the World Championship. It is a magnet for fans, not only because the rally cars find themselves on ‘adventurous’ lines as they fly through the air over a sequence of crests. Immediately afterwards lurks a deep water crossing, which the drivers take sideways as they prepare for the subsequent corner – even works drivers get caught out here sometimes.


Friday: the special stages of the first day.

06:00 (CEST)

Thursday, 31.07.2014


The Rally Finland puts both man and machine to the test. The preview. The video.


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22:09 Uhr (MESZ)


Classification after four of 26 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 29:17.9    
2 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 29:22.4 +4.5  
3 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 29:27.1 +9.2  
4 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen 29:44.3 +26.4  
5 J. Hänninen / T. Tuominen 29:45.0 +27.1  
6 A. Mikkelsen / O. Fløene 29:45.1 +27.2  
7 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 29:48.8 +30.9  
8 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 29:56.7 +38.8  
9 R. Kubica / M. Szczepaniak 30:10.0 +52.1  
10 H. Paddon / J. Kennard 30:23.9 +1:06.0  

21:15 (CEST)

6712 tenths of a second, or in other words: eleven minutes, eleven seconds and two tenths of a second. 11:11.2 minutes. That was the exact time set by World Champion Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) on the third special stage at the Rally Finland – and also the time clocked by team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (#2). Remarkably, the two Volkswagen drivers took exactly the same time to complete the 23.47-kilometre Lankamaa 2 special stage.

 

The big question is: who is the winner of this special stage? The answer is simple: both of them. As such, Latvala won three of the first four of the 26 special stages in his native Finland, with Ogier winning two. That leaves Volkswagen Motorsport in a curious situation: after four special stages, they already have five wins to their name.


20:55 (CEST)

“The day went perfectly!”

 

Latvala leads team-mate Ogier after day one.

 

Live broadcasts are occasionally not for faint-hearted. The Volkswagen Motorsport engineers and mechanics huddled in front of the television held their breath briefly as Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) shot into the last corner of the final special stage on Thursday evening. The relentless Finn barged through a bale of straw, which was blocking his racing line – and dashed over the line a few minutes later with a mudguard protruding in a somewhat adventurous manner. “It’s not as bad as all that,” said Latvala after removing his helmet, still live on Finnish television. “It did not hit any important parts.” The number 2 Polo R WRC did indeed reach the closing service without any issues.

 

Latvala was more bothered by the 0.8 seconds he lost to Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) on the final stage. The two team-mates are battling it out at the top of the standings at the Rally Finland, and every fraction of a second counts. They refused to let a single one of their rivals get their hands on a stage win on Thursday, actually clocking exactly the same time as each other to share victory on SS 3. Latvala goes into the overnight break with a slender 4.5-second lead over Ogier. Only Kris Meeke (Citroën) in third place came anywhere near to matching their pace, ending the day 9.2 seconds off the lead.

 

 “The day went perfectly,” said Latvala. “I made big changes to the chassis set-up compared to the previous rallies. The handling of my car is now better suited to my driving style.” He did admit to two minor mistakes, however. “I didn’t have the hay bale in my pace notes. That was a surprise. And I left the road a little at one point on the first special stage.”

 

Sébastien Ogier was satisfied at the end of the short opening leg. “I was a bit dozy on the first two stages,” the World Champion admitted. “I attacked a bit more after that, and was able to reduce Jari-Matti’s lead a little.” For a change, the championship leader’s starting position proved not to be a disadvantage. “The rain made the road so wet that I did not have any problems with loose gravel. However, I was the first to be surprised by large puddles in a few spots.”

 

The rain showers also made the opening leg a learning experience for Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9). “Interestingly you often have better grip on wet gravel than you do in the dry. You have to bring yourself to trust the grip,” explained the Norwegian, who lies sixth after four special stages. Mikkelsen is embroiled in a thrilling four-way battle with Mikko Hirvonen (Ford), Juho Hänninen (Hyundai) and Mads Östberg (Citroën). 

 

Mikkelsen was not entirely happy to find himself 27.2 seconds behind team-mate Latvala. “I had hoped to be closer to the front-runners.” There is no chance of him throwing in the towel, however. “The rally still has a long way to go. I will make a few detailed changes to the chassis set-up for Friday, then we should have a better day.”


20:15 (CEST)

Stage win number four to end day one.

 

Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) and Jari-Matti Latvala (#2) once again stamped their authority on the Rally Finland as Thursday’s action drew to a close. The Volkswagen drivers were once again unbeatable on the 2.20-kilometre fourth stage, Harju 1: World Champion Ogier won in a time of 1:46.1 minutes, just ahead of Latvala (+0.8 seconds).

 

However, the Finn’s time of 29:17.9 minutes gives him a slender lead over his French team-mate (+4.5 seconds) in the overall standings at his home rally. Citroën driver Kris Meeke (+9.2 seconds) follows in third place. Andreas Mikkelsen, in the #9 Polo R WRC is currently sixth after four of the 26 special stages.


19:04 (CEST)

Equal performances down to the tenth of a second.

 

No mean feat – the two Volkswagen drivers Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) and Jari-Matti Latvala (#2) achieved exactly the same time in the third special stage, Lankamaa 2. It took the two teammates 11m 11.2s each to complete the 23.47-kilometre stage – putting them ahead of the rest of the pack once again.

 

Kris Meeke (Citroën) followed in third place 1.2 seconds behind, ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen in the Polo R WRC #9, who recorded a finishing time of 11m 18.2s in the third stage of Rally Finland. Volkswagen Motorsport is therefore currently defending its two-one overall lead: in his home event, Latvala (27m 55.4s) is 5.3 seconds ahead of the reigning world champion Ogier. Mikkelsen is currently in sixth place.


17:00 (CEST)

One-two lead for Volkswagen:

Finland just ahead of France.

Volkswagen has taken a one-two lead in the overall standings after the second special stage (Jouhtikylä): Jari-Matti Latvala put in an unbeatable performance to score another fastest time and now has a 5.3-second lead over his teammate Sébastien Ogier.

“The rally has started well for us,” said a relaxed Latvala after crossing the finishing line. “There’s very good grip at the moment. There were only a few slippery moments when braking, but it wasn’t much of a problem.”

The world champion Sébastien Ogier, who had to tackle the course ahead of everyone else, evidently had a little more trouble with manoeuvring his Polo R WRC on the wet gravel tracks: “It was very slippery and there were a lot of loose stones on the track. I made a minor driving error, but other than that everything has gone OK so far,” the Frenchman reported.

Meanwhile, Andreas Mikkelsen in the third Polo R WRC is trying to take as few risks as possible. “I think we were actually a little too cautious, but I’m only thinking about one special stage at a time,” said the Norwegian, who is currently ranked sixth overall.


16:00 (CEST)

Jari-Matti delivers the first highlight in his home event.

Finland is Volkswagen driver Jari-Matti Latvala’s stamping ground – as he has once again impressively demonstrated in the first special stage (Lankamaa 1), recording the fastest time, ahead of Kris Meeke (Citroën) and world champion Sébastien Ogier. Andreas Mikkelsen was the seventh fastest driver to cross the line, with a deficit of 13.2 seconds on Latvala. This stage, which is 23.47 kilometres long and is therefore the longest stage in this year’s Rally Finland, will be driven again this evening.

The drivers are having to contend with rain, storms and strong gusts of wind in the rally region around Jyväskylä – meaning there is a strong possibility that they may slip and slide on the sodden gravel tracks. So now is not the time to take any unnecessary risks ...


11:50 (CEST)

Shakedown: Latvala setting the pace.

Ogier does not push, protects his tyres.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) enjoyed an ideal start to his home event. During shakedown, the training session ahead of the start of the Rally Finland, Latvala set the pace by finishing 0.6 seconds ahead of Mads Östberg (Citroën) with a time of 2:26.1 minutes. "The recent rainfalls have soaked the roads quite a bit," the Finn said. "Engine performance is key under these kind of circumstances."


Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) was the only Volkswagen driver who allowed himself three shakedown rounds on the 4.04 kilometre course on the outskirts of Jyväskylä. The Norwegian finished his third run third (2:27.0 mins). During that run Michelin race director Pascal Couasnon was in the co-drivers‘ seat of Mikkelsen’s car while enjoying a first-hand experience of what his tyres must endure on a rally stage.


Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) took a comparatively slow shakedown approach, finishing 10th. The World Champion decided to protect his tyres once again. Works drivers are allowed to use no more than 24 tyres during the entire rally.


On Thursday evening Ogier who is leading the championship will be first on the road. "Because of the rain my starting position is not so much of a disadvantage compared to dry conditions," the Frenchman said. Meanwhile, the 2014 World Rally Champion took it easy being a favourite to win in Finland. "I don’t feel any pressure."


Thursday: the special stages of the first day.

10:00 (CEST)

Previews

Friday, 25.07.2014


I am looking forward to my home race.”
Statements from the Volkswagen team.

 

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“It is always tough to win the Rally Finland if you do not come from northern Europe – a look back at the history of the event shows this. I am particularly proud to have won there last season. That was a great moment in my career. I love driving in Finland – especially in the Polo R WRC. However, I am not satisfied with just one win on Finnish soil – I am hungry for more!”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“I am looking forward to my home race in Finland. The stages are very quick, which suits me. The biggest challenges are probably the many jumps and crests. It is very difficult to find the right line, in order to get the take-off just right and then to land in the right place. The same applies to the many quick corners without crests. My favourite stage of the weekend will be ‘Mökkiperä’ on Sunday. It is four years since we last drove that stage. It takes you uphill and downhill at full throttle and speeds of up to 195 km/h. It sometimes makes your stomach feel a bit peculiar. Having suffered a number of set-backs in Finland last year, I am obviously out to attack again this time around and, ideally, to beat my team-mate Sébastien Ogier.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“I expect Finland to be a rather more difficult rally for me than the Rally Poland, which was new territory for almost everyone. Most drivers in the field in Finland already have a lot of experience of this event. Experience and confidence are very important in order to be quick there. The pace notes and communication with the co-driver have to be perfect, as the Rally Finland does not forgive any mistakes. And the work with my co-driver Ola Fløene is perfect. He sat alongside me in the Polo R WRC for the first time at the Rally Italy on Sardinia, but despite this we immediately worked in perfect harmony. As such, I am looking forward to the Rally Finland, and line up full of confidence. It would be great to be on the podium again come the end of the rally.”


Get ready for the second half of the season.

The WRC summer break draws to a close with the entirely revamped Rally Finland.

One of the unusual things about the World Rally Championship is that the first and the second halves of the season differ greatly. While the action up to the summer break was dominated by snow and ice, and above all hard gravel, there will now be three asphalt rallies (in Germany, France and half of the Spanish rally) and relatively soft gravel tracks (in Finland, Australia, the UK and again half of the Spanish rally) up to the end of the season.


Things get under way next weekend with Rally Finland, which is jostling with the newly added Rally Poland for the title of the fastest event in this year’s WRC calendar. The locals have good reason to call the rally once known as the 1,000 Lakes Rally their ‘Finnish Grand Prix’.


Like most of his colleagues, last year’s winner Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) is a big fan of the high-speed tracks through the forests in and around the Finnish rally hub Jyväskylä. “The gentle bends and the countless hill crest jumps are great fun,” says the Frenchman, commenting on the ‘Formula 1 in the forest’. Were the gear ratios not set relatively short for all the other rallies this year, the World Rally Cars would no doubt hit speeds in excess of 200 km/h in many places – but their speeds are kept in check by the speed limiters.


Like the WRC front-runner Ogier, teammate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) has won Rally Finland before too. Latvala, who is currently in second place overall, became the youngest winner of all time when he won his home rally in 2010. Latvala has a great deal of respect for the countless jumps which are another speciality of Rally Finland. “When you fly through the air for 50 metres, you have to have given some thought to how you will land before you take off,” he explains. “Because you can’t exactly steer a rally car in mid-air.”


Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) hopes to pick up where he left off with some fantastic performances before the summer break. The Norwegian came second in Poland behind Ogier, and thereby completed Volkswagen’s current three-way lead in the drivers’ rankings.


This year’s Rally Finland is a day longer than it has been in the past and will, like all the other WRC rallies, now end on a Sunday. There have also been a number of changes to the special stages, with only three of them being identical to stages held in 2013. For example, the legendary Ouninpohja special stage, where Sébastien Ogier set a new record of just under 131 km/h last year on his way to victory, is now in two parts. And there will also be the first stage since 1998 to be held in the streets of Jyväskylä. In all, there are 26 special stages with a total distance of 361 kilometres between the start of the rally on Thursday and the finish on Sunday (both at 15:00 local time).

Monday, 21.07.2014


“He has always been mad about cars.”

Ola Fløene’s sister Julie about her brother.

 

Ola Fløene has only been part of the Volkswagen Motorsport team since this year’s Rally Italy. Andreas Mikkelsen’s co-driver replaced his previous co-driver Mikko Markkula in May, so it’s time to find out a little more about the Norwegian. The interview is with Ola’s sister Julie, who can be seen in the photo with young son Mikkel and her brother. She talks about Ola Fløene the person, shared childhood experiences and Ola’s route into rally sport.
 
What is special about Ola?
I would generally describe him as a very calm and level-headed person. Naturally it is his real passion for cars that makes him what he is. He has always been mad about cars since he was very young. It started when he was just one year old. I remember him getting into trouble at school once because of it. A teacher complained about Ola being distracted, because he was more interested in the cars driving past outside than the actual lesson itself.

When was his first ‘real’ contact with a car?
I think he was about eight years old when he was first allowed behind the wheel of our father’s car for the first time. That was also around the time he started getting into motocross.

How did the switch to rally sport come about?
It can be pretty costly if you want to compete in motocross professionally. Ola didn’t have very much money, but when he was around 19 years old, the opportunity arose to take a trial as a co-driver in a rally car. A friend had asked him if he was interested and Ola was really keen.

Why didn’t he want to get behind the wheel himself?
I asked him the same question at the time. When he was younger, of course he wanted to drive himself, but he probably enjoyed being a co-driver so much that he very soon realised: this is exactly my thing.

What is the best shared experience with your brother that you can remember?
When we were children, we used to love going up into the mountains together. We climbed trees, swam in rivers – we just did whatever we felt like doing. It was always a really nice time.

What was your brother like as a child?
He has always been very sporty; he had talent and was interested in all kinds of sports: football, skiing and so on. He was particularly taken by cycling. He even took part in championships and won a race when he was twelve years old. He has always been fanatical about speed. He really loved downhill skiing, for instance, but hated cross-country skiing with a passion – it was just too slow for him.

How often do you see each other these days and what do you like doing best when you’re together?
Unfortunately we no longer see each other that often, because he is always travelling around a great deal. When we do meet up, we generally prefer to sit down and chat over a cup of coffee.

Would you have liked to swap jobs with him?
To be honest, I have actually tried it a few times and have been a co-driver myself. It was fun, but I’m not so fascinated by it all that I would like to do it as a career. That was Ola’s dream, he has realised it, and I am pleased for him.

Talking of dreams: is there something in Ola’s life that he has always wanted?
Definitely! He wants to become rally world champion. He hasn’t achieved it yet, but his day may still come.