- Gold: Jari-Matti Latvala claims his second victory for Volkswagen, his third in Sweden
- Silver: Second and a first WRC podium for Andreas Mikkelsen
- Sébastien Ogier fights back to finish sixth
Volkswagen claimed its second one-two of the season at the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) and Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) not only clinched a frenetically celebrated one-two, but also put on an extremely gripping duel for the fans. In challenging conditions at the Rally Sweden – thawing temperatures, snow and rain made for a difficult combination – the Polo R WRC proved to be the fastest car for the second time in a row. 43 of 69 possible top-three times, of which 18 produced stage wins, and a one-two-three at the top of the overall standings for a while – Sweden was once again a happy stomping ground for Volkswagen in 2014.
The team’s Nordic drivers – Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen – were embroiled in a spectacular duel for long periods of the rally, scrapping for every fraction of a second. In the end, they could both consider themselves real winners: Latvala celebrated his ninth WRC victory, the third at the Rally Sweden and the second in Volkswagen colours – and also moved to the top of the Drivers’ Championship in the process. Mikkelsen made his first appearance on the podium at the pinnacle of rallying. World Champions Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) ended the Rally Sweden in sixth place after a mighty fightback, having previously dropped back to 20th overall following a rare driver error.
“We are delighted that Jari-Matti Latvala’s fine performance this weekend has paid dividends,” said Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neußer, Volkswagen Board Member for Technical Development. “This win was fully deserved and the result of some intelligent driving. Andreas Mikkelsen – the junior member of our team – showed in the trickiest of conditions that he has the potential to compete with the best in the world. Sébastien Ogier was a bit unfortunate with his slip-up. Despite this, he was once again the man to beat this weekend, claiming ten stage wins.”
Duel of the weekend: Latvala vs. Mikkelsen
Finland 13 – Norway 10: the all-Volkswagen duel between Latvala and Mikkelsen had fans on the edge of their seats for pretty much the entire Rally Sweden. It took until Saturday’s final leg to decide which of the two team-mates would emerge victorious from their gripping head-to-head. The morning started with just 3.6 seconds separating the old hand and the youngster. Only after a slight mistake from Andreas Mikkelsen in extremely difficult conditions did Jari-Matti Latvala feel the pressure fall from his shoulders. Mikkelsen lost crucial seconds after spinning on the 18th special stage. A glance at the statistics reveals the extent, to which the Volkswagen drivers dominated the Rally Sweden: Latvala made 18 appearances in the top three, Mikkelsen 13. Latvala also picked up the 300th stage win of his career in Sweden.
Fightback of the weekend: Ogier recovers to claim sixth
Steered in a fraction of a second too late, skidded into a snow wall, but able to fight on thanks to a little help from the fans – Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia experienced both faces of the Rally Sweden on Friday. Although their mistake cost them the lead, the World Championship winning duo in the Polo R WRC were able to continue at the only snow rally of the season. A run of stage wins saw them recover from 20th place to earn valuable championship points. In total, Ogier/Ingrassia set the fastest time on ten stages.
Lead extended – Volkswagen Motorsport tops the Manufacturers’ Championship
Volkswagen leads the Manufacturers’ Championship by 12 points after the second win of the year. The works team, consisting of Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala, currently has 72 points to its name – 16 more than Citroën and 50 ahead of M-Sport-Ford.
Quotes after day three: Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Sixth place is the consolation 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 is the best we could have hoped for. We made a clean run of it on the final day, despite the incredibly slippery conditions. Also, by setting 10 fastest times here we’ve demonstrated that we will be a force to be reckoned with again next year, since Rally Sweden is one of my absolutely favourite events in the WRC calendar. 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.”
Quotes: 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. Clinching the victory was no easy task; the difficult conditions and solid times from my team mates meant that Miikka and I had to concentrate fully and give it our best. Due to the thawing snow we drove over a lot of gravel and had to be shrewd when it came to sparing the tyres. Andreas Mikkelsen didn’t make it easy yesterday, he drove a strong rally and fully deserves to be on the podium.”
Quotes: 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. My team, my co-driver Mikko Markkula and I have earned a beer or two today. We will celebrate in style tonight.”
And then there was …
… Sébastien Ogier’s new record. The Volkswagen works driver travelled a massive 41 metres through the air before landing after the infamous “Colin’s Crest” jump – in doing so he eclipsed the previous best, set by American Ken Block, by a full four metres.