Volkswagen and the Polo R WRC clinch all four fastest timesRain results in improved grip on fast gravel stagesReigning world champion Ogier 4.5 seconds behind Volkswagen teammate Latvala
Thanks to thunderstorms and a super start, Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) took control of their home rally very early on. Making the most of the perfect track conditions, which gave the earlier starters something of an advantage, they scored three out of four fastest stage times in their Volkswagen Polo R WRC cars at the start of the eighth event in the current season of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Being the current overall leaders, their teammates Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) were the first to compete, ahead of Latvala/Anttila, and are currently in second place after 59.51 of the total of 260.94 timed kilometres, trailing the winners by just 4.5 seconds. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N), who are ranked third overall and who were therefore the third World Rally Car to set off, finished Thursday’s rally action in sixth place overall, 27.2 seconds behind the front-runners.
With heavy downpours and thunderstorms following on from the previous days’ high temperatures, the rally’s opening special stages lived up to Rally Finland’s reputation of being ‘Formula 1 in the forest’. The average speed during the Lankamaa and Jouhtikylä stages, which were both driven twice, was above 120 kilometres per hour. Thursday’s action came to an end with the Harju stage in the direct vicinity of the Jyväskylä service park.
Quotes, day 1, Rally Finland
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1“It’s great to be back in Finland. The fans, the atmosphere and the stages here are very special. The spectators clearly love this sport, and we drivers can really sense that. The first day went according to plan for me and Julien. After the storms, there were a few patches of standing water during the first stage, so we didn’t take too many risks. But overall, the rain actually worked in our favour, because our grip on the gravel tracks that had been very dusty and slippery before was then much better than expected.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2“What a great start! The rain that came right before the start of the first special stage really helped. Our grip was then much better than expected and there were places where I could even have driven a little faster. But with conditions like these, you never know whether there might be a deep puddle just around the next corner. I really enjoyed driving today all the same, because I felt right at home in my Polo in these conditions. The weather’s not so good for the spectators – but it’s great for us rally drivers.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9“The first day of Rally Finland went okay for Ola and me. It was good to be the third car to set off today because the rain made our grip much better than expected. I had geared myself up for Rally Finland being more difficult than Rally Poland. We have only completed the first day so far, and there are still more than 260 timed kilometres to go, which means anything can still happen in the rankings. And I am therefore very optimistic ahead of Friday’s stages.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director“In Rally Finland, you have to be totally focused right from the start and you have to be on the attack as soon as you set off, otherwise you haven’t got a hope of winning. Our drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Sébastien Ogier both got off to an excellent start today. They also benefited from the fact that the usual disadvantage of having to set off first as the overall leaders was actually turned into something of an advantage thanks to the rain that came just before the start of the stage. They made clever use of this fortuitous situation. Andreas Mikkelsen hit a good pace right from the outset too, and is up there in front. That’s now four stages down and another 21 to go. Once again tomorrow, we have to be perfectly prepared if we want to be successful here.”
And then there were ...
... Jari-Matti and Mikko. Before Rally Finland got under way, Jari-Matti Latvala of Volkswagen and Mikko Hirvonen of M-Sport Ford engaged in something of a pedal car challenge. They raced against the clock on a circuit at the Jyväskylä service park to see how they compared – not without creating plenty of obstacles for each other, of course. The fun and frolics on Wednesday were then followed by the appropriate degree of seriousness on the Thursday of the rally: Jari-Matti Latvala came out on top in all four special stages in their Finn vs. Finn sports duel in World Rally Cars.