Rally Finland: Volkswagen and Latvala in front in Finland‏

Volkswagen duo Latvala/Anttila in the lead at their home event with half the rally distance now completedReigning world champions Ogier/Ingrassia in third placeMore than 250 stage wins for the Polo R WRC in 21 rallies

Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) have maintained their lead in Rally Finland during stages five to 13. In a three-way battle for the top spot, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) finished in third place, behind Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL, Citroën). So far, Latvala and Ogier have together achieved twelve fastest times in the ‘Formula 1 in the forest’. Latvala is currently the front-runner, with a 19.7-second lead over Meeke, who is just 1.6 seconds ahead of Ogier – resulting in a gripping three-way battle for the lead in one of the most challenging rallies in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) in the third Polo R WRC are in fourth place, with approximately half of the rally now completed.

There were some new special stages on the itinerary in Finland on Friday: the Pihlajakoski and Päijälä stages resulted in a very high average speed above the 130 km/h mark. And the Kakaristo special stage featured an approximately 15-kilometre stretch taken from the infamous Ouninpohja stage. There will be another ten stages over a distance of 130.36 timed kilometres on Saturday.

Quotes, day 1, Rally Finland

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1“Today was a day of mixed feelings for me. On the one hand, the special stages are just brilliant, and as a driver you can’t help but enjoy every kilometre as you hurtle through the forests at full speed. On the other hand, I did everything I could, the Polo R WRC was running like a dream and I’m more than happy with my performance – but even so, I didn’t get a look-in today. My teammate Jari-Matti Latvala did an excellent job in the cockpit today. But tomorrow’s a new rally day for Julien and me, and we promise we’ll put up a fight. No risk, no fun!”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2“My home rally is going pretty much perfectly so far – even though I have lost a bit of time here and there. My pace notes for the new special stages weren’t quite right this morning, which resulted in a few minor errors – but nothing serious. And I attacked a little too much during some of the stages. So I took a different tack for the afternoon runs and just focused on the line, ignoring my teammate Sébastien Ogier’s time checks. And this approach really paid off. I’m enjoying every meter, I’m relaxed, and this is resulting in good stage times. I’ve now built up a bit of a buffer. Even so, we need to keep an eye on Sébastien and on Kris Meeke in the Citroën, as they’re both performing strongly. It’s shaping up to be an exciting three-way battle all the way to the finishing line.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9“On the whole, I’m happy with how today went. The special stages went better for Ola and me than the stages on Thursday and I’m delighted that I managed to make good one place in the course of the day. Once again, the Polo R WRC ran perfectly. We can push a little bit more on Saturday, I’m sure of that. And there will then be a fight for fourth place. It’s going to be another exciting day in Rally Finland.”

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director“With Rally Finland being so fast, the drivers have to have a healthy dose of self-confidence. And Jari-Matti Latvala demonstrated this self-confidence today. Our engineers provided him with a Polo R WRC that allows him to feel so confident, and he put in a world-class performance today. His teammate Sébastien Ogier and Kris Meeke in the Citroën are the only ones who are driving at a similar level and who can stand up to him. As a result, we have an exciting three-way battle on our hands, which is sure to keep us guessing right up to the finishing line. And then there’s Andreas Mikkelsen, who performed solidly during the special stages today, which allowed him to make up some lost time and move up one place to fourth overall. He, too, is involved in a gripping three-way battle, with Mads Østberg in the Citroën and Mikko Hirvonen for Ford. Boredom is not something that the three of them and the rest of the team are likely to suffer from between now and the finishing line on Sunday.”

And then there was ...

... an extra special fastest time. Winning the Päijälä special stage on Friday morning not only meant that Jari-Mati Latvala/Miikka Anttila were able to extend their lead – it also marked the 250th fastest time achieved by the Polo R WRC in 371 attempts. On their way to achieving this milestone, the World Rally Cars from Wolfsburg have jointly covered a distance of 19,226.41 kilometres. Jari-Matti Latvala accounts for 66 of the fastest times, his teammate Sébastien Ogier notched up 168 of them, and Andreas Mikkelsen contributed 17 (while Latvala and Ogier also share one fastest time). As a thank-you, the team presented the drivers and co-drivers with a T-shirt listing all of the stages they have won and bearing the number 250 – starting with the vehicle’s first stage win at Le Moulinon during Rally Monte Carlo in 2013 and currently finishing with the most recent fastest times achieved here in Finland.