Duel of the year, duel of the day: Latvala narrowly ahead of Ogier at the shakedown in the Rally FranceChallenger ahead of champ: Latvala first in “free practice”, Ogier thirdFifth place: Mikkelsen also shows early form at the Rally France
Eleventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) gets underway Friday morning
A small 3.8-kilometre taste of what could be the crucial 303 kilometres in the battle for the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) title: Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) narrowly beat their Volkswagen team-mates Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) in the first show of strength at the Rally France.
At the eleventh WRC round of the season, in which only Ogier and Latvala can win the drivers' title, challenger Latvala just edged the shakedown, finishing first and 1.7 seconds faster than his rival. Ogier finished the “free practice” in third place. Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene (N/N) also demonstrated their good form on asphalt in the morning – fifth place for the crew in the third Polo R WRC.
The Rally France is the second asphalt-only rally of the year. Speedy passages through the Alsace forests and narrow thoroughfares characterise this WRC event. After the ceremonial start near the European Parliament, the real rally action gets underway with the first special stage in the early hours of Friday morning. With a victory at their home rally, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia could, in theory, clinch an early result and defend their world championship title before the end of the season.
Quotes from the shakedown at the Rally France
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1“It's a fantastic feeling to come home again. Last year at the Rally France, Julien and I had the most emotional moment of our career when we were able to celebrate our first world championship title. But it's a different story this year. We need six points more than Jari-Matti, and that won't be easy because he's in great form at the moment. But I'm in good form too, the Polo R WRC felt perfect in the shakedown – all in all the conditions are good for a repeat of the success story of twelve months ago. I'll try to get into a good rhythm for the rally quickly, without taking any unnecessary risks.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2“The shakedown was primarily important for getting used to the conditions on asphalt. I've got a good feeling for my Polo and am looking forward to the start of the Rally France – a fantastic event with varied stages. My main aim is still to get my first victory at an asphalt rally, which I've always narrowly missed out on so far. That's what I'm going to focus on here, and not pay too much attention to the drivers' championship, since I don't have much chance of catching Sébastien in the battle for the title.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9“We had a good test ahead of the Rally France. The 'recce' in the last few days and the shakedown today – it all went well. For us, today was about getting a good feeling for asphalt, even though the shakedown route has a totally different character to the special stages that are up next as of tomorrow. Being fast right from the start – that will be the key here in France. We're ready for the challenge.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport director“The Rally France promises to be extremely exciting. Our drivers Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala will decide the battle for the title in the drivers' championship themselves. They showed they are ready to do that in today's shakedown. We also have strong rivals in Citroën at their home rally, M-Sport-Ford and Hyundai, who will all be trying to win here. So I recommend that everyone follows the Rally France live. Otherwise you're sure to miss something.”