Captured: Sébastien Ogier Airborne In Rally Finland Win
By John Beltz Snyder
August 05, 2013
King at the rally of all rallies – Ogier fulfils his dream of winning in Finland
The Rally Finland has been taking place since 1951, and Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia this year became only the fifth duo from outside of Scandinavia and Finland to win the rally. 2013 marked the eleventh time that a non-Nordic driver had won this iconic event in the World Rally Championship: in 1990 it was current Volkswagen Motorsport consultant Carlos Sainz (E) and his co-driver Luis Moya who broke the stranglehold of the Finn’s and Swedes for the first time.
For Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, the fifth win of the 2013 season also marked a long-awaited first. The Rally Finland is a legend in itself: while the average speed at other rallies is around 80 kilometres per hour, it was exactly 120.91 km/h at the 2013 Rally Finland. The event, which every year attracts hundreds of thousands of fans to the forests and banks of the many lakes, is renowned for its ideal route conditions and quick sections lined by a thick wall of trees. Many blind crests and jumps of around 60 metres round off the unmistakable character of the rally.
Polo R WRC Power – impressive record at the full-throttle bonanza
Top-class results for the Polo R WRC at the Rally Finland: the World Rally Car from Wolfsburg claimed twelve stage wins and a total of 24 top-three times, making it the most successful car at “Formula One in the Forest”. Since its debut at the Rally Monte Carlo in January 2013, the Polo has now amassed an incredible 81 of a possible 143 stage wins. Furthermore, six of the eight World Championship rounds so far have gone to Volkswagen – an impressive record for a car making its debut in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
Three bonus points on the Power Stage
Another three bonus World Championship points went the way of Volkswagen at the Rally Finland: Volkswagen drivers Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala finished second and third on the Power Stage. This allowed Jari-Matti Latvala to defend his second place in the Drivers’ Championship: he is now level on points with Thierry Neuville, but holds the upper hand courtesy of his win at the Rally Greece and the resulting better individual result. Prior to the Rally Finland, Volkswagen had won every Power Stage held this season.
The incredible “Ouninpohja” – Ogier shows his class on the rally classic
Two stage wins were particularly special: winning the mother of all stages at the fastest rally in the world, “Ouninpohja” is seen as a real accolade. Even on the eve of the stage, the mere thought of the classic brought a broad grin onto the face of Sébastien Ogier. On the final day, the World Championship leader demonstrated his class on this extremely challenging stage, which features jumps approaching the 60-metre mark. Ogier clinched the first run with a 2.6 second lead, and then finished 4.6 seconds clear of the rest of the field on when they tackled it for the second time. The icing on the cake: with a time of 15 minutes and 8.9 seconds, Ogier now holds the stage record on “Ouninpohja”. His average speed as he tore through the forests: 130.75 kilometres per hour.
Impressive fighting performance: Latvala bags points for the Manufacturers’ Championship
Great personal disappointment on the one hand, but even greater team spirit on the other: at their home event, Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) secured valuable points for Volkswagen in the battle for the title in the Manufacturers’ Championship. The Finnish duo, who had come into its home rally on the back of four consecutive podiums as the most consistent pair in the World Rally Championship, hit a rock at the side of the road on the second special stage and consequently had to retire with a damaged suspension. When they rejoined the action on day two, under Rally2 regulations, Latvala/Anttila battled their way to nine top-three times for Volkswagen and six World Championship points. Volkswagen Motorsport was thus able to extend its lead over Citroën in the Manufacturers’ Championship by a further nine points to 55.
A show of maturity: Mikkelsen impresses with consistent results
On course for a top-five result, a technical problem prevented Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) from picking up another impressive result. The duo consistently clocked top-ten times before they were stopped in their tracks by a damaged suspension that was none of their fault. After their return under Rally2 regulations on the final day, they confirmed their arrival in the field of established WRC drivers with yet more fine displays – including on the legendary “Ouninpohja” special stage. In the end, their efforts were rewarded: Mikkelsen worked his way back up to tenth place to finish in the points.
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia will go into Volkswagen’s home event at the Rally Germany (22–25 August) with a purely mathematical chance of winning both the driver and co-driver competitions: should they increase their lead over their rivals by 22 points to 112, they would be out of reach of the chasing pack and guaranteed the titles.
Quotes after day three of the Rally Finland
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7
“Generally speaking I am not happy, as I had come into the event with high hopes. My rally started with a mistake, which cost me any chance of a podium finish. However, I was able to increase my pace by the time we reached the Power Stage at the end of the rally, and my co-driver Miikka Anttila and I still managed to score six points towards the Manufacturers’ Championship. We also used the rally to try out different set-ups, in order to prepare for the coming rallies. We now move on to Volkswagen’s home rally in Germany and I really hope to be back on the podium there.”
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
“It is impossible to describe how I feel! This win here in Finland is a dream come true for me. And to win in Sweden as well this year – it is a great feeling to win these two rallies this year ahead of the Nordic guys like Mads Østberg, Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala. With a lead of over 30 from the first two days, I did not want to take too many risks today. Only on the ‘Ouninpohja’ special stage did I really push myself to the limit, as that stage is simply fantastic. For me, it was the first time in a World Rally Car and the speed with the Polo R WRC left me speechless. You pulse starts to race, you are full of adrenalin, and you enjoy every jump and every metre. My lead in the World Rally Championship has increased, but I am not concentrating on that today – I just want to enjoy the win with my team now. Without our well-oiled team, I would not be on the top step here.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“We learned a lot here at the Rally Finland. We gained more experience again today. The ‘Ouninpohja’ special stage was simply unbelievable. I remember what it was like driving that stage in the S2000 Škoda last year. But you have so much more grip in the Polo R WRC that you could take many passages in sixth gear and at the rev limit. The goal was to learn as much as possible on both runs, in order to be able to attack next year. On this stage, and today’s other stages, we concentrated fully on finding the right line and not taking any risks. Despite the suspension damage we suffered yesterday, which unfortunately dashed any hopes we had of a top-five finish, we are happy with what we achieved.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“The Rally Finland is a true legend, and winning it is very special. We have a great team which made all this possible. From the Engine and Transmission departments to team management, mechanics and designers – I am proud of everyone. This time, however, you have to highlight the driving performance of Sébastien Ogier. The Rally Finland showed that Ford, Citroën and Volkswagen are operating on a par with each other. Sébastien was the difference this time. This win sees him deservedly take a big step towards the World Championship title. Jari-Matti Latvala definitely did not have a happy weekend. We must learn as a team from his retirement on day one. Our engineers will analyse the incident in detail and further improve the Polo R WRC. Andreas Mikkelsen performed well throughout the entire rally and was on a par with the top drivers in the World Championship. That is impressive.”
And then there was ...
... rally legend Markku Alén. The four-time World Rally Champion was in front of the camera as a present and expert for Finnish TV station MTV3. Volkswagen will soon be reunited with “Mr. Maximum Attack”: Alén lines up in the Legends competition when the Scirocco R-Cup heads to the Nürburgring (August) for its fourth race weekend.