Latvala and Mikkelsen lead in Sweden
Head-to-head drifting at its finest
The Volkswagen pairings of Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) and Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) lead the Rally Sweden after a gripping battle on Friday. The all-Volkswagen duel saw the experienced Latvala and rising star Mikkelsen match each other punch for punch on day two. Latvala came out of the head-to-head with his nose just in front on five occasions, while bragging rights went to Mikkelsen on four stages. Going into the final 142.16 kilometres of special stage on Saturday, just 3.6 seconds separate the #2 Polo R WRC and the number 9 car. However, a mistake from the World Champion prevented a three-way Volkswagen scrap at the top of the standings: starting the day as leaders, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) slid into a wall of snow on the opening special stage, losing 4:30 minutes as a consequence. The ensuing fightback, which included six stage wins, saw the World Championship winning pairing storm back from 20th to ninth.
The second day of the Rally Sweden was dominated by light rain and thawing snow and ice. As a result, the character of the loop, which featured the four special stages “Lesjöfors“, “Fredriksberg”, “Rämmen” and “Hagfors Sprint”, had changed dramatically by the time the drivers returned to tackle it for a second time. In the morning, the World Rally Cars were greeted by a covering of soft snow and ice, while gravel was already a prominent feature in the afternoon. As such, wear and tear of the standard studded tyres played a major role. The Volkswagen drivers did a good job of looking after the valuable commodity, with only 28 tyres available over the course of the rally. In total, the trio has now set 34 of a possible 48 top-three times, with the works team from Wolfsburg winning 14 of the 16 stages so far.
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“That’s rallying! We skidded into a snow wall twelve kilometres into the first special stage of the day. It was a slow corner, which is perhaps why I lost my concentration a little. I missed the entry to the corner and next thing we knew we were stuck. A stupid mistake, but these things happen. Thank you to all the fans who helped us out. We obviously have nothing to lose now. The conditions are not easy, but we will do our best to still pick up valuable points towards the World Championship. The realistic goal for Julien and me is now sixth place. However, I hope for the sake of our team that Andreas and Jari-Matti top the standings come the end of the rally.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“It is obviously a great feeling to lead the Rally Sweden. At the same time, we still have a lot of work ahead of us: Saturday is the longest day, and it will be all about looking after the studded tyres as well as possible, right up until the finish ramp in Karlstad. The spikes break very quickly on gravel, and you lose an awful lot of grip then. Today was very good for long periods and we were able to open up a small gap ahead of our team-mates. However, we then lost a lot of time on the penultimate stage. That just goes to show that the rally is still very open. We will continue our battle with Andreas Mikkelsen tomorrow. It would be awesome to win the Rally Sweden for a third time.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“A fantastic day for us, and I am very happy with the way the Rally Sweden is panning out for me. I am yet to stand on the podium in the World Rally Championship, and that is exactly where I would dearly love to end this rally. However, I am a born-and-bred rally driver, and victory is within my grasp. I tried to keep up the pressure on my team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, but without taking too many risks. That was a real balancing act, which we pulled off really well. Tomorrow is another long day of rallying, and we want to go about our work calmly and intelligently.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“It is great fun watching the battle between Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen develop. Both have been outstanding and are driving both extremely sensibly and quickly at the same time. There are no team orders at Volkswagen. They are both free to fight for the victory. It is a shame that Sébastien Ogier slipped up today, and is no longer in contention as a result. However, he reacted the right way to his mishap, bouncing back in impressive style to set the fastest time on six special stages. All in all, we are extremely happy with day two of the rally in Sweden. Let’s hope it continues this way.”
add_circle Breaking news: Sordo secures Italian double
More on WRC