Volkswagen Motorsport come into this weekend’s World Rally Championship round in Rally Finland in top form for the ‘Thousand Lakes Rally’.
Volkswagen are undefeated at Rally Finland in the Polo R, claiming the last two wins there in 2014 and 2015 with Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila at the wheel. While Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia and Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger have won in either Rally Finland or Poland in the last three years.
Last year’s Rally Finland was the fastest WRC rally of all time, with speeds clocking up to 125.44 kilometres per hour by Latvala and Anttila. While in the Power Stage, Ogier and Ingrassia had an average speed of 135.25 kilometres per hour, making Rally Finland live up to its moniker as ‘Formula 1 in the Forest’.
If Latvala wins this weekend in Finland, he will tie on three wins with the four-times World Rally Champion Juha Kankkunen for wins at Rally Finland. Mikkelsen is aiming for more success after winning in Poland last time out, while Ogier still leads the Drivers Standings’ coming into the eighth round of the 2016 WRC season.
The Finn is looking forward to the rally, saying “Rally Finland is obviously the highlight of the season for me. I am really looking forward to it, even though the pressure is naturally greater than at any other rally. That can also serve as a motivation, as you obviously want to do well in front of your home crowds.
“The expectations of the Finnish fans are huge, particularly as I have only won once so far this year. The characteristics of the rally suit me. Fast gravel roads and big jumps – that is my kind of rally. The keys to this rally are ensuring the pace notes are correct and choosing the right line for jumps and fast sections. I will relax ahead of my home race in a very Finnish manner – in the sauna.”
Ogier is looking forward to Finland and hoping that his gremlins of starting first on the gravel come to an end. “Rally Finland is unquestionably one of the highlights of the year. I love driving there, because rallying is everything in Finland. I am also looking forward to Finland, because the Finns manage to produce perfect route conditions. The roads are not only beautiful, but are tailor-made for rallying.
“The starting order has denied me any realistic chance of winning any of the gravel events this year. As such, the weather situation will also play a major role again in Finland. Let’s wait and see, and keep our fingers crossed that it is nice and damp. Admittedly, what matters most in the end is that we defend our title. We are looking good in that regard at the moment, but it would be nice to have another fair shot at winning a rally in similar conditions. Particularly as the series is blessed with some very strong drivers at the moment”
Mikkelsen added “The way I see it; it will not be easy to repeat our victory in Poland at the Rally Finland. The rally has a completely different character. The surface is much harder and there are many more crests and jumps. On the whole, the rally is far more demanding than the one in Poland. It is particularly important to get the pace notes spot on.
“As such, we will focus hard during the ‘Recce’ to get the pace notes as accurate as possible. Because there are a lot of blind crests, you need to know exactly what to expect on the other side. That then gives you the confidence you need to be fast. One of the new features this year will be the ‘Ouninpohja’ stage, which we will drive in the opposite direction to recent years. That will add a bit of extra spice to the occasion.”