Volkswagen Motorsport’s Jari-Matti Latvala finished Rally Finland 2016 on the podium in second, but failed to make it three wins on the bounce on his ‘home’ rally.
The Finn had won the last two Rally Finland events in 2014 and 2015, but this year Latvala had to settle for second place, behind the winner Kris Meeke in the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team Citroen DS 3.
Meeke broke the average speed record for a WRC event last year on this rally in which Latvala’s average speed was over 125 kilometres per hour in his 2015 win, whereas the Northern Irishman’s 2016 Rally Finland was won with an average speed of 126.6 kilometres per hour.
Latvala and his co-driver Miikka Anttila had an early scare at the start of the rally with a puncture, but fought their way up the leaderboard to finish second, 19 points behind the WRC Championship Leader Sébastien Ogier in third place.
Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen, after the highs of winning last time out in Poland was seventh despite at one point being in contention for the podium. However, he had to play ‘road sweeper’ for Ogier, who had slipped down the starting order for arriving late due to repairs at a liaison stage.
The Norwegian drove well to finish in seventh place, but Mikkelsen keeps second place in the WRC Drivers’ Standings. Ogier finished Rally Finland for only the fifth time in the Polo R with no points after cutting a bit too much of the hairpin at SS10.
Latvala said post-Finland “I am happy with my performance this weekend, even though I came up just short of a hat-trick of wins at the Rally Finland. Second place and a point on the Power Stage is a very good haul. I also climbed a place in the overall standings. All in all, we could not have done any more against Kris Meeke this weekend.
“I would like to say another big thank you to all the many fans who supported me. It is always very special to drive here on home soil. We now move on to the asphalt season, which was remarkably good to me last year. We must now back up this weekend’s performance in Germany.”
Mikkelsen was happy with finishing seventh in Finland “All in all, Anders and I can be happy with seventh place. We could not have done any more this weekend. Driving on these fantastic routes is an awesome feeling.
“Another positive is the fact that we made up a few points on Sébastien. His lead is obviously still a big one, but we are still in touch. It was difficult once we suddenly had to open the route on Saturday. We did our very best, but starting first really did not make life easy. I was driving on the very limit all the time on some of the stages, but my times were still slow.”
Ogier added “The best news of the day for Julien and me is that we are now spared the role of road sweeper for a while. I have had to do this for half a year now, and it is extremely tiring mentally to constantly having to battle with the difficult route conditions.
“I am now looking forward to Rally Germany, where the conditions will hopefully be good for everyone and we will hopefully be involved in a nice battle for the win. Apart from the mistake, I was very happy with our pace. We could have been looking at third place. Congratulations to Kris Meeke and his team. It goes without saying that he was able to drive without any pressure and benefitted from his starting position.”