Congratulations! Second asphalt win for Jari-Matti Latvala and his second win at the Rally France after his victory in 2014! The Finn is slowly getting the hang of asphalt. He revealed his secret to success after reaching the finish line on Corsica. â€œI didn’t take too many risks throughout the weekend and am delighted with this win,â€ said the â€œFlying Finn.â€ â€œWinning on asphalt for the second time and in France for the second time feels fantastic!â€ Jari-Matti is only the second Finn to have won on Corsica. Before him, Markku AlÃ©n won in 1983 and 1984.
Latvala’s closest rival at the rally on Corsica was Ford driver Elfyn Evans. The Brit made his mark on day one in particular. Heavy rainfall and a storm turned the otherwise picturesque island of Corsica into a muddy mess; two stages had to be cancelled over the course of the weekend. Evans coped best with the track that was still wet on Friday, and led the field with an advantage of 18.7 seconds after day one. Jari-Matti was lurking in third place, behind Hyundai driver Kevin Abbring. But then Latvala raced ahead on Saturday, won the morning’s special stage and was figuratively hanging onto the rear of Evans’ Ford Fiesta, who was still delivering an incredibly strong performance. In tow in third place was Andreas Mikkelsen, who after initial difficulties went on to deliver a solid performance on the French Mediterranean island.
Then Latvala overtook Evans on Saturday afternoon and had a lead of two seconds going into the final three stages on Sunday. The final day was a fairly relaxed affair. Latvala completed the final three stages slickly. After special stage 7, he already had an advantage of 17.6 seconds over Evans! And after special stage 8 it was 32.7 seconds! And after the Power Stage, which he finished in third place, behind team-mate SÃ©bastien Ogier and Robert Kubica (Ford), it was even 43.1 seconds believe it or not!
So Latvala didn’t miss a trick at the front. Evans no longer needed to look ahead on the final day of rallying, and instead had to turn his attention to the Volkswagen driver behind him. Mikkelsen made up ground second by second. He was just 9.8 seconds behind Evans going into the Power Stage. Andreas really put his foot down once again on the 16.74-kilometre stage. But in the end it wasn’t enough to clinch a one-two victory for Volkswagen. He missed out by 3.2 seconds. â€œWe did our best and are happy with our performance,â€ said Mikkelsen at the finish line, â€œA spot on the podium is a good result.â€
SÃ©bastien Ogier, on the other hand, doesn’t have a good result to be happy with at his home rally. The weekend is to be filed under â€œgain experience and forgetâ€. On day one, Seb first had trouble with his gears before being awarded a penalty for not pressing the OK button to give the all-clear after suffering tyre damage to his Polo R WRC. Seb didn’t give up, but wasn’t able to finish any higher than 15th place on Corsica. At least the Power Stage victory and the three bonus points went to the Frenchman.
At the two remaining rallies in Spain and Wales, the drivers will be vying for the unofficial runners-up title. Latvala is in with the best chance. He is in second place with 160 points to his name, his only rival is team-mate Mikkelsen, who, with a total of 126 points, trails him by 34 points. So there’s still a lot to play for in the WRC.