2013 Neste Oil Rally Finland WRC Champion : Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) -
VW Polo R WRC - Volkswagen Motorsport
Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) claimed their fifth win of the season with Volkswagen in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) – and took a big step towards the World Championship title in the process. 180 km/h through the Finnish forests, jumps of up to 60 metres in length, and all between the ubiquitous trees: the WRC put on a thrilling show for hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic fans in Finland, who saw the overall lead constantly change hands on the first two days of the rally.
A sixth triumph for the Polo R WRC in only its eighth rally outing saw Ogier and Ingrassia extend their lead in both the driver and co-driver standings to 90 points. Volkswagen also increased its advantage in the Manufacturers' Championship. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) finished 17th in the Polo R WRC and contributed six points to the total. Their team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) ended their home rally in tenth place, earning them one World Championship point.
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.
2013 WRC : Neste Oil Rally Finland race result
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2013 FIA World Rally Championship - Championship Standings
2013 FIA World Rally Championship - Manufacturers' Championship Standings
Images : 2013 WRC - Neste Oil Rally Finland