Volkswagen ace Jari-Matti Latvala took an accomplished win on Rally Finland, fending off the challenge of teammate Sebastien Ogier.

The win is local hero Latvala’s second successive and third overall in Finland, matching the record held by compatriot and four-time champion Juha Kankkunen.

Ogier held the lead early on Day 1, but a run of blistering times during the afternoon saw Latvala claim the lead. He stayed there for the rest of the event, his advantage stretching and compressing through the morning of Day 2. Latvala then scorched through the afternoon stages to consolidate his position.

Setting fastest time on the first stage of Day 3 was enough to be sure of the win. Ogier won the bonus points counting Power Stage, but Latvala was close behind. At the finish, Latvala’s advantage stood at 13.7 seconds, having won half of the 20 stages. Just to underline his pace, Latvala’s average speed of 77.94mph is the fastest in World Rally Championship history.

Speaking at the end of the final stage, Latvala said: “This was one of the greatest drives of my life. I’ve had a tough season but winning my home event is like winning half a world championship.

“I’ve focussed on this rally for three weeks. After my disappointment at the last round in Poland, I decided my title hopes had gone and concentrated fully on preparing for Finland. It paid off today.”

Behind the leading pair, Citroen’s Mads Ostberg finished third having inherited the position when teammate Kris Meeke slid off the road and broke a wheel on Day 2. Meeke had been enjoying a strong run in third on Day 1, but his challenge was compromised by what turned out to be a transmission issue.

Thierry Neuville was fourth for Hyundai, despite a slow start as he regained confidence after a big crash on the pre-event shakedown stage.

Typically, Neuville’s wasn’t the only big crash. Andreas Mikkelsen took a tumble out of the rally in his VW on Day 1, followed a few stages later by Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon. And Robert Kubica rolled end over end and out on Day 2, having already finished Day 1 early with alternator failure.

Ott Tanak finished fifth, the only M-Sport Ford driver in the top ten. Both he and Elfyn Evans suffered suspension issues on Day 1 which couldn’t be repaired as there wasn’t a midday service halt.

Local man Juha Hanninen was the leading privateer in sixth, ahead of Martin Prokop. Esapekka Lappi and Pontus Tidemand dominated WRC2 in their works Skoda Fabia R5s, finished eighth and ninth. Italian privateer Lorenzo Bertelli closed out the top ten, his best result of the season so far.

His win vaults Latvala to second in the championship standings, but Ogier still holds a commanding 89 point lead at the top of the table. Indeed, there is a mathematical possibility that Ogier could seal his third consecutive title next time out in Germany, with four rounds remaining.

The next event is Rally Germany on 20-23 August.

Rally Finland top ten finishers after 20 stages

  1. Jari-Matti Latvala — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — 2:33:03.8
  2. Sebastien Ogier — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — +13.7
  3. Mads Ostberg — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT/DS 3 WRC — +1:36.8
  4. Thierry Neuville — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — +3:58.7
  5. Ott Tanak — M-Sport Ford/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +4:29.3
  6. Juho Hanninen — J. Hanninen/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +4:44.3
  7. Martin Prokop — Jipocar Czech National Team/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +6:20.3
  8. Esapekka Lappi — Skoda Motorsport/Skoda Fabia R5 — +7:11.2
  9. Pontus Tidemand — Skoda Motorsport/Skoda Fabia R5 — +8:52.5
  10. Lorenzo Bertelli — FWRT srl/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +9:37.4

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By Only Motors