Volkswagen ace Jari-Matti Latvala took his first victory of the 2015 World Rally Championship season with an assured drive on Rally Portugal, based, for the first time since 2001, on the fast and flowing roads of the event’ss traditional northern heartland.
Andreas Mikkelsen and Dani Sordo both held the lead during the morning of Leg 1, but by the afternoon Latvala held a lead he wouldn’t lose.
Reigning champion Sebastien Ogier was stymied by running first and sweeping the loose, dusty road surface clear on Leg 1, setting times times outside the top five. He had a better road position on Leg 2 and started progressing up the timesheets.
While Ogier struggled, Argentina winner Kris Meeke mounted a challenge for the win, but couldn’t find an answer to Latvala’s pace. Or Ogier’s. The Frenchman set a string of fastest times as Leg 2 drew to a close and claimed second position overall.
Ogier took time out of Latvala’s lead on the first stage of Leg 3, but Latvala responded on the next run, extending his advantage. Ogier again took a little time out of the lead on the final stage but it wasn’t enough to prevent Latvala taking the win.
Andreas Mikkelsen finished third, making it an all-Volkswagen podium – a relief, no doubt, after a disastrous showing in Argentina – after a final day tussle with Meeke.
Ott Tanak finished fifth, a strong debut for the new-spec Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Dani Sordo slipped to sixth, unable to keep up his early pace. Mads Ostberg secured sixth after besting Hayden Paddon on the first stage of Leg 3.
Robert Kubica claimed his first points of the season with ninth and beat tenth-placed Martin Prokop in the battle for ‘best privateer’ honours.
After a run of three non-scoring finishes Latvala’s win doesn’t do much for his championship prospects in the immediate future, with a deficit of the 59 points to leader Ogier. Mikkelsen lies second in the standings, some 43 points adrift. Still, with a total of 224 points on offer from the remaining eight events there’s still a long way to go.
Rally Portugal top 10 finishers after SS16
- Jari-Matti Latvala — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — 3:30:35.3
- Sebastien Ogier — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — +8.2
- Andreas Mikkelsen — Volkswagen Motorsport II/VW Polo R WRC — +28.6
- Kris Meeke — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT/Citroen DS3 WRC — +48.7
- Ott Tanak — M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +1:56.8
- Dani Sordo — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — +2:27.9
- Mads Ostberg — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT/Citroen DS3 WRC — +2:32.2
- Hayden Paddon — Hyundai Motorsport N/Hyundai i20 WRC — +2:54.3
- Robert Kubica — R. Kubica/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +4:39.1
- Martin Prokop — Jipocar Czech National Team/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +7:31.2
The event is Rally Italy on June 11 to 14. For more information click here
By Only Motors