Drift, jump, full throttle – Volkswagen all set for the Rally Finland

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Feast of full-throttle action at “Formula 1 in the Forest” – round eight of the WRC

For many it is the essence of rallying: the Rally Finland. The Volkswagen works duos go into the eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), from 31 July to 3 August, in first, second and third place in the championship. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) and Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) face one of the biggest challenges of the year at what is often termed “Formula 1 in the Forest”. The rally route takes the cars over countless jumps, on long forest straights and along the banks of the proverbial 1000 lakes, as they cover 360.94 kilometres over 26 special stages around the city of Jyväskylä in southern Finland.
 
The goals are clear for Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia and Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila, as they take on such legendary stages as “Mökkiperä”, “Ruuhimäki” and “Myhinpää”: one pair is out to pull clear at the top of the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championship, while the other has its sights on closing the gap at the top, preferably with a home win. Ogier/Ingrassia lead the championship, 50 points ahead of second-placed Latvala/Anttila and a further 33 points clear of Andreas Mikkelsen, who currently lies third overall in the Polo R WRC with Ola Fløene in the passenger seat.

“The first thing that comes into many fans’ heads when you mention rallying is the WRC round in Finland,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “High speeds and big jumps in the dense Finnish forests demand ultimate precision from the drivers, and push the World Rally Cars to the limit like no other rally. This is why the event in Finland has enjoyed truly iconic status for decades. It has everything that defines the essence of rallying. Winning it last year, with what was at the time the brand-new Polo R WRC, was a very special moment for Volkswagen. We now return as defending champions and are more determined than ever to win the Rally Finland. We have three impressive driver/co-driver pairings, who are full of confidence as they take on the strong opposition. All three are capable of winning and, in the Polo R WRC, have ‘Das Rally Auto.’ at their disposal.”

Nordic by nature: statistics in favour of Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila

Home advantage is greater at the Rally Finland than any other rally. Only four drivers from outside Sweden and Finland have won the event, originally known as the “1000 Lakes Rally”, since 1950: Sébastien Ogier in the Polo R WRC last year, Sébastien Loeb, Didier Auriol, and Carlos Sainz. In stark contrast, the winner has come from one of these two countries on 56 occasions. Historically speaking, the odds of a Finnish success are about 5 to 1 – or in other words, 82.5 per cent. The last Finn to win his home event has his sights set on victory again in Volkswagen colours: Jari-Matti Latvala and his co-driver Miikka Anttila were victorious in 2010 – in a Ford. Back then he just gained the upper hand in a hard-fought duel with a certain Sébastien Ogier, who was racing for Citroën at the time but now lines up as the Latvala’s team-mate.

Kick-down until you reach the floor: full throttle through the Finnish forests

Top speed of up to 200 kilometres per hour – the Rally Finland is one of the season’s outstanding gravel rallies. The eighth round of the year is a challenge for driver, co-driver and engineers alike. The driver must display the utmost accuracy as he hurtles past the trees lining the route, the co-driver must be spot on with his pace notes, and convey them to the driver with perfect timing. Meanwhile, the long, full-throttle sections pose a major challenge to the engineers.

The regulations for the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) stipulate that the 1.6-litre turbo engines must not exceed 8,500 rpm. Only those who come as close as possible to this maximum value on the long full-throttle sections, but without exceeding it, will get the very most out of their car. The crux of the matter: when the World Rally Cars are airborne over the countless jumps, the lack of resistance results in the engine speed exceeding this magic number and the fuel injection automatically shuts down. However, the engine must return to the desired speed by the time the wheels hit the ground again, so as not to lose any drive or, consequently, valuable time.

Flying as you’ve never seen it before – 60-metre jumps in a World Rally Car

Jumps of up to 60 metres in length are another feature of the Rally Finland. Nowhere do the World Rally Cars achieve lift off as often as in the forests around Jyväskylä. Here too there is method behind the madness. The drivers can only influence the direction their car is travelling in when the wheels are on the ground – once they are in the air, they are reduced to mere passengers. It pays, then, to approach the jump at the right angle, in order to ensure you land in the perfect place. The rear wing of the World Rally Car ensures it remains stable during its brief flight. The engineers also help with the many jumps, by making sure the weight distribution is ideal.

Volkswagen after the dozen: sights set on win number 12 in a row

From last year’s Rally Australia to the most recent event of this year, the Rally Poland, Volkswagen has put together an unprecedented winning run in the World Rally Championship. Eleven times in a row one of the works duos has picked up the trophy for the Wolfsburg-based manufacturer, and one more success at the Rally Finland would make it a round dozen. Of the 365 special stages the Polo R WRC has contested, it has so far clocked the fastest time on 244 occasions, meaning it could conceivably break the 250 mark at the Rally Finland. If all three Polo R WRCs reach the finish without any major incidents in Finland, Volkswagen will also have completed more than 20,000 kilometres since entering the championship in 2013 – that is roughly halfway round the world at race speed.

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1: “It is always tough to win the Rally Finland if you do not come from northern Europe – a look back at the history of the event shows this. I am particularly proud to have won there last season. That was a great moment in my career. I love driving in Finland – especially in the Polo R WRC. However, I am not satisfied with just one win on Finnish soil – I am hungry for more! At the same time, I am also aware that it will be difficult to win there, as the ‘Flying Finns’ in the field will be out to live up to their name at their home rally. The fans on the route will again give us fantastic support again and create an amazing atmosphere. The Rally Finland is a very quick rally, renowned for big jumps. You need a lot of trust in yourself and the car in order to be fast and successful. If you have that trust, then it is an absolute pleasure to drive there.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2: “I am looking forward to my home race in Finland. The stages are very quick, which suits me. The biggest challenges are probably the many jumps and crests. It is very difficult to find the right line, in order to get the take-off just right and then to land in the right place. The same applies to the many quick corners without crests. My favourite stage of the weekend will be ‘Mökkiperä’ on Sunday. It is four years since we last drove that stage. It takes you uphill and downhill at full throttle and speeds of up to 195 km/h. It sometimes makes your stomach feel a bit peculiar. Having suffered a number of set-backs in Finland last year, I am obviously out to attack again this time around and, ideally, to beat my team-mate Sébastien Ogier. However, you cannot count anyone out – particularly the drivers from Nordic countries. After his performances at recent rallies, I also believe that my other team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen will be in contention.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9: “I expect Finland to be a rather more difficult rally for me than the Rally Poland, which was new territory for almost everyone. Most drivers in the field in Finland already have a lot of experience of this event. Experience and confidence are very important in order to be quick there. There are a lot of jumps and corners with poor visibility. The pace is quick. You need to be confident in your own ability and the set-up of the car. The pace notes and communication with the co-driver have to be perfect, as the Rally Finland does not forgive any mistakes. If you don’t drive the perfect line, you soon find yourself at the side of the road. I am certainly not lacking confidence after my runner-up finish at the Rally Poland. And the work with my co-driver Ola Fløene is perfect. He sat alongside me in the Polo R WRC for the first time at the Rally Italy on Sardinia, but despite this we immediately worked in perfect harmony. As such, I am looking forward to the Rally Finland, and line up full of confidence. It would be great to be on the podium again come the end of the rally.”

Manufacturers' classification

    Points
1 Volkswagen Motorsport 262
2 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 115
3 M-Sport 90
4 Volkswagen Motorsport II 82
5 Hyundai Motorsport 80
6 Jipocar Czech National Team 34
7 RK M-Sport WRT 19
8 Hyundai Motorsport N 8
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About this article
Series WRC
Event Rally Finland
Drivers Jari-Matti Latvala, Andreas Mikkelsen, Sébastien Ogier
Article type Previews
Tags polo r wrc, volkswagen

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