Finn Jari-Matti Latvala first tasted victory in the top tier of rallying when he dominated Rally Sweden in 2008 to become the youngest winner of a World Rally Championship event at the age of 22. Six years later, Latvala has notched his third Rally Sweden victory – and second win behind the wheel of Volkswagen’s Polo WRC.
The event, the only one on the WRC calendar to totally comprise of snow stages, saw the Polo WRCs of defending champion Sebastien Ogier, Andreas Mikkelsen and Latvala pull ahead of the rest of the field. Unfortunately Ogier crashed his VW, and lost in excess of four minutes to his team-mates, who swapped the lead several times over the next few stages. Ultimately, Latvala was the one with the cleaner drive, with Mikkelson suffering from minor scrapes, and the Finn brought his Polo WRC in 53,6 seconds faster than the Norwegian – who earned the second podium spot.
“It’s my third win here and I’ve never won the same rally three times. It feels amazing to win here. It’s a long time since my win in Greece last year. It was brilliant that we were allowed to fight it out fairly and weren’t obliged to bow to team orders. It’s not down to this that I feel very content at Volkswagen,” Latvala said.
Behind Latvala, a hard-charging Mads Ostberg earned the final podium spot with three-second deficit to compatriot Mikkelsen. Ostberg, who initially struggled for pace in his Citroen DS3 WRC, also had to contend with the Ford Fiestas of the M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Ott Tanak, who finished fourth and fifth respectively. Ogier recovered from 20th overall after his collision to eventually finish sixth – salvaging valuable points for his title defence.
“Sixth place is the conciliation prize for us. We made a clean run of it on the final day, despite the incredibly slippery conditions. Also, by setting 10 fastest times here we’ve demonstrated that we will be a force to be reckoned with again next year, since Rally Sweden is one of my absolutely favourite events in the WRC calendar,” Ogier said.
The third round of the WRC calendar is the first gravel event, Rally Mexico – which takes place from 6–9 March around Leon, in the state of Guanajuato.
1. Jari-Matti Latvala (VW Motorsport Polo WRC) – 40 points
2. Sebastien Ogier (VW Motorsport Polo WRC) – 35
3. Mads Ostberg (M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC) – 30
4. Andreas Mikkelsen (VW Motorsport 2 Polo WRC) – 24
5. Bryan Bouffier (M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC) – 18
1. Volkswagen Motorsport – 72 points
2. Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team – 56
3. Volkswagen Motorsport 2 – 26
4. M-Sport World Rally Team – 22
5. Hyundai Shell World Rally Team – 8