The Volkswagen Motorsport crew of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia claimed victory in Rally Finland today, the eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. A delighted Ogier, who joins an elite group of non-Nordic drivers to win this highly-specialised event, finished 36.6 seconds ahead to move one step closer to claiming his first World title. The battle for second position raged throughout the day but ultimately Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul claimed the position by 21 seconds over Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson, who were forced to go off the road to avoid a rock in the penultimate stage.
The final day of competition was another long one, taking in two identical loops of four stages covering 130.20 competitive kilometres. The event concluded with the ‘Painaa’ Power Stage where additional Championship points are awarded to the fastest three crews through this single stage. Here, Neuville, Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala picked up the additional three, two and one point respectively.
In the FIA World Rally Championship, Ogier’s fifth victory of the season sees him extend his advantage to 90 points over team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. Neuville is on equal points with the Finn. In the Manufacturers’ Championship, Volkswagen Motorsport has a 55 point advantage over the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. The Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team is third.
Ogier was in the enviable position of not have to push to the limit over today’s closing stages, but the Frenchman won three of the stages to claim an unchallenged win. Behind him, however, Neuville and Østberg were fighting hard for second, the duo trading positions and fastest stage times throughout the day with just a handful of seconds separating them. In the penultimate stage, however, while leading, Østberg had to take evasive action to avoid a massive rock in the road, forcing him off the road and into a spin. The resultant time loss saw him drop to third. It was an impressive performance from both rivals during an event where there were four different leaders and the lead changed hands no fewer than eight times.
Behind the podium finishers, Mikko Hirvonen claimed fourth on his home event. The Finn ran without problems during the day, with the exception of a near roll on stage 21, but he had a comfortable lead over team-mate Dani Sordo, who finished fifth. Evgeny Novikov climbed the leaderboard into sixth and local driver Jari Ketomaa finished seventh and also won the FIA WRC 2 Championship category. Per-Gunnar Andersson managed to elevate himself into a points-scoring position, finishing eighth after a troubled rally, and former Formula One driver Robert Kubica claimed more WRC points for finishing ninth and second in WRC 2. Volkswagen’s third driver, Andreas Mikkelsen, finished 10th. The leading retirements of the day were Kris Meeke and Jarkko Nikara. The Northern Ireland driver rolled in stage 22 after an impressive performance in his first competitive outing in nearly 18 months, and Nikara retired from sixth position with broken suspension.
The next round of the FIA World Rally Championship takes the crews to the roman city of Trier for ADAC Rallye Deutschland (22-25 August).
Rally Finland – Final Unofficial Classification (subject to scrutineering)