Jari-Matti Latvala clinches Rally Finland victory

Jari-Matti Latvala clinches Rally Finland victory
By AutoSport

02/08/2015 at 13:22Updated 02/08/2015 at 13:30

Jari-Matti Latvala stayed clear of Volkswagen team-mate Sebastien Ogier through Sunday morning to clinch a second straight Rally Finland victory and the third of his World Rally Championship career.

Latvala overcame Ogier in a close battle in the first half of the rally then established a 13-second advantage with a blistering performance on Saturday afternoon.

Another stage win first thing on Sunday made victory all-but-certain, and Latvala sealed it with second-fastest time to Ogier on the concluding powerstage.

The result makes little difference to Ogier's march towards a third consecutive WRC title, with his championship cushion now 89 points thanks to second place and the bonus score.

Mads Ostberg joined the VWs on the podium, but it would have been the sister Citroen of Kris Meeke up there had he not made a mistake on Saturday.

Meeke kept pace with Ogier and Latvala for a while and briefly led on Friday morning, before losing pace with what he thought at first might be a broken driveshaft but turned out to be a less costly transmission issue.

He re-established a margin over Ostberg - who had surged from the lower part of the top 10 with some quick times as Friday progressed - only to run wide and break a wheel on Saturday afternoon.

Meeke's incident was one of the smallest in a typically destructive Rally Finland.

Andreas Mikkelsen was off the pace and struggling for confidence in the third VW even before a massive crash on Friday morning's last stage, while Haydon Paddon had a similarly high-speed tumble while running fifth for Hyundai.

Robert Kubica also crashed late on Saturday, but was already running under Rally2 having had alternator failure when holding sixth on Friday.

Thierry Neuville had got his accident out of the way on Thursday's shakedown. Although that affected his confidence at first, he stayed out of trouble during the rally itself to finish fourth.

He was battling Hyundai team-mate Dani Sordo until the Spaniard lost over five minutes in a ditch on Saturday.

M-Sport had high hopes for its new Ford Fiesta here given Ott Tanak's Poland pace, but both Tanak and Elfyn Evans damaged their cars on Friday morning and had to limp to the end of the day with ad-hoc repairs due to the lack of a full service.

Tanak managed to stay in the top 10 and recovered to fifth, overcoming WRC returnee Juho Hanninen - in an older-spec M-Sport Ford - with one stage to go. Evans had to settle for 13th.

Skoda dominated WRC2 again with Esapekka Lappi and Pontus Tidemand, who finished eighth and ninth overall behind Martin Prokop.

Privateer Lorenzo Bertelli claimed his first top-10 finish in a World Rally Car in 10th, pulling away from the recovering Sordo just when it looked like the factory Hyundai might pinch his point.