Latvala ends winless streak in Portugal
Jari-Matti Latvala has showed plenty of character in taking victory in a Volkswagen sweep of the podium at Rally de Portugal.
After failing to score in the previous three rounds, Latvala finished 8.2sec ahead of championship leader Sebastien Ogier and score his first WRC victory since October.
Andreas Mikkelsen completed the podium a further 20.4sec behind.
“After the last three rallies some people were doubting if I would come back,” said Latvala.
“It was one of the worst situations in my rally career so to come and win here is unique. I really appreciate this victory feeling.”
It was the 13th career win for the 30-year-old Finn, who made the most of a low start position and cleaner road conditions to take the lead on Friday afternoon.
Despite overshooting a junction on Saturday, he saw off challenges from firstly Kris Meeke and then Ogier to climb from ninth to fifth in the drivers’ championship.
Tyres played a crucial role in the first WRC round in the north of the country since 2001. Sandy roads hampered the early starters and exposed rocks offered further difficulties during the second pass of stages.
Ogier endured the worst conditions for the opening two legs, sweeping loose gravel from roads. However, he roared up the leaderboard from sixth to second on Leg 2, reducing his deficit from almost 26 seconds to less than eight.
Second was sufficient for Ogier to extend his championship lead to 42 points after round five of 13.
After winning in Argentina, Kris Meeke finished 20.1sec behind in fourth and proved the only serious contender to the Volkswagen’s trio.
Ott Tänak finished a confidence-boosting fifth on the debut of the new Ford Fiesta RS, ahead of Hyundai’s Dani Sordo who came out on top of a three car battle for sixth involving team-mate Hayden Paddon.
“From the start, we found it difficult with different wear rates on the tyres, which felt like the car was continually trying to turn ends on us,” said Paddon.
“I’m quite happy with how this weekend has gone; we’ve been more competitive which gives us a lot of confidence for the next rally.”
Australian champion Scott Pedder made his European debut in the WRC2 category and after suspension damage on the opening leg, he also failed to complete the final day after collecting another rock.
“We made some good advancements learning the car, especially between my first run during testing a week ago and how it felt today,”said Pedder.
“I’ve learnt what works with the car setup and suspension settings. We head to the next Round in Sardinia feeling like we’ll be a lot closer to the pace.
“I was never expecting an easy time this weekend, I knew how tough it would be after we recced the very first stage. My aim was always to try to survive each stage and still set respectable stage times. OK we didn’t manage the first part but I feel like I definitely managed the second.”
Round six takes drivers to the Mediterranean for the all-gravel Rally Italia Sardegna (11 – 14 June).
Final Positions : Rally de Portugal
|1||Jari-Matti Latvala||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen||3h30m35.3s|
|2||Sebastien Ogier||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen||8.2s|
|3||Andreas Mikkelsen||Volkswagen Motorsport II||Volkswagen||28.6s|
|4||Kris Meeke||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen||48.7s|
|5||Ott Tanak||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford||1m56.8s|
|6||Daniel Sordo||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai||2m27.9s|
|7||Mads Ostberg||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen||2m32.2s|
|8||Hayden Paddon||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai||2m54.3s|
|10||Martin Prokop||Jipocar Czech National Team||Ford||7m31.2s|
VIDEO: Rally Highlights