For the second time in his career, Jari-Matti Latvala has won his home rally in Finland. The Volkswagen driver crossed the finish line 3.6 seconds ahead of fellow Volkswagen driver Sebastien Ogier. Third place went to Citroën man Kris Meeke. "This win was really, really hard work," said a beaming Latvala immediately afterwards.
Fast and furious final session
Latvala led the rally right from the first stage. He posted 13 best times out 26 and stretched his lead to more than 30 seconds at one point. On Saturday afternoon, however, he suffered a setback when a huge pothole damaged one of his brakes and he was forced to make do with the remaining three for the rest of the session. The cushion he had built up was whittled away, and he went into the final day just 3.4 seconds ahead of Ogier.
So the outcome of the rally came down to battle between the two main contenders over the last three special stages. With honours even in the first two, everything depended on the final stage. Although this went to Ogier, Latvala was a mere tenth of a second adrift, which was enough to secure a second victory for the Finnish driver in his home fixture. "The problems on Saturday put us in a really difficult position, but we fought back," said a delighted Latvala.
Ogier was far from disappointed with second place: "This result is really OK considering what a tough battle it was. And Jari was really flying today." There was also a minor consolation for the reigning world champion as he secured the three points in the Power Stage ahead of Latvala and Kris Meeke.
Meeke claims third podium spot
Kris Meeke experienced an emotional rollercoaster in Finland. On Thursday and Friday, the Citroën driver was jostling for position with Ogier but then saw his chances of the runner-up spot evaporate on Saturday. "A podium is something very special," said the beaming Northern Irishman. "I'm really excited." The third Volkswagen driver, Andreas Mikkelsen, finished fourth behind Meeke.
Hirvonen has a frustrating time
Mikko Hirvonen finished the Rally Finland in fifth place. The Finn had big ambitions for his home event but as early as Day 2 had to concede that the Volkswagen drivers were out of reach. Finishing just behind Hirvonen was Juho Hänninen as the best of the Hyundai contingent. Hänninen had looked set for a podium until a rollover smashed his windshield and problems later developed with his power steering. His team-mate Hayden Paddon finished eighth behind Ford's Elfyn Evans. The last two Top 10 places went to Henning Solberg and Karl Kruuda respectively.
Early retirement for star names
Thierry Neuville's rally Finland came to a premature end on Day 2. The Hyundai driver went off track, damaging his roll cage beyond repair, and was forced to retire. The same thing happened to Citroën driver Mads Østberg on Saturday. Up to this point, the Norwegian looked to have booked himself fifth place.
Robert Kubica once again had to endure a frustrating end to his rally. The Ford driver damaged his left front suspension on Friday and was unable to complete the session. He continued anyway under Rally2 regulations, but the massive loss of time meant that he was unable to finish any higher than 34th.