WRC Flying Finn Latvala confirms his 16th WRC win with victory in Mexico

RALLY GUANAJUATO CORONA 2016, March 3-6, 2016
2016 FIA World Rally Championship, round 3

For immediate release
Sunday, March 6th, 2016


· Runner-up Ogier extends his WRC advantage; Sordo on podium for Hyundai
· Finland’s Suninen cruises to WRC 2 victory; Poland’s Ptaszak finishes second

LEÓN (Mexico): Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala maintained his composure and drove in a responsible and measured way to seal a maiden victory in Rally Guanajuato Corona, round three of the FIA World Rally Championship, on Sunday.

Leading by 1min 35.7sec heading into the final two stages on Sunday, there was a slim chance that three-time World Champion Sébastien Ogier could cause an upset and seal a fourth successive victory in North America. But Latvala shut the door firmly in the penultimate 80km stage and was able to enjoy a 16th WRC by the winning margin of 1min 05sec. It was the Finn’s first success since Corsica last year.

“This is the fight back,” said the delighted 30-year-old, who took part in his first WRC event at the age of 17 in Wales and claimed his first victory in Sweden with Ford in 2008. “I had such a difficult start to the season. Two rallies and no points. This is the first time I have driven this rally without any problems.”

The success for the Finn and navigator Miikka Anttila was Volkswagen’s fourth in succession in Mexico and a 12th consecutive success for the German manufacturer on rounds of the WRC – a feat they have now achieved for a second time.

“It’s been a good day and a great rally,” said Ogier, who was unable to seal WRC win number 35 on his 100th start. “I did everything I could this weekend. Thanks to the team once again. It’s good points for the championship.”

Spaniard Dani Sordo ensured that Hyundai Motorsport claimed a third podium of the season with third overall in the New Generation i20 WRC. Sordo reached the finish 1min 58.5sec ahead of M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mads Østberg, driving a Ford Fiesta RS. The result lifted Østberg to second in the Drivers’ Championship and also confirmed M-Sport’s impressive record of 200 consecutive points’ scoring finishes in the WRC.

Kiwi Hayden Paddon stayed clear of trouble through the final stages to secure fifth in a second Hyundai and Estonian Ott Tanak continued the test and development work with the DMACK World Rally Team Ford Fiesta in impressive fashion to finish sixth.

Martin Prokop returned to WRC action for the first time this season to win the battle of the World Rally Car privateers in seventh, the Czech beating Italy’s Lorenzo Bertelli to seventh overall by 1min 11.1sec. Mexican Benito Guerra set some impressive stage times after battling back from a spectacular moment on a jump on Friday, but finished outside the top 10.

The rate of attrition decimated the field in the WRC 2 category and Finland’s Teemu Suninen romped to victory by the staggering margin of 20min 11.6sec on his first visit to Mexico in the TGS Worldwide Skoda Fabia R5.

Despite his own fair share of brake and gearbox issues, Poland’s Hubert Ptaszak (Peugeot 208 T16) finished runner-up. Italian Max Rendina (Ford Fiesta) was third and a troubled Nicolas Fuchs was fourth.

M-Sport’s Eric Camilli endured a miserable first two days of the event and retired on both occasions, but the bright spot for the Frenchman was an impressive time in the Guanajuato stage this morning and he went on to record his first finish of the year.

Sunday – as it happened

Six of the 28 starters featured on the official list of retirements at the start of the final day and they included factory drivers Thierry Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen. Both had crashed heavily on Saturday and the former had been taken to hospital as a precaution, before Hyundai Motorsport decided to rest the crew to prepare for the Rally of Argentina.

Mikkelsen’s Volkswagen Polo R WRC arrived back at the service park late on Saturday evening and management quickly took the decision to withdraw the crew, rather than attempt to repair any damage. Other retirements includes the Mexican duo of Francisco Name and Jorge Gonzalez-Hernandez and Qatar’s Khaled Al-Suwaidi.

Road opening duties were handed to M-Sport’s rookie Eric Camilli on his eighth ever gravel rally and Guerra and Bertelli followed the Frenchman into the massive 80km Guanajuato stage. Latvala, safely cushioned by a sizeable overnight lead of 1min 35.7sec, started 10th behind rival Ogier. The lead gave the Finn a little margin for error, but he was taking nothing for granted on the longest WRC special stage to be included in a rally since 1986.

A relieved Camilli laid down the gauntlet with the target time of 51min 16.2sec, although hanging dust was prevalent through the early kilometres. Ogier’s split times were comfortably quicker than the rest of the field, but he was not able to take enough time out of Latvala and the Frenchman reached the stage finish trailing the rally leader by 1min 10.4sec in the overall standings after being forced to back off a little with overheating brakes.

“I started with a good rhythm and I pushed a bit between 10 and 50km,” said rally leader Latvala. “It was a good strategy. Coming into the twisty, I started to lose the rear brakes and they were gone and I only had the front brakes, so I wanted to be safe and drove steady. The stage was easier than El Chocolate, I have to say.”

Local driver Benito Guerra was disappointed with his performance. “I think the Otates stage was heavier for the drivers. My times are not good. There were mistakes in my pace notes and I was not confident. At the end, I took it easy just to complete the rally.”

With no reason to push and risk his massive WRC 2 lead, Suninen erred on the side of caution in his Skoda and that enabled Germany’s returning Armin Kremer to beat Peru’s Nicolas Fuchs to the fastest time in the P2 category. Suninen still got the better of Ptaszak in any case and headed to the Power Stage with a lead of 20min 03.7sec. Mexican driver Miguel Medina suffered mechanical issues with his Ford Fiesta running in the national class and retired.

The 16.47km of the televised Aqua Zarca Power Stage stood between Latvala and a first victory in Mexico. Surely there would be no last minute dramas for the Finn, who had completely dominated the rally thus far?

Ogier had already signalled his intention to push hard and try and claim the three bonus points. A target time of 10min 31.2sec was set by stage opener Camilli in a special that attracted thousands of excitable spectators. But that was no match for the flying Ogier, who lost out on the outright win to Latvala, but claimed three bonus points for winning the Power Stage in a time of 9min 57.1sec.

“I knew Seb would go for three points,” said Latvala. “I knew I had no chance, because I had to be careful, so I am pleased with the two extra points for second.” Paddon claimed one extra point for third, but Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari’s miserable weekend in WRC 2 was capped when he stopped on the final stage.

Rally Guanajuato Corona 2016 – positions after SS21:
1. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 4hr 25min 57.4sec
2. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 4hr 27min 02.4sec
3. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Marc Marti (ESP) Hyundai New i20 WRC 4hr 29min 35.3sec
4. Mads Østberg (NOR)/Ola Floene (NOR) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 4hr 31min 33.8sec
5. Hayden Paddon (NZL)/John Kennard (NZL) Hyundai New i20 WRC 4hr 32min 20.0sec
6. Ott Tanak (EST)/Raigo Molder (EST) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 4hr 35min 56.9sec
7. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tománek (CZE) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 4hr 38min 55.9sec
8. Lorenzo Bertelli (ITA)/Simone Scattolin (ITA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 4hr 40min 07.0sec
9. Teemu Suninen (FIN)/Mikko Markkula (FIN) Skoda Fabia R5 (WRC 2) 4hr 43min 59.2sec
10. Valery Gorban (UKR)/Volodymyr Korsia (UKR) Mini Countryman WRC 4hr 58min 34.7sec
11. Hubert Ptaszak (POL)/Maciek Szczepaniak (POL) Peugeot 208 T16 (WRC 2) 5hr 04min 10.8sec

Rally leaders
SS1 Thierry Neuville
SS2-3 Sébastien Ogier
SS4-21 Jari-Matti Latvala

Stage winners
SS1 Thierry Neuville
SS2 Sébastien Ogier
SS3 Sébastien Ogier
SS4 Jari-Matti Latvala
SS5 Jari-Matti Latvala
SS6 Andreas Mikkelsen
SS7 Jari-Matti Latvala
SS8 Jari-Matti Latvala
SS9 Jari-Matti Latvala
SS10 Sébastien Ogier/Dani Sordo
SS11 Jari-Matti Latvala
SS12 Jari-Matti Latvala
SS13 Jari-Matti Latvala
SS14 Jari-Matti Latvala
SS15 Jari-Matti Latvala
SS16 Jari-Matti Latvala
SS17 Dani Sordo
SS18 Sébastien Ogier
SS19 Sébastien Ogier
SS20 Sébastien Ogier
SS21 Sébastien Ogier


For further media information:
Rally Guanajuato Corona 2016, Media Centre, Poliforum Expo Centre, León, Mexico, E-mail: Adrian@rallymexico.com or ndppublicity@googlemail.com, Tel: + 52 (477) 771-4961 or + 52 (477) 771-4978.




Date issued: 06/03/2016

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