Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila won the Rally France for the second time in a row. After last year’s historic victory in Alsace, the pair currently second in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) was this time successful on Corsica.
Following last year’s victory in France, this latest triumph was the Finnish duo’s second win on asphalt, their 15th in total and their eighth success in the Polo R WRC. The Volkswagen success story was completed by Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Floene, who finished third to add a 22nd podium finish to Volkswagen’s collection this season – and still with two of the 13 WRC rounds to come.
There was a happy ending for their teammates Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia at the end of a difficult home event: they won the Power Stage for the ninth time this season – and the 25th time in their careers – to claim the three bonus points.
Latvala and Anttila’s second success of their career on asphalt was another remarkable story. At the fastest asphalt rally of all time – in Alsace in 2014 – the Volkswagen duo brought to an end a 15-year barren stretch for the proud rallying nation of Finland, who had had to wait a decade and a half for one of their countrymen to win again on this surface. Not only did they repeat the feat this time around, but they also showed their pace on what were probably the toughest conditions seen in recent years, and at a Rally France with an extremely diverse character.
Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Floene continued their extremely impressive season with their seventh podium of the year in France. In doing so, they stayed in touch with their Volkswagen teammates Latvala and Anttila to keep alive any hope of finishing runners-up in the World Championship.
Seven podium finishes in the past eleven rallies this season – only reigning world champions and champions-elect Ogier and Ingrassia have been involved in the traditional champagne shower more often, having stepped onto the podium on nine occasions. With two rallies remaining this season, Mikkelsen and Floene in third place now trail Latvala and Anttila by 34 points. A maximum 28 points are on offer at each round. At the same time, they were able to extend their lead over fourth-placed Mads Ostberg and Jonas Andersson (N/S, Citroën) in the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championship to 28 points.
Two of the nine special stages were cancelled due to landslides, while up to 361 liters of rain fell on Corsica during the Rally France – the teams and drivers were constantly battling extreme weather throughout the three days of the rally. Friday was dominated by a hurricane and heavy rain, while the mud-covered asphalt stages made life difficult for the drivers and co-drivers on Saturday. On Sunday, the biggest challenge facing the crews was a route that was damp in some places, dry in others, and was gradually drying out over the course of the day. The Volkswagen drivers primarily put their faith in the softer Michelin tires, while the opposition opted for more of the hard compound. And the decision proved to be the correct one: Latvala and Anttila extended their lead by over 40 seconds to 43.1 seconds on the final day – with 94.91 kilometers against the clock the longest of the rally. Meanwhile, Mikkelsen and Fløene cut the gap to second-placed Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt (GB/GB, M-Sport-Ford) by 30 seconds to just 3.2 seconds.