Sunday | 05 Oct 2014

Latvala breaks asphalt jinx

Jari-Matti Latvala achieved a career-long dream by securing his maiden asphalt win at Rallye de France-Alsace on Sunday.

His 12th FIA World Rally Championship victory was the first by a Finn since four-time world champion Tommi Mäkinen triumphed in Italy in 1999. It ensured the fight for the drivers’ title continues to the penultimate round in Spain later this month.

Andreas Mikkelsen - matched career-best result in second

Latvala came close to breaking his asphalt curse in Germany in August but crashed out of the lead on the final morning. He made no mistakes here to lead for all but one of the 18 special stages in a Volkswagen Polo R to win by 44.8sec.

“I was pretty nervous this morning after my mistake in Germany. I had to take that lesson and without that experience I wouldn’t have been able to be as strong today and have belief in myself,” he said.

“I’ve been waiting a long time to win on asphalt and done a lot of work for that and now it has finally come. I’ve been able to take some big steps this year and this is one of the most important,” said Latvala, who was greeted at the end of the final stage by fellow Finn and 1981 world champion Ari Vatanen.

Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen matched Latvala during the first day and led briefly, but settled for second for the third time this year. Kris Meeke was 20.5sec behind in third, taking his fourth podium of the season in a Citroen DS3.

Kris Meeke - fourth podium

Robert Kubica was on course for a career-best fourth after demoting Dani Sordo on the final morning, but spun his Ford Fiesta RS into a ditch in the final test. Sordo secured the place, his Hyundai i20 12.0sec ahead of Mikko Hirvonen.

Elfyn Evans was sixth after a final day duel with Mads Østberg ended when the Norwegian missed a pace note and went off the road briefly in the final stage. The gap between them was just 1.7sec.

Hyundai duo Thierry Neuville and Bryan Bouffier were eighth and ninth, with Martin Prokop completing the leaderboard.

Sébastien Ogier took maximum bonus points by winning the live TV Power Stage, some consolation after a faulty gearbox sensor and a timing error ruled him out of contention on the first day. He will be champion if he scores one point more than Latvala in Spain.

The mixed surface Rally RACC Rally de España is based in Salou on 23 - 26 October.

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