Tuesday | 06 Sep 2016

Latvala gearbox failure remains a mystery

Jari-Matti Latvala will tackle the upcoming Tour de Corse - Rallye de France (29 Sept - 2 Oct) without the security of a spare gearbox after one of his two allocated units failed at ADAC Rallye Deutschland for reasons that remain a mystery.

Latvala retired his Volkswagen Polo R just seven kilometres into the opening stage in Germany. He rejoined the next day and completed the rally using his spare gearbox. Under FIA component pairing regulations, which limit each top driver to just two gearboxes for the rounds in Germany and Corsica, the Finn must rely solely on this replacement unit in Corsica.

Meanwhile, the same regulations have prevented Volkswagen from opening the failed unit to investigate what went wrong, adding to concerns that the same problem could strike again.

Latvala first noticed the problem with the original gearbox when he was braking hard for a corner. "I went from sixth to fifth okay, but when I selected fourth with the [steering wheel] paddles the gearbox didn't shift down," he told wrc.com.

"I tried the emergency lever, and managed to get the lower gears, but when I tried to go back to the paddleshift it didn't work. This time the manual lever felt very solid - and I pushed it so hard it broke. I tried again on the paddle, but I heard a bang and I knew the gears were badly connected. There was a strong smell of oil and I stopped the car."

Team boss at the time Jost Capito promised an investigation to find out exactly what happened, in order to avoid similar damage occurring in the future. However, the earliest this post mortem can take place will be after the next round. 

"The problem is the gearbox is sealed and linked to the rally in Corsica so we will not be able to inspect it before then," the team's technical director Francois-Xavier Demaison told wrc.com 

"At this stage we don't know what the issue is. The gearbox was freshly rebuilt for this rally and there's no reason we can see why this should have happened. It came as a surprise. 

"We have been through a long process of validation and we haven't experienced a similar problem, so we really hope it's a one off," he added.


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