WRC 2015 – Rally Portugal
Volkswagen enjoyed another dominating run in the latest round of the 2015 WRC season, taking every position on the podium in Portugal. Standing at top honors was Jari-Matti Latvala, who managed to stave off a hard charge from defending world champion Sebastien Ogier, ending the weekend only 8.2 seconds ahead of his teammate. At third was Andreas Mikkelsen, who finished 20.4 seconds behind the rally leader.
Latvala managed to capitalize on his back marker starting position by shooting to the top position Friday afternoon, taking full advantage of the cleaner road conditions offered by the swept gravel stages. It was the 13th career victory for the 30-year-old driver, who had not seen a win since October of 2014.
“After the last three rallies some people were doubting if I would come back,” Latvala told WRC.com. “It was one of the worst situations in my rally career so to come and win here is unique. I really appreciate this victory feeling.”
With a fresh infusion of points, Latvala climbs from ninth to fifth in the driver’s championship. Meanwhile, Ogier increased his championship lead to a 42-point margin.
Northern Irishman Kris Meeke, who clinched victory in the previous round at Argentina, was the only challenger to VW’s dominance, becoming embroiled in a fight with Mikkelsen for third. Unfortunately for Meeke, a broken anti-roll bar on his Citroen DS3 allowed Mikkelsen to slip by, knocking him back to fourth place.
Next, the WRC heads to Italy for more gravel at the Rally Italia Sardegna June 11th through 14th.
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The 2015 season so far
While it’s true that the 2015 season of the WRC has yet to reach the halfway mark, it doesn’t take a rally Nostradamus to see what the final results will probably end up looking like. So far, Volkswagen and its Polo R has been consistent, reliable, and very, very fast. To win a rally, a driver needs to have absolute faith in the dependability of his car, and since 2013, that’s exactly what VW Motorsports has been able to provide.
To win a rally, a driver needs to have absolute faith in the dependability of his car, and since 2013, that’s exactly what VW Motorsports has been able to provide.
The Polo R is responsible for two driver’s championships and two constructor’s championships, and with Ogier some 42 points ahead of his teammate Mikkelsen in the overall driver’s standings, and VW 43 points ahead of Citroen in the constructor’s standings, it’s going to take a pretty big reversal to upset the current projection.
Of course, part of the equation is Ogier, who won the first three rallies of the year outright. Despite contending with a disadvantageous road position, he still managed a second-place finish in Portugal, adding to his already substantial lead. Truly, it’s hard to see anyone challenging him for the championship victory.
That being said, this is rally racing and anything could happen. Norwegian Citroen driver Mads Ostberg has been doing well, and currently sits in third in the driver’s championship, 48 points behind Ogier. Meeke has also had moments of success, although more sporadically. And while it may sound like Ogier has a big gap in the front (and he does), a first-place finish will still net 25 points, which means all it takes is a few poor finishes for Ogier and a few good finishes for those behind him to rearrange the standings.
Do I think VW and Ogier can be stopped? Probably not. But I can’t but cheer for the underdogs.