Sebastien Ogier says he expects a tough challenge from team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala when the World Rally Championship season resumes this weekend in Finland.
Ogier takes a commanding 64 point lead into the event having already won four times this season and will hope to join the select band of non-Nordic drivers to taste success on the event dubbed as as the 'Grand Prix of Rallying'.
Carlos Sainz, Didier Auriol, Markko Martin and Sebastien Loeb are the only drivers to win the event who hail from somewhere other than Finland or Sweden.
In order to join that group, Ogier will need to see off the challenge of Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, and the Frenchman admitted that he expected the Finn to be right in contention for victory.
“I would obviously like to hold onto my lead in the World Championship until the end of the season,” he reflected. “The comfortable position we find ourselves in allowed us to enjoy the summer break. I want to go on the attack again in Finland, primarily to score important points, but also to put myself in contention for my first win there.
“I love this rally. However, the Finnish drivers will represent a very stern challenge, particularly my team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. It is the fastest rally on the calendar. The environment is beautiful and the route very smooth. There are also an awful lot of quick crests and blind corners in Finland. The Finnish drivers are used to this type of route.
“This year, we will take on the 'Ouninpohja' special stage again – a very famous place in Finland. I will be driving a World Rally Car there for the first time, and am really looking forward to it.”
Team boss Jost Capito meanwhile admitted that the event was set to provide a sterm challenge for VW as it gives the Polo WRC its debut on the quickest rally on the schedule.
“For many, the Rally Finland is the epitome of rallying and one of the World Championship's icons,” he said. “Top speeds of about 200 kilometres per hour, jumps at 170 km/h with roughly 60 metres of air time – it does not get any more spectacular than this, and up to 100,000 enthusiastic fans flock to the route to follow the action live every year.
“It is a point of honour that Volkswagen should not only put on a good, fair show for its fans. The Polo R WRC must also prove itself in these difficult conditions and with a high percentage of the route at full throttle.”