Jari-Matti Latvala put a difficult start to the 2013 WRC season firmly behind him by taking victory on the Acropolis Rally of Greece this weekend, his maiden triumph with Volkswagen Motorsport.
Latvala was boosted by two third places on the previous events in Portugal and Argentina, and with three of his main rivals falling by the wayside early on in Greece - including his team-mate and runaway championship leader, Sebastien Ogier
- the Finn duly took advantage, eventually powering his way home 1 minute 50 seconds up on Dani Sordo.
Latvala had, however, made an inauspicious start to the sixth round in the championship, and in qualifying was a lowly ninth.
Despite that though, the Finn concluded the first leg on Friday in third place overall, just 8.8 seconds behind Sordo, while Evgeny Novikov
was the surprise leader, with a 30.3 second advantage.
Ogier meanwhile, as mentioned, was already out of the fight, after a fuel pressure problem sidelined the Frenchman in SS1. Mikko Hirvonen
and Mads Osberg also lost time in Kineta-Pissia, the former dropping almost six minutes with a steering problem, while the latter lost a wheel and conceded over three minutes.
The drama continued on Saturday too, with Novikov the next high profile casualty, when he hit a rock in SS4 – the second test of the leg – and broke a wheel, something that sent the Russian plummeting down the leaderboard. Latvala then assumed the lead and put in charge to go into the mid-day halt with an 18.7 second advantage, a margin he more than tripled on the repeat loop.
With over a minute in hand, Latvala could afford to take it fairly cautiously on Sunday and so he did en-route
to his eighth WRC career win. The result vaults him up to second in the Drivers' Championship, 52 points behind Ogier.
“Incredible!” said Latvala. “It feels amazing, it's been a tough start to the season, but it is very nice to win here. It's ten years since I first came here, it's taken a long time to win. It is a very important result for me.”
Sordo meanwhile claimed the runners-up spot and while he never looked like challenging Latvala for the victory, it was still a very measured and intelligent drive from the Spaniard. Crucially it keeps Citroen
very much in the hunt for the Manufacturers' title too, with VW increasing its lead by only 4 points, from 14 to 18.
“It's been a good weekend and we are happy we didn't break anything. We scored points and we built up our confidence. In the previous rallies we tried to win and made mistakes, but now we made less. The end was good but Jari-Matti was too hard to beat.”