Ford World Rally Team drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila today won Wales Rally GB for the second consecutive season. The Finns won this 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship by 27.8 seconds in a Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car, securing their seventh world rally victory after three days of competition through slippery Welsh forests.
Team-mates Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson provided further celebration for the Ford squad by claiming third in another Fiesta RS WRC after a thrilling final day battle. Solberg swapped places with Sébastien Loeb through virtually every speed test in today’s third leg, eventually missing out on second by just 0.9sec after 19 special stages and 324.92km of action.
Despite moving forward in the calendar from its traditional November date, conditions on the fast and flowing forest roads of central and south Wales were as tricky as ever. Rain made the gravel tracks muddy, but Ford controlled the rally from the start as first Solberg and then Latvala led.
Solberg held the advantage for Friday’s opening two tests in mid-Wales before Latvala moved to the front of the field. The 27-year-old Finn was never again headed, extending his advantage yesterday in the Brecon Beacon mountains and measuring his pace today in the Vale of Neath to secure his second victory of the year.
“This win means a lot to me,” said Latvala. “Rally GB is like a second home event because I started my career here 10 years ago, and I have more experience of this event than my own rally in Finland. It’s one of my favourite rounds and this is the first time in my career that I have won the same rally in consecutive seasons.
“We had some doubts about our speed after the previous gravel rally, but we came back strongly. The team has done so much work since then and it paid off here, so this win is for everyone in the team. The car has been so fast all season but we’ve had too many disappointments and finally we delivered the result we deserved,” he added.
The excitement today came from 37-year-old Solberg’s duel with Loeb. The Norwegian started 6.4sec ahead of his French rival, but Loeb turned his deficit into a 2.9sec lead midway through the leg. Solberg regained second, only for Loeb to reclaim the position in the penultimate stage and the pair began the final 15.33km test divided by 0.1sec. Although Solberg moved in front again in the test, he could not hold on but was still delighted with a podium on a rally he has won four times.
“It was a massive battle!” enthused Solberg. “It rained in the penultimate stage but I managed to keep the fight alive into the final test. I moved in front but made a little mistake when I touched a small bank. I came back again but it wasn’t quite enough.
“I could have pushed harder but I didn’t want to go crazy because a double podium is so crucial to Ford. That was more important than destroying a rally by risking everything to take second. It was so exciting to be involved in such a close battle. It was so tense before the final stage that neither Seb nor I could look at each other!” he added.
Ford World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson described first and third as ‘a great result’. “To dominate the rally in the way we did will give a great confidence boost for everyone in the team. We’ve had a difficult season and it hasn’t been easy at times, but our team spirit shone through here. This win will give Jari-Matti great encouragement for the rest of the season. Petter had a fantastic battle for second and although he missed out, he can be equally happy with his display,” he said.
Gerard Quinn, senior manager for Ford Racing in Europe, said: “Jari-Matti did an outstanding job here. After a career-best result on asphalt in Germany last month, he had a great test for this rally and came to Wales with real momentum. Petter had a nail-biting finish while fighting for second. It didn’t quite work out but he, too, delivered a stunning performance and this is a great boost for the team.”
News from other Ford teams
Adapta World Rally Team’s Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson finished fourth in a Fiesta RS WRC after overcoming an engine misfire this morning. M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov / Ilka Minor moved up to sixth, despite dropping 30sec when they slid off the road in this morning’s opening stage. They displaced team-mates Ott Tänak / Kuldar Sikk, who retired after the front right lower suspension arm broke on their car. Matthew Wilson / Scott Martin were ninth and top Britons, while Martin Prokop / Zdenĕk Hrůza claimed 10th in the Czech Ford National Team car.
The championship reverts to asphalt next month when Strasbourg hosts Rallye de France on 4 - 7 October, the final pure sealed surface round of the season.
Leaderboard after Day 3
1. J-M Latvala/M Anttila FIN Ford Fiesta RS 3hr 03min 40.3sec
2. S Loeb/D Elena FRA Citroen DS3 3hr 04min 08.1sec
3. P Solberg/C Patterson NOR Ford Fiesta RS 3hr 04min 09.0sec
4. M Østberg/J Andersson NOR Ford Fiesta RS 3hr 04min 50.9sec
5. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Citroen DS3 3hr 05min 09.8sec
6. E Novikov/I Minor RUS Ford Fiesta RS 3hr 07min 17.3sec
7. T Neuville/N Gilsoul BEL Citroen DS3 3hr 07min 52.2sec
8. M Wilson/S Martin GBR Ford Fiesta RS 3hr 09min 40.7sec
9. M Prokop/Z Hrůza CZE Ford Fiesta RS 3hr 10min 39.2sec
10 N Al Attiyah/G Bernacchini QAT Citroen DS3 3hr 13min 12.4sec
1. S Loeb 219pts
2. M Hirvonen 158pts
3. P Solberg 119pts
4. M Østberg 114pts
5. J-M Latvala 113pts
6. E Novikov 63pts
1. Citroen Total WRT 348pts
2. Ford WRT 237pts
3. M-Sport Ford WRT 123pts
4. Qatar WRT 63pts
5. Adapta WRT 61pts
6. Citroen Junior WRT 60pts
For more information:
Contact Mark Wilford or Russell Atkins at the Ford World Rally Team
media desk in Cardiff Tel: + 44 2920 636418. Images available at www.worldrallypics.com/ford