Ford World Rally Team’s drivers maintained a strong pace to retain third and fourth in Rally Finland as the second leg progressed this afternoon. Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila regained top spot in the internal Ford battle as they swapped places with team-mates Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson, returning to the Jyväskylä service park 2.8sec ahead of their colleagues.
The duo were separated by just a tenth of a second as this eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship headed to a trio of classic Rally Finland speed tests over fast gravel roads in forests near the city.
Latvala climbed back to third overall with third fastest time through the 11.38km Mökkiperä. The 27-year-old Finn, who modified the set-up of his Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car at the previous service, was then second in both the 13.92km Palsankylä and the 11.38km Lankamaa. He is 15.1sec from the lead.
“The changes we made to the car at the previous service brought an improvement,” said Latvala. “I have a better feeling now and the time differences over the last three stages were small. The rally hasn’t yet reached halfway in terms of distance so we have time to close the gap on the guys ahead.
“As always in Finland, the stages are so fast that taking time back in big chunks isn’t possible. If we can start to edge closer slowly but surely then I’ll be happy. It’s not easy and I haven’t been at my best so far but I will improve. It’s all about finding a rhythm and increasing my confidence and then the times will come,” added Latvala.
Solberg was fourth in Mökkiperä before taking third in both Palsankylä and Lankamaa. The 37-year-old Norwegian was hugely enjoying the battle for supremacy, which sees the top four cars covered by just 17.9sec.
“It’s exciting!” he enthused. “In every stage the time differences are so small. I’m pushing as hard as I can and I’m enjoying being involved in a fight that is as close as this. There’s no room for error at all because the gaps are so small. Even a half spin would prove costly, so it’s all very intense inside the car. That’s the way things usually are on this rally and that’s the way it should be here.”
Leaderboard after stage 8 of 18
1. S Loeb/D Elena FRA Citroen DS3 55min 33.4sec
2. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Citroen DS3 55min 38.4sec
3. J-M Latvala/M Anttila FIN Ford Fiesta RS 55min 48.5sec
4. P Solberg/C Patterson NOR Ford Fiesta RS 55min 51.3sec
5. M Østberg/J Andersson NOR Ford Fiesta RS 56min 03.1sec
6. T Neuville/N Gilsoul BEL Citroen DS3 56min 09.9sec
7. O Tänak/K Sikk EST Ford Fiesta RS 56min 41.7sec
8. J Ketomaa/M Stenberg FIN Ford Fiesta RS 57min 28.9sec
9. M Rantanen/M Lukka FIN Ford Fiesta RS 57min 32.3sec
10 M Prokop/Z Hrůza CZE Ford Fiesta RS 57min 56.1sec
For more information:
Contact Mark Wilford or Tone Nesheim Tonerud at the Ford World Rally Team
media desk in Jyväskylä Tel: + 358 14 685062. Images available at www.worldrallypics.com/ford