Latvala shows firm resolve to retain second at Rallye de France

Latvala shows firm resolve to retain second at Rallye de France
Listen to this article

Ford World Rally Team drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila maintained their grip on second place in Rallye de France today. During one of the longest day’s competition of the FIA World Rally Championship season, they won three speed tests in a Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car to strengthen their position with one day remaining.

Jari-Matti Latvala
Jari-Matti Latvala

Photo by: Ford Motor Company

Team-mates Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson retired in the opening stage after a spectacular accident which felled a telegraph pole. There were no injuries and while the damage to their Fiesta RS WRC prevented them from continuing, they will return tomorrow under Rally 2 regulations.

This second leg of the 11th round of the championship offered a massive 192.80km of competition, contained within two identical loops of four stages. After leaving the rally base in Strasbourg, drivers journeyed south-west for asphalt tests through vineyards and the northern Vosges mountains. Conditions were dry and Michelin’s hard compound tyres were the natural option throughout.

Latvala restarted 13.1sec behind Sébastien Loeb but the 27-year-old Finn dropped 10sec after sliding into a ditch early in the second and longest stage of the event, the 43.45km Pays d’Ormont.

“It was disappointing to lose time but I knew that long stage was important,” said Latvala. “I knew if I put Loeb under pressure there, I might have a chance of catching him.

“The stage was dry and open at the start, but after 6km the road went into a forest and became damp. After a fast narrow section I braked, but the brakes locked and my speed was too much for the next slow right corner. I tried to turn in but went off the road into a bank. I restarted but there was a lot of mud in the front left wheel, and the vibration affected the braking for the rest of the stage,” he said.

Latvala bounced back to win the ultra-fast 24.04km Pays de la Haute Bruche at a remarkable average speed of 128.60kph. The final stage of the morning loop was cancelled for safety reasons due to the large number of spectators in the test, so Latvala returned to service in Strasbourg 30.0sec behind Loeb and 19.0sec clear of Mikko Hirvonen in third.

Latvala was fastest overall through the four repeated afternoon stages, tying for fastest time in the first and winning the last. He returned to Strasbourg for the final overnight halt 29.7sec behind the Frenchman and 24.3sec ahead of his fellow Finn.

“My speed was good again today, although I’m disappointed I made a mistake this morning,” he said. “Tomorrow’s stages are short so it will be difficult to attack. But I’m thinking more about preserving second than trying to win, which will be almost impossible unless Loeb makes a mistake. My car is fast enough to win the rally, but it’s the driver that has to improve!

“I’m still not confident when there is gravel and dirt on the road from the cuts, but I’m starting to understand how to approach those situations so that’s pleasing,” added Latvala.

Solberg started in fourth and was fastest in the opening split of this morning’s first stage. However, he left the road soon after, his Fiesta RS WRC ploughing through dense vines before hitting a telegraph pole. The impact damaged the steering and suspension at the front right of his car

“I had a clean run from the start of the stage but went off the road at a fast left corner and into the vines,” explained the 37-year-old Norwegian. “I kept my foot on the throttle because I knew the road was coming up again, but I didn’t know exactly where or when. The windscreen was covered with leaves so I couldn’t see properly and the road came up sooner than I thought.

“The car went straight across the stage and into the vines on the other side of the road. I eventually hit a telegraph pole. It was a big hit but I didn’t immediately realise the pole had fallen down. It was only later that I knew it toppled over. I’m disappointed because I had a clean rally up to that point and I was confident of getting third,” he added.

Ford World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson was encouraged by Latvala’s speed. “He matched the pace of the leader throughout the day, and was comfortable at that speed. Unfortunately he made a mistake early in the longest stage. He paid the price because when you make an error so soon in such a long stage, it’s hard to regain your confidence with so many kilometres to go,” he said.

News from other Ford teams

Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson are on top of a tense three-car battle with Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville. The Adapta World Rally Team duo climbed from seventh to fourth, but just 8.0sec cover the trio. M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Ott Tänak / Kuldar Sikk and Evgeny Novikov / Ilka Minor continued their duel, with Tänak maintaining his advantage in seventh by 14.2sec, despite stalling his engine at the start of stage 15. Martin Prokop / Zdenĕk Hrůza broke a wheel in stage 11 but the Czech Ford National Team pairing climbed to 10th. French pair Julien Maurin / Nicolas Klinger are 13th while Brazil World Rally Team’s Daniel Oliveira / Carlos Magalhaes are 21st.

Tomorrow’s Route

The final leg is the shortest of the weekend and takes competitors north of Strasbourg. After departing the city at 07.50, competitors face two identical loops of three stages before returning to Strasbourg for the finish ceremony at 15.47. Drivers must cover all 61.54km of competition without the opportunity of service. The opening stage of the afternoon loop, the 17.08km Vignoble de Cleebourg, comprises the Power Stage, with bonus points on offer to the fastest three drivers. The last test of each loop runs through the streets of Haguenau.

Source: Ford Racing

shares
comments
 Loeb extends lead in Rallye de France for Citroen
Previous article

Loeb extends lead in Rallye de France for Citroen

Next article

Loeb holds lead in Rallye de France with title in sight

Loeb holds lead in Rallye de France with title in sight
Load comments
Why Loeb v Ogier duel gave the WRC's new hybrid era the ideal start Prime

Why Loeb v Ogier duel gave the WRC's new hybrid era the ideal start

OPINION: Any lingering concerns about the new-for-2022 Rally1 hybrid cars were dispelled by a blockbuster opening round to the World Rally Championship in Monte Carlo. The duel between Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier created a perfect feel-good story that will carry the series forward into its new era.

WRC
7 h
How Monte masters stole the show as WRC's hybrid era blasted off Prime

How Monte masters stole the show as WRC's hybrid era blasted off

The new Rally1 hybrid cars made their competition debuts in Monte Carlo, but it was two semi-retired drivers who took centre stage in a thrilling battle between two of the World Rally Championship's most successful names. Here's how Sebastien Loeb completed a remarkable return on his M-Sport debut by beating reigning champion Sebastien Ogier

WRC
Jan 24, 2022
The WRC heirs scrapping to assume Ogier's throne in 2022 Prime

The WRC heirs scrapping to assume Ogier's throne in 2022

Eight-time World Rally Championship king Sebastien Ogier has abdicated (well, gone part-time) in 2022, meaning for just the second time in the past decade we will have a different champion this year. We pick out the drivers gunning to take his place and take over the mantle as the WRC's new ruler

WRC
Jan 20, 2022
The WRC star that's earned the right to lead M-Sport's revival Prime

The WRC star that's earned the right to lead M-Sport's revival

Part-time opportunities with Citroen and Hyundai have offered brief glimpses of what Craig Breen can do in a World Rally Championship car. Now signed up by M-Sport to lead it into the WRC's new hybrid era, Breen has been given the chance he's pursued for so long and is determined to make the most of it

WRC
Jan 18, 2022
Why the WRC's 'modern Group B' era was rallying at its bonkers best Prime

Why the WRC's 'modern Group B' era was rallying at its bonkers best

The World Rally Championship has brought down the curtain on the aggressive, aero-laden generation of cars first introduced in 2017 that have been likened to the 1980s Group B icons. As the championship prepares to begin a new era of Rally1 hybrid cars, its stars explain just why the outgoing machines were so special

WRC
Dec 24, 2021
Ranking the top 10 WRC drivers of 2021 Prime

Ranking the top 10 WRC drivers of 2021

On the eve of a new hybrid era for the World Rally Championship, the 2021 season was a blockbuster fought out between Toyota's two top dogs, with a familiar figure eventually emerging on top after a final showdown at Monza. We pick out the 10 best performers from the top class and its supporting cast

WRC
Dec 21, 2021
Why Ogier's WRC swansong was a season to savour Prime

Why Ogier's WRC swansong was a season to savour

He’s shuffling into semi-rally-retirement, but Toyota star Sebastien Ogier was at the peak of his powers in the final season for the high downforce era-World Rally Championship cars. Despite Toyota's domination, there was still much to enjoy as the old master emerged atop a fierce title fight against teammate Elfyn Evans.

WRC
Dec 19, 2021
How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers Prime

How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers

After winning his eighth WRC title, Sebastien Ogier has drawn the curtain on his full-time rallying career. To understand Ogier's legacy, many of his former rivals, team-mates and colleagues have shared their thoughts on a vastly successful career

WRC
Nov 26, 2021