Ford most definitely had a fiesta in Sweden this year after the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship races concluded, with Ford World Rally Team driver Jari-Matti Latvala and co-pilot Miikka Anttila winning by 16.6 seconds. The victory is Ford’s sixth consecutive win for the winter rally, and marks the 50th world rally win for the M-sport and Ford partnership, which began in 1997.
During the first day of qualifying, Latvala managed to set the fastest time which gave him the privilege to select his starting position. The very next day, he gained 16.8 seconds over rival Mikko Hirvonen and his Citroen DS3, only to widen the gap by 23 seconds the following day. On the final run, he extended his lead to 35.6 seconds, making him seem unstoppable until he clipped an exposed rock hidden deep in the snow — puncturing a hole in his front right tire. This cut Latvala’s gain to 8.4 seconds, but he managed to zip through the penultimate stage without much trouble, achieving his ninth stage win of the rally. Latvala ended the day with 26 points to his name, while Hirvonen finished in a distant second with 18. However, Latvala scored no points in the Monte Carlo season opener, while Hirvonen captured 14 points, putting Hirvonen ahead of Latvala overall.
Latvala states, “Four years ago I won my first world rally here and became the youngest driver to do so. To return and win for a second time is very special. After retiring from the first round last month, I was under pressure to do well. And after making a mistake by hitting a rock, I knew I had to summon some extra speed and attack hard through the penultimate stage.”
Ford’s other Fiesta RS WRC duo of Peter Solberg and Chris Patterson finished in fourth place at Sweden this year, clipping the exact same rock in the exact same place as Latvala and Anttila.
“I was disappointed to lose third, but I’m now third in the championship and have closed on the leader, so it was a good weekend,” Solberg said. “I hit the same rock as Jari-Matti when I wasn’t cutting the bend but it was in the middle of the ruts and I couldn’t avoid it. It’s my first rally in the Fiesta RS WRC on the loose and I’m really encouraged to have been so competitive so quickly.”
It’s a strange coincidence for Ford’s WRC team to be running into the exact same obstacle causing both drivers valuable time. Coincidental? Very possible. We like to think the rock has been brought in for questioning until further notice.
So far, we have Citroen Total World Rally Team in first place of the Manufacturers Championship point standings with 65 points. The Ford WRC team is in second with 55 points. In Driver’s points after two events has Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb in first while 39 points, while Solberg (29 pts) and Latvala (26 pts) sit in 3rd and 4th place, respectively. Be sure to watch the third round of the Championship which will take place in Mexico March 8-11 2012 for the gravel event.