In Petter Solberg's latest exclusive column on Crash.net, the Ford World Rally Team man looks back on Rally Argentina, where he fought back from his day one disappointment to finish sixth in his Fiesta RS WRC, and give the Blue Oval its 150th consecutive points finish in the WRC...
I've got to admit I have mixed emotions when I look back at Argentina. The car was – and is – fantastic and it is just waiting for a driver to win another event with it. I was really hoping I could take the victory on this one and having led on Friday and then to end up having to re-start on Saturday in eleventh is... I don't even have the words for it. Luckily though, we managed to climb up to sixth by the finish and at least maintain our second place in the Drivers' Championship.
Overall then, it was another rollercoaster event, with highs and lows – a bit like Portugal. It was fantastic to make such a strong start and to be leading by 20.1 seconds after SS3 was very encouraging. The car just felt unbelievably quick and reliable and I was really hoping that this could be the one.
Then in the fourth stage I was driving in the ruts when the sump guard hit some exposed bedrock. That impact bent the left steering arm and while we could continue, unfortunately it failed 10 kilometres later at a sixth gear crest. That was gutting and all the more so as we were only 6 kilometres from the end of the stage. Chris [Patterson – my co-driver] and I did try and make repairs, but once we fixed that and started to try and go again we discovered another problem and were forced out for the day. It was very frustrating. I don't really think it was my fault or an issue with the car not being strong enough. It is just one of those things that can happen in rallying.
The next day we rejoined under the Rally 2 regulations and began the fight back. I was pleased we then won nine of the last ten stages, and all of those on the final day, including the Power Stage. That was a great bonus and those extra three points could make all the difference.
In total we were quickest on 11 of the 19 stages, which again proves that if everything works for us, we are going to get to stand on the top step of the podium again. It also shows how amazing the Fiesta RS WRC is too. It is easy to drive and easy to understand and while we did make a few set-up changes, that is only natural as you strive to find as much performance as possible.
Unfortunately, Jari-Matti [Latvala – my regular team-mate] had to miss this event after he broke his collarbone in training. That was a real shame and I really feel for him, but I am sure he will be back and ready to fight again in Greece.
His stand-in, Dani Sordo did a good job though, and I enjoyed having him in the team in Argentina. He is a great guy and showed good pace. I was just so disappointed for him when he had to retire from third on the final stage. That was a big blow for him and the team, but at least with my sixth we kept Ford's points run intact. It now stretches for 150 consecutive events and that says a lot about Ford and M-Sport. On a personal note, it is also nice to be part of all that history.
This year's Rally Argentina was the longest WRC event since the Safari back in 2002 and I enjoyed it very much, although I could have done without that incident on the Friday!
Personally, I think longer endurance style events, like we had in Argentina, are a plus. They add some new – or should that be old! – flavour into the championship and we always need that. Argentina itself was as brilliant as ever. The fans and atmosphere are always great and I don't think you get anything like this on any other event. The steaks are to die for too!
It's off to Greece next and that is another great event. The Acropolis is however, very demanding and very tough, both on man and machine. I will be training hard for it to ensure I am in tip-top shape and ready for the heat.
We have a test planned ahead of the trip there and that should help ensure we are well prepared and ready to do well.
I'm looking forward to it; it is a true classic and I have finished on the podium there five times, including winning in 2004. I feel I can win and I am going to do my best to make sure my next win comes in Greece later this month.Petter Solberg
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