The BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team has confirmed that Jari-Matti Latvala will start Rally Sweden at the wheel of the same car in which he suffered one of the biggest accidents of his career last season.
Latvala was lucky to escape unscathed from the accident in Portugal last year, when he went off the road and rolled twelve times down a hillside.
A report prepared by M-Sport – the team behind the Ford WRC programme – revealed afterwards that the cutting edge safety features on the Focus WRC had been the main factor in both Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila escaping serious injury, with the cockpit of the car emerging virtually intact thanks to a strong internal roll cage.
Despite the apparent damage to the car from outside, the Focus has now been stripped back to a bare shell and completely rebuilt, with Latvala returning to the wheel of the same machine for the opening round of the 2010 season.
"When I saw the car being rebuilt, I could see some places where the welding was new,” the Finn said. “That made me think back to the crash, but I really have no problems about climbing into the car again. The team has done an amazing job to rebuild it and I can't wait to be back out competing again in Sweden.”
M-Sport chief Malcolm Wilson added that the fact the car was able to return to competition was a sign of the strength of the current WRC machinery.
"The accident looked horrific but structurally, the shell stood up to the pounding remarkably well,” he said. “It underwent rigorous checks to ensure there were no weaknesses and the decision was taken to rebuild the car for future use.
“Crew safety is our prime concern in the build of any rally car and our increased efforts in this area are reflected in the fact that Jari-Matti's car lives on."