11 February 2012
Latvala extends Sweden lead
Jari-Matti Latvala will start Sunday's final day in Sweden with a 23 second advantage over Mikko Hirvonen; Petter Solberg lies third, 28.4 seconds further back - and 11.1 seconds up on Mads Ostberg in fourth...
Ford World Rally Team's Jari-Matti Latvala has further extended his lead on Rally Sweden this afternoon.
Latvala began the second day by edging ahead slightly on the opening loop, increasing his cushion over his former team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen from 16.8 seconds last night to 18.6 seconds going into the mid-day halt. Jari-Matti then pushed on this afternoon, taking two more stage wins in his Fiesta RS WRC car and eventually ending the leg with the gap up to 23 seconds.
"It's a good lead now, but I have to keep this position to the end of the rally," Latvala said. "That's what matters. I needed to play my cards right today. Knowing when to attack, when to look after the tyres and when to change them was what it was all about.
"I know Mikko will attack in the morning so I can't think about easing off. I have a bigger lead than I did this morning which gives me confidence, but I need to be wide awake from the very first kilometre."
Hirvonen meanwhile hasn't given up and while he has seen his fellow countryman edge ahead, the Citroen newbie has promised to keep pushing on Sunday and try to repeat the form that saw him top the times on both runs through Fredriksberg (as SS13 and SS17).
"Obviously, I'm a bit disappointed that I haven't managed to reduce the gap, because I would really like to win this rally for the third time running," Hirvonen said. "However, I am particularly pleased with the feeling I am getting in the car, and that's very encouraging for the next few rallies. Under normal racing conditions, for sure, I won't be able to win the rally. But you never know, something unexpected might happen. I'll keep putting Jari-Matti under pressure tomorrow."
Petter Solberg is currently on course for the final place on the rostrum. However while he had been right up with Hirvonen last night, he is now almost 30 seconds adrift. Furthermore with Mads Ostberg only 11.1 seconds back in fourth, he knows P3 is far from assured.
"It's the first time I've driven competitively in the loose in this car and it's tough to jump straight into a new car and find the right pace immediately," Solberg said. "Tomorrow will be hard because Mads is close behind me. I have to be careful and not go crazy, but I really want to retain third and also to finish as top Norwegian."
"For sure this morning was quite good for us and also in the afternoon everything was working a lot better than yesterday and we gained some time on Petter," Ostberg added. "We decided to take a different tyre strategy on Sagen so that we will have better tyres for tomorrow and I think it paid off. That worked out really well but then we had an electrical problem in the car which cut the engine. It was just over a few hundred meters but we lost a lot of time.
"We had hoped to take about ten seconds from Petter on that stage but it didn't happen so it was a bit unfortunate.
"But okay, the gap is only eleven seconds tomorrow and I think it's possible because tomorrow it's all flat-out and no strategy. I want the podium for sure, but Petter wants it too so we shall just have to wait and see what happens tomorrow. I think it will be a big fight!"
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