Ford and Solberg grab Fafe glory in perfect Portuguese warm-up

Victory was the best preparation possible for the upcoming Rally de Portugal for Ford World Rally Team duo Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson.
Ford World Rally Team's Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson chalked up their first victory for the squad today with a stunning performance to triumph in the Fafe Rally Sprint, a warm-up event for next weekend's Rally de Portugal.

Their win could hardly have been closer, as Solberg's Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car edged out world champion Sébastien Loeb by just two hundredths of a second.

Formerly a popular part of the Rally de Portugal route, the 6.34km Fafe gravel speed test east of Porto was resurrected for the first time since it last echoed to the sound of FIA World Rally Championship cars in 2001, after which the rally moved south to its current Algarve base.

Although a non-championship event, the Fafe Rally Sprint attracted 30 entries, among them the Fiesta RS World Rally Cars of Solberg and team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila. An estimated 100,000 fans lined the special stage, and they did not go away disappointed.

Although Latvala proved comfortably fastest on the first of three runs through the demanding stage, Solberg's second pass was swifter still, earning the popular Norwegian the right to drive the team's sole Fiesta RS WRC on the third and final test. Whilst disappointed not to make it through himself, Latvala admitted he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“I loved the character of the stage,” said the 26-year-old Finn. “I'd only ever seen it on video before, and there were some difficult jumps that made it really spectacular. I don't think I've ever seen so many people on a stage, and you could really sense their enthusiasm. It's a true classic, and I had a lot of fun out there. Of course, I would have liked to be the one doing the last run, but I guess I did two days of testing last week and Petter only one, so this was his payback!”

To add a touch of local flavour, Solberg's two Portuguese mechanics attached a national flag to the roof of the 37-year-old's Fiesta RS WRC for the winner-takes-all run. Following a characteristically effervescent drive, the 2003 world champion flashed across the finish line just ahead of Loeb.

“What an unbelievable stage,” said Solberg. “There were some really big and difficult jumps, but they only made it even more exciting. We want to take our sport close to the fans, and that is exactly what we did here. This was a team effort and a team victory, for me and for Jari-Matti and for all the guys who did such a good job again with the car. It feels great to win.

“I put on a big attack. There were a lot of people generating a lot of passion, and it was fantastic to be back here again. Fafe is truly a rallying place. I'm very happy, and I hope we can continue this way in the rally. We've taken the first step, and now Jari-Matti and I need to beat everybody else next week, too,” he added.

Rally de Portugal will get underway on Thursday in Lisbon, before competitors head south to Faro via three evening stages in the Alentejo region. They then face three days of challenging gravel speed tests in the Serra do Caldeirão hills above the Algarve, covering a total of 434.77km across 22 stages.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Petter Solberg (NOR) Chris Patterson (GBR), Ford Fiesta WRC, Ford World Rally Team
Petter Solberg (NOR) Chris Patterson (GBR), Ford Fiesta WRC, Ford World Rally Team
Petter Solberg (NOR) Chris Patterson (GBR), Ford Fiesta WRC, Ford World Rally Team
Petter Solberg (NOR), Ford Fiesta WRC, Ford World Rally Team
Podium, Petter Solberg (NOR) Chris Patterson (GBR), Ford Fiesta WRC, Ford World Rally Team
Junior ERC: Chris Ingram, Peugeot UK [Credit: Chris Ingram Rally]
Petter Solberg, James May, Top Gear [Credit: FIA World Rallycross]
Nicolas Fuchs (PER) Fernando Mussano (ARG), Ford Fiesta RRC
Jari Ketomaa (FIN) Kaj Lindstrom (FIN), Ford Fiesta R5
Nasser Al Attiyah, (Ford Fiesta RRC)
Nasser Al Attiyah, (Ford Fiesta RRC)
Nasser Al Attiyah, (Ford Fiesta RRC)
Robert Kubica,  Maciej S zczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC,  RK M-Sport World Rally Team)
Martin Prokop, Michal Ernst (Ford Fiesta RS WRC, #21 Jipocar Czech National Team)
Elfyn Evans, Daniel Barrit (Ford Fiesta WRC, #6 M-Sport World Rally Team)
Nasser Al Attiyah, Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Ford Fiesta RRC)
Nasser Al Attiyah, Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Ford Fiesta RRC)
Nasser Al Attiyah, Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Ford Fiesta RRC)

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MKD - Unregistered

March 25, 2012 10:15 PM

JML on every rally is very eager to take the first spot right from the beginning and that can be costly, as it proved twice. If that happen again here his confidence will be absolutely destroyed and Loeb will cruise to title number 9. It's better for him to stay calmer and see how things going on and to put more and more pressure with every stage. And if Petter achieve better result than JML it will be smarter for Wilson to put him as No. 1 driver.


March 26, 2012 5:09 PM

For MKD I totally agree with what you initially said above, but Jari is Fords immediate Future so they wont give number 1 status to a driver who is not assured of continuing with the squad next year. This would undermine what they have with Jari Matti But I do agree that Jari-Matti needs to maybe reel in that raw speed a little and maybe drive more like Seb and choose when to be on it and when to be cautious, no one can do that better than Seb Petter is doing a fine job and I believe will be retained in 2013 in the squad next to Jari-Matti if he continues doing a strong job as he is doing, I am very pleased to see his Luck is changing for the better

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