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Latvala, Solberg ready for Algarve adventure

Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg are gearing up for this weekend's Rallye de Portugal boosted by their relative success in Mexico last time out.

Ford World Rally Team takes on next week's FIA World Rally Championship encounter in Portugal intent on carrying forward the form displayed in Mexico earlier this month, where its Fiesta RS World Rally Car topped the speed test rankings after stepping up its dirt road pace.

Rally de Portugal is already regarded as the most technically difficult gravel round of the season, as narrow tracks, blind crests, and trees and stones lining the roadside, leave no room for error. However, the organisers have made this year's rally even tougher by introducing new roads, night-time competition and extending the competitive distance by almost 13 per cent.

Given Mexico's standing as a specialist event due to altitude, Portugal represents the first 'traditional' gravel rally of the kind which comprise the bulk of the championship. It is regarded as the truest form guideline so far, and offers Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg the opportunity to lay down a marker for the six loose-surface rounds to come.

After being a regular fixture since the WRC was launched in 1973, Rally de Portugal dropped out of the series in 2002. It was reborn in 2007 with a new home in the Algarve holiday region on the south coast and has quickly developed into one of the most popular rounds. The fourth round of the WRC season is based on the edge of Faro, with most of the competition in the hills above the town, mixing fast, open roads with technical sections on hard, abrasive tracks. Thursday afternoon's start ceremony is in Lisbon, after which drivers tackle three tests in darkness which have been planned on higher, open ground to combat the threat of hanging dust in the still evening air.

“We prepared for the night stages by driving in the dark at our test this week,” said Latvala who, along with new team-mate Solberg, won exactly half the special stages in Mexico, "I drove 48km on Wednesday and that really helped for what could be a crucial part of the rally. It depends on the weather, but hanging dust could be an issue and three-minute intervals between cars may not be enough to allow it to clear. It's on the limit, and the organisers may have to consider four minutes.

“It's difficult to say now if we should be first in the start order, or brave enough to run further back. First would ensure a clear run, but the disadvantage would be the slippery loose gravel on the road surface which would be cleared if we start lower down. The important thing is to ensure we do well in qualifying so we're in a position to make that choice. Then it's in our own hands.

“It's hard to follow the rhythm of the roads in Portugal. There are many new roads in Friday's leg, so we must concentrate hard when making our pace notes in the recce. I had a fantastic feeling with the car in Mexico. It was disappointing not to finish, and that's brought a little more pressure, but the confidence gained from our speed is a real boost for the gravel rounds to come.”

The 26-year old has a best result of third last year from his four starts in Portugal, while Solberg's best result is second, from when the rally was held in the Algarve for the first time in 2007.

“Portugal is a good rally and I'm hungry for success there,” said the Norwegian veteran, “I'm third in the drivers' championship so I feel positive and I had a good test in Portugal this week. I drove for 220km and made a few more improvements to the set-up of my car. I know from the last round that the Fiesta RS WRC is fast on gravel, so hopefully these improvements will make it even better.




Related Pictures

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Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) Miikka Anttila (FIN), Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Ford World Rally Team
Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) Miikka Anttila (FIN), Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Ford World Rally Team
Petter Solberg (NOR), Ford Fiesta WRC, Ford World Rally Team
Petter Solberg (NOR) Chris Patterson (GBR), Ford Fiesta WRC, Ford World Rally Team
Sebastien Ogier collects his WRC champion`s trophy at the FIA Prizegiving in Doha
Ford Olsbergs MSE celebrates winning the RX Teams` Championship
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Jari Ketomaa (FIN) Kaj Lindstrom (FIN), Ford Fiesta R5, WRC2 winners
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Jari Ketomaa (FIN) Kaj Lindstrom (FIN), Ford Fiesta R5, WRC2 winners
Nasser Al Attiyah, Giovanni Bernacchini (Ford Fiesta RRC, #40), WRC 2 World Champions
Jari Ketomaa (FIN) Kaj Lindstrom (FIN), Ford Fiesta R5, WRC2 winners
Jari Ketomaa (FIN) Kaj Lindstrom (FIN), Ford Fiesta R5, WRC2 winners
Nasser Al Attiyah, Giovanni Bernacchini (Ford Fiesta RRC, #40), WRC 2 World Champions

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DafyddLarcombe

March 26, 2012 4:57 PM
Last Edited 996 days ago

I think Sebastien will really have his work cut out for him if he is to extend his Championship lead. It will be interesting to see if the Ford boys can reach the end of the event without a puncture or any other dramas If this can be achieved i think Ford can and will win this event and get the other car home on the Podium too based on the pace shown in Mexico, I also believe that a lot of thought has to go into the tactics of road position, imagine choosing position 1 only to learn that the organisers later extened the gaps to 4 minutes leaving the driver to struggle with the loose gravel and less dust for drivers coming behind The Dust was very bad in Spain last year in the dark, even with 4 minute gaps, I would still say that its going to be better to open the road for who ever wins the qualifying stage



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