Jari-Matti Latvala gave Volkswagen first blood at the 2013 Rally Italia Sardegna on Thursday morning with the fastest time in the qualifying run through the 3.86-km Monte Pinu stage.
Latvala completed the stage in 3m12.66s in his Polo R WRC, putting him 0.690s seconds ahead of Evgeny Novikov
who clinched second fastest for Qatar M-Sport WRT in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
Latvala felt that this made up for a slip that he made in qualifying at the last event: "After the qualifying stage in Greece where I made a mistake, I had to do better here - and I did,” the Finn told wrc.com
after qualifying was complete. "It felt good and that puts me in the best position to choose where I want to start.”
Despite that mistake in Greece, Latvala went on to win the Acropolis Rally - and his VW team boss has high hopes of a repeat success here in Sardina this weekend.
“I came here to see whether his performance was the same as it had been in Greece," said Jost Capito. "I'm so pleased to see that it is. His driving was outstanding and it has given him the widest choice of start positions.”
Novikov said that he was happy to be able to take second choice of starting order: “I tried to win but second fastest is okay for me,” said the Russian. “I'm happy with that. It's very good to have such a choice for tomorrow.”
That means Sébastien Ogier - who leads the standings with 126 points, 52 clear of Latvala who is in second place in the championship - will have the third pick after finishing over a second and a half off the back of Latvala on Thursday.
"Not so bad, it was quite a good drive,” insisted Ogier. “I could have been a bit faster but it was rough and narrow and it would have been really easy to take a wheel off in there."
Mikko Hirvonen admitted that he was disappointed to only manage the fourth quickest time in his Citroen
DS3 WRC: "I hit a rock midway through. The time isn't bad but it's not good enough,” he explained.
Qatar World Rally Team's Thierry Neuville rounded off the top-five times and was the only other driver within two seconds of Latvala's top time of the morning. “I'm not so happy with that,” he confessed. “I don't have enough traction under braking, but I can't change that now. Also I was too careful in places where I should have been faster."
The setting of the starting order for Friday's first stages will now take place after lunch in Sardinia.Rally Italia Sardegna - Qualifying stage
1. #7 Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen Polo R WRC M 3m12.66s
2. #5 Evgeny Novikov
Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC M + 0.690s
3. #8 Sébastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen Polo R WRC M + 1.571s
4. #2 Mikko Hirvonen
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen DS3 WRC M + 1.742s
5. #11 Thierry Neuville
Qatar World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC M + 1.847s
6. #4 Mads Østberg
Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC M + 2.366s
7. #3 Daniel Sordo
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen DS3 WRC M + 2.741s
8. #9 Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Volkswagen Polo R WRC M + 3.779s
9. #21 Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC M + 4.997s
10. #22 Per-Günnar Andersson
AT-Rally Ford Fiesta RS WRC M + 6.922s
11. #6 Elfyn Evans
Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC M + 10.689s
12. #12 Michal Kosciuszko
Lotos Team WRC Ford Fiesta RS WRC M + 12.380s
13. #10 Khalid Al-Qassimi
Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT Citroen DS3 WRC M + 14.817s