Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala
won Rally GB today to give the 'Blue Oval' a much needed victory.
Latvala and Ford had had to watch Sebastien Loeb
win the last five events in succession, but in Wales the tide finally turned and the Finn put in a top performance at the wheel of his Fiesta RS WRC to take the honours.
Latvala took the lead of the tenth round in the 2012 World Rally Championship on Friday morning, when set the pace in SS3, Myherin 1. He then won all of the remaining day's stages to conclude the first leg with a 12.1 second advantage over his team-mate and early rally leader, Petter Solberg.
On Saturday morning, Jari-Matti pushed on and all-but doubled his overnight lead. He then maintained that gap on the repeat loop in the afternoon and after setting the pace in SS13, the short 3.04 km Celtic Manor test, took a 24.5 second cushion into today's final six stages. His eighth stage win of the event in SS16 this morning saw him increase his lead yet further and he eventually came through to take the spoils by 27.8 seconds.
It was his second win in succession in Wales, and very welcome as his last victory was right back at the start of the season in Sweden.
“This is a fantastic feeling,” Latvala said at the finish of SS19, “This is one of my best, best rallies and it just feels amazing. The car has been working so well. I have been very happy with the set-up.”
Loeb and Solberg meanwhile enjoyed a fantastic scrap for second on the final day. Solberg had finished day two 6.4 seconds ahead. But Loeb slashed that margin this morning to edge 2.9 seconds in front. Although Solberg came back on the final loop, re-taking the position in SS17, Loeb responded in SS18. Going into the event ending Power Stage, Loeb was 0.1 seconds in front and he held on in Walters Arena 2, with just 0.9 seconds splitting the two WRC champions at the finish.
“I have tried very hard and it was getting very, very slippery. It was a very good battle for second – an incredible fight,” said Loeb, who now looks poised to clinch his ninth WRC drivers' title in France next month, having increased his advantage from 54 points to 61.
“I lost too much time this morning,” Solberg conceded. “But I am very happy with my rally. I love this event and I have to say thank you to the whole team. The car has been perfect. I am very happy for Ford.”
Behind, Mads Ostberg
was fourth, the second event in succession he has finished in P4. The Norwegian ran strongly right from the off and even set the pace yesterday in SS7. Engine problems on the final day, however, made for a nail-biting finish for the Adapta WRT man, although he still finished 18.9 seconds up on Mikko Hirvonen