BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team man Jari-Matti Latvala has secured the victory on Rally Finland today, coming out top by 10.1 seconds.
Latvala, who was third fastest in the short opening test on Thursday night, finished the opening loop on Friday in second, just 1.3 seconds off Petter Solberg. He then put in a charge to cut the deficit to just 0.1 seconds in SS6, before moving into P1 in SS7 and eventually finishing the first day with a 9.1 second cushion.
Today he made a strong start, taking his fourth stage win of the event in SS14, to extend his lead to 22.5 seconds. Although he saw his advantage cut back to 10.6 seconds in the middle loop, he make sure of the victory in the final two tests, topping the times in the penultimate stage, before going third fastest in SS19.
In the end he finished the eighth round in the 2010 World Rally Championship comfortably ahead of his closest rival, to take his first win on home turf, his second of the 2010 WRC season, and his fourth in total.
"It's amazing to win my home rally and it's something I have dreamed of since I was a small boy," said Latvala. "The first time I watched this rally was in 1992 when I was seven and the only thing I could think about then was that I would never be able to drive as fast as the stars I was watching. In 2003 I drove this rally for the first time and still I never thought I would win. To win in front of my home fans, in a country where rallying means so much to everyone, is a dream.
"The team had some difficult times in the summer but both drivers led this rally and I won. It's a hugely important victory for the team and Ford. It was only during the final two stages that I really thought I could do it. I've learned that if you relax and make no mistakes then you can have a good rally. There have been so many people watching and it was a fantastic atmosphere – this is the best rally in the world," he added.
Sebastien Ogier meanwhile claimed the runners-up spot and the young Frenchman was again on form, winning four stages in total. It was a good performance from him, especially as this was only his second time in Finland in a World Rally Car.
"Even if it's difficult for me to be satisfied with second place, I have to say that this result is even better than I expected," Ogier admitted. "For our second Rally Finland, we were able to up the pace without overdoing it. I'm very satisfied with the second day as we've finished only ten seconds behind the winner. I'd really like to thank the whole team, which helped us fight right up until the finish."
Sebastien Loeb was next up and completed the rostrum. He had a somewhat difficult start, but fought his way back and got the better of Petter Solberg on the middle loop today to grab 'bronze' and an extra three points.