Ford World Rally Team claimed first and second in qualifying for Rally de Portugal today. Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila powered their Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car to fastest time by 1.771sec ahead of team-mates Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson over the 4.96km speed test near Faro.
Ford has been fastest in all three qualifying sessions in this year’s FIA World Rally Championship. Latvala was quickest in Sweden and Solberg set the fastest time at the last round in Mexico.
“The car felt fantastic,” said 26-year-old Latvala. “I made the time up in a tricky section where the road curved right over a jump, followed by another right bend immediately afterwards. I braked more heavily than usual for the jump so the car didn’t go too high, and that meant I could go flat out through the next corner. I’ve never done that before but I had the confidence that the grip was there.”
Solberg was happy with second. “It’s just where I wanted to be. I took no risks because it was a tricky stage. It was very narrow and fast but there was no dust so we had a clear run. From the team’s perspective it’s an absolutely perfect start,” said the 37-year-old Norwegian, who warmed up for the rally by winning the non-championship Fafe Rally Sprint in northern Portugal on Saturday.
Ford’s one-two allowed Latvala and Solberg the first choice of start positions for tomorrow’s opening leg. Latvala chose to start last of the priority drivers, with Solberg one place ahead, both hoping a later running position will offer cleaner and faster conditions on the gravel roads.
Ford World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson was delighted with the team’s performance. “I’m confident our drivers and the Fiesta RS WRC have the pace we need to be fully competitive here in Portugal. However, we have to be aware that the rally is 80km longer than in previous years and after a dry winter, the roads are some of the roughest we will encounter in the championship. We will have to balance our speed with the need to look after the car as well,” he said.
The four-day rally begins tomorrow in Lisbon with a 3.27km asphalt test in the city itself. Competitors then make the long journey back to Faro on the Algarve coast via three special stages in darkness in the hills above the town. The rally ends on Sunday after 22 stages covering 434.77km of competition.