Nancy Knapp Schilke, WRC correspondent
Ford World Rally Team needed to find a top-notch FIA World Rally Championship driver to contest the upcoming event in Argentina. Their choice to take the controls of one of their Fiesta RS cars is Dani Sordo. Joining the Spaniard for the rally in South America is his co-driver Carlos del Barrio.
The agreement between the Ford works team and Prodrive MINI driver Sordo was sealed this morning after it was learned that the injury sustained by Jari-Matti Latvala forced the Finn to withdraw from participating in Rally Argentina. After breaking his left collarbone last week while training in his homeland, it was expected that Latvala would need time to recover.
His experience at Rally Argentina was a key factor in the decision.
“We’re naturally disappointed that Jari-Matti will miss the rally, but ensuring a full recovery as quickly as possible is the most important thing for him and the team,” said Ford World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson.
The news from the Ford camp was indeed a surprise considering the MINI has been showing its ability to take on the Ford and Citroen works teams last year and even though they have had a rough start to the 2012 season, Sordo and del Barrio ended Rally de Portugal with six fastest special stage wins. Without a doubt the Portuguese rally was a difficult challenge for all the teams, but it was Sordo who won the final powerstage for the bonus points.
Prior to his being named to take on the challenge for the Prodrive MINI works team, the 2005 FIA Junior WRC champion landed with the Citroen Junior team to get the needed experience and before long, Sordo was the teammate to Sebastien Loeb. The Spaniard has 32 podiums to his credit.
“We’re fortunate to have a driver of Dani’s calibre to join us. His experience at Rally Argentina was a key factor in the decision, having started the rally five times and finishing second in 2009. The agreement is for one rally only, and I would like to thank the management of Dani’s current team, who were extremely gracious in helping us in such challenging circumstances,” Wilson said.
Ford hopes that the pairing of Sordo and del Barrio with their season long team of Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson will be a good match for the Rally Argentina at the end of April.