Latvala claims first WRC stage win Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team crew Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila have successfully won their first ever stage in the World Rally Championship. After a small mechanical set-back this morning, ...
Latvala claims first WRC stage win
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team crew Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila have successfully won their first ever stage in the World Rally Championship. After a small mechanical set-back this morning, the 21-year-old driver raced away to take stage 5, Opaker, by four seconds over reining World Champion Sebastien Loeb.
Henning Solberg sits in seventh position just one second off Gigi Galli in sixth and one and a half minutes off current leader, BP-Ford's Mikko Hirvonen. British youngster Matthew Wilson finished the leg in 16th position brining his Ford Focus RS WRC06 home in one piece, ready to tackle the 115.79 kilometres of competitive route tomorrow.
Conditions were once again a decisive factor in today's results with a heavy snow-fall early this morning covering the ice-bound Norwegian roads. Competitors began their attack on the inaugural WRC Rally Norway tackling the 30.03 kilometre Løten 1 stage.
Through the first pass drivers had nothing but praise for the opener but second time round was a different story with exposed gravel hampering the tungsten-tipped, steel-studded BFGoodrich g-Force ice tyres. With tyres working overtime in the exposed gravel, temperature of the rubber rose, resulting in loss of several of the 384 studs which are moulded to the tyre.
Showing exceptional speed all day, Jari-Matti Latvala had a minor problem with the steering-rack in his Ford Focus RS WRC 06. The problem was resolved in first service but as a result he left the Viking Ship six minutes late and arrived to the start of stage three, three minutes late, resulting in one and a half minutes of road penalties.
As well as winning a stage -- where he was quickest on every split -- the Finnish speedster was second on the 21.29 kilometre Finnskogen test. Dropping as low as 15th after penalties, Latvala fought back to take five places from his fellow competitors finishing the day on the brink of the top ten.
With all eyes on Solberg, the Norwegian showed great control to finish the day in championship points contention ahead of tomorrows monster opening stage, the 44.28 kilometre Elverum 1, Rally Norway's longest. Solberg was in fine form this morning consistently finishing top four on stage until a broken right rear damper and a spin on the closing stages slightly hindered his impressive opening speed.
UK youngster Wilson showed consistent speed throughout the day finishing on pace with the likes of Andreas Mikkelsen and fellow Brit Guy Wilks. The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver won the battle with Wilks but will be looking to close the 28.7 second gap on Norwegian Mickelson and surpass him during tomorrows testing leg.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"The first stage was really good but some of them were ridiculous, very difficult and narrow. It was like a motocross track with the bumps in some parts which made it hard to just keep the car in a straight line. It wasn't an easy day because there were a lot of changing stages from fast open stuff to really tricky narrow sections. The notes have worked well today and now we're really looking forward to tomorrow, that mountain stage looks really good."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
"The first stage was great, I felt really comfortable with my driving and the car was performing well. We had a little problem with the steering rack on the first stage and had to change it during service which wasn't an easy job. The team did a great job to fix the problem quickly, I was six minutes late from service but it could have been a lot more. It has been a very good day, I had an excellent feeling so I want to conserve it and take the same speed into tomorrow's stages. It is great to finally win a stage in the WRC, let's see if we can repeat it tomorrow!"
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"Yeah everything is ok. I tried to just come through the stages today cautiously, but I'm happy. There's a long way to go in this rally so we'll wait and see. I'm going to do my best here so we'll just see what we can do. I had some problems with the feeling of my car in the last couple of stages but didn't lose much time. Generally the car has felt good today and I think tomorrow will be better for me."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"Henning was under a bit of pressure at the start of the rally as it's his home event, now he is only a few seconds from fifth and I think he will go better tomorrow. I'm glad he has got the first day out of the way and I'm sure he will make up some more positions tomorrow. Jari-Matti has been fantastic today. He's achieved his first ever scratch time in the WRC and was then second a couple of stages afterwards. It was disappointing that he lost time coming out of service but I expect him to continue to improve tomorrow. Matt's day has been a bit up and down but he's doing well compared to other competitors of similar experience."