Nancy Knapp Schilke, WRC Correspondent
Petter Solberg nipped his teammate Jari-Matti Latvala to have the honor of being first to choose his starting position for the opening day of the Acropolis Rally. The Norwegian won the 6.20km Qualifying Stage with a time of 4m11.976s for this weekend’s FIA World Rally Championship contest in Greece. It was the second time this year that he and co-pilot Chris Patterson have raced their Ford Fiesta RS to the top time in the new 2012 qualifying format.
“It’s good to be first, very important in fact,” said Solberg. “The car works well and we should be strong for this rally. I feel confident.”
The car works well and we should be strong for this rally. I feel confident.
After being sidelined due to a broken collarbone, Latvala has returned to the cockpit of his Fiesta RS, and proved he was up for the challenge with a time of 4m12.074s.
“There was one corner when I thought I was in first but I was in second. The engine died just a tiny bit on the uphill but I quickly got it back. We only lost a couple of tenths but after a long time out of the car this was a good boost,” said the Finn.
Placing third was eight-time WRC champion Sebatien Loeb. In his Citroen DS3, Loeb’s best was 4m12.702s.
Now for the surprise: The top WRC teams will not be first on the road for the first day of action. Due to the fact this is a gravel event, Solberg and the Ford team decided that starting 13 would be a lucky number, or more to the point, they will have an advantage. Latvala lines up 12th for the first special stage of the sixth WRC round this year.
They will cover nine stages in Leg One with the first one later today, and the other eight on Friday. “It’s the best position for the cleaning and if it is raining then it will dry very quickly. We’re on top form, the team is on top form and the car is on top form. I think this can be my rally now,” Solberg said.
The Blue Ovals main rivals from the Citroen camp slot 11th and 9th.
With the decision by Ford, Paulo Nobre in his Team MINI Portugal will start first as the Brazilian had the slowest, and therefore was the final driver to select his starting position; basically Nobre had no choice.