Latvala softens up en route to fourth after second leg in Spain BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila ended today's second leg of Rally de EspaÃ±a in fourth. The Finns lie just 10.1sec from the final...
Latvala softens up en route to fourth after second leg in Spain
BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila ended today's second leg of Rally de España in fourth. The Finns lie just 10.1sec from the final step of the podium in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car with one day remaining of this 12th and penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen remain fifth, despite losing several minutes with a turbo pipe problem.
In contrast to yesterday's mixed surface speed tests, today's competition was pure asphalt all the way. Drivers tackled two identical loops of three special stages west of Barcelona, covering 126.62km. Clear blue skies and warm sunshine saw temperatures rise to 21ºC and Pirelli's hard compound PZero tyres were the choice of both drivers throughout the day.
Latvala restarted in third this morning but was unhappy with the set up of his car in the opening test and dropped to fourth. The 25-year-old Finn changed the damper settings on the next liaison section to soften the set up. It paid off immediately as he regained third, ending the loop only 11.3sec behind Petter Solberg in second.
"The set-up of the car was far too hard and it felt really nervous on every bump in the first stage," said Latvala. "It was difficult to drive and I didn't have confidence, so I altered the damper settings before the next stage. The car handled better, but it wasn't perfect. The team fitted softer springs for the afternoon tests and it made a big, big difference. The car handled much better, although perhaps my choice was a little too soft."
Latvala could not stop the charging Dani Sordo from moving ahead this afternoon, but he remains in touch with the Spaniard. "With my confidence restored, I pushed hard this afternoon and it went well, although I did experience understeer sometimes. This is the fastest I've driven over these stages. The conditions were dry and the roads were clean which made it easier, but it also meant it was harder to take back time than if the conditions were dirty or wet," he added.
Hirvonen restarted in fifth and had an uneventful morning as he narrowed the gap slightly to Latvala. However, at the start of the opening afternoon stage a clip on the turbo pipe broke and the 30-year-old Finn dropped four minutes as he struggled through the 26.51km test without boost. He worked furiously to repair the pipe on the following liaison section and, despite incurring an extra 30 second penalty as he checked in late to the next control, Hirvonen retained fifth.
"I put the car into stage mode at the start and heard a noise," he said. "When I lifted the clutch I knew immediately that the pipe wasn't working properly. After the stage we stopped on the road to try to fix it. The clip had broken behind the engine and next to the turbo. The problem was that I couldn't see it and had to work by touch only, and the turbo was incredibly hot. It was one of the things we've practised in the workshop so fortunately I knew what to do.
"The car slid too much this morning and I fitted a stiffer anti-roll bar to the rear after the first loop. I found a good rhythm on the stages, because I know them well and my times were comparable to those of Jari-Matti," he added.
Abu Dhabi's Khalid Al Qassimi and Michael Orr climbed from an overnight 12th to ninth in the team's other Focus RS WRC. "It was tricky out there. There were lot of tight bends and it was still a little difficult to find a steady rhythm. It went well though and I was happy with my stage times. Hopefully I can produce more competitive times and challenge Henning Solberg for eighth," said Al Qassimi, who is just 4.0sec behind the Norwegian.
BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson said: "Jari-Matti made a big improvement on his performance today compared to last year's rally, but we're still not as competitive on asphalt as we would like to be. Mikko's season doesn't get any better with a technical problem today but fortunately it didn't cost him a position and he did a great job in fixing it."
News from other Ford teams
Stobart M-Sport Ford's Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin moved up to sixth in their Focus RS World Rally Car, despite an understeer problem for much of the day. Team-mates Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino are 10th, the Monster World Rally Team duo losing four minutes when they went off the road on the second stage. Munchi's Ford drivers Federico Villagra and Jose Diaz retired after the opening stage with an overheating engine after the fan belt broke. They will restart under SupeRally rules tomorrow.
The final leg is the shortest of the weekend, but includes the longest test of the rally. The El Priorat stage is run twice and covers 42.04km, providing the bulk of the day's competition. Drivers leave Salou at 07.30 for two loops of two speed tests, covering 92.30km, before the finish on the town's seafront at 15.03.