LATVALA LEADS TEAM ABU DHABI CHALLENGE IN SWELTERING RALLYE DEUTSCHLAND Trier, Germany. 21 August 2010: BP-Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team holds fourth and fifth place after 10 stages of intense action at Rallye Deutschland, as the Abu Dhabi ...
LATVALA LEADS TEAM ABU DHABI CHALLENGE IN SWELTERING RALLYE DEUTSCHLAND
Trier, Germany. 21 August 2010: BP-Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team holds fourth and fifth place after 10 stages of intense action at Rallye Deutschland, as the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA)-backed outfit continued its battle against asphalt experts Citroen.
After finishing in podium contention on day one in Tier, Flying Finn Jari-Matti Latvala continued to record a string of competitive times on the inter-changing surfaces that typify the German round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) in Saturday's early stages.
Yet pace note errors during the 48km Panzerplatte run - the WRC's longest stage -- saw the young Abu Dhabi number two spin off, costing him valuable seconds.
Latvala - who already has two victories under his belt this season - returned to mid-day service in fourth only 8.9 seconds behind Citroen's Sebastian Ogier in third. Team-mate Mikko Hirvonen sits 13.3 seconds behind him in fifth.
"I had a smooth run until the last stage. I came down a long straight into a long left bend and it was difficult to see the corner," he said. "It was marked too fast in my pace notes and I went too wide. I saw the hinkelsteins on the side of the road and braked hard. The car spun into a bank and I lost time while I reversed back onto the road. But I'm still fighting for third."
Day two began with an intense, action-packed opening. Despite the blazing sunshine, overnight damp made the tracks muddy and slippery, causing driving issues on the three back-to-back morning runs. Loose gravel also came into play as the notoriously hazardous Rallye Deutschland lived up to its reputation.
The ADTA-backed drivers are using asphalt tyres on their Ford Focus cars, so the unpredictable gravel sections make grip on the roads the biggest challenge. This is compounded by numerous hairpin bends and huge concrete boulders that line the Baumholder roads where the majority of Saturday's competition took place.
Commenting on his performance, Hirvonen said, "I'm lacking confidence. I would like to make the car more precise. Soft tyres were definitely the right choice for the opening three stages but I don't like the feeling with them. I want to stay in the battle for third so I hope I find a better feeling this afternoon."
Fellow BP-Ford Abu Dhabi driver, Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, attacked day two aiming to push closest rivals America's Ken Block and Dutchman Bernard Van Eldik.
After an unfortunate spin during Friday's opener cost the Emirati rally star nearly three minutes, Al Qassimi was determined to make amends in stages 8 and 9 and finish in the top ten, ahead of both Block and Van Eldik. At mid-day service the Abu Dhabi driver was in 12th and with nine more stages left to run he is hoping to increase his standing.
"I want to push harder today, which will mean a greater chance for spins on the gravel sections, but I have the chance to get more experience and I am willing to push my limits to improve for the next rally," said Al Qassimi, who has split his time this year between the WRC and Middle East Rally Championship (MERC).
Meanwhile, Team Abu Dhabi junior drivers - Bader Al Jabri, Majed Al Shamsi and Khalil Al Shaikh - have been hotly contesting the Fiesta SportTrophy International (FSTi), with all three drivers approaching the second day of action determined to record faster times than each other.
After Friday's two stage cancellations, the up-and-coming Emirati rally stars put in some solid and mature performances across the remaining four runs that saw them finish in third, fourth and fifth, with Al Jabri the lead -- something the trio hoped to maintain on day two.
As another day of blue skies and hot temperatures greeted the contestants, co-drivers were forced to revise pace notes made earlier in the week whilst recceing in the torrential rain. Rising to the challenge, ADTA's Al Shamsi set the fastest time of the three drivers in stage 7, beating current FSTi leader Harry Hunt by 3.8seconds. As the talented Emirati came into the first service of the day he had moved up to third.
"We have had to react to changing weather conditions that have affected the way we drive. Because of this I have to find the balance between caution and speed, but I think we have got it right so far today," added Al Shamsi.
Both Al Jabri and Al Shaikh came up against the German elements in stage 8, with the former getting a double puncture and the later hitting a hay bale. Fortunately both drivers recovered, but with the added time amassed, now sit in fourth and sixth respectively.