Confidence boost for Latvala after strong finish in Germany BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team duo Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila hailed a new-found confidence on asphalt after scoring a solid fourth place finish in Rallye Deutschland ...
Confidence boost for Latvala after strong finish in Germany
BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team duo Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila hailed a new-found confidence on asphalt after scoring a solid fourth place finish in Rallye Deutschland today. The Finns, for whom sealed surface rallies are their least favourite, battled for a podium place in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car throughout this ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Afterwards Latvala, winner of two gravel rounds this season, admitted: "This weekend I've been more confident on asphalt than ever before. It's not my favourite surface but I had a really good feeling here and I don't feel so concerned about driving on the surface any more. This is my best result in Germany and it has given me a big boost for the two remaining asphalt rounds this season."
The rally was based in Trier, Germany's oldest city. Three days of competition, the first and last among the tricky vineyard roads on the banks of the Mosel river, offered 405.67km of competition. The middle day was the most demanding, including two passes of the 48km Panzerplatte test in the Baumholder military training area. The road surface there varied constantly, from fast, smooth asphalt to broken concrete and huge kerb stones lined the tracks ready to trap the unwary.
The abrasive road conditions, combined with air temperatures that topped 30C yesterday, provided a tough test for Pirelli's PZero tyres throughout the 19 special stages.
Latvala held third for virtually the entire opening day. He extended his advantage over closest rival Sebastien Ogier yesterday morning until a spin on the first pass over Panzerplatte cost 20sec and a position on the leaderboard. The 25-year-old gave his all to regain the time loss but could not claw back the vital seconds on today's final leg, which ended with a speed test in the streets of Trier.
"I enjoyed the weekend and I'm really pleased with my performance. I was happy to fight for the podium. This is the hardest asphalt rally of the year and I was afraid of it, but now I'm not. After my victory in Finland in the last round earlier in the month and a good test here last week, everything fell into place this weekend," added Latvala, who retains third in the drivers' standings.
Hirvonen joined Latvala in the battle for the final podium position during the opening leg. The 30-year-old Finn was fifth, but just 9.8sec from third, at the end of the day. He struggled for confidence initially during the second leg before a set-up change improved his feeling. However, a broken input shaft in the transmission sidelined him on the penultimate stage. He returned for the final leg in eighth, but when the gearbox jammed in first gear on the morning's second stage he retired for good.
"I braked for a tight junction after a long straight and tried to shift down, but the gearbox stuck in third," said Hirvonen. "I managed to select first before it jammed in third again, which wasn't good on a stage with so many tight junctions. I found first and drove the remaining 9km to the finish but stopped on the liaison section to the service park. It wasn't linked to our retirement yesterday.
"I didn't have the confidence that I had here two years ago, especially in high speed corners. That started to improve yesterday afternoon but then I had the problem. I feel we're closer to the pace that we need to be at, but it's difficult to make that final step," he added.
Abu Dhabi's Khalid Al Qassimi and Michael Orr finished eighth in the team's other Focus RS WRC. They recovered from 61st after sliding into a ditch during the opening stage on Friday.
BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson was pleased with Latvala's drive: "After the disappointment of the last asphalt round in Bulgaria, we came back well here. Jari-Matti's win in Finland relaxed him and it was positive for him and the team that he challenged for a podium here."
Ford of Europe motorsport chief Gerard Quinn said: "As in Finland, Jari-Matti showed his increasing maturity here. After the disappointment of losing third place yesterday afternoon, he continued to battle and was rewarded with his best asphalt finish for the team."
News from other Ford teams
Stobart M-Sport Ford's Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin finished sixth in a Focus RS WRC after an exciting final day fight with Kimi Raikkonen. The Britons edged out the Finn by 3.8sec. Team-mates Francois Duval and Denis Giraudet retired from fifth after a heavy crash yesterday while Monster World Rally Team duo Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino retired from ninth before the opening stage this morning with a broken alternator belt.
The championship heads to Japan next month for round 10 of the series, and the final event of the season outside Europe. Rally Japan will be held on gravel roads near Sapporo on 9 - 12 September.