Ford World Rally Team drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila retained control of second place in Rallye de France during a dramatic morning. They won one speed test in their Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car and survived a brief encounter with a roadside ditch to complete the opening loop of this second leg 30.0sec from the lead.
Team-mates Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson, fourth overnight, were not so fortunate. They retired from the day’s action after leaving the road in the opening special stage and ploughing through dense vines before finally hitting a telegraph pole. The impact damaged the front right of their Fiesta RS WRC too severely to continue.
Today’s leg is one of the longest of the FIA World Rally Championship season with 192.80km contained within two identical loops of four stages. After leaving the rally base in Strasbourg, drivers journeyed south-west for tests through vineyards and the northern Vosges mountains.
Latvala, who started 13.1sec from the lead, was third through the opening 18.16km Grands Crus – Ungersberg. But the 27-year-old Finn dropped 10sec after sliding into a ditch early in the following 43.45km Pays d’Ormont, one of the longest stages of the season. His Fiesta RS WRC was undamaged and Latvala bounced back to win the ultra-fast 24.04km Pays de la Haute Bruche.
The final 10.75km Klevener vineyard stage was cancelled for safety reasons due to the large number of spectators in the test, so Latvala returned to service in Strasbourg 19.0sec clear of Mikko Hirvonen in third.
“It was disappointing to lose time but I knew that long stage was important,” said Latvala. “I knew if I put Loeb under pressure there, I might have a chance of catching him, but I didn’t want to go crazy.
“The stage was dry and open at the start, but after 6km the road went into a forest and became damp. After a fast narrow section I braked, but the brakes locked and my speed was too much for the next slow right corner. I tried to turn in but went off the road into a bank. I restarted but there was a lot of mud in the front left wheel, and the vibration affected the braking for the rest of the stage,” he said.
“It will be very difficult to catch Loeb now if it stays dry, but rain could be on its way this afternoon which may make things more unpredictable. But I must also concentrate on staying ahead of Hirvonen and retaining second
Leaderboard after stage 12 of 22
For more information: Contact Mark Wilford or Russell Atkins at the Ford World Rally Team media desk in Strasbourg Tel: + 33 3 88 16 50 96. Images available at www.worldrallypics.com/ford.