Ford World Rally Team drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila made a superb start to the first full day’s competition in Rallye de France this morning to lie second. The Finnish duo won the final speed test of the loop in their Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car and lie just 7.5sec from the lead.
Team-mates Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson lie sixth in a similar Fiesta RS WRC after a tricky morning deep in the Vosges mountains in the Alsace region of eastern France.
After last night’s opening speed test in the streets surrounding Strasbourg’s European Parliament, the action switched south of the city to the mountain region near Colmar. Drivers tackled three special stages covering 70.76km and conditions were far from easy as yesterday’s heavy rain left many damp sections under the trees on the mountain slopes.
Latvala and Solberg both opted for Michelin’s soft compound rubber, which was less suited to the drier roads in the opening 28.67km Hohlandsbourg – Firstplan, but was perfect for the next two tests.
Latvala was third in the opening stage before taking second in the 22.16km Vallée de Munster, just 0.8sec behind fastest time. The Finn was then quickest in the 19.93km Soultzeren – Pays Welche.
“I really want to fight for the lead here so it was important to make a strong start and not lose big time this morning,” said Latvala. “Tyre choice wasn’t easy. The first stage was surprisingly dry and my soft tyres started to get too hot near the finish. But the second stage was 80 per cent damp and the last test was 50 per cent damp and they worked perfectly. Soft was the right choice.”
“Temperatures are rising now and the sun is out, so I think hard compound will be the option for most drivers this afternoon,” added 27-year-old Latvala.
Solberg was sixth and seventh through the opening two stages, before posting third fastest time in the final stage of the loop. “I didn’t have a good rhythm through the first two stages. I wasn’t confident so I drove cautiously as I didn’t want to make a mistake. I made minor changes to the settings before the final stage and everything felt much better. I have some more small things to change in service for the afternoon,” explained the 37-year-old Norwegian.
Leaderboard after stage 4 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.
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