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Solberg heads Ford 1-2 in Power Stage finale at Rally Italia

Ford World Rally Team finished first and second in the final Power Stage speed test at Rally Italia Sardegna today to claim maximum bonus points. Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson edged out Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila by just 0.2sec in a Fiesta RS World Rally Car battle for top spot, which saw the Ford duo almost five seconds quicker than their closest rivals.

The Power Stage results brought some happiness for the official Ford squad after a disappointing weekend. Solberg finished ninth and Latvala 12th after both incurred heavy time penalties when they retired from the second leg of this 12th and penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

After three days of tough competition over narrow and rocky tracks in the hills around the north of the Mediterranean island, today’s final leg was a short and sharp affair. It was focused around two passes over the 8.24km Gallura speed test, north-west of the rally base in Olbia, before competitors journeyed to Porto Cervo for the finish ceremony.

Solberg, who fell from second after crashing into a rock on Friday, and Latvala, who dropped down the order after hitting a gatepost the same day, concentrated their attentions on the Power Stage. Bonus points were on offer for the fastest three drivers, but it quickly became an all-Ford duel.

Latvala was fastest over the first two sectors of the stage to head Solberg by 0.2sec, but the 37-year-old Norwegian overturned the deficit in the final sector to win the test.

“After retiring on Friday, there was only one thing on my mind and that was winning the Power Stage,” said Solberg. “Yesterday I drove carefully because I had nothing to gain, but today I was determined to take maximum points in the Power Stage. I knew it would be tight between myself and Jari-Matti because he also wanted to win, and I’m happy to take something away from this weekend.

“It was possible to win this rally but I made a mistake on Friday and that was disappointing for me and the team. It’s time to forget this rally and think about the final round in Spain,” he added.

Latvala is focused on ending his career at Ford on a high in Spain. “I’m pleased I’ve had the opportunity to regain my confidence over the last two days after my accident. That was important, because I want to be ready for Spain. Sardinia is one of my favourite rallies and I had every chance to fight for an overall win but it went wrong. I will put this to the back of my mind,” said the 27-year-old Finnish driver.

Ford World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson said the Power Stage result would prove a confidence boost for both drivers. “To finish first and second means both gained something from the weekend, and that will help their preparations for Spain. Neither enjoyed a good rally, but our young private drivers took advantage and they really stepped up to the mark here,” he said.

Ford Racing senior manager Gerard Quinn said: “At the end of a week in which Ford announced its exit from the WRC, it was extremely disappointing to see the early exit of Jari-Matti and Petter from the rally. Conditions proved tricky, as the many top drivers that hit trouble can testify. It’s positive to see the Fiesta RS WRC finish in podium positions in the hands of privateer drivers Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tänak. I’m confident this is a glimpse of the future stars of WRC.”

News from other Ford teams

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team duo Evgeny Novikov / Ilka Minor and Ott Tänak / Kuldar Sikk claimed a superb second and third in Fiesta RS World Rally Cars. Second equalled Novikov’s best result, while third marked a first WRC podium for Tänak. Adapta World Rally Team’s Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson finished fourth, despite a puncture in the final test. Martin Prokop / Zdenĕk Hrůza overcame a host of problems to take eighth in the Czech Ford National Team car.

Next round

The final round of the championship takes drivers to Rally de España, a mixed gravel and asphalt event which is based in Salou on 8 – 11 November.

Final positions
1. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen                FIN                  Citroen DS3                3hr 23min 54.9sec
2. E Novikov/I Minor                         RUS                 Ford Fiesta RS           3hr 25min 15.5sec
3. O Tänak/K Sikk                            EST                 Ford Fiesta RS           3hr 26min 16.0sec
4. M Østberg/J Andersson            NOR                Ford Fiesta RS            3hr 27min 37.8sec
5. S Ogier/J Ingrassia                      FRA                Skoda Fabia S2000   3hr 28min 22.4sec
6. C Atkinson/S Prévot                     AUS                Mini John Cooper       3hr 29min 17.1sec
7. A Mikkelsen/O Floene                 NOR               Skoda Fabia S2000   3hr 30min 07.4sec
8. M Prokop/Z Hrůza                       CZE                 Ford Fiesta RS           3hr 33min 24.2sec
9.  P Solberg/C Patterson              NOR                Ford Fiesta RS           3hr 33min 47.2sec
10 L Pedersoli/M Romano             ITA                   Citroen DS3                3hr 44min 30.5sec
1. S Loeb                                244pts                       
2. M Hirvonen                         198pts                        
3. M Østberg                          137pts                       
4. J-M Latvala                       133pts                        
5. P Solberg                          124pts                        
6. E Novikov                             87pts                        
1. Citroen Total WRT            413pts
2. Ford WRT                           281pts
3. M-Sport Ford WRT           170pts
4. Citroen Junior WRT             72pts
5.  Adapta WRT                         71pts
6.  Qatar WRT                           71pts

Bucuresti, 21.10.2012

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