Finns and Ford proved the winning combination in Rally Sweden once again. When Jari-Matti Latvala drove his Fiesta RS WRC over the finish line in Karlstad, it was the fifth consecutive time that a Ford was the winning car, with a Finnish driver at the wheel. "A special victory for me," said a cheerful Latvala who won Rally Sweden for the second time in his career.
Jari-Matti Latvala, won the first qualifying stage and definitely took a commanding lead from special stage eight. After that Latvala controlled the contest and had a lead of 35 seconds with two stages to go. At that point, he was chased hard by his countryman Mikko Hirvonen, just 8.4 seconds behind, but Latvala kept cool and he and co-driver Miikka Anttila received the trophy from Prince Carl Philip at the finish in Karlstad.
Latvala's second victory in Rally Sweden was important as he failed to score points in the Monte Carlo Rally. Now he is in the battle for the World Championship title. "To achieve a good result here was very important to me, given what happened in Monte Carlo," he said..
Mikko Hirvonen won the last two Rally Sweden contests, but this time had to settle for second place. It was a good result, considering that the race was his first in the Citroën DS3 WRC. "I'm a little disappointed, I want to win," he said afterward.
The fight for third place was a battle between two Norwegians; audience favorite, Petter Solberg and last year’s runner-up Mads Østberg. Solberg had control until he, like his team mate Latvala, hit a rock on special stage 22. He flattened two tires and had to settle for fourth place.
This left Østberg and his Swedish co-driver Jonas Andersson in third place, and on the podium for the second year. "We are extremely pleased. I value third place this year as high as last year’s effort," said Østberg.
Mini driver Patrik Sandell was the fastest Swedish driver with an eighth place finish in his debut for Sweden World Rally Team. " It has gone entirely according to plan. The Mini WRC is great fun to drive and I'm getting faster and faster," said Sandell.
Dani Sordo, who had won the first stage on Thursday, exited the rally on Friday after his Mini had a close encounter with a snow bank. Armindo Araujo, in the Team Portugal Mini that is becoming the factory team, finished fourteenth.
In the World Championship-class Super 2000 cars, Per-Gunnar Andersson and Emil Axelsson took the win. The duo took the lead early in the Proton Satria Neo S2000. Second and third were Craig Breen and Pontus Tideman.
For Andersson, the success at home was a nice revenge for his SWRC-debut at Monte Carlo Rally, when his car caught fire. "It feels good to score Proton’s first World Cup victory in my home race, " he said at the finish. ––Paul Duchene
Ford’s and Finland’s string of victories in Rally Sweden
2012: Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford Fiesta RS WRC
2011: Mikko Hirvonen, Ford Fiesta RS WRC
2010: Mikko Hirvonen, Ford Focus RS WRC
2008: Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford Focus RS WRC
2007: Marcus Gronholm, Ford Focus RS WRC
2006: Marcus Gronholm, Ford Focus RS WRC
* 2009 World Series only winter rally in Norway
Results (unofficial classification):
World Rally Championship, Rally Sweden, 9-12 February.
1) Jari-Matti Latvala, Finland, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 3.18.28,3
2) Mikko Hirvonen, Finland, Citroen DS3 WRC, + 16.6 sec
3) Mads Østberg, Norway, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, + 38.8
4) Petter Solberg, Norway, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, + 1.14,3 min
5) Evgeny Novikov, Russia, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, + 2.41,4
6) Sebastien Loeb, France, Citroen DS3 WRC, + 2.55,1
7) Henning Solberg, Norway, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, + 3.49,5
8) Sandell, Sweden, Mini John Cooper Works WRC, + 5.08,9
9) Martin Prokop, Czech Republic, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, + 5.30,0
10) Eyvind Brynildsen, Norway, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, + 6.27,2
Driver standings after 2 of 13 races.
1) Loeb, 39 points, 2) Hirvonen, 32, 3), P. Solberg, 29, 4) Latvala, 26, 5) Novikov, 21.
Manufacturer's World Cup.
1) Total Citroën WRT, 65 points, 2) Ford WRT, 55, 3) M-Sports Ford WRT, 28, 4) Mini WRT, 26, 5) Qatar WRT, 8.
1) PG Andersson, Sweden, Proton Satria Neo S2000, 3.28.16,8
2) Craig Breen, Ireland, Ford Fiesta S2000, + 3.35,8 min
3) Pontus Tidemand, Sweden, Skoda Fabia S2000, + 4.49,6