WRC Rally Sweden: Untouchable Latvala heads 1-2 in Sweden
After Petter Solberg topped the time sheets on the superspecial in Karlstad on Thursday night, Latvala stormed the forests of Varmland on Friday, winning all six stages to open up a commanding lead. His start position of tenth on the road meant that he enjoyed consistent conditions compared to his rivals.
Citröen rival and reigning World Champion Sebastien Loeb rolled his car on the fourth stage and while he rejoined under SuperRally rules on Saturday, engine damage meant that he eventually retired for good. His Citröen team mate Dani Sordo had started the event with a five minute penalty for an engine change after Monte Carlo.
Loeb's dramas cast Hirvonen into the role of support driver to Latvala as the Ford duo fell into formation at the head of the field. Hirvonen said: "My plan was to come to Sweden and win, but Jari-Matti has deserved his result. I think we'll have more good battles in the future."
Saturday's warmer weather saw the cancellation of one stage as the snowy route could not cope with the damage inflicted by studded tyres. Galli moved into third, but his Stobart team-mate Henning Solberg retired after damaging his Focus.
The final day saw the leaders holding station and the only major drama was Matthew Wilson's retirement from fifth with a throttle problem en route to the final stage.
Winner Latvala said: "It's a super feeling - almost unbelievable! Henri Toivonen was one of my idols and secretly I've always wanted to beat his record as the youngest winner."
The Castrol-sponsored Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson added: "This is a dream result and a special weekend. We're proud to have the youngest ever winner of a WRC event in our team. I knew Jari-Matti would win this season but it came sooner than I expected."
Rally Sweden top six finishers
* 1. Latvala/Antilla (Ford)
* 2. Hirvonen/Lehtinen (Ford)
* 3. Galli/Bernacchini (Ford)
* 4. P Solberg/Mills (Subaru)
* 5. Mikkelsen/Floene (Ford)
* 6. Sordo/Marti (Citroen)
Team News: Ford mourns death of former boss
Peter Ashcroft, the team manager who masterminded Ford's successes with the Escort during the 1970s, has died aged 80. Ashcroft led the team to eight successive Rally GB wins and the inaugural World Championship for drivers in 1979 before steering the team through the Group B era, only handing over the reigns when Malcolm Wilson's M-Sport operation took up the challenge. Wilson said: "Peter was my mentor and oversaw the careers of many, many drivers."
Race News: Was 2008 the last WRC Monte?
This year's Monte Carlo Rally may have been the last time that arguably the world's most famous rally holds WRC status. Rotated out of the series for 2009, the event will form part of the International Rally Challenge and the organisers are planning to revert to a six-day format for next season with no guarantee of a return to the WRC fold. "The WRC doesn't revolve around Monaco but they have a long history and deserve to be there," said WRC Commission President, Morrie Chandler.
For more information on the Castrol-sponsored Ford WRC team please visit the Racing and Sponsorship section of our homepage:
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