Latvala’s Swedish victory marks M-Sport/Ford’s 50th win!

When Ford World Rally Team’s Jari- Matti Latvala and Miika Anttila finished this past weekend’s WRC Rally Sweden, they did so to convincingly claim the winners’ trophies!

This victory is Ford’s sixth consecutive at this event and remarkably M-Sport’s 50th win for Ford.

It was Latvala’s second win in Sweden, and it came despite his comfortable lead being slashed when he hit a rogue rock and punctured a tyre with just two more speed tests remaining before the finish. Team-mates Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson finished fourth in another Fiesta RS WRC, losing a potential podium position when they hit the same rock, with the same outcome.

Latvala stamped his mark on the rally from the first moment, by setting fastest time in Thursday’s qualifying. It enabled the 26-year-old to select a start position well down the running order, to obtain better conditions after the loose snow was swept away.

He built a 16.8sec during Friday’s opening leg and stretched his advantage over former team-mate Mikko Hirvonen to 23.0sec on Day Two, after shrewd management of the stud wear on his Michelin tyres. He extended his lead to 35.6sec during Day Three’s final leg, before hitting an exposed rock in the rutted snow and ice and puncturing the front right tyre.

The lead was cut to just 8.4sec, but fastest time under extreme pressure in the penultimate stage allowed him to pull clear again. It was Latvala’s ninth stage win of the rally.

“Four years ago I won my first world rally here and became the youngest driver to do so,” he said. “To come back and win for a second time is very special. After retiring from the first round last month, I was under heavy pressure to do well. After making a mistake and hitting a rock, I knew I had to summon some extra speed and attack hard through the penultimate stage.

“It feels like a heavy weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I’ve learned to stay calm when things go wrong and that paid dividends today. I knew Mikko would attack hard this morning so I was wide awake and ready for it. I had a comfortable lead before everything changed with just two stages to go, but I kept my cool,” he added.

On the podium, in third place overall, and his second successive such performance at this event, was Ford Fiesta RS WRC privateer Mads Ostberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson.

Ford World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson was delighted with the landmark victory for the Ford/M-Sport partnership. “Jari-Matti dominated from start to finish. We had a scare towards the end. This morning we were concerned that he drove so fast when he had a big lead, but given what happened this afternoon, it’s a good job he did. It’s a milestone victory for the team and with the confidence he has in the car, I’m sure there will be more to come,” he said.

Ford of Europe motorsport chief Gerard Quinn said: “A victory and seven cars in the top 10 represents a great weekend for Ford. Jari-Matti was in control from the very beginning and even when he received a setback this afternoon, he was strong enough to recover and seal the win. Petter drove well and his speed with a new car so early in the season bodes well for the future.”