Latvala quickest in Qualifying, chooses 13th

Ford World Rally Team driver Jari-Matti Latvala set the fastest time through the 05.06km-long Qualifying/Shakedown Stage in Brother Rally New Zealand today, this weekend’s round of the World Rally Championship (WRC).

The fastest four through the stage were Ford, Citroën, Ford, Citroën, with Latvala leading Mikko Hirvonen, team-mate Petter Solberg and Sebastien Loeb. Qualifying is a new feature in this year’s that offers the quickest drivers the opportunity to select their starting order for the first day of the rally.

Latvala said: “Very good feeling; we did a little modification to the rear diff and I was more comfortable with the car, we were using hard tyres in the morning so the times were not so good but we used the softs now.”

Hirvonen commented: “I made one small mistake but overall I was really struggling on the shakedown to find a good setup and rhythm, but that [the qualifying stage] was awesome. The last couple of corners were just perfect; really enjoyed it.”

Solberg said: “I tried to get the feeling; we haven’t driven since Greece but the feeling is good. No problem, maybe a small mistake but Mikko did a very good time. There is a lot of prestige to do [well].”

Loeb said in an interview: “I had a good drive. It is tricky, the grip is not the same everywhere and less grip than we expected. There is more water on the gravel and it is a little bit muddy in some places but I didn’t make any mistakes so I tried to push. It’s not so bad [referring to his final position].”

Fastest Qualifying/Shakedown Stage times:
1) J-M. Latvala/M. Anttila (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) – 02m 31.86s
2) M. Hirvonen/J. Lehtinen (Citroën DS3 WRC) – 02m 32.23s
3) P. Solberg/C. Patterson (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) – 02m 32.40s
4) S. Loeb/D. Elena (Citroën DS3 WRC) – 02m 32.75s
5) T. Neuville/N. Gilsoul (Citroën DS3 WRC) – 02m 32.95s
6) O. Tanak/K. Sikk (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) – 02m 33.13s
7) D. Sordo/C. Del Barrio (MINI John Cooper Works WRC) – 02m 33.23s
8) J. Ketomaa/M. Steenberg (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) – 02m 33.94s
9) E. Novikov/D. Giraudet (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) – 02m 34.18s
10) M. Stohl/I. Minor (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) 02m 37.65s

The positions the drivers selected for the start of the rally are as follows, and it is interesting to note:
1) M. Hirvonen
2) P. Solberg
3) S. Loeb
4) O. Tanak
5) D. Sordo
6) J. Ketomaa
7) E. Novikov
8) M. Stohl
9) K. Block
10) A. Araujo
11) P. Nobre
12) T. Neuville
13) J-M. Latvala

– Credit: Picture by Alan McDonald.