Page Text

2 FEBRUARY 15 2012



“I’ve really got a good base to work with”

P4 Lewis Hamilton is pleased with his new McLaren



Ex-Peugeot ace to race Japanese hybrid at Le Mans



Banbury firm accepts new reduced backing deal



Finn victorious in Sweden as Loeb falters for Citroën


Historic race and rally news


SUBSCRIBETOMOTORSPORTNEWS 19 Interview:Ed Pead 20 Interview:Karun Chandhok 21 Track Test:Euro RaceCar Series 22 WRC Report:Sweden 24 Wyedean Rally report 28 Sporting Scene round-up 30 Karting round-up 32 Letters/Comment/What’s On 34 Wanted:Rally Sweden-style fluffy hats to protect from the savagely chilling UK climate.Apply MN...


Classified advertising: 0208 267 5355

ByDanMcCalla Ford ace Jari-Matti Latvala fired a warning shot to world champion Sébastien Loeb with an assured drive to victory on Rally Sweden that put him right back into the title race.

The 26-year-old Finn was under pressure to recover some ground to Loeb after crashing out of the season-opening Rally Monte Carlo last month. But he dominated proceedings on the snow last weekend and overcame a late scare when he picked up a puncture to claim his sixth career victory and close the gap to Loeb to just 13 points.

“It’s good for the championship that we can get closer, otherwise wewould be so far away,” said Ford’s team leader, who benefitted as Loeb struggled to sixth place after a string of problems.

It’s all in the mind What set Latvala’s performance apart from his previous victories was his mental approach given the huge pressure hewas under, both in terms of his points deficit and his close battle with Mikko Hirvonen on the second day of the Hagfors-based event.

Latvala managed his tyres on deteriorating Saturday stages to prevent Hirvonen from eating into his fragile lead. He did so by pushing to gain time on the third of the four forest stages in the afternoon, leaving Hirvonen to try and respond on the last test. The Citroën newcomer was able to do so, but as a result of pushing his tyres then lost out on the following Hagfors Sprint superspecial, which was covered in ice. Latvala claimed three seconds from his friend and compatriot in just one mile on that test, leaving Hirvonen with a mountain to climb on the final day.

“I’ve learnt many things this weekend like not being the fastest but being consistent all the time,” said Latvala, who became the WRC’s youngest ever rally winner when he triumphed in Sweden four years ago. “Then when you get the speed, you have to have it for the right moments. The rest of the time you need to be equal and consistent, and then not get stressed when anything happens. Sébastien [Loeb] had a difficult week here so I guess he’s been following how things have been going with me. But he knows what I’m like as a person and we had a good fight at Rally GB [last year].

“It’s a good result. It’s been a hard rally for Sébastien, but in Monte Carlo he got 28 points and I got zero. It was big pressure before this rally, and I wasn’t so relaxed as I was in Wales, for instance. Here I was thinking I need the result, but at the same time I also need to finish. I couldn’t afford to make amistake like I did in Monte Carlo – that mistake hurt really hard.”

Wilson’s praise Latvala’s mental ability was tested to the full when he picked up a puncture on the 22nd stage of 24, eroding his lead from 35 seconds to eight. He responded by blitzing Hirvonen on the last

Wilson lauded Latvala’s effort

Latv ala wa s u nder pr essur e t o s cor e a nd he took a s tr ong win

Leading lights happy with qualifying system The WRC’s new Qualifying Stage got a big thumbs-up from leading drivers after its inaugural running at Rally Sweden last Thursday. What was shakedown is now used as ameans of determining road order for the opening day among World Rally Car runners. Jari-Matti Latvala won the Swedish qualifying run, which allowed him to pick an optimum road position at the ceremonial start on Thursday evening and helped him lead at the end of Friday’s stages. M-Sport Ford driver Ott Tänak said that choosing positions in the evening worked well as it allowed drivers to think about their strategies, but warned that this may not be the case at every rally.

Citroën’s Mikko Hirvonen added: “You don’t want to risk everything over that stage. It’s not the most important thing to win it. If you are in the top five or six, it should be good enough.” However, one by-product of the new road position rules is the lead group of drivers who contest the qualifying stage are reversed by rally position for the second and third days of the rally. That gives each driver a better road position than the one behind him, and can lead to the field being spread out. This was the case in Sweden, which featured just two position changes in the top ten in those last two days.

“The gaps between the drivers were small, so it was exciting,” said the Estonian. “From this it was a bit difficult to say because we don’t know how different positions will work. Here in Sweden it’s OK that we get some time to decide, but it may be difficult in some places where we have to decide straight after the shakedown.”

Eyvind Brynildsen, who finished tenth in an Adapta M-Sport Ford in Sweden, said the new rules hits those lower down the order hard: “It’s very good for the guys at the top but it makes things very difficult for the guys below, and the guys that restart and have problems. You will never have a chance to catch up again because you have a disadvantage to start at the front of the field. But we have to try something to bring some more action into the sport.”

two stages to win by 16 seconds, but his presence of mind to build a lead and not simply rest on his laurels wasn’t lost on Ford team chief Malcolm Wilson.

“We were counting down on the screen when Mikko finished the stage but we could tell that he was going to be able to hang onto his lead,” said Wilson. “That morning we thought that there wasn’t much need for Jari to be pushing as hard as he was, but obviously now we’re pleased that he did because if he sat back and accepted a 30-second lead he might not have won.

“Especially after the puncture, we wondered how he was going to react, but we spoke to him and he was telling me ‘don’t worry, Malcolm, it’s all fine’. And then he went out on the next stage and was fine. He’s learnt about having to cope with the pressure and how to take on Mikko and wind him up as well.” Wilson added that Latvala is now beginning to show all the traits of a real team leader and world title contender by getting to the front and controlling a rally that was highly competitive in its early stages.

“He’s dominated the rally and for me it reminds me of Marcus [Grönholm] when he was on top of his game here,” Wilson said. “It wasn’t necessarily easy for Marcus, but he was just capable of controlling things, he was relaxed and everything was going for him. For Jari it’s been the same