Ford stars shine in Monte rally
Ford World Rally Team’s newest recruits, Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson, finished the season-opening leg of the Rallye Monte-Carlo in a podium position, impressing the team.
Solberg, who completed only two days testing the Ford Fiesta RS WRC prior to Monte Carlo race, proved his abilities as a world class rally driver by setting a string of top three stage times.
Team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila were forced to retire after the Finnish pair rolled their Ford Fiesta RS WRC 10km into the day’s closing 30.48km Burzet – St Martial stage.
Latvala’s retirement proved bitter sweet as the Finn was leading the rally at the time of crashing out but, racing under SupeRally regulations, had no option to re-enter the race.
Eighty-five crews journeyed west of the rally base in Valence to the Ardèche region on Sunday where they tackled a repeat loop of two stages totaling 134.7km. On an event where tyre choice can prove critical, Latvala demonstrated the team’s decision to opt for a mix of front-left and rear-right studded Michelin tyres was ideal for the second 30.48km stage.
He finished the test 52.7sec ahead of Sébastien Loeb, despite both drivers competing on the same tyres. At the end of the morning loop, Latvala was leading the rally by 30.5sec and Solberg was third.
Discussing tyre choice, Latvala remarked that the decision to choose a mix of studs and slicks was made as a team. “I’d seen some drivers going with crossed-over studs in the past and we thought it was worth a try so we fitted front-left and rear-right wheel studs. I was a bit worried after the first stage as it seemed like we were on course to lose a lot of time but the conditions were really wintry on the second stage and suddenly we were a lot quicker and I was able to take some risks,” he explained.
Solberg was happy with his competitive return to the Ford camp. “The car was absolutely fantastic and I’m really pleased with our pace. I actually really surprised myself! It is just up to me to get some more kilometres under my belt. It is fantastic to be back with the Ford team and so close to Seb [Loeb’s] times.”