Ford World Rally Team drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila lead Wales Rally GB after the opening morning’s competition in which the squad won all three speed tests. The Finns head this 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship by 3.3sec in a Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car, with team-mates Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson only 5.5sec behind their colleagues in third.
After last night’s start ceremony in the north Wales coastal resort of Llandudno, the rally journeyed south for the opening forestry special stages in the centre of the country. The three long tests covered 73.23km and overnight rain left the gravel tracks slippery and muddy under the trees.
Both Ford drivers opted for Michelin’s soft compound tyres in the cool and damp conditions, and Solberg was quickest through the 20.48km Dyfnant and the 24.87km Hafren Sweet Lamb to build a 2.3sec lead. Having been third and fifth through the two tests, Latvala powered to fastest time in the 27.88km Myherin to climb from fourth to first as the drivers reached service in Newtown.
“Myherin is my favourite stage of the rally and I pushed really hard,” explained Latvala. “The car worked well, especially in the fast and flowing sections. There’s no need for any changes and now I must try to keep this speed to stay in the fight for victory. Conditions are typical of Rally GB. It may be two months earlier this year, but the roads are damp and wet after the rain.”
Latvala had a lucky escape in Hafren Sweet Lamb when he ran wide and clipped a tree stump. Some wood became lodged between the front left wheel and the tyre, forcing the rubber partly off the rim. However, the tyre’s strength kept it inflated and the 27-year-old Finn lost just a couple of seconds.
“It happened 4km after the start at a medium speed right corner. The air stayed inside the tyre but there was a big, big vibration which caused me to lose concentration for a few kilometres. I’m happy the tyre was so strong otherwise I would have had to stop and change it,” he added.
Solberg admitted that he didn’t take any risks in the tricky conditions. “It was slippery and I didn’t want to take any crazy risks. I drove at a fast, but steady, pace and won two stages so I’m happy and feeling comfortable. Last year I didn’t drive Myherin so I was a little rusty there, but I’m just trying to stay focused and keep everything as calm as I can,” said the 37-year-old Norwegian.
Leaderboard after stage 3 of 19
|1. J-M Latvala/M Anttila||Ford Fiesta RS||FIN||42min 39.2sec|
|2. S Loeb/D Elena||Citroen DS3||FRA||42min 42.5sec|
|3. P Solberg/C Patterson||Ford Fiesta RS||NOR||42min 44.5sec|
|4. M Østberg/J Andersson||Ford Fiesta RS||NOR||42min 51.3sec|
|5. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen||Citroen DS3||FIN||42min 54.3sec|
|6. O Tänak/K Sikk||Ford Fiesta RS||EST||43min 23.8sec|
|7. E Novikov/I Minor||Ford Fiesta RS||RUS||43min 29.4sec|
|8. T Neuville/N Gilsoul||Citroen DS3||BEL||43min 58.5sec|
|9. M Wilson/S Martin||Ford Fiesta RS||GBR||44min 20.2sec|
|10 M Prokop/Z Hrůza||Ford Fiesta RS||CZE||44min 33.7sec|