WRC star swaps Focus RS rally car for Focus circuit racer
Finn will lead team of four experienced drivers in a Ford Focus RS in this year’s Nürburgring 24-hour race
Latvala completed first test drive on legendary Nordschleife circuit last Saturday
Cologne, 12 April, 2010 – Ford’s World Rally Championship driver, Jari-Matti Latvala, will tackle this year’s 24-hour race at the Nürburgring (15 – 16 May) in Germany. The BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver, who has won two world rallies in his career, will drive a Ford Focus RS prepared by the Team FH Köln Motorsport (students from University of Cologne).
Latvala enjoyed his first taste of the demanding circuit when he competed in Saturday’s second round of the VLN (Veranstaltergemeinschaft Langstreckenpokal Nürburgring) Endurance Championship at the Nürburgring, after which the 25-year-old was enthusiastic about the infamous ‘Green Hell’.
“Obviously my expectations were very high. The Nordschleife has a fearsome reputation and having now driven all of these curves, I can understand the reasons behind that. It demands the utmost respect, but I found the experience to be thrilling. The race isn’t going to be relaxing, but they say that a change is as good as a rest. We will soon see what kind of a rest this will be. I am really looking forward to this race,” said Latvala.
“I was extremely impressed with the car. I’m used to the four-wheel drive of my Ford Focus RS World Rally Car, but I was genuinely surprised by the good traction available from this front-wheel drive touring car,” he added.
It will be the first 24-hour race for the young man from Tuuri, Finland. In fact, prior to Saturday’s test drive, he had never even raced on a closed circuit.
However, Latvala has no lack of experience when it comes to competing in fast Ford cars. At the tender age of eight Latvala began to learn his driving skills in an Escort Mk1 on private gravel roads near his home. At 16, he began to compete in rally sprints, and a year later he entered the British Rally Championship.
In 2002 he drove his first world championship event and the following season he sampled a privately-entered Ford Focus RS World Rally Car for the first time. Since 2008, Latvala has driven for the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team in the FIA World Rally Championship. Earlier this month Latvala excelled in demanding conditions to finish second in the Jordan Rally, and currently lies second in the world championship standings.
For Latvala, whose favoured rally surfaces are snow and gravel, the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring will be perfect preparation for the WRC’s four asphalt fixtures later this season in Bulgaria, Germany, France and Spain. “With every kilometre of the Nordschleife, Jari-Matti’s experience with this kind of surface will grow,” said Ford of Europe motorsport chief Gerard Quinn. “That could really help him when he comes to the tricky asphalt rallies later in the WRC season.”
Latvala will be partnered by three other experienced circuit drivers during the 24-hour race – Anja Wassertheurer, Daniela Schmid and Stefan Schlesack. Latvala, Wassertheurer and Schmid finished third in class in Saturday’s test race.
The Ford Focus RS is being prepared and entered for the race by 20 students from the Cologne University of Applied Science under the guidance of professor graduate engineer Frank Herman. Technical support for Team FH Köln Motorsport is provided by TRW, Dekra, Dunlop and Castrol.