2 MAY 2 2012 motorsport-news.co.uk
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M-Sport promises to get back on track
FORD TO DESPITE
ByDanMcCalla Ford has promised to fight back in this season’s World Rally Championship after Citroën struck a blow to the Blue Oval’s hopes with a one-two finish on Rally Argentina at the weekend. Having closed the deficit in the manufacturers’ title race to just 12 points going into the event, the Cumbrian team suffered a disastrous weekend. Petter Solberg retired from the first leg through accident damage while leading, and although he recovered to sixth, Ford’s relief was tempered when Dani Sordo – stand-in for the injured Jari-Matti Latvala – retired from third with alternator problems on the final stage. The result means Citroën now leads Ford by 45 points in the makes’ race, while rally winner Sébastien Loeb has opened up an 18-point advantage in the drivers’ standings.
Ford’s head of European motorsport Gerard Quinn said: “This is not the end of the season. We’ve got a long way to go yet and we’ve just got to put a smile on our faces now, dust ourselves off and get back into the fight.”
Solberg’s setback Ford started the event on the back foot after Jari-Matti Latvala broke his collarbone when cross-country skiing two weeks prior to the rally. While the Blue Oval was able to draft in Dani Sordo to try and ensure the team bagged a good haul of makes’ points, it put pressure on Petter Solberg to try and take the fight to Citroën.
Solberg, who has now gone seven years without aworld championship event win, led by 20 seconds on the first afternoon of the rally when he hit a rock on the
Late re tir ement fo r Dani Sor do fifth stage and broke both steering arms on his Fiesta WRC.Although hewas able to restart and finish sixth, and also won the bonuspoints Power Stage, it cost him the chance to keep pace with Loeb in the title race. Solberg remains second, but is now 18 points behind the Frenchman.
The 37-year-old said: “Friday was the toughest day I’ve had for a long time, but the result shows why you should never give up, no matter what the situation. The disappointing thing is that I could have won. This could have been my first victory for a long time, but we’ll continue to work hard and I know it will come soon.”
Ford team chief Malcolm Wilson admitted that it had been a difficult week for his team, but also praised Solberg’s efforts in getting back into the top six, a result that kept him ahead of Mikko Hirvonen in the standings by three points. Wilson said: “Petter produced a great recovery which culminated in himwinning the Power Stage. After everything that happened, to leave Argentina with Petter still second in the championship is good.”
Sordo’s heartbreak Ford would, however, be in amuch stronger position if Sordo’s Fiesta RSWRChadn’t broken down on the rally closing Power Stage, with just two competitive miles of the rally to go, with an alternator failure. Having had only limited mileage in the car at Greystoke before Rally Argentina began last Thursday, Prodrive loanee Sordo impressed with a reasonably strong level of pace and the consistency for which he is renowned. Although he didn’t win a stage on the event, he did clock a top six time on every single test until his last-stage
1 Sébastien Loeb 91pts 2 Petter Solberg 73 3 Mikko Hirvonen 70 4 Mads Østberg 68 5 Evgeny Novikov 43 6 Jari-Matti Latvala 28
WRC Manufacturers POS TEAM PTS
1 Citroën Total WRT 151 2 Ford WRT 106
Despite hitting a rock, Ford’s Petter Solberg is still second disaster cost both him and the team 15 points. “I was happy with my performance,” said Sordo, whowill now return to regular duties with the Prodrive Mini team ahead of its next WRCappearance on Rally New Zealand in June. “Finishing was our goal so not to do so was sad, but it was good working with the team. I’d like to thank Ford andM-Sport for giving me the opportunity to drive the Fiesta RSWRC.” Wilson admitted before the rally that he had considered giving Latvala’s vacant seat to one of his three up-and-coming youngsters – MadsØstberg, Evgeny Novikov or Ott Tänak – but cited Sordo’s experience and track record as
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for WRC title after Argentinian woe
PUSH ON DISASTER
FORD MAKES A POINT
Petter Solberg’s sixth place in Argentina earned Ford its 150th consecutive rally in which it has scored manufacturers’points, a run that stretches all the way back to the start of 2002
The points-scoring run began with Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae finishing third and fourth on the 2002 Monte Carlo Rally
Toni Gardemeister helped the team reach the half-century with fifth place on Cyprus in 2005
Ford’s one-two finish with Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala at the controls on RallyTurkey in 2008 marked 100 in a row the deciding factor. Despite the retirement, Wilson was delighted with Sordo’s effort. “He’s done a great job for the team considering the limited time he’s spent in the car,” Wilson said.
Hirvonen ruffles Loeb Meanwhile, on the other side of the service park, Mikko Hirvonen had his best showing yet in a Citroën DS3 WRC, and only the advent of team orders at the halfway point of the rally denied the Finn the opportunity to take on Loeb for the rally victory. Hirvonen had traded times with Loeb throughout Friday, and on Saturday morning Loeb briefly left the road as he desperately tried to retain his lead. At the following service halt, Citroën team chief Yves Matton told his drivers to hold station, which drew criticism from some quarters with so much of the rally still to run.
“After Portugal [where Hirvonen was excluded and Loeb crashed] and no points, I had to make a decision,” Matton said. “They were fighting. The speed was high and wewere speaking at midday [on Saturday] together and we said if we’re going like this, we’re not going to make it through without making mistakes. I take these decisions, some can be not happy with that but it’s important for us to aim at both championships and I knowwhat we have to do.”
Hirvonen was f ly ing in Ar ge ntina bef or e team or ders
Solberg’s recovery to sixth after restarting has kept alive Ford’s run lasting over a decade
ALL THE STAGE ACTION FROM ARGENTINA PAGE 24
ALL THE STAGE ACTION FROM ARGENTINA