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Ford’s Finnish driver Jari-Matti Latvala has won the Wales Rally GB, Round 10 of the World Rally Championship, ahead of Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb in Cardiff on Sunday.
Also victorious in last year's Wales Rally, Latvala led practically from the start to finish 27.8 seconds ahead of championship leader and eight times world champion Loeb, with Latvala's Norwegian team mate Petter Solberg a further 0.9sec back in third place.
The result prevented Citroen from claiming victory in the Constructors' championship, but both Citroen and Loeb will expect to be crowned champions at the Rally of France in Alsace on October 4-7.
Despite a late fightback on Sunday, Loeb was unable to undo the damage inflicted during the first two days of the rally, when Ford proved more adept at handling the slippery roads in the south Wales countryside.
He did, however, succeed in overhauling Solberg, who began the day more than six seconds in front of him.
Latvala recorded the seventh victory of his career.
It was also his second win this season, after a previous success in Sweden, and enabled Ford to bring an end to a run of five straight victories for the all-conquering Loeb, who is nonetheless closing in on his ninth consecutive world championship crown.
“This is a fantastic feeling,” Latvala said. “It's one of my favourite rallies, I won it last year and it feels amazing to win again after such a big battle.
“To be honest this victory is for the team. They have done so much work on the car and it was working so well on this rally.
“I was really happy with the set-up and it was a great performance.”
Loeb was delighted to have made up ground and paved the way for winning both world titles back in France.
“We can win the title in Alsace, like two years ago,” said Loeb.
“That will be a beautiful rally. We have the cards in our hands, and to do the double there will be a dream scenario.”
Solberg was left frustrated.
“I would liked to have beaten Loeb but I lost too much time in the morning,” said Solberg.
“I'm very happy for Ford but first and third should have been first and second.”
Fourth place went to Mads Ostberg (Ford) while the second works Citroen of Mikko Hirvonen came in fifth.
Hirvonen is now the only man who can deny team mate Loeb his ninth world title in a row, but with a 61-point lead the Frenchman is poised to finish the job on home soil. - AFP
Sadly, South African veteran Jannie Habig’s drive in the Wales Rally GB came to a premature end on Saturday morning when his Ford Fiesta left the road and landed in a ditch.
Habig had started the second day of the rally on the Crychan 1 stage, running second on the road in very foggy conditions.
Habig said afterwards that he went into a corner too fast; The car left the road and slid backwards into a ditch. He and his co-driver, Robbie Durant, tried to get the car out of the ditch onto the road to be able to continue.
They could not get the car out of the ditch and lost a huge amount of time and Habig decided that it would be useless to continue.
He was 18th overall at the overnight stop on Friday night after he had a difficult first day coming to grips with the car on the wet, muddy and very fast Welsh roads.
1 Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) Ford - 3hours03min40.3
2 Sebastien Loeb (France) Citroen +27.8sec
3 Petter Solberg (Norway) Ford +28.7
4 Mads Ostberg (Norway) Ford +01min10.6
5 Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) Citroen +1min29.5
6 Evgeny Novikov (Russia) Ford +3min37.0
7 Thierry Neuville (Belgium) Citroen +4min11.9
8 Matthew Wilson (Britain) Ford +6min00.4
9 Martin Prokop (Czech Republic) Ford +6min58.9
10 Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) Citroen +9min32.1
POINTS after 10 rounds - DRIVERS
1 Sebastien Loeb (France) Citroen - 219
2 Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) Citroen - 158
3 Petter Solberg (Norway) Ford - 119
4 Mads Ostberg (Norway) Ford - 114
5 Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) Ford - 113
6 Evgeny Novikov (Russia) Ford - 63
7 Martin Prokop (Czech Republic) Ford - 40
8 Thierry Neuville (Belgium) Citroen - 38
9 Daniel Sordo (Spain) Mini - 31
10 Sebastien Ogier (France) Volkswagen - 31
1 Citroen Total World Rally Team - 348
2 Ford World Rally Team - 237
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team - 123
4 Qatar World Rally Team - 63
5 Adapta World Rally Team - 61
6 Citroen Junior World Rally Team - 60
7 Mini WRC Team - 26
8 Brazil World Rally Team - 20