Rally Sardinia’S ABU DHABI Gladiators Turn Up The Heat on Loeb
Six of the best for BP-Ford Abu Dhabi’s Latvala and Hirvonen

Al Qassimi poised for final day push

Olbia, Sardinia. 16th May, 2008: With day two of Rally Sardinia throwing up 134.40 kilometres of competitive action in two identical loops of three stages, it was trailblazing Jari-Matti Latvala - in BP-Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s second car – who lived up to his speedster reputation by winning all six runs through Punta Pianedda (7 & 10), Monte Lerno (8 & 11) and Su Filigosu stages (9 & 12).

Latvala’s stunning drive propelled him through the field; the World Rally Championship’s hottest emerging talent climbed from seventh to joint-second by the end of the day, on the exact same time as his Abu Dhabi team-mate Mikko Hirvonen.

Amazingly, the pair ended day two having both racked up cumulative times of 2:59:50.9 after 12 stages.

Under FIA rules - which state that in the event of two drivers being tied, the driver to have clocked the fastest time in the rally’s first stage is classified higher in the overall standings and therefore runs first on the road the next day - Latvala will tomorrow run second behind the leader, Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb, as he won Friday's Monte Corvos stage.

Importantly though, Latvala and Hirvonen are now comfortably in podium places and strong positions to mount personal victory quests whilst driving BP-Ford Abu Dhabi’s push for maximum manufacturers’ points.

“I’ve spent a lot of time sideways in this rally and it seems to be working – the times are good and I’ve also been going fast over the jumps,” said Latvala.

“I hit a jump today and never in my life have I been so high with a rally car! It was such a surprising jump, I had no idea where we were going to land – it was the kind of feeling where I was afraid of what was going to happen when I landed!

And the 23-year old threw down the gauntlet to Sebastien Loeb when he added: “Road position won’t mean a thing tomorrow and I think during the final day we will see who the fastest driver is.” With light morning rain falling on the Mediterranean island, Hirvonen – running fourth on the road - rediscovered his own pace in the morning’s 67.20 kilometres of stages and maintained the momentum during the re-run this afternoon to strengthen his own chance of catching leader Loeb.

The current World Rally Championship drivers’ standings leader – liberated today after suffering from his first-on-the-road ‘sweeper’ position in leg one – finished second behind Latvala in all six of the day’s stages. The Finnish pair completed a clean-sweep of one-two stage finishes for the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority-backed outfit.

Despite Latvala’s awesome drive both drivers are still 30 seconds behind the formidable Loeb. Hirvonen though may have the slight advantage as he’ll be running third on the road during the final day.

“The long stage today (8 &11) was great, I really liked it, it is very fast and narrow – perfect rally. I’m just really enjoying myself - it’s been quite a while since we pushed the whole day flat out, it’s fantastic,” said the BP-Ford Abu Dhabi number one.

“Jari-Matti attacked hard – he was flying today - and there is now going to be a big fight tomorrow. This rally is not finished yet - there’s still a big gap between me and Loeb but there’s lots of kilometers to go and you never know - we’ll see what happens.”

After a difficult first day and today’s morning rain, BP-Ford Abu Dhabi’s Rally Sardinia forecast is now very bright - bidding to extend their current seven point lead at the top of the manufacturers’ standings, the team’s on course for podium finishes and a healthy points haul. However, there was mixed fortunes for the UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi in the Abu Dhabi team’s third car.

Starting today’s second leg under SupeRally rules after a heavy impact with a bedded rock snapped his steering arm and forced him to retire from leg one, Al Qassimi - shouldering a fifteen minute time penalty for failing to complete stages four through six – got his Sardinian debut firmly back on track in the morning’s stages. By the end of stage nine he’d gained nine places, rising from 33rd to 24th.

The Emirati continued to rise through the ranks in the afternoon - even a puncture five kilometres into the 18.53 km stage 10 failed to slow him down. However, a brake failure in between stages 11 and 12 meant Al Qassimi negotiated the last stage of the day with no front brakes – he’ll enter the final leg in 20th place.

Given his WRC opportunity as part of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority’s partnership with the twice consecutive manufacturers’ champions, the excited Emirati driver was in a defiant mood: “I made a couple of small changes after going off yesterday but in some of the fast sections the car was still not stable,” said Al Qassimi.

“I hit a rock hard during stage ten and felt the tyre go instantly – however, the car was then handling real well so I kept pushing and got through the stage with no more problems, I didn’t really lose too much time.

“Having changed the tyre before stage 11, I was a little tentative about finding grip, so I was surprised to find the car handling brilliantly throughout the stage. We were sliding sideways at full speed and I was in total control – it was the most amazing stage I have driven in Sardinia.

“Then, when Michael (Orr – Al Qassimi’s co-driver) and I were waiting at the start of stage 12, I realised the front brakes had completely gone and we had to go through the final stage without them. We lost time but I’m not really too frustrated, this rally is now all about gaining more experience and confidence on gravel and I think I am starting to get a real feel for this surface. “Tomorrow will be fun,” added the Abu Dhabi man.

Day 2 Leaderboard
1. S Loeb/D Elena 2h59m21.5s
2. J-M Latvala/M Attila +29.4s
=. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen +29.4s
4. G Galli/G Bernacchini +1m17.7s
5. D Sordo/M Marti +1m31.3s
6. C Atkinson/S Prevot +2m42.1s
7. H Solberg/C Menkerud +4m29.0s
8. U Aava/K Sikk +4m34.5s
9. P-G Andersson/J Andersson +5m45.9s
10. P Solberg/P Mills +7m29.2s

Back To News
Ypres 2008 Finland 2008 Finland 2008 Finland 2008