Lightening Latvala speeds home for Stobart in Spain
Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila have stormed home on round 12 of the FIA World Rally Championship to finish sixth on this weekend’s RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España.

Team-mates Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin also put in a solid performance to finish ninth and claim the final manufacturer points position for their Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team who maintain fourth position in the championship.

Latvala began this morning in eighth place but quickly advanced two spots after some positive changes to the setup of his Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC07 overnight which increased his confidence tenfold. Fighting in a two-day battle with Australian driver Chris Atkinson the Finnish youngster came out on top by a mere 1.1 seconds after starting today’s final leg 2.5 seconds down.

The 23-year-old struggled over the opening two days to find a good feeling with the car and his confidence after what he describes as a ‘black August’ which saw him have three accidents in as many WRC events. Sunday, however, the Finn was a changed man setting some amazing stage times including a second fastest on the 16.32 kilometre Riudecanyes 2 test.

A slight fading of brakes on the initial sections of the opening stage of the rally was the only major issue for Wilson who also battled with understeer on the opening two days as he got to grips with the smooth tarmac stages.

Sitting in 10th position for the majority of the event the 21-year-old was happy to advance one place today after taking a calculated risk this morning by opting to run on a soft compound Pirelli PZero tyre despite most WRC crews electing to run with the firmer option. It was an option, however, which proved to work in his favour as he set relatively faster times on all six stages today.

Tens of thousands of fans flocked to the Costa Daurada region this weekend to catch a glimpse of their WRC heroes as Rally Catalunya kicked off with a ceremonial start on Thursday night in the main street of Salou – the host town of Rally HQ and Service Park.

Eighteen fast-paced special stages set the course for competitors as they covered a total of 353.62 kilometres of competitive distance over the three days. The itinerary was laid-out identically on all three days with the setup being a repeat loop of three stages broken up by a midday service. The longest stage of the event came on Saturday when crews passed over the 38.27 kilometre El Priorat/La Ribera d’Ebre test.

Conditions stayed friendly for the entire event with blue skies and sunshine temperatures climbing as high as 25 degrees centigrade. Team weather crews played very important roles this event with crews given the option to choose between a hard or soft Pirelli PZero asphalt tyre for the second time this year. With no time to rest the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team will now head straight across the Mediterranean for round 13 of the WRC next week; Rally de France – Tour de Corse.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
“This rally started off quite frustrating for me but actually, when I look back, it was positive and we found a good setting. Without a test before the event it took us some time to get things feeling the way I wanted and Friday morning was frustrating as I didn’t have a good feeling and also my confidence was low. But we changed some things and I started to drive a bit less aggressively and that seemed to work. The setting we found on Saturday is working and the first stage we had today was great – I can say it was one of my best stages on Tarmac this year. Now the car setup is right I have the confidence to push some more so from that point of view it has been very productive. Also I’m pleased to have scored some more points for my old team Stobart and hopefully I can repeat this next week in Corsica.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“It’s always great for me to score more points for the team and especially here in Spain as most of the top drivers have had tests before the rally. It was also important to not make any mistakes with Corsica so close as this takes some pressure off the Stobart team mechanics and we haven’t put a wheel wrong here. We tried a few different settings, which took some time, but got a good diff setting and feeling with the car on Saturday. We tried the soft Pirelli tyres this morning and they felt positive in the middle stage, and we were able to leave the braking slightly later, so that information is very useful heading to Corsica. With no real testing I find it beneficial to have two events very close together; we finished off this rally well, with a good setup and confidence, and that means we will start in Corsica with this fresh in my mind.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“Once again it has been a strong team performance form the Stobart team and both drivers have really improved throughout the duration of the rally. They haven’t put a wheel wrong and preserved the cars well for Corsica. It was great to see Jari-Matti’s confidence improving as the event progressed and I’m pleased he managed to clinch sixth place on the final day. Matthew’s pace has improved and his consistency has been important throughout this event so things are looking good for the rally next week.”

Stobart Group CEO Andrew Tinkler said:
“This has been another proud day for our Stobart team and after learning his trade with us last year it has been fantastic to see Jari-Matti back in the squad and scoring points. Matthew has also done a great job here and both crews have been consistently improving throughout the weekend. Corsica is only a few days away and I believe it will be a strong event after the progress the team have made here.”

Final Leaderboard
1. S Loeb/D Elena 3h21m17.4s
2. D Sordo/M Marti +24.9sec
3. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen +1m02.5sec
4. F Duval/P Pivato +1m10.8sec
5. P Solberg/P Mills +3m27.4sec
6. J-M Latvala/M Anttila +4m03.8sec
7. C Atkinson/S Prevot +4m04.9sec
8. A Mikkelsen/O Floene +5m19.6sec
9. M Wilson/S Martin +7m43.2sec
10. B Tirabassi/F Gordon +9m05.0sec

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