Latvala wins 2012 Swedish Rally

Jari-Matti Latvala drove his Fiesta RS WRC over finish line in Karlstad for his second victory on the Swedish Rally in four years and the fifth consecutive time that Ford has been the winning car with a Finnish driver at the wheel. A handful of the drivers had been fighting for victory in this year's Rally Sweden but only one lived up to expectations, Ford's 26 year old WRC team leader Jari-Matti Latvala.
He won the first qualifying stage in the championship's history, was at the top from the start and took over the lead from special stage eight.
After that, Latvala controlled the rally and had built a lead of 35 seconds when he developed a puncture with two stages to go and suddenly his fellow countryman Mikko Hirvonen was just 8.4 seconds behind. Latvala, however, kept his cool and it was he and co-driver Miikka Anttila, who received the winner's laurels from Prince Carl Philip's hand in the prize giving ceremony at the finish in Karlstad. Latvalas second victory in Rally Sweden was important as at Monte Carlo two weeks ago, he left without scoring points and now he is in the battle for the 2012 World Championship title again.
Winner of the last two Swedish rallies Mikko Hirvonen, had to be content with second place, a good result considering it was his first Swedish Rally in the CitroŽn team's DS3 WRC. The fight for third place was between two Norwegians. Audience favorite, Petter Solberg and last year's runner-up Mads ōstberg. Seasoned veteran Petter had the upper hand until he, like his team mate Latvala, hit a rock on special stage 22nd and punctured two tyres, forcing him settle for fourth place and allowing a podium place for the second consecutive year for ōstberg and Swedish co-driver Jonas Andersson.
The reigning WRC champion Sebastien Loeb was never really in the hunt for a win and finished a distant 6th after experiencing a catalog of adventures in his Citroen DS3 WRC on perhaps his weakest rally in the WRC but he still leads the world championship overall by 7 points from a fast improving Mikko Hirvonen
In the World Championship-class Super 2000 cars, Per-Gunnar Andersson and Emil Axelsson took the lead early in their Proton Satria Neo S2000 and gave nothing away to secure victory.†Podium position also for Pontus Tidemand, who finished third behind Irishman Craig Breen. Patrik Sandell was the best Swedish driver with an eighth place finish in his debut for Sweden World Rally Team in a WRC MINI.
Results (unofficial classification):
1) Jari-Matti Latvala, Finland, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 3.18.28,3
2) Mikko Hirvonen, Finland, Citroen DS3 WRC, + 16.6 sec
3) Mads ōstberg, Norway, the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, + 38.8
4) Petter Solberg, Norway, the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, + 1.14,3 min
5) Evgeny Novikov, Russia, the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, + 2.41,4
6) Sebastien Loeb, France, Citroen DS3 WRC, + 2.55,1
7) Henning Solberg, Norway, the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, + 3.49,5
8) Sandell, Sweden, the Mini John Cooper Works WRC, + 5.08,9
9) Martin Prokop, Czech Republic, the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, + 5.30,0
10) Eyvind Brynildsen, Norway, the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, + 6.27,2
Driver standings after 2 of 13 rounds.
(1) Loeb, 39 points, (2) Hirvonen, 32, (3), P. Solberg, 29, (4) Latvala, 26, (5) Novikov, 21.
Manufacturer World Cup.
(1) Total CitroŽn WRT, 65 (2) Ford WRT, 55, (3) M-Sports Ford WRT, 28, 4) Mini WRT, 26, (5) Qatar WRT, 8.

12th February, 2012