Flying Finn Latvala claims Swedish rally title
AFP/The Local · 12 Feb 2012, 16:38
Published: 12 Feb 2012 16:38 GMT+01:00
The Ford driver was leading going into the final day and he finished 16.6 seconds clear of compatriot Mikko Hirvonen in a Citroen, with Norway's Mads Ostberg in a Ford taking third place after overtaking compatriot Petter Solberg.
Such was Latvala's command on the final day that even a puncture three stages from the end when he hit a rock did not cost him the lead.
Reigning world champion Sebastien Loeb of France, who won the season-opening rally in Monte Carlo, finished well back in sixth place after a spin and puncture took the wind out of his sails. He still leads in the overall standings though.
"It is amazing. Four years ago I won this rally and now I got it again," Latvala said.
"The first time I won this rally I became the youngest ever winner of a world championship rally and beat my hero Henri Toivonen's record. It's fantastic to win it again.
"We got a lot of pressure after Monte Carlo and I felt the pressure coming to this event. This has taken a lot of pressure out of the coming events.
"I think we're really going to challenge Citroen. We're working very hard."
Second-placed Hirvonen said he still had plenty to be pleased with despite just missing out on the win.
"It's not too bad. I think we learned a lot this weekend," he said.
"Okay, I really did want to win this rally for the team but Jari-Matti was very strong this weekend. We had a fantastic fight and I really enjoyed it, but it's second this time."
The world championship circuit next moves on to Mexico with a rally from March 6th-11th.