Solberg wins Qualifying Stage

Norwegian celebrates his first ’victory’ with Ford


By Franck Drui

8 March 2012 - 20:03
Solberg wins Qualifying Stage

Ford World Rally Team driver Petter Solberg has afforded himself the best possible start to the third round of the FIA World Rally Championship powered by Nokia by winning this morning’s Qualifying Stage.

The Norwegian was close to a second faster than anybody else through the 5.18-kilometre test. Citroen’s Mikko Hirvonen was second fastest with his team-mate Sebastien Loeb, who is chasing a sixth-straight win on Rally Guanajuato Mexico, a further second down. Jari-Matti Latvala was a disgruntled fourth in his Fiesta RS WRC.

Solberg said: “I was really trying hard not to make any mistakes this morning, but I really tried hard. That was good fun.”

Having seen a mistake away from the start from Loeb, Hirvonen began the stage in confident mood, saying: “I thought I could take him [Loeb] on this stage. I made one small mistake, but when you are driving at this altitude you can lose so much time.”

Loeb felt he had been sliding the car too much and, because of the high altitude, he was running out of power from the DS3 WRC at the exit of corners.

“I was missing the speed,” said Loeb. “I made one or two small mistakes, but nothing major. It was good, but not great.”

Latvala was mystified at his time, which was 2.371s slower than Solberg.

“I thought it was okay,” said Latvala. “I honestly don’t understand what happened in there, really I have no idea, but the time is no good at all.”

Behind the top four, M-Sport driver Evgeny Novikov turned in a solid fifth-quickest time with Adapta’s Mads Ostberg and Thierry Neuville just a couple of tenths down on him. Neuville’s performance in the Citroen Junior World Rally Team DS3 WRC was particularly merit-worthy, given that this is his gravel debut in a World Rally Car.

Monster drivers Chris Atkinson and Ken Block were 10th and 11th respectively, the American landing on a rock after a jump in the stage.

WRC Team MINI Portugal drivers Paulo Nobre and Armindo Araujo are likely to run first on the road. Araujo’s run was spoiled by turbo and throttle problems, which earlier limited him to one run in free practice.

Crews will select their starting positions for Friday’s stages from 13:00hrs local time.

1. P.Solberg (Fiesta WRC) 2’48’6
2. Hirvonen (DS3 WRC) 2’49’5
3. Loeb (DS3 WRC) 2’50’6
4. Latvala (Fiesta WRC) 2’51’0
5. Novikov (Fiesta WRC) 2’52’1
6. Ostberg (Fiesta WRC) 2’52’3
7. Neuville (DS3 WRC) 2’52’3
8. Tänak (Fiesta WRC) 2’53’0
9. Al-Attiyah (DS3 WRC) 2’53’1
10. Atkinson (Fiesta WRC) 2’54’1
11. Block (Fiesta WRC) 2’57’5
12. Ogier (Fabia S2000) 2’58’9


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