Latvala fastest, Loeb sixth

2012-02-09 17:12

Hagfors - Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala clocked the fastest time in his Ford during the inaugural qualifying stage ahead of the Rally of Sweden here on Thursday.

Latvala, winner in Sweden in 2008, clocked 1min 53.516sec to finish ahead of compatriot Mikko Hirvonen, Citroen's latest recruit and winner of the last two editions of this event raced on snow and ice.

The result means that Latvala can choose where he can start the first full day of racing at Rally Sweden on Friday, as Ford bid to win their sixth consecutive title here.

"I had no problem in the stage at all," he said.

"Maybe on one corner I was a little bit slower after I saw some rocks and went around them, but otherwise it was the perfect time for me."

Eight-time world champion Sebastien Loeb admitted he found the conditions "tricky" as he negotiated the icy track but was satisfied with his time on the 3.99km ice-coated test.

"I didn't want to be first! I prefer to know where the others are," admitted the 37-year-old French Citroen driver who is looking for his second win in as many races after his victory in the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally.

"The aim wasn't to be last either! I didn't take big risks. Rather than to make one (error) it's better to have a reasonable time, to be in the top five or six.

"The fastest driver (Jari-Matti Latvala) won't choose to start first, so whether you are 10th, 12th or 14th doesn't make a big difference."

Loeb has only won once in Sweden, in 2004 the year of his first world title success.

"It's not a surface on which I excel, but I love competing here," he said.

"It's actually one of the season’s most enjoyable rallies. If you look at my record here in previous rallies, it has often been the conditions that have made things more difficult for me.

"When the stages have roads covered with a good layer of sheer ice, I think I’m just as fast as my rivals."

Results after Thursday's inaugural qualifying stage ahead of the Rally of Sweden:

1. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) Ford Fiesta RS 1min 53.516sec, 2. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Citroen DS3 at 0.568sec, 3. Ott Tanak (EST) Ford Fiesta 0.573, 4. Evgeny Novikov (RUS) Ford Fiesta 0.615, 5. Petter Solberg (NOR) Ford Fiesta 0.868, 6. Sebastien Loeb (FRA) Citroen DS3 1.211, 7. Mads Ostberg (NOR) Ford Fiesta 1.361


11. Dani Sordo (ESP) Mini 3.208, 14. Sebastien Ogier (FRA) Skoda Fabia 2000 4.331, 16. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) Citroen DS3 6.208