The Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team has been forced to cancel the planned debut of its Fiesta RS World Rally Car. The team had been due to give the new car its competition debut at the Arctic Lapland Rally in Finland this weekend (28-29 January), but have had to drop these plans after driver Jari-Matti Latvala crashed heavily during a test in Sweden.

Latvala and teammate Mikko Hirvonen were due to drive a leg each of the two-day snow and ice rally based in Rovaniemi. The event was due to be the final part of the team's testing programme with the car prior to its World Rally Championship debut on Rally Sweden in February.

However, a heavy accident on the second day of a test in Sweden has forced the team to cancel the planned appearance at the Arctic Rally. Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila were both unhurt in the 150kph crash, but the car, which was the same one that was to be used on the Arctic Rally, was heavily damaged and requires extensive repair work.

The repair work means that there isn't enough time for the team to conclude the test programme in Sweden before travelling to the Arctic Rally. The team has therefore revised its schedule, meaning the car will remain in Sweden to complete the development programme there prior to Rally Sweden on 10-13 February.

“We will repair the damage to the car before continuing our testing in Sweden later this week,” explained team director Malcolm Wilson. “We’re confident we can complete all our scheduled test work this week, but unfortunately we need to sacrifice our appearance at the Arctic Lapland Rally to do that.”

He added: “I’m sorry for all the fans there who were looking forward to seeing Mikko and Jari-Matti in action in the Fiesta RS WRC, but completing our work in Sweden is the best option to ensure our preparations are completed for Rally Sweden.”

Latvala explained how the accident happened. “It was my error,” admitted the Finn. “I tried to use the snow banks to slow the car, but it rolled in the road before vaulting the snow banks and hitting some trees.  The Fiesta RS WRC stood up to the impact remarkably well and Miikka and I escaped unhurt.  The fact that the team can repair it and we can continue to test this week shows just how strong it is.”