Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver Jari-Matti Latvala used slowing tactics to give himself a good road position going into the second and final day of the Jordan Rally.
The Finn sits third overall, behind Citroen pairing of Sebasiten Ogier and Sebastien Loeb. Latvala will be hoping to benefit from the fact that the French duo will have to run first on the dusty gravel roads on Saturday, giving Latvala a cleaner and faster line.
“I’m very happy with my road position for tomorrow,” said Latvala. “It will be extremely difficult to win from first in the start order. I wanted to be behind Loeb and I achieved that, so a win is my target. I need to be consistent, enjoy a clean run, and develop the same kind of feeling with the car that I had this afternoon. If I can find all three, then I believe I have a good chance.”
He did have a bit of a scare on the second stage of the day though, as he put Michelin's new gravel tyres to the test. “I took the wrong line and went off into the desert, before rejoining the road without any damage. It was a big wake-up call. The tyres are a massive improvement. I’m not as concerned about hitting big stones because they are stronger, and that allows me to cut corners without worrying about what is in the undergrowth.”
Teammate Mikko Hirvonen endured a tough day, having to sweep the road throughout the day and also suffering broken power steering on the final stage of the day. He is in fifth, two and a half minutes down.
“I was too cautious in the opening two stages and half the time I lost was down to my driving, the other half was due to my start position,” he said. “There was so much loose gravel that in the twisty, downhill sections it felt like driving on ball-bearings. The roads are so hard that the tyres roll across the gravel on top, and don’t bite into the surface beneath. The harder tyres don’t flex on the loose gravel like the previous softer tyres, so it’s more difficult to be first on the road.
“The harder rubber means there is less grip under braking, and when there is so much gravel on the surface the car slides through the corner rather than being slowed. Even one position further back in the start order offers a massive benefit in these conditions.”
Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said: “We were able to use tactics to put Jari-Matti into a great road position for tomorrow. Mikko had a difficult day at the front of the start order and his day wasn’t helped by power steering failure. We’re looking for him to consolidate his position now.”