Latvala tops first qualifying stage


Jari-Matti Latvala has created history on Rally Sweden this morning, setting the fastest time on the World Rally Championship's first ever qualifying stage.

The Ford driver, running ninth on the road, ended the 2.4-mile qualifying stage 0.568 seconds faster than his former team-mate and two-time Rally Sweden winner Mikko Hirvonen's Citroen.

"I had no problem in the stage at all," said Latvala, whose reward for setting the top qualifying time is first choice of road position for tomorrow's opening leg.

"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. I am happy."

Not only is this the first qualifying stage, but it is also the first time a stage has been timed to the thousandth of a second - and that was crucial in deciding that second place; Ott Tanak's Go Fast Ford was just five thousandths of a second behind the DS3 WRC.

Russian Evgeny Novikov transferred his round one speed from the French Alps to the snows of Sweden with fourth fastest in another M-Sport-run Ford. Latvala's factory Ford team-mate Petter Solberg was fifth, 0.868s down on the Finn's benchmark.

Reigning world champion Sebastien Loeb was sixth fastest in his Citroen.

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