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WRC NEWS 

WRC Italy: Jari-Matti Latvala tops qualifying stage

Latvala tops Rally d'Italia qualifyingFord driver Jari-Matti Latvala posted fastest time at this morning's qualifying stage for Rally d'Italia.

Latvala's time - which was 1.024s faster than his Ford team-mate Petter Solberg - affords him the first choice of where to run on the road on the final gravel round of this year's World Rally Championship.

"The stage was good," said Latvala. "It's quite different in nature to what we will have tonight it was very narrow. I'm happy with the way it went, but now we have to decide what we are going to do.

"We have to decide which is most important, the dust or the cleaning of the road. I think we will decide to go somewhere in the top five places tonight."

Solberg nudged a bank on his way through the qualifying stage and admitted one of his concerns would be the onset of darkness, with the second run of the 28.14-kilometre (17 miles) Terranova stage starting at 18:16 local time.

"The dust could be bad," said Solberg, "but the dust and the darkness would be really bad. We have to think about this. This morning has been good, though, it's a one-two for the team which is what we like."

Sebastien Loeb was the fastest non-Ford in his Citroen.

Loeb's fellow DS3 WRC driver Thierry Neuville dropped seven seconds in the stage after the Belgian forgot to select first gear on the startline.

Mini driver Paulo Nobre crashed in qualifying. The Mini Port team is currently assessing the damage to the car before it decides whether he will take the start and the first two stages in Sardinia this evening.

Pos  Driver              Car         Time/Gap
 1.  Jari-Matti Latvala  Ford       2m26.457s
 2.  Petter Solberg      Ford        + 1.024s
 3.  Sebastien Loeb      Citroen     + 1.307s
 4.  Evgeny Novikov      Ford        + 1.516s
 5.  Mikko Hirvonen      Citroen     + 1.606s
 6.  Ott Tanak           Ford        + 1.989s
 7.  Mads Ostberg        Ford        + 2.250s
 8.  Chris Atkinson      Mini        + 2.777s
 9.  Martin Prokop       Ford        + 5.706s
10.  Thierry Neuville    Citroen     + 7.247s
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