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Jari-Matti Latvala tops World Rally Championship's first ever qualifying stage in Sweden

Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford, Sweden 2012Jari-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.

Pos Driver                Car         Time             
 1. Jari-Matti Latvala    Ford        1m53.516s
 2. Mikko Hirvonen        Citroen     1m54.084s
 3. Ott Tanak             Ford        1m54.089s
 4. Evgeny Novikov        Ford        1m54.131s
 5. Petter Solberg        Ford        1m54.384s
 6. Sebastien Loeb        Citroen     1m54.727s
 7. Mads Ostberg          Ford        1m54.877s
 8. Eyvind Brynildsen     Ford        1m55.729s
 9. Patrik Sandell        Mini        1m56.317s
10. Martin Prokop         Ford        1m56.723s

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