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Jari-Matti Latvala clinches win in Sweden for Ford despite late puncture

Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford, Sweden 2012Jari-Matti Latvala escaped a late puncture to wrap up victory in Rally Sweden.

The Ford driver's 35-second lead dwindled to just eight seconds when he hit a rock and damaged a front tyre on the antepenultimate stage. But quickest time on the next test rebuilt his advantage and allowed to come home comfortable ahead of main rival Mikko Hirvonen.

The Finnish duo had taken charge of the rally from Friday afternoon onwards, after set-up concerns for Mads Ostberg, a spin by Petter Solberg and a two-minute excursion into a snow bank by Sebastien Loeb saw the trio fall away from the lead battle.

Latvala gradually edged away from Hirvonen as the weekend progressed, with a few errant set-up changes and high tyre wear on the Citroen ultimately costing Hirvonen too much time.

Solberg and Ostberg ended up in a long tussle over the final podium spot, which was won by the Adapta Ford when the works man lost time with a puncture from the same rock his team-mate Latvala had hit.

Myriad incidents for Loeb meant he could only finish sixth, with M-Sport Ford's Evgeny Novikov repeating his impressive Monte Carlo form by driving fast enough to stay out of the recovering factory Citroen's reach and secure fifth place.

Henning Solberg was seventh in the Go Fast Ford, ahead of top Mini driver Patrik Sandell, whose team-mate Dani Sordo led after Thursday night's superspecial but damaged his car's engine in an incident with a snow bank on Friday afternoon.

Martin Prokop (Czech Ford) and World Rally Car debutant Eyvind Brynildsen in the second Adapta car completed the top 10. Sebastien Ogier was 11th in the Volkswagen-run S2000 Skoda, while P-G Andersson gave Proton a maiden victory in the S2000 class.

Leading finishers:

Pos  Driver                   Team/Car                    Time/Gap
 1.  Jari-Matti Latvala       Ford                      3h18m28.3s
 2.  Mikko Hirvonen           Citroen                      + 16.6s
 3.  Mads Ostberg             Adapta Ford                  + 38.8s
 4.  Petter Solberg           Ford                       + 1m14.3s
 5.  Evgeny Novikov           M-Sport Ford               + 2m41.4s
 6.  Sebastien Loeb           Citroen                    + 2m55.1s
 7.  Henning Solberg          Go Fast Ford               + 3m49.5s
 8.  Patrik Sandell           Mini                       + 5m08.9s
 9.  Martin Prokop            Czech Ford                 + 5m30.0s
10.  Eyvind Brynildsen        Adapta Ford                + 6m27.2s

Other WRC finishers:

13.  Thierry Neuville         Citroen Junior            + 10m03.7s
14.  Armindo Araujo           Portugal Mini             + 13m00.9s
19.  Peter van Merksteijn Jr  Van Merksteijn Citroen    + 15m19.2s
20.  Michal Solowow           M-Sport Ford              + 16m40.2s
21.  Nasser Al-Attiyah        Qatar Citroen             + 17m10.1s
38.  Richard Goransson        Mini                    + 1h16m45.2s

WRC retirements:

     Ott Tanak                Go Fast Ford                    SS22
     Paulo Nobre              Portugal Mini                   SS22
     Jari Ketomaa             Autotek Ford                     SS8
     Dani Sordo               Mini                             SS8

Leading power stage results:

Pos  Driver                   Team/Car                    Time/Gap
 1.  Sebastien Loeb           Citroen                      2m58.7s
 2.  Petter Solberg           Ford                          + 4.9s
 3.  Jari-Matti Latvala       Ford                          + 5.7s
 4.  Martin Prokop            Czech Ford                    + 7.3s
 5.  Mads Ostberg             Adapta Ford                   + 7.4s
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