Latvala claims superb home victory

Jari-Matti Latvala claimed the biggest win of his World Rally Championship career so far by holding the Citroens to earn victory in his home event Rally Finland

Latvala claims superb home victory

Latvala became Ford's only hope after his team-mate Mikko Hirvonen - who had set a spectacular early pace - had an enormous crash on Friday morning. Hirvonen's accident had put Petter Solberg (Solberg Citroen) into the lead for a while, but by the middle of day one Latvala had pulled ahead.

As Solberg slipped back thereafter, the two factory Citroens started chasing Latvala down. Sebastien Ogier had made a quiet start to his first rally in the factory line-up before raising his game and charging through to second, while his team leader Sebastien Loeb had dropped as low as seventh initially having damaged his car's front aerodynamics early on Friday.

A string of stage wins for the Citroen duo kept Latvala under pressure, and Ogier went into the final two stages of the event - which saw a full weekend's rallying squeezed into two days under a new-for-2010 format - just 10 seconds adrift. But Latvala had things under control and managed to clinch victory with a similar margin.

"This is something that I have been dreaming of since I was a very, very small boy," said the ecstatic winner.

Despite being defeated, Ogier was thrilled to take second on his factory debut.

"It's fantastic weekend for me," said the Frenchman. "To finish second is better than I expected for sure. Jari-Matti was incredibly fast. It's a perfect result."

Loeb won a late battle with Solberg to finish third, which he was content with having decided not to risk everything this weekend with an ample points lead in his pocket already and a string of asphalt rounds ahead.

"Third place is not what we prefer, but I didn't come here especially for the win," said Loeb. "I wanted to score some points. It's not my rally, I know. We can always get good results but it's a difficult rally for me. Third place is not so bad for the championship."

Dani Sordo, demoted to Citroen Junior to make way for Ogier in the factory line-up, was a top three contender at first before fading away to finishing a distant and confused fifth.

Matthew Wilson held on to sixth for Stobart Ford by just 7.1 seconds as Mads Ostberg - whose Adapta Subaru had suffered a puncture on Friday - surged back up the order. Having been two and a half minutes down on Wilson immediately after his puncture, Ostberg reckoned this had probably been his best ever drive.

Returning legend Juha Kankkunen (Stobart) took an excellent eighth in his first WRC round for eight years. He had hoped before the event that he could battle with countryman Kimi Raikkonen's Citroen Junior car, and got his wish as they fought for seventh until Raikkonen went off and lost nine minutes this morning, leaving the ex-Formula 1 driver back in 25th.

Also missing out on points was Stobart's Henning Solberg, who looked set for his best rally in a long time as he fought with Loeb on the cusp of the top five on Friday morning, only to crash out.

Intercontinental Rally Challenge points leader Juho Hanninen popped back to the WRC and came away with ninth overall and an S2000 class win. Jari Ketomaa had led the class at first until hitting electrical problems.

The Production class also saw an early leader strike trouble as Juha Salo made a mistake and lost the lead to Pirelli Star Driver Ott Tanak, who dominated thereafter.

Pos  Driver              Car        Time/Gap
 1.  Jari-Matti Latvala  Ford     2h31m29.6s
 2.  Sebastien Ogier     Citroen     + 10.1s
 3.  Sebastien Loeb      Citroen     + 26.0s
 4.  Petter Solberg      Citroen     + 30.7s
 5.  Dani Sordo          Citroen   + 1m45.0s
 6.  Matthew Wilson      Ford      + 5m43.7s
 7.  Mads Ostberg        Subaru    + 5m50.8s
 8.  Juha Kankkunen      Ford      + 7m49.0s
 9.  Juho Hanninen       Skoda     + 9m05.0s
10.  P-G Andersson       Skoda    + 10m15.7s
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Latvala holds off Citroen challenge
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