Jari-Matti Latvala takes Wales Rally GB win

Jari-Matti Latvala takes his Ford Fiesta airborne during the Wales Rally GB
Jari-Matti Latvala takes his Ford Fiesta airborne during the Wales Rally GB

Jari-Matti Latvala won the final rally of the season as he triumphed in the Wales Rally GB on Sunday.

The Finn held a 6.1 second overnight lead in his Ford Fiesta over newly crowned world champion Sebastien Loeb.

Any hope Loeb had of making a late charge ended between the 18th and 19th stages, when his Citroen collided with a spectator's car coming towards him.

Unfortunately the Frenchman's Citroen was too badly damaged for Loeb to complete the remaining stages.

Both he and co-driver Daniel Elena as well as the driver of the other car, a Spanish spectator, escaped unscathed.

"The radiator was damaged but we are going to try and repair the car so that it can mount the podium in Cardiff," said a Citroen spokesperson.

Latvala and co-driver Mikka Anttila were then able to ease off in the run to the finish and claim a first win in the World Rally Championship for 18 months, and just Ford's third this season.

Despite concerns overnight about the engine on his Ford Fiesta, Norway's Mads Ostberg matched his best result of the year with second place, while behind him a thrilling battle raged for third place.

Ostberg's compatriot Henning Solberg held a 39sec overnight advantage over the Mini of Kris Meek, but the Northern Irishman set a furious pace from the start of the day and as they went into the final stage the gap was down to 1.8sec.

In his efforts to snatch the final podium place, however, Meeke made a mistake on one corner and that was enough to consign him to fourth place while Solberg completed a Ford 1-2-3.

Afterwards an upbeat Meeke, reflecting on the team's first year in World Rallying, said: "The car has exceeded expectations, we're at a very good level and know where we have to be. For sure we can push for a win next year."

As he completed the final stage an overjoyed Latvala commented: "The whole year I have been waiting for a victory. It has been a long long time... it's a great feeling, there have been very stressful and frustrating times. This is one of my great victories."

Meanwhile, the Welsh Assembly Government has confirmed it will support the event once again in 2012 with a £1.4m funding package.

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