Yesterday was the final day of Rally Poland and it was the shortest day of competition. A day of mixed emotions for the BP Abu Dhabi team and a salvage job for the Citroen of Sebastian Loeb.
As the day began the Fords had a comfortable lead and looked poised for a second straight 1/2 finish. Danni Sordo promised more pressure from his C4 on the final day. After being back 38 seconds it was going to be tough for the Spaniard to make up that kind of time. If Mikko Hirvonen finished first, he would leap frog Sebastian Loeb for the driver’s title lead. That is exactly what happened. Hirvonen set a blistering pace all day and used his consistency to earn another victory and the lead in the WRC championship. Very hard to believe after Sebastian Loeb’s early season dominance. It could have been a great day for Ford but on the very last stage it all fell apart. Jari Matti-Latvala had been running very well all weekend and looked to bring home a second place finish when he did what everybody expected and crashed. A guaranteed second place and great points for Ford and he ruined it yet again. To be honest I have no idea what Malcolm Wilson sees in this guy. He will never be champion if he is going to hit every object on the race track. Apparently he clipped a barrel on the last stage and broke the control arm on the Focus. A costly mistake that saw him out of the points. Jarri has been making mistakes like this all year and I beg Wilson as a fan of the team to fire this clown! He rolls off cliffs, wins one rally, and then crashes every time after. Malcolm has said that he will be in the car for the next event, however, the Englishman is getting very tired of these events happening and another DNF will see Jarri out the car. I said on the review of day 1 and 2 this would happen and look at the mess created.
As for the Citroen boys, Danni Sordo captured second place, thanks to Latvala. He finished just over a minute behind Hirvonen and captures good points for the French works team. Sordo’s promise of chasing the Ford down never really panned out, but the result is what he as a number two driver needed to do. Your main guy goes down, you have to be waiting in the wings to pick up his slack and improve the team’s position. Sebastian Loeb drove a great third day and thanks to Latvala and a kind stoppage by Conrad Rautenbauch, was able to secure seventh position and a couple much needed points. While I can understand the situation around Conrad stopping for the five time champion, I will not pretend that it was the right thing to do. This is the equivalent of team orders and does not project accurate results. What if we get down to the last rally and Loeb wins by a point or two? That would show Conrad did have a play in leaning the championship and the results are not accurate.
Henning Solberg won the battle for the final podium position. Before Latvala decided to show how dumb he really is, the battle between the Solberg brothers and Sebastian Ogier had been a great one for the fourth position. Petter could not hold the position because of his the slow 06 Xsara, but the battle between the Stobart Ford and the Citroen junior was excellent. However, through attrition, the Henning secured the position. Petter Solberg had slight engine problems that took him out of contention for the podium, but did end up with the fourth place. Sebastian Ogier had an engine failure that saw him lose out on another great finish. The Frenchman was in the fourth place battle and could have been on the podium had it not been the unlucky retirement. In my opinion Ogier continues to be the shining star at the Citroen Juniors and he could have a factory ride before long if more manufacturers decide to enter the sport.
Overall the rally had some unbelievable ups and downs and some predictable failures. We have moved into the latter part of the rally season and the battle is wide open. Hirvonen leads Loeb by a single point as Ford continue to suffer disappointment thanks to Jarri Matti-Latvala. Because of his foolish blunders, the manufacturers title is all but an illusion for the blue badges. I don’t care what happens the rest of the year to Latvala as long as he is out of the car at the end of the year. The next round is the Rally Finland which takes place from 31 July until 2 August. We will have coverage of the event and hope you keep it tuned here for your WRC news fix.