Ford World Rally Team driver Jari-Matti Latvala will be hoping for repeat success at Brother Rally New Zealand, which runs from 21 to 24 June, to get his world championship campaign back on track.
Coming into the seventh round of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship the Finn is back in fifth place in the standings after a disappointing season so far in his Ford Fiesta RS world rally car. Having missed Rally Argentina with a broken collarbone sustained in a skiing accident and failing to record results that are indicative of his true speed and talent in the other events to date, Latvala has added motivation to reach the top step of the podium at Brother Rally New Zealand.
The 27-year-old Latvala enjoyed the sweet taste of victory after piloting his Ford Focus to the New Zealand event in 2010 and he returns to the event this year with warm memories of his last visit to these shores.
“The final day of the 2010 rally will always remain with me,” Latvala says.
“Four drivers started the final stage, Whaanga Coast, with a chance of winning the rally. After a dramatic 30 kilometres in which the other three drivers all made mistakes, I won by just 2.6 seconds, one of the closest finishes in WRC history,” he says proudly.
Latvala’s team-mate Petter Solberg is no stranger to success on the gravel roads of New Zealand either – the Norwegian claimed victory here in the 2004 event – and the team will boast two of the event’s favourite drivers, both who clearly enjoy driving in the local conditions.
“It is one of my favourite rallies,” Latvala says. “As a rally driver, I enjoy fast and flowing roads and there are plenty of those in New Zealand.
“New Zealand is a great country to visit, but from a rallying perspective it is the roads that make the rally so enjoyable. They are smooth, flowing and cambered, all of which encourage a driver to attack. They’re a pleasure to drive.
“I enjoy coming to New Zealand and the rally is a true drivers’ event.”
While Latvala is looking to play catch-up, team-mate Solberg has proven to be right up to pace this year in his first season since returning to the Ford stable.
Solberg comes to New Zealand fourth in the standings and could well have been challenging for the championship lead but for misfortune on the final day of the most recent round in Greece. The Norwegian had been battling with eight-time defending world champion Sébastien Loeb at the front of the field but a crash saw him drop from second to fourth in the standings. Solberg is every bit as capable as his team-mate Latvala at achieving victory, the 2012 season could again come down to single-digit seconds to decide the winner.
With a total of fourteen drivers entered for the top-billed WRC class plus teams in the Super 2000 and Production World Rally Championship categories (SWRC and PWRC), Brother Rally New Zealand is also the fourth round of the 2012 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC), powered by Brother. Working with the Pukekohe Car Club, Rally of New Zealand also runs a subsidiary event, the Possum Bourne Memorial Rally, for local competitors.
Again based in Auckland, this time at the Viaduct Events Centre, it will take competitors to much-loved rural roads around the Raglan and Waikato, Whangarei and Kaipara districts as well as new stages in and around Auckland.
Detailed spectator and ticket information and current news is available on the event website www.rallynz.org.nz or follow the event on Facebook or Twitter.
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