Jari-Matti Latvala gave himself an early opportunity to make it back-to-back wins in the World Rally Championship by outpacing his rivals on Thursday’s qualifying stage in Sardinia – thereby ensuring he starts in the best position possible on the road when the event starts on Friday morning.
Latvala set a best time of three minutes, 12.655 seconds on the gravel stage in his VW Polo R. That was more than half a second clear of Evgeny Novikov in M-Sport’s Fiesta and some 1.5s ahead of VW team-mate and championship leader Sebastien Ogier who was third fastest.
Unsurprisingly Friday’s starting order will be a complete reversal of the order in which drivers finished the qualifying stage with Latvala choosing to go 13th and the last of the WRC runners.
In theory this will give his car greater performance as those ahead of him will have help to ‘sweep’ the stage surface clean.
It’s important to start as far back as possible.
Latvala said: “The cleaning effect counts for a lot in Sardinia in particular – something we saw already on the practice runs through the qualifying stage earlier in the morning.
“The stage times were constantly improving so it’s important to start as far back as possible.”
Latvala is taking nothing for granted with Rally Italia Sardegna’s route crammed into two perilously long days for the crews. On Friday cars will leave the main service area in the east-coast port of Olbia at 6.30am for six stages and not return until 12 hours later before then heading off again for two more stages in the evening.
There’s also the stifling Sardinian heat to contend with as temperatures inside the cars tip over the 50 degrees mark.
Latvala added: “Greece was a very nice result but that’s history now. Now it’s a new rally, new conditions. OK we have a good starting position but to be honest Friday is going to be a very long day and very hot conditions.”
Starting order: Rally d’Italia Sardegna
1. Khalid Al Qassimi, Citroen DS3
2. Michal Kosciuszko, M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS
3. Elfyn Evans, M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS
4. PerGunnar Andersson, Ford Fiesta RS
5. Martin Prokop, Jipocar Ford Fiesta RS
6. Andreas Mikkelsen, VW Polo R
7. Daniel Sordo, Citroen DS3
8. Mads Ostberg, M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS
9. Thierry Neuville, M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS
10. Mikko Hirvonen, Citroen DS3
11. Sebastien Ogier, VW Polo R
12. Evgeny Novikov, M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS
13. Jari-Matti Latvala, VW Polo R