Flying Finn Latvala claims Swedish rally title

Flying Finn Latvala claims Swedish rally title
Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala won the Rally of Sweden near Hagfors in western Sweden on Sunday, clinching the sixth win of his career and the second in Sweden.

The Ford driver was leading going into the final day and he finished 16.6 seconds clear of compatriot Mikko Hirvonen in a Citroen, with Norway’s Mads Ostberg in a Ford taking third place after overtaking compatriot Petter Solberg.

Such was Latvala’s command on the final day that even a puncture three stages from the end when he hit a rock did not cost him the lead.

Reigning world champion Sebastien Loeb of France, who won the season-opening rally in Monte Carlo, finished well back in sixth place after a spin and puncture took the wind out of his sails. He still leads in the overall standings though.

“It is amazing. Four years ago I won this rally and now I got it again,” Latvala said.

“The first time I won this rally I became the youngest ever winner of a world championship rally and beat my hero Henri Toivonen’s record. It’s fantastic to win it again.

“We got a lot of pressure after Monte Carlo and I felt the pressure coming to this event. This has taken a lot of pressure out of the coming events.

“I think we’re really going to challenge Citroen. We’re working very hard.”

Second-placed Hirvonen said he still had plenty to be pleased with despite just missing out on the win.

“It’s not too bad. I think we learned a lot this weekend,” he said.

“Okay, I really did want to win this rally for the team but Jari-Matti was very strong this weekend. We had a fantastic fight and I really enjoyed it, but it’s second this time.”

The world championship circuit next moves on to Mexico with a rally from March 6th-11th.

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