30 Mar 08
BP Ford team director Malcolm Wilson has described this year’s Rally Argentina as ‘the worst for the team since the China Rally in 1999’ when both factory Fords retired on the first stage.
"But our team spirit shone through after a tough opening day,” continued Wilson. “We recovered well and we still lead the championship. We salvaged good points from a tricky situation and that was far better than it looked earlier in the rally."
Mikko Hirvonen was a comfortable rally leader during the first morning until he hit a rock, breaking a track control arm in the front suspension and he was sidelined for the day. The 27-year-old Finn restarted on Saturday in 25th and avoided the carnage affecting those around him to eventually finish fifth. He leaves South America second in the drivers' standings, five points behind Sebastien Loeb.
"After Friday's problems, I never thought I could climb this high," said Hirvonen. "I'm surprised to score points and luckily Loeb isn't so far ahead in the championship. He's only five points in front and I thought it would be nine, so that's some comfort. But I'm still disappointed because I made such a good start to lead and I could have won, but that's life. I found more speed than I had on the last round in Mexico but today I drove carefully because conditions were slippery and foggy."
Jari-Matti Latvala dropped nine minutes with a roll on Friday morning, but recovered to eighth until an impact with a rock on day two shattered his car's starter motor and he exceeded the permitted time limit. He restarted on Sunday in 21st and won two of the three special stages to climb to 15th, which was good enough for two points in the manufacturers' championship. The 22-year-old is now fourth in the drivers' standings.
"My performance was disappointing but I think these were the most difficult conditions I've encountered," he said. "I've had to adapt to different ways of driving to match the conditions. I'm surprised to score points for the team because yesterday I thought we had lost everything and wasn't motivated, but my confidence came back this morning. One thing I learned from yesterday was that I need to check the engine after an impact, even when everything seems OK. I've also gained good experience of Pirelli's tyres in wet and muddy conditions which will be good for future events."