Ford’s all-new Fiesta RS World Rally Car made a dream debut by powering to a 1-2-3 finish in Rally Sweden over the weekend. Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen won a thrilling opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship by just 6.5sec from Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson. Hirvonen’s team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila were third.
It was Ford’s first podium clean sweep since Rally Sweden in 2008, when Latvala claimed his maiden WRC win and was followed home by Hirvonen and Gigi Galli. Ford Abu Dhabi holds an 18 point lead in the manufacturers’ world championship and Hirvonen’s victory makes him Ford’s most successful WRC driver. This was his 13th victory, edging him ahead of former team-mate Marcus Grönholm.
Eager anticipation built up ahead of the start. New cost-effective, more environmentally aware regulations – based around 1600cc turbocharged, four-wheel drive cars – ushered in a fresh era for the WRC. The first rally for the new-generation cars proved an exciting one with five drivers starting the final day with a realistic chance of victory.
The championship switches to gravel next month for the first of two rallies in the 2011 calendar in the Americas. Rally Mexico is based in León on 3 – 6 March.
Monster World Rally Team’s Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino came in 14th.