Latvala wins Wales Rally GB for Ford

Jari-Matti Latvala has won this year’s Wales Rally GB after a tense competition which saw many of the favourite drivers, including last year’s winner and eight-times World Champion Sebastien Loeb and Latvala’s team mate Mikko Hirvonen, forced to retire.

The Finn’s win sees the Ford team take the trophy for the first time in ten years.

Latvala said he was ecstatic with the win, his first in over a year.

“What a way to celebrate! This whole year I’ve been waiting for a victory” said the 26-year-old at the end of the final stage.

“It’s a great feeling, and there have been some very stressful and frustrating times. This is one of my great victories.”

Despite being forced to retire after an incident on the road between stages this morning, Frenchman Loeb had plenty to celebrate – as he was officially crowned World Champion for the eighth year in a row – making him the most successful motorsports driver ever.

The Citroen driver won when fellow championship contender Hirvonen’s race ended on Friday after a crash caused him radiator trouble.

Misfortune hit the Frenchman himself this morning when his vehicle was damaged by a hire car driven by a pair of rally fans from Spain shortly after SS18. The pair swerved to the wrong side of the road causing the collision, no one was injured but the car was too badly damaged to continue to stage 19.

“We were on a very narrow road section between the two stages, there were some crests. I was just driving and I saw a car in front.” Loeb told the WRC website after the incident.

“I brake, I go the side, but the problem was it was a Spanish driver and she was on the wrong side,” he added.

Loeb’s team mate Sebastien Ogier had a disappointing weekend crashing his car within the first mile of stage one on the Great Orme.

There was success also for Welshman Gareth Roberts. The 24-year-old from Carmarthenshire co-driver piloted Irishman Craig Breen to a win in the WRC Academy. The pair have won 500,000 Euros towards their WRC campaign next year.

The British leg of the World Rally Championship (WRC) brings to a close the season which has seen the introduction of a new smaller 1.6litre engine car and the return of Mini to the tournament.

Starting in Llandudno and Conwy, with stages throughout mid and north-Wales before finishing in Cardiff, the rally has covered the widest area of Wales ever. The event has been exclusively staged here since 2000.

Around 50,000 people watched this year’s event according to initial estimates by organisers. 60 million globally viewed coverage of the event on television.

VIDEO: Ian Lang takes a look back over the highs and lows of Wales Rally GB