Ford has reversed plans to give the new Fiesta RS WRC its competition debut on the Arctic Lapland Rally after Jari-Matti Latvala crashed the car heavily during testing in Sweden last weekend.
Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen and teammates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila were scheduled to drive a leg each in the two-day snow and ice rally based in Rovaniemi, in Finland, this weekend [Jan. 28-29]. The event was due to be the final part of the squad's preseason test program before next month's opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship in Sweden.
However, the accident – which occurred on the second day of the test – forced the team to revise its plans. Latvala and Anttila were unhurt in the 93mph crash but the Fiesta RS WRC required extensive repair work before the test can continue.
The same car was to be used in the Arctic Rally, but there is insufficient time to repair the damage and complete the Swedish test program before traveling to Rovaniemi for the rally. The car will now remain at the test location to finalize preparations for next month's Rally Sweden (Feb. 10 - 13).
"We will repair the damage to the car before continuing our testing in Sweden later this week," explained Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson. "We're confident we can complete all our scheduled test work this week, but, unfortunately, we need to sacrifice our appearance at the Arctic Lapland Rally to do that.
"I'm sorry for all the fans there who were looking forward to seeing Mikko and Jari-Matti in action in the Fiesta RS WRC, but completing our work in Sweden is the best option to ensure our preparations are completed for Rally Sweden," added Wilson.
Latvala explained the accident happened over a sixth-gear crest. "It was my error," he admitted. "I tried to use the snow banks to slow the car, but it rolled in the road before vaulting the snow banks and hitting some trees.
"The Fiesta RS WRC stood up to the impact remarkably well and Miikka and I escaped unhurt. The fact that the team can repair it and we can continue to test this week shows just how strong it is."