Ford's World Rally Championship star Jari-Matti Latvala set a class-leading pace at last weekend's Nurburgring 24-hour race, but slipped down the field when the engine on his Ford Focus RS was damaged by track debris.
Latvala, who had celebrated winning Rally New Zealand the previous weekend, was driving for the Team FH Koln Motorsport, which was made up of Cologne University students who had entered and prepared the racecar.
Latvala, who was partnered by Anja Wassertheurer, Daniela Schmid and Stefan Schlesack, was running at the sharp end of their class when the Focus collected some debris on the track, forcing the team to spend more than three hours changing the engine. The team eventually completed 29 laps of the 13-mile circuit and finished 117th from 197 starters.
"It was a great experience to race in front of 220,000 fans," said Latvala. "The atmosphere around the track was fantastic, the car worked extremely well and the whole team did an outstanding job. I drove at dusk on Saturday and at dawn on Sunday, but not during the night. That's why I cannot consider myself a true 24-hour race driver yet. There is still a task to be fulfilled.
"After four hours, before we changed the engine, we were in 72nd position and set the fastest lap in our class so it was a shame we had a problem. I drove the final leg and slowed on my last lap so that I reached the finish just after 1500 and didn't have to drive an extra lap. I was the first car to take the checkered flag – I thought maybe I had won the race!" joked Latvala.
"I will drive four asphalt rallies in the second half of the World Rally Championship season in Bulgaria, Germany, France and Spain. Rally Deutschland, in August, is based quite close to the Nurburgring."