Jari-Matti Latvala admitted his Rally Sweden victory came as a huge relief after his disastrous start to the World Rally Championship season in Monte Carlo.
Ford has elevated Latvala to number one status this year after Mikko Hirvonen's departure to Citroen. Latvala took a half-minute lead on day one in Monte Carlo, only to crash out and have to watch Sebastien Loeb take a maximum score. But Latvala responded by winning in Sweden last weekend, while various incidents for Loeb left him down in sixth place. Although Loeb took the bonus points for winning the power stage, Latvala is still back within 13 points of the reigning champion in the standings.
"After retiring from the first round last month, I was under heavy pressure to do well," said Latvala, after holding on to beat Hirvonen to victory in Sweden despite a late puncture. "It feels like a heavy weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I've learned to stay calm when things go wrong and that paid dividends.
"I knew Mikko would attack hard [over the final stages] so I was wide awake and ready for it. I had a comfortable lead before everything changed with just two stages to go, but I kept my cool."
Ford team boss Malcolm Wilson reckons the manner of Latvala's triumph will open the floodgates to more success.
"It's a milestone victory for the team and with the confidence he has in the car, I'm sure there will be more to come," said Wilson.