Latvala has his sights on world crown next year

The BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver vowed to do well after securing the World Rally Championship runners-up spot in the final race of the season in Wales.

Jari-Matti Latvala on his way to third place yesterday.
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Jari-Matti Latvala, the BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver, vowed to challenge for the drivers' title next year after securing the World Rally Championship runners-up spot in the final race of the season in Wales yesterday.

The Finn pipped Petter Solberg, the Norwegian Citroen C4 driver, by two points after moving up from an overnight position of fourth to finish third - his sixth podium of the season - ahead of Mikko Hirvonen, his Ford teammate.

Sebastian Loeb, the world champion, won the Wales Rally GB - his eighth victory of the season.

After completing the three-day event with damage to his Ford Focus following an incident on the final stage, Latvala said: "The wins were really a bonus because I never imagined winning rallies this year because I was the No 2 driver. I'm generally happy how I improved my consistency this year, which was my target. Next year I want to start fighting for the drivers' title."

Latvala's podium means the Focus RS WRC bows out of competition after 12 years with 44 world rally wins and 99 other podiums finishes. The car has been in the points for 132 consecutive rallies, dating back to the opening round of the 2002 season. It is a record the all-new Fiesta RS WRC will aim to extend for Ford in 2011.

Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Khalid al Qassimi and Michael Orr finished 11th in the team's third car.

Malcolm Wilson, the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director, paid tribute to Latvala's progress. "He has increasingly matured as a driver and the ability to find the consistency that he lacked previously was the key factor in finishing runner-up.

"We took the pressure off by making him our No 2 driver and that helped his development. He did a thoroughly professional job all season," he said.