Ford’s Jari-matti Latvala and Petter Solberg crashed on consecutive stages while leading the Rally of Portugal yesterday. Latvala, the overnight leader went off the road and got stuck in a ditch on stage five as heavy rain and fog made driving treacherous.
As he was unable to continue, the overall lead went to Solberg, only for the Norwegian to suffer a similar fate on the next stage. “Petter went off the road on the second stage and couldn’t get the car back on the road,” said Ford’s spokesman, Mark Wilford.
Both drivers were expected to be back in action today. Mikko Hirvonen, who moved to Citroen for this season, held a lead of 36.3 seconds over the M-sport Ford driver Evgeny Novikov last night after the final three stages were cancelled when the weather continued to deteriorate. “It is so slippery, so muddy,” the Finn said. “The changes of grip are so sudden that anything is possible. I am leading but that doesn’t mean it is easy.”
Hirvonen, who has yet to win for Citroen, could take the lead in the drivers’ championship after the eighttime world champion Sebastien Loeb retired from the rally on Thursday following a crash on the second stage.