Despite the 2012 World Rally Championship season being only two events old, Dani Sordo was already out of a job in March. DTM commitments and other unfathomable reasons rubberstamped in the BMW Group boardroom meant Mini’s technical partnership with rally bigwigs Prodrive and the marque’s full assault on the championship was over just weeks after it had leapt from the blocks.
An event here and an event there aside, Sordo was now benched for the remainder of the year, it uncertain whether his career certain would receive the shot in the arm it so badly needed. Then fate swung the other way. Jari-Matti Latvala, after a particularly hairy incident on Rally Portugal, would sit out the next round in Argentina, and Ford came knocking at Sordo’s door. Only for one event mind, since Latvala would be back for the Acropolis. But if Sordo won in the #3 Ford, one event would be enough.
It certainly wasn’t inconceivable. So far Sordo has yet to take his inaugural series victory, but a brace of strong second-places, many of which he pushed then-Citroen team-mate Sebastien Loeb hard to the final checkpoint, suggest he could get the job done. Plus, Ford’s Fiesta has already proven its worth this season. Indeed, were it not for driver and strategy error, the team’s solitary victory (in Sweden) could easily have been nearer three, if not four.
Out-qualifying new team-mate Petter Solberg was a good start for Sordo, his fastest time less than half a second shy of the Citroens up front too. Come Friday morning and everyone was expecting rain, the frontrunners electing to hit the stages early should the rain prove biblical. In the changeable conditions though, Citroen’s hard compound tyre gamble had failed, the heat and grip simply not there, and Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen struggling through the opening stage in 8th and 11th respectively. Up ahead, the Fords were flying on the soft compounds, monopolizing the top five with Solberg leading Sordo, Mads Ostberg, Ott Tanak and Evgeny Novikov after a terrific opening charge.