The Focus RS World Rally Car that saved Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila from serious injury during a violent crash in Portugal last season will return to competition in the opening round of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship in Sweden next week.
Such is the car's strength that, despite plunging almost 200 metres down a hillside when it rolled 12 times, it has been rebuilt by the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally team for Rally Sweden – with Latvala and Anttila again behind the wheel.
Latvala's accident in Rally de Portugal on his 24th birthday was one of the most dramatic in the sport's history. The Focus RS WRC rolled down the hillside for almost 20 seconds but both Finns walked away from the wreckage with just cuts and bruises. Television footage of the crash has been watched more than 765,000 times on the YouTube video sharing website.
A report prepared by M-Sport, the company which builds the Focus RS WRCs for Ford's world rally programme, revealed the car's cutting edge safety features protected the Finnish crew. Although the car appeared badly damaged from the outside, the cockpit remained virtually intact thanks to the strength of the car's internal roll cage.
After the crash the car was returned to M-Sport's Dovenby Hall headquarters in Cumbria, England from where it was stripped to a bare shell and rebuilt.
"The accident looked horrific but structurally, the shell stood up to the pounding remarkably well. It underwent rigorous checks to ensure there were no weaknesses and the decision was taken to rebuild the car for future use. Crew safety is our prime concern in the build of any rally car and our increased efforts in this area are reflected in the fact that Jari-Matti's car lives on," said BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson at today's championship launch in Paris.
Ford of Europe motorsport chief Gerard Quinn said: "The strength of the Focus RS WRC was clear for all to see in the aftermath of Jari-Matti's crash. This quality is reflected across the Ford family. The WRC is an arduous proving ground for safety technology, but the feedback from incidents like this is invaluable when developing future generations of Ford road vehicles for our customers.
"There is also a strong environmental aspect. In the past a car that suffered such a heavy accident would likely have been scrapped. In this case, the basic shell has been recycled and key components such as the engine and gearbox have been used again in other rebuilds," added Quinn.
Latvala gained his maiden WRC victory in Sweden in 2008 and has no concerns about driving the car again. "When I saw the car being rebuilt, I could see some places where the welding was new. That made me think back to the crash, but I really have no problems about climbing into the car again. The team has done an amazing job to rebuild it and I can't wait to be back out competing again in Sweden," he said.