Latvala reflects on his season’s ups, downs and
Jari-Matti Latvala says the highs and lows of his first season at the
works Ford team have made him stronger and better prepared to fight for
the drivers’ world championship title in 2009.
Talking to wrc.com, Latvala explained how his early victory in Sweden
had given him a false impression of what was needed to be successful in
“Winning Rally Sweden was a great feeling, but looking back now it was
not the hardest rally,” said Latvala. “Sebastien had gone off the road
and Mikko had lost time. In the second half of the season I have really
started to learn how to fight for the victories. In Japan and GB I’ve
been involved in proper battles. Now I really know what the challenge is
for next year.”
Latvala also admitted that in hindsight his relegation to the Stobart
team for two rallies had proved beneficial.
“It was a difficult time,” said Latvala. “To begin with it didn’t look
so good in the press, but on the other hand it eased off a bit of the
pressure and enabled me to get myself back to the top level. At that
point my self confidence was on the bottom. Looking back I’d say it was
a good move from Malcolm [Wilson]. It made me stronger - mentally - and
it helped me get through a difficult time.
Q&A - Wales Rally GB:
You began the last day in Wales as first car on the road. Did you think
you still had a shot at the win? - I had a feeling in the morning that I
could make it, and it was alright in the morning but going into the
afternoon it changed. The roads in the morning were very solid ice with
a little bit of gravel on top which was giving grip on the braking
points but in the afternoon the sun melted the road which gave a little
bit of surface water and I just didn't have total confidence. I had a
couple of moments and I think that's where I lost the game - I just
couldn't find the rhythm.
What was going through your mind going into that last stage? How much
were you risking to try and keep the lead? - I thought I had lost the
game up until that last stage and when I heard about the penalty for
Sebastien, then I thought I had a possibility. I basically went as fast
as I could and I was taking risks. But I didn't take such big risks that
I would be waiting on the bank for a trailer! I didn't want to finish
the year like that. I thought New Zealand was one time too many to
retire on the last stage so I had a little bit of limit on my speed.
Rally GB marked the end of your first full season with the BP Ford Abu
Dhabi Team - how do you think you did? - Well, I've certainly had highs
and lows. Before the season I was expecting my level of consistency to
be better than last year but in fact, the consistency wasn't there. But
on the other hand the most important thing was that my speed has
improved and I ended being able to fight for the results. Winning Rally
Sweden was a great feeling, but looking back now it was not the hardest
rally. Sebastien had gone off the road and Mikko had lost time. In the
second half of the season I have really started to learn how to fight
for the victories. In Japan and GB I've been involved in proper battles.
Now I really know what the challenge is for next year.
After a good start to the year you had a miserable August, what was the
low point? - Probably New Zealand. But the whole of August was a black
month. Crashing near the start of my home rally in Finland was the first
big disappointment, then once again in Germany we had another big
disappointment [and another roll] and then there was New Zealand [when
Jari retired from second place after hitting a rock on the penultimate
stage]. By the end of Rally New Zealand my confidence was right down.
For the rallies in Spain and France you were dropped from the Ford works
team and drove instead for the Stobart Ford outfit - how did that feel?
- It was a difficult time. To begin with it didn't look so good in the
press, but on the other hand it eased off a bit of the pressure and
enabled me to get myself back to the top level. At that point my self
confidence was on the bottom. Looking back I'd say it was a good move
from Malcolm. It made me stronger - mentally - and it helped me get
through a difficult time.
Having tyres for difficult conditions was a big talking point in Wales.
What's your solution for next year? - The tyres have been working well
this year and the one tyre rule is okay, but with just one tyre we can't
cope with all conditions. I think for every rally we should have two
options. Like in Ireland next year we should have a soft compound tyre
and another option in case it snows. Normally for gravel rallies we
should have two options too - just in case. You never know when there is
possibility for the weather to change.
You've had one year battling Sebastien Loeb at the top level - what do
you think of him now? - I think he's is the greatest rally driver in the
sport's history. Not maybe the bravest, but certainly the most
intelligent. He's the smartest because he's always calculating what he
should do and what not to do. On Sunday in Wales he showed me why he's
five time world champion.
Do you think you and Mikko Hirvonen are at about the same level in the
Ford team next year? - I think so. We are in the same position. The
priority is to try and fight and win the manufacturers' title. But of
course we are very interested in the drivers' title. I have a feeling
that next year will be a very good year for the WRC championship - there
will be many drivers fighting for victories.
Will you be fighting for the Championship title next year? - Yes. I feel
that now, finally, I am ready to fight for the Championship. I spoke
with my co-driver Miikka about this on the road section after the final
stage in Wales. We feel we got the Rally Sweden victory the easy way. It
gave us a feeling that it would be easy from then on. But on Sunday we
realised that the victories need big fights and if you want to win a
title you need to be able to fight and win these battles. I think
mentally I am stronger now.
Will you have the chance to relax sometime between now and Ireland? -
Not really. Next week we are going to be testing in Sweden for Rally
Norway, then I have a PR function in Russia, another in Helsinki and
there are quite a lot of other things to do. I don't have any holidays
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