BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally
Team debutant Jari-Matti Latvala
paid the price for cutting a corner too much on the opening stage of the Rallye Monte Carlo on Thursday night.
Latvala ran into trouble around halfway through the 28.12 kilometre-run through St Jean en Royans when he hit a rock in his Ford Focus RS WRC car and had to stop to change the wheel.
Last year he would probably have got away with the incident, but with new rules banning puncture-resistant mousse inside the tyres he lost considerable time – around 3-4 minutes. Consequently he finished the opening day only just inside the top 20, nearly 5 minutes off the current leader, Sebastien Loeb.
"Fifteen kilometres after the start we came through a tunnel into a fast right, fourth gear corner, but I went too deep into the bend and hit a rock with the front right wheel," explained the 22-year-old.
"The impact damaged the wheel rim and the tyre went flat immediately but I had to drive another 100m until I found a junction where I could stop. There wasn't enough power in the wheel nut gun to undo the nuts either, so we had to use the wheel brace to loosen them before then taking them off with the gun."
Despite his problems on SS1 though, Jari did manage to set a reasonably good time in SS2 and was eighth quickest overall. In the end he had no complaints about his Pirelli tyres and he now wants to make his way back up the leaderboard and score points for the team.
"The tyres were good and I had excellent grip in the dry but when I slid on the ice it affected my confidence. It wasn't easy in the dark because it was hard to see where the ice was. Tomorrow I want to find a good rhythm, set good times and try to move back into the points for the team," he concluded.
BP Ford team director Malcolm Wilson meanwhile reckoned that Jari has learned a valuable lesson: "Jari-Matti learned the hard way about the new tyre rules, but now he understands that he has to think carefully about not cutting corners and what the consequences might be if he does," Wilson chipped in.