Jari-Matti Latvala had difficult debut with the BP Ford
Abu Dhabi World Rally
Team on the Rallye Monte Carlo - the opening round in the 2008 FIA World Rally
Latvala, who was promoted to the 'A' team this season on the back of his performances with the Stobart
squad last year, saw his event get off to the worse possible start when he ran into trouble halfway through SS1 when he hit a rock in his 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.
On day 2 he struggled to regain his confidence and while he set six top eight stage times and ended the day ninth and almost back on course for drivers' points, he wasn't at all happy.
Saturday though only got worse for the Finn and while he lost further time to the cars ahead when he suffered a hydraulic problem in the morning, it was a contact with a stone in SS12 that proved to be his undoing, damaging his front suspension and forcing him out of the leg.
Jari re-started on Sunday though under the SupeRally and he finally seemed to find a good rhythm, setting some good times, including a second best effort in SS18, the final 'proper' stage of the event.
"I made two mistakes and it was a long and difficult weekend," he conceded at the finish. "But I found good speed today [Sunday] and I was happy with my times. It's unfortunate they came three days too late. I've learned much about cutting corners with the new tyres - I can't afford to do that if I want to finish rallies. Today I also learned I have to be aggressive in turning for the tyres to work to their best."
BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director, Malcolm Wilson meanwhile reckoned that his new #2 driver will have gained a lot from his experiences over the last four days: "It was a steep learning curve for Jari-Matti - but he has drawn experience from the weekend and will feel the benefit later in the season," Wilson Sr summed-up.