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Q&A: Jari-Matti Latvala - EXCLUSIVE

22 March 2007

by Rob Wilkins


Stobart Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala took his second points finish of the season recently on the Rally Mexico. Here he speaks exclusively to Crash.net Radio about his year to date and looks ahead to the next event in Portugal...


Q:
Jari, the WRC heads to Portugal next week. What are your hopes for that event?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
I am looking forward to going to Portugal, because it is a new event - just like Norway. What I want there of course is to get through the rally and get the experience. Also though, I want to fight for a place in the top six.

Q:
Portugal is a new event - does that make things easier for you?

J-ML:
I think it will because we start at the same level - unlike the events that have been in the championship a long time. It is then maybe easier to get closer to the top guys and to fight for the better positions. Nobody has any experience [of Portugal] and so what matters is how you drive there.

Also on the Friday, on day one I will have quite a good starting position so there is a chance to set good stage times.

Q:
Portugal will be your second event with the 2006 spec Focus on dry gravel. The experience from Mexico will be of real use won't it?

J-ML:
The experience from Mexico will be very important. Coming from Norway, from the snow to gravel, it didn't feel very easy at the start of the rally. I was improving my times every day, but still we were quite far away in terms of speed in comparison to what the others were doing. I was however, able to improve the driving and I got more confident and had quite a good set-up for the car by the end. I think it will help a lot when we go to Portugal. Of course it will be different roads, but in terms of gravel driving we got good experience in Mexico.

Q:
Staying with Mexico, you finished seventh there. Were you happy with that?

J-ML:
I was quite pleased because what I wanted to do there was to get through the rally. I was there last year but I retired on the Saturday. We started sensibly and the idea was just to drive with a good comfortable speed without making mistakes and without risks. We did it and we got two points and so I was quite happy with that. Of course sometimes you have a feeling that you would like to go faster, but you have to think a little bit about where you can push harder.

Q:
Prior to Mexico, we had Monte Carlo, Sweden and Norway. You had a bit of a tough start to the year, but scored your first points of the season in Norway (with a fifth place finish) and then added two more to your tally in Mexico. Are you confident you can continue to build on that?

JM-L:
I hope so. What I really want is to get points from all the remaining rounds because we got good points from Norway and two more from Mexico. The rounds that we will go to now I have a little bit more experience on and also they are good events. So I really hope we manage to do well.

Q:
Are there any events you are looking forward to more than others, apart from your home event?

JM-L:
Of course, Rally Finland is the event I am looking forward to a lot, but Wales Rally GB is the round I have done many times and I have a lot of experience there. I would say those two are the ones I am really looking forward to.

Q:
This is of course your first full year in the WRC at the 'senior' level. You competed in the Production Car WRC last year as well as doing four events with the Stobart team. How useful was all that experience?

JM-L:
Well this year I am doing all the rounds and it is a big opportunity for me now. Everything depends on me. Basically the car is brilliant and I have a great team, so everything comes down to me and how I drive.

Last year we did the P-WRC and four rounds with the Stobart car, as you say, but three of the rounds with the Stobart car were on tarmac and the Group N car is different to drive to a WRC car. You get good experience of the rallies with a Group N car, but then it is different when you jump into a World Rally Car - the speed is different. But still the experience was good. I would say there are still lots of things to learn this year with the World Rally Car.

Q:
Is it easier now that you are with the Stobart team full time, rather than having to swap between the PWRC and the 'senior' level?

JM-L:
Now it is good as we are with the same car all the time. When you are changing from one car to another you always need a few kilometres again to get use to the car. So now that is easier.

Also the new car, the 06 car, seems to be a very, very nice car. Last year we did three rounds with the 05 car and one round, the last round, with the 06. I would say it is now quite good to drive but still there is a big challenge to get the experience and still try to go fast.

Q:
How are you getting on with your Stobart team-mates, Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson? Do you work together and help each other?

JM-L:
We are working very well together and they are very nice guys. We have a good feeling in the team and when we are in the rallies we talk a lot about set-ups and tyre choices. Of course there are things which you can learn from each other. We have a good team.

Q:
Have you been told by Stobart/M-Sport team boss, Malcolm Wilson exactly what they expected from you?

JM-L:
Malcolm is giving me some instructions in the rallies, how to drive and so on. I think it is very important that he tries to help me to understand how I can improve myself. I really appreciate the feedback which I am getting from Malcolm.

Q:
What's the target for the season for you? At the end, what will you need to have done for you to consider it a success?

JM-L:
I would say if we can improve our driving from the previous year, if I am better as a driver compared to 2006, then that is the important thing. But also what I want to do, by the end of the year, is to get so that I am fighting for maybe top three places and get to the podium. If we can get one place on the podium that would be a great thing, a really great thing and I would be really happy. However, the most important thing is if I can take a step forward compared to 2006.


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