In Jari-Matti Latvala's latest exclusive column on Crash.net, the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team man reflects on Rally de Espana, where he again led the M-Sport charge.
I was really hoping for a podium in Spain last weekend in my Ford Focus RS WRC car. Unfortunately though I couldn't mange that. The speed was okay, in fact, for me it was better than ever in Catalunya. It was important to be able to improve my times and be a bit closer to the pace compared to Rally de Espana 2009. But still I was slightly off the Citroens which was a little annoying.
Nevertheless, I put in a solid performance and my third successive fourth place on asphalt - or mostly asphalt in the case of Spain - after also getting the same result in Germany and France, shows good consistency, something else I have been striving for this season. I'm more confident on tarmac than I have ever been before now.
At the end of the first day, which was run on mixed surfaces, I held third and was delighted to be in the top three.
I made a few small mistakes and on SS3 I went wide in one of the 90 left corners, but it was nothing serious. I also hit a rock in SS6 and broke the wheel. For a moment I thought I had a puncture. But the tyre was fine. There was nothing major to report.
Going into the second leg I was really hoping I could hold onto my rostrum place, but as it turned out Petter [Solberg] and Dani [Sordo] were just that little bit stronger and I slipped back.
It was a shame because I felt relaxed and had quite a good set-up and a good feeling with the car. We have been able to improve the Focus RS WRC on tarmac during the season and generally it worked really well.
Indeed I can honestly say nothing specifically went wrong on the second and third days. I did have a small problem on the first stage on Saturday when there was something wrong with the damper set-up. It was not at all good and we struggled a bit in Santa Marina 1 [SS7]. But we were still sixth quickest and after that it felt fine.
It just seems on tarmac Citroen
have a slight advantage and while I was comfortable, I just couldn't do any better.
Throughout my stages times were okay – and I posted 14 top-fives (from a possible 16). When the surface was a bit more abrasive on the second and third legs I felt good. But when the stages were smooth - a little bit shiny, it had less grip and that was where I was losing out.
I then made a decision during the midst of the event that it was better to take fourth and the points and keep myself right up there in the championship, than push and risk going off. I really want to finish at least third in the WRC standings this season – as I have been fourth the last two years running - and following Spain it is very close. It all looks very interesting and I'm looking forward to continuing the fight in Wales.