When the second round of the WRC starts next week in Sweden, Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala will be keen to put his disappointment of failing to finish on the season's opener in Monte Carlo behind him. In an unusually honest admission, the 27-year-old from Finland openly admits that his rally ending mistake was because he finds it “really hard” with inconsistent conditions that change from corner to corner like those experienced by the teams and drivers last time out.
“I thought the road was quite open, but when I turned into the corner, there was more snow than I expected, so that's why I had too much speed. The safety crews had gone through earlier, but unfortunately, it had been snowing even more…”
The man from Toysa continues to describe his accident and adds something that you would not necessarily expect from a man who finished second in the 2010 championship, and who has a total of seven World Rally wins to his name.
“You see, the mistake that I made” - his voice is peppered with a mixture of Swedish and Finnish intonation - “is that I should have been even more careful because you need to test what is there [the grip levels]. If you don't know, you should back off even more and I didn't back off enough. I just trusted what I saw in a straight line…”
Enough then of the Monte Carlo disappointment, and let's Fast-Forward to February 7, as the WRC takes to Rally Sweden's opening Special Stage in Karlstad, at 20:04.
The only full snow rally of the year should be the perfect place for Latvala to open his points account given his track record on the event. In 2008 he drove a Ford Focus RS WRC to his first rally win and at the same time, beat the record of his hero, Henri Toivonen, as the youngest ever WRC event winner; something he describes as “simply the stuff of dreams” (Latvala was 22, compared to his compatriot who was 24). He added a second victory in 2012 behind the wheel of another Blue Oval machine, a Ford Fiesta RS WRC, and every other time he has taken part in the rally since his maiden victory, he has finished on the podium with two third places.
Undeniably then, something clicks between the driver and the stages, but what is it that makes Jari Matti so fast on the forest stages around Karlstad?
“Being from the Nordic area,” he says, highlighting just why the region has such a rich pool of rallying talent, “I am one of those who has grown up with snow and ice as a fact of life, so yes, there is a bit of an advantage here which is a good feeling, but Sweden is a great event for me for other reasons. Coming to an event that you have won, now twice, gives you an extra bit of confidence.”
In addition to essentially needing to be born in Scandinavia and having a good track record on the rally in order to go quickly, Latvala is quick to emphasise the importance of “people power” as part of the key to winning the event.