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.

"There is a really good atmosphere on the Swedish rally, and you can really feel the atmosphere when you arrive at the end [of the Sagen stage - his favourite of the rally], because in this place, the forest is cut down and there are thousands of spectators. When you normally arrive there, they have fires going and everything - you can really see the atmosphere when you get to this area."

He is also quick to point out that due to Sweden's proximity to his home country, the support from his fellow Finns, who make the journey across the border is something he can draw on in helping him "feel very much at home and comfortable." Being able to "speak a bit more of the local language" may also have something to do with him getting into the rhythm on the largely twisty and narrow stages too...

As a man who is used to threading a car through the marble-esque gravel tracks of Australia or the icy narrow roads above Monte Carlo for a living, it should come as no surprise that the event's Sagen stage is Latvala's favourite, given that his compatriot and record breaking five times Swedish Rally winner, Marcus Gronholm described it as "having a great blend of fast as well as technical sections; a fantastic stage"; an opinion with which Latvala whole heartedly agrees.

"Yeah, it is!" he enthuses. "Most of the stages in Sweden are quite narrow, but this is wide all the way through like Ouhninpohja (one of the most feared and respected stages on the WRC calendar, which is of course apart of Rally Finland). It's very flowing and you have some very fast sections, but you wouldn't feel that it's too fast."

It's a pleasure to listen to Jari-Matti almost listing the stage's qualities in detail during this part of the conversation.

"It's [the stage] in the forest, but not very deep in the forest, and you have nice long, long corners and basically you climb up the to the hill and then climb over the top of it," he continues, "at the end of the stage, you come to the most difficult corner of the rally that is a really tight hairpin and it's normally very slippery, because there's normally a lot of ice of the corner and it's also off camber. Then there's the finish line."

Unusually, however, for a man whose driving style has been described as "flamboyant", he believes this style is not necessarily the best way to add a third Swedish win to his trophy cabinet.

"Whilst a big jump over Colin's Crest (a crest on SS11, Vargasen, which was named in honour of the late Colin McRae) is tremendous fun, it may not be the quickest way through the forest, because when you're in the air, your wheels aren't touching the ground and the car is not accelerating any more. As long as you're in the air, your speed is coming down. If there are corners afterwards, there is no point in trying to make a big jump, because the longer you're in the air, you lose speed, so how sensible would it be?"

Instead, he believes that slowing the car down by using the car's extremities against the snow banks that line the stages, as well as having a good set up that allows the driver to "feel the grip in a consistent way and push to the limit" are additional aspects to success in Sweden.

As the conversation draws to a close, I ask whether going at speeds of around 200kph on snow and sheet ice scares him; a question to which I expected a flat out "no" as a response. Again, in a similar vein to his admission that he got it wrong in Monte Carlo, Latvala answers with a candid honesty that makes a nice break from the stock answers expected from a top-level driver.

"Umm... yes!" comes the quick reply. "Imagine what it's like in these quite slippery conditions, but because of the tyres, because of the suspension and everything, the grip levels are pretty good. You can actually go as quick as you can, and sometimes even more."

There you go then. Expect to see Jari-Matti Latvala on the podium at least in Sweden.

by George East