by Rob Wilkins
TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH JARI-MATTI LATVALA: CLICK HERE
Jari-Matti Latvala will make his competitive debut with the BP Ford
Abu Dhabi World Rally Team on the Rallye Monte Carlo - the first round in the 2008 FIA World Rally Championship. Crash.net Radio
caught up with the Finn recently and got his thoughts ahead of the start of the new season...
Jari, there is not long to go now ahead of your debut with the BP Ford
Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. Are you feeling well prepared for the Rallye Monte Carlo?
Yeah, I have a good feeling. We have been at M-Sport for four days now and have been getting ourselves familiar with the new car. I have done quite a lot of testing too. I am confident and we have a test on Saturday [January 19] and hopefully we can get a good set-up for Monte Carlo.
Where are you hoping to finish on the Monte?
I would say if I can finish in the top-five I would be very satisfied.
Is the Rallye Monte Carlo an event you like?
Monte Carlo is very difficult and it is always a very hard rally for all the drivers. It is not so easy to enjoy because there are some big challenges to get through during the rally. But if it is snowy I hope it will suit my driving style. It should be a good rally also for the Ford Focus. Marcus Gronholm won the rally in 2006. It should be good for the Ford team.
How much would it help you if there is snow at the Principality?
It should help me and my driving style because I have been a bit too aggressive and I have been changing it quite a lot. I believe mixed conditions should be good for me - if there is a lot of snow and then dry tarmac and even wet tarmac. I am not so good on wet tarmac but in snowy conditions I should be able to do well.
You will obviously use the '07 Focus this year, have you noticed much difference during testing between that spec car and the one you drove last season with the Stobart
The difference between the 07 and 06 spec cars is not huge. There is a little bit of difference in the suspension. The 07 car has a bit better traction. But basically the engines are completely the same. They are very close to each other. It mainly depends on the driver.
How have you found the Pirelli tyres in testing? Is there a big difference?
On dry tarmac they are working quite well. In the wet conditions I need to do some more testing - and the same on snow too. They are different to what we had last year and the tyres look completely different. Also we don't have [run-flat] mousse, which means there will be less cutting and you might have a puncture in the rally, which will effect things quite a lot. You could lose the win if you have a puncture. It means you have to change the driving style a little bit to be more careful. But otherwise the tyres are the same for everybody.