by Rob Wilkins


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. Radio caught up with the Finn recently and got his thoughts ahead of the start of the new season...

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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?

Jari-Matti Latvala:
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 Ford team?

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.
Many people were predicting you would get promoted to the BP Ford team this year. In the end were you confident you would get the job - and are you confident you can deliver?

I have a good feeling at the moment but I know there will of course be some pressure to get good finishes. But that is what you normally need to do. I don't think about it too much. I also know there are some very eager youngsters hunting for the top teams. I will just try to do my job as well as I can and lets see what happens.
What do you think is going to be your role this season with the BP Ford team?

I will be in the position where Mikko use to be and Mikko will be in the position where Marcus was. Mikko will be hunting for victories and I will try and finish in the podium places to make sure we get points. That is the role I will play I would say.
What targets have you got for the year overall?

I will try and finish on the podium as much as possible. I am going to be really, really hunting for that - and I will try improving my driving too. I have a dream that at the end of the year - or at some point this season - if I can win a world rally that is something I have been eager to do for a very long time. I believe that with this car it is very possible. But I need to get that last 2 per cent so that I can go fast enough and keep the car on the road.
Are you looking forward to working with Mikko?

I am really looking forward to it. He is very relaxed and a very nice guy. He helped me last year when I had some problems. If I asked him he would give me some information and tips on what I should do differently.
How do you think your rivals will get on this year, the likes of Citroen and Subaru?

I believe the Citroens will be very, very strong and also it will be interesting to see how the new Subaru goes, when it comes in. It will be a hard battle with Ford and Citroen and I reckon Subaru will be there as well. Suzuki is now coming in as a new team too. They will need some time to develop the car but I think the battle between the top three teams will be strong. I hope Suzuki is at some point up there as well.
Recently it has been confirmed that the route for this year's Rally Finland, your home event, will be quite different. How do you feel about that?

It seems some of the very famous stages will not be driven. But I am not so concerned about that. I know that area in the middle of Finland and there are a lot of good rally roads to use. If we don't use the very famous old stages there will still be some great stages anyway.