2 January 2014
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen – Q&A
VW driver Jari-Matti Latvala looks ahead to the 2014 World Rally Championship in an exclusive interview with Crash.net.
Having taken third in the standings in his first season with Volkswagen, Jari-Matti Latvala looks ahead to the start of the 2014 WRC season in conversation with George East...
Can you sum up your debut season with Volkswagen in no more than five words?
Disappointing, I need more consistency.
As you've now had a full year to get up to speed with the car, do you feel you can match Ogier next year?
It has taken me a bit longer than I expected to get myself and the car in perfect harmony let's say! But yes, now I am much more in tune with the car than I was twelve months ago. To match Sebastien though I must be more consistent and not make even small mistakes. Seb's strength this year has been a combination of pace and perfection - he doesn't make mistakes. If I want to match him, or beat him, I must avoid even small mistakes.
Where do you think your strong and weak points were this season; how have you worked on the weaker points?
Clearly my weakness has been a lack of consistency. I've allowed small mistakes to creep back in to my driving. I am working on this in several ways, but most of all I need to improve on the mental side. I have no doubt that I am a match for anyone behind the wheel, but sometimes the focus and concentration hasn't been right. If it were I would not be making mistakes.
You managed to take an excellent victory at the Acropolis this year, the first in your career on the event. Where does that rank in terms of other victories, and do you feel you could have added to the win in Greece?
I think my victories so far have come in a fairly logical order! Winning in Sweden, at home and in Wales were all very special for different reasons and you could say in some ways predictable. Sweden as my first and to take Henri Toivonen's record as the youngest winner of a WRC round was unforgettable, everyone wants to win their home rally and Finland is pretty high on anyone's list actually. And of course Sardinia although not a home rally, I had done quite a bit in Italy in my early career.
New Zealand is similar to Finland in many ways and a super event to win. Then of course Wales as my second home rally was great. But the Acropolis is a classic and is known as a tough event. It's one where you really do need to remember that to finish first, first you have to finish! So, I took some pride from that one. Could I have added to it? Yes, Should I have added to it YES! I was especially disappointed with Germany. I came so close to my first tarmac win in Germany, for VW! But it didn't happen and that will always be "the one that got away" as the fishermen say.
Are you happy with third in the drivers' standings?
Finishing third in the championship is never what you aim for, but on the other hand it but would have been difficult to be higher than second place starting a new season with so little experience of the Polo. I guess I can be little bit happy with third place.
The WRC has been through a difficult time in recent times with (for example), no UK TV coverage, manufacturer withdrawals and a lack of competition. Do you think the 2013 season has improved the WRC's image, and do you think Sebastien Loeb's partial absence has contributed to this?
I honestly can't say. At face value, and to the superficial observer, you could say we replaced one Seb with another. Volkswagen have had a very strong performance this year and we have won the vast majority of the rallies. On the other hand we have had some of the most exciting finishes to a rally we have ever seen.
We have enjoyed some incredible TV footage on other rallies such as France. We saw a fantastic turnout in Wales, hat's off to the organisers, having to turn people away is really disappointing, but it's a far cry from half empty stages we have seen on recent GB events. So on balance it's hard for me to say how people watching feel about it. I do know that the competition is getting tougher and it's going to be great to see Hyundai join the action in Monte Carlo.
by George East
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