BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Jari-Matti Latvala has said that he is feeling relaxed and confident going into the new World Rally Championship season, which kicks off this week in Ireland.
Latvala stepped up to the Blue Oval's 'A' team last year and while he did well and took his maiden WRC win in Sweden, he also had some tough times, with three crashes in as many events in August.
The 23-year-old bounced back however, and finished '08 strongly - with two second place finishes in succession in Japan and Wales, the latter his sixth top-three result of the year.
Now he wants to maintain that momentum and keep his Ford Focus RS WRC 08 in one piece.
"Consistency is an area in which I want to improve in 2009. I want to eliminate the kind of ups and downs that I experienced at times last season,” he confirmed. “This time one year ago I was very nervous ahead of my debut in the Ford team.
“I went through so many things last year, gaining experience and learning about the mental side of the WRC, that I feel relaxed and confident for the new season.
“I have two targets – to help Ford regain the manufacturers' title and to fight for the drivers' title. It's not a target to win the drivers' title – that's different – but I want to be able to challenge for it.”
Asked what he wants to achieve in Ireland this coming weekend, Latvala added that he'd love to get on the rostrum, something he managed on the Silgo-based event back in 2007 – the first time he had stood on the podium in the WRC.
"Loose surface rallies are my preference, but I've said to myself that if I can finish in the top three on asphalt this year, that would be perfect,” he continued.
“Rally Ireland will be a very tricky rally though because the conditions will be so unpredictable. A neat, tidy and mistake-free drive will be rewarded come Sunday,” he summed-up.