Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala has admitted he will need to 'come back strong' in Sweden next month, after he made a critical error yesterday and crashed out of the lead of Rallye Monte Carlo.
Latvala had been 30.1 seconds up on Sebastien Loeb going into the final stage on Wednesday, but unfortunately he rolled his 'works' Fiesta RS WRC car 10 kilometres into the 30.48km Burzet – St Martial test. With no option to re-enter under SupeRally regulations during this event, the 26-year-old's mistake means he will now play no further part in the rally.
“Ten kilometres into the stage the road changed from dry to an icy section,” Latvala explained. “Then on a fast right-hand corner which tightened 90 degrees, I started to concentrate only on the ice and not on the notes. I was carrying too much speed at that point and I tried to get the car back on the road but it kept sliding wide.”
“I really wanted to fight for the victory and that's where I made the mistake,” he added. “I thought I would be able to gain time on the icy section because that's where I had been so quick in the morning. I was pushing too hard and it's so easy to make a mistake in those conditions. Everything was in place to do well, and that is what is killing me inside.
“Now we need to think about the championship. There are 12 rallies in which we can still fight for victory - we need to come back strong in Sweden.”
Ford boss Malcolm Wilson meanwhile was disappointed to see his number one driver go out, especially as he was so well placed.
“I spoke to Jari-Matti just before the final stage. He seemed very much in control and relaxed about the situation but he made a rare mistake for which he completely blames himself,” Wilson commented. “It's very disappointing there's no SupeRally as that deprives him of the chance to get some points for the Manufacturers' championship.”
With Latvala out, team-mate Petter Solberg will now be left to fly the flag for the Ford WRT and he ended the first day third overall.
“It was a very good first day,” said 'Hollywood'. “I can't ask for much more than a podium spot and now we have to finish the rally [after Latvala's retirement] and get as many points as possible. We didn't make a perfect tyre choice for the final stage because there wasn't enough snow but we are still in a podium spot and only one second behind Dani [Sordo] so I'm very happy.
“The car was absolutely fantastic and I'm really pleased with our pace. I actually really surprised myself! It is just up to me to get some more kilometres under my belt. It is fantastic to be back with the Ford team and so close to Seb [Loeb's] times.”