Jari-Matti Latvala claimed a podium finish for Ford World Rally Team on his home round of the World Rally Championship in Finland, coming home in third place at the head of a queue of Fiesta RS entries giving chase to Citroen pair Sebastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen.
Latvala ended Thursday's short opening leg tied in second place, but the 27-year old was unable to match the pace of the leaders through Friday, having initially been frustrated when trying to perfect the set-up on his car. However, once he achieved that, the Finn grew in confidence and pulled away from team-mate Petter Solberg during the final leg to secure the final podium place as Fiesta RS WRCs packed the leaderboard between third and ninth.
“As a Finn competing in Finland, a win is always the target, but I said before the rally that, if I finished on the podium, I would be happy,” Latvala pointed out, “I enjoyed a clean weekend with no mistakes and no mechanical issues and I can't say that about many other rallies this year, so that's a good feeling.
“I wasn't at my best in the early part of the event, but I battled hard to get the set-up right and that paid off as I found a feeling with which I was happy. Our pace was strong, but not quite strong enough, so we must all go away and work hard to put that right. We're not far away."
Rally Finland is one of the jewels in the WRC crown and, with just 303.52km of competition over 18 speed tests, the 2012 edition was one of the shortest rounds in the series' history. As a consequence of that, and the infamously fast gravel roads making up the route, the event was fought at a furious pace, with average speeds nearing 130kph, but Latvala admitted that he did not quite have enough to battle the Citroens.
"I am frustrated, but I don't want to explain, every time, why we didn't win," he told journalists, "I need to accept this year we were not on the speed. We have work to do. Citroën seem to do an improvement on the suspension. I need to improve, we need to improve, that's all I'll say.
"For sure, at the start, I wasn't at my best [and, finally, [when] I got the set-up right, all I could reach is the same level as Citroen. I was never able to be quicker. I pushed really hard, and we had no problems, which was really good, but something was missing. I don't have the answer; the difference is very small, but it's annoying when you can't respond to their speed.
"[I realised] already on Friday afternoon. The only thing I thought was we might be stronger on the ruts, as usual, but we couldn't. In Ouninpohja, there were a couple of very big jumps, one where I landed in the ditch and another was far too long, but nothing else. That's something positive, if I can find something, it's that there were no mistakes. I haven't had that for a long time."