Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala matched his career-best performance on asphalt this weekend when he finished second in France and he now thinks he has 'just one more step to take' before he can win on the 'black stuff'.
Latvala won six stages during the four-day event in Alsace and after concluding the rally just 15.5 seconds behind winner and local star Sebastien Loeb, and equalling the second place he secured in Germany back in August, he described the result as 'my best driving performance on asphalt', although he conceded that his error on Saturday in SS10 was 'one too many'.
“My target was to improve on my performance in Germany and I achieved that,” said the 27-year-old. “I made one small mistake yesterday, and when you're trying to beat a nine-time world champion on his favourite surface over his home roads, that's one error too many. But I finished only 15sec behind Loeb so I feel there is just one more step to take. I really want to beat him on asphalt!
“This result has given me great hunger [now] for the final two rallies in Italy and Spain. They are both great events, one on gravel and one on both gravel and asphalt. I feel very motivated to finish the season on a high note,” he added.
Ford World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson and Ford Racing senior manager Gerard Quinn were both impressed with Latvala's form.
“He kept the pressure on Loeb until the end and that is something he hasn't been able to do previously. The pace of the Fiesta RS WRC was there for all to see – it was a very strong display from both driver and car,” Wilson remarked.
“In my opinion this was Jari-Matti's best performance on asphalt. His pace and commitment were fantastic and it was great to see him on the podium,” Quinn chipped in.
Petter Solberg meanwhile was classified 26th in the sister car, after he retired on Saturday when he went off in SS9 and felled a telegraph pole. That incident - Click here to see the video footage
- earned him and co-driver, Chris Patterson a reprimand.
Although Solberg re-started today under the Rally 2 rules and picked up manufacturers' points, that was scant consolation, especially as a podium was on the cards before the error in Massif des Grands Crus-Ungersberg 1.
“I enjoyed a good first leg but then the accident happened yesterday. I had nothing to gain today so I drove for the fans as much as anything.
“Conditions were difficult and I knew it would be hard to score bonus points in the Power Stage because I started down the order. There was just so much mud on the road,” Solberg lamented.