Jari-Matti Latvala may be something of a WRC veteran, but admits that he is facing a new start following his move to the new Volkswagen factory team.
Latvala and team-mate Sebastien Ogier will give the Polo R WRC its first competitive appearance on the forthcoming Rally Monte Carlo, following 17 months of preparation by the German marque.
When the first stage, from Moulinon to Antraigues, gets underway at 9am local time on Wednesday (16 January), 20,000km of testing and 1700 parts designed completely from scratch will all be put to the test as the new era in VW history gets underway.
In Latvala and Ogier, the works team has two young drivers who nevertheless already possess a wealth of experience, and that will be put to the test by one of the toughest events on the WRC schedule. For the Finn, who joined from Ford over the short close season, the start cannot come soon enough.
“I can hardly wait for the season to get started,” he confirmed, “I may already have five years as a works driver in the World Rally Championship under my belt, but both the Volkswagen Motorsport team and the Polo R WRC are new to me. As such, I will be making my debut in two regards.”
Prior to his appearance on this year's Monte, Latvala's test outings in the Polo have given him the belief that the #7 car will be competitive from the off.
“The tests up to now have shown that the Polo R WRC is very reliable,” he reported, “This is probably the most important finding so far - and a good basis for future technical developments over the course of the season.
“I have already developed a good feeling for the car on asphalt and snow, which is a good sign ahead of the Rally Monte Carlo. It is great fun driving the Polo R WRC. It is very stable and the driveability of the engine is also very good
Despite his optimism, however, the Finn is not ready to start putting pressure on himself.
“I would like to get the season off to a good start at the Monte, but the result is not the top priority, even though I would obviously love to pick up some World Championship points,” he concluded.