Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala used Rally Mexico last weekend as an extended test session, after crashing out after 'just a few metres' in the first 'proper' stage.
Latvala hit a rock on the first 22km El Cubilete test on Friday, damaging a wishbone on his Polo R WRC and retiring on the spot, whilst his team-mate Sebastien Ogier went on to score his second successive win in the same machinery on Sunday.
Despite his misfortune, Latvala refused to be disheartened and insisted that the Mexican stages were useful in gaining a greater understanding of his #7 Polo R WRC in preparation for next month's Rally de Portugal.
“No sooner had the rally started than things took a turn for the worse for us,” lamented Latvala. “We had to give up after a matter of metres on Friday, due to suspension damage we received when we hit a stone.
“After that, [the accident] we tried a few things with the car and I worked on my driving style. By the end of the rally, I felt more comfortable than ever in the Polo. I now have a better understanding of the handling characteristics. That gives me a lot of motivation ahead of Portugal.”
In spite of having used the event as an extended test session, Latvala managed to fight back to score a point on Sunday's Power Stage after re-entering under the Rally 2 regulations on Saturday, and was complimented by Volkswagen Motorsport boss Jost Capito for his efforts.
“Jari-Matti Latvala's performance was no less impressive [than Ogier's],” enthused Capito. “He was really unlucky right at the start of the rally, but fought back magnificently and was rewarded for his efforts with the World Championship point he won on the Power Stage. Again, respect.”
After retiring from the season opening Rallye Monte Carlo and once again in Mexico, Latvala has just one points finish to his name after a fourth place finish in Sweden, and lies seventh overall in the Drivers' Championship with 15 points.
by George East