Jari-Matti Latvala took his first podium with Volkswagen on Rally de Portugal last weekend and then declared that he should 'soon be able to do even better' on future events.
Latvala has had a difficult start to the 2013 World Rally Championship, with offs in Monte Carlo and Mexico meaning, prior to the trip to the Algarve, he had only managed to score 'big' points in one of the first three events, when he was fourth in Sweden.
However, the Finn was pleased with his performance in Portugal and posted top-five times in every single test – bar for the first two on Sunday morning, when technical issues cost him over 4 minutes and dropped him back from second to third. Despite those problems though, he held on to take the final rostrum place and now feels much more confident with his Polo R WRC.
“I am very happy and satisfied to stand on the podium for the first time for Volkswagen. We had a difficult start to the season, but our run of bad luck has finally come to an end. I feel really at home in the Polo R WRC now, and think that we will soon be able to do even better,” he said.
“The rally was a tough test for driver and car, as the route had suffered some serious erosion over the winter. The hard ground and many stones really put the car through its paces. Driver and co-driver had to be fully focussed and have perfect pace notes in order to get the car safely through the stages.
“Our mechanics did a perfect job of replacing the broken driveshaft on Sunday. As always, they were totally dependable – thank you. That all gives me a lot of encouragement ahead of the coming rallies, and I am already looking forward to Argentina in three weeks.”
Meanwhile, Latvala revealed that he forced himself to up the ante this weekend and that the approach paid off: “I was pushing myself here, forcing myself to drive fast - and it started to help. I have been letting myself think I can take the experience and the speed will just come, but it doesn't work that way – you have to work for it," he explained.
“I haven't been feeling so well during the winter time. I was expecting more from myself and I couldn't get it. The car has been quick, but I have been somewhere on another planet....
“My confidence is coming now though. In Argentina I will have a different set-up which will suit me better, but still I am really, really happy with this result.
"When I was walking to this building [for the post-event press conference] I was thinking to myself what a relief – I have not felt this good for a long, long time! The start of the season has been tough – learning, but also disappointing. Now I see my year opening. Finally, my Championship can start!”
So can he challenge for the win in Argentina next month?
“Well, Sebastien Ogier [my team-mate] is strong - he's in a strong mood. The French revolution continues after Sebastien Loeb retires, it's hard to make the Finnish revolution, even though there are two [Finnish crews] here [with myself and Mikko Hirvonen on the podium] – it's not easy!
"I hope to challenge at some point: Rally Argentina onwards would be nice, but it's one step at a time,” Latvala concluded.