WRC » 9 September 2013
Latvala sees a lot of Finland in Australia
It might sound like an unlikely comparison, but Jari-Matti Latvala insists that he sees a lot of his home in Finland in the unlikely surroundings of Rally Australia - and that it could prove to be to his advantage.
Jari-Matti Latvala could hardly be getting any further away from home this week as he travels to Australia, and yet despite what appears to be completely different environments been the land down under and his native Finland, Latvala insists that Rally Australia responds to a Nordic approach to driving.
"The good thing is that, as a rule, I tend to do well on these quicker rallies, as they suit my driving style," he explained. "The special stages require a very quick, flowing style of driving and you have to find a good rhythm."
The last three times Australia has featured on the WRC calendar – in 2011, 2009 and 2006 – all three victories went to Mikko Hirvonen, who this year will be competing in the event with Citroen. Latvala - with his Finnish compatriot Miikka Anttila - also have a strong track record in the event, coming sixth in 2006, fourth in 2009 and second in 2011.
That proves that the Finnish style of driving seems perfectly suited to the conditions the drivers will encounter at the Rally Australia: quick, flowing gravel sections.
With all the stages located within a radius of just 55 kilometres from the rally base at the port of Coffs Harbour located in New South Wales midway between Sydney and Brisbane, the seventh gravel event of the season will take the drivers onto closed-off public roads with a fast, flowing character. Other stages feature narrow, winding sections through thick forest, making this very much a 'game of two halves' in terms of the driving style required.
The "Coffs" special stage will held in the dark, right on the town's harbour in the middle of the service park and just a stone's throw from the Pacific Ocean, and the beautiful "Shipmans" special stage then takes place in the undulating landscape inland of Coffs Coast.
The final Power Stage - which awards bonus points to the top three drivers that could possibly play a part in seeing Latvala's Volkswagen team mate Sebstien Ogier clinch the 2013 WRC title this weekend - features a spectacular water crossing through Tallawudjah Creek, about 4.5 kilometres into the stage just beyond a quick left-hander, meaning most drivers hit the water in a power slide.
No wonder the drivers love coming halfway around the world to compete here.
"I enjoy travelling to Australia, as there is a very good atmosphere there and the people are extremely friendly," said Latvala.
But for the 28-year-old Finn, Australia also means an chance to set right a lost opportunity at the last WRC event in August.
"After missing out on so many points in the Manufacturers' Championship in Germany recently, we must now concentrate on getting some good results and keeping Citroen at bay in the World Championship," he said. "That will be my first task.
"Everyone in the team knows that our car is good, and everyone is doing their utmost to achieve the number one goal: to win the title," he added.
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