12 May 2014
Rally Argentina: Title fight open, says Latvala
Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala thrilled with Rally Argentina victory, says result keeps his championship hopes alive.
Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala believes the fight for the 2014 WRC drivers' title remains open as a result of his victory on Rally Argentina.
Latvala led for most of the event, trading blows with team-mate and championship rival, Sebastien Ogier, particularly on the Friday and Saturday. However it was Latvala that emerged with a 30-odd second cushion at the end of the second leg, and with his French rival opting to take it easy on Sunday, the Finn eventually came home almost 1.5 minutes ahead.
"Of course I'm absolutely thrilled to have won the Rally Argentina. It's been quite a few years since a Finn won this rally," Latvala stated. "Fighting it out with Sebastien Ogier and [his co-driver] Julien Ingrassia was great.
"My co-driver Miikka Anttila contributed enormously to our success because his instructions safely guided us through some extremely difficult sections. We have done of lot of analysing and working on ourselves over the last few weeks and months, and it paid off here.
"Huge thanks go to the whole Volkswagen team too, because our Polo was always perfectly prepared and withstood the immense strain right until the end.
"This victory means a lot to me personally [as well] because we won this tricky rally on our own merit, which shows that we're still a force to be reckoned with in the World Championship."
Latvala now closes the gap to Ogier in the 2014 WRC Drivers' Championship, reducing the deficit from 29 points to 24 and the Finn admitted the result was essential, especially after what happened on Rally de Portugal.
"You know when I crashed in Portugal [last month] it was quite a big hit for my Championship points. Of course there was a bit of pressure coming here because I thought if Sebastien wins here and I don't score any points he would go far away. But now, with this victory, we get five points closer and we are still in the fight for the Championship. So this was very important to keep going with the fight. It is all open," he insisted.
Meanwhile, when quizzed on why he felt so confident this weekend with his Polo R WRC, Latvala replied: "I guess it was a couple of little things I found here. First of all I was really happy with the car; I changed the set-up a little bit in the last tests, and the second thing is that I enjoyed the fight and the driving; that [being comfortable and confident] is what comes when you are enjoying what you are doing."
Despite that though, he conceded it wasn't easy and both Latvala and Ogier had problems in a dramatic SS8 on Saturday.
"I don't understand why but I became a little bit nervous before that stage and I wasn't relaxed when I started to drive and then we made just a stupid mistake - too early on the acceleration and the wheels a little bit in the wrong position so the front right wheel dug into the sand and we spun. But I was very lucky that I managed to keep things running," he recalled. "I was very hard with the gearbox to get it quickly so we lost around five or six seconds and then I saw the next split that Seb was ahead about four seconds and I thought that things now are going to be difficult because I wasn't having the best feeling. It was increasing five or six seconds his lead and then he spun and we stalled the engine in the same place and I thought now we are 10 seconds behind, but we were actually 2.5 seconds ahead!
"I was amazed because I couldn't understand that we are ahead, but then Seb was so strong that we were equal, and then his tyre delaminated. It was an amazing stage with all these kind of things happening in that one test."
So was he absolutely on it throughout the three-days or could he have gone quicker still?
"I said before the rally that this is a bit also about endurance and about speed and I think I was careful on some of the bad sections. There would have been a little bit more but the result wouldn't be necessarily the same," he explained. "I think tactically this was really, really right and the places we thought we can attack we did it, and the places where we didn't feel so good we took it careful.
"So the only place that I could have improved maybe was on the Power Stage [where I finished third]. I could have gone quicker but it was such difficult conditions. I thought it's better to stick to the plan, take victory and not to risk it for the three [bonus] points."
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