Jari-Matti Latvala says he has "never worked so hard for one victory" as he did on Rally Finland this weekend and that it was very much a case of "all or nothing".
Latvala led throughout, but an impact with a pothole on Saturday afternoon in SS20, Jukojarvi 2, threatened to undo all his hard work, but in the end the 30-second cushion he had built up was enough to keep him on top. Indeed he managed to stay ahead of team-mate Sebastien Ogier, concluding Saturday 3.4 seconds ahead, and on Sunday he swept through and won by 3.6 seconds.
“This win in Finland is a very special moment for Miikka [Anttila – my co-driver] and me,” said Latvala. “We last managed to do this in 2010, and this win feels twice as good considering our disappointing result last year [when we made a mistake early on].
“I had a good feeling in the Polo R WRC right from the start of the rally, and the car was set up perfectly once again. So a big thank-you to my team for their excellent work. I would also like to thank all the fans who supported Miikka and me throughout the rally here in Finland.
“This win was a tough cookie, though. We were in a bit of a predicament on Saturday evening when we were no longer able to use one of our brakes. Nevertheless, we didn't give up and we kept on fighting.
“I'm really very happy about this result.”
Speaking later he reiterated his pleasure at winning on home soil and also said how tough he found things after what happened in SS20.
“I'm delighted and a bit shaky still – it's been such big pressure on me. It's been a great start, you know from the [pre-event] test we had the fantastic feeling. I said then that I never ever had such a good feeling and then I had exactly the same feeling at shakedown. And in the rally, it got better and better until we hit the problem,” he continued.
“I got so frustrated. I thought I would lose all what we had created. I managed to hold myself together though and fight with the problems. I was still in the lead and then I could keep the head cool today and drive with control. I have never worked so hard for one victory as I have done now.”
Asked where that determination to win came from, he added: “It came when I started to get the problems. I lost in Sardinia when I was in the lead. I lost that rally to Seb [Ogier] and also I had the same last year in Catalunya when we had problems I lost the lead. I thought: 'This can't happen for the third time'.
“Before the event started I [also] said to a lot of people that this was a rally which the Finns were not doing so well on anymore. The French drivers had won for the last three years and shown that they are very fast drivers and how good they are.
“I was willing to do this for the Finnish people to keep the event in the high profile and keep the people coming to the rally.”
On Saturday, Latvala remarked that the win was more important than the championship, but at the finish he explained that the victory was vital in his view to keep his slim title hopes alive. He now trails Ogier by 44 points with five events to go. The gap had been 50 points after Poland, but he will need to reduce it quicker if he is to overhaul Ogier and become World Rally Champion 2014.
“It meant a lot to me [to win here]. It was all about the victory,” he noted. “But think about me, I'm 44 points behind in the championship – only the victory can help me.
"If I had not won the rally here then I would be finishing second in the championship, but now I can fight to keep it alive – it was all or nothing.”