Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala says team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen was better than him on the final day of RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada and deserved to finish ahead.
Latvala and Mikkelsen were split by just 2.9s at the end of Saturday, but at the finish Mikkelsen was 3.1s in front and with Sebastien Ogier crashing out, he was gifted the win.
Despite again finishing second in Spain, though – as he did last year, as well as in 2013 and 2012, Latvala felt the result wasn't too bad, especially considering he had two punctures – one on Saturday in SS12, when he made a mistake and cut a corner too much, and another on the final day, in SS21.
He also reckoned the decision to play it conservatively and take two spares on Sunday – while Mikkelsen only took one - also probably hurt him.
“When you look at the way the rally panned out, I think we can be very happy with the result,” Latvala insisted after the penultimate round in the 2015 World Rally Championship.
“When we came here last year and the year before, my performance on gravel was not good enough, but this time we were more competitive on gravel [on Friday] and we went well – we were four seconds behind [Ogier in P1].
“But then we came out of parc fermé on Saturday morning [and the action switched to tarmac] the brakes were not good at all. The problem came when we changed from gravel to tarmac brakes and the brake lines got some air [in]. We had to fight with the brakes and then when we got it right I was ready for a 'Jari-Matti attack'. That attack only lasted one kilometre! I was lucky to survive with the puncture [in SS12]. I was fourth, but I wanted to fight back to second and it all looked good on Saturday evening.
“On Sunday morning I took the safe choice: two spares and I thought the speed should be enough. Maybe I was a bit careful, but Andreas was really, really strong. I didn't realise and I had to start to fight really hard.
“With two spares I could not get the best balance, but I did what I could – but I couldn't do better and all respect to Andreas, he did better than me on Sunday."
Meanwhile, Latvala added that he was genuinely pleased to see Mikkelsen take his maiden WRC victory.
“I remember Sweden 2008 when we got our first win: [Sebastien] Loeb went off and we attack hard with Mikko [Hirvonen], it was a really great moment. The feeling when you win your first event is something you don't ever forget. It's so special," Latvala continued.
“Andreas has worked a very long time, it was the same for me and Miikka [Anttila] so it comes as a big relief. But also it's a big boost to the confidence.
“Congratulations to him and Ola [Floene]. I will attack again now in Wales in three weeks – hopefully with a little better fortune.”