Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala says his early exit from Wales Rally GB was a “really stupid thing” and “probably” the most embarrassing mistake of his career.
Latvala had finished the opening test right on the pace, just 0.8 seconds off team-mate and rally leader, Sebastien Ogier. However, in the next stage – the 3.33km Sweet Lamb 1 test – he went off and into a ditch just 600 metres in and was unable to continue.
“It was a really stupid thing,” Latvala told the official WRC site. “I changed the front-right tyre before the [second] stage and it looks like I didn't get enough heat in it because on the first junction it was locking up. Then on the second it locked again straight away on braking, the engine stalled and after that I couldn't steer the car and I went straight into the ditch.
“The car didn't roll but it almost flipped over. It isn't really damaged, and we would have been able to continue, but the ditch was so deep there was no chance to get it out without a machine.
“Of course I'm disappointed to finish the rally on only the second stage. I'm definitely hoping to rejoin tomorrow and drive these stages. At the very least I want to drive and get the feeling back.”
Quizzed further on his error, Latvala added: “I can say it was probably the most embarrassing mistake I have ever done in my career because [as I said] I changed the tyre after the first stage, Hafren – a new tyre to the front right. But we had only 500 metres to the start of the second stage and I didn't warm up the tyre, I didn't think about it.
“I started with a cold front right tyre and went to the first braking [point] and it was very, very slippery and second braking I thought I'd brake harder to get the car to stop better. But because the tyre was new and cold it didn't bite or give the grip – it just locked straight away. I locked the wheels and stalled the engine and I couldn't steer the car anymore and then we went straight into the ditch.
“No damage on the front or rear bumper, but we got stuck with the water in the ditch and couldn't get it out.
“It's particularly frustrating since we had found a good set-up and the pace was right. We were definitely competitive and would have been able to push for the win. But that's the kind of thing that happens in our sport.
“We will try to restart under Rally 2 regulations. Naturally it is frustrating for today, but things will look different in the morning.”