In Jari-Matti Latvala's latest exclusive column on Crash.net, the Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team man reflects on Rally Italia Sardegna, where he won seven stages, but ultimately only came away with two points...

I went to Sardinia to fight for the victory in my Ford Fiesta RS WRC car. I had a very good feeling and felt very confident, because I have always enjoyed driving the stages there and won back in 2009.

However everything ended very quickly, only 3 kilometres into the opening stage, the 10.21 kilometre Lago Omodeo test, when Miikka [Anttila - my co-driver] misread a pace-note and we went off the road. We had to retire from the leg on the next stage as a result. After that we rejoined under the SupeRally and set some good stage times on days two and three. We also took two bonus points from the Power Stage and recovered to take two manufacturers' points for Ford. It was some consolation.

I wasn't angry with Miikka. We have done over 100 rallies together now. I have made plenty of mistakes behind the wheel in that time and every co-driver makes the odd error too. We all try to be perfect, but we're only human.

He should have said 'right-2-20-left-5-armco' and by accident he read 'right-2-20-left-2' - and 'left-2' in my notes means pretty much flat-out and 'left-5' is medium fast. There was no chance to survive from that.

When I turned into the corner I noticed immediately that it was tightening and I tried to brake, but it was all too late. We went backwards into the ditch and rolled. Although we could continue we then had to stop in SS2.

It was of course a shame, but it was great for both of us to get back out the next day and win five of the day's six stages. It was encouraging to set those times and I had a fantastic feeling with the Fiesta RS WRC.

Yes, I had a very good starting position, I was the eighth car on the road, and so I benefited from the cleaning. Also there was no pressure, so it was quite easy to drive. But on the other-hand, when you are so far back and not fighting for the top positions - I lost 35 minutes on Friday and re-joined way, way down the order - it is a lot harder to stay motivated and keep the concentration up.

Then on the final day I won two more tests and was really happy with my time in the Power Stage. When we did that test in the morning I set the best time and I tried as much as I could on the re-run through Gallura to repeat that. I was happy with my driving and had a very clear run. It was very nerve racking then seeing if anyone would beat me on the live TV stage. It looked good, but Mikko [Hirvonen - my team-mate] went a bit quicker and so I slipped to second. There is always next time though!

Overall, while it was disappointing to only finish 18th - and see my run of podiums halted, there was still a lot to be positive about, not least the speed of the Fiesta RS WRC and that is what I will take from the event.

It's worth mentioning as well that the organisers did a very good job, Friday's stages were completely new and they were very demanding. A lot more difficult than the tests we have done in Sardinia in previous years. I could see that from the recce and it was annoying not to get to go through them competitively. Then on the Saturday and Sunday we did the usual stages. I had no complaints. There were in good condition and the organisation was very good too. There were more people in the stages and also more in the service park. All-in-all I thought it was very well organised.

I was very happy to see Mini in Sardinia too and to see Dani Sordo finish the rally on their first event. Sordo put in a very, very clever drive and the gap to the front was not too big. The car has potential. That was great to see and is good for the sport. Also the announcement, just before Sardinia, that Volkswagen will be in the championship from 2013 is also great. We need the big car manufacturers' in the WRC. Hopefully it will now tempt more manufacturers' back into the championship.

Talking of the manufacturers', it is still very tight in the battle for the 2011 manufacturers' crown. Ford is still right up there - despite my problems in Sardinia - and with just 17 points between us and Citroen, there is clearly a long, long way to go.

In terms of the drivers' championship unfortunately I've lost some ground to the two S?bastiens and Mikko. That makes things a bit more difficult, but if you look back at the beginning of the season, Ogier was in a similar situation after he retired in Mexico. He then won the next two events and is now right back in it. That shows it is not a big drama, and if I can take some good results, and even win a few rallies, we can still climb up. I will be out to close the gap in Argentina at the end of this month.

It will be nice to go back to Argentina, as like Sardinia, it wasn't on the WRC schedule in 2010. The atmosphere there is probably only second-best to Finland, so it is always a very good and enjoyable event.

The stages are a mix of different types of roads. They tend to be very fast and flowing and very technical, especially El Condor and Mina Clavero. It can be very sandy and quite rocky in some places too and the landscape on the first day is almost Moon-like. This year we will have some stages where we run on tarmac and gravel to contend with as well. I think there is one on Friday like that - and one on Saturday. There will be approximately 40 kilometres on tarmac in total. That will certainly be an added challenge.

Ford has always been quick over there however, so I am pretty confident. We obviously cannot test there [due to the regulations, which prohibit testing outside Europe]. But we are going to go to Greece at the end of the week for another test. We will be mainly focusing on the Acropolis Rally of course, which takes place in June, although at the same time, we will also try and get 'the feeling' for Argentina.

I have done Rally Argentina quite a few times now and usually feel comfortable over there, although unfortunately I have yet to get a podium in Cordoba. I'd really like to put that right on May 29.

Jari-Matti Latvala

 

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