In Jari-Matti Latvala's latest exclusive column on Crash.net, the Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team man reflects on Rally Argentina, where he looked to be on course for his first victory of the season...

I had a great, great feeling with my Ford Fiesta RS WRC car in Argentina. I was in the groove and was enjoying driving. Everything just felt so perfect.

On the first day I won four of the six stages to build an 18.2 second lead and it was so fast on the asphalt sections that it felt like I was back racing at the N?rburgring again! The next day my rivals started to try and haul me in and the competition got tougher, but I was more than holding my own, despite running first on the road. Unfortunately however, it all went wrong in SS13 when we hit a loose rock. Rallying can be a cruel sport. It was really killing me when I had to retire.

The impact happened in a very quick section and in my opinion it didn't look like the rock had been pulled out of the ruts by any of the other runners. I was first car on the road and normally you don't see rocks like that when you are first, even though it was the second pass, because the 'zero' car has gone through before.

I don't have any confirmation where the rock came from, but it was very big and sharp and it hit a sensitive area. The Fiesta RS WRC is very strong but if a rock that size hits the front suspension on any car it is not going to be able to withstand it.

I didn't have time to think initially and didn't realise how bad it was. I drove about a kilometre after the impact and then I started to notice something wasn't right. The TCA was bent by the impact and later one of the fixing points broke and the left front wheel started to move freely.

In that moment when I was fighting with the problems, I wasn't 100 per cent sure where it had happened. I felt a couple of impacts but later from the onboard camera shots I could see the rock more clearly. I don't know where it came from - although there is a possibility some spectators put it there.

After the test we tried to make some temporary repairs to get us through the final two stages of the day. We tried to take a tow link from the rear and fit it to the front, but it was far too long to fit. Then we had two straps with us and we tried to use those - one pulling to the front and one pulling to the rear, to try and hold it in the neutral position. But obviously that repair only lasted for the road section and 4 kilometres into the next stage [SS14]. When it broke the team advised us to stop and not risk doing anymore damage to the car.

It was such as shame, because as I mentioned, the car was performing really well. We didn't have any problems with it. I had a very good feeling with the balance. Beforehand I was worried about the tarmac sections. But the Fiesta RS WRC performed really well on the asphalt and was fun to drive. During the rally the feeling was fantastic all the time.

On the Sunday we re-joined under the SupeRally and it was important for the team that we managed to get some manufacturers' points. I also got some points for the drivers' too, which was no bad thing. I was in eighth at the start of the final day but Matthew Wilson hit some problems on one of the water passes and lost some time and I moved up to seventh.

Overall though, that wasn't much consolation. I was disappointed and so was the team. We were really hoping to take victory. It looked so good. But unfortunately it didn't end in the right way.

I did enjoy going back to Argentina this year though, despite how things turned out. The passion of the people is something special and after Rally Finland, the event has the best atmosphere in the WRC.

The stages were nice, although a lot rougher than normal. In the recce the conditions were good. But it has been so dry over there the roads were not very compacted and the rocks started to come through when the stages were tackled at speed. That took everyone a bit by surprise.

There are seven rounds to go now and it doesn't look so strong for me in the drivers' race and Ford also has some catching up to do in the manufacturers' series.

It is by no means over however, and you have to remember things can change very quickly, especially with the current points system. We just need to strike back and try and get some victories.

We go to Greece next and Ford is normally strong on the Acropolis, so that bodes well. Historically the team has had some very good performances there.

A few weeks ago I had a test in the Peloponnese peninsula near Corinth and I was very happy with the set-up of the Fiesta RS WRC and its reliability. I ran for two-days and did over 400 kilometres in total and had a good feeling.

Normally I enjoy driving in Greece, even if it is very hot, and last time the WRC went there [in 2009] I was on the podium. This will be my seventh Acropolis in total. The Acropolis is a classic event and very tough. Usually the winning crew and winning team has the strongest car. It is also probably the closest we get now to an event like the old Safari. Sadly I never got to do that event, but now it is the Acropolis that is the one that asks the most in terms of the reliability and strength of the car.

I will be hoping for a top-three, especially after what happened last weekend and prior to that in Sardinia. It is very important we do well in Greece for both championships and it would be even better if I can fight for the victory again.

Jari-Matti Latvala

 

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