The world’s most experienced WRC driver (203 WRC rallies), Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala has seen the downsides of the sport in the first half of the season. The 34-year-old Finn starts from the 10th place to his home event, Neste Rally Finland.
After the summer break, Latvala tested his car and setups in Central Finland according to the changed regulations.
You are now testing in slightly different locations than before, what is the background?
– In earlier years, we were able to test in the whole Jyväskylä area, where we were able to utilize roads both in north and south, for example in Korpilahti. This year, our test area narrowed because we had to choose a place from where we can test within a 10-kilometre radius.
How do you feel about that change?
– I understand the situation. Other teams have experienced that we (Toyota GAZOO Racing) have gained a competitive advantage from it and this has led to this regulation change. But still we can do all the things that we need in this new area. Of course, you can't use the same roads in a row so they don't get too bad.
What is the feeling of this season so far?
– This season has been really difficult for me. Last year, the first half was also difficult and I thought it might not be that difficult this year, but it did surprise me again. This sport is sometimes challenging. There have been technical problems, my own mistakes and bad driving. Together they have led us quite far from the top in championship standings.
– Last year Jyväskylä was a turning point for us, and we are trying to work it out in the same way, so that we can turn the course around. The break has been good and in Sardinia the pace was right, but there were some difficulties and no result.
You had some similar steering issues in Sardinia with your teammate Ott Tänak, have you found any solutions?
It was due to a supplier error and we have reacted to it. Engineers have made solutions so that it won't happen again.
How do you see the battle of the top positions in Neste Rally finland?
– It's definitely going to be a tough fight. The toughest guys come from our own team. Our car has been a winning car for the past two years and it will be fast this year as well. Tänak is the favorite and Kris(Meeke) has driven well in Jyväskylä before. It is also interesting to see the performance of Esapekka(Lappi) as Citroën has generally been good in Jyväskylä. For Hyundai this is perhaps the toughest rally in WRC, so it will be interesting to see how they are prepared now.
What's your strength at this year's Neste Rally Finland?
– Motivation. I have had a difficult year and the desire to succeed is intense. I have a good car and a lot of experience.
The Finnish round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Neste Rally Finland, will be held in Jyväskylä and Central Finland 1-4 August.