The Volkswagen ace was competing in a 1982 Group 4-specificiation Audi quattro, and was on course to win the historic class – as he had done in 2011 at the wheel of a Ford Escort.
After taking the lead on Friday’s opening stage, the Finn had built a 51sec advantage before he hit trouble on Saturday’s seventh and penultimate test.
“It was looking good, I was feeling more and more confident in the car but at the start of the stage I noticed the gear lever was getting a bit loose,” Latvala told WRC Live presenter Rebecca Williams.
“I couldn’t get fifth gear, so I had to use fourth, but then when I tried again to select fifth the whole lever broke off leaving us in neutral - and that was it. The car rolled to a stop and I asked my co-driver what we should do. We decided the best thing was to try and select the gear manually.
“I got out and looked under the bonnet but I couldn’t find the lever that moves the gears. Finally I found it and just about managed to get my arm around the engine and pull it to get third. So we got going again, but by that time we had lost seven minutes.”
Finland’s Ville Silvasti took the historic class win in a Porsche 911 RS, while a philosophical Latvala went on to finish ninth.
“The main thing for me was to enjoy the rally and we did that,” he said. “We got to the finish, and I really enjoyed the Audi. It’s so different to the current World Rally Cars, but when you learn to trust a car you can really push through the corners and keep the speed on. It’s a great car to drive in the fast open places and even over the jumps.”
Asked if he would return next year, Latvala said: “Yeah, I think so. I have to because this year we had problems and I couldn’t get the victory, even though it was quite close. For sure we have to come back next year.”
This week Latvala will be back in his Volkswagen Polo R for a suspension set-up test before next week’s Neste Oil Rally Finland. Latvala will drive for two days on gravel roads near the town of Jamsa, 50 kilometres south of the rally base in Jyvaskyla.
You can hear Jari-Matti talk more about his Audi adventure in our latest Podcast.