Latvala’s engineer, Tim Jackson, explained just what went on in the 75-minute service halt last night as a crew of eight Ford World Rally Team technicians went to work on the final round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
“The cars came in in gravel specification and for Tarmac there are quite a few parts that are different so the organisers have given us slightly longer than the normal 45-minute service in order to make those changes,” Jackson explains.
“Primarily the main things are the suspension components. We have bigger brakes for Tarmac. The calipers and pads that we use are the same for both surfaces but the brakes are a bigger diameter so you have a bigger braking force effectively because you’ve got more grip from the Tarmac. There is slightly different geometry, while the dampers and suspension units are generally stiffer so a more ‘racing’ set-up than we would have for gravel. We don’t have as long suspension travel on Tarmac. Normally we’re allowed five damper sets but here we’re allowed seven so we can have specific sealed sets of gravel and Tarmac units.
“Aside from that we’ve also changed the gearbox and rear differential because we have different settings from the Tarmac to gravel, really to optimise performance for the sealed surface.
“The service time we have should be comfortable but there always things that can go wrong. Nothing went wrong last night, we got done in time, probably with 10 minutes to spare but we used that time to do as many checks on the car as possible.
“For sure yesterday was a tough day on the cars and they were fairly covered in mud when they came back because they’d had a hard day yesterday. One of the benefits of that is we’re obviously changing a lot of the parts anyway so they are naturally refreshed anyway.
“Last night we didn’t have the most up-to-date weather forecast so we put settings on the car we believed to be good. When we got the updates from the weather people this morning we fine-tuned those settings to make sure they’re good for this morning.”
While Latvala’s Fiesta is ready to go on Tarmac, is the driver? Jackson says it’s all about adjusting to the surface change as quickly as possible.
“If you can adjust quickly you get a big advantage and on that first stage it will be a measure of who can adjust quickly,” he says. “They were able to drive the cars back to parc ferme last night so they’ve had a small experience of the car on Tarmac so when they wake up this morning it’s not like a complete change. Again they’ll watch the recce videos as they normally do but it’s more in their head to adapt to the driving style that’s needed.
“We did a Tarmac test here last week and Jari-Matti knows how to drive on Tarmac, which has been quite clear with his speed this year. You have to think on the road section to get your mind properly prepared so you can go from it right from the first split. On the wet, testing wise we’ve not done as much but our test here the morning was wet and the afternoon was dry, which could be a good simulation for today.”
Latvala is third overall starting day seven, La Mussara, 47.0s adrift of leader Mads Ostberg.