Latvala, a seven-time WRC rally winner, made the switch to Volkswagen’s factory team this year after four seasons with Ford.
But the Finn’s 2013 WRC campaign got off to a frustrating start when he failed to adapt to the handling of the Polo R on the opening three rounds.
His misery was highlighted by the success that his team-mate Sebastien Ogier was enjoying in a similar car.
All that changed In Portugal, however, when a fresh, more aggressive, approach led to stage wins and his first podium with Volkswagen.
“I was pushing myself, forcing myself to drive fast and it started to help,” he explained after the rally. “I have been letting myself think I can take the experience and the speed will just come, but it doesn’t work that way – you have to work for it.
“The start of the season has been tough – learning, but also disappointing. I was expecting more from myself and I couldn’t get it. The car has been quick, but I have been somewhere on another planet…"
Latvala was on course to finish second in Portugal, until a broken driveshaft on Sunday dropped him to third. But despite losing the place Latvala ended the event in high spirits.
“Now I see my year opening. Finally, my Championship can start!” he said. “My confidence is coming in the car. In Argentina I will have a different set-up which will suit me better, but still I am really, really happy with this result.”
Asked if he could take the fight to his team-mate Ogier, Latvala replied: “I hope to challenge at some point: Argentina onwards would be nice, but it’s one step at a time.”