Latvala led Toyota to a clean sweep of the drivers’, co-drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles in his first year at the helm of the Finnish-based squad.
As a driver with M-Sport Ford and Volkswagen Motorsport, he finished runner-up three times in the drivers’ championship and claimed third on two more occasions.
“Watching our drivers, what they do and areas where they concentrate, it is a little bit sad to say but now I understand why I didn’t become a world champion myself,” Latvala said after celebrating Toyota’s grand slam at FORUM8 ACI Rally Monza on Sunday.
“Nice learning, but at the same time a little bit sad,” said the 36-year-old, who guided Sébastien Ogier, Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanperä to nine victories in a Yaris World Rally Car.
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“The team, let’s say, we managed to get everybody working together. Everyone was aiming for the same target. That was been like a new world for me and managing such a big group of people,” he added.
“At the same time, we need to make sure that the drivers feel happy in the car and they can do their best performances. Quite a lot of learning what I can say to the drivers and what I can say to the team and what are the right things to keep everybody motivated.”
As a driver, Latvala was part of Toyota’s manufacturers’ title-winning team in 2018 but admitted he was ‘very emotional’ about this year’s grand slam.
“We have had an amazing season with nine victories. Séb, Julien [co-driver Ingrassia], Elfyn and Scott [co-driver Martin] one-two in the championship. You cannot ask more. It’s a perfect season that I could never dream of,” he said.
Toyota Motor Corporation president and ardent rallying supporter Akio Toyoda appointed Latvala to the managerial role at the start of this season. He said Latvala’s driving experience played a key role in the team’s success.
“He always puts drivers first. He hates to lose. He does as much as I do, or maybe more than I do. I believe his judgements based on this ‘hate-to-lose’ mindset made the team strong,” he explained.
“There was one more way in which Jari-Matti surprised me. That was his thorough communication with the team members.
“Through a video taken by the team, I saw him giving morning greetings one-by-one at the early morning service park. All 200 members across Finland, Estonia, Germany and Japan were closely united because we had him.
“I really appreciate him for realising the ‘driver-driven team’ and ‘family-like yet professional team’ which we had been aiming for,” Toyoda added.