Tuesday | 08 Jun 2021

Latvala: ‘Ogier was a different level’

Toyota Gazoo Racing boss Jari-Matti Latvala believes Sébastien Ogier’s rally-winning performance in Italy last weekend was head and shoulders above that in Portugal two weeks previously.

As championship leader, Ogier was handicapped by opening the roads at both Vodafone Rally de Portugal and Rally Italia Sardegna. He swept the dusty gravel roads in the opening leg to leave more grip and faster conditions for those behind.

The Frenchman bagged third in Portugal in a Yaris World Rally Car without ever feeling comfortable. He then produced one of the best drives of his career to claim a third victory of the FIA World Rally Championship season in Sardinia.

“Seb was a different level than in Portugal opening the road,” said team principal Latvala. “I could see in shakedown on the first run how committed he was.

Video: Rally Italia Sardegna - Onboard of the Rally

“He was fastest from first car on the road in shakedown in the very first run and I said to him ‘if you can make that speed, you can win the rally’. He did that speed and eventually won it.

“Of course, there was always the sweeping effect so without Ott Tänak’s problem it would not have been possible for Seb to win. If they had been in a similar road position, they would have been fighting for the victory together, but I have a feeling still Seb would have won.”

Tänak capitalised on better conditions from fourth in the start order to dominate the opening leg. He was more than 40sec clear of Ogier before retiring after hitting a rock and ripping the left rear wheel from his Hyundai i20.

Ogier was encouraged by geometry and suspension improvements to his car between Portugal and Italy and Elfyn Evans secured a 1-2 for Toyota after starting just one place behind him. The win ended Hyundai’s three-year domination of the Mediterranean island event.

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“I couldn’t even dream of having that kind of result here,” added Latvala. “We came here and thought ok, if we can get one podium that would be fantastic because Hyundai’s performance in Portugal was very strong.

“Normally they have been really strong in this event and Toyota has not won in Italy since 1994 with Didier Auriol, but things changed and I must say we’re really happy with this result.

“The car was reliable and consistent, but it was also the drivers. They also did an excellent job, choosing where to push and where not to. We also had a little bit of luck that Hyundai was having some issues during the event.”