Today’s half-term driver report focuses on Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala, a man who is chasing his first World Rally Championship title:
The story of the VW Motorsport driver’s season has been all about his battle with Sebastien Ogier. But the fact that Latvala sits 50 points behind his team-mate in the race for the world championship shows which driver has garnered the most success so far.
Latvala’s downfall has been a lack of consistency behind the wheel of his Polo R WRC. He got off to the best start ever in his WRC career with a win in Sweden and a mature drive to second place in Mexico, but a needless crash in Portugal handed the advantage back to Ogier and the cracks started to show in Latvala’s armour.
He proudly bounced back at Rally Argentina to show he has what it takes to beat Ogier in a fair head-to-head battle, but another couple of troubled events in Italy and Poland have pretty much handed an unassailable championship lead to Ogier.
Latvala recognised he needed a psychological boost to perform to his true potential so he’s been working with experienced mental trainer, Christoph Treier (a man that has worked with Marcus Gronholm previously) in a bid to find some calm and confidence in the cockpit. But results show it hasn’t made a season-changing difference.
Latvala has already proved that he can beat his title rival. But the fear is that the way Ogier chased and harried Latvala for victory at Rally Italia Sardegna – eventually forcing him into a critical mistake – may prove to be the definitive season-ending blow for Latvala.
Latvala’s win at Rally Argentina signaled the first time he had beaten Ogier since they became team-mates. And to win by a margin of 1m 26.9s was the kind of crushing defeat that every driver dreams of. ‘Mind man’ Christoph Treier told Latvala to ‘get in the car, drive it and don’t over-analyse’. It was just the advice Latvala needed and he walked away with 26 championship points.
Heading to Rally Portugal, Latvala was looking to build on his win in Sweden and his second-place in Mexico. But he crashed on the fifth stage as he desperately tried to catch Ogier who was only 0.4s ahead of him. The incident was Latvala’s fourth Rally Portugal crash in six years. He did claim two championship points on the Power Stage but that was little consolation for the Finn.