Jari-Matti Latvala saved his best until last on the Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse, with a scintillating run through the points-paying Power Stage enabling the ‘Flying Finn’ to snatch fourth position overall by the slenderest of margins.
Having proven to be there or thereabouts but never quite on the ultimate pace on the first day-and-a-half of Toyota Gazoo Racing’s WRC asphalt debut, Latvala made the most of a series of changes effected in midday service to up the ante from Saturday afternoon onwards.
Outpacing Citroën Total Abu Dhabi rival Craig Breen on three of the four remaining stages, the Rally Sweden winner dug particularly deep on the closing Porto-Vecchio – Palombaggia speed test as he claimed his first stage win of the event in style.
Latvala’s late charge saw him narrowly overhaul Breen to reclaim fourth from the Irishman by a scant 0.1sec after 316.80km of competitive rallying – in so doing consolidating second in the drivers’ standings, just 13 points adrift of Sébastien Ogier.
“The Power Stage was completely maximum attack,” reflected the 32-year-old, who wound up only 13.6 seconds shy of the rostrum. “I was totally focussed on my driving. I knew that if I wanted fourth place I needed to have a perfect run, and I nearly achieved that.
“There were a couple of sections where we arrived too fast and had some understeer, and also one jump where we arrived completely sideways. I could see people running away, so I’m sorry if I gave them a fright but it was all under control, even though it looked spectacular! We’ve taken 17 points with fourth place and the Power Stage win, so this is a really fantastic result for our first rally on asphalt.”
“This result is really a team effort, with the car being improved over the three days thanks to everyone’s hard work and collaboration,” added team principal Tommi Mäkinen.
“Finishing this close to the podium on our first asphalt event is a fantastic achievement and actually something I never managed myself as a driver – my best result in Corsica was sixth! Another great job by Jari-Matti, who drove brilliantly on the Power Stage in particular.”