Monday | 13 Feb 2017

Latvala: 'Toyota spirit lifts me

Jari-Matti Latvala believes the switch to Toyota's WRC squad late last year has reinvigorated his career after a lean period at Volkswagen.

The Finn made an eleventh-hour switch to Toyota after Volkswagen ended its WRC programme suddenly last November. Despite limited pre-season testing in the Japanese manufacturer's Yaris WRC, he finished second at Rallye Monte-Carlo and followed that with a win last week at Rally Sweden.

Reflecting on his run of five disappointing rally results that preceded Volkswagen's exit, Latvala acknowledged that the change had done him good.

"I dropped my performance in the second half of last season and I can honestly say I lost some confidence," he said.

"So when I got a chance to drive the Toyota and also start something from scratch it was a big motivation boost. There is a great spirit in the team and that has been lifting me back to the level where I used to be."

The win was Latvala's 17th in the WRC, his fourth in Sweden, and his first since Mexico 2016. He now heads the drivers’ standings - four points clear of his former team-mate Sébastien Ogier.

Latvala said: "It’s an absolutely amazing feeling. This victory feels like when I got my first victory back in 2008 in this rally.

"That year the victory came as a great surprise, it also came as a surprise this time because after Saturday's performance I was quite sure Ott Tänak was going to win. But the stages on Sunday suited my driving style and the car and I could drive on a different level."

Latvala's renewed level of confidence peaked on the rally-closing Power Stage, which he stormed through in the fastest time despite having a comfortable lead.

"I spoke to [team boss] Tommi Mäkinen before the stage and he said to just go out there and continue how I had been going," he said.

"On the stage I thought that maybe I should slow down but the feeling was good so I decided to go with the feeling and just carry on."


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