Monday | 06 Oct 2014

Loeb lessons key for Latvala

Jari-Matti Latvala has revealed how watching videos of asphalt master Sébastien Loeb helped him achieve his dream of a maiden sealed-surface success at Rallye de France-Alsace on Sunday.

Latvala became the first Finn to win an asphalt WRC round since Tommi Mäkinen triumphed in Italy in 1999, and he admitted he took tips from nine-time world champion Loeb who was virtually unbeatable on the surface in a career that included 78 wins.

“In 2009 and 2010 I was so far away from the pace so I watched how Loeb drove. I studied his lines on videos and learned how to drive on asphalt,” said the Volkswagen Polo R pilot who won by 44.8sec.

“I learned from him that if you’re not sure whether fast sections are flat out, it’s better to lift the throttle than brake. Braking kills more speed, but coming off the throttle keeps the speed a bit higher and upsets the balance less,” he added.

Latvala’s victory came just two rallies after he crashed out of the lead at the previous asphalt round on the final morning.

Sébastien Loeb - asphalt master

“I had to do the mistake in Germany to understand and be able to control myself in the lead position. It was a raw mistake but it gave me the controlled feeling I had here. The experience helped.

“If I go back to 2008 in Spain when I drove a Ford Focus WRC, I finished six minutes behind Loeb. Six years, that’s a minute per year I have taken down!

“If you want to win the championship you have to be able to fight in every condition. You can’t only be a specialist snow or gravel driver. You have to be a complete driver and this is the thing I really wanted and worked for,” he added.

Latvala also pointed to a 2010 appearance in a 24-hour race at the legendary Nürburgring circuit in Germany as a turning point.

“That was a big help because it opened my eyes. I realised my driving was completely wrong. I wasn’t using the Tarmac properly. I learned to use the whole width of the road and turn into corners a little later. I understood how to do that by watching the lines of drivers in front,” he explained.

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