Monday | 05 Oct 2015

What Corsica victory means to Latvala

Jari-Matti Latvala’s 15th career victory at Tour de Corse – Rally de France on Sunday was a significant one for the Finn for practical and personal reasons.

His 43.1sec success over a rejuvenated Elfyn Evans cemented Latvala’s grip on second in the WRC drivers’ points. With two rounds remaining it is hard to see closest rival and Volkswagen team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen overhauling the 34-point gap.

Coming 12 months after his maiden asphalt victory in France, albeit in Alsace rather than on the island off the bottom end of the country, it boosted the deep-thinking Latvala’s belief that as a driver he is the complete package in terms of being competitive on all surfaces.

Finns traditionally excel on loose tracks, but not asphalt. The only previous Finn to tame Corsica’s twisty, narrow roads was Markku Alén in 1983 and 1984.

“It’s great a Finn can win this event,” Latvala said. “There are a lot of French drivers who have won the rally and this shows we can be good on asphalt and not just gravel and snow.”

The memorial to Henri Toivonen in Corsica

But behind Latvala’s professional delight, there were strong emotional reasons why victory meant so much. It was just a few kilometres from this year’s Corte service park that his idol, Henri Toivonen, perished 29 years ago in a fiery accident that ended the Group B era almost overnight.

Latvala was just a year old when Toivonen died in 1986 but the man who possesses a phenomenal knowledge of rallying’s history, has an even more encyclopaedic recall of his fellow countryman’s career.

“He was 29 when he was killed and I’m 30, so he was my age. It’s pretty much the best age for a rally driver because you are mature enough, you have experience and you have the speed to make good results,” Latvala told

“Henri was flying in his career, everything was clicking together. He had the best car and a great team. He started the year with victory in Monte-Carlo and went to Sweden and led until the engine failed. Everything was there for him and it ended so suddenly,” he said.

“It’s so hard for me to accept and when I come to this island I think about what happened to him. He had such a big lead when he was kiIled. I try to push my thoughts to the side because it’s not good preparation for my rally.

“Times were different then, it was the era of the Super Car. It’s something you should not think too much about when you perform because it will confuse your head,” added Latvala.

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