Tue 23 Apr 2024

“Our sport is great” – Latvala after intense Croatia Rally

Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Jari-Matti Latvala has described the intensity of competition in the FIA World Rally Championship as “exciting” after Croatia Rally last week.

The Zagreb-based fixture witnessed one of the closest battles in recent memory, with Thierry Neuville, Elfyn Evans, and Sébastien Ogier blanketed by just 11.6 seconds going into Super Sunday.

In the end, Ogier claimed a surprise victory after the other pair both spun in the final day’s second stage, but the competition remained close until the final kilometre with Ogier leading his GR Yaris team-mate Evans by only 9.7sec at the finish.

Ogier became the fourth different victor in as many events so far this year after Neuville, Esapekka Lappi, and Kalle Rovanperä won the previous rounds.

“The battle here, and also in Monte-Carlo, was going right until the very end,” Latvala said. “It was a really intense fight.

“Championship-wise, I think our sport is great,” he continued. “There are such close battles and fighting until the end. The quality is really, really great, and I think nobody can say that it’s not exciting.”

Latvala admitted to being impressed by Ogier’s WRC record after the Frenchman celebrated his 100th podium in Croatia. Ogier has finished inside the top three in more than half of the rallies he has started.

“It’s a huge amount [of podiums],” he said. “I have, I think, 67 podiums myself or something like that – but then I have 210 world championship starts! His record at finishing is better than mine.

“It is extraordinary, I think Loeb’s record was something like this. There are these two French guys and then Rovanperä as well. But that just shows why they are world champions – they are very skillful drivers but also very clever drivers.”

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