Finn be­lieves his fu­ture is at Volk­swa­gen

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - By David Evans Pho­tos: mck­lein-im­age­

Jari-matti Lat­vala has con­firmed his fu­ture lies with Volk­swa­gen Mo­tor­sport, end­ing spec­u­la­tion of a pos­si­ble move to lead Toy­ota’s re­turn to the World Rally Cham­pi­onship next year.

On the sub­ject of a pos­si­ble move to Toy­ota, Lat­vala said: “At the mo­ment, my plans are with Volk­swa­gen. It’s great that Toy­ota is com­ing back to the cham­pi­onship, but for [20]’16, ’17 and ’18, I’m not think­ing or con­sid­er­ing Toy­ota. When you have the cham­pi­onship-win­ning car, it would al­ways be very, very risky to jump out from that boat.”

Lat­vala, who will re­main with the Ger­man team un­til the end of 2018, also says he has a fresh plan to try to topple his all-con­quer­ing team-mate Se­bastien Ogier as the pair move into their fourth year with the Han­nover squad.

The 30-year-old starts the sea­son look­ing to al­ter the bal­ance of power within Volk­swa­gen. In the last 39 ral­lies the pair have started in sim­i­lar ma­chin­ery, Lat­vala has won eight while Ogier has topped the podium 25 times. Lat­vala says the early 2016 ral­lies vi­tal.

“In the first half of the sea­son I have never been very suc­cess­ful,” said Lat­vala. “I have usu­ally had to wait for the se­cond half of the year for the ral­lies where I go well. So now I have to play the tac­tics. And the tac­tics are to not try to be win­ning ev­ery rally, some­times I have to take the podium and wait for the se­cond half where I am more suited.”

Lat­vala has won the last two Rally Fin­lands and he says he needs to find the same feel­ing the home ad­van­tage gives him on more ral­lies.

“I def­i­nitely need more ral­lies to be like Fin­land,” he said. “Fin­land lifts me and boosts me and it gives me even more con­cen­tra­tion. It’s that con­cen­tra­tion I need on ev­ery rally. It has to be 110 per cent ev­ery time. This is the idea that I’m try­ing to work for, to make ev­ery rally the same: 110 per cent ap­proach as Fin­land.”

“Also, I must avoid the mis­takes. Then it means he [Ogier] can­not af­ford to make any mis­takes of his own. That gives pres­sure to him.

“If we can do that and sus­tain a chal­lenge and a threat, then we can see what hap­pens. But all I can do is con­cen­trate on my own job.”

Lat­vala, Ogier and An­dreas Mikkelsen were all in the Alps for their pre-event set-up test late last week.

Lat­vala added: “Rally Monte Carlo is some­thing very spe­cial ev­ery year. The con­di­tions in the moun­tains can pretty much change from one minute to the next. The roads on the sunny side of a moun­tain are com­pletely dif­fer­ent to the shaded side, where they are of­ten icy. The pre­sen­ta­tion alone – to be stood in front of the Royal Palace and hope­fully re­ceive a tro­phy – is the ul­ti­mate mo­ti­va­tion for me at ev­ery Monte.”

Win­ner of the Monte for the last two years and home­town hero, Gap’s Ogier said: “I can­not imag­ine a bet­ter rally with which to start the new sea­son. For me, it is the most im­por­tant rally of the year.

“The key fac­tor is tyre se­lec­tion. We driv­ers are very de­pen­dent on our ice spies. It is all about in­ter­pret­ing the weather con­di­tions cor­rectly and un­der­stand­ing the unique weather in the Alps.”

Mikkelsen, who broke his duck with Rally Spain vic­tory at the end of 2015, con­ceded this wasn’t his favourite week of the year.

“I will ad­mit that the Monte Carlo is not one of my favourite ral­lies,” he said. “I fin­ished third here last year, and that would be an out­stand­ing re­sult again in 2016.”

Mikkelsen starts with new co-driver Anders Jaeger for the first time this week.

Finn (r) is hop­ing to beat Ogier

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