LATVALA DISMISSES 2017 TOYOTA DRIVE
Finn believes his future is at Volkswagen
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 ’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.