GROUP RAL­LY­ING EDITOR “Farewell John Hor­ton. And thank you”

Motor Sport News - - Mexico Preview - Riponian Stages Rally, p17 Pho­tos: mck­lein-im­age­, Les Kol­czak

Jari-matti Lat­vala has pre­pared for this week’s 50-mile Rally Mex­ico stage – the long­est in the World Rally Cham­pi­onship for 30 years – by snow­mo­bil­ing flat-out for 70 miles at a time.

Lat­vala tested his Volk­swa­gen Polo R WRC in Spain late last month, es­tab­lish­ing a base set-up for the car he will use in Leon this week. But his prepa­ra­tions for Sun­day’s mon­ster Gua­na­ju­ato test have taken place in the snows of La­p­land – a world away from Mex­ico and its 40-de­gree heat.

Lat­vala said: “This stage will be about keep­ing the con­cen­tra­tion, so I have been rid­ing the snow­mo­bile for be­tween 80 and 120 kilo­me­tres [50 and 75 miles] each time and push­ing quite hard, keep­ing the speed quite high. Phys­i­cally, you are work­ing hard at this and, at the same time, you need to be keep­ing the full con­cen­tra­tion when you are on the snow­mo­bile with the speed high.”

Lat­vala will at­tempt to put a point­less start to the sea­son be­hind him in North Amer­ica, where he starts as favourite for the win. The Finn runs seven cars be­hind cham­pi­onship leader Se­bastien Ogier, who will be forced to sweep gravel clear for 188 miles and two days ( see left).

Lat­vala is de­ter­mined not to let the pres­sure get to him. He said: “I have the ad­van­tage and I must use it. In this kind of po­si­tion, it’s not good to put any ex­tra en­ergy into this thing. I have to drive nor­mally and not try to at­tack all of the time.

“This is prob­a­bly go­ing to be the long­est rally of the sea­son and there’s so much to hit in the stages – we have to be care­ful. And hope it doesn’t rain!”

Rain would ruin Lat­vala’s ad­van­tage, but the weather fore­cast is clear for the week ahead in Gua­na­ju­ato.

Lat­vala be­lieves the pres­sure ahead of the event re­mains on Ogier. “He will want to win the rally and it will be more dif­fi­cult from his po­si­tion,” he said. “I know I have a great, great po­si­tion. Now I have to use it.”

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