Interview to Jari-Matti Latvala.

Category: Entrevistas
Published: 08 March 2014
Latvala on the world championship battle between him and Sébastien Ogier

The Finn has grand ambitions for 2014: becoming World Rally Champion

What “JML” has in common with his idol Henri Toivonen

Volkswagen works driver Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) celebrated his first win of season in the Polo R WRC at the Rally Sweden. The Finn along with co-driver Miikka Anttila (FIN) took the overall lead in the World Rally Championship for the first time in his career. Latvala would love to defend that lead ahead of team-mate Sébastien Ogier (F) at the Rally Mexico. In this interview, the world championship leader speaks about the battle between him and the current world champion, his new mental coach, his great idol Henri Toivonen and his grand ambitions. 
Jari-Matti Latvala, congratulations on your first victory of the season. How do you feel after this triumph?

“The victory in Sweden was a special moment for me. It’s the only rally in the WRC that I have won three times. It was also in Sweden that I celebrated my first WRC victory in 2008. However, there were also some critical moments during Rally Sweden. For example on the Friday when I lost time during the ‘Hagfors Sprint’ stage and Andreas [Mikkelsen] came dangerously close. But on the Saturday everything went to plan and we clinched the victory. I was absolutely ecstatic after Rally Sweden.”

Do you know what you have in common with Björn Waldegård, Stig Blomqvist, Tommi Mäkinen, Kenneth Eriksson and Marcus Grönholm?

“Let me think about it quickly. I think we have all won the Rally Sweden more than two times. That truly is esteemed company.”

It is difficult to master a WRC event like in Sweden. How then do you manage to win such a complex rally?

“It all comes down to strategy. In 2008 the conditions were similar – a lot of gravel amongst the slushy snow and ice runs. Conditions like these seem to suit me. If you were to compare a rally like this with an asphalt rally, then there would be huge differences. You have to keep calm in Sweden and drive a clean line. I also had problems with this at the start in Sweden, but over the course of the rally I managed to get this under control. I would also like to stress that Volkswagen gives all their drivers an equal chance. Each of us has the opportunity to fight for the victory – no team orders in sight. This is reflected in the atmosphere within the team. The team has simply worked great.”

The first gravel rally of the season in Mexico is fast approaching. How are Volkswagen preparing for it?

“We’ve spent two days in Spain preparing for Rally Mexico. I was behind the wheel one day and then Sébastien the next. Séb adjusts to new conditions incredibly quickly. Quicker than me. I need a bit of a warm-up on gravel. Therefore I often use the shakedown to get used to the road surface. This was exactly the case during Rally Great Britain last season. If I haven’t been on gravel for two months then I notice it straight away.”

What are you expecting from the Rally Mexico?

“Of course the win has given me extra confidence. At the same time when you’re in first place, you have to be a realist. In Mexico, if you allow yourself a mistake then your chances of victory are slim. I travelled to Mexico in 2012 fresh from victory in Sweden. At the time I had a great feeling about the Rally Mexico, then I was unfortunately forced to retire. You have to see that you pick up as many points as possible. It’s not my strongest rally but of course a victory is possible, however, it’s not my main aim. Even a podium finish would be super.”

You are the new WRC leader. Is there now a big battle going on between you and Sébastien Ogier?

“I hope so. But one thing is certain: Séb will be damned hungry for victory in Mexico. Of course I would also like to become world champion. That is my great ambition. For that you need a perfect overall package and I’m working on that. But there are also other drivers, who share this dream, therefore for the time being we’re just concentrating on one rally at a time. Séb is really strong. If anyone wants to beat him, they have to perform consistently at their best, on all surfaces.”

What were you thinking during the Rally Sweden when Sébastien Ogier made a mistake?

“He’s only human too. Sure, if you visualise the previous season, then you’re given the impression that Séb never makes mistakes. I’m convinced that every driver sometimes makes a mistake during a rally. Again, we are all just humans.

With good performances you are increasing the pressure on your team-mates …

“As a driver it is natural to look at the performances of your team-mates. When Séb was so fast last year, I found myself under more pressure. Despite this I think that we are professionals and know how to handle pressure.”

Are you afraid of Sébastien Ogier?

“He’s a very strong driver. Also mentally. He’s at home on all surfaces. He is certainly difficult to beat, but despite this you should never have fear. If you are afraid, then you won’t achieve anything. You can have respect for other drivers, but never fear. As I mentioned earlier, if you want to win the world championship, you have to deliver consistent performances.”

This season you are working with a mental coach. What has changed for you because of this?

“I listen to my feelings more. In the past I wanted to win some rallies at all costs. Then everything often went wrong and I wanted too much. In moments like these my self-confidence was zero. My mental coach has taught me that you have to listen to your feelings. If this is not ideal, then it is better to switch down a gear. Another thing is that I now communicate with Miikka, my co-driver, considerably more. Now we have a strategy, a plan. Our teamwork couldn’t be better. He intervenes when I sometimes want too much. That wasn’t the case at the beginning of our career together.” (laughs)

Was it your idea to work with a mental coach?

“It was the team’s idea. The team came to me and thought that I could improve in this area. Christopher became my mental coach during the Rally Great Britain and since that time I have come to trust him one hundred per cent. I learnt from him how to place my focus on something and when I lose my focus, how I can get it back. Also, I was sometimes a little too excited ahead of a rally. He’s taught me to approach a rally in a more relaxed manner. I don’t want to go into too many details, but I’ve mostly managed it through relaxation and concentration exercises.”

Volkswagen have dominated recent rallies. Do you believe this domination can continue on gravel?

“There are four manufacturers in the WRC. When I look at Hyundai, then you have to say that they’ve made good progress already, but they still require a little time to reach the top. Volkswagen were able to gather a lot more experience ahead of their debut. But I’m certain that one team or another will still shine this season.”

Your compatriot Marcus Grönholm was World Rally Champion in 2002. Is it not high time for another Finnish world champion?

“It puts a bit of pressure on me that it’s been twelve years since a Finnish driver was world champion. A Finn has been World Rally Champion off and on when spread over the last 20 years. In Finland the people already have high hopes for me, even if rallying has lost a little of its popularity. If I were to win the title, then the popularity of the sport in Finland would be sure to increase.”

You are a big fan of Henri Toivonen. Would you also like to become world champion for him?

“There are a few parallels between Henri’s career and mine. He won his first rally as a young driver and then got more and more experienced. In 1986, the year he died, he won the Rally Monte Carlo and led Rally Sweden for a lot of the way. He had a super start to the season. Even though he is my idol, it’s not the case that I want to become world champion for him. For me he was the bravest driver of his era. Nobody was able to drive a Group B car like he was. Sometimes he just wanted too much.”


Entrevista a Vladimir Vasilyev - Resumo da Baja Russia 2014

Category: Entrevistas
Published: 08 March 2014
RISE Network - What do you think about the fact that Russian Baja opened the FIA World Cup this year?

Vladimir Vasyliev - "For me it is the historic fact! For the first time this year Russia hosts the winter Olympic Games in Sochi and first round of FIA World Cup for cross-country rally. As I am involved in group of Organizers together with Ruslan Misikov and Alexander Terentyev, I can say that we did a big job to achieve the status for this year. And from the side of competitor of its Baja, I can say that the international status gave all of us the great opportunity to increase the level of fighting, because more crews arrived, and as result the race became very interesting and unpredictable."

RN - How do you feel about the impact of the weather in the track?

VV - "I like the snow racing  but If we race with low temperatures about -20, it would be even more better for me. This would be the really Russian winter with the tracks full of snow. We enjoyed the rally tracks, also the tracks in the forest. Special adrenaline we took when we pass the tracks among the trees because they are very close to the car. Also we wished to show to the foreign competitors and journalists the really Russian winter with frozen tracks and low temperatures, but on this edition it was more looks like “warm” winter with just 0 degrees. I hope for the next year we will have really winter conditions."

RN - You have competing last year with the G-Force Proto and now you are competing with the Mini All4 Racing, which are the main differences between both cars in this tracks?

VV - "G-force Proto is a good car, it is reliable and I used it during two years.  I can say that its good in running but we often had technical problems.  MINI, of course, is very different, much more reliable and on different kind of terrain, like hard bumpy parts, the suspension is working perfectly and steering is working fine. During this race we didn’t change any spare parts, we just checked all and started again."

RN - Practically you lost the victory due to the punctures, also another competitors complain about the punctures. Which was the reason to suffer two punctures?

VV - "I can say that, of course, the punctures cost me around 4 or 5 minutes and for sure it is a lot for the Baja and for the overall result. But it is a technical sport and everything can happen. On the track we tried to drive the car really accurate but there was 2 stones we could not avoid, both of them were on the turns."

RN - We have heard that yesterday you have some kind of adventure with some animals on the track, what can you said about that?

VV - "Yes, when we go on the track we saw some yaks. They were running directly on the track and we need to go slowly and we try to push a little bit one or two of them, just a little bit to force them to leave the track. We lost about 10 or 15 seconds, and the most important, all of the yaks were saved.  Well in fact there are not yaks from our forest, this animals were in a reserve and the run away 6 years ago and now they live here in wild nature."

RN - This is the first time that you work together with your new co-driver Konstantin Zhilstov. How this workout for you?

VV - "It was a good race, from the first kilometer we understand one each other very well inside the car, and when we did the reconnaissance of the Prologue my co-driver wrote down the notes on the road book and when he read it to me everything was clear."

RN - As you speak about the prologue, can you explain us what happened at the end of the stage?

VV - "Yes, this was the only mistake from the organizers, they just missed to put the control point in the service area and not only me, other cars go in different directions and searching for the control as well, even we followed the road book we can’t find it."

RN - What are your memories about the Hungarian Baja? Are you plan to take part this year?

VV - "As you know I wish to take part in all events of the FIA World Cup, so the Hungarian Baja is included in my plan. For the memories, I took part in Hungarian Baja 2012 and I remembered it was a good race, hard,  bumpy with a lot of jumps but for the MINI this kind of terrain, I think, will be the best for driving."

RN - And about Baja Spain?

VV - "Well remembered the Baja Spain. I finished third and Stephane Peterhansel won that year. That year I remember that I have a broken the front driveshaft  and I drove 90 km without brakes and only with the rear driveshaft working. I remember a lot of fesh-fesh and dust and when I came back home I have a cough for one week. The natural tracks are the real advantage for Spain, the race is perfect and very useful for the Dakar preparation."

RN - And About Baja Portalegre?

VV - "I didn’t keep good memories from that race, It was my first time with the MINI and i was forced to withdraw due a technical issue. I hope this year will be better."



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