Only the victory was missed
It was once again great to compete on the gravel roads of Finland. This is a fantastic rally, definitely best arranged in the world in my opinion. I also liked visiting Lahti region. The service downtown Lahti and the event arranged around it were well organized. It was wonderful to see Finnish flags on the stages and see how Finns support their own drivers. Many spectators came to say to me how well I was driving. Of course the best moment of this weekend would have been winning the race but that I could not do and yet I had a good feeling after the weekend. I won Rally Finland last year and this year’s result was a bit of a disappointment although I have to be content of being number two. The last three rallies have gone badly for me so standing on the podium in Jyvaskyla was a good thing. Another positive thing in the race was that I was able to beat Sebastien Ogier and I was also able put pressure on Sebastien Loeb. Unfortunately we ran out of stage kilometers in our battle to win the rally. Sebastien Loeb showed what the champion is made of. He knew when to attack and seized the opportunity which came on Saturday morning on Leustu stage. The humidity of the night had condensed on the surface of the road adding the grip which helped Loeb who was the first on the road. He attacked and increased his lead. Loeb’s fastest time on Leustu stage was 6.5 seconds faster than the second fastest time. I was ten seconds slower than him. I was not that much slower than him on any other stage so this top time of his was a crucial one. It may be that this was Loeb’s last race in Jyvaskyla. I believe that he is ending his career after this season if he wins the eighth title in a row. If he does not win he may be eager enough to continue one more season. My teammate Mikko Hirvonen had a lousy start of the weekend because he hit a tree and damaged his car the way he lost time on every stage. Persistently he continued the race and drove so fast he started to catch the lead. Without the problems he would have won the rally so fast he drove but one must remember that the farther back one drives the less pressure one has. The Finns Jari Ketomaa and Matti Rantanen started the rally extremely well but unfortunately they both drove off the road and the race was over. Ketomaa was even leading the rally after stage one. And nowadays it is very rare that there is someone else than Hirvonen, Loeb, Ogier, Petter Solberg or myself in the lead.
Jari-Matti Latvala’s columns will be published in Ilta-Sanomat freshly after each rally.
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