The most challenging race throughout my whole career.

I was exited before rally Sweden. I had tested the new Ford WRC for the first time at the end of last September. In my opinion our team and I had succeeded well. During and after the shakedown in Sweden the car felt good and its pace was great. Right from the beginning of the rally the car felt so good to me that I thought our development work had gone to the right direction. The race didn’t go so smoothly though. I made many kinds of different mistakes, I had two spins and I hit the snow bank at least three or four times. I was very happy to get to the finish and to be the third. Not one single rally on my career has been so challenging. On Friday it was the difficult road conditions that affected my driving. I didn’t feel as comfortable with the new car as I had thought before this first rally which made my driving difficult in spite of good testing results. I also drove too aggressively. Now afterwards it feels that the pace is right because at least on the last day of the rally I was able to drive some good times on the stages. From now on I have to find a calmer rhythm to my driving. Sebastien Loeb ( Citroen) suffered from the bad driving position at the beginning of the race and furthermore he had a puncture. Problems or not I expected more of him.  I assumed he should have a better start for the season and that he would be more of an opponent. My team mate Mikko Hirvonen for one drove a very even race and won the rally. Last season was very difficult for him but now Mikko got back to his own level. Mikko won and I was third so this was a dream come true start of the new rally season for team Ford. Succeeding in Sweden was the thing because last year we came behind more than half the season. We have worked hard and even during last season we put effort on developing the new Fiesta. It was great to see that our efforts weren’t wasted. Our performance gave team Citroen a bit of a shock. Still we can’t rely on that we are strong in every rally. We have to stay alert because our opponent can and will attack in the next race in Mexico. Something extra happened in rally Sweden when Petter Solberg lost his driver’s license just before the last stage due to over speeding and his co-driver Chris Patterson had to drive the rally car for the first time. He drove the last stage which was broadcasted live on TV. He couldn’t afford to make any mistakes and the pressure was huge. And furthermore he had no pace notes. Petter tried to help him by making some signs with his hands. Patterson did surprisingly well. Also Mads Östberg was a surprise to me. He drove a very mature rally and got to the podium. He was second. Some of the rallies of this season will be new to him but some won’t and then he will be a worthy opponent to us.

Jari-Matti Latvala’s columns will be published in Ilta-Sanomat freshly after each rally.

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