A top result on a silver platter
The result of rally Portugal was not at all the one I was hoping for. Honestly I must say that both to Petter Solberg and me a top result was offered on a silver platter. After Thursday everything was more than well. The leader of the series Sebastien Loeb retired on Thursday and we, Petter and I, had an excellent chance to reach him in the series. Loeb drove off the road so heavily that the roll bar of his car got damaged and he couldn’t continue his race. On Friday the conditions changed drastically. It hadn’t rained in three or four months but now it started pouring with rain. The water stayed on the surface of the roads and was absorbed slowly. The roads turned into mud and the surface was really slippery. This was not all; there was fog, too, which made the conditions even more difficult. I, too, tried to drive as carefully as possible because I knew that patience was needed. The heavy rain brought down rocks from the hills and I hit one of those rocks on Friday’s first stage. The front tyre got the hit in a fast left corner and the bolt of a suspension arm snapped. The tyre twisted under the car and the rear of the car slipped into a ditch. One bolt ruined the whole race. Six cars stayed on that stage. My teammate Petter Solberg had to retire on the next stage. That was a really dark moment for our team and felt very bad. On Saturday we both were able to continue the race due to Super rally rule. Petter managed to be fourth in the finish and I could have been fifth but there was an electric fault in my car. The gasoline system didn’t work properly because of this fault. My co-driver Miikka Anttila and I fixed the car for 12 minutes and managed to get it running. We were finally number 14 in the race. On Power stage we were the second and gained two extra points. We were only 0.3 seconds behind Dani Sordo who was the fastest. If there was anything positive in rally Portugal maybe it was my pace which was right in the beginning of the race. Another positive thing was to reach Loeb with two points. My car is fast but other things have been problematic in the first rallies of this season. Still I will go to Argentina feeling fine and confident. We try to catch the Citroens there. It is no use for me at this point to think about the title. Instead I try to drive one rally after another and then check at the end of the season where I stand in the fight for the title.
Jari-Matti Latvala’s columns will be published in Ilta-Sanomat freshly after each rally.
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