Moments of fright and an important victory

I had some moments of fright on the last day of rally Sweden. On the first stages of that day I was able to increase my lead to Mikko Hirvonen with a few seconds. I felt relaxed and I tried to save my tyres. And still on the third last stage of the race I had a puncture. The right front tyre hit a rock and I felt how it immediately went flat. There were still eight kilometers to the finish. It was a bit frightening but I decided to drive as far as I could with that flat tyre. I was leading the race by over 30 seconds before the puncture. I knew that I couldn’t afford to make any mistakes at that point. In the finish I saw that I was about eight seconds ahead Mikko. I said to myself that it’s now or never. I took new tyres and decided to attack on the next stage. And I succeeded. My co-driver Miikka and I had to do lots of tyre work during the weekend. In this race the stages were snowy and icy when driven the first time. When driven the second time the surface was damaged which wore the tyres down. To make sure that every tyre was used the same amount of kilometers forced us to change their places after each and every stage. During this season there is only one service per day between morning and afternoon stages which means that we the drivers have to work with the car much more than before. In this rally there was one stage driven in the dark and of course we then needed extra lights which we had to fit ourselves before the stage. The fight for the victory with my ex teammate Mikko Hirvonen was very even. The most decisive stage concerning the victory was the last one on Friday. On that I was able to increase my lead to Mikko. We had fun, Mikko and I, when talking between the stages. But the competing was different from that when we were teammates. We talked more seriously and there was no talk about set ups and such. There was more psychological talk than before and just chit chat. The victory in Sweden is very important thinking of the series and the title. I have to be close to the top in every rally. Victories are needed to get the title and even if or when the race is going poorly I still have to be in top three. During the years of 2008 and 2009 I made more mistakes than any other top driver. In 2010 I was able to decrease the amount of mistakes and during last season I was close to Sebastien Loeb concerning mistakes. The key things on the way to the title will be driving evenly and reliably plus we have to be good in the rallies where the Citroens have been strong during the past years. The next race in Mexico is important because team Citroen has been overwhelming there for many years. But our car is competitive now. The pace and reliability were fixed at the end of last season. So everything is in order and we are as good as ready to go to Mexico with confidence. I believe that we will be truly competitive there. Our aim is to be in top three.

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

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