Sardinia Rally winner Jari-Matti Latvala has thanked Ford and team boss Malcolm Wilson for keeping their faith in him during his crash-filled start to 2009.
The Finn had made a number of errors in the opening rounds, including a ferocious accident in Portugal that saw him roll down a cliff, despite the team urging him to aim for consistent finishes and to take no risks. After successfully following those instructions in Argentina, Latvala was allowed to push harder in Italy and duly beat his teammate Mikko Hirvonen to victory. He was extremely grateful to Wilson for keeping the faith in him.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling that I am having now,” said Latvala. “It’s been so tough and difficult, a lot of things have happened. I have done a lot of mistakes.
“I have to say a big thanks to team. The team has had no doubts, even if other people did. I got the small things together this weekend. The secret was consistency and a little bit of luck with starting position. It was a big relief. The pressure I have had is unbelievably high.”
Wilson was pleased that his decision to give Latvala more freedom in Italy had paid off.
“Everybody knows the potential of Jari,” he said. “At least he got the opportunity of getting in the car very quickly after Portugal.
“In Argentina, it was really important to take a sensible approach and get kilometers under his belt. He must be the only driver in history who rings his team manager after the stage and says: ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t intend to be fastest.’
“Him and [co-driver] Miikka [Antilla] knew what they had to do. I think Miikka and I thought maybe it wasn’t the right time and he needed more time from Portugal, but it has happened and I’m pleased that when we told him to push he did.”
Latvala said he had been surprised when he was notified that he was allowed to fight for the Sardinia win.
“We started here with a good position, but when I was a bit more confident on the afternoon of Friday, the team felt it is now time to try and work for the victory and they sent the message saying: ‘Push, push.’ I asked my co-driver: ‘Do we really go flat out?’ He said: ‘Yes! Keep going!’”
He is determined not to repeat his early-season errors and to play a bigger part in Ford’s title challenge from now on.
“This was a big lesson for me. We need this consistency for the future,” said Latvala.
“We spoke with Mikko, when both of us are there we can put more pressure on Citroen. When I go off the road, I load more pressure to him and we can’t fight [Sebastien] Loeb. We need to work together to get the pressure to them.”