Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala has warned that if tonight's three Rally of Portugal stages are hit by a dust problem, it must spell the end of nighttime running on most of the World Rally Championship rounds.
Latvala won yesterday's qualifying stage and elected to run 17th on the road in order to benefit from the road-cleaning effect from the 16 cars ahead of him. The Finn is well aware, however, that if the organizers' efforts to water the stages don't work, he could be left to deal with the worst of the clouds of dust.
"If there is the dust, then it is simple to say there is no point organizing the night stages on this kind of event," Latvala said. "It has to be the same for everybody and if it's not, then what's the point?
"We shouldn't forget here that it's not only the factory drivers we are talking about, either. The private drivers are investing a lot of money to come here and compete and if the dust spoils their event then it's bad for them. We can have [night stages on the] tarmac, or in Sweden and in Wales, but on the dry rallies in the Mediterranean area, if it is bad, then there is no point to organize this."
Latvala admitted running where he and teammate Petter Solberg are on today's opening loop is a bigger gamble than factory Citroen drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Sebastien Loeb, who took the opposite strategy of running at the front of the field.
"The organizers have promised there will be no dust. We are counting on this," he acknowledged. "We are confident the cleaning effect is bigger than the dust problem.