Q & A with Jari-Matti Latvala

Jari-Matti Latvala's continued participation in the World Rally Championship was announced as part of Ford's two-year WRC deal last night

Q & A with Jari-Matti Latvala

The 24-year-old Finn talked to AUTOSPORT about his relief at keeping his job, the mistakes he has made and the future as he sees it - starting with this week's Rally Finland.

Q. When did you find out about the continuation of your contract?

Jari-Matti Latvala: About one week ago, I spoke with Malcolm [Wilson, Ford team director] and he said: 'If Ford continues, then things will be okay.' But I only knew about half-an-hour before the announcement that Ford would continue.

Q. You must be very relieved?

JML: It's taken away a lot of pressure. There's no more pressure than normal now for my home rally. Last year's Rally Finland was a very, very hard year for me. I hope I have learned from that and from the mistakes I have made this year. I have had a lot of things going on in the media side and when you are in the spotlight, it's not always the best situation.

Q. It's been a very difficult time for you...

JML: The things that I have done, if I can learn and grow from them, then I can turn it to strength for the future.

Q. What did you do after Rally Poland?

JML: I went to Italy, a couple of days. After that rally, it was best to get away and not think of the rally - just concentrate on the holiday. I did that and I felt more relaxed. This was different to [the very big accident in] Portugal, when I needed to get back in the car and drive straight away. This [Poland] was not a big crash, it was a mistake which had a very sad end. It was a little tiny thing which made it like a disaster.

Q. So, what's the plan for Finland?

JML: My target is somewhere in the top three, but also I need to be a team player. I will try help Mikko [Hirvonen] as much as I can with his fight. I want to finish this rally. That is very important for myself, but as well to help Mikko I need to give pressure to [Sebastien] Loeb. That means I need to carry on with the speed. I need to find the balance.

Q. That's easy to do while you're sitting here. Not so easy in the car, though, is it?

JML: It is difficult. The controlled driving is something which Mikko has done a really, really great job of. I am very passionate for the winning, but this has been making problems for myself and that's the reason I have been making mistakes. I want to learn from that, to be able to control myself. I was able to control my speed in Poland and I was very happy for that. I believe I can control myself now. I need to keep my head cool. I need to remember it's not the time for winning now - it's the time for the team. When the time is right, Malcolm can tell us and we will win when the time is right.

Q. What happens if you're leading tomorrow then. Are you afraid of leading?

JML: It would be strange situation. That happened in Argentina - I took it steady in the first stage, but we were still leading. I was benefiting from the road condition there and it could be a little bit the same here.

Q. As you're running further down the road, would you like this sunshine to continue tomorrow?

JML: Yes. If it rains, it's best to be first car on the road. I feel good now. I feel good for the rally. Last year I took too much pressure on myself for the victory, it's not like this this time.

Q. So, now you have your deal sorted for next year, can you be world champion in 2010?

JML: What we have discussed with Malcolm is that I can win rallies, but I need to be a team player. I have been pushing hard for myself this year, now I need to think of the others.

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