M-Sport youngster Jari-Matti Latvala is optimistic about the final true tarmac round of the Pirelli British Rally Championship, next weekend's AnswerCall Direct Ulster Rally in Northern Ireland, and believes he will again stun spectators and ...
M-Sport youngster Jari-Matti Latvala is optimistic about the final true tarmac round of the Pirelli British Rally Championship, next weekend's AnswerCall Direct Ulster Rally in Northern Ireland, and believes he will again stun spectators and competitors alike with his performance at the wheel of his Ford Focus RS WRC on the unique 'bumpy tarmac' roads.
"It's fair to say that a large number of people were astonished by our performance on the recent Manx Rally, where we set four fastest times and were lying second overall when we retired. Particularly given that it is renowned as a very specialist event and I had never competed there before," he said.
"Our tarmac suspension set up proved its potential there and I am looking forward to testing it further on the Irish roads it was developed for. It has given me enormous faith in the handling and ability of the car, and now it's time for me to concentrate on harnessing that performance and finding a speed that works both for my driving style and the road conditions," he said.
Despite not finishing the Manx Rally, Latvala's pace was a match for championship leader Jonny Milner and fellow Finn Tapio Laukkanen and he hopes to build on his learnings from the event to do well on the narrow, bumpy roads lying in wait next weekend.
"We are lucky to again have the experience of Mark Higgins and Steve Griffith as our gravel crew for the Ulster Rally. They proved invaluable to us in the Isle of Man, not only with their careful observations as gravel crew but we were able to draw on Mark's incredible knowledge of the British Championship rounds and I am delighted that they are able to work with us again next weekend,"
The 18 year-old Finn, who has been rallying for just fourteen months, is on a steep learning curve this season, competing in the full British Rally Championship and four rounds of the World Rally Championship in a Ford Focus RS WRC and also competing in the Italian Subaru Impreza Cup.
His most recent outing was the Neste Rally of Finland where he finished 14th overall, beating many of the world's top drivers and fulfilling a personal ambition to compete in his home WRC event. Despite his busy rally schedule, the young man still attends school, recently returning to his schedule of classes.
"Unfortunately for me the new term started the day after the Neste Rally Finland WRC. I was so excited to be competing in my home WRC event that I forgot all about returning to school the following week! We were unlucky to have an exam on our first day back, but with all my traveling recently I have had time to study on the plane, so I was pleased to pass," he said.
Latvala will be co-driven by fellow Finn, Miikka Anttila, for the Ulster Rally. Regular co-driver Carl Williamson is making a good recovery from their accident at the Jim Clark Memorial Rally earlier this year and hopes to return to the navigator's seat in the next few months.
About the 2003 AnswerCall Direct Ulster Rally, 5th & 6th September, 2003.
2003 sees the Ulster Rally base move from its traditional base of Belfast to Armagh City, closer to the stages in counties Armagh and Tyrone, bringing with it a new major sponsor, AnswerCall Direct.
The shift to a European styled rally will see an opening Friday round of three stages, run twice, all within a 9-mile radius of Armagh City. On Saturday, the rally action moves to Gortin, using a loop of stages including the spectacular Barnes Gap.
This year the International section of the Rally once again returns to the European Championship as well as incorporating a National Rally, which in turn will include the historic cars and the Ford Ireland Ka championship cars.