Poland curse hits Latvala again
Jari-Matti lucky to finish after last stage shocker
Jari-Matti Latvala has spoken of his relief at finishing last weekend’s 72nd LOTOS Rally Poland, after a crash on the Power Stage threatened a repeat of his 11th-hour retirement in 2009.
The Finn was battling Ott Tänak for third place last Sunday when he went off near the end of the final stage, crashing his VW Polo R into a tree. The incident echoed Latvala’s 11th hour exit from the 2009 edition, when he crashed out in the final super special while on course for the runners-up spot.
"I have no idea why I find it so difficult to finish this rally," Latvala told wrc.com. "But the best thing is that this time, thanks to some big, big repairs, we did at least manage to get to the end."
Latvala admitted the crash was down to a last-minute push to snatch the final podium spot. "I was 1.1sec behind Ott going into the final stage, and I knew I had to give my best performance if I wanted to beat him. So I gave it maximum attack, optimising all the braking points and taking risks in places I didn’t on the first pass.
"Everything went really well until we reached a left-hander in the forest. Before it was a right-hander, which I braked for in the morning, but this time I took it flat and carried too much speed. I realised I couldn’t make it so I saw a small hole in the forest and tried to turn the car in there. I managed, and I thought, ah, we can survive this, but then we hit a tree.
"We reversed out and got moving again but straightway the engine temperature went up and we knew the radiator was damaged. We drove one kilometre to the finish, then switched the engine off and rolled to the time control."
Latvala dropped only 20.6sec to Tanak in the stage, but still had to drive the damaged car to the rally base, 11km away in Mikolajki, in order to finish.
"The radiator was split in two places and full of holes so we took it out and tried to seal it with the repair paste we carry in the car," he explained. "It took us two attempts to seal enough holes for it to hold water - luckily we were given bottles to drink at the stage end. We kept topping it up on the way back, but in the end we made it to the control."
A time penalty for arriving four minutes late dropped Latvala to fifth, but after some swift attention in the VW service area he did at least make the finish. "I wanted desperately to make it onto the podium. Unfortunately it was not to be. In the end, we were grateful to our mechanics, who kept us in the race," he said.
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