Jari-Matti Latvala is the number 1 favourite to win in Sweden, after all, he already has three wins at this event under his belt. After finishing second in Monte Carlo, Latvala admits he is in a very good position as the WRC moves to his kind of surface. More importantly, a solid result in Sweden should add precious points to his tally, putting him on equal terms with main rival, Sebastien Ogier before WRC hits gravel for the first time this year. New rules this year put more emphasis on the road positions in first and second day of each event, something Jari-Matti says can be used as an advantage. The Finn says his strategy has multiple outcomes and each is bound to yield points, whether it’s an outright victory or a solid points finish. I lost count of how many times I’ve heard the phrase about Jari-Matti being the fastest of the lot, but the comments below reveal he is really trying hard to put this speed under control and think well beyond the next corner. I personally am not sure if I prefer a title winner with only 1 win in the season, because that to me sounds like the balance shifted too far into strategy and tactics, but I can see how giving up dangerous risks for safer points is a viable strategy. In a sport such as this, speed and speed alone should never be the only criteria used to find the best driver of the year. Balance, however, must be carefully maintained, because as much as we like to see drivers using their brains and thinking ahead, we also want them to keep pushing without too much hesitation.
“Monte Carlo was the best opening to a season that I have ever had, so I’m really, really satisfied with that.” Latvala told wrc.com. “Of course it’s interesting now to go to Sweden only six points behind Ogier, compared to last year when I was 14 points behind. Okay, Sebastien has won this rally, but I have too – three times. It’s one of my favourite events and a completely different challenge to the Monte. There I was concentrating more on just finishing. But in Sweden I can’t just drive safely because I’m hoping to fight for victory.”
“My strategy for Sweden is quite straightforward: I’ll drive as fast and as well as I can,” he said. “But if it looks like I don’t have the speed or the confidence to fight for the victory, then it’s more important for the championship to understand the situation, stay calm, and try to take points instead. Fourth or fifth might put me in a good position for Mexico. And there it might be a different story.”
“If I win in Sweden it might be the case that I’ll be opening the road in Mexico – which is not ideal,” he said. “On the other hand, nobody would give away the victory if it was within reach!
“But becoming world champion is not only about winning the most rallies. If you play it clever, stay consistent, and remain near the top in the standings, I believe you will still have a chance to take the title by winning less rallies. It’s a bit like when Richard Burns won the title back in 2001. He only won one rally but was very, very consistent. For me, this years new rules are supporting this tactic.”