Latvala says Toyota can be on podium from Argentina onwards

Jari-Matti Latvala believes the Toyota WRC team can target being on the podium from Rally Argentina onwards in its return season next year.The Finn was announced alongside Juho Hanninen and Esapekka Lappi as one of Toyota’s three drivers for its first season in the championship since 1999 at the team’s launch in Helsinki earlier this week.

In his final season at Volkswagen, Latvala suffered a particularly lacklustre campaign in 2016 as he finished on the podium just three times all year on his way to sixth in the standings.

But, admitting that his poor results this year stemmed largely from a lack of motivation, the 31-year-old says he is confident of rediscovering his best form now he is with Toyota.

“I came here after a very difficult year, because I realised after a few events that I had no chance of winning the title,” said Latvala. “My objective is clear: to win the title.

“When you know you cannot do it, you lose motivation and start making errors, not reacting in the best way. I had completely lost my motivation by the time we arrived at Rally Germany.

“This opportunity with Toyota has put an end to a very difficult moment. Now I’m here, I am very happy and motivated.”

He added: “The objective [personally] is to return to the form I showed in 2015. I came second in the championship three times and third twice.

“Now it’s time to aim for the title, and I think I’m in the right place to be able to do that.

“Certainly I’m aware we will have to use the first part of 2017 to improve the car, but I know Toyota is completely committed to this project and wants to win the world title. Compaing Toyota’s WRC entry with that of Volkswagen four years ago, Latvala admitted he will have to be “realistic” about his ambitions in the opening races, having completed few testing miles so far.

But he believes the Japanese manufacturer can be fighting for the podium by the time of the fourth round of the championship in Argentina.

“I think in the first three rounds it would be good to finish in the top five, and then in Argentina I think we can aim for the podium,” said Latvala.

“I remember when Volkswagen arrived [in 2013], in the first three or four rounds we gave ourselves time to see our level, to try and close the gap to the cars that were already in the championship.

“In this case I know I will arrive in the first rounds of the championship with few testing miles, so we have to be realistic.

“But I think that after the first four rounds, at the most, the aim will be to be on the podium. So we will try to be in the first three positions from Argentina.”

Story and photo: