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GP Week : Issue 1
FORD’S recently retired star Marcus Gronholm may have hung up his driving gloves but he has lost none of his sharpness. After the Swedish Rally he whispered to colleagues that he could see that his BP Abu Dhabi team-leading successor Mikko Hirvonen was heading for trouble with young Jari- Matti Latvala! At the time it seemed like a bit of ‘Formula 1 banter’. Latvala had just won the Swedish, but it didn’t reflect on the abilities of team leader Hirvonen. The 22 year-old had won because he did nothing stupid. He saw a good opportunity for victory (all to do with running-order) which Hirvonen did not have, and took full advantage. Mexico followed, with a new set of circumstances. The driver who had seemed to be the Mr Perfect Number Two was finding being Number One full of difficult challenges – not only in being team leader, but more immediately as in driving the first car over gravelly or sandy surfaces which have not been cleaned by the passage of other cars beforehand. Rallying has shown there are two distinct reactions to the first-car-on-the-road syndrome. You can adopt tactics to minimise problems like these, or give up the struggle and either lapse into depression or do something silly behind the wheel! Gronholm was always one who wasn’t shy of sporting confrontation. The fear of driving first car on the road was one which Latvala tackled head- on, aware that he would be disadvantaged but determined to learn ways to lessen the problem. It was in contrast to the long face of Hirvonen, who could only see doom at the end of the unswept roads. So far the season is young and, thanks to Latvala’s problems at Monte Carlo, Mikko Hirvonen is still at the top of the world championship charts (even if it means being first car on the road in Argentina!) and Latvala is still behind Loeb. But how will it all end? I don’t foresee a Hamilton/ Alonso scenario, but I can see a mental crisis coming for Hirvonen. And how should he overcome the Latvala challenge? Hopefully, it won’t lead to risk-taking behind the wheel in the way that spoiled the final season for Tommi Makinen when running against his much younger teammate, Petter Solberg. It should come from changes in the mindset. Latvala has already worked it out: “I have already spoken to my personal trainer about tackling adversities, and the way he tells me how to think is making all the difference!” Watching how Latvala tackled the challenge of those roads in Mexico confirmed it ... 1 Sebastien Loeb Citroen Daniel Elena 3:33:29.9 2 Chris Atkinson Subaru Stephane Prevot +1:06.1 3 Jari-Matti Latvala Ford Miikka Anttila +1:39.7 4 Mikko Hirvonen Ford Jarmo Lehtinen +3:38.7 5 Henning Solberg Ford Cato Menkerud +4:57.9 6 Matthew Wilson Ford Scott Martin +6:28.9 7 Frederico Villagra Ford JP Companc +19:03.0 8 Ricardo Trivino Peugeot Sergio Salom +21:17.3 MEXICO Points: Hirvonen 21 , Loeb 20, Latvala 16, Atkinson 14, P Solberg 9, Gigi Galli 9. Team-mate problems coming? WRC MEXICO >> 51 MArtIn HOlMEs rallies Editor o p in io n