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GP Week : Issue 155
Jari-Matti Latvala was back again in action on the Acropolis Rally after missing Rally Argentina because he had suffered a broken collar bone in a cross country skiing training accident. His absence in Argentina gave Dani Sordo the chance to drive in his place, but alternator failure on the final day denied Sordo the chance to score points for Ford. The stories of drivers returning prematurely to full competition after injury are endless but this time there was a difference, Jari was back in top form straight out of the box in Greece. Once again, he proved he and the Ford are the only combination capable of challenging the eight-times world champion Sebastien Loeb -–but true to form, he again suffered a misfortune which ended a thrilling battle for the lead... GPWEEK: Was there any question of you not starting this rally? JARI-MATTI LATVALA: I felt completely fit enough to do the rally. My recovery had been going really well. Six weeks was the normal recovery time to be able to get back in action, and let's say that usually you need eight weeks for the process to be fully done. We did not need extra oxygen to enhance the recovery speed. The main thing is that I've been working with the physiotherapist. We started off doing a little training step by step. I have seen a physiotherapist in Finland and then we were working with our team physio Danny Naessens. I went for another X-ray before I came here (to Greece) and my doctor said there are no surprises; the bone is not fully grown together but with the titanium plate and the screws it will be strong enough to drive. He said there are no problems so I was cleared to drive. We made some extra padding which I put under the HANS device giving more support. It was great to be back on speed. I had my doubts before the rally if I would still have the speed. The Acropolis is traditionally the toughest event in the WRC calendar. Wasn't this a special concern? My feeling was very good straightaway on the event and I was not worried about the arm. Friday was the longest day but it wasn't a trouble as the stages were not too long. We expected it might be painful on Saturday because it was the roughest day of the rally. The rougher it gets, the harder are the impacts. The worst thing is if you have a bad landing or sudden compression when you hit the sump-guard, that is what really hurts. Was it easier for you that the rally this year was not so hot? The Acropolis Rally is a rally where you need to be really fit for many reasons. I remember it was my first rally here, in 2003, in really hot conditions and such rough roads. I was getting so tired on the road sections because I wasn't used to such long events. I found it difficult to keep my eyes open. Finally we struggled through, and I remember the excitement on the Sunday when I did ninth fastest stage time and beat by one second Didier Auriol, who was in the factory Skoda. For a 18 year old guy it was a memorable moment. Nine years later the rally was not so hot. I had some pain on the compression places in the pre-event test, but I haven't had that in the rally. The biggest problem was having to lift heavy things or tyres when we had to change them. And when you have to do this in a hurry when you have a puncture on a stage, that is another story. What did you learn about the Acropolis this year? Do you agree that the difference between the Fords and Citroens is that they were faster uphill but you were quicker downhill than the Citroens? I don't know, but maybe yes if you say so. So maybe ski training was not such a bad thing after all! The trouble is that however much cross country skiing may be a good way for training, injuries can happen wherever you go. You never know! And do you have any words of advice to give your fellow Scandinavian friend Patrik Flodin who is also recovering from a broken collar bone? When you meet the right doctors, the right people, they have good information how you should do the recovery and you must follow that. They are clever people. It is all down to other people, not down to you. You have to respect them and keep in your mind what they say. I came to Greece thinking that if I can finish on the podium that would be really good, and if I could even fight for the victory that would be fantastic. We followed the advice of our people and that is exactly how things turned out for us." 5 MINUTES WITH JARI-MATTI LATVALA Ford's WRC go-to man chats to GPWEEK's Martin Holmes 5 MINUTES 16 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: