Latvala praised by Finnish legends
Jari-Matti Latvala has been tipped as a future world champion after claiming his maiden victory on Neste Oil Rally Finland.
Latvala became the ninth different Finnish driver to win the event and the youngest ever after breaking Markku Alen’s record set in 1976.
Alen was 25 years and five months old when he triumphed on home soil in a Fiat, while Latvala was 25 years and three months when he beat Sebastien Ogier into first place in Jyvaskyla at the weekend.
Four-time world champion Juha Kankkunen, who finished eighth on his one-off return to the WRC, said: “For sure he can win the world title. This year is difficult but for sure he will win it one day.”
Alen, who has won in Finland on six occasions, visited the rally and was full of praise for Latvala. He said: “The important thing is a Finnish driver wins the 1000 Lakes Rally as I still call it. It will be a very special feeling for Jari-Matti because when I won in Finland they were amongst my favourite wins as if you’re a Finn you want to win Rally Finland. He drove very well and I was really impressed.”
Hannu Mikkola, world rally champion in 1983, also attended the event and paid tribute to Latvala.
“It was a good fight and I’m very pleased to see him and Ford at the top,” said Mikkola. “He has clearly grown up because he had a lot of pressure on him and handled it very well. When I was younger I had two dreams: one was to win the rally, the other was to win the Finnish championship. This is a real sign of how good Jari-Matti can be.”
Latvala paid his own tribute after winning the event, which marked his fourth triumph at world level. The milestone took him ahead of his hero Henri Toivonen, who lost his life in a crash on Tour de Corse in 1986.
“It’s something special. Henri [Toivonen] won three world rallies: two times RAC and one Monte Carlo and now I was able to beat his record. It feels good to beat his record,” said Latvala.
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