x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Latvala targets back-to-back wins

The BP Abu Dhabi Ford driver is gunning for a second World Rally Championship victory at the Acropolis Rally in Greece.

Jari-Matti Latvala right, and his co-driver Miikka Anttila celebrate their victory in Italy. The Finnish pair hope to double up in Greece this weekend.
Jari-Matti Latvala right, and his co-driver Miikka Anttila celebrate their victory in Italy. The Finnish pair hope to double up in Greece this weekend.

BP Abu Dhabi Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala is targeting a second World Rally Championship victory in a row when the series heads to Greece for the Acropolis Rally this weekend. The Finn took his second career win last time out in Italy, maintaining the lead he established at the end of the first day. Sebastien Loeb, the defending world champion, was looking to extend his record run of six straight wins, but saw his challenge stymied by a puncture and a penalty for co-driver Daniel Elena breaking seat belt rules when changing a tyre. The Greek rally is of a similar nature to the Italian event in Sardinia, run on narrow, twisting, dusty roads and Latvala, 24, feels he can carry his winning form into the seventh round of the 12-event season. "This is the toughest and roughest round of the WRC," he said. "After winning in Sardinia, I want to fight for another win in Greece. But the most important thing is to start steadily, rather than at full attack, and monitor the pace of the others.

"That's the clever way to do it. It will also be interesting to see what advantage might be gained from road position. "I have a good start position on Friday but I won't know until the recce just how much gravel there is on Saturday's new stages." Championship leader Loeb suggests tyre management could hold the key to victory this weekend as the Acropolis has a reputation for causing punctures. That reputation may not be improved by the addition of some longer stages to the route which have not been used since the 1980s.

The Frenchman said: "Sometimes you really must not hesitate to lift over the rougher parts to make sure you don't damage anything or puncture. "Our C4 WRC and our Pirelli Scorpion tyres are very strong, but you're talking here about very extreme conditions, especially when the weather is hot."

Five-time world champion Loeb is desperate to bounce back from his Sardinian disappointment by extending his 17-point lead over Ford's Mikko Hirvonen in the drivers' championship. "As we saw in Sardinia, nothing can ever be taken for granted and we can't afford to ease up in any way," Loeb said. "I'm expecting it to be a difficult event, especially since our rivals have a habit of going well in Greece." *PA Sport