Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala says he now understands why he never won the World Rally Championship as a driver, having closely watched the efforts of his three drivers this season.
Drivers’ champion Sébastien Ogier, Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanperä steered Toyota to its first manufacturers’ success since 2018 and first drivers’ and manufacturers’ double since 1994.
Latvala was one of Toyota’s three drivers – alongside Ott Tänak and Esapekka Lappi – when it last won the manufacturers’ championship and created WRC history last weekend by becoming the first person to win that title for the same team as both a driver and a team principal.
When asked what the biggest learning curve he has faced since switching to the team principal role at the start of the year has been, Latvala’s response initially centered on where he feels he fell down as a rally driver.
“Watching our drivers, what they do and areas where they concentrate,” he said.
“It is a little bit sad to say but now I understand why I didn’t become a world champion myself when I watch these guys. Nice learning but at the same time a little bit sad.”
The closest Latvala came to the world title was in 2014 when he took the battle to Volkswagen team-mate Ogier down to the penultimate round before ultimately losing out.
He was an early factor in the 2017 title fight before some car troubles pegged him back in his first season with Toyota, while he was arguably the out and out quickest driver in 2012 with Ford but crashed too often to be able to sustain a proper championship challenge.
However Latvala has already made a winning start to his new life in management and said he believes he has “managed to get everybody working together” within the team.
“Everyone was aiming for the same target,” he said. “That has been like a new world for me and managing such a big group of people.
“At the same time, we need to make sure that the drivers feel happy in the car and they can do their best performances.
“[There’s been] quite a lot of learning [as to] what I can say to the drivers and what I can say to the team and what are the right things to keep everybody motivated.”
Latvala said the season has been “amazing” with Toyota’s drivers first, second and fourth in the drivers’ standings, having won nine of the 12 rallies between them.
“You cannot ask more. It’s a perfect season that I could never dream of,” he said.
Latvala also shared an anecdote about the significance of Ogier securing an eighth world title at the same team as him.
“Nine years ago when we were with Volkswagen testing in Mexico at the end of 2012 and with Séb we both wanted number seven on the car [for the 2013 season],” Latvala recalled.
“We decided to do it with a coin [toss]. I won it. I chose the number seven. I did not realize that he chose the number eight and that is now the amount of titles he would win.”