Jari-Matti Latvala believes rallying is becoming increasingly like circuit racing, and that landing a World Rally Championship podium is now tougher than ever.
The 35-year-old has made the podium 67 times through his WRC’s career, and is also the series’ most experienced driver with 209 starts under his belt – his last coming at this year’s Rally Sweden. But 2020 is the first season since 2006 that Latvala hasn’t had a full WRC program.
The 18-time rally winner has driven in three different eras with the two-liter, fully-active cars in the late ’00s, the 1.6-liter cars from 2011-16 and the latest generation of Rally1 cars from 2017 to the present day.
But throughout his career the cars aren’t all that’s evolved. Latvala says platforms like WRC+ which launched in 2014 – where onboards from all drivers on all stages in recent years can be viewed – have changed the nature of the WRC as there are no longer any secrets.
“It’s been going towards circuit racing,” Latvala told DirtFish.
“I remember when there were no onboards [available]. You had onboards of some stages but not always.
“So basically if you had done something really, really well, nobody could know how you did it but now there is no secrets anymore.”
Latvala subsequently believes that achieving success is now a lot harder than it was before because it is much harder for a driver to hold an advantage over their rivals.
The Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris and Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC have also been very well-matched over the last few years; a stark contrast to the dominance Citroën had in the WRC when Latvala burst onto the scene in 2006.
“Maybe 10-15 years ago it was OK because the competition wasn’t necessarily as tight as it is nowadays. I mean those days the podium you could take it not easily, but it was easier,” Latvala added.
“But these days the competition is so high and the cars are so close to each other [compared to] 15 years ago. And I mean you could put tire choices [into the mix with different tire manufacturers] and if your tire choice was correct, it was different.
“Now everybody is watching the onboards and everybody is so well prepared for the events, there is no chance to [have a big advantage].”