Welcome to the flow zone

For Thierry Neuville it was perfect harmony, for Jari-Matti Latvala it was the flow zone. The Finn explains the thinking

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Perfect harmony and flow zone. Two phrases which simply don’t go hand-in-hand with the Monte Carlo Rally.

How can they? The Monte is the World Rally Championship’s equivalent to rallying on eggshells – you’re literally waiting for something to catch you out. Granted, last week wasn’t exactly the most verglas-packed, ice-laden, snow-filled Alp-fest we’ve seen in years, but there was still sufficient surface change around to make perfect harmony hard to find.

And the flow zone? Forget it. That would have to wait.

Apparently not. Rally winner Thierry Neuville found it. And Jari-Matti Latvala applauded it.

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Neuville was the boss in the mountains last week

The Hyundai star was, without a doubt, on one at the opener. Once the team had stopped his i20 N Rally1 from running on, he dived into a purple patch on Friday morning and didn’t emerge until Sunday afternoon.

From the start of the first full day, he won nine from 15 stages and led for seven. Sunday? Perfection. Backing up the 18 points he landed for Saturday night P1, it was bonus point-central for him and Martijn Wydaeghe when they landed back into Monaco.

Everything flowed in his direction. The Pirelli’s stuck where once they might have let go and Neuville found the sort of energy which can carry a crew to very limits of what’s possible with a car in this environment.

His own assessment that they were the boss on round one was bang on. Yes, Sébastien Ogier endured an event complicated by outside emotions, but even the nine-time Monte winner admitted the Belgian had the power in the mountains last week.

Rally Finland, Jyvaskyla 31/7 - 3/8 2008

Helllo from the flow zone. Latvala on his way to more fastest times in Italy in 2008

Cue Latvala’s flow-zone chatter.

J-ML told DirtFish: “We were leading on Thursday, Friday, and until the very end of Saturday when Thierry took the lead. We thought we could bounce back on Sunday, but now Thierry was in the flow zone and he was pushing really hard on the icy sections, on the slippery sections.

“He took the risks and he was rewarded. That effort paid off. Today he was in the flow zone and our drivers couldn’t quite match his speed.

“In all fairness, Thierry did a great race, our drivers did a good race, but we couldn’t win.”

It’s like, next corner, next corner, next corner, I can be better, I can be faster, this kind of moment burning inside. Jari-Matti Latvala

Flow zone?

“Yes,” continued the Finn, “the flow zone, that is the area when everything works. The risks you can take, everything just comes to you. But that’s extremely difficult to achieve and it doesn’t come every rally or every day. It comes sometimes.”

Latvala’s most memorable time in the zone that flows? Quick as a flash… “Sardinia, 2008, the second day of the rally. I won every single stage of that day and I think I was catching [Sébastien] Loeb. I was far away because I had a puncture and I was closing almost one minute during that day.

“The driving feels easy. Sometimes you need to think about how fast you can go, but in the flow zone, naturally, it just comes to you. I am so confident that I can go flat-out on that corner and I can brake late.

“Even if you have a little moment, you don’t get scared or worried about it. It’s like, next corner, next corner, next corner, I can be better, I can be faster, this kind of moment burning inside.”

The flow zone. Coming to a stage near you. Maybe.

Rally D'Italia Sardegna 2008, Olbia 15-18 05 2008

Sardinia, 2008. Latvala's flow zone moment was unforgettable for the Finn