Jari-Matti Latvala was driving Toyota Gazoo Racing in the WRC rally championship just a little while ago. His combat Toyota Yaris rally car helped the team to win the manufacturer’s championship for 2018. Already in 2020 Jari-Matti Latvala had been out of the main WRC racing boat, but we hoped to see him again. However, who could have imagined that his newly acquired role would be so challenging and rewarding? The Toyota Gazoo Racing team has announced its full lineup for the 2021 WRC, with Latvala as team principal. Here are the top facts you need to know about Jari-Matti Latvala. Carefully, these can inspire you!
Rallying is in Jari-Matti Latvala’s blood
He is a Finnish man.
It is no secret that Finland has so many talented drivers, as here people are passionate about racing, whether it is Formula 1 or rally. Valterri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen, Mika Salo, Marcus Grönholm, Markku Alén are born to be in racing. Turning back to Toyota’s new team principal. He was born on April 3, 1985 and spent more than twenty years participating in the WRC. Latvala has 18 World Rally Championship victories in his pocket.
One of the youngest drivers
Jari-Matti Latvala debuted on Rally Great Britain in 2002, when he was just 17 years old! Nevertheless, major success came to him in 2004 in the Junior World Rally Championship. He showed the following year that he could race different cars. Škoda Fabia, Ford Escort and Subaru Impreza WRX STI obeyed him well, maintaining a reasonable pace. He joined to the WRC main league in 2007.
At that time he was one of the youngest drivers in the FIA World Rally Championship. So, Latvala won his first rally in 2007. That was Rally Sweden. He became the youngest ever winner in the history of the rally World Rally Championship. He was 22 years old.
Who knew that almost fifteen years would pass and Kalle Rovanperä would break this record by winning 2021 Rally Estonia at 21 years? In addition, Rovanperä went even further, winning the next FIA World Rally Championship in 2022 at 22 years old. Remarkable that Jari-Matti Latvala is in some ways his boss. Circle of life or continuity of generations as they say.
Jari-Matti Latvala has positive role models
Toyota Gazoo Racing
The Finnish rally driver has a long and fruitful relationship with the team. In 2018, he joined Toyota Gazoo Racing and was very happy with the decision. Several times, he said this was an amazing team with a lot of history. However, the case was not just about the team.
Tommi Mäkinen is a legend in rally racing. He is one of the most successful WRC drivers in history! Mäkinen won 24 rallies and became the first person in the history of rally driving to win a championship both as a driver and as a team principal.
Mäkinen is an inspiring person. It feels like you are charging behind him with amazing motivation and power. Every time we see him, we have the confidence that everything will be alright no matter what. This is what happened with Jari-Matti Latvala, who was inspired by Tommi. In 2004 Mäkinen founded his own company Tommi Mäkinen Racing Oy Ltd to prepare rally cars and provide support to drivers. Latvala joined the company’s Board of Directors.
Tommi Mäkinen headed Toyota Gazoo Racing in 2016, while in 2018 the team managed to win their first manufacturers’ title since 1999 in the World Rally Championship.
So Tommi Mäkinen knew that Jari-Matti Latvala was someone you could trust. That is what happened and, as a result, Jari-Matti Latvala became Toyota Gazoo Racing’s team principal. Luckily, he didn’t have to wait long for the result of his labour, as the team won another manufacturers’ title already in 2021.
Tommi Mäkinen’s policy has been maintained by Jari-Matti Latvala. Therefore, Toyota is one of those teams that focuses on its drivers the most and competently assigns roles both inside and outside the service park. There are no questions here, and every racer or engineer knows his rights and responsibilities.
Although, Jari-Matti Latvala had other good role models.
Latvala is Niki Lauda’s fan.
There seems to be less in common between Formula 1 and WRC racing, but Finns love car racing and speed. You may wonder, but Jari-Matti Latvala had a childhood idol. He was a fan of three-time Formula 1 world champion Niki Lauda.
Latvala said he kept a poster of Niki Lauda on the wall. He looked up to the poster as a mall boy and wanted to be like the legendary F1 champion. Young Latvala watched his hero on TV and read about him in magazines. Time has passed and now Jari-Matti credits his success to Niki as he learned a lot from him. There is no doubt that we have all learned a lot from Niki Lauda, but in the case of Latvala that was for a reason.
He knows how to rise.
Jari-Matti Latvala’s crash.
There will always be crashes in rally racing, as such an eventuality is part of the sport at high speeds. Latvala has many crashes in his pocket. Today, few people remember this most dangerous accident of his career.
The FIA WRC 2009 season was quite challenging for Jari-Matti Latvala. He experienced so many crashes during the year. Rally Portugal 2009 was the hardest part of keeping his place in the team.
Performed as number two driver for Ford, Latvala’s Focus went off the road on a left-hand bend and rolled 17 times, 150m down a steep hill, and finally came to rest against a tree.
Latvala and his co-driver Miikka Anttila were lucky to escape injury, but after the accident they were ready that the team would no longer require their services.
However, after the confidence boost in Argentina, Latvala won Rally Sardinia. He led from beginning to end, driving the first car on the road.
Jari-Matti Latvala has never changed his co-driver
Recently, it has become popular to switch co-drivers. A week before the WRC season 2021 started in Monaco, Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville parted ways with Nicolas Gilsoul. They had worked together for more than six years.
Additionally, Sébastien Ogier closed the door on partnering with Julien Ingrassia for the 2022 season when he joined Toyota as a part-time driver. They had worked together for more than thirteen years. Nine-time FIA World Rally champion Sébastien Loeb is also splitting ways with his co-driver Daniel Elena in the 2021 season after twenty years of cooperation.
Jari-Matti Latvala started his career in WRC as a co-driver with Miikka Anttila and finished the season with him as well. Both have positive relations with each other. It’s like rally driving in the old days and another reason to have respect for Jari-Matti Latvala even more.
He has his own perspective on everything
That may be one of his main characteristics. Jari-Matti had a unique driving style when he started his career. People often compared him to Colin McRae, as he drove very aggressively and was always in full attack mode.
Today, Jari-Matti Latvala is also a businessman and he has his own Latvala Motorsport company, located in his homeland in Finland. After twelve years in Monaco, Latvala has turned back to home and is living in Tuuri. But his main job is at Toyota Gazoo Racing.
Even though Latvala had no experience as a boss and is still too young, there were doubts previously. It is a very responsible job to lead a company so famous and legendary as Toyota. Although if Toyota President Akio Toyoda had chosen him, then it makes sense. How successful Jari-Matti Latvala will be as Toyota Gazoo racing team principal, time will tell.