Jari–Matti Latvala
Date of birth: 3rd April 1985
Lives: Finland
Marital status: Single
First rally: 2002 Scottish Rally
First world rally: 2002 Rally GB

There is no doubt that Jari–Matti Latvala has the potential to become one of rallying’s ‘household names’. He grew up around rallying – his father is a former Finnish junior champion and won the Group N title in 1994. His early experiences behind the wheel were in karting at the age of six. But he convinced his parents he was ready for his first rally car and at the tender age of eight he was behind the wheel of a Mk1 Ford Escort in the family farmyard under his father’s careful tuition.

His first proper outing was at 16 when he competed in a series of Finnish rally sprints, for which a competition licence was not necessary. However, frustrated that he would have to wait until he was 18 to compete in rallies in his home country, Latvala persuaded his parents that the logical move was to Britain, where he could obtain a licence at 17.

Hardly pausing to blow out the candles on his birthday cake, on 8 June 2002 Latvala debuted in the Scottish Rally. This kicked off a 15–event programme in the second half of 2002, taking in a variety of British rallies in a Renault Clio, a Citroen Saxo and a Mitsubishi Lancer. He made his WRC debut in Great Britain, finishing an excellent 17th overall.

In 2003 Latvala concentrated on gaining as much experience as possible. He tackled four WRC events and the British Rally Championship in a Focus RS WRC, as well as seven rounds of the Subaru Cup in Italy, joining forces with current co–driver Miikka Anttila for the first time at the start of the season.

Throughout 2004 and 2005, the young Finn furthered his learning on the WRC in a variety of cars – ranging from a two–wheel drive Ford Fiesta S1600 through to a four–wheel drive Focus RS World Rally Car. He tackled 20 WRC events in that time, laying the foundations for 2006.

He joined the Stobart VK M–Sport team for four WRC events in a Focus RS, ending the year with an impressive fourth on Rally GB. He combined that programme with an attack on the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship in a Subaru Impreza, winning in Australia and New Zealand and finishing fourth in the championship.

Last year Latvala stepped up to a full–time programme with the Stobart VK M–Sport squad. After a difficult start, he found his feet and gave an insight into his potential at the sport’s highest level when he led in Italy, Finland and Japan. He claimed a career–best third place on the penultimate round in Ireland before dominating the second and third days on the final rally of the year in Great Britain with a string of stage wins.

Latvala spends what spare time he can find playing ice hockey or snowboarding and enjoys running and orienteering to keep fit.

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