The tension rose, the adrenaline rush struck.
At that moment, Jari-Matti Latvala says that he swallowed exceptionally deep.
The rally star had to decide quickly whether to let go of his beloved, the foundation of his entire identity.
They were the longest 30 seconds of his life.
Lived in late November 2020. Latvala, 35, received a call from Japan, adjutant to Akio Toyoda, CEO of the country’s largest automaker, Toyota.
- I will certainly never forget that call, especially the one about half a minute, during which a hundred things seemed to be running away, Latvala tells IS now.
The guest, who had been gassed for World Championship silver three times, had received departure passports from Toyota after the 2019 season, after three years of cooperation.
In the 2017 season, he had fought for the world championship, but since then the special stages had often been difficult, and the relationship of trust with the team manager Tommi Mäkinen had also cracked.
From a young age, the rally has been a bigger, inexhaustible passion and way of life for Latvala.
At the end of the cooperation with Toyota, Latvala was not ready to stop driving because he felt firmly that he still had something to give as a driver.
So the disappointment was bitter.
Tommi Mäkinen (left) fired Jari-Matti Latvala from the position of Toyota's racing driver at the end of the season. Photo: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva
Life had been tested anyway.
The turbulence between the ears had been severe, especially in 2019, as the taxpayer announced that he would bear as much as about six million euros in retrospect.
In addition, the relationship, which had caused a great deal of public outcry, had ended in divorce in the autumn of 2019, and related matters had remained in the headlines in 2020 as well.
Due to the taxpayer's challenge, Latvala was threatened with bankruptcy because no new lucrative jobs were known.
Latvala had also had to look for himself as a person.
The future looked wasted, reportedly scary.
When the call came from Japan, his future was at stake.
Although Latvala had often happened before the call, he had not surrendered.
The man had decided to turn his life into new careers during 2020.
In particular, I dreamed of returning to the World Series.
It was planned by an experienced rally expert for the season 2022, when the era of hybrid cars will begin in the series.
It shone in Latvala's eyes as a realistic goal even in October-November 2020, when he drove his last race so far, victorious in the Kerola national Askola Granit race.
Jari-Matti Latvala drove and won the Kerava national Askola Granit competition on October 24, 2020. Photo: Emmi Korhonen / Lehtikuva
The thought did not blur, even though he had already been asked mysterious questions about the Japanese camp.
- Last August, the gentlemen of Toyota asked if I could imagine doing any work in the future that would prevent driving at the World Cup level.
I answered a strange question from the hip that I don’t know, maybe, Latvala says.
- My World Cup plans were so bright in my mind that I couldn't say anything else.
Latvala, considered a legacy of kindness, had been hired as a public relations salesman for Toyota's basic car sales from 2020, but he didn't plan to do that for a year or two - not necessarily for so long if the World Championship driver's seat had opened from another manufacturer's WRC team.
Until the November call came.
- Almost right at the beginning of the call, I was then directly asked if I was ready to leave as the team leader of the Toyota WRC team.
I was embarrassed, quiet, Latvala says.
- I realized oitis that I had had a once in a lifetime opportunity.
I couldn’t have imagined a greater tribute - that I was rightly asked to be Toyota’s rally boss and even myself a giant at the request of the CEO.
After all, it felt huge.
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Latvala says that he remained silent for an unexpectedly long time, about half a minute.
- I was suddenly in a really difficult place, because at the same time I had to decide the fate of my sports career.
At that moment, I was unsure if I could really let go of it, Latvala explains.
- I finally replied that okay, of course I will take this wash.
But I added right after that, however, I can’t stop driving completely - no, because driving is so strong in my nature.
Rallyman in spirit and blood.
Now still, but as a team manager. Photo: Antti Hämäläinen / IS
Toyota's bosses weighed Latvala's answer.
Latvala understood that his dreams of the World Cup had failed, but he wanted to ensure that in the future, for example, the European Championships in the Historic class could be run to some extent.
As December progressed, the Japanese bosses then made an offer to the Finn, which he did not even think of refusing.
- I was excited.
Team management is an incredibly great opportunity for myself.
It feels like I’m at the beginning of my new life now, Latvala sees.
- Of course, it must be admitted that since then some of last year's rallies have risen to haunt.
The jostling has been caused in particular by one driving mistake I made in the 2014 season because it cost the world championship.
But yes, those thoughts about this evaporate.
The new wash is not only mentally but also financially important for Latvala.
According to IS data, the Toyota team manager enjoys a six-figure annual salary, which is an important backrest for him, as the art with the taxpayer is still in progress.
- I do not want to comment on my payroll issues, not on my privacy issues at all these days.
I can certainly say that I am satisfied with my wages, summarized Latvala, which started last year, industrial printer business will continue to operate normally.
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Adversity has often petrified Latvala, but now he can already see the other, empowering side of them.
- Difficulties have strengthened my character, I've grown as a person.
I no longer waste my energy on worrying about little things.
I've got my confidence back.
For the general public, Latvala's choice was a surprise.
So it was with Tommi Mäkinen, who retired from the position of Toyota team manager after last season, because the wash was followed by trains behind him.
However, Toyota did not hire Latvala for a similar, almost all-encompassing role as Mäkinen had.
- My number one job is to take care of the people on the team.
That the team's work atmosphere remains good and motivating.
I want to be an approachable leader, Latvala says.
- You can say that I was hired above all as a human leader.
Jari-Matti Latvala receives congratulations from team manager Tommi Mäkinen after racing second in Monte Carlo in January 2017. Photo: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva
There are three other bosses in the Toyota WRC team under Latvala: Yuichiro Haruna from Japan as project manager, Tom Fowler from England as technical director and Kaj Lindström as sports director.
- Each of us has an important role to play.
For example, "Guy" (Lindstrom) corresponds to the sports side issues, among others.
I am, of course, itself backed by our drivers, but primarily, I think the so-called big picture, Latvala says.
This weekend, Latvala's baptism of fire came when Toyota participated in the Fall Rally, which started in Rovaniemi on Friday, with the help of test driver Juho Hänninen.
The actual World Championship drivers Sebastien Ogier, Elfyn Evans, Kalle Rovanperä and Katsuta Takamoto will focus on the World Cup season starting in Monte Carlo a week from now.
- I have enough pressure, because the results have to come.
But if I didn’t feel the pressure, I would be in the wrong place, Latvala underlines.
- Now that life is smiling for a change, I feel ready.