Ford exit key to Lavala's VW move

Autosport

Ford's decision not to continue in the World Rally Championship beyond 2012 was a major contributing factor in Jari-Matti Latvala's decision to switch to Volkswagen next year.

The 27-year-old Finn, who had long been linked with a switch to VW's factory Polo programme before Wednesday's announcement that he would drive alongside Sebastien Ogier in 2013, revealed to AUTOSPORT that he only made his final decision after Ford's announcement.

"We wanted to have a longer commitment with a factory team for the future and when we realised Ford could not provide that kind of commitment for the future then we took the decision that we would go with Volkswagen from 2013 onwards," said Latvala.

"It was inside two weeks that we took the decision. The discussion with Volkswagen started months ago, with my manager Timo Jouhki," he added.

"We had the deal from Malcolm [Wilson] and the deal from Volkswagen and the decision wasn't made so long ago - just when we knew Ford couldn't make the longer commitment."

Latvala's entire WRC career has been spent driving M-Sport prepared Fords, and he admitted that the decision to leave the team had been a difficult one to resolve.

"It's not easy," he said. "I came here 10 years ago to drive the Focus World Rally Car and since then I have done at least one rally in a World Rally Car every season with this team.

"Every year I have been related somehow with M-Sport and Ford, so it's very difficult to do that decision and leave the team.

"But I know nothing stays forever and I know that it's important to be able to do those decisions and move on.

"I have a lot of roots in this team and to take them away and move for the other team is hard," he added. "When you do the decision at first, it's okay: "Okay, let's move, that's it..." But then you start to think a bit more and it comes more and more difficult."

Latvala revealed that he could drive the new Polo before the end of the year, but his VW testing debut depended on Ford giving him permission to do so before the end of his contract.

"I know Volkswagen has testing planned in November," said Latvala. "Basically, there is a chance at the end of the year, but we have to discuss this with Ford.

"If Ford is happy then I will go and do some testing."

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