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Rovanpera explains reasons behind “big mess” on WRC Spain startline

Kalle Rovanpera says a technical issue caused a “big mess” during Stage 14 which cost the new world rally champion valuable time in his fight for victory at Rally Spain.

Kalle Rovanpera, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanpera, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Toyota Racing

The Toyota driver was chasing team-mate and rally leader Sebastien Ogier but fell away from the lead battle after losing 10.3s on Saturday’s penultimate El Montmell stage (24.18km).

A significant portion of the time loss was attributed to an unusual startline issue, which severely dented his victory hopes.

Rovanpera then lost second overall to Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville on the day’s final stage, and will now head into tomorrow’s final day 22.1s adrift of leader Ogier in third.

Speaking in the end of day media zone, Rovanpera explained that some settings connected to the hybrid system on his GR Yaris were wrong at the start of Stage 14, which triggered a frantic effort to fix the issue.

“There was some settings on the car which went wrong on the startline and I couldn’t get them right, so we were losing time with the hybrid system,” said Rovanpera.

“It was a big mess inside the cockpit as we tried to fix it on the stage, and I also think I overheated the brakes on the warm up, so on the last downhill section I lost the brakes a bit.”

Toyota technical director Tom Fowler says the team are investigating the problem he described as a “minor glitch”, which should be rectified heading into Sunday.

“The guys are analysing the data as we speak and we are quite sure it is just a minor glitch,” said Fowler.

“Of course the car was working with relatively high performance during the stage, it was just missing a few seconds compared to everyone else. It is nothing major and it will be ready for tomorrow.”

Kalle Rovanpera, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Kalle Rovanpera, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Despite the issue, Toyota still remains on course to secure back-to-back WRC manufacturers’ titles, with Ogier leading the rally and Rovanpera sitting third.

“The manufacturers title is obviously a huge goal for us and really important, but also it is really nice to see what Seb is doing here,” Fowler added.

“He has had some difficult rallies this year. To see him come here and be a new Ogier for us, he is looking really strong and is really motivated on this rally, and that is great for the team.

“Seb knows what he needs to do and we have a couple of cars in back up positions. We just want to see a nice race between our drivers and with Thierry in the mix as well.”

Reflecting on a day that cemented the rally lead, Ogier declared his Saturday as “very enjoyable”, but believes there is plenty of work ahead before the eight-time world champion can celebrate a first WRC win since Rally Monza last November.

“I am delighted, for sure it has been a very enjoyable day for us,” said Ogier.

“We had good fun in the car and the time was following, so it is what you dream for when you come to a rally, to be as fast as that.

“I think this year in the appearances I have had I have been quite unlucky. In Monte, I did the job but didn’t quite finish it unfortunately. Portugal I had a puncture and Kenya we were in the lead and I had a puncture, and New Zealand was a good result in second.

“Honestly, so far I am happy with my season, but of course it would be nice to finally clinch a win. We are in a good position, but for sure there are still some kilometres to go.”

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