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WRC Rally Croatia

Rovanpera: I need to prepare car set-up better for WRC rallies

Toyota driver Kalle Rovanpera says he needs to fine-tune his car set-up better ahead of World Rally Championship events after struggling for pace early on in Croatia last week.

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

The world rally champion finished fourth on Croatia’s asphalt roads after a difficult event that was hampered by a lack of outright pace on Friday and a wheel failure.

Rovanpera lost more than two minutes when he struck the same pothole on stage 2 as Toyota team-mate Sebastien Ogier, who also suffered a flat tyre.

The Finn however struggled to find the sweet spot in his GR Yaris until Saturday, when he reeled off four stage wins to haul himself up the leaderboard. The fastest time on stage 9 was his first stage win since Sweden in February.

After coming through a tense head-to-head with Ogier to seal fourth, Rovanpera said: “A difficult weekend - and I need to prepare better on the set-up side. We cannot start rallies like this.”

He then told Autosport: “We didn’t nail the set-up this time and it cost quite a lot of confidence and pace on Friday morning, so we just need to be really sharp and sure that we start with the right car and then we can push from the start.”

Kalle Rovanperä, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Rovanpera, however, is hopeful that he will be challenging for victories again soon. The 22-year-old’s last win arrived in New Zealand in October, when he sealed the world title.

Despite the lack of victories, Rovanpera is only a point behind team-mates Ogier and Croatia winner Elfyn Evans, who are tied at the top of the championship standings.

“To be in the fight like this even though we have not had perfect rallies is OK,” he added.

“I just hope that when we start to be on our pace and have a complete weekend we can then start to get some good points. You never know what happens but I hope it [a win] comes soon."

Toyota boss Jari-Matti Latvala believes Rovanpera’s “spark” was back in Croatia after a difficult start to the season.

“It has been a little bit tough for him this beginning to the season but I totally understand,” Latvala told Autosport.

“The seasons are different and also when you win the championship maybe your hunger goes down and then there are drivers who are really, really motivated.

“He has been driving without mistakes but maybe a little spark has been missing. But I think he found it here.”

Toyota has headed to Sardinia this weekend to conduct its pre-event test for the next round of the championship in Portugal next month.

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