Rovanpera shocked to be leading WRC Rally Portugal

Kalle Rovanpera says he is surprised to be leading Rally Portugal heading into the final day given the disadvantage of starting the gravel rally by opening the road.

Rovanpera shocked to be leading WRC Rally Portugal

The World Rally Championship leader will head into Sunday’s five stages with a 5.7-second advantage after overhauling Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans across Saturday afternoon’s rain-affected four tests.

Facing the task of being first to tackle Portugal’s tricky dusty roads heading into the first gravel rally of the season, expectations to be leading the event were low.

However, Rovanpera benefited from problems that afflicted several of his rivals during a brutal Friday before a fighting drive on Saturday propelled him to the front, taking the lead in the day's penultimate stage.

Rovanpera produced a flawless drive in heavy rain to take 13.4s out of his rival and 2021 Rally Portugal winner, Evans, and move into the lead, setting up a tense duel for the win on Sunday.

Asked he if he could believe he was in this position, he told Autosport: “No, not really - I was not expecting it.

“I have had quite a comfortable feeling in the car and I’m not pushing the limits all of the time but, when I knew it was good conditions, I went for it. I just tried to have a good pace all of the time.

“For sure, we have pushed to get there as Elfyn has not had any issues. We have been fighting by driving so I can be happy with that.

“We have to be well prepared for tomorrow, it will be tough.”

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Despite losing the lead held since Friday’s stage five, Evans admitted he was too cautious in the wet conditions on stage 15, but is refusing to give up on the victory.

“Definitely [we still have chance to win], I wouldn’t say it [the gap] is nothing because things are so close nowadays, but it definitely is something,” Evans told Autosport. “We will look forward to the fight, we have to do the best we can.

“That [stage 15] was the painful one, it was raining quite hard especially at the beginning.

“We just faced such changeable conditions and I had a few big slides, so perhaps I backed off a bit too much in that difficult early parts and it is hard to know how the conditions were changing or not.

“Kalle did a great job and his time reflected that at the end, it is credit to his performance, he has been really strong.

“It is still close and we can still fight tomorrow.”

Toyota boss Jari-Matti Latvala confirmed team orders will not be enforced, allowing the pair to fight for the victory on Sunday, despite Rovanpera’s 59-point championship lead over Evans.

"We don’t like team orders and it is not correct for the drivers,” Latvala told Autosport.

“Some people can say championships are lost because of not using team orders but when I was driving at Volkswagen we never did team orders and we still won four manufacturer titles.”

shares
comments

Related video

WRC Portugal: Rovanpera charges into lead over Evans as rain arrives
Previous article

WRC Portugal: Rovanpera charges into lead over Evans as rain arrives

Next article

WRC Portugal: Rovanpera extends lead to close in on victory

WRC Portugal: Rovanpera extends lead to close in on victory
How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master Plus

How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master

He may only be contesting a part-time campaign in the World Rally Championship these days, but Sebastien Ogier underlined that he's lost none of his speed in the 2023 season opener. Storming to yet another victory on the Monte Carlo Rally, the eight-time world champion rewrote the history books again as Toyota served notice of its intentions with a crushing 1-2

WRC
Jan 23, 2023
How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling Plus

How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling

Audi should have been invincible in the snowy conditions that typically greeted the World Rally Championship paddock in Monte Carlo. But unexpectedly warm weather for the 1983 season opener, combined with some left-field thinking from the Lancia crew turned the tables. Forty years on, team boss Cesare Fiorio reflects on a smash and grab

WRC
Jan 21, 2023
Why M-Sport has pinned all its efforts on a WRC reunion Plus

Why M-Sport has pinned all its efforts on a WRC reunion

M-Sport had a disastrous 2022 with its Rally1 Ford Pumas following Sebastien Loeb’s first-time-out win on the Monte. But now things are looking up with 2019 world champion Ott Tanak leading its attack, and the Cumbrian operation has optimism that it can challenge for a first title since Sebastien Ogier's departure at the end of 2018

WRC
Jan 19, 2023
The contenders seeking to take Rovanpera's WRC crown Plus

The contenders seeking to take Rovanpera's WRC crown

As Kalle Rovanpera begins his World Rally Championship title defence in Monte Carlo, the Finn knows he has a target on his back. But who is best placed to knock the Toyota ace off his perch?

WRC
Jan 19, 2023
Why Rovanpera is anticipating a fight to defend his WRC title Plus

Why Rovanpera is anticipating a fight to defend his WRC title

Question: what could be harder than becoming the youngest-ever World Rally champion? Answer: becoming the youngest-ever two-time World Rally champion. That's quite the challenge facing Toyota's Kalle Rovanpera in 2022, particularly against rejuvenated opposition in the second year of the WRC's hybrid regulations

WRC
Jan 18, 2023
From F1 to WRC: Why Hyundai's new boss could be an inspired signing Plus

From F1 to WRC: Why Hyundai's new boss could be an inspired signing

OPINION: New Hyundai WRC team boss Cyril Abiteboul admits he’s got a lot to learn as he leads the marque's efforts to dethrone Toyota. But could his Formula 1 experience and evident strengths mean he turns out to be an inspired choice?

WRC
Jan 18, 2023
The ultimate rally car project the WRC is glad COVID killed Plus

The ultimate rally car project the WRC is glad COVID killed

Toyota was unstoppable in the 2021 World Rally Championship, with an excellent 75% strike rate from 12 rallies. But in a scary proposition for its rivals, the Japanese marque had built a car for the final year of the previous regulations set which it believes was much faster and could feasibly have crushed the opposition completely. Here the story of its mothballed world-beater

WRC
Jan 1, 2023
Autosport writers' most memorable moments of 2022 Plus

Autosport writers' most memorable moments of 2022

The season just gone was a memorable one for many of our staff writers, who are fortunate enough to cover motorsport around the world. Here are our picks of the best (and in some cases, most eventful) from 2022

Formula 1
Dec 31, 2022