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WRC Rally Portugal

Rovanpera: WRC Rally Sardinia is “maybe the trickiest for me”

World rally champion Kalle Rovanpera believes Sardinia is perhaps his “trickiest” event on the World Rally Championship calendar.

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

The defending world champion is leading the standings heading into this weekend’s Italian round, but will face a tall order to repeat the drought-breaking victory he scored in Portugal last month.

His position atop the standings will mean Rovanpera will be disadvantaged by road cleaning on Sardinia’s rough and dusty stages.

The 22-year-old has also openly admitted that this event is arguably the rally he has found the most difficult. Rovanpera has only finished inside the points in one of three WRC top-tier attempts, with his best result being fifth in last year’s edition.

“Portugal was a great weekend for us and it was nice to get a victory again,” said Rovanpera.

“We will try to continue like this in the next events but we know that Sardinia will be a much more difficult job.

“Of all the rallies in the calendar, I think this one has maybe been the trickiest for me, and if the weather is dry and hot like it usually is in Sardinia, it can be very difficult to be the first car on the road there. Perhaps even more so this year with the 50-kilometre stage to be driven on Friday.

“It will be a demanding weekend but, like always, we will push together with the team to get the best result that we can.”

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

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

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Likewise, Toyota has previously struggled on rough gravel rallies. Sardinia was one of two events where the team failed to score a podium last year. However, improving the GR Yaris for these events has been a key part of the car’s development this year.

The work appears to be bearing fruit as Toyota has won four of the five rallies to date, including gravel rounds in Mexico (Sebastien Ogier) and Portugal (Rovanpera).

“Last year this event was a bit of a struggle but since then we have made many improvements to the GR Yaris for rough gravel conditions, which have worked well in Mexico and in Portugal,” said Toyota WRC team principal Jari-Matti Latvala.

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“Normally, Sardinia is hotter than Portugal, and this year on Friday the Monte Lerno stage will be almost 50 kilometres in length. It hasn’t been that long since 2014, and on the second pass especially I am sure tyre management will play a major role.

“It means Kalle could pay a big penalty for needing to open the road on this event, but we will have Sebastien and Elfyn [Evans] in better positions and hopefully they have the opportunity to challenge for victory.”

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