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Rovanpera’s WRC Rally Estonia pace a “big surprise” for Toyota

Kalle Rovanpera’s run to lead Rally Estonia after opening the roads on Friday has come as a “big surprise” to Toyota World Rally Championship boss Jari-Matti Latvala.

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

Photo by: Toyota Racing

The reigning world champion made light work of sweeping the fast gravel stages to end Friday with a 3.0s lead over Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville heading into Saturday’s nine stages.

Rovanpera’s surge to the rally lead included two stages wins in the afternoon despite facing the disadvantage of facing the rutted roads first. The 22-year-old’s stage winning performances provided another reminder of Rovanpera’s unique set of skills to Latvala.

“He has been very impressive with what he has been doing because opening the roads was not easy in the morning, and in the afternoon there were quite big ruts. I didn’t think he would be leading and making fastest stage times,” Latvala told Autosport.

“It was a big surprise for us how he managed to win the stages being the first car on the road. I don’t know if the little bit of rain we had helped. Many drivers were suffering with understeer in the ruts, so maybe Kalle was just coping the best with the feeling.

“I think he had huge confidence at this time last year and now clearly since Portugal the confidence has been growing again and now the confidence is really high and of course it helps.”

Kalle Rovanperä, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Rovanpera also admitted he hadn’t expected to end Friday with lead given his road position.

“You don’t always expect it [to be leading] when you are opening the roads in a rally like this, but I can be happy with what we did,” said Rovanpera. “We had a clean day without any mistakes and was pushing quite hard.

“For sure it [the lead] is not enough. Thierry has been driving well the whole day so of course I hope with the starting order changing around it will help us a bit, so I hope the times will come a a bit easier.”

While Rovanpera has seemingly breezed into the rally lead, Latvala believes Saturday’s battle with Neuville won’t be easy.

“The way Thierry approaches the rally, he is always getting better and better during the event. It will still be hard work as Thierry can be strong on Saturday,” Latvala added.

“It is not automatic thing that it will be easy tomorrow, this is not the case and we must remember this.”

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After showing impressive pace on Friday, Neuville says he has bit of a margin to push harder on Saturday, but believes it will be difficult to take the fight to the championship leader.,

“It has been a good day. I knew it would be tough for me to find the rhythm, but I have felt good from the beginning and the car has been working well,” Neuville told Autosport.

“When the confidence is there everything is much easier. I still have some margin and on the big jumps I am too careful and I didn’t dare to take all the risks.

“It will be difficult we knew he would be fast this afternoon. I guess tomorrow there will be no difference but maybe we can increase our speed.”

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