Toyota stunned by “miracle kid” Rovanpera after WRC Croatia success

Toyota World Rally Championship boss Jari-Matti Latvala has hailed Kalle Rovanpera a “miracle kid” following a stunning final stage fightback to win Rally Croatia.

Toyota stunned by “miracle kid” Rovanpera after WRC Croatia success

Latvala admitted he thought the win had escaped the 21-year-old after witnessing a rally long lead evaporate when a sudden downpour caught out the team with its tyre choice on the penultimate stage.

Rovanpera was helpless to avoid losing a 28.4s margin to Hyundai’s Ott Tanak, who was helped by a superior tyre package [two softs and two wets] compared to the two hards and two wets that were fitted to Rovanpera’s Toyota GR Yaris.

Despite the tyre deficit, championship leader Rovanpera managed to overhaul Tanak’s 1.4s lead on the final power stage to win the rally by 4.3s, taking an eighth stage win in the process.

Latvala had already described Rovanpera’s six stage wins from eight Friday tests in tricky wet conditions as his driver’s best performance to date in a WRC car, but was left stunned by his drive in a final stage thriller.

“He is a miracle kid I can tell you," Latvala told Autosport.

“It was an amazing performance. I did not think he could win the stage and the rally. On paper we were sure Tanak had better tyres and he was going to win, but I don’t know where he pulled that speed and that attack from. I have no words to describe the drive that he did."

Rovanpera declared the weekend the toughest of his career to date but was not prepared to give up on the win despite the odds being stacked against him in the final stage.

The Finn had already fought back from losing 54.5s of his 1m23s lead over Tanak, after picking up a front left puncture in the wet on Saturday’s Stage 11.

The victory also arrives after crashing out on the opening stage at this event 12 month ago that limited his experience of the roads coming into this year’s rally.

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: Toyota Racing

“I think this is one of the toughest weekends for sure, it was really tough conditions and everyone had issues,” Rovanpera told Autosport.

“We had the puncture yesterday and today we lost a lot of time with the tyre choice. To be driving to the last corner flat out, it was nice to win.

“When I saw the pictures from the power stage, how muddy it was and knowing that Ott had the soft tyres, I was pretty sure it was going to be difficult to match him, but I decided to try anyway because you always need to try."

Rovanpera’s second victory from three rallies this year, following his success on the snow in Sweden in February, has created a commanding 29 point lead over Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, who finished third in Croatia.

It also ensured that four-time WRC winner has now won an event on snow, gravel and tarmac. Following this latest triumph, Latvala believes Rovanpera is now a title contender.

“This really shows for me now that he is a real contender now in the World Rally Championship," Latvala added. "He has been growing so quickly that already this year he is the man to fight in the championship.

“When I was at his age nobody was on the level like he is.”

shares
comments

Related video

WRC Croatia: Rovanpera snatches win from Tanak in thrilling showdown
Previous article

WRC Croatia: Rovanpera snatches win from Tanak in thrilling showdown

Next article

Tanak: Rally Croatia performance was the "best we could do"

Tanak: Rally Croatia performance was the "best we could do"
Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival Plus

Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival

Some 39 years on from his Monte Carlo Rally debut, World Rally Championship legend Francois Delecour continues to pick up silverware. Proving that age is purely a number, the 60-year-old's desire to compete against the WRC’s latest young talents could be the start of a new chapter in the Frenchman’s storied career

WRC
Jan 31, 2023
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