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Why Rovanpera is able to tame WRC Safari Rally stages

Kalle Rovanpera’s ability to assess conditions in tricky stages is what sets him apart from his World Rally Championship rivals at the Safari Rally, according to Toyota boss Jari-Matti Latvala.

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

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Rovanpera has proved to be the class of the field in Kenya, which is regarded as the most gruelling event on the WRC calendar.

The reigning two-time world champion is the only Rally1 driver to avoid punctures or any major delays across the 13 stages to date, which has resulted in a huge 2m08.9s lead over Toyota team-mate Takamoto Katsuta.

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Rovanpera, a previous Safari winner in 2022, has won seven of the 13 stages, including a clean sweep of Friday’s tests.

When asked about his impressive trouble-free run, the 23-year-old said he was simply following a pre-event plan.

“The plan for the weekend was to be fast when we know, let’s say, there is clear road ahead to do it, and be safe when it is needed. It has been paying off so far,” said Rovanpera.

Pressed on how much of his success in Kenya was down to genius or luck, he added: “That is difficult to know, really, but for sure I’m quite confident that I’m doing well also.

“We have good notes and I am taking quite good care, I don’t have any big hits and the tyres have been in quite good condition, so it has to be something at least.”

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: Red Bull Content Pool

Toyota boss Latvala believes Rovanpera is particularly skilled in being able to assess the sections of stages and the risk level he should engage.

“You have to build up your own luck, and I think the difference is, Kalle is able to understand the sectors where he can push and where he should take it a bit easier,” said Latvala.

“He is able to understand which area is the worst for rocks and he is taking it a bit easier in those sectors, when I think maybe others push too much.”

Rovanpera will need to continue his plan for six more stages on Sunday to secure a second win in Kenya and his first of his 2024 partial campaign.

With a maximum of 12 points available for the fastest drivers on Sunday’s leg under the new Super Sunday rules, Latvala expects his driver to back off, offering his full-time team-mates an opportunity to maximise their points hauls tomorrow.

“Generally speaking for Kalle, he doesn’t need to take risks tomorrow. I assume his approach will be that he will take it a bit easier as he wants to win the rally and then probably he will want to push on the Power Stage,” he added.

“But he is not going to try and go for all the stages as he knows those points don’t matter so much for him, the victory is more important.”

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