Born on February 1, 2000, at 20 years and 5 months Kalle Rovanpera became the youngest championship leader in World Rally history. A record arrived after only nine rallies disputed in the highest category, thanks to fourth place in Monte Carlo and second in Lapland.
“IS very beautiful being in this position now, e lead the World Championship for the first time“, he has declared. “It will be a new situation for me in view of the next rally, we just have to confirm our pace and be consistent as we have done here”.
The place of honor at the Arctic Rally, to tell the truth, goes a little tight to the Finnish son of art, who was chasing his first career success on his home snow (his and the Toyota Racing Team). To hold him back, problems with the attitude of his Yaris.
Fruit, acknowledged at the press conference while responding to colleagues from Autosport, of a non-ideal preparation for the event. “We need to be smarter in testing to get to rallies with the perfect car and not find us like this time having to struggle during the event”.
However, all his teammates did worse than him – from Evans still busy deciphering the new Pirelli to Ogier who ended up in the snow on Saturday night: “I don’t know if they had the same set-up problems as me, but I think the balance was similar for everyone. Maybe they managed it differently and didn’t complain so much about it”.
After losing 20 “in the two specials on Friday, also due to an error in PS1, Rovanpera had in fact intervened on the set-up of his Yaris to try to close the gap. From the first pass on Saturday morning, however, the Finn realized that the surgery had gone in the wrong direction, and at that point the comeback was only a utopia.
“I’m happy with the points, but it’s been a pretty difficult weekend. The plan was to be fast from the first stage, I tried but I immediately lost some time. Then I tried to always be as fast as possible, but I struggled all weekend, even if with the passing of the special stages things have improved, especially yesterday afternoon and today (Saturday and Sunday, ed), and it was nice to see that we were able to react in the end”.
A test of pride and strength necessary to contain the comeback of Thierry Neuville, save second place and, ultimately, also the world championship leadership. Saturday night, thanks to a PS8 monster, the Belgian had in fact moved to just one second and eight tenths behind Toyota # 69, looking forward to overtaking in the sprint. This was not the case. In the two very tight specials on Sunday, Rovanpera always kept his head in the lead, ahead of Hyundai by one tenth in PS9 and by three tenths in power stage.
“It was interesting to fight with Thierry. Yesterday (Friday, ed) his tire management had been very intelligent, he had done very well. This morning we managed to gain a little bit in both tests, there wasn’t a big difference, but it was enough. In power stage I certainly took some risks, obviously without exaggerating because we had to bring home the Constructors points. I had to push, but I certainly didn’t want to finish the rally prematurely”.