Kalle Rovanperä’s attack falls short – Jari-Matti Latvala explains why

Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala provided reasons why Kalle Rovanperä was unable to reach his usual pace at the Rally Portugal on Friday.
Jari-Matti Latvala
Jari-Matti Latvala. Photo by: Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT
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Rovanperä complained about the drivability of his car throughout the day, despite leading the rally by a second ahead of teammate Sebastien Ogier.

“The roads were quite well repaired and it had rained last weekend. The road surface was compacted. I think that caused some difficulties. Usually, there’s sand here and when it moves, ruts start forming. You can get support from those ruts,” Latvala explained.

“There wasn’t the same kind of rutting this time. The tyres are slipperier when you don’t get support from the ruts. It compresses a bit, but proper ruts that provide support don’t form. That’s certainly why they haven’t been able to get the car to work, especially now with the mixed tyre setup.”

Rovanperä is accustomed to driving on gravel as the first car, and perhaps that influenced the wrong settings. Latvala didn’t fully endorse this view, though he admitted there might be some truth to it.

“I don’t believe it’s because Kalle has set up his car that way. In that sense, it might be true that he expected better grip so he could attack,” Latvala shared.

“Maybe the assumption was that there would be a lot of grip from that starting position. That could have caused problems. You quickly assume there’s grip, but then there isn’t.”

The structure of Friday’s driving day also posed problems for Rovanperä. When the car doesn’t fit like a glove, it’s difficult to adjust it to your liking during just a tyre service.

“Today there was only a fifteen-minute tyre service, so you couldn’t do big things. You can’t change suspension or adjust cambers. When you can’t do any of that, it limits you quite a bit and you have to go with what the car is, and you can’t make it exactly to your liking,” Latvala emphasized.

Still, Reasons to Smile

Even though Toyota didn’t dominate on Friday, the team still has three cars in the lead. The old master Sebastien Ogier’s improvement over the course of the day warmed Latvala’s heart.

“Overall, a good day for our team. Ogier started the day a bit slowly but was able to push towards the end. He drove a great time on the last stage,” Latvala reported.

“Kalle also had a great day, even though he wasn’t happy with the car. Katsuta was in a similar situation. I think all three had a good day.”

However, it was a gloomy Friday for Toyota’s Welsh driver Elfyn Evans. A tyre puncture, his co-driver’s lost pace notes book, and generally missing pace dropped him far from the lead.

“Elfyn had a tough time. He couldn’t get the car to his liking and then had a tyre puncture on top of that. It has been sticky even after that. The relaxation has somewhat disappeared from his driving,” Latvala reflected.

“For Elfyn, it’s clear that he just needs to get through tomorrow sensibly and try to score points on Sunday. He still has a fierce competition in the championship against Thierry (Neuville).”

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