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‘Supersub’ Rovanpera’s WRC champions drive surpassed Toyota’s expectations

Kalle Rovanpera surpassed Toyota’s expectations by delivering a world rally champion’s performance to lead Rally Poland after limited event preparation as a last-minute substitute for Sebastien Ogier.

Rovanpera was servicing his jet ski on Tuesday when he received the call to stand in for Ogier after the eight-time world champion was ruled out of the event after being involved in road traffic accident during recce.

The 23-year-old headed to Poland without undergoing a pre-event test or conducting the usual process of analysing onboard stage videos leaving the Finn firmly on the back foot.

Rovanpera underwent a rushed recce of the stages that was completed just hours before the rally begun. Rovanpera reeled off six stages wins from seven tests on Saturday to lead the rally by 9.4s over Hyundai’s Andreas Mikkelsen with four stages remaining.    

This performance has arrived despite frustrations by the lack of preparation and tiredness due to long nights analysing videos to hone the rushed pacenotes.

“World champions have something more than the others and they are capable of stretching themselves more,” Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala told when asked to explain Rovanpera’s drive.

“We have seen it with [Sebastien] Loeb and with [Sebastien] Ogier and now with Kalle as I never expected he would be that strong here without the preparation.

“You could see that he was a little bit grumpy at the very beginning and then that is when a world champion can take things and later when he gets the confidence, he is able to attack.

“It is definitely a very, very strong performance. One of his best performances was when he was in difficult conditions in the rain like in Estonia [2023], but this [in Poland] the art of a world champion.”

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

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Latvala, an 18-time WRC rally winner, is well aware of the work that goes into prepare for rallies and was in awe by how well his driver has coped without heavily studying videos before the rally.

“You can see this morning he was annoyed as he couldn’t have the stage [mapped out] so well in his head, he added.

“You have the notes but what the difference is these days is when you watch a stage on the video you have that image [in your head] and how much you can use the road and how close to the edge of the road you can go.

“Without that image [from the videos] you can only rely on the notes and you have to take the risk to go to the edge of the road and you don’t know what that is going to be like. So you have to be 100% on the notes plus sometimes a little bit more than what the notes are saying.

“In the rally here, you have to be attacking a bit more and have to drive a little bit over the note and it is very risky and dangerous if you don’t remember how the road is.”

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