As Sébastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanperä prepare to work together for the first time at Toyota Gazoo Racing, the six-time world champion has called on the sport to give the teenager time to develop.
Nineteen-year-old Rovanperä will become the youngest competitor ever to take up a full-time drive with a factory team when he starts next month’s Rallye Monte-Carlo (23 - 26 January).
Fellow Finn Jari-Matti Latvala was 18 when he drove a Ford-entered Focus RS in the 2003 Acropolis Rally, but Latvala’s debut was one event in a part-programme of WRC and British Championship rounds.
Rovanperä will tackle the complete season in a Yaris next year alongside Ogier and Elfyn Evans.
“For sure, we need to leave him,” said Ogier. “The best thing we can do for Kalle is give him time to learn, but for sure we have seen already that he is a really exciting talent.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Evans. The Welshman added: “I’m really looking forward to working with Kalle. He’s young in terms of his experience, but we’ve already seen some fairly incredible things from him.
“He won WRC 2 Pro this year and managed some remarkable results in there. He’s an obvious talent and one to watch for the future. I’ll do whatever I can to help.”
Toyota team principal Tommi Mäkinen is well acquainted with Rovanperä, having given him a test in the development Yaris back in 2016.
“I’ve known Kalle since he was very young,” said Makinen. “It’s always been clear that he has something special. He still has lots to learn, but I believe he is ready for this step now.”
Rovanperä, who has moved from Škoda Motorsport’s WRC 2 Pro team, will get his first taste of the 2020-specification Yaris in the French Alps this week.