Friday | 14 May 2021

Rovanperä pledges level-headed approach in Portugal

Kalle Rovanperä has promised a ‘more sensible’ drive at next week’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal (20 - 23 May) following his huge opening stage crash in Croatia last month.

The Finn went into the Croatia Rally as the youngest ever FIA World Rally Championship leader but was sidelined just 5.4km into the Rude – Plešivica test when he drifted wide on a right bend.

His Toyota Yaris plunged down a bank, coming to rest against a tree, and the car was damaged too severely to restart.

The 20-year-old promised shrewder tactics for the opening gravel fixture of the season.

Video: Kalle Rovanperä crashes

“After Croatia, I think my approach will be a bit more sensible, but hopefully we can find a good speed straight away and fight for a good result,” he said.

“I think it is an event that can suit me quite well, and I enjoyed it last time I was there in 2019 and we won our category [WRC2 Pro].”

Rovanperä was quickly back behind the wheel after his Croatia exit and admitted it took a while to get used the Yaris again on dirt roads. The last loose surface WRC round was in Sardinia last October.

“After our retirement in Croatia it was nice to be back in the car just a few days later for our pre-event test in Portugal. It actually took some time to get back into the feeling – just because it had been so long since I had last driven on gravel,” he explained.

Video: Vodafone Rally de Portugal teaser

“Overall though, I left with a good feeling from the car and from the new gravel tyres.”

Rovanperä’s no-score in Croatia meant he plunged to fifth in the championship standings. He is 22 points behind leader and team-mate Sébastien Ogier and two positions adrift of Elfyn Evans in Toyota Gazoo Racing’s third car.

Portugal’s slippery sandy surfaces traditionally offer limited grip for the first cars to start. Rovanperä is fifth in the running order for Friday’s first leg, which should put him in the best position of Toyota’s trio to challenge at the front.

• Full coverage from Vodafone Rally de Portugal will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.