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Wed 27 Apr 2022

Latvala: ‘Rovanperä is a miracle’

Kalle Rovanperä’s epic win at last weekend’s Croatia Rally was the finest drive of his career, believes Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Jari-Matti Latvala.

“For me, this is Kalle’s best performance ever. I mean, he has been driving well but this is by far and away his best drive. He’s a miracle and I don’t know how he managed to do what he did today. Suddenly he has proved he is really strong for the drivers’ championship 2022.”

Latvala thought Rovanperä’s efforts would be unrewarded when Ott Tänak’s gamble to fit softer compound Pirelli tyres to his Hyundai i20 allowed him to relegate the rallylong leader in the penultimate rain-soaked test.

The Finn fought back on drier roads in the rally-closing Wolf Power Stage to overhaul Tänak in a breathtaking finale to win by 4.3sec in a GR Yaris.

Video: Croatia onboard comparison: Rovanperä v Tänak

“At lunchtime in our minds we had already lost it and feeling a little bit depressed because Kalle had been the fastest driver over the weekend. But then he comes back and does this superb drive. There are no words to describe what he did,” Latvala added.

The 21-year-old FIA World Rally Championship leader topped the leaderboard for all-but one special stage in a demonstration of extraordinary speed on roads he hadn’t seen competitively before.

While Rovanperä was running in the preferred position of first on the road, his first stage Croatian crash 12 months ago meant all but a handful of kilometres were new to him.

“Last year Kalle did just five kilometres before he crashed,” said Latvala, “so to go to Croatia and do what he did this time was just incredible. Fantastic. For me, it was his best performance in a Toyota Yaris.

“He made no mistakes in what were really, really demanding conditions.”

Rovanperä’s second win of the season moved him 29 points clear of Hyundai Motorsport’s Thierry Neuville at the top of the standings. Neuville finished third in Zagreb.

“Honestly,” added Latvala, “we didn’t expect this sort of pace from Kalle. I thought maybe he could make the top four – it’s difficult to come to a rally where everybody has more experience than you. He was really clever. He knew he had the advantage, especially on Friday morning, and he used it.

“But as much as he could show his speed, he knew also where to be more sensible. Fantastic performance. We are very, very happy with him.”

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