Thu 02 Jun 2022

Latvala Rovanpera like Ogier at height of his powers

Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala has provided his championship-leading driver Kalle Rovanperä with a shot in the arm ahead of this week’s Rally Italia Sardegna – comparing the Finn’s early season dominance with that of Sébastien Ogier at the height of his power.

Rovanperä starts this week’s fifth round of the season with a 46-point lead at the top of the drivers’ standings, having won the last three events in succession. Latvala has seen that before.

“It was the same like 2013,” said the older of the two Finns. “It was when [Sébastien] Ogier was starting his domination in the Volkswagen team. The performance Kalle is making so far this season is feeling the same – but to be doing this aged 21 is something really special. We didn’t see this kind of performance from a driver so young before.

“I remember when Sébastien was doing this in Volkswagen. His results were putting everybody else under pressure – including myself! Every time he won another rally, more pressure on the rivals was coming. It’s like this now. The other drivers are under pressure to try to beat him, but it’s so tough because he’s so strong right now.”

This week’s Alghero-based event will be another big test for Rovanperä, who runs first on the road as championship leader. The GR Yaris Rally1 driver managed his Portugal win despite running in that unfavourable position at the head of the field on day one. The feeling is that the higher temperatures and more gravely surface in Sardinia could make a fourth victory on the bounce an even bigger ask.

“Last time in Portugal,” added Latvala, “Kalle was proving us wrong. We didn’t expect him to win, but he did – it was a big surprise. It would be a surprise again this time. We know Sardinia can be tough.”

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