Tue 11 Oct 2022

Why Latvala believes 2023 could be harder for Kalle

Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Jari-Matti Latvala believes 2023 could be a defining year for newly-crowned FIA World Rally champion Kalle Rovanperä.

GR Yaris wunderkind Rovanperä rewrote the WRC history books at Repco Rally New Zealand earlier this month when he became the youngest drivers’ champion in history at the age of 22.

Some former champions - the likes of Tommi Mäkinen and Sébastiens Loeb and Ogier - have been able to repeat their maiden titles the very next year. But others, such as Carlos Sainz and Marcus Grönholm, were unable to successfully defend their crowns. 

Latvala, an 18-time WRC rally winner himself, believes the early stages of next year’s championship could be the deciding factor in whether or not his star driver will be able to do the double.

“I would say that now Kalle can be quite relaxed, at least until the end of this season,” Latvala told WRC.com. 

“But I think the most difficult thing is, after you get there once and achieve what you have been dreaming of since you were a child, making that second [title] can be slightly harder because you have to keep your motivation up. 

“I think at the beginning of the new season, it’s very important that you can stay motivated. That is the challenge he has to face. After getting the first championship, there can be a little moment where you relax too much. But, if you want to win it again, then you have to keep working.”

Full of advice but also full of relief, Latvala felt there had been a weight lifted from the shoulders of his native Finland after Rovanperä’s victory.

Until this year, there had not been a Finnish WRC champion since 2002 when Grönholm triumphed with Peugeot. 

“It’s a great, great relief,” he said. “It will bolster the interest for rallying again [in Finland] and it will help to get more youngsters into the sport.

“There was even a period when I think I was the only driver in the WRC from Finland. At least now we have a couple, and we have a few more guys also coming into the WRC2 class.”

Next week’s RallyRACC - Rally de España (20 - 23 October) is another big week for the team. A clean event would secure the Japanese marque its second manufacturers’ title in as many years.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM