Mon 24 Jul 2023

Latvala draws Loeb comparison as Rovanperä dominates in Estonia

Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Jari-Matti Latvala has likened Kalle Rovanperä with nine-time WRC champion Sébastien Loeb after his domination of Rally Estonia last weekend.

Rovanperä and co-driver Jonne Halttunen were simply unstoppable as they romped to glory at the same round which hosted their maiden FIA World Rally Championship triumph back in 2021. Then, Rovanperä became the youngest driver to win a WRC rally, aged 21.

Reigning champion Rovanperä snatched the lead on Friday afternoon before effortlessly pulling clear of Thierry Neuville to win by 52.7sec in a GR Yaris. Such was the Finn’s dominance, he posted 13 consecutive fastest times over the final two days.

Team principal Latvala compared Rovanperä’s drive with that of nine-time champion Sébastien Loeb when he won all 12 stages of Rally de France in 2005.

“For me it was like Kalle and Jonne were in the flow zone,” Latvala said. “To get into that zone is something which comes naturally when you are doing things very well. And then, you know, it just happens - everything seems to be easy and you don’t need to make effort.

“But how you find that zone, that’s a question mark. How Kalle finds it, that I can’t answer but it was an amazing, amazing performance. It was a similar kind of domination in this event to what Sébastien Loeb did in Corsica back in 2005.

“I would say this is the strongest rally for him in the championship,” Latvala added. “This is the one he loves most, it’s like a home rally for him.”

Amazingly, Rovanperä described his approach as being “quite simple” once he’d made it past Friday when he carried out road-opening duties. The 22-year-old tops the standings by 55 points after round eight of 13.

“On Friday there were definitely places we were on the limit and you have to push to the limit all the time when you’re opening the road,” he explained.

“Saturday morning, same thing - we pushed a bit. Then after that we found, let’s say, quite a comfortable pace which we could keep up all the time without any huge risks. After that, it was quite simple.”

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