WRC - K. Rovanperä: "it’s nice to win here like my Dad did 21 years ago." | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

WRC - K. Rovanperä: "it’s nice to win here like my Dad did 21 years ago."

27.02.22

Transcript of the post-event press conference organised by the FIA for the 2022 Rally Sweden on February 27, 2022.

2022 WRC - Rally Sweden - Final podium (Nikos Katikis / DPPI Media)

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT – Kalle Rovanperä (FIN), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT – Thierry Neuville (BEL), Hyundai i20 N Rally1
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT – Esapekka Lappi (FIN), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT – Jari-Matti Latvala, Team Principal

Q:
Well done Kalle on an excellent competition out there this weekend, you take your third WRC win of your career. It’s been a great start to the season for you, what do you have to say about this event and your win here?
KR:
I think nothing too special, of course it was a weekend when I really wanted to do well and starting first on Friday was a bit difficult to really know where we’d end up at the end of Friday but it seemed we could manage the Friday also quite well and we were not far away from the first place on Friday evening and after that we could start to fight back and do some good jobs. Overall, it was a really good event and it’s nice to win here like my Dad did 21 years ago.

Q:
Absolutely, that was back in 2001, you’ve spoken to him since so what has he said about the victory?
KR:
He was happy, he was watching almost all the stages and he’s always really nervous during the events when he’s following it but he’s also enjoying the fight and the good result.

Q:
A new base for the rally in Umeå, what have you thought of the stages this weekend?
KR:
Generally I would say, at least for me, it was quite an enjoyable event. Of course it’s always good that we had proper snow conditions for the winter rally so it was good that we come a bit more north from the down [Värmland region]. Overall really fast stages, some of them were a bit too fast in some sections maybe, maybe a bit too fast and boring but other than that I would say nice stages and a difficult rally.

Q:
Speed is certainly something we’ve seen out there this weekend but what about the risk factor because we’ve seen the lead change hands so many times across the course of Friday, yesterday was incredibly close between you all. How much risk was there from your side, were you absolutely on the limit?
KR:
I would say, yeah, in some places I was but surprisingly it was quite a good pace all weekend, I didn’t need to push over the limit, I didn’t feel at any point I needed to do something crazy so it was a bit of a surprise even for me. Other than that we always have small moments here and there where you are a bit over the limit. But the whole weekend we didn’t have any big mistakes and I’m really happy for that.

Q:
Thierry, let’s turn to you now. You were leading the rally on Friday night going into Saturday and we’ve seen some brilliant pace for you this weekend and it’s such a turnaround from what we saw form you and the team on Rallye Monte-Carlo. How does that feel after a desperate Rallye Monte-Carlo to have a fantastic Rally Sweden?
TN:
How does it feel? It’s a big release for everybody, we couldn’t expect when we came here that we would be able to be in the lead after the first day of Rally Sweden. First of all because we thought that in terms of performance we probably still miss something, as well as the road position I had we couldn’t imagine that after the first day we could be in the lead. But somehow the first day was very strong day, everything worked fine and I felt really strong in the car. The second and third day were a bit more difficult but in the end I would say job well done and everybody is happy.

Q:
Everyone has been pushing to the absolute maximum out there and you had Esapekka Lappi who was desperately trying to get a bit closer to you. How much were you pushing today?
TN:
I don’t know, it’s actually difficult to feel. My engineer asked me the same question and I said, ‘I don’t know, sometimes I feel like I cannot drive faster because I don’t feel comfortable enough’. But then cannot really push as you like and that was my main complaint on the last two days. I never had the very good feeling which gives you the opportunity to retard my braking, to enter faster in the corner and it was always a bit harsh my driving. But I knew I couldn’t get it much better than it was, especially yesterday so I had to deal with it and adapt my driving and unfortunately I made two mistakes, which cost me a couple of seconds, but anyhow at the end I think the result is not influenced by that.

Q:
And what do you think of the rally in its new base, what do you think of the weekend?
TN:
Any driver would confirm that the move to the north is definitely a good move in terms of winter conditions, snow conditions. In terms of the characteristics of the stages the stages in the south were probably more spectacular and I probably enjoyed them more, but at the end once you have your helmet on and you have to go flat out even a boring stage can get interesting. At the end we had a good weekend, we enjoyed the ride, we know where we have to work on to come back here the winners.

Q:
Do you want to share that?
TN:
Definitely not!

Q:
Esapekka, first rally back, Rally1 all brand new to you, you’re on the podium incredible pace this weekend and I think your reaction when you crossed the flying finish really did say it all. It’s been an enjoyable weekend, yes?
EL:
Yeah, it’s been amazing let’s say to come back and be in the pace from the first stage immediately. I was a bit surprised to be honest and I was more surprised I could stay on the pace more or less the whole weekend. I think the guys stepped up a bit yesterday and today and I couldn’t do that. Anyway, good weekend overall.

Q:
It bodes well for the future with the rallies we’re going to see you at. We don’t know how many yet but maybe you could share where we’re going to see you next?
EL:
Ah, yeah, Croatia, yeah, yeah.

Q:
You said you were surprised to be on the pace straight away this weekend. As a driver does that make you feel ‘I’ve still got it’?
EL:
Sort of, yeah. Sort of you feel like that. But you can’t get too excited. To do one stage is okay but to do one weekend like this is normally not easy after such a break. That’s why I was surprised by myself that I could really perform the whole weekend. But rallying is not an easy sport, definitely, but maybe the holidays work for me and it’s good there is a long gap before Croatia.

Q:
What did you think of the Rally1 car, the new technology you have with the new hybrid boost. How did that feel this weekend?
EL:
On these conditions probably the advantage of the boost is not very clear anyway. The grip is so low that you create a lot of wheelspin with this boost. So I am sure it’s more impressive on Tarmac. But generally the car feels heavy compared to the previous ones and also compared to the Rally2 car and that makes some differences, especially on the fast, the fast changes of direction it feels a bit slow. It’s still drivable.

Q:
You definitely proved that this weekend…
EL:
I think we all did.

Q:
What did you think of the new region we’re in, the new stages and the move to the north?
EL:
I think if you look at the TV footage it might look pretty similar to the Arctic. We had big banks, we had gravel here and there. But the city looks beautiful, the stages were like the guys explained, mainly okay but some boring sections might have been there. But like Thierry said it might get interesting if you add enough speed. For me it’s very easy to come here by ferry so we can keep it here, it would be a good place.

Q:
Jari-Matti, a great result for the team, what are your thoughts on the weekend because time around you spent a lot of time on the stages watching the cars in the flesh?
J-ML:
As the guys have already mentioned I think the location is honestly very good. The stages are very close to the service park here in the city of Umeå, I mean less than half an hour you are in the stages. And then I think the city itself is very nice, it’s a very nice atmosphere. A lot of snow, some stages are very, very fast. I think in the future we can find in the area some more technical sections because I heard SS9, which was cancelled, was supposed to be the best stage of this rally. So I think thanks to the organisers, they have done a good job, this was a good place to be to do the rally and I think it’s good to be here in the future.

Q:
And what have you thought of your team’s performance this weekend, starting with Kalle?
J-ML:
They did an excellent job, what can I say. Last year we were not that strong on the Arctic Rally and of course it was an important event for us and it was a bit of a disappointment. Now we came here we thought that hopefully we could be competitive and we have been working quite well and quite hard and now we could see on the Friday immediately the guys were on the speed and also the car was behaving well. You could see the car was working well in the ruts and on the road but still you have to drive it and Kalle, I would say, the performance where he impressed me the most was on Friday because I know how it is to be first car on the road and specially the second passage when it’s more difficult when there are very narrow ruts he managed to keep his head cool, he didn’t do any mistakes and he managed to keep the difference to Thierry very small and then he attacked on Saturday and basically ran away from the others. So really impressive performance but on the other hand I must also say that Esapekka after being away from one year from rallying it’s not easy to come when you lose the routine. The speed is there, we know Esapekka had the speed but it’s just the routine that really disappears. That’s the football players and the ice hockey players practice almost every day, it’s just to keep the routine. Considering that he also did a perfect job. And I’m also very happy for Takamoto Katsuta taking the fourth place.
 
Q:
Let’s talk about Elfyn Evans because he was in second position this morning until an untimely incident with a snowbank. What was the reason behind him not carrying on because we did see that he did clear the stage eventually, what was going on?
J-ML:
If I start from the beginning a little bit I have to say it was a little bit incorrect for him to get the 10-second penalty yesterday because it was said that he got a time advantage but he actually lost. Yes he didn’t follow the road to the stop control, this is correct. If you look at the split times and evidence he actually lost time rather than gained. But, anyway, the stewards make the decision. But he was in a position to fight with Thierry and he had to go, he had to push, there was no other way. I know that myself how is the situation when you go under the pressure a little bit more and also his hybrid was not working in the morning, he had to go without hybrid. So he didn’t get the best start for the day and of course you are a little under the pressure and he did a small mistake. Eventually he hit the front to the snowbank, he did a 360 but, unfortunately, the snow burst the radiator and the liquid came out. He was able to fix the radiator as he is a really good mechanic but, unfortunately, he went over the time limit.
 
FIA WRC2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Toksport WRT – Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)

Q:
Andreas, what a battle we’ve seenin WRC2 between yourself and fellow Norwegian Ole Christian Veiby. It was you who came out top of it. It’s been a tough battle out there this weekend though?
AM:
It has been a tough battle, he’s done a brilliant rally, already from the first stage he was very, very fast so we knew we had to push if we wanted to be in contention for the win this weekend. Obviously fighting OC, who’s maybe not planning to do the whole championship, we knew his aim this morning was either to win or stay in a ditch so, yeah, we can’t really have that approach because we need the points for the championship. Then you have to find the balance how to push but we wanted to fight for the win and we had to push to the maximum and that’s what we did. The pace was really, really high, I don’t think I’ve ever pushed in a WRC2 car that hard like we did this morning so that was really tough, he did a brilliant job, he made a mistake in the end but that could have also been me because we were on the limit both of us. It was an intense weekend and I was very happy to finish on top.

Q:
It's testament to how hard you were pushing, on the penultimate stage you looked absolutely exhausted…
AM:
Yeah, but all these corners are flat in sixth gear and 80 per cent of the corners are just flat with a proper limit you know, it was a crazy stage and so fast.

Q:
What have you thought of a rally in a brand new region here in Umeå?
AM:
I think the stages are really nice, they’re really, really fast. More fast than what we’re normally seeing on Rally Sweden. The amount of snow was also really, really good, even though the surface on some stages broke through and there was some gravel. But in overall they were really nice, proper snowbanks, a proper winter rally and I’m very happy with the rally.

Q:
Were there any hot moments out there for you this weekend?
AM:
Many! Many, yeah, they were like planned moments I would say.

Q:
Planned moments?
AM:
No, but you know you’re going into the corner and you know you’re setting the car up sideways and you know it’s going to be on the limit so there was nothing that came really unexpected. The pace was really high this weekend and we just had to do that to fight at the front. Actually I don’t like to push that hard on the snow because there’s so many other factors. If you touch a snowbank a little bit wrong you can get dragged into it, sucked into it and suddenly your rally’s gone. I feel on gravel it’s easier to push hard because you don’t have those type of factors, you just have the road and nothing sucking you in. It was an intense weekend and really hard to push when the speed has been so high.

Q:
Second win in a row and it’s a great start to your championship season?
AM:
It’s been a really good season so far. We are not sure what will be the next rally. We’d planned to do the first two events and then we wait and see so I will have to talk to the team, have a sit down and see what we do next.

FIA WR3 JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Jon Armstrong (GBR), Ford Fiesta Rally3

Q:
Andreas mentioned how intense it’s been in WRC2 this weekend but maybe double or triple that in the Junior WRC, what a battle you have had to take this win. How do you feel now?
JA:
Yeah, a bit surprised I think. First of all I didn’t think I’d be starting the season, it was all a bit late coming together. To be here in the first instance was really nice and we were just looking to enjoy it and get some points on the board. But on shakedown the feeling was quite good and on Friday we made even more progress in terms of getting used to each other in the car, me and Brian [Hoy] and getting used to the car as well. Yeah, it was a lot of fun and the battle was very intense, I don’t think I’ve ever had a battle for a win that close before so it was quite interesting and I’m sure it was interesting and I’m sure it was interesting to follow for everyone so that’s quite nice. To come out with first place is amazing.

Q:
You mentioned the season came together quite late in terms of the budget but you didn’t test for this event did you? There was no budget to test so you came in fresh to shakedown so it’s even more amazing you achieved this against people who are used to snow and ice because it’s a surface you’re not overly familiar with?
JA:
Well the last time I came to Sweden it didn’t end too well so that was getting thrown in front of me at the start of the week. Obviously I was keen to get a better result this time and I worked really hard to make sure the pacenotes were good and everything was consistent and I was able to drive really fast to them. In terms of testing I think I’m probably used to coming without testing now and I think it’s something I’m quite comfortable with. I know in shakedown I can get used to the car quite quickly. I guess it’s something I’m quite familiar with so it’s not so bad but I guess a test would make me even faster so hopefully we can get some testing for the rest of the year, I think I’ll probably need it against some of the drivers. But it was a brilliant start to the year and I think I can probably win on every other round if I put in enough work. But then in the Juniors it’s all about luck and staying out of trouble so it’s going to be a bit of a crazy year.

Q:
Talk about the pressure because we’ve seen the lead change hands between you and Lauri Joona, there was half a second in your favour, then half a second in his favour, it was so, so close out there. How much pressure were you feeling, were you getting a bit nervous or were you keeping it chilled?
JA:
I was happy with second or first. Obviously I wanted to win but I think the fact I was happy to come second meant I wasn’t really concerned and I was quite chilled out to be honest. We made a bit of a slow start this morning on the first stage because it’s crazy-fast and there lots of long corners you can take pretty much flat out if you’re confident enough so we lost a bit of time this morning but then I was wanting to put in a better performance to get some time back and thankfully we had enough speed in the afternoon to do it.

Q:
You’ve got a full budget for the season now, yes, and this will only help matters in terms of attracting more funding for you. You mentioned you are confident to keep winning in the rounds that are coming up. That’s a good way to move forward, yes?
JA:
Well we won in Croatia last year, our pace was very good in Portugal, our pace was good in Estonia and the only one I haven’t done is Greece so it should be possible. It’s just a matter of working hard and trying to put in the effort to make it all possible.