WRC - K. Rovanperä: "The plan was to keep the pressure on Elfyn Evans." | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

WRC - K. Rovanperä: "The plan was to keep the pressure on Elfyn Evans."

22.05.22

Transcript of the post-event press conference organised by the FIA for the 2022 Rally Portugal on May 22, 2022.

Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen, winners of the 2022 Rally Portugal

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
1st - Kalle Rovanperä (FIN), Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team
2nd  - Elfyn Evans (GBR), Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team
3rd - Dani Sordo (ESP), Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team
Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN), Team Principal, Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team

Q:
Kalle, congratulations. Another incredible victory and a win from being first on the road?
KR:
Generally speaking, I was not expecting this weekend to be like this and so good. It was a surprise for me. It means quite a lot that we did a good job from the front on Friday. It was quite important to have a good day on Friday and start to fight.

Q:
At what point did you realise that you had a realistic chance to win?
KR:
I did not think like this at any point. When we were behind, the plan was to keep the pressure on Elfyn and see what happened. I didn’t really think that we could step up the speed any more from what we already did. At the end we did some good times and Elfyn was fighting hard back. It was not easy.

Q:
Three wins from the last three rallies and you now have a 46-point lead in the championship to take to Sardinia.  What are you going to target now?
KR:
The target will be the same as here, just to do a good job. We will see what the conditions will be. I think Sardinia will be loose gravel again and maybe worse than Friday. The conditions were not too bad for us to manage. We will see again when we see the conditions.

Q:
Elfyn, it was a great battle this weekend with Kalle. You must be proud of your speed and performance?
EE:
It was not a bad weekend overall. I would have preferred it to have gone a little bit differently today. But I was happy initially with the car and what we did. We are still probably missing that last few per cent to bring us back to where we want to be. I think a strong result was what we needed after a bad start to the year from our side. But there is still work to do.
Q:
It was so close. Was there any point where you maybe thought the event was won or lost in terms of decisions or being too cautious, maybe?
EE:
Not particularly, any time that you give away is a lost opportunity. There were a few of those back and forth during the weekend. Today, Kalle was very strong and his speed allowed him to win here. He deserved to win. We have to come back next time.

Q:
You jump up to fifth in the championship. That must give you something to build on?
EE:
It is definitely a good step. It was the first gravel rally with the new car and I think the team showed that we have a pretty good starting point. The car was pretty fast and also reliable and allowed us all to fight right until the end with no issues. A big thanks to the team for all their work and preparation.

Q:
Dani, you returned to WRC action and what a fight you had with Taka (Katsuta). How hard were you pushing?
DS:
Honestly, it was hard all weekend. The cars in front were really, really fast and on the level. We find the car was sliding really nice and I push really hard to keep him back. On the last stage, he was only two seconds in front and I did my best and I beat him. It was a tough weekend.

Q:
It was the first time that you were driving the hybrid i20 in competitive action. What were your first impressions and how much more is to come when you get to know the car a bit better?
DS:
The chassis is nice and the cockpit is so nice to drive. The way to drive is different to the other cars from last year. You need to get a little bit used to it. It is strange because you don’t have the power all the time and braking points are very strange.

Q:
Obviously you are sharing a car this year.  Do we know when we will see you again?
DS:
At the moment it is this and Sardinia and then two more. I hope Catalunya and maybe Greece.

Q:
Jari-Matti, a terrific team performance. You must be very proud of all of your drivers?
JML:
Honestly, really, really proud. This was a fantastic result. It was a 1-2 and we were very close to a 1-2-3. Taka was driving very well. But, I must say, Dani made a nice push on the last stage and that was enough to take a deserved third place. That is something to learn for the future. Kalle had a really great performance, opening the road and taking the victory. This is not something that we could have expected, but he did it. It was really amazing and Elfyn, once again, gave a very solid performance with great driving and no mistakes. I think it was good for him to boost his confidence and maybe he’s thinking he is one step closer to fighting for the victory in Sardinia. The most important thing was that the cars were reliable and we had no issues with them.

Q:
Katsuta has such a bright future. He was so disappointed after that final stage?
JML:
It is hard to lose the podium at the very end. He was in the third place on the last stage. I know myself when you have not reached the podium many times. Taka also last year made a fantastic start to the season and made great progress and had a podium in Kenya. But then he had a very difficult period in the second half of the year and tried to bounce back. Now, after let’s say six or seven months and a difficult period, there was a chance for the podium. But Dani was a bit faster than him. I’m sure he will learn from this and improve. Lift up the pace next time. It was good experience.

Q:
What do you feel is the strength of the new hybrid Yaris?
JML:
I think drivers have been happy with the car and generally that is the key that drivers are comfortable and the car is working and they can push more to the limit.

Questions from the floor

Andre Gonçalves (PRT), Record

Q:
Kalle, you had a nine-second lead before the last stage. But you drove like you were behind.  What did you think about that on that last special?
KR:
I didn’t really think anything special. I knew that the stages were in good condition and I can try to be fast. I just went for it and had a good run, a good push and I felt in the car that this was the speed I can go and be comfortable in without taking risks.

Q:
What did you think about Kalle’s pace on the final stage?
JML:
Basically. it is not easy to slow when you have two cars fighting for the victory. I said that we don’t do team orders. We don’t want to do team orders. It is not easy to follow. Also, there is a chance for the boys to do a mistake. I trust 100% that they know what they need to do. I don’t want to interfere.

Q:
Kalle, what do you feel about this win in Portugal? Is it different? Is it special? And to Elfyn, how is your confidence right now
KR:
I didn’t really think it was something special here. The Rally in Portugal is always nice and especially the way the stages are really nice, which everybody knows. A lot of fans and it seems the whole country is a big rally fan here. For sure, it is nice to win here.
EE:
For me, I needed a strong result here really to start building some points and to start building some momentum. I am not full satisfied with the weekend but it is something to build on.

Antonio Rodrigues (PRT), Lusa

Q:
Jari-Matti, you said after Croatia that this kid (Kalle) is a miracle. My question is, is this another miracle from him?
 
JML:
I think what I will say that there is nobody in rallying history on his page. We know we have had great drivers in the past, Loeb and Ogier, who have won the rally by opening the road. But no one has done it before at the age Kalle is now. That is the difference now. We haven’t seen this in rallying history. A young guy on this kind of top level.

2022 Rally Portugal - Post-event FIA press conference - Ouright Top 3 and winning manufacturer
 

FIA WRC2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
1st - Yohan Rossel (FRA), PH Sport (Citroën C3)

Q:
Yohan, what a crazy way to win a rally. But it is back-to-back victories and that was a special win for you?
YR:
It’s not an easy rally. When I said honestly I think it’s a shame for him (Teemu), and sorry for Hyundai but, for us and the championship, it was good for me, of course. Second place is not a bad result but when you win it is better. Honestly, it is perfect but I am a bit surprised to win. Thanks to my team and my federation for all their support.

Q:
We know you have the pace on tarmac. How happy were you with your pace on gravel?
YR:
It is the same with asphalt. I have just the same experience on tarmac/ On the start to my career, I start with full tarmac and just the opportunity to drive a lot on tarmac, but I know very well the gravel. This year, in Portugal, it was not easy conditions. We need to work a little bit on the car for the second loop. It’s the same for all. I need to work. I think, a little bit.

Q:
You are now the WRC2 Championship leader. You have some quick opponents in Andreas Mikkelsen and Teemu Suninen. Does this give you a chance to fight for the title?
YR:
Of course, I have a manufacturer behind me and a good team and the federation. I think it is the target. The car worked very well and, on tarmac, it is very strong. On gravel we need to work. We will see. The time is to get some point on some rally at the start of the season. We will see. I go to Sardinia and Ypres. I don’t know what happens in Estonia and Kenya. We will see.


FIA WRC3 JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
1st - Sami Pajari (FIN), Ford Fiesta Rally3

Q:
Sami, it was rough and tough weekend for the Junior WRC3. How much does that victory mean in these Rally3 cars?
 
SP:
For sure, it has been a really tough rally for jus. Like you said, a bit further in the back than the first cars and the stages are really rough on the second pass. But it has actually been surprisingly good and I am really satisfied with the performance from my side happy and from  the car side also. We didn’t have any technical issues. We can be really satisfied from that side. For sure, it is good for my championship. If I am trying to fight, I was looking for the victory I need to be happy also.

Q:
You had a completely clean drive all the way through?
SP:
Well, we had some punctures on the second day and the second stage of Friday. We managed to change in one and a half minutes. For the moment, it was not looking that good. But I was still focusing on the rally and it was only the beginning of the rally and anything can happen. We did good fastest times for a few stages after that and we were leading after Friday. For sure, it’s a good story to tell.

Q:
Two frustrating rallies to start with for you. Does this now give you the confidence to push on?
SP:
For sure, we had bad luck in Sweden and so on. The start was really frustrating for me. But I was still trying to focus on the next rally and try and do the best I can. I knew it would be a bit of  a lottery here. This time we had a bit of luck.


FIA WRC2 MASTERS CUP

Present:
1st - Jean-Michel Raoux (FRA), Volkswagen Polo GTI

Q:
Jean-Michel, congratulations on your first Masters Cup win this season. It was a difficult rally. How much does it mean to you?
JMR:
It’s very special for us. It is not the same conditions as the other guys, the temperature and the roads are very hard for the driver and the car. For me, it was amazing, very like a dream.”

Q:
You had a big lead over Fréderic (Rosati) in the middle of the rally, you lost the lead and then you staged a big fight back. What was the story?
JMR:
Yes, the story is long. At first we don’t drive in Croatia and Sweden and we are behind. We find a lot of dust on the first stage and we stop all the time. That’s the rally. We except that. The second day was a bit better, everything is okay and we were in the lead. On the last stage we had a puncture and we lost five minutes. At this moment it was definitely difficult for us. For the day before we asked to the stewards to see one stage especially where we lost a lot of time and they were kind for us and they give two minutes back. We moved this morning 27 seconds behind. Then we had a problem last night and take a 10-second penalty. But, at the end, it was a happy end for us.

2022 Rally Portugal - Post-event FIA press conference - Winners of the FIA support championships Y. Rossel, S. Pajari and JM Raoux