‘Anger’ inspired Rovanperä’s Portugal win – Latvala

Latvala feels the world champion carried that emotion from Zagreb into last week's Rally of Portugal

Toyota Portugal

Jari-Matti Latvala was a mighty-fine driver in the World Rally Championship, and he’s got the hang of the team principal role too with four world titles from four so far at Toyota.

But there’s perhaps another WRC career in-waiting for him as a pundit as well.

The Finn is a perceptive character and can always sense when one of his drivers is about to perform.

In Croatia, for example, he spotted a shift in Elfyn Evans’ body language.

“I could see that confidence coming back on Friday evening when he was smiling. That smile, we haven’t seen it for a while.”

But on the other side of Toyota’s service structure, Latvala observed something in Kalle Rovanperä too who had just scored his third consecutive non-podium finish.

Latvala feels the world champion carried that emotion from Zagreb into last week’s Rally of Portugal, and used it to absolutely crush the opposition.

Toyota Portugal

“I could feel the change after Croatia when he was not on the podium, he felt actually quite angry, not being on the podium,” Latvala told DirtFish.

“Coming here I could sense that the motivation is really, really high to get the victory now because it’s been a long time from the [last] win.

“So that kind of feeling, I got that now there is this big hunger for the victory, and then at the same time he was very confident with the car so this is always good news.”

It was indeed Rovanperä’s first win since he won the world title in New Zealand last October, that neatly elevated him to the top of the standings for the first time this year too.

His performance was more in-line with what the WRC became used to in 2022, as Rovanperä had looked a touch off-beat for the first few rounds of 2023.

Asked if he felt Rovanperä’s hunger had gone at the start of the year, Latvala said: “That’s normal if you win the championship, and then you have a target and you achieve the target.

“Then you have to sort of set a new target and I think maybe at the beginning of the year Kalle didn’t necessarily have a new target yet.

“It’s like ‘OK it’s nice to win the second championship’ but being a bit more relaxed, a bit more comfortable, then you realize the others are coming really, really hard and pushing for it and doing everything to get it, you realize yourself ‘OK I have to maybe work a little bit more towards it because if I want to be a second-time world champion’.

“I think it’s just humanity and that’s normal. Still he has maintained a high level at the beginning of the season and he has given himself a good position in the championship, but now here you can see that he’s one gear higher.”

Rovanperä, who admitted after Croatia he was yet to be at his best in 2023, doesn’t feel that anything changed for Portugal though.

“I don’t know [if there was] a big change in the attitude like this but of course it was a plan to do a weekend like this,” he told DirtFish.

“I was really sure after Croatia that we had been opening the road a few rallies and struggling with that and then puncture there, I knew when we had a clean weekend we can do it like before, and that was the aim to do it here.

“I think [we] just [had] a bit more feeling really to push for it from the start, to really be on it,” Rovanperä added.

“Of course you always need the car to also be good to do that and have the feeling that you can push, and we had it this weekend.”