The one-minute penalty which cost Kalle Rovanperä a podium on Rally Estonia also denied fans the opportunity to see him go even faster, according to Toyota Gazoo Racing team boss Tommi Mäkinen.
The Finnish rookie finished fifth in Estonia, but would have finished as the closest rival to winner Ott Tänak had it not been for a penalty due to removing his car’s blanking plate during a time control on Saturday and a right-rear puncture on SS3.
With no real fight for position after the penalty was applied, there was little pressure on Rovanperä and he closed the event with a stunning powerstage win by 5.2 seconds.
Mäkinen’s take on that performance is that Rovanperä would have been even faster had he been fighting for a podium or the rally lead.
“Finally the result was good for whole team and it keeps us leading both manufacturers and drivers title as well and now we are going to completely different condition from here and we just keep working,” Mäkinen said.
“Kalle seems to find his best performance under the big pressure, what could happen without the puncture on first day because I’m sure that under pressure he could give far more than what we saw. Especially super stage when he’s really focusing to go flat out, he can do it.”
On Saturday there were two stage wins for Rovanperä, but he dropped 33.6s to Tänak over the day, 28.9s of which came on the stage he got his puncture on.
Over the shorter Sunday he clawed back 16.2s, and without the puncture and penalty he may have well just beaten Tänak to the win while the Estonian still had to run first on the road.
“Yeah it was a positive weekend relating to the pace and driving. I did almost perfect driving the whole weekend in my opinion,” Rovanperä told DirtFish.
“I didn’t do any big mistakes, or any kind of mistakes and the pace was all the time there even when we didn’t push, so I think I can be happy.
“It has been coming quite nicely the pace, and it has been all the time really good feeling in the car, already in the summer tests in Finland.The car is working well so it’s easy for me to be in the car and have a good feeling.”
When asked about his aspirations to finish at the top end of the points table this year, Rovanperä replied: “No, not so much. I know that the rest of the season will be more difficult and demanding races, at least for me with my experience and everything, so yeah, we try to do the best in every race and just go race by race.
“I don’t know [about getting a win this year], it will be more difficult in the other rallies. Here, it should have been possible at least to fight for it, but we will see what we can do.”
Due to his three fifth places, and a first podium on Rally Sweden, Rovanperä is fourth in the World Rally Championship standings and 24 points off title-leading Sébastien Ogier.