Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Jari-Matti Latvala thinks the media applied too much pressure on the World Rally Championship’s newest winner Kalle Rovanperä ahead of his home event last week, Rally Finland.
Rovanperä took his maiden WRC victory on Rally Estonia, then followed it up with a controled Acropolis Rally win that made him the firm favorite for the fast gravel rounds of his and his Toyota Yaris WRC’s home event.
But Rally Finland did not go to plan, as Rovanperä failed to register a stage win in the first half of the rally and then didn’t see the second as he struck a stage-side mound of gravel on SS10 that put him out of action until the final day where he coasted to the finish with back pain.
“The biggest expectations were on Kalle,” Latvala said to DirtFish. “But I think the pressure was too much for Kalle.
“The media, the friends, and the friends of the friends of course there is always expectation and I think the expectations went a bit too high, which was not necessarily giving him the best start for the rally.
“But I have to also remind that with Kalle’s side, this was his very first time to be in Finland with a World Rally Car, and you need that experience; you can’t win until you really have the experience of the World Rally Car in this rally.”
Rovanperä won the WRC2 Pro (now WRC2) class in Finland two years ago, but Finland was absent from the calendar during his rookie season with Toyota in 2020 and it meant he had to write new pacenotes for this year’s event.
One driver bringing their notes out from the back of the cabinet was Esapekka Lappi, who famously won Rally Finland for Toyota in just his fourth event in a World Rally Car back in 2017 and was the top Finn in fourth place on this year’s edition on his top-class return with the team.
Latvala believs it was that 2017 result, in addition to Rovanperä’s own form, that built up the anticipation that another Finnish win was on its way.
“This is more from the media,” Latvala explained. “Because from the media the expectations were high. But it’s just the fact that when he did so well in the last three events, it’s very human that the expectation starts to go high.
I knew it wasn't going to be easy but I was maybe expecting that he would really fight for the victoryJari-Matti Latvala
“But everybody sort of forgot the realistic point that [the previous] Acropolis was eight years before, so everybody’s having a fresh start.
“Kalle did Estonia in 2020 with the World Rally Car. But Finland he has never done with the World Rally Car.
“I can say of myself that I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I was maybe expecting that he would really fight for the victory,” Latvala confessed.
“So it’s just that we just sometimes forget the realities.”