Toyota’s Kalle Rovanperä feels Rally Portugal “is maybe not the best place” to push for his first World Rally Championship victory considering he hasn’t finished a full competitive rally stage since February’s Arctic Rally Finland.
Rovanperä led the world championship heading into last month’s Rally Croatia but a crash on the very first stage brought his weekend to a very sudden and premature end. He immediately dropped to fifth in the standings as a result, 22 points behind Sébastien Ogier who secured a maximum points haul.
While Rovanperä admitted “it was difficult for me to forget” his Croatian crash, his full focus is on making amends this weekend.
“For sure, I don’t want to make a mistake like that in the beginning of the race but at this level, you really need to push at the beginning of the race if you want to be at the front, so it’s always difficult,” he said.
“It depends on the feeling you have before the event, if you have a good feeling, it’s always easier to keep the pace and the good feeling.
“It is the case after a rally like that when you score zero points, you need to reset a bit your feeling and approach and for sure,” he added.
“Here it helps a bit to have a better starting position but it’s tough competition so we will just try to have a clean race.
“It’s important to have a good, clean race after what we had in Croatia. [Portugal] is maybe not the best place or time to push only for the victory but I will push as much as I can to get the best result this weekend.”
Latvala ‘surprised’ at how well Evans has bounced back
Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala believes Rovanperä is “very motivated” to score a strong result in Portugal, but has noticed the same within Elfyn Evans too.
Evans, who was quickest on Thursday’s shakedown stage, finished second on round three but gave up a 3.9-second lead to Ogier on the powerstage, losing the rally by just 0.6s.
Asked by DirtFish how Evans responded to that heartache, Latvala said he “really appreciated” and was “really surprised how well he took that”.
“I, myself I lost a victory to Ogier in Jordan by 0.2 seconds and I was gutted, I was completely gutted and it was so difficult to swallow that when I lost it and it was affecting my mind for quite a long time,” he continued.
“So I’m very positive how Elfyn was able to come out from that loss and he was just taking it positively that he did his best and this time it wasn’t enough but at the end he did a great performance and he’s then looking towards the next event.”
Evans himself said: “It was of course close in Croatia but you can’t dwell on that too much and just focus on doing the best job we can.
“There’s not a lot else we can really do. We’ve got to give our best and see what result comes at the end.”
Asked by DirtFish if he believed the mental fortitude to bounce back he had shown now perhaps might not have been something he would have done five years ago after he was demoted to a part-time seat at M-Sport Ford, Evans joked: “I think Elfyn Evans five years ago would’ve been very happy to finish 0.6s behind Seb on a rally to be honest!
“But yeah maybe this time a little less happy, we can’t change it now but we can just be sure to give our best here and try to make sure we finish ahead of course. But let’s wait and see how it goes.”