The new WRC rule that compromised Rovanperä

With no 15-minute morning service, the world champion had an unexpected task to perform on Sunday


Strangely, the intrigue surrounding Kalle Rovanperä as he reached the stop control of Sunday’s first Rally Sweden stage last weekend wasn’t the time he’d chewed out of his deficit to third-placed Thierry Neuville (3.8 seconds to 1.1s).

It was what had happened to him before he even reached the Västervik stage.

“We had a small issue on the road section,” Rovanperä revealed.

“It was a bit of a mess, but finally everything was fine on the stage. It was nothing too big.”

Mic dropped.

And he wasn’t having any of it at the media zone either, despite DirtFish’s best efforts.

“It could have been, let’s say,” Rovanperä said when asked if the problem was significant.


“We were fixing it but now it’s fine. I cannot say [what it is].”

But Toyota technical director Tom Fowler has now provided us with the answer, and it turns out new-for-2023 rules regarding servicing in the World Rally Championship had their part to play.

For this year, morning services are no longer compulsory on loose surface rallies.

That means that Rovanperä’s problem couldn’t be cured in service as it would have been last year, leaving him to instead fix it himself on the road section – away from prying eyes.

“Basically, they bled the brakes,” Fowler told DirtFish.

“It’s something which drivers do almost every day [but] I suppose the difference in this case is that normally they bleed the brakes after stages because they’ve got too hot or the pads have settled down or whatever, some minor thing which happens regularly through usage, they bleed the brakes.

“But in this case, obviously the car had just come from service the night before so it should have been perfect for him and it wasn’t because we had noticed something at the last minute in the service last night, and I suppose the thing that makes it interesting is that we now don’t have the 15-minute service in the morning.


“So normally we would have fixed that this morning and he would have known nothing about it.

“They expect just to drive to the first stage and crack on, but they had to put something else into their routine so… we’re not proud of it, of course, but these things happen.”

It’s almost even more intriguing now that we know, isn’t it?

Either way, the issue wasn’t what cost Rovanperä his shot at third – rather his lack of comfort with the GR Yaris Rally1 on second-pass stages which became rutted and his position of first on the road on Friday.

Throughout the weekend both Fowler and Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala refused to write Rovanperä off from storming through and grabbing an unlikely win – suggesting they felt his performance was far better than the time sheets made it seem.

After the rally, Fowler’s stance hasn’t budged.

“My honest opinion is that if you put Kalle Rovanperä ninth on the road on day one, he’s two minutes ahead of everyone and we’re not even having this conversation,” he said.