World Rally Championship leader Kalle Rovanperä will not have an advantage from running first on the road on Rally Croatia’s opening loop according to him and his Toyota team.
The 20-year-old Finn will open the road on a WRC event for the very first time in his fledgling top-flight career when the championship’s first-ever trip to Croatia begins on Friday with eight stages.
Usually, the driver who is running first on the road on an asphalt event has the benefit of a cleaner road and can drag dirt and debris onto the road for those behind; often giving them an advantage over those rivals who are starting the stage a few minutes later.
But Rovanperä insisted that he won’t have much of an advantage on Friday because the stages were very dirty when the drivers completed their recces on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“It looks that in the Friday loop there is not maybe so many places where you can gain on that [first on the road position] because actually on the recce many stages are already really dirty and they’re not going to clean them in-between,” he said.
“It’s going to be muddy already when we come so I don’t know if it’s going to help us so much. In some places, we also gain on that.”
Rovanperä’s team principal Jari-Matti Latvala reiterated his driver’s viewpoint and believes the lines taken by the drivers in the recce contributed to the erosion of Rovanperä’s potential advantage.
[If it rains] he will still have then the chance to put much more mud on the roadSébastien Ogier
“During the recce, a lot of cuts have already been made,” Latvala explained. “The gravel and mud in places is brought to the road.
“So for me, when I look at it now, the benefit for Kalle, I would say he doesn’t have a benefit with going out there [first]. If people had stayed more on the road during the recce, then it would be more equalized, that’s the way it is right now, you can’t do anymore after the recce.”
Rovanperä’s seven-time champion team-mate Sébastien Ogier thinks “it depends a little bit on the weather” will dictate if road position plays a part in deciding the competitive order this weekend.
“Whether that’s going to be [the case] before the rally [we don’t know] because it’s true that it was raining during the recce, a lot of mud has been brought on the road already and a lot of dirt,” Ogier said.
“So if it’s staying towards dry I would say it should be pretty consistent and not be a big advantage for him, pretty small.
“But now the last forecast is that it might rain maybe still [on Thursday] and into Friday and if that’s the case and brings more water into the cut, he will still have then the chance to put much more mud on the road.”