Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala has revealed that the team asked Kalle Rovanperä not to interfere with Sébastien Ogier’s and Elfyn Evans’ fight for the 2021 World Rally Championship drivers’ title.
Monza Rally is a big weekend for Toyota as one of its drivers – Ogier or Evans – will win the drivers’ crown, while it needs to score just five points to secure the manufacturers’ title.
Toyota last won the manufacturers’ championship back in 2018 but has not scooped a title double since 1994 when Didier Auriol was drivers’ champion.
Rovanperä is acting as the team’s insurance policy to ensure that happens, loitering in the lower half of the top 10 ready to score the necessary points should either Ogier or Evans run into trouble.
The 20-year-old admitted after SS2 that “we just have to drive through for the team points”.
Latvala elaborated on that after SS4, confirming that Rovanperä was asked to be a “wingman” and to not get in the way of the developing drivers’ battle.
“It’s an open game, they can fight against each other and we want to have a fair fight,” Latvala said of the Ogier-Evans scrap.
“And that is the reason we have asked Kalle Rovanperä to be a wingman and support us in the championship when we have two guys, we want them to have a fair fight.”
Currently it’s Ogier who is on top of that fight, as he leads Evans on Monza Rally and can afford to score considerably less points, with a 17-point advantage and just 30 points left to claim.
“I can tell you I feel a bit nervous,” said Latvala. “Now the boys are in a big fight and you can see the speed they’re going, Sébastien and Elfyn, so [they are] really on let’s say the top of the performance.
“We’re already seeing some mistakes from some other drivers this morning so for sure it’s nervous to watch, I’m hoping they keep it on the road.”
After a run of slightly sub-par performances from Ogier – which the seven-time champion said may be down to some form of “tiredness” – Latvala recognized that Ogier was in an inspired mood on Friday morning.
“I could see he was very focused and maybe in the last two races before Monza he hasn’t been on his best performance, thinking about the championship, thinking about the points, but this morning I could see a different guy,” he said.
“When he went out on the stages he was on this attack mode that we have seen previously in the season, like for instance in Sardinia.”