Toyota City, Japan, May 15, 2023 – (JCN Newswire via SEAPRWire.com) – TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team’s Kalle Rovanpera is back on top of the FIA World Rally Championship after a dominant drive to win the Rally de Portugal for the second year in succession.
The victory is the first of the season for reigning world champions Rovanpera and Jonne Halttunen, and moves them to the head of the standings by 17 points after they also won the rally-ending Fafe Power Stage – repeating the maximum score they achieved on the same event one year ago. It is also the fourth time in a row that TGR-WRT has won in Portugal, and the team’s fourth victory from five rounds in 2023.
Rovanpera built his result on a strong performance on Friday’s opening day while running second in the road order on the loose gravel stages. He led by 10.8 seconds at the end of the day, and stunning speed on Saturday morning then allowed him to move over 50s clear.
On Sunday he recorded his ninth stage win of the weekend in the first pass over the famous fan-favourite Fafe test, before making it 10 when he returned there for the Power Stage – setting the quickest time by 0.717s while sealing the rally victory by 54.7s.
Takamoto Katsuta and co-driver Aaron Johnston set the fourth-fastest time in the Power Stage to bank additional points for the manufacturers‘ championship, which the team continues to lead by 32 points. Katsuta had to stop on Friday morning with a technical issue but could restart on Saturday and took a stage win of his own in Sunday’s first stage.
Akio Toyoda (TGR-WRT Chairman)
„Kalle, Jonne, congratulations on your first victory this year!
I actually had a bit of concern for Kalle as it seemed not easy for him to get the best result this year. But on the other hand, I felt there was nothing to worry about because I could see he was always enjoying driving the same as last year. I was looking at his driving this season with these thoughts…
Today’s victory is a great gift for Mothers‘ Day, and now he should be able to truly enjoy drifting at Ebisu circuit in Japan. He will show another side of his best driving to Japanese fans when he joins Formula Drift Japan next week.
Elfyn had to open the road after his win in the last event in Croatia, but he was showing a bold attack until his accident. I am sorry that he was not able to feel comfortable to push with our car. We will take it as an opportunity to make the car better so that he can drive it at will.
Takamoto was really fired up to get finally to the podium after finishing fourth in Portugal two years in a row. I am very sorry that the mechanical trouble happened on his car. The team will work together to pursue the true cause of the issue for the next event.
There are only two weeks before the next rally in Sardinia. The team and cars will stay in Portugal and the maintenance work will be done at Toyota Caetano Portugal. Kalle will be drifting with GR Corolla in Fukushima, Japan, and Jari-Matti will be driving also with GR Corolla at the 24-hour endurance race in Fuji Speedway. I am happy that the team always enjoys with Toyota somewhere in the world, not only during the rally week.
The WRC season is now getting into the middle stages. We’ll keep enjoying Toyota cars and continue to strive for the best result.“
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
„We are feeling really happy with this victory here in Portugal. On Friday things were looking quite difficult for us because we lost two cars and only had one left in the fight. But Kalle was driving superbly and in the end it was a dominant victory with a great Power Stage win as well. Even if he hasn’t been winning recently, Kalle’s performances have still been at a high level; there were just some little things missing from the puzzle which he has found here, with confidence in the car and the motivation and hunger to win. When these things came together this weekend, he was unstoppable. I also want to thank Takamoto for getting to the finish after the issue on Friday which meant we couldn’t see his whole potential on this event. Today on the final day he showed what could have been with a great effort in the Power Stage which gives us some extra points for the manufacturers‘ championship as well.“
Kalle Rovanpera (Driver car 69)
„This win has been a long time coming. There have been some difficult weekends but all the time I knew that when we can have a clean weekend and a good drive, we are right in the game. It’s nice to win here in Portugal again and to finally be back on the top. A big thanks to Jonne and to the team, who have been pushing forwards all the time. This weekend we had a good feeling with the car and we were able to push hard. In the Power Stage I wanted to take as many points as we could because I knew we would likely have to open the road on the next event anyway. It was not a perfect stage but it was enough, so I’m happy. Sardinia will be more difficult but we will definitely try to continue like this.“
Takamoto Katsuta (Driver car 18)
„It has been a challenging weekend after the issue that we had on Friday. I was expecting a lot for this rally so I was really disappointed, but sometimes this happens. After that I just had to try and get more experience and learn something for the future. It was not so easy cleaning the road but the car felt fantastic, so the team and the engineers did a great job. On the Power Stage there were narrower ruts from the cars ahead so I still had to open the line a bit, yet the time was pretty OK. It’s good to finish the rally and get some points for the team: huge thank you to them and big congratulations to Kalle and Jonne.“
PROVISIONAL FINAL CLASSIFICATION, RALLY DE PORTUGAL
1 – Kalle Rovanpera/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 3h35m11.7s
2 – Dani Sordo/Candido Carrera (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +54.7s
3 – Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +1m20.3s
4 – Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +2m04.1s
5 – Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +8m22.5s
6 – Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +9m43.4s
7 – Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +9m44.6s
8 – Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +10m26.4s
9 – Yohan Rossel/Arnaud Dunand (Citroen C3 Rally2) +11m33.2s
10 – Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Hyundai i20 Rally2) +12m16.3s
33 – Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1h01m54.8s
Retired Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID)
(Results as of 14:30 on Sunday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
Rally Italia Sardegna (June 1-4) features fast but narrow stages, where exposed rocks as well as trees at the side of the road can catch out the unwary. High temperatures combined with the abrasive surface places high stresses on the cars and tyres.
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