«Relaxed» Rovanpera to enjoy Rally Sweden victory tilt without WRC title pressure

The reigning two-time world champion is expected to be the overwhelming favourite for victory on Sweden’s snow-covered roads.

A previous event winner in 2022, Rovanpera also has the advantage of a favourable starting position after sitting out last month’s Monte Carlo season as part of his wish to contest a part-time programme this year.

The Finn returned to the stages at the Arctic Lapland Rally earlier this month, where a technical fault robbed him of a likely win over Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans.

Looking ahead to this week’s rally, the 23-year-old says he feels much more relaxed heading into his first of six likely WRC rounds this year, and has only one target in his mind.

“It is really nice to be back and I have a bit more of a relaxed feeling, so it should be more enjoyable,” Rovanpera told Motorsport.com.

“I don’t think it is more about what I have been doing [in the break that has made me more relaxed] but a different approach to the rally and a different pressure for the championship.

“Definitely, the plan is to push more for wins, and of course it doesn’t mean that you will get more of them, but that is the goal.

“I know I don’t need to stress about the risks so much so you can just try to enjoy it and push for it. Usually when you are enjoying it more you are hopefully faster.”

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Going all out to score a win is the goal that Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala has effectively issued Rovanpera ahead of the rally, knowing road position will likely hamper Evans, Toyota’s best hope for the drivers’ title. Famously, Toyota has let its drivers fight without the deployment of team orders.

“We want to win the event and if Elfyn is at the front with a difficult [starting] position then we want Kalle to go out there and really try to win the event,” Latvala told Motorsport.com.

“Of course, this is an event we really want to win as it is a bit like a home event for us and especially after Monte Carlo, we were not able to win there, so for sure we want to be back in the winning game.”

Toyota has left no stone unturned in its preparations for Sweden after missing out on scoring a podium on the snow last year. Rovanpera was Toyota’s best performer, finishing fourth in 2023 after struggling as the road opener and with the feeling of the car during the second passes of stages.

Latvala is however confident his cars will be in better shape to cope with the tricky conditions compared to last season.

“It was one of the most difficult events last year, and that was partly due to the road position for Kalle was difficult, but I can guarantee we have done a lot of work now,” Latvala added.

“We did the Arctic Rally with 200 stage kilometres with two cars with Kalle and Elfyn and we did a test in our test area. We have really tried to cover all of the conditions for this event.

“There was not much we could have done differently last year. The guys were complaining of understeer, so we have tried to improve the behaviour of the car and the turn-in, and also when we are first or second on the road like Elfyn, we have tried to get the car working when you are fresh on the road.

Elfyn Evans, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Photo by: Toyota Racing

“The difficulty is if the snowfall comes tomorrow then there is nothing you can really do because then you really suffer at the front, a fact you have to accept.”

While Evans is Toyota’s best shot at scoring the drivers’ title in 2024, he is expecting his returning team-mate Rovanpera to be difficult to beat.

“I have definitely found some steps [with the car] but whether it is enough or not I’m not so sure,” Evans told Autosport.

“I think overall I think we can be a bit more optimistic, but at the same time a little bit cautious as I know it is not quite in the window I would like.

“Of course, it is going to improve as every car passes that’s always the case here on snow. Based on that we really have to focus the fight on the guys around us on the road position and get the most out of it.

“I think anyway Kalle is exceptionally fast on this surface, but combined with the road position he is in a pretty strong position. Let’s see, but we expect him to be fast.”

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