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The Good, The Bad and Rovanpera’s return to form

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

Top Performer – Kalle Rovanpera and Jonne Halttunen

While Kalle Rovanpera refused to call his Rally Portugal performance the best of his career to date, it should rank among the finest. On Portugal’s mix of rough and fast gravel stages, Rovanpera and co-driver Jonne Halttunen rekindled the magic that saw them dominate the 2022 season.

Portugal has become renowned for its rough, puncture-inducing roads, but it was no problem for the world champion. Rovanpera produced a faultless and stunning drive to dominate the event, winning by 54.7s from Hyundai’s Dani Sordo.

Ten wins from 19 stages, and going 12.8s faster than anyone else on stage nine, underlined his speed. But the manner of the victory, starting from second on the road, mustn’t be forgotten in this performance.

It seems absurd that the Finn had been absent from the WRC podium since finishing second at the January season opener in Monte Carlo. An even more remarkable statistic is that last weekend’s win was his first for seven months, since he became the youngest ever champion after winning Rally New Zealand last October.

Rovanpera’s mesmerising drives raised the bar last year, creating an expectations of him. However, this year the game has changed. Toyota’s car advantage is not what it once was, as Hyundai has made developments while Ott Tanak has now given M-Sport a lift.

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

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Road position and misfortune have hampered Rovanpera at times this year, but there have been several flashes of the 2022 magic. The Finn also admitted he had been having “a hard time personally” since the end of last year, which if anything increases the magnitude of this victory.

Asked if it was a relief to win, he said: “Yeah, it has been a bit too long coming. But I knew when we got a clean weekend and a good drive we would be back in the game.

“Everything was like it should be with the car, so we were back on the game and pushing on. You always miss the feeling when you are not there, and it is nice to be back.”

Hyundai’s Dani Sordo put the performance into perfect context saying: “You feel like you’re driving an R5 car, in a different category,” when asked for his thoughts upon seeing Rovanpera’s times.

Honourable mentions: Dani Sordo/Candido Carrera, Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson and Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson

Portugal has proven to be a happy hunting ground for Hyundai’s Dani…

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