For the first time in his young World Rally Championship career, Kalle Rovanpera arrives at a WRC event leading the series. Toyota’s Finn has a four-point advantage over Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville ahead of this weekend’s Rally Croatia.
Rovanpera, and co-driver Jonne Halttunen, will open the road on Friday’s eight stages but the 20-year-old insists he is feeling no pressure heading into the WRC’s third round.
“I’m really happy with how the has season has started for me and hopefully we can carry on the same way,” said Rovanpera.
“I’m not feeling any pressure even though I’m leading the championship: It’s only been two rallies and we have a long season ahead.
“For sure it’s nice to be in this position but we have to work hard to try to stay in the fight.”
Rovanpera has taken world rallying by storm since his top-level debut in Monte-Carlo 15 months ago. Despite holding a podium position throughout February’s Arctic Rally Finland, Rovanpera struggled to hide his dissatisfaction with not challenging rally winner Ott Tanak.
A Power Stage win topped up his runner-up points allowing Rovanpera to jump to the head of the WRC standings.
Now on a less familiar asphalt surface, it is time for Rovanpera to prove his title credentials.
“I’m excited for Croatia: It will be the first time for me on a proper asphalt event with the Yaris, as so far I’ve only had events with winter conditions like Monza and Monte Carlo.
“I’m hoping that we can have dry weather like we did on the test.
“The stages look really nice, but if it’s raining, I think there will be a lot of mud on the road and that will be tricky.”
While Rovanpera won’t be expecting to find his maiden World Rally win in Croatia; a strong performance against the established title contenders will go a long way to show his talents stretch across all surfaces.
Photos courtesy of Toyota and Red Bull Content Pool