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Tom Howard

Rovanpera’s main focus on WRC title bid, not beating Ogier to Safari win

The Toyota driver managed to cut into team-mate Sebastien Ogier’s lead on Saturday afternoon after starring in extreme wet conditions on the day’s final stage.

Ogier had extended his overnight lead to 32.0s heading into the final stage of the loop, but suffered a double front puncture and dropped 15.3s to Rovanpera, who won the test and trimmed Ogier’s lead to 16.7s.

Prior to his stage 13 effort, Rovanpera had maintained throughout Saturday that he was focused on just bringing the car home to ensure a solid championship points haul, with title rivals Thierry Neuville and Ott Tanak sitting sixth and ninth overall.

Looking ahead to Sunday final six stages, the Finn’s view hasn’t changed despite the gap to Ogier being significantly reduced.

“It was really a proper challenge out there [in the wet],” said Rovanpera. 

“When it rains here properly it is something different. It was a big job to keep the car on the road even on the straights.

"Tomorrow is still quite a tough day. It has probably the roughest stage of the rally in regards to stones and also we will have to prepare for fesh fesh [sand] tomorrow, and one section is quite bad.

“It is full job to just get through it. Let’s see what we can do.

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 (Photo by: Toyota Racing)

"Yeah of course we are a bit closer [to Ogier] but for sure it has to be a bit tighter I think.

“We will try to do what we can, but let’s see. The main thing is to get the points.”

Toyota boss Jari-Matti Latvala says he will remind all his drivers about the importance of finishing the rallying tomorrow, with the marque set for a back-to-back 1-2-3-4 in Kenya.

Elfyn Evans will start Sunday in third, 16.7s ahead of the fourth GR Yaris driven by Takamoto Katsuta.

In recent seasons Toyota has avoided deploying team orders while rivals Hyundai has been open with its policy of assisting number one driver Neuville this season.

Latvala has affirmed that team orders won’t be deployed to help Rovanpera.

“Going into tomorrow the gaps are not too big, but not so tight,” said Latvala. “All the drivers understand the risks on the final day and what can happen if you start to attack.

“I think all of them want to get to the finish now. Like we have said before, we don’t do team orders and of course I will remind them in the morning that we need to finish.

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 (Photo by: Toyota Racing)

“If you think of the bigger picture, Kalle will get good points for the championship compared to other drivers.

“Okay, if Sebastien wins, he is not driving the full championship. So in theory you could try to play with the positions, but what is the advantage?

“You will upset the drivers minds and then it will cause you more problems, that is what I believe if you do that.”

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