Kalle Rovanperä's old head on young shoulders
Is Kalle Rovanperä the man to bring the title ‘home’?
Conventional wisdom dictates experience can be a deciding factor in the direction of the World Rally Championship title. Kalle Rovanperä doesn’t deal in conventional wisdom. While the 21-year-old Finn has only completed two years in the top-flight, he’s been a regular on the WRC scene since 2018. There aren’t many rallies he hasn’t seen. Experience of the events is one thing, it was limited seat time at the top level which hindered the son of former one-time World Rally winner Harri Rovanperä. Until now.
With so much more reliance on mechanical componentry rather than electronics and hydraulics, under ICE conditions the new cars are more representative of Rally2 technology. Nobody knows a Rally1 that much better than anybody else and Kalle’s only just over two years on from a two-year stint driving Skoda’s Fabia Rally2 at the absolute limit. Running mechanical differentials and a stick shift is going to come more naturally to him than his rivals.
Put that proposition to him and he gives it due consideration. “Maybe,” he says. “They’re going to need to be driven. For the championship, I don’t know. I have some more experience than last year, but still there are drivers with more than me.”
Like his father, Rovanperä’s not one for expansive comment. He finished last year’s championship fourth, with superb victories in Estonia and Greece balanced by silly mistakes in Croatia and Finland. He’s learned from those incidents and he comes to 2022 as a more rounded driver.
“He’s not 21,” his father Harri smiles. “When it comes to his maturity, he’s already in the middle of his thirties!”
That composure is something the team is aware of and why at Toyota Gazoo Racing there was never any doubt that he’s ready to run at the sharp end.
Finland’s ready too. For a nation which considers itself rally’s spiritual home, the last two decades have been hard to swallow. Can it be 20 years since Marcus Grönholm last won the drivers’ title? Kalle has the keys to make that change.