19-year-old Finn Kalle Rovanperä might be the new kid on the FIA World Rally Championship block, but he’s most certainly not new to this sport. Driving for Toyota Gazoo Racing in a Yaris WRC machine as a rooking in 2020’s WRC, he already has 66 rally starts to his name and 14 victories.
In last month’s season-opening WRC Rally Monte-Carlo, Rovanperä and co-driver Jonne Halttunen finished a promising fifth overall in their first competitive outing in a WRC rally machine. This weekend they’ll tackle a trying Rally Sweden, with weather and road conditions very much warmer and with less snow than essentially needed for a classic Rally Sweden.
Rovanperä spoke ahead of this week’s event: “I enjoy snow rallies a lot, so Rally Sweden should be a nice event for us. I think it should be easier for me than Rallye Monte-Carlo, but we will also need to push more to the limits there. Driving the Yaris WRC has been a lot of fun so far, and on snow it has been an amazing car to drive. We did the Arctic Rally in January in the Yaris and that was good preparation for us, but the conditions in Sweden could be tricky because there has not been so much snow, so we will have to see just how helpful it really was.”
In the Arctic Lapland Rally in early January, Rovanperä/Halttunen took a dominant victory in a teaser for this weekend’s Rally Sweden. And, let’s not forget that in WRC 2 Pro he claimed second place in this event last year behind the wheel of a Skoda Fabia R5 and in Finland’s 2018 national rally championship’s Vaakuna Ralli the youngster convincingly took the top step of the podium to show off his snow skills.
With a reduced schedule for the Rally Sweden due to the unseasonably warm temperatures and lack of snow, the event will take in eight stages over four days of intense action. Without snow banks and with hard ice for grip, the speeds will undoubtedly be higher than usual this year.
With his performance untested on dry surfaces in the top tier of rallying, but an impressive history in two-wheel drive and R5-spec vehicles, adjusting to the specialist skills on snow will be no match for the Finn. These are – essentially – the same sort of roads he has grown up on.
The Yaris WRC is a proven winner here having claimed two wins in the past three years. Rovanpera might not claim a victory on this event in 2020, but he most certainly has the talent to worry the established WRC crews.