Behind the scenes with Finnish teenager as he targeted a debut home win.
Harri Rovanperä went into the Moksi stage of 2002’s Rally Finland leading the event. His hopes and dreams of victory on the world’s fastest rally were alive. Then they were gone. Along with the right-front wheel of his Peugeot 206 WRC.
The Rovanperä name disappeared for a while, but last week it returned to the Jyväskylä home of Finland’s biggest motorsport event. Sixteen years on from Harri’s game attempt at Finnish rallying immortality, he’s back in the city with his son, Kalle.
– Kalle’s different to most 17-year-old Finns. Due to his skills behind the wheel, he’s one of the youngest people in town with a driving license. Driving in Finland’s, not something you do until your 18 unless you get dispensation from the Finnish government.
– Last week was his first shot at Rally Finland and he was driving a factory Skoda Fabia R5 in the WRC2 category, the world championship’s crucial second tier.
– Dad, Harri, tried to give him some pre-race advice: “I talked to him before the event,” said Harri, “but he told me: “Dad, I know the plan. I know what I’m doing.”
– Kalle rocketed into the lead but as his advantage over his closest rival neared the minute mark, disaster struck with suspension failure. First became fourth.
– “Third or fourth,” said Kalle, “what does it matter? When I was leading for two days, I don’t really care if I’m third or fourth. I came here for the win. I thought I could do it and I knew I could do it when we started.”
– Harri knew the feeling. It took him back to the side of the road after an unlucky stage 13 in 2002. “A technical problem is so frustrating,” he said. “But the team knows this wasn’t Kalle’s fault. The good thing is that speed is really nice from him. He was fast, but he was safe and this is important. We didn’t talk much during the rally. I stayed at home and he stayed in the hotel with the team. I think he was OK when the problem came, but next morning he called me. I told him, “Kalle, I’m sorry.” He said: “It happens dad, shit happens.”
– The win didn’t come this year, but Harri believes that soon a Rovanperä will celebrate in Jyväskylä. Kalle will finish the job he started 16 years ago.
– “I am not surprised at the speed Kalle did on this rally,” said Harri. “These Finnish stages, they are not so easy and the other boys they have been driving these roads for so long time. It’s coming, absolutely I think the win is coming. I know my son, he only does things at 100 per cent. Next time.”
– Estonian Ott Tänak won the race, beating Mads Østberg into second. World Champion Sébastien Ogier finished fifth, with title rival Thierry Neuville in ninth.
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