Every so often a pilot appears that leaves the whole environment with their mouths open. That is the case of the Finn Kalle Ronvaperä, who at only 17 years old seeks to have a place in the World Rally like his father did Harri in early 2000. The young man became famous at 8 when his dad filmed him doing pirouettes on an old Toyota Starlet. Although he could barely see through the windshield and reach the modified pedals with his toes, Kalle's skidding in the middle of the trees at his home in Jyvaskyla was a hit on YouTube.
“I don't remember much of that, it was very small. The truth is, I don't know how I had that connection to the car. When I was a child I drove all kinds of vehicles, quads, motorcycles, but I did not get behind the wheel of a car until I was seven years old. I don't know why it was so easy for me, I just did it. I have no explanation, from the beginning I felt comfortable with the car. After driving a rally model for the first time, I have not touched other racing vehicles again ”, says Kalle.
The world of competition was never strange to him. His father achieved some fame in the late 90s and early 2000s in the World Rally Championship as an official driver for Ford, SEAT, Peugeot and Skoda. However, he only won one competition: The 2001 Rally Sweden, four months before Kalle came into the world.
It was only at 13 that little Rovanperä decided it was time to stop doing crazy things with his father's cars and started racing for real. But since his young age prevented him from participating in races in his country, he decided to race in Latvia, where you do not need a driver's license to participate in rallies. “It was difficult to convince people that he could run and that he was good enough. I don't know what they thought of me at first, but then they saw that I more or less defended myself "recalls the young pilot.
However, he was only allowed to compete in the special stages with Risto Pietilainen, his father's old co-driver in the right seat. Still, Kalle won the single-wheel drive championship.
In 2015, at 14, he continued on the right track. He got into a Skoda Fabia R5 and his results were spectacular. He achieved five victories out of eight possible and was proclaimed champion with a 21,5-point advantage over Janis Vorobjovs, who was three times his age. “Latvia was really important to me. Before I had more or less control of the car, but everything else, how a rally works, everything you have to do and how to use the notes, I learned it there… ”. At the same time he had sporadic performances in Finland thanks to a special permit from the Federation of his country.
Those experiences opened the doors to the World Rally Championship. In the middle of last year the Toyota team, led by his compatriot Tommi Makinen, allowed him to test one of the Yaris WRCs. While he debuted in WRC2 thanks to Malcolm wilson, the boss of M-Sport. Shortly after his 17th birthday (he was born on October 2, 2001) he drove a Ford Fiesta R5 in the Wales Rally, the penultimate date of the 2017 tournament, although for that he first had to get a driver's license.
“I felt a bit pressured because a lot of things depended on getting the card. Above all, the participation in Wales. In the end everything was easy ”. He finished 15th in the category, a result that did not leave him satisfied. “I was not happy. The hardest thing was getting used to the new car. In addition, I put Michelin tires, tires that I had not used in five years. If you put all those things together, the challenge was difficult. I had to learn a lot as I went ”, summarized. As if that were not enough, the level of rivals was also high. “In a WRC event every guy is fast. But it is much better to face rivals of this size. It's good to get out of your comfort zone and go beyond your limits ”.
In 2018, Kalle Rovanperä will continue to build on WRC2 experience in anticipation of making the jump to the WRC. And because of his way of being and his talent, it won't be long before that happens.