Kalle Rovanperä’s hopes of a strong result on his home event in the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship were lost when he crashed out and into a sand-pile on Secto Automotive Rally Finland on Saturday morning.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT driver had been disappointed with his form on his 21st birthday during Friday’s six tests, but appeared to be gaining in confidence during the early stages of the second leg. Rovanperä set the second fastest time on the 13.49km Arvaja test, 1.7 seconds down on in-form team-mate Elfyn Evans – only to lose control on the following stage.
The Finn crashed 3.6km into the 20.55km Patajoki stage, his Yaris snapping left, then shooting right and thumping into a mound of gravel nose-first. The impact caused heavy damage to the front of his Toyota Yaris WRC and Rovanperä was out. He had started the stage in fourth place, 18.6s behind Evans.
Later in the day, Rovanperä confirmed that he and co-driver Jonne Halttunen were uninjured in the impact. “It was just a really simple corner, the left one,” he told WRC.com’s All Live service. “The ditch pulled us sideways. I had two options: to brake or try to save it. I tried to save it and hit the sand-pile.”
The mound was situated in front of a telegraph pole. “Actually the pole would have been knocked down, there would have been less damage,” he said when it was suggested the sand had saved him from a bigger accident.
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT is assessing the damage and a decision on whether Rovanperä will return to action on Sunday’s final leg has yet to be taken.
Expectations for Rovanperä to challenge for victory on home soil had been high, but he denied he’d been affected by the pressure. But a frustrated fifth overnight after the first day of competition, behind countryman Esapekka Lappi who is driving a privately-run RTE-Motorsport Yaris this weekend, wasn’t the birthday present he had been hoping for.
He moved back ahead of Lappi on the Kakaristo-Hassi stage that kicked off leg two on Saturday morning, but his accident three tests later handed the honour of leading Finn in the rally’s 70th anniversary year back to the 30-year-old.