With a factory drive and a huge FIA World Rally Championship lead, Kalle Rovanperä is the man who seemingly has it all. But there is something missing: a victory on home soil.
It’s no surprise that Rovanperä is the hottest property in the sport right now. He’s achieved more during three years in rallying’s top-flight than many drivers do in their entire careers – and he’s only 21 years of age.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing driver is on fine form and, with five wins already this season, arrives at Secto Rally Finland (4 – 7 August) with a massive 83-point advantage. The truth is, he doesn’t need to score big this week – but he’d certainly like to.
Esapekka Lappi was the last Finn to win on home soil in 2017 but, since then, local celebrations have proved elusive.
Rovanperä would like nothing better than to end that dry spell on Sunday – especially as he crashed out of contention in 2021.
“It’s always really exciting to come to Finland,” he admitted. “For the Finnish drivers, it’s the best event of the season – and an important one.
“I don’t think it brings more pressure. It’s more of an excitement boost with high hopes and high feelings before the rally and you know the atmosphere will be great, so you can always enjoy that.”
Cars frequently top 200kph on rollercoaster roads amid the forests and lakes of central Finland. Stomach-churning jumps and blind crests mean pace notes must be perfect and delivered with pinpoint accuracy by hard-working co-drivers.
With rain predicted to fall at this eighth round, damp tracks and low grip on slippery gravel are just some of the hazards drivers may face.
“It looks like it can rain at some point,” Rovanperä explained. “Being the first car on the road on Friday, I wouldn’t mind a bit of a damp road – it could be good for us.”
The Toyota team is based just outside Jyväskylä and remains undefeated at the rally since the Japanese manufacturer returned to the sport in 2017. Last year’s winner Elfyn Evans will also drive a GR Yaris car alongside Lappi and Takamoto Katsuta.
Hyundai Motorsport trails Toyota by 87 points in its hunt for the manufacturers’ title and needs strong performances from its hybrid-powered i20 N trio of Thierry Neuville, Ott Tänak and Oliver Solberg.
Craig Breen – twice a podium finisher in Finland – leads M-Sport Ford’s attack. He is joined by Adrien Fourmaux, Gus Greensmith and Pierre-Louis Loubet, while home hero Jari Huttunen completes the five-car Puma line-up on his top tier debut.
The rally starts in Jyväskylä on Thursday evening and returns for the finish on Sunday afternoon after 22 speed tests covering 322.61km.