Monday | 19 Jul 2021

Record-breaking Kalle: the WRC’s king of cool

Kalle Rovanperä is not prone to big shows of emotion. He doesn’t deliver headline grabbing quotes and prefers to let his driving inside his Toyota Yaris do the talking for him.

So, when he crossed the finish line of Rally Estonia’s closing Wolf Power Stage on Sunday afternoon to become the youngest driver to win an FIA World Rally Championship round, the 20-year-old Finn, of course, retained his cool.

Words of congratulations were swapped with celebrating co-driver Jonne Halttunen and his Toyota Gazoo Racing team in the Tartu service park close by and, when pressed for his reaction on the podium, he admitted the victory was ‘quite good’.

That was upgraded to ‘really, really good’ later on. But the first of the WRC’s newest generation to climb onto the top step of the podium left the emotions to father Harri, who was wiping away tears of pride behind his black sunglasses.

It’s not to say that Kalle doesn’t care. Of course he does. He has been working for this moment ever since he first jumped behind the wheel of a car at junior school age and displayed amazing control at the wheel on a video that became an instant hit on social media.

It’s just that the Estonian-domiciled Finn is the king of cool.

Even as the victory drew ever closer as he and Halttunen counted down the special stages in Sunday’s final leg, the atmosphere inside their Yaris stayed somewhat more acceptable then the scorching temperatures that graced this rally.

“I think today was just trying to drive with some pace to enjoy the driving and not to have any silly mistakes if you slow down too much. It went quite well,” he acknowledged afterwards.

“The feeling was nice in the car, it was surprising but I didn’t feel so big pressure or anything. It was quite calm in the car all the time so it was enjoyable.

“For sure when we finished then it was a really big relief when you finally get the win and you feel the pressure releasing a bit. Of course, it’s a really nice feeling at that point and it feels good.”

The win gave Finnish fans something to celebrate. This was the country’s 180th WRC success and Rovanperä became the 16th driver from the spiritual home of rallying to carve his name onto the WRC rally winners’ board.

Finns now hold the top four places in the youngest winners’ list. Rovanperä claimed the accolade from his Toyota Gazoo Racing boss, Jari-Matti Latvala. Behind comes Latvala’s own hero, the late Henri Toivonen, and Markku Alén

Rally Estonia event highlights

But a Finn has not won a world drivers’ title since Marcus Grönholm triumphed in 2002. Rovanperä is the country’s great hope to put a stop to that run.

Not that the man himself is making any outlandish predictions. He leaves that to others.

“It’s a long way to go with the experience, we don’t have it so much. I think we just have to continue the same way, driving well and having clean races and more podiums,” he said.

Just what we expected.

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