Local hero bids for maiden Secto Rally Finland triumph.
With one world title already under his belt and a second FIA World Rally Championship crown edging ever closer, life is good for Kalle Rovanperä. But despite rewriting rallying’s history books on several occasions, the 22-year-old has never managed to win on home soil.
That’s exactly what Rovanperä is setting out to do this week when Secto Rally Finland’s (3 - 6 August) rollercoaster roads play host to round nine of the 13-stop global series.
The Toyota star arrives in his hometown Jyväskylä 55 points clear at the top of the standings and eager to continue his winning streak after dominating last month’s Rally Estonia on similarly high-speed terrain.
“There’s always more excitement and huge support from all the fans and I want to try my best to win it if we can,” he said. “At the same time, we have to be clever with the championship in mind, not to waste the lead that we’ve built.”
Cars frequently top 200kph on undulating gravel roads amid the forests and lakes of central Finland. The speed, big jumps and blind crests masking corners mean pace notes must be perfect and delivered with pinpoint accuracy by hard-working co-drivers.
The event marks a homecoming not just for Rovanperä, but for his entire Toyota Gazoo Racing squad. Based just outside the host city, the Japanese marque fields an additional GR Yaris car for team principal Jari-Matti Latvala.
Latvala, the most experienced driver in WRC, comes out of retirement to start his 210th WRC rally. Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda will oversee the team’s four-car entry, which also includes Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta.
“Rally Finland is always a special occasion for our team," Latvala said. “For me it’s going to be an extra-special feeling this year to get back behind the wheel on a WRC event, and my aim as a driver will be first and foremost to enjoy that experience.”
Esapekka Lappi, the last Finn to triumph on home soil in 2017, pilots an i20 N for Hyundai Motorsport. Joining him in the team is compatriot Teemu Suninen as well as Belgium’s Thierry Neuville, runner-up at the previous round.
Ott Tänak stood atop the Finland podium in 2022 and will be doing all he can to replicate that result after a time penalty dashed his chances of glory last time out. The Estonian drives a Puma for M-Sport Ford along with team-mate Pierre-Louis Loubet.
The rally gets under way in Jyväskylä on Thursday evening and finishes on Sunday afternoon after 22 speed tests covering 320.56km.