Harri Rovanperä to make rallying comeback in Mexico

Rovanperä, winner of the inaugural Rally México, will come out of retirement for Rally of Nations this April

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One-time World Rally Championship event winner Harri Rovanperä will make his first rally start in seven years on this year’s Rally of Nations Guanajuato event on April 1-3.

Rovanperä, father of current Toyota factory driver Kalle Rovanperä, won the inaugural Rally México in a Peugeot 206 WRC, when it ran as a candidate event for future inclusion into the WRC calendar.

Two decades on from that win Rovanperä will be back in Mexico, taking on the rally in a yet-to-be-specified car while representing Finland in the nations-based format.

His last rally appearance was at Rallylegend in a 206 WRC back in 2014.

That rally was not so long for me. I retired 200 meters before the first stage. Harri Rovanperä on his previous Rally of Nations outing

Thanks to his car advantage back in 2002 Rovanperä won by almost an hour over Carlos Izquierdo’s Group N Mitsubishi Lancer. He doesn’t expect a repeat in 2022.

“It would be nice if I could win this rally by the same gap I won the first time!” said Rovanperä.

“Of course, in 2002, we were driving in a different car to our rivals – I’m sure the competition will be a lot more close this time.”

Rovanperä also conceded his Mexico return was definitely a one-off, admitting a ride-along with his son in the last generation of WRC cars was not as fun as it had been cracked up to be.

“Kalle did take me for a ride in his Yaris WRC a couple of years ago in Finland. I didn’t want to go. I hate this co-driving business, but Kalle and all of the team are all telling me: ‘You must go!’ They were pushing me into the car. I went and I hated it. This is Kalle’s business now, not mine.”

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It’s not the first time Rovanperä has returned to Mexico after his retirement from full-time competition in 2006. He showed up again in 2009 in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX but retired before even turning a wheel in anger.

“That rally was not so long for me,” he said. “I retired 200 meters before the first stage. I was warming the tires when a steering arm broke or something broke in it.

“It was really disappointing, but I guess it would have been worse: I might have been 500 meters into the first stage in a very fast section when it broke. Like I said short rally. I hope this time is longer.

“I said this already, but now, driving… it’s not my business. But when Gilles [Spitalier, Rally of Nations manager] is calling and talking about Rally of Nations again, no problem. Gilles and the team in Mexico, they are like family and that’s why I go to drive there again.”