Why Rovanperä is so good in the rain

The championship leader reaches another level in wet conditions


Kalle Rovanperä looked a certain bet for victory on Rally Estonia on just the first full day of running. On Friday, in the mixed conditions, he appeared more comfortable than anyone else.

From the outside, it looked as though the Toyota driver was constantly pushing his GR Yaris Rally1 to extreme measures, but every time he was asked that question at the end of the stages, he looked puzzled.

He wasn’t pushing; he was driving well within his limits.

It’s clear Rovanperä has a knack for the rain, and it wasn’t just Friday’s running in Estonia that displayed it. This isn’t a one off.


In Croatia, in Portugal and in Kenya; every time it rains, Rovanperä soars. He’s on a different level. But none more so than the powerstage on Estonia’s final test.

The heavens began to open as WRC2 leader Andreas Mikkelsen took to the 9.91-mile Kambja 2 stage and, as others began to finish the test, it looked as though Mikkelsen might claim a first powerstage victory for a Rally2 car this year.

Nobody could get close until the final two cars set off. Up until that point, Esapekka Lappi had been Mikkelsen’s closest challenger, ending up 10.8 seconds down on the Škoda driver’s time.

But Evans scuppered everything for the WRC2 driver when he went fastest on the sodden stage, setting a time of 9m40.7s to beat Mikkelsen by 2.2s.


It appeared to be an incredible run from Evans, 13s faster than the next quickest Rally1 car. It was a great effort, even taking into account that the rain had eased.

Well it was, until Rovanperä took to the stage. When he entered the Kambja 2 test, he made the rest of the field look like amateurs.

He said he’d been taking it easy on Friday and at times when it rained Saturday, but did we believe him? Did we heck!

How wrong we all were. Deciding the powerstage was the time to let loose, Rovanperä slackened the reins on his Yaris, and threw caution to the wind.


The result was almost other-worldly. It was like he didn’t even register that standing water was present. He was like Jesus walking on top of it.

Despite the puddles and the precipitation, Rovanperä didn’t get bogged down. Instead, he just went faster and faster, eventually crossing the finish line as the quickest car, beating Evans by a whopping 22.5s.

It was simply incredible. There are no other words for it.

Everyone else going through that stage was on edge, frightened of making a mistake that could end their rally in an instant.


No doubt, the stakes were high. Everyone knew that they’d be playing a careful balancing act and it showed, it really did.

But not with Rovanperä. All the way through Kambja 2, he was just as relaxed as he had been at any other time of the rally.

He wasn’t stressed, he was just working with the conditions at play in a calm, considered manner and the result was devastating. Well, for his rivals that is.

It’s clear he loves the challenging conditions. It’s in those moments that he gets stuck in, and rather than back away from the challenge, he hits it head on, ready for the fight.


And it’s something he admitted to DirtFish’s Colin Clark after the rally.

“I’m actually just enjoying the challenge quite well,” Rovanperä explained.

“I can see in places I maybe do something differently.

“But yeah, of course, I think everybody tries to have their own ways to go and it seems that our way is quite a fast one to go.”


And faster his approach definitely is.

Comparing Rovanperä and Evans on that powerstage, it’s easy to see distinctive differences between the pair.

Firstly, within the cockpit, you can see Evans is tense. His shoulders are hunched, his eyes are on stalks and he is busy on the steering wheel, hustling the Yaris GR Rally1, forcing it to do what he wants.

But take a look at his team-mate and you’d almost be forgiven for thinking he might be out on a casual Sunday morning drive.

Rovanperä’s demeanor is completely different. He looks relaxed, at one with himself, and his input on the steering wheel is far more controlled and smoother.

It’s this approach that then allows Rovanperä to attack the corners harder and carry a considerable amount of additional speed through the apexes.

Evans took a slightly more cautious approach through many of the corners, taking the wet conditions into account, but Rovanperä just treated it like any other dry stage. He had the confidence to know the car would still do what he wanted it to and there was no fear of ‘what could go wrong’.


That’s where Rovanperä’s age and overall lack of experience might be playing into his hands.

He hasn’t had many occasions where he’s completely smashed his car up over the course of his World Rally Championship career, and therefore, the fear factor – or knowledge – of what could go wrong isn’t at the same level as it might be for someone like Evans.

They say as you get older, you get wiser and in some instances that’s true. But it also makes you more aware of the consequences, and right now, while nothing is going wrong, that doesn’t seem to be entering Rovanperä’s mindset.

What it is doing, is helping produce one of the greatest wet-weather rally drivers we’ve seen in a generation, and that’s something we should appreciate to the fullest while it lasts.