Latvala victorious on Rallylegend return

Kalle Rovanperä also took part in the San Marino based event

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Jari-Matti Latvala and Esapekka Lappi’s co-driver Janne Ferm were among the winners at last weekend’s showpiece Rallylegend event in San Marino.

First run in 2003, Rallylegend has become a major fixture on the international rally calendar as it brings together some of the most eclectic cars and drivers from years gone by.

Toyota’s World Rally Championship team played a starring role at this year’s edition with team principal Latvala competing alongside Ferm in a Celica ST165, while Kalle Rovanperä made his first public appearance since winning the world title.

But as much as Rallylegend is about gawping at cars and meeting the stars, there is a competitive element to the event as well and Latvala, competitive as ever, prospered in the classic category; holding off Denis Piceno’s Subaru Impreza and Simone Romagna’s Lancia Delta Integrale.

“When I came to Rallylegend, a decade ago, I thought I was in a unique and original event. Today it has become a big rally party also and I am happy to have been here again,” Latvala said.

Rovanperä was the main attraction though, swarmed by fans all longing for an autograph or a selfie. He even received a pair of driving boots that Colin McRae wore during the 1995 season from the McRae family themselves – a poignant moment given two weeks earlier Rovanperä had succeeded McRae as the youngest ever World Rally champion.

He wasn’t just in town for fun though, Rovanperä was of course behind the wheel and competed in Latvala’s other Celica, the ST185.

“I’m especially happy that Kalle was driving my car,” Latvala added. “The new world champion driving my car over here, I’m proud of that and also really proud that he came here.

“He has this passion for the cars and the driving, and all these people I think wanted to see him and we saw so many people coming over.”

Rovanperä was at his entertaining best, but perhaps the most special moment of his weekend was taking to the stages in tandem with his father Harri who was driving an ex-Tommi Mäkinen Subaru Impreza WRC.

Rallylegend was an event Rovanperä Jr admitted “I have always wanted to do” and it more than lived up to his expectations.

“They told me Rallylegend was a beautiful and an entertaining event. Now, I can say that it is much more beautiful and entertaining than I imagined,” he said.

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“The atmosphere, the fantastic public, the wonderful cars, the great passion for rallies… I have never been to such an amazing event.

“This event is only for the fans, so it’s really nice. Even though we are on Tarmac we are using gravel tires just to make big slides and enjoy.

“The fans are the best here, Italian fans are always so passionate and crazy, so hopefully we gave a good show for them.”

Latvala and Rovanperä were far from the only WRC legends present at Rallylegend. Juha Kankkunen, Miki Biasion, Markku Alén, Jimmy McRae, Malcolm Wilson and Tony Fassina were also in attendance, and most of them took part in demonstrations.

“Rallylegend found the embrace of an immense audience, to whom we wanted to offer an unforgettable event. We hope to have achieved our goal; together with a tireless staff we have worked hard for many months,” said organizers Paolo Valli and Vito Piarulli.

“The comments of many fans who are happy to be here in San Marino, the amazement and compliments of champions and VIP such as Renè Arnoux, Kalle Rovanpera, Arturo Merzario, Malcom Wilson, who did not know the atmosphere, the passion and the enthusiasm circulating at Rallylegend, make us understand that we organized a really great show.”

Simone Brusori won the historic category in a Porsche 911, Mauro Argenti dominated the heritage class in a similar machine while Luca Pedersoli triumphed in the WRC section with his Citroën DS3 WRC.