Rovanperä and Halttunen ready for “cool weekend”

The two world champions will both be driving this weekend - and in very special cars

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The only place to be on Friday night? Killeri trotting track on the outskirts of Jyväskylä. It’s going to be a blast from the past in so many ways. The main event? World Rally champion Kalle Rovanperä in the same Toyota Starlet that made him famous 14 years ago.

Fourteen years ago?

Don’t forget, he was only eight when he rocked our world with an astonishing display of car control.

But this week’s Jyväskylän Talviralli’s not just about Kalle and his Starlet (and it is very much the same Starlet), it’s about his father Harri driving an Audi quattro S1 at Killeri and, of course, Kalle’s co-driver Jonne Halttunen having a shot behind the wheel.

Oh, and there’s the small matter of the 150-strong entry for the third round of the Finnish Rally Championship.

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This week is indeed a very good week to be in Finland.

Halttunen agrees. Wholeheartedly. Stepping out of his first proper test aboard a beautiful Toyota Corolla GT to talk to DirtFish, you can almost feel the smile beaming out of the phone.

“I’m excited,” he said. “Honestly, I’m so excited. The car is so nice to drive. I’m not a rally driver, but even with my experience it feels super-easy.

“When Kalle and me were asked to drive this rally as course car, we were both quite thrilled. It’s going to be so much fun. We’re both from Jyväskylä, so to come back to the city and drive here is really nice. And I’m really happy to be doing it with Kalle as well.”

The feeling is mutual.


Rovanperä adds: “Having Jonne there driving will be something completely different. We both know a little bit the roads and the stages, so we can play a little bit – but it’s going to be nice to see some people out there watching as well. It will be nice to make a bit of a show.”

A bit of a show…

There’s precedent here. In August 1999, Colin McRae drove a Ford Focus WRC as course car on the Scottish Rally Championship round that took his name. Thousands turned up and from the opening stage – Windy Hill, over the road from Ae – onwards they watched one car, turned on their heel and ran to try to make the next stage. To watch one car.

This weekend is going to be the same. Except the fans? They’ll stay for two. Jonne’s first.

“Kalle is going to be starting five minutes behind me,” he said. “We calculated, I can lose 20 seconds per kilometer to him. I think I should be OK. At least they are not going to publish the times!”

Aspects of Halttunen’s approach to this weekend are, so far, the same as ever.

“We did the recce today,” he said on Thursday. “Kalle drove and I made the notes. But tomorrow I come back with my co-driver and we go over the notes again. Because we are not in the official rally, we can make more of the recce – I think we will pass the stage four times, so we don’t need to watch the [onboard] videos.”


The famous roads don’t stop at Killeri on Friday night. Saturday means the likes of Palsankylä and Moksi. Legends from 1000 Lakes past.

“It is kind of nostalgic to go back to those stages with these cars,” said Halttunen. “It’s kind of cool and really nice to be in these stages where, maybe we didn’t compete on them in Rally Finland, but we have tested there. Now we go with the snow…

“Kalle has been giving me lots of advice, telling me in places: ‘Don’t cut here, there are stones in this corner – but you can’t see them because of the snow.’ He’s been a big help. I know he’s looking forward to the event. He knows there will be a lot of people coming and he wants to make a nice show for them.

“It’s going to be a cool weekend.”

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And one heck of a way to wind back the clock.

“You know,” said Halttunen with a chuckle, “it was maybe 2013 or 2014 – I don’t remember. I was on a test road and we were sharing it with Kalle. He hadn’t done so much in the Baltics then, he wasn’t driving quite so much at that time. I watched him go up and down the road and I thought: ‘OK, this is a young guy who’s quite quick. Maybe he can be something in the future…’

“And, of course, like everybody, I watched the video of young Kalle in the Starlet. And now today, if you had told me this was coming, I would never have believed you. It’s an incredible story.”

And the world awaits the next chapter.

Bring it boys. Bring. It.