The reality of competing at home in the WRC

Jonne Halttunen lives just seven minutes from his hotel for Rally Finland


What’s seven minutes from your front door?

The local grocery store? A library perhaps? Maybe it’s a point of natural beauty.

Bet it’s not your home round of the World Rally Championship, though.

World Rally champion Jonne Halttunen takes the meaning of ‘home event’ to a whole new level each year he tackles Rally Finland alongside his driver, Kalle Rovanperä.

“First of all it’s quite funny to come home because I’m seven minutes drive and I live at the hotel just next to my place, so that’s something,” Halttunen told DirtFish.

But he won’t be staying at home.


“No, no,” he confirmed.

“We have to be in this, let’s say, rally bubble, because all of our team we are working together, we have driver assistant people and everything we are all staying in the same hotel.

“Plus we have to watch videos with Kalle and do stuff so we have to be in the same place.

“It also helps you to concentrate more that you are not at home because at home you could watch Netflix or do something normally, but it’s just a part of the rally routine and for me it actually works well that you are outside of home.”

Which leads onto an intriguing point, because competing at home presents more challenges than you might think.

Usually when it comes to home events, all the chatter is about how local knowledge will benefit and boost competitors – particularly drivers.

But Halttunen says being on home ground can actually disrupt your natural rhythm a little bit.

“To be a local here it’s a bit difficult,” he explained.

“Let’s say if you go to Chile or Argentina or anywhere the rallies, you have to make a lot of preparation just to get super-focused that now you go there, now you are in a rally, whereas here you know everything and it’s actually easier to even make a mistake, take a wrong route to stage or something.

“You have to actually check quite a lot and you don’t go by memory or something.

“But I’ve been living here for all my life so this is quite familiar. I’ve been rally fan since like three years old so it’s nice.”

To win Rally Finland would feel sensational then. But just like Rovanperä, Halttunen realizes their strong championship lead, coupled to their handicap of running at the front of the field if it stays dry, could make a home win difficult this weekend.

“Well it’s actually like Kalle says,” Halttunen said.

“It’s a bit sad that the situation is like that but anyway we have to play the long game.

“For sure we’ll try but I’m pretty sure he’s not going to take the last push like maybe EP [Esapekka Lappi] is going to take, maybe Ott [Tänak] is going to take because they have not so much to lose at the moment.

“For sure we cannot take the same risks but I’m pretty sure he will do everything he can in the limits what we can take and push.”

Halttunen ‘never been more scared’ than last weekend

Rovanperä and Halttunen clocked some useful mileage on the HYACenter Ralli in the Tampere region of Finland on Saturday – the pair coming out on top by 11.6 seconds over team-mates Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin.

Halttunen believes contesting that event “for sure helped a lot and also the drivers get the confidence from this kind of condition”, but added “it was so extreme what we had there I hope we are not going to get that much rain because it was quite terrible”.

He continued: “I said to Kalle I have never been so scared in my life in a rally car than I was the whole rally.

“The speeds were so high and it was so slippy and all the time huge moments because there was just mud everywhere and just a full water slides all the time, so it wasn’t so enjoyable.”

Screenshot 2023-07-31 at 11.38.00

They did at least create a moment of magic though with an already-famous picture over one of the Savo stage’s jumps where Rovanperä had the car crossed up over the crest.

Was that intentional?

“Well, it went well so I guess it was a part of the plan,” Halttunen smiled, “but he changed the line for the second loop so I don’t know if it was fully intentional.

“He knew what he was doing but the landing was actually quite heavy because we landed a bit sideways, so it always bangs your head a bit to the seat.

“But it was fine and it’s a nice stage. It would be nice to do it in a WRC event sometime, maybe as a powerstage. That would be cool.”