It’s been talked about a lot lately – how long will Kalle Rovanperä’s career last?
Reaching the heights of becoming a world champion at such a young age naturally led to curiosity about career longevity. Age is on his side in a way it’s never been for any other driver.
On paper, the same applies to his navigator Jonne Halttunen. Yes, he’s 36 years old – and turning 37 in December – but looking at the pantheon of great co-drivers, history suggests he could keep going for at least a decade.
So, what about Halttunen? We know Rovanperä isn’t really bothered about chasing down the records set by Sébastiens Loeb and Ogier – he’s said as much.
His co-driver is a bit less dismissive of such a notion but believes chasing down the records set by Daniel Elena and Julien Ingrassia in the passenger seat is simply beyond reach.
“These guys, they are legends for me,” Halttunen told DirtFish. “I appreciate them hugely. But the amount of titles they have, it’s quite a bit.
“For sure, to say that we’re going to chase their titles, that is something extraordinary because what they have done is not normal that you win eight or nine titles. That’s something massive.
“Let’s say that we just try to be there all the time, be motivated and focused on what we do, and I think the results will hopefully also come and let’s see what happens.
“But I’m not thinking about breaking any records at the moment at least. It’s so, so far away. I’m happy with the first title!”
Here’s the thing, though: It’s not just the rally drivers that are a competitive bunch. So too are the navigators. Wave the right carrot in front of them and they’ll chase it.
DirtFish points out a statistic that’s not quite as far away as Elena and Ingrassia’s benchmarks: Finnish co-drivers with the most world titles. That record sits at three, held jointly by Seppo Harjanne (1985, 1996, 1997) and Juha Piironen (1986, 1987, 1991).
Being the most successful Finnish co-driver in rally history? Now that’s tempting.
“Four times would be nice!” Halttunen replies. “If I had to say some target, maybe that would be it. I don’t know if we could do it but that does sound nice.”
That, of course, leads to the question – can they do it four times?
If Rovanperä were to follow the example set by the two Sébs, he’ll be around for approximately seven more seasons full-time to make it a full decade at the top level.
“Seven years sounds like a long time, for sure,” said Halttunen.
“If Kalle will do rallying until 30, after he started at 20, yes, so that sounds like quite a lot. But I think that’s close to something he could do. And then he’s still quite young and he can do whatever he wants.
This is very exciting; it's something that I like to do and something I like to do with KalleJonne Halttunen
“It’s exciting for sure now when we are doing well. For sure we still have a lot of room to improve. Kalle is not the final version of himself yet, he’s still getting better and better. And I try to be better and better all the time.
“This is very exciting; it’s something that I like to do and something I like to do with Kalle.
“Also, now, in Toyota, I don’t know how it is in other teams, but the spirit inside the team is just so nice. All the drivers are friends together. We are sharing all the information. It’s really nice to be there.”
Rovanperä’s interests outside of rallying are clear – he loves drifting, to the point he’s already competed at the highest level of the discipline in Europe. And with his talent, sideways moves into other forms of motorsports would certainly be within reach.
But Halttunen? He’s in this for the long haul. No matter what happens, he’s planning to stick around in the WRC for a very long time to come: “I don’t know what I’d do, something else I would also enjoy, at all.
“I like the competing side of this sport, so for sure I feel I can continue let’s say, seven or 10 years or whatever.”
It looks like Halttunen will have plenty of opportunity to catch Harjanne and Piironen, then.