The term ‘home event’ in the World Rally Championship is always a curious one.
Whenever the WRC lands in Estonia, the talk is of Ott Tänak being at home. Likewise with Dani Sordo when we used to go to Spain, and similarly Elfyn Evans in Wales.
But are they actually home at all?
Yes they are competing in their native country, but that doesn’t make it home. This writer lives in Edinburgh and was born in the Scottish Borders 50 miles south. That doesn’t make Glasgow on the west coast of Scotland home, even if it’s just another 50 miles away.
But for Kalle Rovanperä and co-driver Jonne Halttunen, Rally Finland really is their home.
“It’s not just our home rally but it’s in our home town, so that makes it a bit different,” Halttunen explained.
“You have to find it special when you can race in your home town with these machines and with this guy, so I’m just waiting for it.”
Two Jyväskylä boys, on top of the world and on top form… expectation is high.
“Yeah of course, home feeling is always different; there is more excitement, there is more pressure of course,” Rovanperä admitted.
“It’s in a way a home event for our team also, so definitely Rally Finland is always a big thing.”
But, weirdly, Rally Finland isn’t the event on the WRC calendar which suits Rovanperä best.
Home ground it may be, but it’s not actually where the 22-year-old feels most at home.
Let’s take you back 10 days, July 22, and Rovanperä’s statement.
“This is absolutely, stages-wise, my favorite rally. Finland is nice but this one for me is better.”
Rally Estonia is Rovanperä’s happy place – and it shows in the results: winner the past three seasons, and leading in 2020 before a puncture.
So why? Why does Rovanperä feel more at home in neighboring Estonia than in what’s effectively his own backyard?
In situations like this it’s best to turn to an oracle of rallying like Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala.
“Every year of Rally Estonia he has been almost dominating,” Latvala told DirtFish.
“This rally suits him extremely well; this is like his home rally. He likes really this kind of surface and driving here makes also him very strong.
“But of course to be able to win all the stages per day, winning the powerstage, you need to also have some sort of special skills.”
No denial here! But let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. What specifically is it about Estonia that clicks for Kalle?
“Rally Finland is more difficult to win for Kalle than this one. Why? There is a couple of things,” Latvala began.
Kalle has been doing more rallies in these kind of Baltic conditions compared to Finland rally roadsJari-Matti Latvala
“First of all the surface is different in Finland – it’s more packed, it’s harder. Here it’s more sandy, it’s softer, you don’t have so many ditches so you have a bit more feel so the exit is a bit easier.
“You can push, let’s say, over the corners – not all the time but in some places. In Finland it’s more difficult because you have the ditches all the time on the side. And then I think the grip level, being first car on the road, if it’s very warm conditions can be worse.
“So that is where I base the difference that why it’s more difficult and also Kalle, the experience he has, he has been doing more rallies in these kind of Baltic conditions compared to Finland rally roads.”
A very shrewd point, as Rovanperä’s career began in Estonia and Latvia – not Finland. In fact, excluding his trips to Finland with the WRC he has only ever done seven rallies in his country of birth.
So Finland may be Rovanperä’s home country, but in rallying terms?
Not that should stop him from winning though, even if Rovanperä himself has talked down his chances.
“I still believe that Kalle has… I mean, he is capable of winning, but it will be harder in Finland,” Latvala concluded.
“I think Ott wants to win very much; he is very strong in Finland. Esapekka won Finland ’17 and hasn’t won a rally since that so he also wants to win. So I think in Finland what I mean is the competition is going to be harder and more challenging than over here [in Estonia], I would say.
“It was a great battle, but let’s say Kalle was dominating but I think that domination is more difficult in Finland.”