Rovanpera Sr, a former factory SEAT, Peugeot and Mitsubishi WRC driver, was stage-side to witness his 20-year-old son Kalle score a record breaking win at Rally Estonia in style.
A WRC winner himself in 2001, Rovanpera was in tears at the finish having overseen Kalle’s rise up the rally pyramid to become a genuine challenger in rallying’s top tier.
Kalle Rovanpera joined the WRC’s top-flight last year with Toyota after winning the 2019 WRC2 title as an 18-year-old.
“It has been an incredible weekend. I can’t keep talking because I will cry all the time,” said Harri Rovanpera following Kalle’s triumph.
“It is wonderful after four bad events, but that [win] came at the right time. All the time you have to stop [on events] that is very disappointing, But now everything is changing I hope by the end of the season.
“I don’t know how my heart is still working, it was very hard [to watch],” he added when asked what it was like watching Kalle’s progress from the sidelines.
In contrast to his father, Kalle was far from a bundle of nerves and instead delivered a calm drive on Sunday, after initially hitting the front on Friday, before establishing a commanding lead on Saturday.
The victory was set up by a remarkable drive on Saturday’s opening stage that has been described as the one of the performances of the season, after the Finn was 10s faster than his nearest rival on stage Ott Tanak.
Reflecting on the achievement, Kalle admitted it was special to claim the youngest-ever winner record from now Toyota WRC boss Jari-Matti Latvala, whose record stood since winning in Sweden for Ford in 2008, aged 22.
“The feeling was nice in the car and I didn’t feel much pressure, it was quite calm in the car, it was enjoyable,” said Kalle Rovanpera.
“For sure when we finished it was a really big relief and you finally get the win and you feel the pressure releasing a bit, so for sure that is a nice feeling.
“It is something special but it is not something I think about much, all these records. But of course it was nice when Jari-Matti came to say to me that he wanted me to be the guy that is taking his record from him, so for sure that means something to me.
Asked if he shed any tears he replied, “I don’t think so, I think dad [Harri] was doing that part quite well.”
Toyota team principal Latvala believed Rovanpera’s first win was due this year and is happy to concede his WRC record to his young gun recruit.
“Looking at the performance of Kalle already at the end of 2020 you could feel that it was coming,” said Latvala.
“I said at the start of this season there would be two events where Kalle had a high chance of taking the victory at Arctic Rally Finland and Rally Estonia.
“After four quite demanding rallies for Kalle I think his motivation was 120 per cent and the passion to get your first victory you could see, he was very committed from shakedown onwards.
“I’m really pleased to see his victory and I was really happy he was breaking my record as we can keep the Finnish tradition of youngest ever winners in the WRC.”