The face was entirely familiar. It was the face of most parents sitting beside their 19-year-old son, feeling he might be driving a little bit too fast. But this was a different road. And a very different ride…
For the last decade, Kalle Rovanperä has done everything in his power to ensure he follows in his father Harri’s footsteps.
In July this year, Harri was keen to get out of the car and confirm that his son hadn’t just followed in his footsteps, he’d filled his boots and was busy making bigger steps than before. When father joined son for a run through the test stage in Finland in July, Harri’s reaction said it all.
“I don’t really like to ride like this,” said Harri. “Of course, it’s nice to see how quick Kalle is. But I didn’t enjoy the ride so much. I was a little bit afraid! I was looking for the brake all of the time, but he didn’t seem to use it so much.”
Listening in, Rovanperä Jnr. started to laugh.
“I like to take him in the car sometimes,” he said. “It’s funny.”
Funny or not, it’s more than 12 years since Harri first sat alongside Kalle to show him the ropes across a frozen Finnish lake.
“Kalle understood very early what is car control,” said the former Rally Sweden winner. “You could feel quickly that he has the balance for the car. He can feel the car and what it’s doing. OK, of course, early on there was some time in the snow banks and some small accidents, but really nothing.
“I asked my co-driver (Risto Pietiläinen) to sit with him and tell me what he thought. Risto’s feeling was the same, he has good talent and good speed. So we worked to take him to the car as early as possible.
“It was different for me. I was [in my] twenties when I was [rally] driving for the first time. He’s definitely starting earlier than me.”
Much of Rovanperä Jnr’s viewing of his father’s efforts came via YouTube.
“I don’t remember so much from him actually competing,” said the current Toyota Gazoo Racing star. “I was a really young kid when he was driving for Peugeot. But after that, I was watching some.
“I knew I wanted to drive early. For me, it was anything with an engine. It’s still the same. To start with, he (Rovanperä Snr.) would give me some ideas, but after that I was just driving all of the time.
“It’s good to have him with me on rallies now, I know he’s there for me to ask if I need something.”
And anything he asks, Harri will deliver. As long as it’s not as a co-driver…