- April 08, 1966
- Not Active
- Peugeot, Seat, Mitsubishi, Red Bull Škoda
Harri Rovanperä is a Finnish rally driver who recorded 111 starts in the World Rally Championship between 1993 and 2006. He scored fifteen WRC podiums and scored only one victory, at 2001 Swedish Rally, but he was a member of Peugeot Total team which captured two Manufacturers' titles in 2001 and 2002. Besides driving for Peugeot, he was also a member of three other WRC teams - Seat Sport, Mitsubishi Motors and Red Bull Škoda.
Born in Jyväskylä, home of 1000 Lakes Rally
Harri Rovanpera was born on April 8, 1966, in Jyväskylä, Finland. His hometown is a hosting city of the Rally Finland (1000 Lakes Rally), so Harri had his rallying debut in that famous WRC event in 1993. He was driving Opel Manta, with Risto Pietiläinen as a navigator. They didn't finish the rally due to technical problems. In the following years, Rovanpera spent most of a career with Pietiläinen in codriver's seat. His other co-drivers were Juha Repo and Voitto Silander.
In 1994, Rovanpera returned to 1000 Lakes Rally with Mitsubishi Gallant VR-4, finishing 12th overall and third in the Production WRC category. With the same car, he participated in two Finnish rounds of the European Rally Championship.
Participating in the Finnish and British rally championships
Rovanpera's next car was Opel Astra GSi 16V. It was a Class A7 car and he won the 1995 Finnish championship title in that class. At the wheel of Astra, Rovanpera also competed for the first time outside Finland, participating at Pirelli International Rally in the UK.
Next year, in 1996, he spent most of the season in the UK, driving Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III and Ford Escort RS 2000 in the British championship. He was the winner of Perth Scottish Rally, with Juha Repo as navigator. At the end of the year, Rovanpera participated in the Network Q RAC Rally with factory-entered Seat Ibiza GTi 16V. The rally was a part of the 2-Litre World Championship.
Harri joined Seat Sport in the 1997 WRC season
In 1997, Rovanpera became Seat Sport's full-time driver both in the World Rally Championship and British championship. He was driving Seat Ibiza GTi 16v or Seat Ibiza Kit Car, with Voitto Silander as a co-driver. They scored seven A7 class victories in WRC events. Their best overall result was 8th place at Rally Argentina.
In 1998, Rovanpera was driving Ibiza GTi 16V Evo2 in eight WRC events, helping Seat Sport to win its third consecutive 2-Litre championship title. During a season, Rovanpera reunited with his original navigator Risto Pietiläinen and they stayed together until the retirement.
World Rally Car debut at 1998 Rally Finland, podium at Rally GB
In August 1998, at Neste Rally Finland, Rovanpera debuted in the #9 Seat Cordoba WRC. He finished in the 11th place. Until the end of the season, he participated in three more events with brand-new WRC machine of the Spanish manufacturer. His best result was sixth place at Rally GB.
In 1999, Seat Sport's first full season with World Rally Car, Rovanpera reached his maiden WRC podium. It was in the season's finale at Rally of Great Britain, where he finished in the third place with #9 Seat Cordoba WRC Evo 2. He shared a podium with Richard Burns and Juha Kankkunen. Earlier in the season, he was scoring points at Safari Rally, Rally Finland, China Rally and Rally Australia. At the end of the season, he finished ninth in the championship points.
In 2000, Rovanpera participated in only two WRC events with Seat Cordoba WRC Evo 3, finishing 12th at Rallye Monte Carlo and 10th at Rally GB. He was driving his own Toyota Corolla WRC in two more events, scoring a podium at Rally Finland, where he finished third, behind Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm and Ford's Colin McRae.
Victorious debut with Peugeot, maiden WRC victory at 2001 Swedish Rally
In 2001, Rovanpera joined Peugeot Total team to help to defend Manufacturers' championship title. His teammates were reigning world champion Marcus Gronholm in the #1 Peugeot 206 WRC and Didier Auriol in the #2 car. As gravel and snow specialist, Rovanpera was sharing the #16 Peugeot 206 WRC with asphalt specialist Gilles Panizzi.
Rovanpera scored a victory in his first race with Peugeot, at 2001 Swedish Rally, beating Mitsubishi's Thomas Radstrom and Ford's Carlos Sainz. It turned to be Rovanpera's only WRC victory in a career. Later in the season, he scored four more podiums – Acropolis Rally (3rd), Safari Rally (2nd), Rally New Zealand (3rd), Rally GB (2nd). Peugeot Total defended Manufacturers' title, Rovanpera finished fifth in drivers' standings. It remained his career-best result.
Champion of the Champions at Gran Canaria
The season 2001 will be also remembered by Rovanpera's triumph at annual Race of Champions which took place in December at Gran Canaria. He won the individual event, taking home the Henri Toivonen Memorial Trophy and earning the title of Champion of Champions. In the final, he was better than German driver Armin Schwarz.
2002 - one more championship title with Peugeot
In 2002, Rovanpera had a similar status in Peugeot Total team, as gravel and snow rally specialist in the #3 Peugeot 206 WRC, which he shared with Gilles Panizzi. When not competing in the #3 Peugeot, Rovanpera was driving 206 WRC for Bozian Racing.
His first podium of the season came at Swedish Rally, then three more at Safari Rally, Rally New Zealand and Rally Australia. At the end of the season, Peugeot was celebrating a double triumph, taking Manufacturers' title and Drivers' championship for Marcus Gronholm. Rovanpera finished seventh in the points.
Two more WRC seasons with Peugeot
Rovanpera spent two more seasons with Peugeot. In 2003, he retained a status of the third driver together with Gilles Panizzi. His best result was second place at Cyprus Rally.
In 2004, when the Peugeot 307 WRC was introduced, Marcus Gronholm was still the leading driver while Rovanpera was sharing the second car with Freddy Loix. Rovanpera scored two podiums – third place at Acropolis Rally and second place at Rally Australia. He finished 8th in the championship points.
2005 - leading driver of Mitsubishi's WRC team
For the 2005 WRC season, Rovanpera joined Mitsubishi Motors to drive the #9 Mitsubishi Lancer WRC 05 along Gilles Panizzi and Gigi Galli in another car. It was the longest WRC season ever for Rovanpera, as he competed in all 16 rounds as the leading Mitsubishi's driver.
After being among point-scorers nine times, he finally reached a podium in the last event of the season, at Rally Australia. He finished second, behind Citroen's Francois Duval. It was the last WRC podium in a career for Harri Rovanpera.
Last WRC season with Red Bull Škoda
Mitsubishi withdrew from the championship at the end of 2005, so Rovanpera had to find a new team. He made a deal with Red Bull Škoda to drive the #11 Fabia WRC in six WRC events. His best result was 9th place at season-closing Wales Rally GB. It was his last WRC race in a career.
After closing his WRC career at the age 30, Rovanpera participated occasionaly in some historic rally events or rally shows, such are Legends Boucles de Spa, Historic Omloop Van Vlaanderen or Rallylegend in Italy.
Today, his son Kalle Rovanperä (born 2000) is a new rising star of world rally. It's interesting that Kalle's navigator was also Risto Pietiläinen.