It was a cold and icy night when on Thursday the crews headed out from the city centre of Gap to the first special stage in the French Alps. Finnish youngster Kalle Rovanperä and co-driver Jonne Halttunen got caught during the very first special stage. The ŠKODA FABIA R5 slid off the road into a ditch and even hit the car of Teemu Suninen, who had stranded in exactly the same place before. In the pitch-dark night, Kalle and Jonne had to carry out emergency repairs including replacement of two broken wheels. Due to a time loss of more than twelve minutes, they dropped down to last position on the leader board. After that, they had to drive another stage, but finally reached, thanks to the robustness of their ŠKODA FABIA R5, the service halt in Gap, where the mechanics repaired the car. “What a shame, but no excuses, it was my mistake,” confessed Kalle Rovanperä.
But giving up was not an option for the two Finns. On Friday morning, Kalle Rovanperä started a race to catch up. From there on, his mission was to bring the ŠKODA FABIA R5, which by now was again in a perfect condition, to the finish line in Monte-Carlo to collect championship points for the new WRC 2 Pro category. The first stage of the day had to be cancelled due to spectator masses no longer controllable by the marshals. But on stage 5, Rovanperä using two slick and two studded tyres in a so-called cross over configuration, was quickest amongst the field of R5 cars. “I got a good rhythm, the car feels okay and I am improving,” was his comment. The remaining two stages of the day were mostly dry, Kalle Rovanperä kept on improving all the time. “Today has been going quite well. We started carefully because of yesterday. I think everything has improved today – also the notes from our ice crew have been better,” was his comment. In the last special stage of the day, he set another quickest time amongst the R5 cars.
The Saturday leg started with another setback for Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen. During the longest stage of the rally, the 29.82 kilometres between Agnieres en Devoluy and Corps, they collected a puncture, which they had to change on the stage. The next special before the service halt brought unpredictable road conditions with a mix of ice patches and dry passages. Kalle Rovanperä had a clean run and set the same time as category leader Gus Greensmith before heading to the midday service in Gap. “There was a lot more ice than expected, and I had no studs left on my tyres,” Rovanperä said.
The afternoon saw the repetition of the two morning stages. Kalle Rovanperä was in a stunning form, again being quickest amongst the R5 crews and even setting the eighth fastest time in the overall classification.
On the final day of the rally, Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen again delivered a faultless performance and brought their ŠKODA FABIA R5 to the finish at the harbour of Monte-Carlo. ŠKODA Motorsport boss Michal Hrabánek commented: “Kalle and Jonne proved a great moral. The championship points they collected could make the difference for them at the end of the season!”
Final results Monte-Carlo (WRC 2/*WRC 2 Pro)
1. Greensmith/Edmondson (GBR/GBR), Ford Fiesta R5, 3:34:20.5 hours*
2. Bonnato/Boulloud (FRA/FRA), Citroën C3 R5, +51.9 sec.
3. Fourmaux/Jamoul (FRA/FRA), Ford Fiesta R5, +2:58.8 min.
8. Rovanperä/Halttunen (FIN/FIN), ŠKODA FABIA R5, +13:27.8 min.*
Current championship standings WRC 2 Pro (after one of 14 rounds)
1. Gus Greensmith (GBR), Ford, 25 points
2. Kalle Rovanperä (FIN), ŠKODA, 18 points
*WRC 2 Pro, which was introduced at Rally Monte Carlo, is a new category within WRC 2 exclusively for factory crews. Factory teams from ŠKODA, Ford and Citroën are registered for the WRC2 Pro championship, two crews made it to the finish in Monte Carlo.
Number of the day: 66
In their race to catch up after an accident during the first special stage of Rally Monte Carlo, ŠKODA factory crew Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen moved up from 84th to 18th position in the overall standings, improving 66 positions in the general classification.
The calendar of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2 Pro)
Great Britain 03/10/–06/10/2019