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When Harri met Kalle

When Harri met Kalle 01

Harri and Kalle have known each other for 16 years of course: the amount of time that Kalle has been on this earth. But this is the first time that they’ve sat down together to talk about their respective rally careers. Harri drove for some of the top teams from 1997 to 2005, starting and finishing his WRC career with Pirelli. Kalle has used Pirelli from the very start, adding the Italian Championship with Peugeot Italia to his busy programme this year. 

Harri, when did you first realise that Kalle had a special talent?
HR: “Round about when he was eight, but I never pushed him: it was something he wanted to do himself. So I got him an old Toyota Starlet to play around with on the frozen lake at home in Finland. Then he wanted to do this rallysprint junior event in Estonia when he was 10, and I could see straight away that he had this huge will to win. I thought to myself…OK, this could be interesting!”

Kalle, was driving something you always wanted to do, inspired by your dad?
KR: “I’m actually too young ever to have seen my dad driving during his career, so I don't think it really came from him. When I was little I always loved bikes and quad bikes and I think it just followed from that. I first drove a normal car when I was six, then I had my first go in a rally car when I was eight. And I loved it straight away.”

Harri, do you think Kalle can be quicker than you?
HR: “We’ve been talking about this for two years now: Kalle is saying to me ‘let’s go into the forest with the same car and see who is faster!’ But I’ve not been driving for 10 years: so maybe I will only accept the challenge if I can practise for one week first! Unfortunately, I think he’ll still be faster than me…”

Kalle, what do you think? 
KR: “We have to try, then we will know for sure! But it’s true that dad hasn’t been driving for a long time. On the other hand, when he was driving he was one of the very fastest drivers, so it would be interesting to see. Maybe one day he will agree to race me!”

When Harri met Kalle 02

Harri, is it easier or harder for young drivers now to get a chance than it used to be?
HR: “I’m not sure. In my case, it was a completely different story to Kalle: the first time I sat in a rally car I was 22. It was a terrible car too, so I’m very glad Kalle doesn't have to do the same shit I did! I think maybe it’s harder for kids to get a chance now, but also you can get these special licences in Latvia these days that didn’t exist when I was younger. In the end, it’s hard to compare different eras.”

Kalle, are you surprised by the way things have worked out? The whole rally world knows your name…
KR: “I’m more than surprised. I don’t think any of us expected this to happen when I first started to drive. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that it’s really happening, but in time you get used to it. I just want to drive though, I don’t care about the other things too much.”

Harri, Kalle is competing in Italy this year, doing the Italian Championship as well as the championships in Finland and Latvia. What are your own memories of rallying in Italy?
HR: “I only drove in Sanremo and Sardinia on the WRC. Sanremo was definitely the most difficult, as asphalt was always a tricky surface for me. One year I lost the brakes downhill and hit the mountain: that’s probably what I remember most! So, I have good memories and bad memories of Italy. Hopefully Kalle will have better ones.”

Kalle, is asphalt difficult for you too?
KR: “Yes, but Italy is the best place to learn as there are many different roads and conditions. I’m learning so much from Peugeot Italia and Pirelli this year; also from Paolo Andreucci, so thank you to him. Knowing how to get the best out of the tyres is really important and Pirelli has given me some fantastic opportunities to improve my driving.”

When Harri met Kalle 03

Harri, how far do you think Kalle can go in the sport? Will he become World Champion one day?
HR: “That’s down to him. I’m never pushing him to do anything; I’m just here to help and we’ll see what happens. So far, it looks like he has some talent….”

Kalle, you’ve been called the ‘Max Verstappen of rallying’. Have you met Max and do you like Formula 1®?
KR: “Yes I’ve heard that, although I’m not really a huge fan of circuit racing. I’d like to meet Max though: maybe he would let me drive his car? It would be fun to try once. He can have a go in mine, no problem!”

Harri, you drove the 206 WRC in the world championship, now Kalle is driving the 208 T16 R5 in Italy. How close do you think they are in terms of speed?
HR: “Quite close. The 206 WRC is more than 15 years old now, and while the engine is bigger with more torque; the suspension and tyres have become so much more advanced now that I’m sure there won’t be a big difference between R5 now, and WRC in my time.”

Kalle, what’s your ambition for the future?
KR: “Getting my driving licence: that way I can drive on the World Rally Championship! But I think that’s still two years away…”

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