Teenage rally prodigy Kalle Rovanpera is close to sealing a deal to drive an M-Sport entered Ford Fiesta R5 for his Wales Rally GB debut this year.
The 16-year-old has tested a Fiesta R5 and it is now understood he will likely drive an M-Sport car at this year’s Wales Rally GB and through next season.
Rovanpera was in M-Sport’s Greystoke forest facility on Thursday last week, where he drove the car Pierre-Louis Loubet used on Rally Finland last month. M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson attended the test alongside Kalle’s father Harri and was immediately impressed.
“What I was really impressed with was his technical ability,” Wilson told Motorsport News. “After his first run he came back, got out of the car and said to the engineer that everything was fine, but he’d like the car a little bit stiffer at the rear.
“Within an hour or so, he was talking about what he’d like from the front differential set-up. It was incredible.”
Rovanpera’s manager Timo Jouhki admitted a deal with M-Sport was getting closer.
“We have options for next season and we are still talking to people,” Jouhki said. “But I think it’s likely Kalle will be in the Fiesta in Wales [Rally GB] this year and quite likely for next season as well.”
One of the attractions for an M-Sport deal, according to Jouhki, is the potential for testing work with the Fiesta WRC.
“Kalle is ready for a World Rally Car right now and if somebody called me and said they wanted to put him in this car and not the R5 then I would have no problem with that at all,” added Jouhki.
“I know him well and I know what is his level – I have good experience with knowing how good young drivers are. But Kalle is learning rallies next year and the R5 is OK for this. What we also need is experience and kilometres in the new car and that would be good from [from a possible M-Sport agreement].”
Jouhki has a long history of contacting his drivers with M-Sport; Mikko Hirvonen, Jari-Matti Latvala and now Teemu Suninen are examples.
“It’s true we have a long history and a good friendship with Malcolm,” said Jouhki. “It would seem a very natural move in this way [for Kalle to drive for M-Sport].”
Wilson echoed those sentiments, adding: “Naturally, we’d like to see Kalle in one of our cars for Rally GB, next year’s British Rally Championship and his WRC programme. We’re trying to pull something together at the moment. He’s probably the most talked about youngster in rallying right now, so having him with us would be great. Beyond that talk, he’s clearly a very, very talented young man.”