WRC champion Rovanpera narrowly misses podium on circuit racing debut

The reigning two-time champion is dovetailing a partial WRC campaign with a four-round stint in the one-make Porsche series this year, with this weekend’s visit to the Dutch Grand Prix venue marking the start of his circuit racing career.

The factory Toyota WRC driver finished fourth and fifth from a field of 23 cars, driving a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car prepared by Red Ant Racing.

Rovanpera qualified 0.165s adrift of polesitter Niels Langeveld and made a strong start from third, a position he maintained before the opening race was halted due to a startline incident.

Rovanpera dropped to fifth behind Robin Knutsson and then Dutch driver Paul Meijer shortly after the restart, before the Finn launched a recovery drive that included posting the fastest lap of the race.

The 23-year-old quickly reeled in and passed Meijer for fourth with an eye-catching move at the final corner. He then set his sights on third, ending the race 0.1s adrift of snaring a podium in his first race. The race was won by Dirk Schouten, who pipped Langeveld by 1.025s.

“Big fighting from start to finish, P4 at the end,” wrote Rovanpera on social media.

“Not totally happy with my first few laps. I didn’t get the car and driving working in the beginning and I was not defensive enough but it was all new and expected when having cars around me for the first time.

“After that I got into a good pace and I even did a few overtakes for the rest of the race and finished under two tenths from P3. [It was] hard fighting and [I] even got the fastest lap of the race. I can be really happy with that.”

Kalle Rovanpera

Kalle Rovanpera

Photo by: Porsche Carrera Cup Benelux

Rovanpera started the second race from sixth and managed to pass Saturday’s polesitter Langeveld for fifth in the safety-car-interrupted contest. Rovanpera applied pressure on Sacha Norden but had to settle for fifth, posting a best lap 0.4s slower than his benchmark in the opening race.

“Race 2 done, starting P6 and finishing P5. Not an easy race,” wrote Rovanpera, who finished behind race winner Benjamin Paque.

“I struggled a lot with the car set-up, we tried something different from yesterday and the pace just wasn’t there. I’m not happy with the result, but overall we can be happy with the clean weekend.”

Rovanpera is set to compete in the next round of the series at Imola from 5-7 July. 

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