Over the last weekend, the current FIA World Rally Championship leader Kalle Rovanperä from Finland impressed the drifting community by taking on some of the Europe’s finest drifters at the Drift Masters European Championship at Mondello Park in Ireland and he reached the top 16 shootout on his international debut.
21-year-old Rovanperä has previously only been competing in two drift events in Finland last year and won at Venetsia Drifting, and already now he is taking on some of the best in the continent. He will only do two DMEC rounds this season as a wildcard in between the rallies to enjoy himself as he has said, with the next one being in Sweden during the summer.
During the Saturday’s two qualification runs he immediately showed that he is a top talent in drifting too. During the first qualifying he ran wide out on the gravel with his Toyota Supra A90 and didn’t score so much points but he improved on the second qualifying and scored 93 points which placed him comfortable in the top 32 by finishing seventh out of 43 entries.
The top 32 drivers in the qualification advanced to Sunday for the main event with tandem drifting. Rovanperä was up against the Greek driver Stavros Grillis in the first shootout battle. Grillis did a costly mistake on his chase run which made the judges to select Rovanperä to advance to top 16.
Next up in the top 16 he met the experienced Polish drifter and former Dakar Rally driver Jakub Przygonski, who is a three time Polish drift champion. Both Rovanperä and Przygonski showed the smoothest run so far that weekend which lead to the judges having a hard time selecting who will advance to the semi-finals and after a while the judges agreed on having them to go One More Time (OMT).
In the OMT run, Rovanperä was again looking strong and had a close proximity to Przygonski but at the last outer line, Rovanperä came too close and hitted Przygonski in the door of his Toyota GT86 which was the fate of Rovanperä to advance further in the event. The battle ended up in Przygonski favor and the Pole advanced to top 8 (semi-finals).
The reigning champion Piotr Wiecek from Poland was the first driver in 20 years to beat an Irish driver on home soil and wrote history by winning the event. Estonian’s Oliver Randalu finished second and the multiple drift champion James Deane flew the Irish flag for third. Meanwhile Rovanperä ended up placing himself in a well-deserved ninth place overall.
Next up for Rovanperä will be the DMEC round 3 in Sweden on 1/2 July.