Harri "Rovis" Rovanperä (Jyväskylä, 1966) is a Finnish rally driver who competed in the World Rally Championship from 1993 to 2006. He drove for SEAT (1997–00), Peugeot (2001–04), Mitsubishi (2005) and Red Bull Škoda Team (2006). Rovanperä was known as a loose surface specialist. He is the father of current World Rally Championship driver Kalle Rovanperä.
Rovanperä in 2005.
|Born||8 April 1966|
|World Rally Championship record|
|Active years||1993 – 2006|
|Co-driver|| Risto Pietiläinen|
|Teams||SEAT, Peugeot, Mitsubishi, Škoda|
|First rally||1993 1000 Lakes Rally|
|First win||2001 Swedish Rally|
|Last win||2001 Swedish Rally|
|Last rally||2006 Wales Rally GB|
Rovanperä won the small Group A Finnish Rally Championship title in 1995 at the wheel of an Opel Astra. After a few outings on his national World Rally Championship event Rally Finland, he was hired by SEAT to drive the SEAT Ibiza Kit Car, with which he won SEAT's third consecutive 2L World Rally Championship title in 1998. Next year in 1999, he took part in the top class World Rally Championship with the SEAT Córdoba WRC E2 finishing in the third place in the last event of the season at the 55th Network Q Rally of Great Britain. In 2001, he was hired by Peugeot. Driving a Peugeot 206 WRC, he took his first WRC win at the Swedish Rally. The same year he finished fifth in the overall championship only eight points behind the winner, Richard Burns, despite missing two rallies.
On 9 December 2001 Rovanperä also competed at the Race of Champions at Gran Canaria, and by winning the individual event and taking home the Henri Toivonen Memorial Trophy, he earned the title of Champion of Champions, he beat in the final stage the German driver Armin Schwarz.
The 2002 season began as usual with the Monte Carlo Rally, and Rovanpera competed in a privateer Bozian-Racing run Peugeot 206 WRC. He retired on the 7th stage with broken steering after an off; Tommi Mäkinen won the race in front of a penalized Sébastien Loeb, while Carlos Sainz finished third. The second rally was in Sweden, where Harri returned in the official factory-entered Peugeot 206 WRC, and he finished the rally in second place, 1'24" behind team mate Marcus Grönholm, despite winning two stages and leading the rally from Stages 3 to 14.
The next two rallies were Tour de Corse and Rally de Cataluñya, both on tarmac, where Harri competed for the Bozian-run team; on both rallies he failed to score, finishing only 11th (Corsica) and a solid 7th place (Cataluñya), on a surface he traditionally struggled.
The next rally took place on the island of Cyprus, where heavy rain made conditions treacherous. In this event, as in all the successive gravel events, Harri drove the official Peugeot works car; he finished 4th winning 1 stage. The rally was won again by his team mate Grönholm. The WRC circus moved then to Argentina, where Peugeot had a dismal rally, Harri retired after engine problems on S.S.10, Gronhölm and Burns took first and second, but were both disqualified a few days later due to an illegal flywheel and illegal servicing respectively; so Sainz won the rally from Petter Solberg. In Greece, on a very hot and rough surface, Harri managed a 4th place, winning 1 S.S., the rally winner was Colin McRae.
The "World's toughest Rally", the Safari Rally, gifted Harri with a second place, 2'50" behind the winner Colin McRae, in a rally that forced many of the drivers to retire.
In Finland Harri had maybe his strongest rally of the season, in fact, he even took the lead in the 12th stage, but on the next stage he crashed and a front suspension part was badly damaged, forcing him to retire; however, the rally was won by teammate Gronholm for the third year running.
In Germany (newcomer race in the WRC) Harri drove an official car, as regular tarmac expert Gilles Panizzi was withdrawn from the event due to a shoulder injury sustained while carrying out DIY at his home. However, Rovanpera was forced to retire after a very difficult rally, which saw the first victory of Sébastien Loeb in a Citroën Xsara.
In Sanremo, Harri returned to the Bozian team, but on asphalt the Finnish driver struggled and finished ninth, whilst Gilles Panizzi took a stunning win after the injury just three weeks before.
The championship returned to the gravel for the final rush, in New Zealand Harri drove a faultless race despite a hydraulic problem, finishing second, 3'50" as teammate Marcus Grönholm clinched his second world drivers championship.
The championship continued in the southern hemisphere with Rally Australia, and Rovanpera finished in second place again behind his team mate Grönholm, but this time only 57" behind, and winning 8 stages of the rally.
The season came to an end in the forests of Wales, where Harri finished 7th and out of the points after a race full of mistakes. So the season ended with Harri finishing 7th overall with 30 points, 47 behind teammate Gronholm, but only 7 behind runner-up Petter Solberg.
In 2003 and 2004, he drove for Peugeot in gravel rallies, obtaining 3 podium places (Cyprus 2003 (2nd), Acropolis 2004 (3rd) and Australia 2004 (2nd)). In 2005, Rovanperä switched to Mitsubishi's factory team and competed a full WRC programme, finishing seventh in the drivers' world championship with only final podium in Australia, where was second behind Duval. After Mitsubishi suddenly left the series before the 2006 season, Rovanperä signed on to drive Škoda Fabia WRC for Red Bull Škoda Team in six events without any significant result.
In 2007, Rovanperä was a regular competitor of the SRC Finnish Rallycross Championship with a rear-wheel driven Ford Focus as well as a Volvo S40, but finished only 11th overall. He had many technical problems with both cars.