WRC Series: Patel Trains With World Champion Rovanpera in Finland

Red Bull Drivers Karan Patel and Takamoto Katsuta during a Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT pre-season test in Jyvaskyla, Finland: PHOTO/ RED BULL

JJVASKYLA, Finland- The new World Rally Championship (WRC) season is set to rev-off on January 19-22 with the iconic Rallye Monte Carlo in France opening the adrenaline filled series.

Kenya is set to host the seventh leg of the series on June 22-25 at the lakeside town of Naivasha.

The intensity of the championship has kept top global drivers busy with preparation ahead of next month’s revv-off.

Not left out in this mix is the reigning Kenyan speedster Karan Patel who travelled to Finland to up his training alongside world champion Kalle Rovanpera and his Toyota Gazoo Racing team mates Takamoto Katsuta and Elfyn Evans.

Karan Patel behind the wheel of the Toyota GR Yaris during a training session in Jyvaskyla Finland. PHOTO/ RED BULL

Hosted by team’s principal Jari Matti Latvala, Patel trained with the young Finn (Rovanpera) who has pledged to double his victory in the new season following his stellar performance this year.

The Kenya National Rally Championship winner also picked valuable lessons from Katsuta and Evans in the three-day event which featured a series of experiences that inspired the Kenyan champion. 

One such experience was co-driving Katsuta on the icy stages of the manufacturer champion’s test site near Jyvaskyla.

With temperatures dipping below -16 degrees, the duo shook off the cold while blistering through the 17km test loop in the snow spangled Finnish forests.

Newly crowned KNRC champion Karan Patel during training with a snow and ice driving instructor at Esko Reiners Motorsport in Jyvaskyla Finland: PHOTO/ RED BULL

“It was inspiring to sit alongside ‘Taka-san’ in the Toyota GR Rally 1 car, and experience firsthand the pace and sheer skill it takes to succeed at the pinnacle of the sport,” Patel underlined.

“The Hybrid Rally 1 car is worlds of difference from my R5, and Taka’s footwork and instinct on ice are impressive” Patel said of the lifetime experience.

Patel hailed the lessons learnt from Katsuta who he said was very cordial behind the wheels. The Japanese has lived in the Rally Finland host city of Jyväskylä, close to the Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team base for several years. He competed regularly on Finnish roads earlier in his career, and now calls Rally Finland his ‘second home rally’.

Patel also went behind the scenes to learn other aspects of the Toyota Gazoo Racing preparations ahead of the new season rev-off in Monte Carlo.

The Kenyan driver also spent a day training on ice behind the wheel of a Toyota Yaris GR with instructors from the renown Esko Reiners training school.

“Driving on snow or ice is a challenge for every rally driver but also an indescribable experience that is known to improve driving skill on other surfaces,” Patel said.

Red Bull Drivers Karan Patel and Takamoto Katsuta during a Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT pre-season test in Jyvaskyla Finland. RED BULL

“I’m happy that I was able to impress the instructors with my precision and pace, and they rated me among one of the top drivers they’ve trained. That was a real confidence boost,” he added.

Patel is no stranger to driving on mixed surfaces and he fondly recalls his time in the Drive DMack Cup (Junior WRC Championship) in 2016 where he competed in 5 rallies across Europe, including Rally Finland and Rally Poland. 

Patel’s trip to the Toyota Gazoo Racing Team in Finland culminated in a colorful celebration by the World Champions hosted by the City of Jyvaskyla at the iconic Pavijionki square.

In addition to the Toyota Gazoo Racing Team drivers, various rally legends took to the stage, with top Finnish artists ensuring rally fans got into true party mode during the team’s championship celebration.

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