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Kalle Rovanperä on EA Sports WRC, Max Verstappen, and playing Counter-Strike with friends

We spoke with two-time WRC champion and EA Sports Ambassador Kalle Rovanperä, and he had some interesting insights for players
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Season 2 sees EA Sports WRC introducing the new Central European Rally, a tough stage for rally fans to face and enjoy in the latest Codemasters racing game. We had the opportunity to discuss the new location with someone who knows it really well: two-time World Rally Champion and EA Sports Ambassador Kalle Rovanperä, and he had some interesting insights for players.

Rovanperä also revealed more about his gaming experience, including Counter-Strike and casual multiplayer sessions with friends, and his relationship with three-time F1 World Champion Max Verstappen.

With the two sharing similar career paths, starting from their fathers already being successful drivers, it was interesting to see Rovanperä comparing F1 to rally, and ultimately EA Sports WRC to actual rally driving.

GLHF: EA Sports WRC has just introduced the Central European Rally. Which is the biggest challenge in this stage as a driver?

Kalle Rovanperä: I would say it’s definitely quite a difficult, difficult rally. The biggest challenge is that you have quite high-speed stages on the tarmac with a lot of cuts and pollution on the road. So the grip chains are really big. You have a lot of high speed, big brakings, and you never really know how the grip is. That makes it really challenging.

Kalle Rovanperä

Kalle Rovanperä

And do you have any advice for players now facing it for the first time, as it’s a new addition to the game?

I think on this one, you really need to listen to the pace notes quite well to be quite sharp on those. And yeah, try to have the setup of the car and the driving style really focused on good brakings and exits of the junctions, because there are a lot of them. They seem simple, but you can still gain or lose a lot of time on them.

Both you and Max Verstappen are ambassadors for EA Sports racing games, and both of you are greatly talented world champions with similar career paths. What’s your relationship with him, and maybe has his career been of any inspiration to you?

I’ve met Max a few times. Of course, we are both busy with our own sport. So we are not really having a lot of time colliding in different places. But yeah, I was visiting the last F1 race of the season, and I saw Max there. Of course, it has been really, really cool to see a similar career for Max, I’m starting really young, my father being already professional. So we have a lot of similarities, and yeah, it has been cool to see that he has done a similar way compared to me, even though in completely different sports.

Which is the biggest difference between F1 and rally, in your opinion?

I would say one of the biggest differences is definitely racing on circuit. You are more, let’s say, memorizing and practicing the circuit, the braking points, and stuff. If you see the Formula 1 guys, they could race basically with their eyes closed, go around the track knowing each point of turning and braking and rolling. Compared to that, rally is like trying to improvise; you never know actually what the grip is, you have never been on the corners or the braking before, only with tracking cars on normal speeds. So we are improvising all the time after each corner. You don’t fully know what’s coming, the pace notes, what you have, but they are made like five days before - so the weather or the condition, everything is changed. So we are just improvising all the time.

Kalle Rovanperä playing EA Sports WRC

Kalle Rovanperä playing EA Sports WRC

Max is often seen playing sim racers, and competing online in virtual series. Have you ever done anything like that?

Yeah, I’ve also done something like this. I’ve had some races in games, but then I have done some simulators too like Max. That is quite a high level. That is the people who are really spending a lot of time there. So even if you’re a professional, you really need to put some time and work into it if you want to be fast. It’s quite cool. It’s challenging, and it’s nice.

Have you given WRC a try, and how do you think the game compares to real rally driving?

It’s really nice. The new physics are definitely much better and much more realistic. And yeah, I would say, when I can jump from the real car and drive the game, with a similar driving style and similar effort, and be fast straight away in the game, it means that it’s realistic, and you can use the real stuff - what you know from the real car - in the game. So that’s what I enjoy the most. It feels realistic, and I can straight away be quite OK in the game, trying to push with a good pace.

Wrapping it up with the most classic question - are you a gamer? Which games are you into lately, outside of WRC, if any?

Yeah, I actually am. I’m playing a bit - of course, I’m really busy, but then when I get these breaks between the seasons or between the rallies and I’m home, I do play some games, like Counter-Strike. I play quite a lot. And then yeah, some others which we always find with our friends. So, some new games pop up, and we go there together just to have fun.

For more about the game, you can read our EA Sports WRC review.