Some pretty big names from the world of motorsport have graced Mondello Park with their presence over the years, from Ayrton Senna to Mika Hakkinen, to James Hunt and Emerson Fittipaldi.
Kalle Rovanpera — the current leader of the World Rally Championship — joins that list this weekend as a wildcard entry for the opening round of the Drift Masters European Championship in County Kildare.
Away from the rally stages, the softly-spoken 21-year-old is a keen drifter.
To date, he has taken part in three events — but Mondello Park will be the first time he has ventured outside of his native Finland with a sport that puts the emphasis on how effectively a driver oversteers their way through a corner.
Rovanpera’s attendance has been made possible with support from current employer Toyota Gazoo Racing and takes grid numbers for the two-day competition to 60, with 28 countries represented in all.
He will show off his sideways skills at the wheel of a Toyota Supra A90 that has received a complete nut and bolt rebuild and bristles with the very best parts — some of which easily reach into four figures.
With a proven car at his disposal for his first foray into pro level, expectations among fans are naturally high but, like always, the recent Croatia Rally winner is happy to play down all the hype and attention.
“I really have no idea what we can do as the car is new for us, and I have only done three drift events, so we will go there to try and enjoy ourselves and put a few smiles on people’s faces,” said Rovanpera.
“We are just going there to have fun but, of course, when you put the helmet on, you try to push as hard as possible to achieve the best possible result, so we’ll try to do that but it isn’t going to be easy.
“We completed one full day of testing and everything went fine and the car feels good but I think we are going to have to make some set-up changes in the practice sessions at Mondello because during the test we didn’t have all of the parts that we need, that we will use, in the competition,” he added.
“But yeah, the feeling is good but I’m expecting the event to be really tough — the levels will be high — but we will give it our best shot and try to have a good fight.
“I’ve seen lots of comments on social media and people have sent me many messages saying they are looking forward to us heading over there.”
Practice for the Drift Masters European Championship curtain raiser takes place today from 10am to 2pm, followed by qualifying from 2.30pm to 6pm.
Practice resumes tomorrow from 10am to 12 noon before the competitive action commences at 1pm.