Kalle Rovanperä is the King of rally racing. We knew this previously, but a Toyota Gazoo Racing driver proved in practice in New Zealand that nothing is impossible. At 22 years old Kalle Rovanperä became the youngest WRC champion ever. Did we suggest that Auckland service park will be buzzing with more than just birthday cards and rather with congratulations on amazing career success? Honestly not, as Rally New Zealand wasn’t an easy rallying challenge.
The right gift for Kalle’s birthday!
Did you know that Kalle Rovanperä was on his way to setting even more records? The 22-year-old Kalle Rownapera was celebrating his birthday on Saturday, 1st October, already on the track. So today officially the youngest ever WRC champion is 22 years and one day old. Just one day, the point was 21. What a daredevil!
You may wonder who was a previous record holder. Well, that was legendary Colin McRae, who won in 1995 aged 27 years and 89 days. A five-year difference, who would have thought! To beat such numbers, the future WRC champion has to start driving rally cars faster than he can walk or be born. All kidding aside, Rovanperä has done an amazing job and we wish him the best Birthday wishes on these pages.
Rally New Zealand and the share of probability
Kalle Rovanperä’s chances of winning the rally in New Zealand reached their highest point: almost 65%.
A few surprises were prepared for the rally in New Zealand.
The WRC challenge near Auckland has always been challenging due to the road surface and the route. The weekend rain almost made the entire paddock on the services park a headache. Besides, New Zealand areas scheduled in the route were brand new for young Fin.
In addition, first day participants were expected to complete half of the rally route based on tires choice and driving skills. In the shakedown, Toyota Gazoo racing driver Kalle sat the fastest time, so he wasn’t scared.
Additionally, Gus Greensmith and Craig Breen’s M-Sport Purple pumas rally cars took the top spots on Thursday.
Kalle Rovanperä’s worthy rivals
Each rally driver dreams of winning Rally New Zealand, as it is iconic, but as Toyota Gazoo Racing drivers, they are fast and worthy rivals. Kalle Rovanperä had many worthy rivals on his way to become the champion.
Therefore, Elfyn Evans took the lead from Friday onwards. But already on SS9 he lost the advantage as his Yaris WRC was damaged.
Mistakes almost covered the entire M-Sport Ford rally team. Craig Breen did flat out on tricky SS5. Gus Greensmith managed to get out of the massive flat on Saturday.
It was Ogier who claimed to be one of the most skilled drivers, but he also left the winning room. Takamoto Katsuta, another Toyota Gazoo Racing driver, also crashed the car on Saturday’s SS12.
Thus Kalle Rovanperä started the final Sunday with a win, gradually increasing the time gap. Hyundai Motorsport drivers were the final hurdle on his way to winning.
Kalle Rovanperä championships against Hyundai Motorsport drivers
A Hyundai Motorsport driver was able to argue with Rovanperä for the championship, even for a while. That was Ott Tänak. Thierry Neuville was full of racing magic when he won the previous Rally Acropolis, but his weekend in New Zealand began badly.
Neuville was lumbered with five-second penalties at the end of Friday’s opening leg after event stewards ruled that the energy released from their cars during hybrid boosts on SS1 exceeded the maximum value allowed for the stage.
Likewise, Ott Tänak was demoted to third overall at Rally New Zealand along with teammate Hyundai i20 N driver Oliver Solberg. Furthermore Solberg received an additional 10-second penalty for breaching hybrid strategy rules.
All in all, the Hyundai team’s weekend on Rally New Zealand was one to forget as soon as possible. That was after so much success at Rally Acropolis when the team made a hat-trick.
Kalle Rovanperä became world champion in the WRC 2022 season.
In Kalle Rovanperä, we’ve seen all the features of the real champion since 2021. But as soon as the FIA World Rally Championship started Rovanperä became to keep pushing on every round of the calendar. Hard to imagine that Rovanperä is only in his third season of top-flight.
Thus, Rally Monte Carlo was a shaky start for the Finn, but he soon claimed a hat-trick of successive wins in Sweden, Croatia and Portugal. Only on Rally Sardegna did Ott Tänak take part in the battle, which he won. Nevertheless, Kalle Rovanperä showed his champion’s nature again in Kenya and Estonia. Tänak took ovation in Finland and Thiery Neuville claimed victory in Greece, while the young Finn finished a lowly 15th in Greece.
Here in New Zealand with a hefty lead already earned on Saturday, he remained unchallenged over Sunday’s final four gravel tests and emerged from the rally-ending Wolf Power Stage. Sébastien Ogier took second in 34.6sec behind and a frustrated Tänak settled for third almost 50sec behind.
Victory in New Zealand on just his 30th start at the WRC’s elite level leaves Rovanperä with an unassailable 64-point lead over Tänak with two rounds to spare.
The show is going on.
There are two rallies ahead. It is likely that many tensions will arise despite the lead already being taken. In the WRC driver standings, second and third places are the issues to argue over, but between such rally monsters! As a result, Ott Tanak will have to beat teammate Thierry Neuville to claim the second position. That won’t be an easy task. I’ll be very nervous. Furthermore, before the final rally in Japan we will compete in an asphalt challenge in Spain, where each error is costly.
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