Rally New Zealand: Day 4 Rovanperä crowned youngest ever champion with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing*
Kalle Rovanperä has become the youngest ever winner of an FIA World Rally Championship title* at the age of just 22 years and one day, after the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team driver and his co-driver Jonne Halttunen secured their maiden crowns in style with victory at Rally New Zealand.
Taking the title in only his third season competing at rallying’s highest level, Rovanperä is more than five years younger than the previous record holder Colin McRae was when he won the championship in 1995.
Rovanperä has been the benchmark driver in the first year of the WRC’s new hybrid Rally1 regulations, and his victory in New Zealand is his sixth of the season in the GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID. Having led the standings since winning round two in Sweden in February, he has now clinched the title with two rallies remaining.
His is the eighth WRC title to be won by a Toyota driver and the fourth in as many years. Rovanperä is the first Finnish driver to win the championship for 20 years and the first to do so driving a car built in Finland.
Outstanding speed in difficult weather conditions has been a key attribute to Rovanperä’s driving in 2022 and was also central to his victory in New Zealand, where the smooth gravel roads were hosting the WRC for the first time in a decade. After finishing the longest day of the rally on Friday in mixed conditions in fourth overall, he excelled on a soaking wet Saturday on his 22nd birthday to take over the lead and build an advantage of almost half a minute.
Sunday brought further wet weather for the final four stages but Rovanperä managed his lead ahead of the rally-ending Power Stage. Only a top-four time there was needed to secure the two extra bonus points he required for the championship, but he nonetheless recorded the fastest time – the seventh occasion he has topped the Power Stage this season.
The outgoing champion Sébastien Ogier completed a one-two finish for the team together with co-driver Benjamin Veillas on their fourth start of the 2022 campaign. Part of a close four-way fight for the lead earlier in the rally, they played an important role for their team-mates by taking points away from their championship rivals.
The one-two finish overall, plus the first and third fastest times from the Power Stage, ensures that the team increases its manufacturers’ championship lead to 81 points with 104 left available.
Akio Toyoda (Team Founder)
“This weekend, I would like to congratulate Kalle Rovanperä for three things. Firstly, congratulations on the 22nd birthday! Secondly, congratulations on the victory at Rally New Zealand! And thirdly, congratulations on becoming drivers’ champion for 2022! With two events still remaining, it is overwhelming to win the World Rally Championship with six victories out of 11 events so far.
A journalist asked me the other day why Kalle is this strong, and my prompt answer was “because he loves donuts”. I think those words came out because I remember very well that Kalle did donuts during one of the Power Stages before, and I believe he is strong because he always enjoys driving. I really thank him for driving and enjoying the GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID and becoming world champion. I hope we can have a place to celebrate somewhere and enjoy donuts together.
I also very much appreciate Jonne, who has been fighting together with Kalle. Congratulations on becoming co-drivers’ champion! I learned in Belgium that he was not only supporting Kalle but supporting the whole team by bringing a good mood. I’m sure he will continue offering big support to win the manufacturers’ title.
I think Seb’s result was also down to the fact that he enjoyed our GR YARIS again after a while away. I want to thank Seb for driving for the team and bringing important points towards the manufacturers’ title. Elfyn and Taka were unfortunate but they also did their best for the team and we can try again in Spain and Japan.
The drivers were able to push and gave everything because the whole team moved in the same direction after the disappointment of the previous event in Greece. Members of Toyota New Zealand also gave us strong support to boost the event’s return for the first time in 10 years. I would like to thank everyone who contributed so much to this victory and this great weekend.
I believe that the entire team, together with Jari-Matti, will continue working hard so that our four cars and four crews are able to drive comfortably on any roads.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“The emotions are very high right now. For Kalle to have won this championship is really significant. First of all, it’s amazing that a guy who just turned 22 yesterday can achieve something like this, breaking all the records in our sport and winning the World Rally Championship title. Secondly I know that it’s something very important for Finland, because 20 years is a long time for us! I came close myself as did others, so I’m really grateful that Kalle could do it. I’m also really proud of the team, that we could bounce back after the difficult weekend in Greece and score a one-two finish here in New Zealand. That is really helping us in the manufacturers’ championship and this will now be our focus moving onwards to Spain.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 1)
“Today we have witnessed history. It’s fantastic for Kalle, Jonne and for the whole team. It’s been an amazing season from him and it was only a matter of time. He did it in style this weekend and I think that’s the mark of a great champion. I can take a lot of satisfaction from this weekend. It was a nice comeback after three months away, on a challenging rally with faster roads than those I’ve driven this season and with really tricky conditions. Kalle was untouchable in those difficult conditions like he has been many times this season. I realised it was not the moment to take crazy risks as I’m here to help the team, and we are also getting very close to the manufacturers’ championship.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“The biggest feeling right now is that it’s quite a big relief. We have had such a good season, then a few difficult rallies and now finally we could do it. I want to say a big thanks to the team who made such a fast and reliable car for this season which meant we could just enjoy the driving. Also, in the more difficult moments they were always believing in us and supporting us. I don’t think about the age too much but it’s still special to know we could achieve this. It means a lot, to become champion is the only goal we ever had in this sport. I was actually a bit more nervous on Friday than I was today: Then we needed to push hard to stay in the fight, but today we could just enjoy it.”
PROVISIONAL FINAL CLASSIFICATION, RALLY NEW ZEALAND
1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 2h48m01.4s
2 Sébastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +34.6s
3 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +48.5s
4 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +1m58.8s
5 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +3m55.3s
6 Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (Hyundai i20 N Rally2) +10m03.7s
7 Lorenzo Bertelli/Lorenzo Granai (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +10m39.0s
8 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +12m36.8s
9 Shane van Gisbergen/Glen Weston (Škoda Fabia Rally2) +13m28.8s
10 Harry Bates/John McCarthy (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +16m51.6s
Retired Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID)
(Results as of 17:30 on Sunday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
Drivers’ World Rally Champions with Toyota:
1990: Carlos Sainz (Toyota Celica GT-Four ST165)
1992: Carlos Sainz (Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD ST185)
1993: Juha Kankkunen (Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD ST185)
1994: Didier Auriol (Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD ST185)
2019: Ott Tänak (Toyota Yaris WRC)
2020: Sébastien Ogier (Toyota Yaris WRC)
2021: Sébastien Ogier (Toyota Yaris WRC)
2022: Kalle Rovanperä* (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID)
* Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA
Rally de España will be the penultimate round of the season on October 20-23. Based in Salou to the south of Barcelona, the event is known for its smooth and fast asphalt roads that are similar to a racing circuit in their characteristics.
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