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.
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.”
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.
Press release Toyota GAZOO Racing WRC Team