Kalle Rovanperä has become the youngest driver to ever win a round of the FIA World Rally Championship after he and co-driver Jonne Halttunen secured victory on Rally Estonia: the fifth win in a row for the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team.
At 20 years and 290 days, Rovanperä claims the record that was previosuly held by the man who is now his Team Principal, Jari-Matti Latvala (who was just over two years older when he won Rally Sweden in 2008).
Rovanperä led after all but two of the event’s 24 stages, held over some of the fastest roads in rallying. He took six out of eight stage wins on Friday in a close battle with his nearest rival, who he then pulled away from during Saturday with some stunning stage times.
He went into the final day with a lead of 50.7 seconds, which he ultimately extended to almost one minute – 59.9 seconds to be precise – with an expertly-controlled drive through the last six stages.
The team’s fifth consecutive win (and sixth from seven rounds so far this year) is the longest-ever WRC winning streak achieved by Toyota in its proud rallying history.
All three of the team’s cars finished inside the top five, with Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia coming fourth and Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin taking fifth. In a tricky rally-ending Power Stage, Ogier, Evans and Rovanperä filled positions three to five to claim additional bonus points. Ogier and Evans remain first and second in the drivers’ standings, separated by 37 points, with Rovanperä up to fourth. Toyota retains its 59-point advantage at the top of the manufacturers’ championship.
“It’s an amazing day today, and a record-breaking win in more ways than one. Every victory is special and enjoyable, but for me to see Kalle’s first victory today has a big meaning. I’m so happy to see him become the youngest ever to win a WRC rally and take the record from me: It keeps up the Finnish tradition, after Henri Toivonen held it before me. He did such a fantastic job this weekend. To take our fifth win in a row – a record for Toyota – is also unbelievable. It’s something unique and special that we’ve done in these last events. There is still a long way to go in both championships but I’m so proud of the team and the drivers.”
End of day four (Sunday):
1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2h51m29.1s
2 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +59.9s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1m12.4s
4 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1m24.0s
5 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2m07.1s
6 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +7m07.3s
7 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Florian Haut-Labourdette (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +8m48.3s
8 Alexey Lukyanuk/Yaroslav Fedorov (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +10m16.1s
9 Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +10m29.9s
10 Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroën C3 Rally2) +10m46.6s
(Results as of 17:00 on Sunday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
The Ypres Rally will form Belgium’s first ever WRC round on August 13-15. First held in 1965, the rally is known as a demanding asphalt event on farmland roads lined with ditches, and is also set to feature a final day held around the famous Spa-Francorchamps racing circuit.