Toyota driver Kalle Rovanpera has taken his first ever World Rally Championship to become the youngest winner in the competition’s history with victory at Rally New Zealand.
The 22-year old Finn needed to beat Hyundai’s Ott Tanak by six points on a wet and challenging weekend in the New Zealand countryside to take the championship, beating Colin’s McRae’s previous record to become the youngest ever WRC winner.
Rovanperra kept his cool after a challenging previous few rounds in Beligum and Greece to do what was required and take his maiden WRC win with two rounds to spare, and the first time a Finn has won since Marcus Grönholm took the title in 2002.
“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,” Rovanpera said.
“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.”
“We have witnessed history”
Rovanpera had a shaky start to the season at Rally Monte Carlo, but since then secured a hat trick of wins in Sweden, Croatia and Portugal, followed by more victories in Kenya and Estonia and coming second at his home Rally Finland event.
The driver suffered a dip in for after rolling his GR Yaris at the Ypres Rally Belgium and another tough weekend on the punishing gravel roads of Greece at the next event, but topped off a fantastic year with a dominant performance in New Zealand.
Rovapera’s Toyota teammate and 8-time WRC champion Sebastian Ogier, returning to the championship after a three month hiatus, praised the young Finn’s performance throughout the season, and said he was “untoucheable” in his driver to take the win in New Zealand.
“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,” Ogier said.
“He did it in style this weekend and I think that’s the mark of a great champion.”