Kalle Rovanperä has become a two-time WRC champion, clinching the title on Sunday after finishing second overall at Central European Rally*.
By finishing runner-up to Thierry Neuville at this penultimate round, the 23-year-old ensured he can no longer be caught in the 2023 season.
Just one year ago, Rovanperä made history when he became the youngest WRC champion ever. Today he stands alongside legendary names like Carlos Sainz, Walter Röhrl and Miki Biasion as a double winner.
Entering Central European Rally with a 31-point lead over Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mate Elfyn Evans, Rovanperä simply needed to maintain his advantage to claim the crown. When Evans suffered a dramatic crash on Saturday morning, the path to victory was all but assured.
Following a steady start to the season, Rovanperä and co-driver Jonne Halttunen hit their straps in May by winning Vodafone Rally de Portugal. Since that moment, the pair have only been off the podium twice.
“I am feeling really good. I think this year was, for me personally, more important than last year. The competition was tighter, and we did a really good job. The biggest thank you of course goes to Jonne – he is also the world’s best co-driver. I am going to enjoy this one more than the first one.”Rovanperä beamed
Neuville’s capture of the outright rally victory may have been overshadowed by the champions’ celebrations, but the Belgian’s drive was worthy of high praise.
Driving a Hyundai i20 N, Neuville took control on Saturday morning and headed Rovanperä by 57.6sec to claim his 19th career victory on the slippery asphalt roads across Germany, Austria and Czech Republic.
“Overall, we did a good job. We had good consistency which ultimately paid off. It was a team effort this weekend and we did it, so we can be proud of that.”Neuville said
Ott Tänak overcame a hydraulic failure on the penultimate day to finish third, almost two minutes back from the frontrunning pace in an M-Sport Ford Puma.
Sébastien Ogier fought back from wheel damage on Friday to claim fourth ahead of his Toyota-driving colleague Takamoto Katsuta. Teemu Suninen, Grégoire Munster and Adrien Fourmaux completed the top 8 ahead of Nicolas Ciamin and Pierre-Louis Loubet,
There were also celebrations for Andreas Mikkelsen, who did just enough to secure the WRC2 title* despite going off the road on Friday.
The championship comes to a close in Asia next month at FORUM8 Rally Japan. The asphalt event is based in Aichi and takes place from 16 – 19 November.
*Subject to confirmation of results by the FIA
- T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N 2h 52m 39.9s
- K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +57.5s
- O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Ford Puma +1m 52.8s
- S Ogier / V Landais FRA Toyota GR Yaris +2m 8.6s
- T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +2m 48.3s
- T Suninen / M Markkula FIN Hyundai i20 N +3m 6.3s
Drivers’ championship standings (after round 12 of 13)
- K Rovanperä 235pts
- E Evans 191pts
- T Neuville 184pts