Rovanperä wins NZ and becomes youngest WRC!

Toyota Gazoo Racing made history in New Zealand by producing the youngest driver in the history of international rallying to lift the WRC crown - sweeping aside the record previously held by Colin McRae, who won in 1995 aged 27 years and 89 days. On the day of his victory, Kalle Rovanperä was 22 years and one day old - and that record will take some beating!

Rovanperä, co-driven by Jonne Halttunen, required seven more points than Hyundai i20 N rival Ott Tänak to seal the 2022 WRC crown at this Auckland-based 11th round but with a hefty lead already earned on Saturday. He remained unchallenged over Sunday's final four gravel tests and emerged from the rally-ending Wolf Power Stage having done more than enough - heading a GR Yaris 1-2 by 34.6sec ahead of eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier as a frustrated Tänak settled for third almost 50sec behind.

This season - only Rovanperä's third in the sport's top-flight - proved to be nothing short of extraordinary. After a shaky start at the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo, the Finn romped to a hat-trick of successive wins in Sweden, Croatia and Portugal. Road-opening duties at Rally Italia Sardegna left Rovanperä down in fifth but he was soon back to winning ways, triumphing in Kenya and Estonia before extending his advantage with second overall on home soil. The youngster's form then took a brief downturn when he spectacularly rolled on the opening day of Ypres Rally Belgium. He also finished a lowly 15th in Greece due to another off-road excursion.

Victory in New Zealand on just his 30th WRC start leaves Rovanperä with an unassailable 64-point lead over Tänak with two rounds to spare: "It's quite a big relief after such a good season and finally we are here," beamed the newly crowned champion."It was a small wait after a few difficult rallies, but the biggest thanks go to the team - they made this rocket this year. Even after all the difficult rallies they were believing in us and giving us all the support."

An emotional Jari-Matti Latvala - Toyota Gazoo Racing Team Principal - stressed the importance of having a Finnish champion after a 20-year drought since Marcus Grönholm took the title in 2002. "In a way I would like to cry, but I can't cry here, it's really important what Kalle has done. First, it's amazing for a 22-year-old to be breaking all the records and taking the championship title."

Fourth place in the rally went to Hyundai pilot Thierry Neuville, whose issues included a faulty gearbox on Saturday. He trailed Tänak by 1min 10.3sec but led Oliver Solberg, also driving an i20, by a hefty margin after the young Swede dropped time with a Saturday misfire. New Zealand's technical stages took no prisoners with Yaris pairing Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta plus M-Sport Ford Puma youngster Gus Greensmith all failing to restart on Sunday due to accident damage.

The drama enabled home hero Hayden Paddon to finish sixth overall as well as taking his Rally2-specification Hyundai to WRC2 glory. Puma privateer Lorenzo Bertelli finished seventh while Kajetan Kajetanowicz, Shane Vangisbergen and Harry Bates completed the leaderboard.
The WRC returns to asphalt for the penultimate round at Rally RACC - Rally de España on 20 - 23 October. The event is based in Salou.

2nd October, 2022