Kalle Rovanperä has become the youngest winner of an FIA World Rally Championship title at the age of just 22 years and one day. The Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team driver and co-driver Jonne Halttunen took victory at Rally New Zealand on 2 October to secure their respective titles.
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, when he won the championship in 1995.
Reflecting on his achievement, Kalle Rovanperä said: “The biggest feeling right now is relief. We have had such a good season, then a few difficult rallies and now finally we could do it.
“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. In the more difficult moments, they always believed in us and supported us. I don’t think about the age issue too much but it’s still special to know we could achieve this. To become champion is the only goal we ever have in this sport.”
Kalle Rovanperä has been the benchmark driver in the first year of the WRC’s hybrid Rally1 regulations, thanks to his key attribute of outstanding speed in difficult weather conditions. His victory in New Zealand was his sixth of the season in the GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid and having led the standings since winning round two in Sweden in February, Rovanperä clinched the title with two rallies remaining.
In winning the 2022 WRC title, Rovanperä has become the eighth Toyota driver to receive such a title, and the fourth in as many years. In addition, he is the first Finnish driver to win the championship for 20 years and the first to do so driving a car built in Finland.
Clinching the 2022 WRC treble
As if securing the drivers’ and co-drivers’ championships were not enough cause for celebration, Toyota Gazoo Racing completed the FIA World Rally Championship treble by clinching the 2022 manufacturers’ title with a superb win for Sébastien Ogier (below right) and co-driver Benjamin Veillas (below left) in the following round, Rally de España.
This is the sixth time that Toyota has topped the WRC manufacturers’ classification. But significantly, 2022 represented the second year in a row that Toyota managed a clean sweep of the three available titles, which included a major revolution in the technical regulations as the all-new GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid succeeded the Yaris WRC. Interestingly, it was the pairing of Ogier and Veillas that scored the very first point in Monte Carlo under the new regulations.
The 2022 season concluded at Rally Japan, the championship’s first visit to the country since 2010 and the first time that Toyota’s factory WRC team has been able to compete in the company’s home country.
Despite high hopes of closing the season with a home win, the challenging mountain roads of the Aichi and Gifu prefectures, as well as a handful of minor incidents, conspired to end the team’s chances of victory. Nevertheless, the GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid performed strongly and enthralled the crowds by winning 11 of the weekend’s 16 stages.
Toyota’s WRC manufacturers’ titles:
- 1993 Toyota Celica GT-Four (ST185)
- 1994 Toyota Celica GT-Four (ST185)
- 1999 Toyota Corolla WRC
- 2018 Toyota Yaris WRC
- 2021 Toyota Yaris WRC
- 2022 Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid