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The 5 moments that outlined Rovanpera’s second WRC title

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Kalle Rovanpera has climbed up one other notch within the World Rally Championship Corridor of Fame following the profitable defence of his world title. 

After rewriting the report books final yr by changing into the youngest ever world champion on the age of twenty-two, the WRC’s newest celebrity sealed the 2023 title by defeating Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans eventually weekend’s Central European Rally.

SPECIAL FEATURE: How iconic cars from each WRC era compare at the hands of Petter Solberg

Right here’s how Rovanpera and co-driver Jonne Halttunen accomplished a really totally different journey in comparison with 12 months in the past, to stay on prime of the rally world.

Sluggish however regular begin raises eyebrows

Rovanpera highlighted in pre-season that the path to change into solely the sixth driver in WRC historical past to defend a world title can be “tough”. Talking in Autosport’s season preview he made it clear that the competitors in 2023 can be stronger.      

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“After all it’s going to be fairly tough to defend the championship,” he acknowledges. “I feel positively Hyundai is levelling up quite a bit in the course of the finish of the season final yr, so that they had been catching up lots. And now with Ott Tanak at M-Sport it is going to be attention-grabbing to see their tempo and I feel the competitors shall be increased on a regular basis.”

However such was the Finn’s domination of 2022, that included 5 wins from the primary seven occasions, recording one podium from the primary 4 occasions of 2023 raised eyebrows. The marketing campaign started with a second and now customary Energy Stage win in Monte Carlo as team-mate Sebastien Ogier racked up a report breaking ninth win within the principality.

Three fourth place finishes adopted in Sweden, Mexico and Croatia. In hindsight these outcomes show the consistency that was key to profitable the championship, however on the time there have been issues Rovanpera had misplaced his starvation and spark.

Photograph by: Pink Bull Content material Pool

There have been issues that Rovanperä had misplaced his starvation in the course of the early levels of the season

Beginning first on the highway actually hampered him in Sweden as he acknowledged after Tanak claimed the victory for M-Sport: “I am not likely apprehensive, we had been within the struggle fairly effectively. Positively, if we did not have this highway place we may have been higher. It was clear that everybody can be a lot nearer than final yr.”

However after witnessing Ogier triumph in Mexico, and a 3rd consecutive non-podium end in Croatia, the place Evans broke his victory drought, Rovanpera made it clear that each one was not effectively, other than the 2 minutes misplaced to a puncture.              

“A tough weekend – and I would like to organize higher on the set-up aspect, see,” he mentioned in Croatia. “We can not begin rallies like this. We didn’t nail the set-up this time and it value various confidence and tempo on Friday morning, so we simply should be actually sharp and certain that we begin with the appropriate automobile after which we will push from the beginning.”

“He has been driving with out errors however possibly a bit of spark has been lacking. However I feel he discovered it right here” Jari-Matti Latvala

However Toyota boss Jari-Matti Latvala felt Rovanpera’s spark had returned. 

“It has been a bit of bit robust for him this starting to the season however I completely perceive,” Latvala instructed Autosport. “He has been driving with out errors however possibly a bit of spark has been lacking. However I feel he discovered it right here.”

Rovanpera reply critics emphatically in Portugal

Latvala’s predication turned out to be spot on as Rovanpera rekindled the devastating type of 2022 in spherical 5 – Rally Portugal.

Rovanpera gained 10 of the 19 levels, together with a trademark Energy Stage triumph, to finish his victory drought that had stretched again to October 2022 when he sealed a maiden title.

Rovanperä scored his first win of the season at the the Portuguese Rally

Photograph by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Rovanperä scored his first win of the season on the the Portuguese Rally

The feat was made much more spectacular given the drawback of beginning second on the highway. It was one among his greatest performances of his profession which kick-started his title defence as he sailed right into a 17-point lead over Tanak on the prime of the championship standings. 

The victory was met by aid earlier than he provided a bit extra perception into sluggish begin to the yr by his personal excessive requirements.

“It has been a bit too lengthy coming however I knew once we get a clear weekend and an excellent drive we might be again within the sport. It was good to have it right here and be again,” he mentioned.

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“The whole lot was prefer it needs to be with the automobile so we had been a again on the sport and pushing on. You at all times miss the sensation if you end up not there and it’s good to be again.

“I’ve to say an enormous thanks to [co-driver] Jonne Halttunen and the group. They’ve been pushing on a regular basis and going ahead. I even have to present an excellent thanks to my superb good friend Arttu. I’ve been having a tough time for the reason that finish of final yr personally, and he has been pushing me to come back again.”

From right here, Rovanpera was by no means headed within the championship standings and so started a run a 4 consecutive podiums.

A 3rd in Sardinia, which he hails as one among his worst occasions on the calendar, confirmed off his maturity. Rovanpera made no errors terrible moist situations to complete third behind Hyundai duo Thierry Neuville and Esapekka Lappi. He left with a 25-point championship lead after claiming 20 factors thanks to a different Energy Stage win.

Rovanperä surprised himself by finishing third in Sardinia, an event he views as one of his weakest

Photograph by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Rovanperä shocked himself by ending third in Sardinia, an occasion he views as one among his weakest

“I didn’t assume we might be getting 20 factors once I got here right here, however yeah the plan was to attempt to be quick and regular the entire weekend,” Rovanpera instructed Autosport.

“We knew we had the tempo when wanted and we had been intelligent once we wanted to be, so I feel it was a very intelligent drive from our aspect.”

Rovanpera then pushed Ogier all the best way at Safari Rally Kenya to complete second, lacking out on victory by 6.7s as his championship lead elevated to 37 factors.         

Enters new stage of dominance in Estonia

If the world thought they’d already seen the very best of Rovanpera, then that concept was fully reset following an utter domination of Rally Estonia.

“I really feel if I need to win the stage, I’ll win the stage” Kalle Rovanpera

The Finn delivered his most crushing victory but, beating Neuville by 52.7s. Rovanpera emerged within the lead on Friday regardless of opening the highway. He then went unbeaten throughout Saturday and Sunday, racking up 13 consecutive stage wins mirroring comparable shows by nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb.

Rovanpera even had the presence of thoughts to recall and repeat the well-known saying “I really feel if I need to win the stage, I’ll win the stage” delivered by Finnish rally legend Marku Alen throughout his interval of dominance 36 years earlier.  

“I do know among the {old} sayings from the {old} guys [in rally] and it’s enjoyable if you drive like that, you possibly can select when to win the stage – it was humorous,” mentioned Rovanpera when requested about his imitation of Lancia legend Alen. 

Rovanperä scored his second win of the year in Estonia with a dominant display

Photograph by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Rovanperä scored his second win of the yr in Estonia with a dominant show

“It was a very good one [rally],” Rovanpera continued as his championship lead ballooned to 55 factors.

“It’s my favorite occasion on the calendar and I used to be actually having fun with it. I used to be actually having fun with the automobile and the levels and I feel we may see that within the stage occasions.

“I feel it’s actually easy. If the automobile works the way you need, then you are able to do what you need with it.

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“I feel Loeb has executed one thing comparable [winning 13 stages in a row], extra or the identical, I don’t care, it’s nonetheless an excellent chunk of stage wins.”

Exhibits one other string to his bow in Greece after Finland heartbreak

From the highs of Estonia got here the lows of Finland. It was a homecoming to overlook as Rovanpera rolled his GR Yaris on stage eight whereas main Evans by 5.7s. Labelling the incident as a “silly crash”, it marked the one retirement of his season to this point.

After Evans claimed a most 30 factors together with his second Finland win, the title race was again hanging within the stability with Rovanpera main his team-mate by 25 factors. It meant the next Acropolis Rally was a vital second.

Rovanpera issued the proper response however there was one thing fairly particular about his third win of the season. Following days of torrential rain from Storm Daniel, the Acropolis Rally was notably attritional with Rovanpera and Dani Sordo the one drivers to keep away from any hassle or mechanical points.

Rally Finland marked a low point for Rovanperä, although he left the event with a 25-point championship lead

Photograph by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Rally Finland marked a low level for Rovanperä, though he left the occasion with a 25-point championship lead

Once more beginning first on the highway, Rovanpera was in a position to to ship a quick, but measured tempo to guard his automobile and preserve himself within the victory hunt. He assumed the rally lead after Neuville first broke his suspension in a compression, earlier than Ogier then suffered a double puncture and suspension harm. 

Rovanpera then cruised to victory by 1m31.7s from Evans, who recovered from a damaged radiator. A Energy Stage win elevated his championship result in 33 factors.   

“It’s at all times fairly clear that it is advisable end and maintain the automobile and the tyres additionally, in order that was our plan, to push exhausting from the primary place [on the road] however I nonetheless felt that I took care. I didn’t take all of the dangers.

“While you communicate with him and hearken to his feedback it’s extremely tough to assume that he was born within the 2000s. He’s very mature” Kaj Lindstrom

“There’s at all times a necessity [to push] when you possibly can seize additional [Power Stage] factors,” he added. “I didn’t actually need to give them away both.”

Toyota’s sporting director Kaj Lindstrom added: “It’s a [remarkable win],

“He’s younger however he’s bloody intelligent. I feel he was the neatest driver at this rally.

“To see him push and take every thing out of the automobile, and keep out of hassle and save the automobile, he did it actually maturely.

Rovanperä was hailed as

Photograph by: Toyota Racing

Rovanperä was hailed as “bloody intelligent” after bouncing again from Finland with victory in Greece

“While you communicate with him and hearken to his feedback it’s extremely tough to assume that he was born within the 2000s. He’s very mature.”

Seals title in cruise mode with a spherical to spare

After solely conceding two factors to Evans in Chile – a gravel spherical that proved to be essentially the most damaging for Rovanpera as highway sweeper – he acquired a primary match level to seal a second world title on the following Central European Rally.

Figuring out the title would arrive if he outscored Evans, Rovanpera as soon as once more displayed his maturity to make sure he left the three nation asphalt rally finishing his supposed goal.

This time beginning first on the highway proved to be a profit as excessive moist situations performed ensured loads of mud can be dragged onto the highway by vehicles. Taking advantage of his place and his potential to shine in slippery situations, Rovanpera marched into a snug 36.4s lead on the finish of Friday.

A uncommon overshoot at a hairpin noticed that lead slashed earlier than title rival Evans crashed out of third on stage 11. Together with his rival absent, Rovanpera was sensible to again off and cruise to complete second behind Neuville to safe a second title.

“I am fairly pleased with the yr and I feel the efficiency was extra necessary,” mentioned Rovanpera.

“The competitors was stronger and there wasn’t many simple factors to get like final yr when there was rather more hassle between everyone. This yr it was necessary on a regular basis to take the factors and keep in good positions. Typically you simply need to accept the factors, however as we have now seen that is fairly intelligent.”

Rovanpera clinched the title with a spherical to spare, scoring three wins whereas displaying unimaginable consistency to complete no worse than fourth and with just one retirement. A proof that this yr’s mature, intelligent and constant method was certainly an impressed selection.

Rovanperä has secured his position in WRC history as the youngest double-champion in history

Photograph by: Pink Bull Content material Pool

Rovanperä has secured his place in WRC historical past because the youngest double-champion in historical past

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