Kalle Rovanperä Changes the game in WRC

Kalle Rovanperä has won the WRC now twice; he achieved this by placing second overall at the Central European Rally on Sunday. The 23-year-old made sure Thierry Neuville would be impossible to catch in the 2023 season by placing second in this penultimate round. Rovanperä created history just a year ago when he emerged as the youngest-ever WRC champion. As a double champion today, he is ranked alongside greats like Walter Röhrl, Miki Biasion, and Carlos Sainz.

With a 31-point lead over Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate Elfyn Evans going into the Central European Rally, Rovanperä only needed to hold onto his lead to win the championship. Evans’s charge to victory was halted when he had that spectacular crash early on Saturday. After a consistent start to the season, Rovanperä and co-driver Jonne Halttunen won the Vodafone Rally de Portugal in May, which put them on the map. Since then, the two have only finished outside the podium twice.

Although the champions’ jubilation eclipsed Neuville’s achievement of the overall rally title, the Belgian’s drive was highly commendable. On Saturday morning, Neuville took the lead in a Hyundai i20 N, and he went on to win his 19th career race on the slick asphalt roads of Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic by 57.6 seconds. As he stated “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.”

On the final day, Ott Tänak overcome a hydraulic issue to finish third in an M-Sport Ford Puma, nearly two minutes behind the leaders.

On Friday, Sébastien Ogier overcame wheel damage to take fourth place ahead of his Toyota-driving colleague Takamoto Katsuta. Teemu Suninen, Grégoire Munster, and Adrien Fourmaux finished in the top 8, surpassing Pierre-Louis Loubet and Nicolas Ciamin.

The championship will conclude at FORUM8 Rally Japan in Asia the following month.

Central European Rally Podium Winners 2023, (Photo Credit: McKlein / Motorsport Images)

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