Toyota GAZOO Racing (GR) recently celebrated a spectacular 1-2 finish at Rally New Zealand, while Kalle Rovanperä wrote his name in the history books as the youngest-ever winner of an FIA World Rally Championship title. Rovanperä, who turned 22 just a day before the win, and his co-driver Jonne Halttunen secured victory in style following another outstanding performance in the No. 69 Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 Hybrid Electric Vehicle.
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 and has been the benchmark driver in the first year of the WRC’s new hybrid Rally1 regulations. Rovanperä’s victory in New Zealand was his sixth of the season. It enabled him to clinch the title with two rallies remaining, having led the championship since winning round two in Sweden in February.
Outstanding speed in difficult weather conditions has been a key attribute to Rovanperä’s driving in 2022 and was also central to his victory in New Zealand. After finishing the second day of the rally in fourth place, he excelled during a rain-soaked third day to take the lead and build an advantage of almost half a minute.
The fourth and final day brought further wet weather; however, Rovanperä managed to maintain his lead ahead of the rally-ending Power Stage. Only a top-four time was needed to secure the two bonus points required to claim the championship, but he nonetheless recorded the fastest time – the seventh occasion he has topped the Power Stage this season.
The outgoing champion Sébastien Ogier completed a one-two finish for the team together with co-driver Benjamin Veillas in the No. 1 Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 Hybrid Electric Vehicle. As part of the close four-way battle for the lead earlier in the rally, they played an important role in their teammates’ success. The one-two finish, plus the first and third fastest times from the Power Stage, ensured Toyota increased its Manufacturers’ Championship lead to 81 points with just 104 left available from the two remaining events.
Akio Toyoda, President and CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation, commented: “This weekend, I would like to congratulate Kalle Rovanperä for three things. Firstly, congratulations on the 22nd birthday! Secondly, congratulations on the victory at Rally New Zealand! And thirdly, congratulations on becoming the drivers’ champion for 2022! With two events remaining, it is overwhelming to win the World Rally Championship with six victories out of 11 events so far.”
Toyoda added: “The drivers were able to push and gave everything because the whole team moved in the same direction, and members of Toyota New Zealand also gave us strong support. I would like to thank everyone who contributed so much to this victory, and I believe the entire team will continue working hard so that our four cars and four crews are able to drive comfortably on any roads.”
Kalle Rovanperä, Driver of the No. 69 Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 Hybrid Electric Vehicle, commented: “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. Also, they always believed in us and supported us in the more difficult moments. I don’t think about age too much, but it’s still special to know we could achieve this. To become champion is our only goal in this sport, and it means a lot.”
Over the years, Toyota has participated in many different motorsports forms, including Formula One, the World Endurance Championship (WEC), and the Nürburgring 24 Hours endurance race. Toyota’s participation in these events was overseen by separate entities within the company until April 2015, when Toyota established GR, to consolidate all of its motorsports activities under one in-house brand. Representing Toyota’s belief that ‘the roads build the people, and the people build the cars,’ GR highlights the role of motorsports as a fundamental pillar of Toyota’s commitment to making ‘ever-better’ cars. Harnessing years of experience gained under the extreme conditions of various motorsports events, GR aims to forge new technologies and solutions that bring everyone the freedom, adventure, and joy of driving.
The season continues in Spain with the penultimate championship round, Rally de España, on October 20-23. Based in Salou to the south of Barcelona, the event is known for its smooth and fast asphalt roads that share similar characteristics with a racing circuit.