Kalle Rovanperä, driving only his second WRC rally in a headline category World Rally Car, smashed six-time world champion and Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mate Sébastien Ogier to become the sport’s youngest podium finisher at 19 years and 139 days.
Not only that, he smashed world champion Ott Tänak and he smashed 2019 title runner-up Thierry Neuville in the 21.19km Likenäs to win his first special stage. By the not insignificant margin of almost four seconds…….
Even Rovanperä was impressed with his efforts after converting fourth place to third with a time almost 3.9sec faster than Ogier.
“I think it was the best stage I have done. It was a really good run, I gave it everything I have. It didn’t feel so good in the beginning because I was maybe a bit more careful and saving the tyres, but it paid off in the end as we were doing really fast split times and the final time was really good,” he said.
The Finn stayed under the radar en route to fifth in last month’s season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo, at that time a career-best result. But, even if he did not admit it before the event, his targets were higher for Sweden.
“Here I was not maybe expecting, but hoping for it,” he said. “This was my goal here to be at this speed at least. I didn’t know if I could be all weekend but I was not on the limit all the time so that’s really positive.”
Rovanpera’s podium, 19 years after father Harri scored his only WRC win in Sweden, prompted inevitable questions about whether he can break Jari-Matti Latvala’s record as the youngest winner of a WRC round at 22 years and 313 days.
Kalle wasn’t ready to deliver a headline-grabbing comment. “It depends how we will be at the rallies and how it feels but, of course, I improve all the time and I try to do better but we still have many things to learn,” he added.