Tue 24 May 2022

Is Kalle Rovanperä the complete driver?

Coming into this season, there was no doubting Kalle Rovanperä had gravel sorted. Winning on the quick stuff in Estonia and in the rough in Greece demonstrated the Finn’s mastery of the dirt.

But what about snow? What about Tarmac? What about winning from the front somewhere like Portugal? All questions to be asked of the 21-year-old this year. Four rounds in and Kalle has answered every one of them, emphatically.

The Toyota Gazoo Racing driver’s performance at last week’s Rally de Portugal was outstanding. It was his best outing…since the one before. In Croatia, Rovanperä delivered the Wolf Power Stage of his life to elbow Hyundai Motorsport’s Ott Tänak to one side to take his first ever asphalt victory. That was special. Arguably, Portugal was even better.

Vodafone Rally de Portugal 2022: Event Highlights

As summer approaches, the WRC settles into its gravel season and that’s generally something of a worry for the championship leader. Running first on the road is never a good thing when it comes to the dirt. Legends like Sébastien Ogier and Sébastien Loeb have demonstrated that it is possible to win from the front, to sweep a faster line for your rivals and then come back and bite them two days later. But could Kalle do it?

Yes. Very much, yes.

Rovanperä crafted a brilliant maiden success in Portugal by keeping his head cool as the temperatures soared on the opening day of Europe’s westernmost round of the championship.

In with a shot at the win over the weekend, the championship leader wasn’t going to be denied.

“When I see a chance, I take it,” he said. “It was the same like Croatia. I wasn’t going to push or take a big risk in the [Wolf] Power Stage, but I saw the chance and I felt good with the car so I went for it.

“In Portugal I was happy and the feeling was good with the tyres, I was able to make some time.”

The truth is, Rovanperä does what he does. He’s not one for the big expansive explanation. No need. Not when you have a team principal more than willing to do it for you…

Jari-Matti Latvala was as surprised as the rest of us that his young countryman was able to pull off an outstanding early 2022 hat-trick.

“I was thinking maybe the podium could be possible,” he said, “but not really the win. This was a big surprise. He is proving us wrong a lot right now. What he is doing now is reminding me a little bit of 2013 when Sébastien [Ogier] was starting with Volkswagen and starting to be a little bit dominant in the championship. He is very, very strong right now – winning in Sweden, Croatia and from the front in Portugal has shown he is a complete driver.” 

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM