Tue 13 Dec 2022

Most Improved Driver 2022

Several drivers took major strides forward in their careers in 2022 - with six of them now nominated for 'Most Improved Driver 2022'. Voting is now open.

Takamoto Katsuta continued to take leaps and strides forward in his career in 2022 - ultimately seeing him earn a part-time drive in Toyota Gazoo Racing's top team in 2023. The young Japanese driver proved to be the most consistent WRC star across the year, remarkably scoring points in all but one rally while finishing the season fifth overall. Personal highlights included a second consecutive podium at Safari Rally Kenya and a podium on his home rally, FORUM8 Rally Japan, in November.

Stepping up to the WRC2 category in 2022, Lindholm intended to treat his first season in the WRC's main support category as one for development. However, the Finn was immediately on the frontrunning pace, putting a forgettable opening round in Sweden behind him to go on and record two victories and three further podium finishes - dethroning Andreas Mikkelsen to become the new WRC2 world champion.

This was the year the promising Luxembourger finally made his breakthrough in WRC2. Turning heads with a fifth-place finish at Rallye Monte-Carlo to start the season, Munster showed that it was not a one-off performance with an impressive drive to fifth at his almost-home rally, Ypres Rally Belgium. This performance was all the more impressive in that it came in borrowed machinery following a major crash in the lead-up to the Belgian event. He then capped off a solid season with a spectacular Sunday drive at FORUM8 Rally Japan, throwing caution to the wind in wet conditions to make up more than a minute on one single stage to move into the overall lead - and that was where he'd still be sitting at the conclusion of the rally.

With three wins under his belt in 2021, it was hard to see how Rovanperä could make further improvements, still at such a young age. But that is exactly what he did in 2022, producing a season for the ages to rewrite the record books. Crashing spectacularly in Croatia in 2021 on the opening stage when leading on the road, the 21-year-old proved this year he had learned from his previous mistakes 12 months on. Not only did he display poise and control, but he picked his moments to attack to perfection, stunning the more-experienced Ott Tänak on the Wolf Power Stage to claim his second of six victories in a championship-winning season.

The FIA Junior WRC's switch to four-wheel drive Fiestas in 2022 proved to be just the remedy for Estonian youngster Virves to produce his breakthrough season at international level. Showing unbelievable resilience to make it to the start line of each rally with funding always a question in the back of his mind, Virves was able to deliver to perfection on those who supported him, picking up four podiums including victory in Greece - the final round of the year - to lift the FIA Junior WRC title. As further credit to Virves, a switch to English pace notes mid-season failed to rattle him, with his results only improving further.

Failing to leave a mark in two seasons of FIA Junior WRC action or a season in WRC3, stepping up to WRC2 appears to have been the call to action the young Paraguayan was waiting for. Competing against a higher level of competition, Zaldivar showed himself to be up to the task, particularly on faster gravel rallies such as Rally Estonia where he stunned an experienced local field with a maiden stage win. Fifth overall in class at a challenging EKO Acropolis Rally Greece was also nothing to be smirked at. Should Zaldivar continue on the same trajectory in 2023, pushes for podiums in WRC2 will not be too far away.

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