Fri 03 Nov 2023

Talking points from Central European Rally

Champions were crowned, history was made, and the action just kept on coming. Let’s look back on some of the key talking points from the first-ever Central European Rally.

Based on the fact that he secured back-to-back FIA World Rally Championship titles, it must be Kalle Rovanperä. Aged just 23, the Finn joins the likes of Miki Biasion, Walter Röhrl and Carlos Sainz as a two-time winner.

The Toyota GR Yaris driver did exactly what he needed to do in Central Europe, establishing a commanding lead early in the event which ultimately left his fellow title-hunting team-mate Elfyn Evans playing catch-up.

When Evans folded under the pressure and crashed out of contention, Rovanperä essentially sacrificed his chances of taking the rally victory – allowing Thierry Neuville to storm clear at the front while he ensured he was at to the finish to claim the ultimate prize. It’s that level of maturity which has already earned the Finn two world titles at such a young age.

SS11, the first passage of Knaus Tabbert Bayerischer Wald in Germany, was where the dynamic completely changed.

Evans, fighting hard to catch Rovanperä, came unstuck on a slippery right-hander and slid his GR Yaris through a barn door. Rovanperä, aware his colleague’s misdemeanour had essentially guaranteed the title to him, immediately backed off, dropping back to second overall as Neuville charged ahead.

When Andreas Mikkelsen lost almost 10 minutes trying to extract his Śkoda Fabia RS Rally2 from the Czech undergrowth on Friday morning, we all thought we’d be waiting for FORUM8 Rally Japan to crown our WRC2 champion. Amazingly, however, the Norwegian driver did just enough to secure the coveted title – despite finishing more than 13 minutes adrift of (WRC2) event winner Nicolas Ciamin.

Yohan Rossel’s retirement meant that Gus Greensmith was the only other driver realistically still standing in Mikkelsen’s way, although he too had experienced a setback in the form of a puncture on Friday morning.

To halt Mikkelsen’s celebrations the Briton simply needed a top-three time in the Wolf Power Stage – but a spin ensured that didn’t happen. Mikkelsen, on the other hand, posted the fastest time for the finale to clinch the crown with one round to spare.


Czech Republic is home to some of the most passionate rally fans on earth but, before last week, the nation had not previously hosted a round of WRC. This was the moment Czech fans had been dreaming of - and Thursday's ceremonial start in capital city Prague delivered on those dreams.

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