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History beckons at Repco Rally New Zealand

Repco Rally New Zealand could be the scene of an historic World Rally Championship moment as Toyota’s Kalle Rovanpera aims to become the youngest ever world champion.

The 21-year-old Finn has been the dominant force in the WRC this year winning rallies on all surfaces after taking wins in Sweden (Snow), Croatia (Asphalt), Portugal (Gravel), Kenya (Gravel) and Estonia (Gravel) which established a sizeable championship lead.

Rovanpera’s advantage has since been reduced to 53 points after finishing second to Hyundai’s Ott Tanak in Finland in August before salvaging PowerStage points in Belgium and Greece after a pair of uncharacteristic crashes.

However, in New Zealand Rovanpera only need to extend his championship lead over Tanak, who won in Finland and Belgium, and finished second in Greece, by eight points to seal a maiden world title, and the first for a Finnish driver since Marcus Gronholm 20 years ago.

It would also see Rovanpera eclipse the record as the WRC’s youngest ever world champion currently held by three-time rally New Zealand winner Colin McRae, when he won the 1995 world championship for Subaru.

“It will be really interesting to go to Rally New Zealand. I have only heard good things about the country and the rally and how nice the roads are,” said Rovanpera.

“To prepare we have been watching whatever videos we can to get an overview of how the stages are and to understand what we might need from the car before we get there.

“Recent rallies have not been ideal for us but we know what we need to improve and we are working hard to have more pace and be more comfortable.

“Again we will be opening the road in New Zealand but hopefully we can have good speed, enjoy the event and finish with a good result.”

Rovanpera’s Toyota’s squad also lead the manufacturers’ title race courtesy of a 63-point lead over Hyundai.

WRC 2022 Standings Top 15

1. Kalle Rovanpera – Toyota Gazoo Racing – 207

2. Ott Tanak – Hyundai Motorsport – 154

3. Thierry Neuville – Hyundai Motorsport -131

4. Elfyn Evans – Toyota Gazoo Racing – 116

5. Takamoto Katsuta – Toyota Gazoo Racing -100

6. Craig Breen – M-Sport Ford – 77

7. *Esapekka Lappi – Toyota Gazoo Racing – 58

8. *Dani Sordo – Hyundai Motorsport – 49

9. Gus Greensmith – M-Sport Ford – 36

10. *Sebastien Loeb – M-Sport Ford – 35

11. *Sebastien Ogier – Toyota Gazoo Racing – 34

12. *Pierre-Louis Loubet – M-Sport Ford – 30

13. Andreas Mikkelsen [WRC2] – Toksport Skoda -25

14. *Oliver Solberg – Hyundai Motorsport – 21

15. Emil Lindholm [WRC2] – Toksport Skoda -14

*Part time campaign