WRC Safari Rally: 21-year-old Kalle Rovanperä wins 2022 edition
21-year-old Kalle Rovanperä has done it again! The young Motorsports superstar has scooped his 4th World Rally Championship (WRC) title after conquering the 2022 edition that was held in Naivasha, Kenya, a tournament that ran between June 23 and June 26.
Rovanpera together with his navigator Jonne Halttunen cleared the last stage (SS19) at 3m40s, 52.8 seconds faster than teammate Elfyn Evans who came in at second place while Japanese Takamoto Katsuta finished 3rd.
For Toyota Gazoo Racing team, this is the first time in 12 years that a team secured positions 1,2,3 and 4 in the WRC - Last year's WRC Safari Rally winner Sebastian Ogier this time settling in at 4th place.
Only six of 12 WRC Rally1 cars completed the full rally distance in what proved to be the toughest event of the season by far.
Rovanpera’s only blemish arrived on the Thursday’s opening Super Special stage in Nairobi when he almost rolled his Toyota GR Yaris, picking up a puncture in the process.
On Friday he fared admirably opening the roads as Kenya’s deep fesh-fesh sand wrecked havoc with WRC crews, ending the day with a 14.6s lead over Elfyn Evans.
While Evans was hampered by a windscreen washer issue that severely limited visibility, Rovanpera was able to end Saturday with a 40.3s lead. From there, Rovanpera had control of the rally and was able to back off to preserve his GR Yaris to move into a 65-point championship lead.
The 21 year old Finn now leads the championship by 65 points with seven rounds remaining, while Toyota extended its manufacturers’ series lead by 62 points.
"It feels great,” said Rovanperä. “I have to say, this was the hardest rally I have ever done and if I am honest we just have to thank the team."To have four cars like this with no issues means it is clearly the strongest and fastest car. The team did a fantastic job."
Ogier was left to settle for fourth after emerging as the early rally leader following’s Thursday’s opener and continued to lead until Stage 3 when his GR Yaris suffered a power loss from dust in the airbox.
For Frenchman Ogier the hotly-anticipated battle with compatriot Sébastien Loeb never materialised either, as the nine-time world champion retired his M-Sport Ford Puma with engine woes on Friday.
Nevertheless, Ogier was pleased to bring home more solid points for Toyota during his part-time campaign. The last time the team occupied all top four positions in Kenya was in 1993.