Rovanpera becomes youngest world champion with Rally New Zealand win

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Rovanpera becomes youngest world champion with Rally New Zealand win
Updated
Rovanpera becomes youngest world champion with Rally New Zealand win
Rovanpera becomes youngest world champion with Rally New Zealand win
Reuters
Finland's Kalle Rovanpera (22) became the youngest-ever World Rally Championship winner on Sunday as he clinched his sixth victory of the season at Rally New Zealand to claim the title.

The Toyota driver, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Saturday, won in 2 hours 48 minutes 1.4 seconds to move 64 points clear of Hyundai's Ott Tanak and eclipse the record previously set by Scotland's Colin McRae in 1995.

Rovanpera and co-driver Jonne Halttunen went into the race needing to score eight points more than Latvia's Tanak to clinch the title with two rounds remaining in the 2022 season, having already claimed five wins so far this year.

The Finn won the race ahead of France's Sebastien Ogier while Tanak could only finish third, ensuring Rovanpera opened up an unassailable lead after the final races in Spain and Japan.

Tanak could only finish third, ensuring Rovanpera opened up an unassailable lead ahead of the final rounds in Spain and Japan.

Rovanpera, son of retired rally driver Harri Rovanpera, had led the standings since February.

"The biggest feeling right now is that it’s quite a big relief. We have had such a good season, then a few difficult rallies and now finally we could do it," said the first Finn to take the title since Marcus Gronholm in 2002.

"I don’t think about the age too much but it’s still special to know we could achieve this."

Toyota team boss and former rally driver Jari-Matti Latvala hailed Rovanpera as a "superhero".

"It’s amazing that a guy who just turned 22 yesterday can achieve something like this, breaking all the records in our sport and winning the World Rally Championship title," he said.

"It’s something very important for Finland, because 20 years is a long time for us. I came close myself as did others, so I’m really grateful that Kalle could do it."

Toyota lead Hyundai by 81 points in the manufacturers' standings, with 104 still to be won.

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