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Amman, October 2022: GAZOO Racing (GR) celebrated a spectacular one-two finish at Rally New Zealand, while Kalle Rovanperä recorded his name in the history books as the youngest-ever winner of a Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) World Rally Championship title. Rovanperä, who turned 22 just one day before the win, and his co-driver, Jonne Halttunen, secured victory in style following another outstanding performance in the No. 69 Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 Hybrid Electric Vehicle.
Cinching the title in only his third season competing at rallying’s highest level, Rovanperä is more than five years younger than previous record holder, Colin McRae, and has been the benchmark driver in the first year of the WRC’s new hybrid Rally1 regulations. Rovanperä’s victory in New Zealand was his sixth of the season, enabling him to grab the title with two rallies remaining, having led the championship since winning round two in Sweden in February.
Outstanding speed in difficult weather conditions has been a key attribute to Rovanperä’s driving in 2022 and was also central to his victory in New Zealand. After finishing the second day of the rally in fourth place, he excelled during a rain-soaked third day to take the lead and build an advantage of almost half a minute.
The fourth and final day brought further wet weather. However, Rovanperä managed to maintain his lead ahead of the rally-ending Power Stage. Only a top-four time was needed to secure the two bonus points required to claim the championship, but he nonetheless recorded the fastest time – the seventh occasion he has topped the Power Stage this season.
The outgoing champion, Sébastien Ogier, completed a one-two finish for the team together with co-driver, Benjamin Veillas, in the No. 1 Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 Hybrid Electric Vehicle. As part of the close four-way battle for the lead earlier in the rally, they played an important role in their teammates’ success. The one-two finish, plus the first and third fastest times from the Power Stage, ensured Toyota increased its Manufacturers’ Championship lead to 81 points, with just 104 left available from the two remaining events.
Akio Toyoda, President and CEO, Toyota Motor Corporation, commented: “This weekend, I would like to congratulate Rovanperä for three things; on his 22nd birthday, the victory at Rally New Zealand and becoming the drivers’ champion for 2022. With two events remaining, it is overwhelming to win the World Rally Championship with six victories out of 11 events so far. The drivers were able to push and gave everything because the whole team moved in the same direction, and members of Toyota New Zealand also gave us strong support. I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this victory, and I believe the entire team will continue working hard so that our four cars and four crews are able to drive comfortably on any roads.”
Over the years, Toyota has been participating in many different forms of motorsports, including Formula One, the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and the Nürburgring 24 Hours endurance race. Toyota’s involvement in these events was overseen by separate entities within the company until April 2015, when Toyota established GR to consolidate its motorsports activities under one in-house brand. Representing Toyota’s belief that ‘the roads build the people’ and ‘the people build the cars’ – GR highlights the role of motorsports as a fundamental pillar of Toyota’s commitment to making ‘ever-better’ cars. Harnessing years of experience garnered under the extreme conditions of various motorsports events, GR aims to forge new technologies and solutions that bring the freedom, adventure and joy of driving to everyone.
The season continues in Spain with the penultimate championship round, Rally de España, between 20 and 23 October. Based in Salou – south of Barcelona – the event is known for its smooth and fast asphalt roads that share similar characteristics with a racing circuit.