Kalle Rovanperä has continued his remarkable 2022 season in the FIA World Rally Championship with his fifth victory from the last six events, leading a one-two finish at Rally Estonia for the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team after a high-speed battle with team-mate Elfyn Evans.
After a series of rougher gravel events, the smooth and fast stages of Estonia provided a test for the outright performance of the new generation of Rally1 cars, one the GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID passed with flying colours by dominating the weekend. It recorded the fastest time in all 22 full-length stages, beaten only narrowly in the two short super special stages held on Thursday and Saturday evenings.
The weather ensured a challenging weekend from start to finish with short and sharp rain showers making conditions extremely changeable and unpredictable for the drivers.
Evans excelled in a mostly dry start to Friday, winning all four stages during the morning to lead Rovanperä, who did well sweeping the loose gravel stages as championship leader and then capitalised on wet weather in the afternoon to move ahead. He and co-driver Jonne Halttunen were then dominant through Saturday, winning seven stages in a row and continued that form into Sunday morning.
The worst of the weather however was saved for the final two stages. Both Rovanperä and Evans were more than half a minute slower than some competitors as conditions worsened during SS23 but were able to maintain their overall positions. They then made the most of improving conditions as the sun came out for their runs at the deciding Power Stage, Rovanperä setting the best time by a huge 22.5 seconds over Evans to claim maximum points for himself and co-driver Jonne Halttunen, who increase their championship lead to 83 points after seven of 13 rounds.
Evans and his co-driver Scott Martin have climbed to third in the standings after a second straight second-place finish and their third of the season.
With the Power Stage result, TGR also scored maximum points towards the manufacturers’ championship this weekend and now lead by 87 points.
Fighting back after losing time when a tyre came off its rim on a landing on Saturday, Esapekka Lappi won two stages on Sunday and gained sixth place overall on the final stage, where he set the fourth-fastest time despite experiencing considerably worse conditions than his team-mates.
Takamoto Katsuta continued his unbroken scoring record so far in 2022 in his TGR WRT Next Generation entry by finishing fifth overall, improving his confidence and performance over the event despite the difficult conditions.
Akio Toyoda (Team Founder)
“Kalle, Jonne, congratulations on back-to-back victories after Kenya, the fifth win this season, and two consecutive victories in Estonia! It was last year’s Rally Estonia when I congratulated Kalle on becoming the youngest winner in the WRC history. It’s been only one year since then, but I already celebrated his wins seven times. It makes me very happy and I really thank him for bringing lots of wins.
For Elfyn and Scott, it’s their third second place finish this season. They went through some difficult times, but the points they earned means a lot for the team and I know they will be reliable in the second half of the season as well.
For Takamoto, Estonia may have been a tricky place where something always happens to him. But he got it done early this year already at shakedown. Having finished the rally in Estonia for the first time together with Aaron, finally he must have made good friends with Estonian roads. I really thank the mechanics who fixed his car before the rally started.
For Esapekka and Janne, the next round in Finland is the home rally which lots of their fans are looking forward to. I’m glad that they will be able to show their cool driving to the local fans as part of our team for the first time in a while.
This rally was the midway point of the 2022 season. The second half starts from our home event in Finland and it ends with our other home event in Japan. I’m really looking forward to the second half and I believe our fans are feeling the same way. Together with Jari-Matti and everybody in the team, we will continue to do our best to meet your expectations. Thank you very much for your continued support.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“Kalle keeps on surprising us every time with what he is able to do. The conditions were extremely difficult in the Power Stage especially, but the more difficult the conditions, the stronger Kalle seems to be. But we also need to remember the whole team effort that has gone into this result: To win so many stages this weekend proves that the GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID is fast as well as reliable, with all four cars inside the top six at the finish. Elfyn delivered another very solid performance with consistency and speed, and both Esapekka and Takamoto also had good runs to the finish. We can be very grateful to have the best drivers and the best team in rallying.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“It’s a bit of a relief to finish the rally after some really difficult conditions in the last couple of stages. Today was all about getting through and securing our second place. In the Power Stage I didn’t take any risks but it was good to get some points from there as well. The biggest positive is another one-two finish for the team which is great. From our side it was a step forward especially from where we were last year on this rally. Congratulations to Kalle: He was very fast, just as he was last year. I take my hat off to him and we’ll try again next time!”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“It’s another amazing result this weekend. Opening the road on Friday morning it was hard to match Elfyn’s pace, but after that we could fight really well. The final day was not so easy to manage, it was longer than normal and a big battle with the weather. To get such huge rain on the last stages was quite tough, but on the Power Stage I still did a big push. I knew that in this weather you can make a difference and I just tried to push a bit while trying to still be a bit safe. I was enjoying the driving and the time was clearly good. It’s nice to get this victory before Rally Finland and hopefully we can do a good job there also.”
Esapekka Lappi (Driver car 4)
“What a final day. It was a lot of kilometres today for a Sunday which was quite nice, and we had a good rhythm today. I had a better flow and I was a bit braver, which helped me to drive faster but it was also coming more naturally. Then we had really tricky conditions, especially on the last one which was definitely the craziest stage I have ever done. It was just horrible with the ruts all full of water. It’s been a great weekend for the team and not a bad one overall for us. We had pretty decent pace throughout, so without the problem yesterday the result would have been OK, and it’s good preparation for Rally Finland.”
PROVISIONAL FINAL CLASSIFICATION, RALLY ESTONIA
1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 2h54m29.0s
2 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m00.9s
3 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +1m55.7s
4 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +3m53.3s
5 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +4m13.4s
6 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +4m49.1s
7 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +5m09.2s
8 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +11m01.8s
9 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Hyundai i20 N Rally2) +11m27.1s
10 Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +13m04.8s