You don’t need to be an expert of the 2022 World Rally Championship season to know that Kalle Rovanperä has been the driver to beat throughout the early phases.
While fourth overall on the Monte Carlo Rally doesn’t sound too spectacular, Rovanperä’s pace in the second half of the rally – proved by the powerstage win – was sublime and he left there the highest placed in the championship of the full-time drivers.
Rovanperä’s championship position then naturally got stronger with victory on Rally Sweden and he followed that up with an unexpected maximum points haul on Croatia Rally too.
It means that the Toyota driver is already 29 points clear of his closest rival, Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, after three of the season’s 13 rounds.
But just how good has Rovanperä’s start to 2022 been? The gap to those around him – with plenty dropping the ball while behind Rovanperä on events – isn’t as telling as the number of points he himself has been able to accumulate.
And analyzing Rovanperä’s start – 76 points scored from a possible 90 – reveals just how supreme he has been thus far. In fact, over comparable-length seasons, there have only been six occasions in WRC history where a driver has scored more than the 84.44% available points that Rovanperä has managed after the first three rounds of 2022.
Narrowly edging that score with 86.66% is Sébastien Loeb’s 2006 season in a Kronos Racing Citroën Xsara WRC.
Then a two-time world champion, Loeb led the Monte Carlo Rally before sliding off the road and yielding victory to chief rival Marcus Grönholm. But an awesome comeback earned him second, a result he repeated in Sweden before victory in México.
Sébastien Ogier’s first season in a Volkswagen, 2013, was a dominant one as he finished second on the team’s debut in Monte Carlo and then won both Rally Sweden and México.
Throughout the first three events of that season, Ogier scooped 74 of a possible 84 points – converting to 88.09%.
Three years later in 2016 Ogier went three points better with another two wins (Monte and Sweden) and a second (México), but going undefeated on the powerstage on all three of those rallies allowed him to score 91.66% of the first available points.
That puts 2016 just ahead (by one percentage point) of Loeb’s start to his 2010 campaign, his final with a Citroën C4 WRC after dropping just seven points over the first three events with wins in México and Jordan but second on the season-opening Rally Sweden.
This finishing record is equalled by Ogier in both 2013 and ’16 but in 2010, a year before the powerstage was introduced, it left Loeb with 90.66% of the available points on the board.
Ogier’s start to the 2015 season was near flawless as he won all three of the first three events, but again because of the powerstage quirk he wasn’t rewarded with a 100% start.
But that said, it was only the Monte where Ogier didn’t score as he won both the Sweden and México powerstages to register some 81 points from a possible 84 after round three seven years ago. That works out at 96.43%.
However the king of WRC statistics, Loeb, comes out trumps here too courtesy of his emphatic start to the 2009 campaign. Loeb went undefeated on the first three rallies to boast a 100% points conversion, and actually extended that run to round five of the season in Argentina too in a period of unprecedented dominance.
What all of this ultimately says about the start to Rovanperä’s 2022 depends on the extent to which you believe history acts as a pointer to what will happen in the present. But for the 21-year-old to have put himself in among this company speaks volumes about the way he is driving at the moment.
Don’t for one second assume that the 2022 title race is already over though. These statistics only represent the beginning of a campaign, not the end result.
After all, 2009 – the only time a driver has scored 100% of the available points after the first three rallies – is remembered as one of the best title fights of the 21st century as Loeb began to drop the ball and Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen took the fight to him all the way to the very last day of the season.
Rovanperä has won the first set, but there’s a match there waiting to be claimed.