Could Rovanperä really move to Hyundai?

David Evans feels the world champion's more likely to leave the WRC than join Toyota's rival


Is Kalle Rovanperä going to Hyundai Motorsport next season?

Why would he? What’s to be gained? Why would you leave arguably the best resourced and, right now, the most successful team in the championship?

Simple: you wouldn’t. You wouldn’t, would you Ott Tänak?

The Estonian’s decision to jump ship from Yaris to i20, taking his Toyota-earned title with him, at the end of 2019 took the world by surprise. Few folk saw that one coming.

Even fewer would see this one coming.

Being blunt, I’d be astonished if Rovanperä was wearing more blue than black; more orange than red and sitting down to supper between Thierry Neuville and Cyril Abiteboul next year.

Timo Jouhki is, however, the WRC’s most successful manager. He’s taken Finn after to Finn into rallying and brought world champion after world champion out of it. Nobody makes a deal like Jouhki and he knows what he’s doing.

To blindly walk into another Toyota contract would be complacent in the extreme. He has to see what’s out there, to talk to Abiteboul and the Koreans and understand what Rovanperä could deliver to them. And, crucially, what value they would place on that.

Let’s face it, he’s the most valuable asset the WRC has right now and Hyundai will be painfully aware of that. Take his efforts on the WRC round he likes least – last week’s Rally Italy Sardinia – where he left the island after a mediocre performance a further seven points clear at the top of the table, for example.

But leaving Toyota? It’s such a stretch.

Even Kalle’s time at Škoda was sanctioned by Tommi Mäkinen. The four-time world champion – also a product of the Jouhki stable – and Rovanperä worked hand-in-hand through his early career. It was Tommi who offered a 15-year-old Kalle a test in a Toyota Yaris WRC.

Toyota Gazoo Racing is based out Kalle’s home town, he’s adored by the Japanese and is very much a product of what is contemporarily seen as the WRC’s super team.

When he’s not driving a GR Yaris rally car, he’s sending a GR Corolla Formula Drift car.

He’s a Toyota man.


In many ways, I’d be less surprised to see him walk away from the WRC altogether at the end of the season than to see him join Hyundai.

And maybe that’s a bombshell option. Maybe he takes a season or two away from the WRC and goes into drifting on a more permanent basis. Why not? Two years out and come back fresh to the WRC aged 25 – he’s hardly an old man.

Parallels can be drawn with Max Verstappen. The current F1 world champion has talked recently about his own reservations about committing the rest of his career to his current job.

The Red Bull Racing driver said: “I know that I will be 31 when it’s the end of my contract [in 2028].

“At that point already I will have been in F1 a very long time and it’s a lot of work. It’s travelling a lot, not only the races but in between you’re travelling to the factory, you have marketing commitments and I’m really a person who loves to be at home.

“I love doing Le Mans, I love doing other 24-hour races, I love watching the GT3 cars go around the Nordschleife.

“All these kind of things I want to experience in my life and I don’t want to be doing them when I’m 40 or 50 because then I’m not at the peak of my performance. When I’m 31, I’m pretty sure I’m still capable of doing great things.”

Like every 22-year-old Rovanperä wants to spend time with his mates. Post-Portugal, he headed for Japan and another drifting adventure (which he won, naturally) with his pals.

Could the pull of sideways take his eye off the WRC ball for a couple of years – with a bit of everything TGR thrown in, maybe some Dakar or even some endurance racing? It’s all possible.

Moving to Hyundai? Less so.