Emil Lindholm has beaten Andreas Mikkelsen and Kajetan Kajetanowicz to the 2022 WRC title after finishing third on Rally Japan.
Lindholm, who had already secured the WRC2 Junior title, trailed reigning champion Mikkelsen by five points ahead of the final round, sharing the same 104-point total as Kajetanowicz.
But with Mikkelsen absent in Japan and his mandatory dropped score smaller than Kajetanowicz’s, Lindholm was the marginal favorite to claim the title provided he finished inside the top five.
His task became simpler when Kajetanowicz crashed out of the contest on the rally’s second stage. Exiting the famous Isegami’s Tunnel, Kajetanowicz got it wrong under braking and smacked his Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo into a bank and damaged the chassis.
It put him out of the event on the spot and the damage also proved too great for him to restart the following day, eliminating him from the title fight.
With Kajetanowicz gone, Lindholm could’ve backed off but instead he pushed on – immediately taking the lead of the rally and upping it to almost a minute by the end of Saturday.
Grégoire Munster soared past him on the rally’s penultimate stage with an inspired performance on the right tires, and Teemu Suninen slipped past on the powerstage too.
But third spot was more than enough for Lindholm and co-driver Reeta Hämäläinen to become the new WRC2 champions.
“Honestly it might take a while before this sinks in,” admitted Lindholm.
“We’ve had troubles like we had difficult times, but I’m so grateful to the people who continue to support us – the team and the sponsors – because finally it seems to be paying off now.
“I’m basically so grateful to be here.”
Lindholm’s final points total of 116 means he wins the championship by seven points over Toksport team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen, with Kajetanowicz sealing third place in the standings.
He’s the first Finn to win the WRC’s second-tier category since Kalle Rovanperä won the 2019 WRC2 Pro title in an official Škoda Motorsport car.