Kalle Rovanperä’s start to the 2022 World Rally Championship season has been good. Very good. Statistically, the seventh-best ever, in terms of points available versus points scored in the opening three rounds.
Only two people have done it better. They’re both called Sébastien. And the younger of those two Sébs is his team-mate at Toyota.
A baton has been passed. With Sébastien Ogier slipping into semi-retirement from rallying and going part-time, someone in the Toyota stable had to step up and be the leading light in the drivers’ championship. So far, that’s been Rovanperä.
Ogier is impressed with his young team-mate’s run out of the blocks in 2022. But his optimism for Rovanperä’s title charge comes with a caveat of caution.
Marcus Grönholm is eighth on that list of best starts to a season. Was it for his dominant second title in 2002? Nope. The first success in 2000? Wrong again.
- When he lost to Loeb.
“To be honest he has just done two perfect rallies. It’s really a good start for him,” said Ogier.
“After three races he has a very big lead. But a big lead after three races doesn’t mean you’re going to be champion after 13. There are 10 rallies to go. But for sure at the moment, he’s doing exactly what he has to do.”
Ogier knows how to convert a strong start into a world title. His four championships with Volkswagen are second, third, fifth and 10th on that aforementioned list of best starts to a season.
After seeing Rovanperä’s final stage heroics in Croatia, the eight-time world champion is struggling to find a chink in the 21-year-old’s armor.
“Honestly, I didn’t follow exactly stage by stage what happened, but I could see from afar that in Croatia, for example, he had good management, of course helped by the road position in the beginning.
“But then he was cool when it was tricky. And there was the last push at the end to get the win. So, he seems pretty strong in every aspect at the moment.
“If it continues like this, it will be hard for the others to catch him.”