Kalle Rovanperä doesn’t think he will ever surpass Sébastien Loeb’s record of World Rally Championship wins and titles, suggesting he may not stick at rallying long enough to do so.
Rovanperä is on the brink of his first world title, needing to score just seven more points than Ott Tänak on this weekend’s Rally New Zealand to claim the championship two rounds early.
If he does so, he will become the youngest world champion in history at just 22 years old and one day, as Rovanperä’s birthday falls on the Saturday of New Zealand.
The son of 2001 Rally Sweden winner Harri, Rovanperä has long looked destined for a successful career in rallying when online footage emerged of him driving a Toyota Starlet at just eight years old.
He emerged on the world championship scene in late 2017 having just turned 17, winning the WRC2 Pro title with Škoda in 2019 before joining Toyota’s fully-fledged WRC program in 2020.
Rovanperä won his first event in Estonia last year and has added a further five to his name this year, dominating the early part of this season to win five of the first seven events.
This success has led some to grow concerned that the WRC could become processional in years to come – in a style similar to Loeb and Sébastien Ogier in the 2000s and 2010s respectively – such has been Rovanperä’s form so young.
Loeb holds most of the key WRC records including rally wins (80) and world titles (nine) and given he’s only turning 22 this week Rovanperä certainly has time on his side to break these.
But the Toyota driver revealed to DirtFish that those records are of little interest to him.
Two suggestions were put to Rovanperä by DirtFish’s Colin Clark. Either he dominates the WRC for the next 20-25 years or he seeks a new challenge after four or five years. In response, Rovanperä said: “I think the second option is much more likely than the first one.”
He then confirmed he had given it some thought but hadn’t set a limit on how long he may or may not remain in the WRC.
“I think it will depend just how I feel, how much I enjoy this sport and of course how much success I get,” Rovanperä added.
“I think that will depend on that. Who knows if I’m here after 15 years, but on my feeling I think I will not be, at least full-time.”
Rovanperä is known to have plenty of other interests, particularly drifting, but he hasn’t thought far enough ahead to work out what he may want to do instead if he decides he wants a break from rallying.
“I think I really always enjoy driving everything. I have been driving some tests in circuit racing cars, I have done many things, so let’s see what I hopefully try and do at some point.”
Successful WRC drivers forging a career in a new discipline of motorsport is certainly nothing new.
Loeb for example has competed (and won) in the World Touring Car Championship and World Rallycross Championship, and currently competes in the World Rally-Raid Championship and Extreme E alongside his partial WRC campaign with M-Sport.
Loeb even flirted with Formula 1, testing a Red Bull at Silverstone and taking part in the 2008 winter test at Barcelona. He was considered for a Toro Rosso drive in 2009, but the FIA wouldn’t grant him a super license, so he stuck with the WRC instead with Citroën.
Ogier meanwhile has made guest appearances in racing series like the DTM and drove some of the World Endurance Championship rounds this year for LMP2 team Richard Mille Racing.
Whatever happens in the future, Rovanperä won’t be deviating from the WRC any time soon. He’s got his first title to win, and that’s where his full focus lies.