Rovanperä one stage away from winning maiden WRC title

Thierry Neuville was lucky to survive a moment early onto the stage


Kalle Rovanperä is one stage away from his chance to make history, with the Rally New Zealand powerstage offering him the opportunity to become the youngest ever champion in World Rally Championship.

Rovanperä leads the 11th round of the season by 31.2 seconds over outgoing champion Sébastien Ogier after 16 of New Zealand’s 17 stages.

Second quickest on Whitford Forest – Te Maraunga Waiho 2, Rovanperä is typically undeterred by the occasion.

“[My heart rate is] really low at the moment at least, so all good.”

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Thierry Neuville nearly threw away his fourth position on SS16 as the Hyundai driver got off-line in a right-left sequence and drifted off into the bushes on the outside of the tightening left.

Mashing the throttle in a bid to save his fate, Neuville pulled his i20 N Rally1 back on the road and continued on his merry way.

“I changed some settings on the hybrid system and I got a huge surprise in front of the braking, so we went a bit wide,” Neuville explained.

He’s in the middle of a Hyundai 3-4-5 behind Ott Tänak but ahead of Oliver Solberg overall. Hayden Paddon leads WRC2 in sixth.