Kalle Rovanperä will step down from a full program of World Rally Championship events next season, tackling only selected rallies in a Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 through 2024.
The 23-year-old’s decision means he will not defend the second world title he won this season. Rovanperä has been quick to point out, however, that the decision is for 2024 only – he will be back on a full WRC campaign from 2025 onwards.
The news of Rovanperä’s decision broke when Toyota announced its driver lineup for the coming season, just a day after its dominant victory at its home Rally Japan last weekend. Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta will tackle full 2024 campaigns, while Sébastien Ogier and Rovanperä will share a third Yaris.
Explaining his decision, Rovanperä said: “You’re going to see a few differences for Jonne [Halttunen, co-driver] and me – we’re going to drive half a season.
“There are a few reasons for that, but the biggest reason is that I’ve been driving rally for a really, really long time. I just found that was a good moment to take a bit of a break, to recharge the batteries and to have a bit of time off to focus on the future and to have more energy and more push in the coming years.
“I understand it seems we are really young and it hasn’t been so long in the WRC category, but I’ve been driving for a really long time – I don’t know, six or seven years with the full season, even in the smaller categories.
“Of course, when you’re young and most of the time has gone in the rallying, it feels a lot, so I think it’s a good moment to have a bit of reset.
“It takes a lot of time and a lot of energy to do the seasons – that’s definitely the biggest reason: we are going around the world all the time and when you’re pushing for a championship, all the time mentally you are in the competition mode throughout the season. It takes a lot of effort and strength to do it.”
Rovanperä admitted he hadn’t considered exactly what shape his 2024 plans would take, but drifting and competing on other rallies outside of WRC are both on the list.
“Let’s see what comes next year,” he said. “I love all kind of motorsport. I just hope we will have some fun events. Hopefully [we’ll do] some cool events, drifting and maybe rallying and what else I don’t know. I’m sure we’ll do something nice.”
In terms of the WRC, his program has yet to be confirmed – but he’s unlikely to be seen on the season-opener in Monte Carlo, where Sébastien Ogier is expected to run the shared car.
“It’s definitely a different approach next year,” Rovanperä said. “It’s not decided what races we will do – but some that are really positive for us. I’m really looking forward to be starting with some nice starting places on the rallies where the [running] order is better for us.
“Definitely the plan is only for next year. After that, we are already signed for full seasons for the next coming years. The contract is multi-year [and] for sure it’s only one season for this and then we are back fighting for the championships full time.”
Team principal Jari-Matti Latvala said he could understand Rovanperä’s thinking and was keen to keep the Finn fresh for 2025 and beyond.
“With Kalle, we have to remember that he is 23 years old,” Latvala said. “It sounds that he is young – and he is very young – but actually he has been driving rally cars since he was eight. He hasn’t been professional since then, but when he was 17, he was already driving for manufacturers and pushing for championships in a professional way with.
“Already he has thousands of kilometers under his belt and he’s already done a huge amount of work – it’s a little bit of a relief that he can relax the mind and take some energy for the later years.”