Ott Tänak believes new World Rally champion Kalle Rovanperä never gave any of his rivals a chance against him this season.
While Rovanperä was third in the points table after the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally, he has effectively led the championship from start to finish as Sébastiens Loeb and Ogier who were ahead of him after round one weren’t full-time contenders.
Rovanperä’s season took off with three victories on the bounce in Sweden, Croatia and Portugal while a fourth win from six starts in Safari Rally Kenya marked him as the clear title favorite as the season entered its halfway stage.
Another win in Estonia strengthened Rovanperä’s case and as early as round eight of 13, Ypres Rally Belgium, he had a mathematical chance of being crowned.
Two finishes outside the top 10 on Ypres and Acropolis Rally Greece allowed Tänak to close in as he won both Ypres and Rally Finland before it, but Rovanperä’s points lead always remained healthy.
Tänak was on the back foot from the off in 2022 with just five points from the first two rounds, so has been pragmatic in knowing that catching Rovanperä was always going to be difficult at best.
And now that Rovanperä has joined Tänak in becoming a world champion, the Hyundai driver has admitted as much.
“I would say he never gave anybody else a chance,” Tänak told DirtFish.
“Probably since the beginning of the year he took rally by rally, he had really nobody else to fight than himself.
“He’s done a great job and definitely worked to get it.
“In the middle of the season it seemed like something was coming back, definitely [we were] improving but we we were never close really.
“Fair play from the Toyota guys, they beat everybody fair and square. Especially Kalle obviously, but all the team has been very strong against the others.”
Rovanperä indicated it was more of a relief than anything else to have claimed the title that had looked to be his for so long, but Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala was more emphatic in his appraisal.
“It’s been a fantastic year,” Latvala told DirtFish.
“I mean 22 years old and getting his first championship title, [when] I was 22 years old I got my first works drive but things have changed and developed since those days and it’s amazing to see this young gun getting the championship and I’m so happy for him that the pressure is off his shoulders and also for the team.
“And especially I’m so happy for the Finnish nation because it’s been a long time waiting for a championship title.”
The driver Rovanperä succeeds as world champion, eight-time winner Sébastien Ogier, was asked how many titles Rovanperä could now win at the future, given he’s chalked up his first just one day after his 22nd birthday.
“Nobody knows, nobody knows how many he can win, but at least the potential is huge,” Ogier told DirtFish.
“When you are champion for the first time at 22 years old, at this age I was never sitting in any rally car yet so we are not competing in the same category.
“I think in that way it will also be depending on many factors, of course being with the right people, the right team, having the motivation for so long, but the potential is definitely huge.”