To win all nine of Saturday’s stages in Estonia was, even for Kalle Rovanperä’s standards, simply remarkable.
Absolutely nobody could touch the reigning world champion as he found that irresistible balance of not even needing to push for the times to come.
It all came effortlessly.
“You don’t always have fun, but for sure on a day like this you do,” Rovanperä told DirtFish.
“I really enjoyed the stages, everything went our way. I could push in the morning and then afternoon we just had the good pace all the time.”
Understated as ever.
It’s the first time in the 22-year-old’s top-level career that he’s swept an entire leg of a World Rally Championship event, but for once he’s not actually the first to achieve the feat.
Technically speaking, Toyota team-mate Sébastien Ogier managed to do the same on the Monte Carlo Rally this season when he won both of Thursday night’s stages. But the leg only consisted of two stages, and there was therefore no regroup, tire fitting zone or service.
The last driver before Rovanperä to go unbeaten across a leg which did include a defined first and second loop is actually in the service park this weekend, albeit not driving.
It was Dani Sordo.
That may surprise some as Sordo has never been a driver best associated with blinding pace, but on the final day of Rally Spain 2021 the Spaniard was on fire.
After 13 stages, Sordo found himself fourth overnight but just 1.2 seconds shy of Ogier’s Toyota, who was deep in a championship run-in with team-mate Elfyn Evans.
Spying a chance to catch an out-of-sorts Ogier napping, Sordo sprung into action on Sunday’s opener to go fastest by 0.7 seconds over Hyundai team-mate and eventual rally winner Thierry Neuville.
Crucially Ogier was 1.7s slower, allowing Sordo to move ahead and onto the podium. However he wasn’t done there. Not satisfied with just one stage win, Sordo kept the hammer down and beat Neuville again on the next stage – this time by just 0.2s.
“It’s so fun to do this and Séb is a world champion,” he said, “so to fight with him is nice.”
Sordo was relishing the fight. Heading into the repeat passes he had just a 1.6s buffer to Ogier so he had no choice but to keep the right foot planted.
That he did.
Winning Santa Marina 2 by 0.7s again, this time over Ogier, gave Sordo a 2.3s lead over the Frenchman with just the powerstage left. Even though bonus points weren’t as attractive to him as they were for others as just a part-time driver, Sordo didn’t relent and again gave it his all.
Sordo was quickest by 1.4s, and Ogier was 4.5s in arrear. Three appearances after claiming his long-waited second WRC win, Sordo had produced one of his best single-day performances ever.
“You can’t imagine how happy I am,” he beamed. “Séb was working us really hard and for me it was a nice fight. Thanks to the team for giving me this car to fight with – I am so happy.”
Compared to what Rovanperä did, it wasn’t quite as impressive. Particularly as Rovanperä won more than twice as many stages as Sordo did in October 2021.
But any day where a driver dominates is one to be celebrated by us all.
Unless you’re one of Rovanperä’s rivals tonight. They feared he’d do it – Esapekka Lappi even predicted on Friday evening that Kalle would “kill everyone” today – but to actually witness it happen can’t be great for their own self-confidence.
As for Rovanperä?
“Of course I think we could have pushed a bit more if needed, you can always try and push a bit more.
“But still a really good day.”