Will Rovanperä continue his winning streak?

Can Kalle Rovanperä score an odds-defying fourth consecutive WRC rally win? DirtFish has a split opinion


World Rally Championship points leader Kalle Rovanperä has done what few expected before the 2022 season began – won three consecutive rallies held on three different surfaces, even when starting first on the road on both a snow and gravel rally.

Toyota’s heir apparent for Sébastien Ogier is already sprinting away at the front of the championship fight and, after his Portugal win, it no longer seems outlandish to suggest Rovanperä could make it four in a row on Rally Italy despite once again leading the road order.

It begs the question: can he really pull it off?

Our newsroom has a split opinion.


He’ll make it four in a row

Four in a row? On his current rich vein of form, Rovanperä being the fastest man in Sardinia would be little surprise. In fact, it’s probably to be expected.

Twice this year have he and Elfyn Evans gone head-to-head in a battle of pure pace on days two and three of a WRC rally – where road order side-effects were no longer in play – and both times the younger Toyota driver came out on top. And, while Esapekka Lappi and Takamoto Katsuta have had promising starts to the year, it would be a stretch to suggest they could match Rovanperä’s pace right now.

Another problem: the car in front is a Toyota. And there’s little to suggest this will change any time soon.

Thierry Neuville looked very handy in the early stages of Portugal, somehow fighting for the top spot despite having a similar road-order headache as the championship leader. But try as he might to drag his car kicking and screaming to the front of the pack, it either refused to be coaxed as he wished or decided to have a strop and break down, so that it doesn’t have to endure the neck-wringing Neuville is giving it.


And given Ott Tänak’s repeated misgivings about the performance of the i20 N Rally1, it seems unlikely he will run with Rovanperä on merit right now either.

As for Sordo, he’s still getting his head around how to change his driving style, as he struggled all rally long with the extra kick from the hybrid boost leaving his wheels spinning.

M-Sport? Its car has potential, this is abundantly clear. But Craig Breen stressed in Portugal that he’s so out of practice on slow, technical gravel rallies that he needs more miles under his belt before he can contend for wins on said types of rallies.

Gus Greensmith appears to have smashed several mirrors, such has been his run of bad luck in the past couple of events, plus Adrien Fourmaux is still on the recovery path from a shaky few months in which he was nearly benched. Likewise, Pierre-Louis Loubet is still rebuilding after his nightmare spell in a customer Hyundai.


There is only one question to answer: how far up the road can Evans bolt up the road on Friday? He needs to check out and leave the rest of the field behind in a hurry.

Dare I say it, there was an element of luck to Rovanperä’s Portugal win. Friday’s stages were far rougher than anyone had expected on the second pass. The cut-up roads of Lousã, Góis and Arganil were more akin to something out of the Acropolis Rally itinerary as the Rally1 cars came through for a second go. He ended the day second. He’d started it 10th. Some of that was skill but some of it was also luck, as the two Sébastiens fell by the wayside and Neuville had his driveshaft failure, while others had punctures.

The only way Rovanperä doesn’t win this rally (unless he crashes or the GR Yaris breaks down, neither of which appear at all likely) is if he loses over half a minute on the first day with road sweeping. Anything less and he can surely claw it back. And as he’s shown in both Sweden and Portugal, he’s not prone to losing his cool as time seeps away on the first day.

Alasdair Lindsay


Conditions make it too tricky

Use all conventional logic, and Kalle Rovanperä shouldn’t win this weekend. But use all conventional logic and Rovanperä shouldn’t have won the weekend before last, either. Rovanperä bends logic.

But I’m not sure even he can overcome his deficit in Sardinia.

The two key differences this weekend compared to Portugal are the weather – it’s supposed to be hotter here, and that will make Rovanperä’s task at the front of the field even more arduous. And the other is his even healthier championship position.

Thierry Neuville could ace Rally Italy and secure all 30 points, just as Rovanperä has for the last three rallies in a row, and Rovanperä would still be over 15 points clear in the title race. That means, even if he won’t necessarily admit it, he’ll be beginning to play the percentages in his head.


Sardinia can be a punishing rally – one to survive rather than attack. Rovanperä’s strategy will surely be to just keep it tidy and then pounce on any opportunity that may arise.

Elfyn Evans, Dani Sordo and Esapekka Lappi have to start as the favorites in my opinion, but the very fact Rovanperä is even in the conversation is testament to the immaculate balance of outright speed and consistency he has managed to achieve this year.

Let’s enjoy it while it’s still a novelty.

Luke Barry


Kalle’s just too good at the moment

In the form he’s in right now, I’m not sure anyone can stop Kalle Rovanperä at this moment in time.

It was assumed running first on the road in Portugal would hinder the Toyota driver’s chances, and yet he still defied the odds to come out on top.

That’s not to say it’s impossible for anyone else to win in Italy. Far from it. But I suspect it’s going to take Kalle having an issue, or making a mistake for him to lose the victory.

Evans looked solid last time out, but he still didn’t have enough pace to outshine his team-mate, despite the better road position and both Hyundai and M-Sport still look too far adrift.

It would be nice to see somebody else take the top step of the podium in Sardinia, but as it stands, I just don’t see it happening. But stranger things have happened!

Rob Hansford


The format works against him

I know we talked about his chances being restricted by opening the road in Portugal… and look what happened there. But I think it will be a different story in Sardinia this week.

There had been some rain around last time out in Matosinhos and certain sections late in the recce and even early into the rally itself were still damp under the trees. With 40 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, that simply won’t be the case this week. Friday will be a day to be survived.

For me, it has to be a no this time, sorry Kalle.


Another issue working against the championship leader is the format. In recent seasons, the Italian organizer has taken to running a distinct morning and afternoon loop. Friday, for example, is Terranova and Monti di Ala run twice in the morning. The afternoon is two different stages (Tergu and Castelsardo) run in the afternoon.

Previously the road sweeper has had the chance to run a softer tire, especially through the morning, knowing that the hard surface is a couple of inches of loose south of his car. Not this time. If Kalle rocks up at the start of the re-run Friday morning stages with anything other than a hard Pirelli, he will lose big time.

No, not even Toyota’s 21-year-old wonderboy can fix this one.

David Evans