Supersub Kalle Rovanperä Claims Remarkable Rally Poland Win For TOYOTA GAZOO Racing

Supersub Kalle Rovanperä Claims Remarkable Rally Poland Win For TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
Supersub Kalle Rovanperä Claims Remarkable Rally Poland Win For TOYOTA GAZOO Racing

Kalle Rovanperä claimed one of the most remarkable victories in FIA World Rally Championship history when he triumphed on ORLEN 80th Rally Poland today (Sunday).

The reigning world champion, who is undertaking a selected programme of events in 2024, had never even planned to start this rally but was called upon by his Toyota Gazoo Racing team to replace Sébastien Ogier at the final hour.

Ogier was sidelined by an accident during reconnaissance on Tuesday, leaving Rovanperä and co-driver Jonne Halttunen with less than 48 hours to ready themselves for Thursday afternoon’s ceremonial start.

Those frantic preparations didn’t seem to affect the Finn too much as he romped to his 13th career victory behind the wheel of his Pirelli-equipped GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid, heading team-mate Elfyn Evans by 28.3s in a Toyota 1-2 after Hyundai rival Andreas Mikkelsen plummeted down the order on Sunday due to tyre damage.

Rovanperä began the final leg 9.4s in front of Mikkelsen, but the Norwegian’s bid for a second Rally Poland victory was foiled when he crawled to the end of the opening stage of the day with the right-rear tyre off the rim. He tumbled to sixth by the finish as M Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Adrien Fourmaux completed the podium 14.4s behind Evans in his Puma Rally1 Hybrid.

“It’s been quite an amazing week,” said Rovanperä. “Definitely I have to say we have been working quite hard and we are really tired now. I think the best thing is we came here, and it was not a bad idea to come. We helped the team a lot and took a lot of points for the manufacturers’ championship, so we didn’t waste our time.”

Mikkelsen was chasing his first FIA WRC victory since 2016 and led through Friday before slipping behind Rovanperä during the penultimate leg. The flailing rubber ripped his i20 N Rally1 Hybrid’s rear wheel arch apart and the former European and WRC2 champion chose to cruise through the closing stages.

“It was sad what happened today,” he said. “We were really unlucky. The right thing to do [after that] was to bring the car back for the team.”

The four-day rally was blessed with hot weather throughout and provided edge-of-the-seat drama as drivers traded tenths of a second on blisteringly fast roads.

Barring a tyre delamination on Saturday and a slow deflation on the Wolf Power Stage, Evans fared well compared to his main title rivals. The Welshman overtook Ott Tänak to reclaim second in the drivers’ championship and cut Thierry Neuville’s lead to 15 points with six rounds remaining.

An unavoidable impact forced Tänak’s retirement on Friday morning but he restarted on the following day and was able to salvage 11 points from Super Sunday. His Hyundai colleague Neuville, meanwhile, won the Wolf Power Stage but finished fourth after sweeping the road clear of loose stones on day one.

Puma star Fourmaux, who scored his third podium of the season, ended the rally 28.1s clear of Belgium’s Neuville while Latvia’s Mārtiņš Sesks delivered a mighty fifth-place finish on his top-flight debut. Sesks, who ran as high as second early in the event, was driving a non-hybrid Puma but will upgrade to a full-spec car for his home round next month.

Mikkelsen limped home over two minutes back from Rovanperä in sixth ahead of Grégoire Munster and Takamoto Katsuta. Ninth place went to Sami Pajari, winner of the FIA WRC2 category, while Oliver Solberg capitalised on tyre damage for Robert Virves to sneak into the top 10.

Diego Domínguez beat Jakub Matulka to the FIA WRC3 victory by 2.8s as Armin Kremer took the FIA WRC Masters’ Cup victory alongside his co-driving daughter Ella.

The WRC’s summer of speed continues next month with Tet Rally Latvia, a brand-new round for the championship based in the city of Liepāja from July 18-21.

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