There is no denying it, he is made of the stuff of champions. This Sunday, seemingly unaffected by the mounting pressure, his enormous skill and talent have done it again. Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota) has achieved his second consecutive victory of the season after beating Ott Tänak (Hyundai) in the final stage.
The Scandinavian driver, who had lost the lead in the penultimate stage, regained it in the definitive Power Stage to win by 4.3 seconds, turning around a 1.3s disadvantage at the start of an electric showdown with his Estonian rival. Thierry Neuville arrived third at 2 minutes and 21 seconds, completing a 1-2 for the Alzenau team.
The flying Finn delighted fans with a brilliant and exhilarating performance to claim the fourth victory of his career, consolidating himself at the lead of the standings. He now heads the table with 76 points, 47 more than Neuville. Numbers aside, he has proven himself as the strongest contender for the title…so far.
The ‘reborn’ Tänak should also feel satisfiedand despite having lost what would have been his fifteenth WRC victory by a hair. After a disastrous start to the campaign in Monte Carlo & Sweden, the 2019 world champion is back with the best version of himself, feeling all the right sensations behind the wheel of the i20 N. Similarly, his Belgian teammate, Neuville, managed to remain in the top positions throughout the Balkan event, despite not having the pace to qualify for victory. Two podium finishes in a row for Neuville.
Thrilling battle to the final metre at Croatia Rally 2022
Sunday didn’t start so good for Toyota’s young Scandinavian. He finished second in the opening stage of the day but he nonetheless stretched his lead to 31.2 seconds thanks to his chief rival finishing in the ninth position. In the next stage, Tänak reacted to position himself four seconds closer.
It was a prelude to his upcoming assault. In the 19th and penultimate special stage (Trakošćan – Vrbno) of the Croatian Rally, Tänak made a decision as risky as it was lucky. He bolted in four soft and two wet compounds on his i20 N, in contrast to the four hard and two wet ones of Rovanperä’s Yaris.
It was then that the skies opened up with force rewarding the bravery of the Estonian driver. He won the penultimate test, leading his opponent, ninth, by 29.8 seconds, and unseating him at the head of the Balkan round by 1.4 seconds. The moment of truth, however, would arrive in the 14.04 km of the Power Stage, where Rovanperä beat the Estonian by 4.3 seconds.
Rovanperä holds on to the lead against Tänak’s attempts to dethrone him
After Friday’s performance, when he won six of the eight stages, Rovanperä started Saturday with an 83-second lead over Tänak at the Croatia Rally 2022. The Estonian, however, went on the attack on the decisive eleventh stage of the rally, and third of the day. With all his eggs in one basket, and under thick fog and an unexpected torrential rain falling over Rijeka, on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, Tänak asserted his authority.
He set the best time on the very slippery asphalt and under such delicate conditions. He was also able to take advantage of a GR Yaris puncture to reduce the gap to 54.2 seconds over that stage. In the blink of an eye, the Toyota driver had dangerously reduced his distance to 18.2 seconds. A dramatic turn of events in the battle for Rally Croatia 2022.
Images of Croatia Rally 2022: WRC