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WRC: Rovanperä winner at the end of the suspense in Croatia

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Lhe battle will have been intense until the last kilometres. “I gave everything in this one. And I think we deserve this victory. It’s the best of my career, and the hardest to get,” said the young Finnish (21) Kalle Rovanperä who had already won at the wheel of his Toyota in Sweden in February. The podium was completed by another Hyundai driver, the Belgian Thierry Neuville, who was dogged by problems for three days and made a mistake on Sunday, at the end of the 20th and last special, but without consequence for him in the general classification.

capricious weather

This 14 km Power Stage, which gave five bonus points to the author of the best time, was decisive, and Rovanperä left nothing to chance, he who had led since the start on Friday morning. With a child’s face but an iron mind, Rovanperä was under pressure, facing the 2019 world champion who had taken control of the classification, for only one second and 4/10, after SS19, the penultimate special, disputed under the rain. Tänak had been hoping for rain all morning, as he started Sunday morning 20 seconds behind Rovanperä and only had 54 timed km, in four stages, to catch up. Hence the idea of ​​a daring choice of tyres, validated in extremis by the downpour of SS19. Another change of weather for SS20 and return of good weather for a contested final on a totally dry road, which allowed the young Finn, imperturbable and implacable, to regain the advantage, for good.

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Rovanperä, the new phenomenon

Winner of the previous rally in Sweden, on snowy roads, Rovanperä is as fast as it is versatile, as calm as it is resistant to pressure. He increases his lead at the head of the World Championship and poses as the main candidate for the world title. With 76 points in three rounds, including 14 out of 15 in three Power Stages of 2022, Rovanperä is 29 points ahead of Neuville and 46 over Craig Breen, the Irishman from M-Sport Ford, 4th on Sunday because he did not could not resist until the end to an unleashed Neuville.

The Belgian, five times world rally vice-champion, had a rotten weekend from start to finish (penalties, engine cuts, alternator failure) but “luck turned for us at the end”, a- he summarized, aware that his exit from the road in SS20, when his Hyundai nosedived into a ditch, could have cost him much more. Neuville had to face throughout his career the two best rally drivers in the world, Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier. He is now rid of Loeb, even if he will return in May to Portugal, for a new freelance, and of Ogier who is preparing the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But he is now confronted with a new phenomenon: Rovanperä, a post-adolescent driving the best car on the board, the Toyota hybrid. He is the youngest leader in WRC history, after two wins in three rounds.

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