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How Toyota Gazoo Racing Carved Up The WRC Field In 2022 – HotCars

by Nov 1, 2022Blog0 comments

Kalle Rovanpera and the Toyota WRC team were dominant in 2022 as they swept to both titles and the Finn became the youngest ever WRC champion.
The 2022 World Rally Championship season marked the beginning of a new era for the series. Out went regular internal combustion engines, and in came the new era of hybrid rally cars under the Rally1 set of regulations. After some initial worries about whether they would be fast enough, the new cars proved to be just as fast and as spectacular as their predecessors. It marked a new era in another way too, as Sebastien Ogier had retired from full-time competition in the series after 2021 to take up a part-time schedule.
After plenty of speculation about who would be the fastest in 2022 it was M-Sport Ford that took the first win of the season in Monte Carlo. However, it would prove to be a dominant season for the Toyota Gazoo Racing team and its driver Kalle Rovanpera. The young Finnish driver would dominate the season and sweep to his first world title with two rounds to spare at Rally New Zealand, capping off a truly dominant season from them and Toyota with their GR Yaris Rally 1. It was one very special season for driver and team.
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Nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb would return to the series for a part-time schedule in 2022, driving for the M-Sport team and he joined Ogier in battle at the first round in Monte Carlo, who is still with Toyota. It was though Loeb that would prevail in a tough and intense battle with Ogier, with the latter suffering a puncture on the penultimate stage plus a penalty for a jump-start on the power stage. It made Loeb the oldest driver to win a WRC event, and co-driver Isabelle Galmiche became the first female winner of a WRC fixture since 1997.
While it bode well for Ford and M-Sport that they were in the battle, the next few rounds were all about Rovanpera. The Finn and his co-driver Jonne Halttunen put in a brilliant run in Rally Sweden, despite them sweeping the loose snow on the first stage. Rovanpera would take the victory and this would set up a remarkable run. Rovanpera would go on to win in Rally Croatia and in Rally de Portugal too to take a hat-trick of victories and emerge as the title favorite.
Round five would finally see another manufacturer take victory, as Ott Tanak in the Hyundai put a tough start to the year behind him to take victory for Hyundai in Rally Italia Sardegna. Rovanpera would finish fifth in that event, as he tried to be as consistent as possible on the days in which he could not win. It was clear though that the Toyota was the best car in the field, with Hyundai struggling early in the season and M-Sport let down by bad luck that knocked Loeb out of leading positions and other driver errors.
Rovanpera would cement his authority on the championship however with back-to-back wins in Rally Kenya and Rally Estonia, making it a question of when, not if, he would win his first WRC title. Tanak would ultimately become the closest thing Rovanpera had to a title rival, taking a podium in his home event of Rally Estonia. Tanak would take another victory at the high-octane rally Finland but Rovanpera was able to finish in second place. The only major drama came at the next event in Ypres, when Rovanpera had a horror show and only finished in eight place as Tanak won again and Elfyn Evans and Esapekka Lappi completed the podium in their Toyotas.
Thierry Neuville would take victory in the Acropolis Rally Greece making it his first win of the season, with Rovanpera only seventh and Tanak second. However, it was too little too late for the Finn’s rivals as at the next round in Rally New Zealand, he took the title with a stunning victory, earning his first WRC crown with two rounds to spare. We were then treated to an incredible battle between Ogier and Rovanpera in Rally Catalunya, as Ogier showed the world he was perhaps still the master to beat the new world champion, and showing just how good the Yaris has been in 2022. That event also saw Toyota wrap up the manufacturer's title with a round to spare.
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Toyota as a whole have won seven of the 12 events ran so far with one rally still to go, and you wouldn’t bet against one of their drivers winning the final round in Japan, their home event. Rovanpera has put together a truly stunning WRC season to take a hugely impressive title at such a young age. The Finn is only 22 years old, which makes you wonder what he might go on to achieve. Toyota has been the class of the field so far in the WRC’s hybrid era, and their rivals certainly need to play catch up heading into 2023.
Covering anything from JDM cars to classic jets. Contributed to HotCars since the Autumn of 2018. Writes features, news and list articles.