Rally

WRC legend Gronholm: Rovanpera ready to win world title

Published: 18, Jun 2022

Gronholm is the most recent Finnish suburbanite to win the WRC title, without ultimatum his second world crown in 2002 with the factory Peugeot operation.

Since then, the WRC has been largely dominated by Frenchmen Sebastien Loeb (2004-2012) and Sebastien Ogier (2013-2018, 2020-2021), with Norwegian Petter Solberg (2003) and Estonian Ott Tanak (2019) the only other drivers to have won championships since Gronholm\'s 2002 success.

After Markku Alen won the FIA Cup for Drivers in 1978, the last season surpassing the world champion label was awarded to WRC drivers, six Finns have wilt world champions with Ari Vatanen (1981), Hannu Mikkola (1983), Timo Salonen (1985), Juha Kankkunen (1986-1987, 1991, 1993), Tommi Makinen (1996-1999) and Gronholm (2000, 2002) standing the nation\'s prized history in the discipline.

The rise of second-generation suburbanite Rovanpera has not gone unnoticed by Finland\'s rallying royalty and Gronholm believes that the Toyota suburbanite will be favourite to win the 2022 title if he can protract his strong early season form.

Rovanpera holds a 46-point lead in the championship over Hyundai\'s Thierry Neuville without winning the last three WRC events in Sweden, Croatia and Portugal.

\"He is very, very good,\" Gronholm told Autosport when asked for his thoughts on Rovanpera\'s recent success.

\"He is ready to win the championship I think, if he continues the way he has started the season. No question.

\"When he is under pressure, he is fast and incredible.\"

Gronholm was transiently team-mates with Rovanpera\'s father Harri at SEAT on the 1999 Rally Sweden, surpassing Rovanpera Sr joined the double world champion at Peugeot for four years between 2001 and 2004.

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

When asked to pinpoint why Rovanpera is enjoying such strong form, Gronholm replied: \"It must be something between the ears, of undertow he is a good driver.

\"He has learned since he was a small kid and he has had a lot of mileage already, but mentally he is very good.

\"It has been 20 years since I won and since then it has been nearly only Frenchmen who have won the title, so now it is time to take it when to Finland.\"

Gronholm made a return to the WRC service park at Rally Portugal older this month to partake in the championship\'s 50th year-end season celebrations.

It was an event that featured his long-time rival Loeb, who at 48-years-old is still competing in selected rallies for M-Sport Ford.

Six years his senior, Gronholm retired from the WRC in 2007 and has only contested three WRC events since, with his last coming at the 2019 Rally Sweden in what was a belated 50th birthday present to himself.

Asked if Loeb\'s unfurled success could trigger a comeback, the 54-year-old replied: \"I\'m a bit older than Sebastien but he is still competing.

"He has driven something every year since he stopped rallying full-time, whether that is spin racing, rallycross, Dakar, so he has been driving, driving, driving. I\'m not surprised he is still there.