FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
– 1st driver and 2022 WRC Champion – Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT, Kalle Rovanperä (FIN), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid
– 1st Co-driver and 2022 WRC Champion – Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT, Jonne Halttunen (FIN), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid
– 2nd Driver – Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT, Sébastien Ogier (FRA), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid
– 3rd Driver – Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT, Ott Tänak (EST), Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid
– Representative of the winning manufacturer – Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT, Jari-Matti Latvala
Congratulations on the win and more importantly the championship title which has been possible for the last few events. How are you feeling now that it is all over and you have become the first Finn in 20 years to seal that.
Of course I am very happy to achieve that. It has been a long break since Finland had a world champion. I am really proud of the team, myself and of course Jonne.
Talk to us about the emotions because you seem to have kept things cool and calm and that nothing seems to have got to you. Were there any nerves?
I was a bit surprised even in the morning that I did not seem nervous or anything, just on the start line of the Power Stage I felt a bit tense for the last few minutes, just wanting to get it started with and do your job.
You make history as the youngest WRC Champion. There seems to be a real resurgence of the Finnish fan base since you guys. What does it mean to you?
Of course it means a lot. There is huge support from all the Finnish fans and it has been nice to see that the sport is gaining more attraction again especially with the younger people which is quite important to get new fans to the sport. It is really nice to see and nice to get the good result.
You told me this morning it would mean the world if you could take the title today, how is the feeling right now?
Jonne Halttunen :
The feeling is very hard to describe – it is something I could never dreamed of a few years back. It is so cool to do this job with Kalle. As well as a good driver he is a good person – so it is very enjoyable.
What about nerves from your side. He’s got to get it right behind the wheel and you’ve got to get the notes pin-point precise perfect reading the notes. Any wobbles or you were okay?
It is like Kalle said, we both felt quite relaxed but also you have to focus on your mindset and know what you are doing. At the finish line – if everything goes well you can celebrate, otherwise there is nothing.
What else has been the highlight of the year for you.
Beating this man (Tänak) in Croatia at the power stage, that was quite cool.
How does it feel handing over the mantel as champion to your teammate?
Ï feel happy and I feel happy to be here. But being here and witnessing the moment is good being part of it and playing a role for the team has been good. I am happy with my comeback after three months. The result is not too bad for a rally which has been challenging and quite fast. It had a lot of fun and nice to be here to see this young guy do an amazing performance one more time and prove they observe this title.
How have you enjoyed this weekend?
I have enjoyed it a lot. It was the right choice to pick up this one in the calendar because these roads are magical to drive so even if the weather has been tricky, it is always fun in the car. The team have been doing a great job as always so I am glad we are getting closer to some more celebrations for the manufacturers title which is the next target. It’s been a very good weekend and I can be happy with my rally. Of course, I always chase wins and I cannot celebrate second place but with all the weekend it has been a good performance on my side. The weather has made it difficult for everybody – when you come back to rallies like this you expect you might have a bit of advantage with your road position but it was not so much the way this weekend. There was only a little part on Friday. It was fun and now I am looking forward to the next one on tarmac which will be very different and a very strong competition to fight for the victory.
You have won eight titles – if you would give a single bit of advice to Kalle, what would it be?
He does need any tips. First of all, he is too much advanced of anybody. At 22 I did not set in a rally car yet in my life. It is a bit different set of things. Obviously, he keeps it very cool and as long as he keeps doing that and keeps the feet on the ground and don’t think it has come too easy – and of course a good team around him because we win and we lose together and Toyota Racing has been a big part of his success as well. If the parameters stay there, his future looks very bright.
In third place overall and we can stop asking him about the championship race – how are you feeling at the end of the weekend?
It was a challenging weekend and since Saturday morning we have not been with the pace to be in the fight with Kalle and Seb. They were really flying away. We still managed to get everything we could.
Talk to me about the two rallies still to go – how much are you looking forward to those?
I imagine Spain and Japan will be very different to the weather we had in Ypres. Spain is the first proper tarmac rally in this car and will be interesting to see where we are in terms of performance. Japan – it may be like Catalunya probably. We need to get there and see.
If you could go back to the pace on Friday – Saturday it ebbed away. Is there a reason why?
We were having some transmission troubles again on Saturday and since we already had one in Greece, we did not have anything to put in and we had to make it to the finish. We had to manage it as good as possible so we did not lose too much but that’s how it was.
First of all, I am really delighted for the championship title for Kalle and Jonne. Now the championship pressure is off their shoulders – even though they don’t show it. On Thursday I could see a nervous face from Kalle’s side and you realise maybe he is human. He is incredible – 22 years old and gets the title. He’s achieved so much at such a young age.
I am happy for the team and for Finland – the fans, it has been a big thing. It has been 20 years since the last Finnish champion so it will boost the sport for sure in Finland.
Now the drivers and co-drivers title is done it is a big push for the manufacturers.
Now the manufacturers championship is important for Toyota. The guys have done a great job to get 1-2 – which is important for the manufacturer’s championship. Hopefully we can get it at Spain. Hyundai have made big progress and things are getting closer and tighter so hopefully we can get it this year as next year will be very very hard.
FIA WRC2 CHAMPIONSHIP
– 1st driver – Hayden Paddon (NZL), Hyundai i20 N
– 2nd driver – Kajetan Kajetanowicz (POL), Škoda Fabia Evo
– 3rd driver – Shane van Gisbergen (NZL), Škoda Fabia
How are you feeling?
Hayden Paddon: Obviously really good. We have a few things to tick off the list – the New Zealand Championship, the Manufacturers title for Hyundai NZ and WRC2. Each day we had something to win and claim ut now it’s nice as you get to the end of the rally to enjoy it with the team.
How tough of an event has it been – setting the pace and measure your pace?
It is never easy in conditions like this and very easy to make a mistake so you have to push on with a decent enough speed to make the car work. For sure there was more there but we did what we had to and just looked after things. The team is an amazing job with the car and just enjoy3ed the whole thing – taking it all in with having New Zealand back as part of the WRC is a dram come true for many people so very proud to see this come off.
Q: Did the weather make it much tougher?
It definitely made it much tougher but that what we rally drivers love to have a good challenge. If it was dry and fast it probably would have been a more straight-forward rally for everyone. But tricky conditions is what we enjoy – what we have to adapt to and I enjoyed it.
You mentioned that you would have liked to have been in a P1 car out there – did that get the better of you?
Obviously focus on the competition this weekend has been tough but I would have loved to have been here in a Rally1 car. I was a gutted when a deal fell through a few months ago. We have made the most of the situation. But I won’t give up. I would love to be in a Rally1 car again in the future – not for a full season but for selected rallies.
You have a busy back end of the year now because you are heading off to Sardinia?
Yes Italy next weekend for another wee rally and then back here for few events so a busy back half of the season. We are still behind in the championship over there but still have a chance in the tarmac championship so we will give it a crack and see how we go.
How are you feeling at the end of it – are you satisfied?
Shane van Gisbergen:
The result is just a bonus. The whole weekend was pretty epic. The weather made it pretty difficult for us all but it was all about learning and improving. Glen and I got better throughout the weekend – the notes got better as well. Such a crowed out here and such a cool stage on the Hawkeswood stage – it’s just epic. You can see all the fans cheering us on and aside from the weather, the cars parked down the road show how many people turned out – this event needs to keep happening here so we can come back.
You gave the best quote of the weekend when you said you were doing the walk of shame without the front bumper of your car.
It felt pretty major in the car. We did a couple of walks of shame – although compared to the Toyota of Elfyn we looked pretty good behind them.
You have a busy time with Bathurst next weekend.
This weekend was a bit like a weekend off – I’m a bit tired but I feel good. Rest tomorrow and then head to Australia and on to Bathurst on Tuesday – I can’t wait.
So many watching the livestream this weekend were firm fans I think you gathered a few extra – they are all keen to know if there are more rallies in your future.
I’d love to. I love what I do as a job in Supercars and if I can do this outside of that I’d love to. I love the roads here in New Zealand – I’d like to do more here and get a car for the full season – that’d be quite cool. If the dates line up I’ll try be there.
Your first time in New Zealand, what have you thought of it?
Congrats to Hayden and his co-driver. He was very fast on many stages but not everywhere – but pressure on him was very high. I know it is not easy to be at home and go fast even though they know these stages. Thank you to my team – they did a good job. The plan was done. It was to get second place and on the power stage. We were close to beating him on the power stage but I made a mistake, touched a cone and broke the steering.
A great rally – fantastic. Now the pressure is gone we can celebrate. It is a fantastic place with beautiful stages.
Q: On Thursday you said you were worried about Friday’s stages
It is true – I was nervous. You can ask my team – I focus on my job and I take it very seriously. The pressure is always really high. I did it and expect high results from myself. If I can get the best from myself, I can be really fast. The stages on Friday were absolutely amazing. But it is true I was concerned about the banked corners and I didn’t know where I needed to be on the entry and exit of the corners. When I was driving after Hayden on the road I was trying to learn his line. Believe me I was noticing and realised I need to learn more to improve my result for WRC2.