WRC Review: Kalle Rovanperä scores a perfect ten – “Not bad for a summer boy”

The seventh round of the WRC season took place last weekend in Poland. The RallyJournal.com reporters give ratings to the top-class drivers.
Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen
Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen. Photo by: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
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The fast gravel rally in Poland ended with a victory for Toyota’s Kalle Rovanperä. His win was nothing short of legendary, given that he arrived at the event on short notice to replace Sébastien Ogier.

Toyota ultimately achieved a one-two finish, with Elfyn Evans securing second place ahead of M-Sport Ford’s Adrien Fourmaux.

Toni Heinonen, Aki Hietavala, and Ville Hirvonen from RallyJournal.com evaluate the performance of each top-class driver with school grades, where 10 is the highest and 4 the lowest score.

Toni Heinonen

Kalle Rovanperä 10 (Position 1)

The story that Rovanperä and co-driver Jonne Halttunen crafted and executed before the eyes of the entire rally world was remarkable. Rovanperä was tinkering with his jet ski in Central Finland, and Halttunen was in a tattoo chair in Tallinn when the call came. Without any preparation, they made notes in record time and tested the car in the shakedown. From these starting points, winning should not have been possible. But for these gentlemen, nothing seems impossible. I have to be generous and give my first ten of the season to Rovanperä, and of course to Halttunen – they fully deserve it!

Elfyn Evans 9- (Position 2)

Evans showed better speed than in a long time, but he couldn’t match Rovanperä. The season’s first win is still elusive, but for the Welshman, the important thing was that he managed to catch up a bit to Thierry Neuville in the championship race. There could have been more points, but Evans ran out of tyres on the Power Stage. Now Evans needs to dig even deeper in the upcoming races in Latvia and Finland – it will certainly be necessary against Neuville and especially Ott Tänak.

Adrien Fourmaux 8½ (Position 3)

The Frenchman was one of the surprises of the weekend. He had never competed in Poland before, but that didn’t show in his performance. Fourmaux demonstrated that he has speed in fast rallies, which bodes well for future events. Before this season, Fourmaux had never been on the podium, but now he’s done it three times this year. The Ford driver’s season has clearly exceeded expectations, and he’s still within striking distance of a WRC medal position.

Thierry Neuville 8- (Position 4)

Neuville performed as expected. On Friday, he suffered from his first starting position, picked up the pace a bit on Saturday, and collected valuable points on Sunday. Overall, Neuville earned 14 points from the weekend, which can be seen as a solid defensive performance. Neuville remains at the top of the championship standings, but his pace must improve in the upcoming races – otherwise, Evans and Tänak will catch up.

Martins Sesks 9 (Position 5)

The Latvian did not leave anyone cold in his debut in the WRC’s top class! He provided a fantastic reaction at the finish of the first forest stage when he heard about his second-fastest time. Fifth place is something that was not expected from Sesks, even though he had shown his speed in the Polish ERC event. Sesks’ rating is boosted by the fact that his Ford Puma Rally1 car did not have a hybrid unit. What will this man achieve when the Puma is equipped with a hybrid unit for his home rally in Latvia in a couple of weeks?

Andreas Mikkelsen 8½ (Position 6)

Mikkelsen proved to himself and his doubters that his speed hasn’t disappeared. Even I have criticised the Norwegian on this platform before, but in Poland, the Hyundai driver did his best. Mikkelsen was second on Saturday evening and in the fight for victory, but after a puncture on Sunday morning, he settled for finishing. This decision was understandable as he was securing the 15 points he earned on Saturday evening for Hyundai. Overall, great work from the Norwegian for the team.

Gregoire Munster 6½ (Position 7)

Munster wasn’t as lost as in previous races, but his speed level is still much lower than the leaders. For the Luxembourger, it’s a bit embarrassing that rookie Sesks beat him in a nearly identical Ford Puma without a hybrid unit. On the bright side, Munster did collect some points for his team over the weekend.

Takamoto Katsuta 5½ (Position 8)

Katsuta’s weekend didn’t leave much to talk about. The Japanese driver was completely off the pace. Fast gravel rallies should suit him as he learned rallying on the gravel roads of Central Finland. The fact that he had not competed in Poland before doesn’t excuse his performance. If you lose to Munster and Sesks by clean driving, it’s time to look in the mirror.

Ott Tänak 8 (Position 40)

A deer collision on Friday morning ruined Tänak’s race. Without it, Tänak would surely have challenged Rovanperä and fought for victory. On Sunday, the Estonian showed how well the Hyundai Rally1 car handles in a fast gravel rally. Tänak was the fastest driver all day, even though he was acting as the road sweeper – an extremely impressive performance. At the same time, Tänak collected 11 points, conceding only three points to Neuville in the championship battle. Others should beware; Tänak will be tough in the next rallies.

Aki Hietavala

Kalle Rovanperä 10

I have to give the Finnish star a perfect ten. He arrived late on Tuesday night, quickly made notes, and won the race! On top of that, he earned good points on Sunday, so it was a crucial job for the team.

Elfyn Evans 7½

Not quite the speed we hoped for. A puncture on Saturday dropped him from the fight for victory, but considering the circumstances, he should have beaten Rovanperä with ease. Among the championship contenders, he scored the best points, so the dream is still alive. However, if he wants to be the champion, Evans needs to match the pace of the Hyundai stars on Sundays.

Adrien Fourmaux 9

A solid and good performance from the Frenchman once again. He made no mistakes and drove well in the challenging fast gravel rally. Third place was close to the maximum he could have achieved, and Fourmaux delivered for Ford.

Thierry Neuville 7½

Neuville again showed maturity from the championship leader. His starting position was the worst possible, but he collected decent points in Poland.

Martins Sesks 10

A fantastic performance. Rarely do I give a ten without a podium, but the Latvian’s debut in the WRC was incredible. Without a hybrid unit, he consistently posted competitive times. Let’s see what Sesks can do in his home rally in a couple of weeks with a full-spec Ford Puma!

Andreas Mikkelsen 8+

Finally, Mikkelsen had some speed! It’s been called for for about six months, but the Norwegian showed he still has it. He was in the fight for the win, but a puncture ruined his chances. After that, Mikkelsen eased off and dropped several positions. The team probably requested this.

Gregoire Munster 7

For the first time this season, Munster showed he has some driving skills. He managed to beat one of the Toyota drivers. Maybe this is the start of something!

Takamoto Katsuta 5

The pace was completely missing. Katsuta had no chance of matching the leaders’ pace. As the third driver, he had to secure points, but the Japanese driver’s performance left a very dull impression. He couldn’t even keep up with Ford rookie Gregoire Munster.

Ott Tänak 7

It’s impossible to judge the Estonian’s race. He would certainly have had the speed, but an unfortunate deer collision ruined it from the start. He did collect big points on Sunday and showed that even Kalle might have been in trouble if it weren’t for the animals on the road.

Ville Hirvonen

Kalle Rovanperä 10

Awesome, Kalle! The Finn was watching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals between the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday morning and then went to change the plugs on his jet ski, but you wouldn’t have believed that in Poland. Rovanperä, with his co-driver Jonne Halttunen, delivered a near-perfect performance with very limited preparation during their summer holiday and won the rally in style. Not bad for a summer boy!

Elfyn Evans 8

He couldn’t keep up with Rovanperä but took second place and good points for the team. The rating was slightly lowered by Sunday’s lacklustre performance, which cost the team valuable points. If Rovanperä was in holiday mode, Evans had been ill before the rally, so a good performance from the Welshman considering.

Adrien Fourmaux 9

A very consistent and good performance once again from the Frenchman. He made no mistakes and drove well in the challenging fast gravel rally. Third place was close to the maximum he could have achieved, and Fourmaux delivered for Ford.

Thierry Neuville 8

He suffered greatly from his starting position on Friday but kept his cool. He didn’t get frustrated despite not keeping up with the leaders and took the points available. Such performances are typical of world champions, so could this finally be Neuville’s year?

Martins Sesks 10

An absolutely magical performance. Making his first career appearance in a Rally1 car, he seized the opportunity perfectly. He raised his name to the top of the rally world over one weekend. His performance in Poland left just one, but a positive, question in the air: what will it be like when the Ford Puma is equipped with a hybrid unit in his home rally in Latvia?

The Latvian also deserves credit for his impressive driving style. The car was already sideways well in advance, and he navigated the corners beautifully. Sesks gained many new fans this weekend. Plus points for his reaction at the finish of the opening stage of Friday morning.

Andreas Mikkelsen 8

The Norwegian had his first successful performance of the season. A puncture ruined his chances for a top finish, but he showed good speed. Mikkelsen is now driving for his job next season. One good performance doesn’t guarantee that, but Mikkelsen’s effort shouldn’t be criticised too harshly. He did what he could.

Gregoire Munster 7

He didn’t shine, didn’t fail, and made few mistakes. Nevertheless, he once again left a somewhat mediocre impression. It will be difficult to find a job in the top class next season, with new young talents constantly emerging.

Takamoto Katsuta 5

The Japanese driver had a complete failure. He couldn’t find his pace at any point and seemed lost all the time. Poland was a completely new rally for Katsuta, and it showed starkly. Points for acknowledging this himself and not taking any big risks.

Ott Tänak 9

The Estonian hit a deer standing on the road on Friday. There was nothing he could do about it. However, he drove extremely impressively on Sunday and took first place on Super Sunday from the first starting position. Let’s hope the Estonian doesn’t suffer from bad luck in Finland, as everyone wants to see an epic battle between Tänak and Rovanperä in Central Finland.

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