Kalle Rovanperä has been even more dominant this season, although the competition wins have not come at the usual pace, writes Urheilu’s Micke Suopuro.
“Only” three wins and “only” a 33-point World Championship lead before the last three races of the season. The first victory was only in May in Portugal and the car crashed in the home race in Jyväskylä.
The brightest superstar of the World Rally Championship has set the bar to extreme heights. Can you Kalle Rovanperän can even be described as “poor”, at least compared to last year?
At that time, the world championship was already decided before the last two races of the season, swept by six race victories.
It can at least be said that Rovanperä has not been as dominant.
Rovanperä has dominated this season, if possible, even more strongly. He has been staggeringly superior in many ways.
Point or win statistics only tell part of the truth. Bottom time statistics give an indication of what has been simmering under the surface.
1. Kalle Rovanperä 69
2. Ott Tänak 41
3. Thierry Neuville 34
4. Elfyn Evans 31
5. Sebastien Ogier 25 (didn’t drive the whole season)
6. Esapekka Lappi / Sebastien Loeb 14
1. Kalle Rovanperä 64
2. Sebastien Ogier (does not drive the whole season) 32
3. Thierry Neuville 28
4. Ott Tänak 22
5. Elfyn Evans 14
6. Esapekka Lappi 13
Before the last three races, Rovanperä has grabbed almost as many bottom times as last season. When the numbers are compared to other contenders for the world championship, the situation is even bleaker – from their point of view.
Rovanperä has recorded just as many bottom times as Elfyn Evans, Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak in total.
It doesn’t look good for the trio to be a multi-champion either Sebastien Ogier swings at the top of the base time statistics, even though he has only raced in six races during the season.
However, let’s focus now on Rovanpera. Why then has the number of bottom times not been correlated to wins?
The reason is, of course, in the World Series handicapping system. In most of the races, the top driver of the World Championship has to plow the driving lanes for others during Friday. In certain races, it has been more or less impossible for Rovanperä to win, when there has been too much in the jacket during Friday.
When the Finn has been able to drive from a better starting position from Saturday onwards, the result has been in line with that.
It is reflected in the most amazing statistics.
Total special exams 65
The low days of Kalle Rovanperä 31
Base times for all other drivers 34
* The Jyväskylä World Cup rally has been left out of the comparison, because Rovanperä could not participate in Saturday’s special tests.
On Saturdays, Rovanperä has won approximately half of all special stages when he was driving. It is good to note that a total of ten different drivers have reached special stage wins this season and in this comparison Rovanperä is up against all of them in this statistic.
When comparing drivers, Saturday is the most important day of all. Saturdays are often the longest of the rally, the starting positions of the top drivers are the most evenly spaced and you can’t make sure, unlike on Sunday, when after the gaps have widened, the drivers spin the tires, saving for the final stretch.
The number of bottom times is also worth looking at for the reason that Rovanperä has been incredibly confident at the same time this season. With the exception of the home race in Jyväskylä, which ended in an outing, Rovanperä has always brought his car to the finish line in at least fourth place.
This says everything about the level of Rovanperä’s dominance: the Finn’s sure and risk-free speed is sometimes too much for the competitors who tried their best.
Even last season, Hyundai was unable to compete at the beginning of the season, while Elfyn Evans struggled with how to adapt the driving style to Toyota’s new rally1 car.
No one has had any excuses this season. And despite this, Rovanperä has only improved.
Of course, the base time statistics are embellished a little by the fact that Ott Tänak, who drives M-Sport, has had an exceptional number of various technical problems and other concerns during the season. The Estonian is among the league’s elite with his speed reserve, along with Rovanperä and Ogier.
Despite this, it is blindingly convincing how Rovanperä is driving towards the second world championship of his career by dominating both with performance assurance and the number of bottom times.
And so that at the same time his season can be said to have been a bit “down”.
1. Kalle Rovanperä 200
2. Elfyn Evans 167 (-33 points)
3. Thierry Neuville 134 (-66 points)
1. Kalle Rovanperä, Toyota 3.00.16.7
2. Elfyn Evans, Toyota +1.31.7
3. Dani Sordo, Hyundai +1.35,9
4. Ott Tänak, Ford +4.28,4
5. Esapekka Lappi, Hyundai +6.22,3
6. Takamoto Katsuta, Toyota +7.20,9
7. Andreas Mikkelsen, Skoda* +9.41,0
8. Gus Greensmith, Skoda* +9.51,3
9. Yohan Rossel, Citroen* +11.07,0
10. Sebastien Ogier, Toyota +11.43,4