At 22 years and one day old, Kalle Rovanperä secured his title in the World Rally Championship (WRC) in Auckland, New Zealand on Sunday.
"It is a great relief that after a great season we are finally here. Big thanks to our whole team, they built this rocket," Rovanperä said immediately after the race.
Rovanperä's victory a day after his twenty-second birthday makes him the youngest winner of the rally racing series in its history, followed by British driver Colin McRae who won the WRC title at 27 years old in 1995.
By winning Rally New Zealand, Rovanperä has won six out of 13 stages of the WRC. There are still two races left in the season, but Rovanperä's point total of 237 cannot be overtaken by the 173 points of second-place Estonian driver Ott Tänak.
Finnish title drought ended
After a drought of nearly 20 years, a Finnish driver has once again secured the WRC title. Marcus Grönholm was the last Finn to win the competition, taking the title in 2002.
The season was filled with highs and lows for Rovanperä and his co-driver Jonne Halttunen. Despite winning three legs in a row in Sweden, Croatia and Portugal and another two in Kenya and Estonia, Rovanperä came in 62nd place after rolling his car in Belgium and finished in 15th place in Greece.
"For the most part, it's a strong effort and we've come through the difficulties, as we saw here. That's the most important thing, learning from mistakes and finding new things," Rovanperä told Yle.
Rovanperä, driving for Toyota in a GR Yaris Rally1, had a huge lead on the Saturday leg of competition in New Zealand.
In order to secure his title, Rovanperä needed to finish in at least the top-four on Sunday, but ended up beating the rest of the competition by 34.6 seconds, including fellow Toyota driver and eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier.