Toyota's 23-Year-Old Rally Champion Is Going Part-Time

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2023 WRC Champion Kalle Rovanperä Is Stepping BackQian Jun/MB Media - Getty Images

Kalle Rovanperä is 23 years old, has won the last two World Rally Championship driver's titles, and has a contract to continue racing with Toyota as a factory driver going forward. In 2024, though, all of that is going on hold. The reigning rally champion is scaling back to a part-time schedule for 2024, a one-year rest before chasing the title again in 2025.

In a Toyota press release also announcing his latest contract extension, Rovanperä says that "while the last seasons have been amazing of course, they have also been really demanding mentally and physically." He notes that he has been driving rally cars for 15 years, dating back to when he was eight years old, and adds that "now would be a good moment to take a year for recharging the batteries." In addition to his part-time WRC schedule, he plans to spend 2024 in drifting and "maybe some other cool events" in the world of motorsport.

Although it is an unprecedented step at his age, Rovanperä becomes the third multi-time champion of the series to take a step back in the middle of a streak of championships. Sebastien Loeb had won nine straight titles when he stepped back ahead of the 2012 season, while Sebastien Ogier had won eight of his last nine when he made the same choice before the 2022 season. Not only have both won WRC events since going part-time both have won rallies in just the past two seasons.

Between the three, every single WRC title winner in the past 21 years but 2019 champion Ott Tänak has made the decision to partially walk away from the series at some point during the peak of their career. Rovanperä, unlike Loeb and Ogier, plans to come back full time in the near future and get back to competing for titles again. Until then, the field is wide open for a new WRC champion in 2024.

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