Rovanpera carries a commanding 94-point lead into the second pure asphalt event of the 2022 season and will be guaranteed a first-ever World Rally Championship title if he can master Flanders’ tricky roads and other results go his way. 12 months ago, he finished third overall behind reputed sealed surface specialists Thierry Neuville and Craig Breen.

Rovanpera’s dominance at the wheel of the Japanese team’s GR Yaris Rally1 car so far this year has left fans of the series spellbound and his rivals scratching their heads. So far, the 21-year-old has only been denied victories on three of the eight rounds that have been held: M-Sport Ford’s Sebastien Loeb won Rallye Monte-Carlo, while Hyundai Motorsport’s Ott Tanak came out top at Rally Italia Sardegna, and again at Rally Finland earlier this month.

Inclement conditions could play into his hands, Friday in particular as Rovanpera will open the road given his position in the Championship race. Either way, he reckons another perfect score is well within his grasp alongside co-driving team-mate, Jonne Halttunen. “I’m feeling good about going to Belgium,” said Rovanpera, who triumphed on the closed roads that made up the route for April’s tricky Croatia Rally.

“Last year we had quite a good rally there overall. I enjoyed the challenge of a new event and hopefully we can do a good result again this time. The style of the roads are tricky, with really big cuts and a lot of mud and gravel on the road. It could depend on the weather conditions.

“If it’s dry then we saw last year that it can be a bit dusty for the first cars, but if it’s wet then it should be perfect for us to be the first on the road. We had a good test a couple of weeks ago and between us I think we improved the car quite a lot,” he added.

Neuville has already spoken of the need to end his wait for a first win of the World Rally Championship’s new Rally1 hybrid era on home soil if he is to keep his slim title hopes alive, and although confidence in the Hyundai camp has been raised by Tanak’s heroics in Finland, Toyota Team Principal Jari-Matti Latvala is just as bullish.

“We are much better prepared this year with the experience we gained last year,” he said. “We understand the nature of the rally and we have tested on more suitable roads. So, I think we will be more competitive and can challenge for the victory.”

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that the public debut of the GR Yaris H2 will take place at Ypres Rally. An experimental concept that uses hydrogen to fuel a combustion engine, it will be driven on one stage each day prior to the main field with four-time world champion Juha Kankkunen behind the wheel.