The drivers’ crown was wrapped up on last weekend’s Repco Rally New Zealand when Kalle Rovanpera became the sport’s youngest ever champion aged just 22 years. In doing so, he surpassed a record previously held by the late Colin McRae.

Rovanpera made it victory number six of an incredible campaign at the wheel of Toyota’s GR Yaris Rally1 and the Japanese company is firmly in the box seat to add the manufacturers’ trophy to their silverware haul as their total stands at 455 points compared to Hyundai’s 374 points.

It is very much a two-horse race as British squad M-Sport Ford is a distant third in the standings on 224 points.

Rovanpera’s heroics ended Finland’s 20-year long wait for a WRC champion and admitted it was a “relief” to finally get the title over the line at the end of last Sunday’s Power Stage, which he won.

Julien Moncet – Hyundai Motorsport’s Deputy Team Director – was full of praise for the way in which both driver and team continually raised the bar on the first 11 rounds this year.

“We are committed to fighting at the very highest level of this championship,” said the Frenchman. “The results demonstrated by Kalle and Toyota act as motivation and inspiration for all of us.

“Their performances this season offer an impressive benchmark. We will not stop pushing to improve our own competitiveness and look forward to close fights in the remaining rallies of this season.

Former champion Ott Tanak - who finished third overall Down Under after being stung by 15 seconds' worth of time penalties for breaches relating to the hybrid unit in his car - conceded Hyundai had been beaten “fair and square” with Rally Spain and Rally Japan still to contest.

He believes there is a lot of ground to make up over the winter break before the 2023 season kicks off at the Monte Carlo Rally in January if the destination of the drivers' title is to be different.

“Since the beginning of the year, we have not been in the drivers’ Championship fight, even if something was coming back in the middle of the season,” added the Estonian, who enjoyed first-place finishes at Rally Italia Sardegna, Rally Finland and Ypres Rally in Belgium.