Ott Tänak finished third at Rally New Zealand Sunday, maintaining the position he had held going into the final day, but it was not enough to keep any slim title hopes alive for Hyundai after Finn Kalle Rovanperä won his maiden drivers' title for Toyota.
While Tänak, word champion in 2019, had a mathematical chance of still taking the 2022 title going into race weekend, this would have required Rovanperä to finish outside the top four, while Tänak would have been looking to add to the three wins he has taken this season.
In the event, this was immaterial after Rovanperä and co-driver Jonne Halttunen won, giving Rovanperä 237 points, a total which cannot be overtaken by Tänak (173 points) or indeed anyone else, with two more races to go.
Eight-time world champion Sebastien Ogier (Toyota) was second in New Zealand, Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja third.
To add to the celebrations, Rovanperä had just celebrated his 22nd birthday, making him the youngest-ever WRC drivers' champion and replacing the late Colin McRae (Scotland) who won the 1995 title at the age of 27.
The win also represents the end of a 20-year drought for the once mighty Finns – who dominated rallying in the 1980s but whose last WRC winner came 20 years ago, with Marcus Grönholm.
Two races remain, in Catalunya in a little over two weeks, followed by the season-closer in Japan in November, while Tänak's future in the sport is by no means certain.
Editor: Andrew Whyte