Toyota's Kalle Rovanpera said he felt "relief" after becoming the youngest ever World Rally Championship winner with victory at Rally New Zealand.
Rovanpera, who turned 22 a day earlier, made it six wins this season to seal glory with co-driver Jonne Halttunen.
"It was a small wait after a few difficult rallies," said Rovanpera, who is more than five years younger than previous record holder Colin McRae.
"It's quite a big relief after such a good season and finally we are here."
He added: "The biggest thanks goes to the team - they made this rocket this year."
Rovanpera finished in two hours 48 minutes 1.4 seconds to establish an unassailable 64-point lead over Hyundai's Ott Tanak - who came third behind Toyota's Sebastien Ogier - and break the record set by Scottish driver McRae for Subaru in 1996.
"It's really important what Kalle has done," said Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala after Rovanpera became the first Finnish champion since Marcus Gronholm in 2002.
"First of all, it's amazing for a 22-year-old to be breaking all the records and taking the championship title.
"At the same time, it is so important for Finland because it has been 20 years, and that's a very long time. I am so grateful that Kalle did it - he is a superhero."