Extreme E: Island X Prix Preview

image courtesy of ExtremeE

Extreme E returns this weekend with its penultimate round of the inaugural season. The all-electric off-road series heads to Sardinia for the Island X Prix.

Taking place at Capo Teulada in Sulcis-Igelsiente, Sardinia, the track is set to provide a unique set of challenges for the teams and drivers. Italy has just come off the back of a long, hot summer, meaning the ground will be much harder than the soft sands they’ve previously raced on. The course will also include a number of interesting features including fast, downhill sections; water splashes; and natural obstacles such as trees and bushes.

For the first time this season, the sporting format remains unchanged! Qualifying points will be awarded (9-1) for both sessions and the combined total sets the grid. The first, fifth, and sixth fastest qualifiers will face off in the first semi-final, whilst the second, third, and fourth, fastest will race in the second semi-final. Finishing in the top two of either of these races will see you joined by the winner of the crazy race (qualifiers seven, eight, and nine) in the final.

Rosberg X Racing go into the penultimate round leading the championship on 93 points and able to seal the very first championship title. However, X44 (84 points) and Andretti United (76 points), along with the other six teams, will be looking to ensure that the title battle goes to the final race in December.

But Extreme E is about more than just racing. This weekend the series looks to highlight the issues surrounding green carbon (carbon stored on land) and blue carbon (carbon stored at sea). Speaking ahead of the weekend, Extreme E CEO and founder Alejandro Agag said: “The island has been suffering at the hands of the climate crisis, and I’m really pleased our legacy programmes here will be two-fold, focussing both on the land, and the ocean, through reforestation in areas affected by wildfires, and blue carbon through seagrass restoration and conservation.”

Extreme E will work alongside the Mediterranean Sea and Coast Foundation (MEDSEA) on two projects. The first one will look to reforest some of the 20,000 hectares that have been damaged by vicious wildfires. In July 2021, there were 13,000 more wildfires in Italy than had ever been recorded before, killing animals (around 13 million bees among them) and doing significant damage to local economies that rely on agriculture. The second project will focus on the restoration and conservation of seagrass.

This second project is particularly exciting as, not only is seagrass up to 35 times faster at capturing carbon than tropical rainforests (according to WWF), the Smithsonian Institute believes that just one hectare can produce around 100,000 litres of oxygen a day, meaning it’s great for the overall ecosystem. Safe to say seagrass is a really useful tool in combatting climate change.

We’re all set for an exciting and informative weekend as Extreme E heads to Sardinia for the penultimate round of the season. You won’t want to miss it!

Formula One returns to Texas: US Grand Prix Preview

The COVID pandemic took the US Grand Prix away from us last year, meaning the circus did not roll into either North of South America, as Canada, Brazil and Mexico also missed out on a place on the 2020 calendar.

The latter two of those races are still set to take place, but first Formula One will venture over six thousand miles from its last destination of Turkey to Travis County Texas, and the 42nd Formula One Championship Grand Prix in the United States.

Max Verstappen enters round 17 in the lead of the 2021 standings by six points from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, whose last win here came in 2017, while the Dutchman is yet to register a win at the 5.4 kilometre Circuit of the Americas, but Red Bull have won here before.

Verstappen’s seven wins and 12 podiums have put him top of the tree in 2021 – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

That came back in 2013 with Sebastian Vettel, en route to culminating that season with a record nine wins in a row, and Red Bull, as has been the tale of the season, are breaking the Mercedes hybrid tradition this season. So we should anticipate another strong Red Bull performance here.

Mercedes will be buoyed by the fact that Hamilton came through the tough test of Istanbul two weeks ago in the wet conditions having started 11th following a grid penalty, and he managed to limit the damage done to his championship challenge by finishing fifth. His team mate Valtteri Bottas also took victory one year on from his horror show at the same race, making for a decent afternoon for the silver arrows. Red Bull, meanwhile, managed a double-podium, with Sergio Perez having a brilliant afternoon, coming home third behind team mate Verstappen.

A splendid drive from Bottas saw him take a well-earned victory in Turkey – Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

At a track this weekend though that is notoriously difficult through the first sector, but awash with power-necessitating sections, it will be tight battle between two teams that have been exemplary out front all season long.

McLaren and Ferrari have meanwhile dropped Alpine behind in the battle for third, which Mclaren lead currently by 7.5 points from the Scuderia. Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc are separated by just half a point, and their remarkably consistent form will be a source of positivity particularly heading into the new regulations of 2022. Across at McLaren while Daniel Ricciardo is still trying to make things work at McLaren – his win in Monza covering over what has been a very difficult season for the Australian, often soundly beaten on pace by team mate Lando Norris. However, the pair are currently sitting ahead of Ferrari, which would ultimately make for a good first season at the Woking outfit for Ricciardo if they can stay there.

Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc have been evenly matched in the former’s first season with the Italian outfit – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Press

Williams suffered their first non-points scoring race last time out since the Netherlands, as they seek to remain in front of Alfa Romeo for what be an immensely respectable eighth in the Constructors’ standings.

The last two races here have been won by Finns, while exactly half of the races contested at COTA have been won from pole, in races that have seen titles decided, dominant victors emerge, a sight to savour in Kimi Raikkonen’s final win, and splendid Verstappen drives.

Kimi Raikkonen’s win here in 2018 was his last with Ferrari – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Press

We are not about to crown a new champion this weekend – rest assured this title race is going to the wire – but this could be a race to see who can draw fastest and take a real advantage in Texas.

Round 12 WorldSBK Argentina Race 2

After making it two for two, with the win in race one yesterday and the Superpole race today, Toprak (Pata Yamaha) was looking in scintillating form in San Juan, and was looking to make it a clean sweep of wins.

WorldSBK Agentina 17.10.2021 Picture courtesy of Aruba.it Ducati

Lights out and again Razgatlioglu gets the hole shot. Rea (KRT Kawasaki) second, Redding (Aruba.it Ducati) third, Bassani (motocorsa Ducati) fourth, vd Mark (BMW Motorrad) fifth and Locatelli (Pata Yamaha) sixth.

Rea was keen not to allow Toprak to escape as he had in race one, and was putting the pressure on in search of a way up the inside of the Yamaha, but was unable to make a move stick. Bassani swooped by on Redding to take third. Toprak went wide out of the straight and allowed Rea to take over the lead.

With 19 laps to go, Rea had put the hammer down setting a new fastest lap of 1:38.256; the front four of Rea, Razgatlioglu, Bassani and Redding were pulling away from the rest. Toprak didn’t stay behind Rea long, before diving up the inside of the Irishman to retake the lead.

With 18 laps to go, Rea now found himself in third after Redding got by. The Ducatis were looking good and Bassani was all over the back of Rea now.

With 17 laps to go, Redding uses the Ducati power to get past Razgatlioglu down the back straight but subsequently goes wide into the next corner, allowing both Toprak and Rea through.

With 15 laps to go, it was Razgatlioglu leading, followed by Rea, Redding, vd Mark and Rinaldi. As they had all season, both Razgatlioglu and Rea were going faring to faring, and the lead swapped several times.

With 14 laps to go Razgatlioglu puts in a fastest lap of 1:37.968, but he can’t break Rea or Redding behind as he had in race one. Meanwhile further back, Davies (GoEleven Ducati) was sat in eigth, chased by Haslam (Honda HRC) and Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team).

With 12 laps to go Redding takes the lead, getting up the inside of Toprak having previously gone through on Rea. Would he be able to get away?

With 10 laps to go, Redding puts in a fastest lap of 1:37.716, steadily pulling away from both Razgatlioglu and Rea behind. Bassani fought back, and is now right on the back of Rea.

With six to go, Rea outbrakes Razgatlioglu into turn one to take 2nd. Meanwhile Redding was looking comfortable in the lead, and held a gap of over two seconds to Rea.

Last lap and Redding denies Razgatlioglu a clean sweep of wins, claiming his first win in Argentina. Rea came across the line for second, ahead of Razgatlioglu, Bassani, Rinaldi, vd Mark, Locatelli and Gerloff.

Top Five Classification:

  1. Redding (Aruba.it Ducati)
  2. Rea (KRT Kawasaki)
  3. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha)
  4. Bassani (motocorsa Ducati)
  5. Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati)

Top Three Championship Classification:

  1. Razgatlioglu – 531 pts
  2. Rea – 501
  3. Redding 465

Round 12 WorldSBK Argentina Race 1

Toprak Razgatlioglu took victory in Race one of the Argentinian round of WorldSBK.

WorldSBK Argentina Race 1 Picture courtesy of KRT (Kawasaki Racing Team)

Lights out and it’s Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) with the hole shot into turn one, but disaster for Redding (Aruba.it Ducati) who loses the front end, and his Ducati spins out into the gravel. It is Razgatlioglu in first, Rea (KRT Kawasaki) second, Lowes (KRT Kawasaki) third, Locatelli (Pata Yamaha) fourth and Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati) fifth.

Twenty laps to go and Razgatlioglu and Rea are steadily pulling away from the field. Redding rejoins 15 seconds behind in last place, while further back it’s vd Mark seventh, Haslam (Honda HRC) eighth and Laverty (BMW Motorrad) ninth. Next to crash out is Bautista (Honda HRC), and his race is over.

With 18 laps to go, Razgatlioglu increased his gap to Rea to 1.8 and was looking comfortable out in front, while Rea was battling to hold onto his 2nd position. Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati) uses all the top end speed of the Ducati to get through on Lowes down the back straight – the Kawasaki having no answer to the power of the Ducati.

With 12 laps to go, Redding had climbed up to P14. Meanwhile at the front Toprak had cleared off into the distance, and would not be caught unless he made a huge mistake, but was looking odds on for the win. Rea was looking resigned to his second place.

With six laps to go, Bassani (motocorsa Ducati) has got past Lowes, and held a gap of 0.3 to the Kawasaki. Further back it was Locatelli 7th, Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) 8th, Haslam (Honda HRC) 9th and Laverty (BMW Motorrad) 10th.

Last lap, and Razgatlioglu crosses the line for his 12th win of the season, Rea 2nd, Rinaldi 3rd, Lowes 4th, Bassani 5th. Meanwhile Redding takes 9th.

Top Five Classification:

  1. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha)
  2. Rea (KRT Kawasaki)
  3. Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati)
  4. Lowes (KRT Kawasaki)
  5. Bassani (motocorsa Ducati)

Top Three Championship Classification:

  1. Razgatlioglu – 503 pts
  2. Rea – 474
  3. Redding – 431

 

Rally Spain, Day Three Report – Thierry and Martijn win Rally Spain!

Well, just 50km’s over four stages remained, including the power stage of course. The start list looked like this – Katsuta, Fourmaux, Solans, Solberg, Greensmith, Rovanperä, Sordo, Ogier, Evans, Neuville.

SS14 Santa Marina 1 – 9.10 km was first up and run before sunrise as well, bringing an added dimension and difficulty to the stage. Dani set the best time, from Thierry and Elfyn. The Spaniards pace meant that he’s passed Seb for third place as well. Elfyn lost a further 1.4 seconds to Thierry whose lead was now 17.1 seconds. Adrien continued to show good pace as well, setting the early pace, and ultimately being fifth fastest.

Well, into SS15 Riudecanyes 1 – 16.35 km and the dress rehearsal for the power stage. Dani was fastest again from Thierry and Seb. Adrien and Takamoto both set the same time jointly sixth fastest in the stage.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de España
14-17 October 2021
Dani Sordo, Candido Carrera, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

After a short break the run of SS16 Santa Marina 2 – 9.10 km saw Dani take yet another stage win, seven tenths faster than Seb and the Spaniard was now 2.3 seconds ahead of the world champion, and not looking unfazed at all in their battle. Adrien continued good form in this one, with the fourth best time, equal with Thierry. Elfyn cruised through, three seconds of the front runners’ pace, likely looking ahead to the power stage.

Finally, to SS17 Riudecanyes 2 [Power Stage] – 16.35 km, and there was some drama for Thierry and Martijn as well. A video emerged of Martijn push starting their i20 and then flames and smoke coming out of the exhaust suddenly! They were having problems with the starter motor on their car and getting the car started because of this. Never-the-less, they did make it to the stage on time. Then there was further drama, with rain falling in the stage as well. The startlist was changed once again – Gryazin, Camilli, Katsuta, Fourmaux, Solans, Solberg, Greensmith, Rovanperä, Ogier, Sordo, Evans, Neuville. Nikolay was first to come across the rain at around 13.5km into the stage. As each crew completed, we had a new fastest time. The rain then eased off, but of course the road was still wet and greasy at the end. Dani set the fastest time, taking the maximum points with Thierry second and Elfyn third. It was a good time from the Welshman, eclipsing his title rivals time by three tenths of a second, and nicking another point out of Seb’s lead.

Final Overall Classification –Rally de España

1 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2:34:11.8
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +24.1
3 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +35.3
4 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +42.1
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +1:31.8
6 G. Greensmith C. Patterson Ford Fiesta WRC +4:17.3
7 O. Solberg C. Drew Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +4:26.7
8 N. Solans M. Martí Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +4:34.9
9 E. Camilli M. Vilmot Citroën C2 Rally2 +9:49.4
10 N. Gryazin K. Aleksandrov Škoda Fabia Evo +10:05.9
2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de Espana
14-17 October 2021
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Let’s here from the drivers then!

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“I am relieved to get to the end of this rally, to be honest. It has been a tough weekend, and not without its challenges. We have fought incredibly hard across all stages, taking a lot of fastest times, and gradually extending our advantage. The result itself probably doesn’t show how much we’ve had to work. We had a good clean run until the final stage; everything was working perfectly up to that point. Unfortunately, we had a lot of stress before the Power Stage with an engine starter motor issue. That was the only disappointing aspect of an otherwise positive rally. Thanks to Martijn for another good job, and our second win together, as well as to Dani and Cándido for their podium result.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de Espana
14-17 October 2021
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, WRC, Action during Day 3 of Rally de Espana 2021
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (3rd)

“Honestly you can’t imagine how happy I am, not only for myself but also for Cándido, as it’s our first podium working together. He has been working really hard to get us to this level. We couldn’t have done any more, we have pushed in every stage. Thanks to all my family and the supporters, who have been cheering us on this weekend. We have been involved in a fantastic battle with Sébastien and it has been a pleasure to drive here. Thanks to the team for giving me such a competitive car that has allowed us to fight, and for supporting me always. I am so happy.”

Oliver Solberg (7th)

“I knew what I had to do this week. I had to come here and drive really sensibly to make the finish, make the miles and to keep Andrea happy.

“I have to say, the conditions were, in places, tougher than I expected. You can watch the onboards and see the cars sliding on some of the gravel and mud pulled to the stage by the cars ahead, but until you are in that car and feeling it slide beneath you in sixth gear, you don’t have the experience.

“Sometimes I have been really surprised by how much the cars are off the road and cutting, but this is why I was here – I had to learn and see this for myself. Now I understand much better this rally and what it takes to make everything work here.

“We had one small problem with the clutch in the Salou stage on Saturday night. I knew I couldn’t stall the car and that was probably the worst stage to drive like that – it was so tight, so narrow and so twisty. Fortunately, it was very short and we could make it through.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“Second place is a positive result but it’s not so easy to be happy when we made such a good start to the weekend. Unfortunately, it faded away a little bit and I didn’t feel completely at one with everything. There was perhaps a little bit more to gain from this weekend. The good thing from the weekend is that we managed to close the points gap and that the championship is still open. Realistically it’s a big gap to close in one round, but as we experienced last year, anything can still happen and we’ll try our best once again at Monza.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 11 / Rally Catalunya/Spain / 14-17 October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“Coming here I was targeting more than fourth position, but it is still good points towards the championship. It was a close fight today and we definitely tried in the first three stages; then the rain on the last one did not help with my strategy of not taking risks, and I was definitely on the safe side there. But overall, we have to remember that this weekend is another positive step for the championship and that’s what matters the most. It’s not over yet though, so we’ll have to be good at Monza and try to repeat the success we had there last year.”

Kalle Rovanperä (5th)

“Overall, it has been quite a good weekend for us. There was a lot of learning, especially on Friday, but it got better with the setup and with my driving as the weekend went on. Today we were aiming for the Power Stage but the conditions were tricky and it was drying for the guys behind us on the road, so we didn’t have the chance to fight for more. We didn’t quite find the perfect feeling and not the pace that we wanted, but we tried our best and it was a solid weekend.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After Round Eleven

1 S. Ogier 204
2 E. Evans 187
3 T. Neuville 159
4 K. Rovanperä 140
5 O. Tänak 128
6 C. Breen 76
7 T. Katsuta 68
8 D. Sordo 63
9 G. Greensmith 60
10 A. Fourmaux 42

 

2021 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After Round Eleven

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 474
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 427
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 187
4 Hyundai 2C Competition 52

Well, we head now to the final round in Rally Monza from the 19th to 21st of November and a battle for both championships as well. Stay turned for my thoughts on the crews’ performances in the next few days.

Rally Spain Day Two Report – Thierry and Martijn pull away for Hyundai Motorsport

The second day then, and the crews had 117km seven stages ahead of them. The startlist looked like this – Katsuta, Solans, Solberg, Greensmith, Fourmaux, Rovanperä, Sordo, Ogier, Evans, Neuville. Now the interesting thing is that coming through the stages last would mean that the conditions for the leaders would be tricky with the corner cuts bringing gravel onto the road.

 

First up was SS7 Savallà 1 – 14.08 km and there was fog and mist in the stage, which kept moving.  The top three was Thierry, Elfyn and Kalle. The Belgian was 1.7 seconds faster and his lead was now up to 2.4 seconds. It was a good stage from the Hyundai driver, and perhaps the type of stage with it longer flowing and faster corners suited the i20 WRC more than the nimble Yaris, which seems to go better on the twisty stuff. Dani lost a little bit of time to Seb, as he looked to move into third, the gap between them now 6.3 seconds. Takamoto was back of course, and looking to build some confidence again on the stages, and did quite well to be just seven tenths behind Gus.

Into the longer SS8 Querol – Les Pobles 1 – 19.17 km and for a little while it looked like Adrien would take the fastest time, but he was denied by Thierry, whilst Dani set the third best time. Elfyn was only fifth fastest and 4.3 seconds down on Thierry’s time, so the gap now had grown to 6.7 seconds.

The final stage then of the morning loop, SS9 El Montmell 1 – 24.40 km and Thierry made it a clean sweep of the morning stage wins, from Dani and Elfyn. The Spainard who was six seconds faster than Seb, had now reduced the gap in their battle for third overall to just three tenths of a second now. It was game on for the final podium spot. Gus suffered a puncture in this one, and decided not to stop and change, but to complete, losing just over a minute. He’d have lost a lot more if he’d stopped, so it was the right choice. The M-Sport crew dropped two places to ninth overall as a result, with Olver and Nil Solans benefitting.

After the lunchtime break came SS10 Savallà 2 – 14.08 km and Thierry was fastest again from Seb who was 1.4 slower and then Elfyn third fastest a further seven tenths behind. The positions were pretty static to be honest, with no changes of places up and down the field. Sadly, Jari Huttunen retired after having an engine problem in his i20 Rally2.

There was a hint of some rain around an hour before SS11 Querol – Les Pobles 2 – 19.17 km, with some rain actually falling, but it soon stopped and didn’t change the surface of the road at all. Seb and Thierry shared the best time in this one, with Elfyn 1.6 slower. The Belgian was doing just enough to grow his lead over Elfyn. There was drama for Adrien though, as he hit a barrier on the left side and damaged his front wheel. He got it changed and limped to the end. A real shame for the Frenchman who’d been second fastest in the first running of the stage earlier.

The last long stage then of the day, SS12 El Montmell 2 – 24.40 km, and Seb finally broke Thierry’s stranglehold winning the stage from Thierry and Dani. Takamoto was fifth fastest, which was a good result for the Japanese driver, as he gained good experience for the future.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 11 / Rally Catalunya/Spain / 14-17 October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

The last stage then of the day, SS13 Salou – 2.15 km, and Thierry was fastest again, but to be honest there was drama for Seb who lost a huge chunk of time after a stall and only being 16th fastest. Dani was now just 1.2 seconds behind the champion in their battle for third place. There was good drama for Mads who placed his C3 Rally2 fourth fastest in the stage with a sideways display in the stage.

Classification after Day Two

1 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2:03:45.7
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +16.4
3 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +38.7
4 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +39.9
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +1:12.3
6 G. Greensmith C. Patterson Ford Fiesta WRC +3:45.2
7 O. Solberg C. Drew Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +3:45.9
8 N. Solans M. Martí Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +3:53.8

 

Let’s hear from the drivers then after Saturday’s stages.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“We have had a good day and it’s obviously a very nice feeling to be leading the rally going into the final day. It wasn’t easy; we had some fog early on and the roads were very dirty, so I relied a lot on information from the road note crew. We have taken a clever approach, trying to avoid the sharp cuts, and not risking any punctures. We made an important set-up change yesterday that allowed us to take more out of the car, but there are still things we could have done to go even quicker. I still felt comfortable, and we set six fastest times out of the seven stages, so it wasn’t too bad! It’s always nice to be in front but there are some challenging stages yet to come. Nothing is guaranteed but we keep believing.”

Dani Sordo (4th)

“Honestly, I am quite happy with our performance today, and particularly on the El Montmell stage. I would have preferred to be fighting for the win, of course, but I have been pushing hard to keep up with Sébastien for third. This morning, we were in a nice fight but in the afternoon, he was always a step ahead, setting some strong times. It was difficult for us to make up much ground. We have done the maximum we could, and we’ve been close to his pace. We will try to push for the podium tomorrow, but we know it will be difficult. We have to stay focused and do our best.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de Espana
14-17 October 2021
Dani Sordo
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“We didn’t have a such a great day today and not what we wanted. The times were OK but not as good as yesterday obviously. We tried to improve the car in certain areas, like in the dirty places where we were struggling yesterday afternoon – and also this morning when we were running further back on the road. To an extent we managed to improve that, but in the process, we affected the overall balance of the car. We had to try something but it didn’t work out: I never really found the sweet spot and never felt as comfortable as yesterday. Here you have to be very confident, and I wasn’t at my very best today and it showed in the times. But tomorrow we’ll keep trying.”

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“This morning some things had been improved: I was more happy with the balance and I could enjoy driving the car more in the clean sections at least. Still, the times were not so great. But we continued to work on the car setup and after service it was starting to feel better and the times were coming and we had a great afternoon. Unfortunately, the engine stalled on a hairpin in the final stage so it is close again behind, but the positive is that the car is suiting me and the pace is there so I’m still very confident going into tomorrow.”

Kalle Rovanperä (5th)

“The pace was much better today and we could do good times without taking maximum risk. We made some more setup changes last night and already the first stage this morning was really nice in quite tricky conditions with a bit of fog and some damp places. We had a slow puncture on the second stage and then a big moment on the third one, but overall, it was quite a good morning and I was happy with the car. The afternoon was again quite tricky with a lot of gravel from the cuts, but we were not in a big fight anymore so we took it steady without big risks, and I’m learning all the time. Tomorrow the target is to finish the rally safely but also try to push for points on the Power Stage.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 11 / Rally Catalunya/Spain / 14-17 October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sunday

Now we have 50km’s over four stages remain and it’s looking like Thierry will take victory. Can Elfyn deny his push, or will the Belgian take his second win of the season? We will find out tomorrow!

Rally Spain – Day One Report. Thierry leads for Hyundai

Well, into day one then and the startlist looked like this – Ogier, Evans, Neuville, Rovanperä, Tänak, Katsuta, Greensmith, Sordo, Fourmaux, Solberg, Solans. The crews had six stages ahead of them, with a lunchtime service break.

Well, it was Elfyn who flew through SS1 Vilaplana 1 – 20.00 km, going a full five seconds faster than Thierry and Seb. It was a big statement of intent, and certainly surprised many in the service park. The Hyundai crews were struggling with understeer our there on the stages which had quite long corners and they were just having to stay off the throttle just a bit longer than they wanted.

Into SS2 La Granadella 1 – 21.80 km and Thierry and Elfyn set the exact same time, with Seb third again. Ott who was fourth coming into this one dropped two places as Dani and Kalle both moved past the Estonian after he went for a spin in the stage. There was even bigger drama though for Takamoto and Aaron. He ran wide on the exit of a corner and hit the armco smashing the left front side of his Yaris up. He crawled to the end of the stage, but it really was over for them today.

Elfyn won SS3 Riba-roja 1 – 14.21 km from Seb and Dani, with Thierry only sixth fastest and 2.8 behind the Welshman who took a 7.9 second lead into the break. There was a good battle as well in the WRC2 and WRC3 categories. Mads was quickest in the stage and reduced the gap to former M-Sport teammate Eric Camilli to just four tenths of a second. Kajetan was doing a similar thing winning the category and jumping ahead into second place in the category.

Into the afternoon stages then with SS4 Vilaplana 2 – 20.00 km and Thierry was fastest from Elfyn and the gap came down just three tenths. Seb remained third fastest and had a good gap to Dani who was fourth. We lost Ott on this one after he lost control in a tree-lined section and after spinning he hit a tree. They were out for the day.

There was a big change in SS5 La Granadella 2 – 21.80 km with Thierry flying through the stage and Elfyn having a big moment as well, the Belgian moved into the lead by just three tenths of a second. Seb remained 18 seconds from the lead.

So, to the last stage SS6 Riba-roja 2 – 14.21 km and Thierry made it two in a row going through four tenths quicker than Elfyn with Dani finding some speed and going third fastest, just three tenths faster than Seb. It meant that the Belgian took a lead of just seven tenths into the overnight halt.

 

Classification after Day One

1 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1:01:26.6
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +0.7
3 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +19.4
4 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +24.8
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +38.0
6 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Fiesta WRC +1:10.2
7 G. Greensmith C. Patterson Ford Fiesta WRC +1:28.9
8 O. Solberg C. Drew Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:55.6
9 N. Solans M. Martí Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:30.5

Let’s hear from the drivers after day one.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“I am feeling more comfortable in the car this afternoon. We experienced a lot of understeer on the morning loop, and I felt that I was pushing the car through rather than driving it. On the twisty roads, I felt I could have gone faster but I wasn’t able to get the car to turn in. Tomorrow, we have a different profile of stages, more flowing and I hope they will suit us better. We are going to do all we can to stay in the fight with Elfyn, who had a great start to the rally. It acted as a wake-up call for us, but now we’re back in the game.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de España
14-17 October 2021
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (4th)

“I have pushed my hardest since the very start of the day. It is so good to be back here in Spain, competing in our home event. We are back to a full tarmac event, and I think we’ve had a decent Friday. We took a slightly different strategy in the afternoon loop with two spare tyres. That meant we were carrying more weight on the stages but had some better tyre performance in the final stage. I had hoped the time would be better but honestly it was difficult to get any closer. The guys in front are fast. We’ll keep pushing for the podium.”

Ott Tänak (DNF)

“It has been a day of unpleasant surprises. This morning, in SS2, we had quite an impressive spin, and then at the start of the afternoon loop we went off and had to retire the car. We hit a tree stump which caused damage to the car that is unfortunately irreparable. It was quite an impact, so we were probably carrying too much speed into the corner. We locked the wheel a bit, and together with the dirt, we couldn’t save it. Martin and I are both fine; we weren’t really over the limit, so it came a bit out of the blue.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“This morning was very good for us. The feeling in the car was good and we got into a pretty nice rhythm, but I was surprised to have such a strong time in the first stage. The afternoon loop was OK for the most part, it was just the middle stage where it was a bit more dirty that seemed to be a bit difficult for us. We had a big moment and hit the rear fairly hard on a kerb, but we got away with it. It’s very close now between the top two positions and it’s all to play for going into another tricky day tomorrow.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 11 / Rally Catalunya/Spain / 14-17 October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“It’s been an OK day for us today. It was not as good as we wanted, as we came here wanting to fight for the victory and at the moment, we didn’t have the rhythm for that. This morning was not a bad loop, but Elfyn had a really good start. This afternoon there were some really dirty sections, and I struggled a bit on those, not wanting to take full risk. Nineteen seconds is a bit too much of a gap tonight but we’ll keep working to improve and we’re still in a position to fight for big points, so let’s see what tomorrow brings.”

Kalle Rovanperä (5th)

“Overall, it was quite an OK day for us. The morning was quite tricky and we struggled a bit too much. But in service we made some changes to the car which actually helped quite a lot, and it was more enjoyable this afternoon. It was good learning and we gained a lot of experience today that we didn’t have before with this car. Tomorrow could also be quite tricky with stages that our rivals know quite well with World Rally Cars, but we will keep trying to improve.”

Saturday’s stages

Saturday sees 117km over seven stages. Can Elfyn fight back and retake the lead? I think he can and it will be amazing to see the battle for the lead unfold throughout the day.

Rally Spain 2021 Preview – Back to Tarmac!

Well, we are coming to the end of this year’s championship, and for the first time since 2019 we head to Spain! Another twist is that for the first time since 2009 the event will be an all-tarmac event. This will at least mean that Seb Ogier won’t have to sweep the road clear of gravel. He and his teammate Elfyn will continue their battle for this seasons Drivers World Championship on the super smooth roads of Spain. If the Welshman wins in Spain, then he will take the fight to the finale at Rally Monza. However, if Seb scores six or more points than Elfyn, then the Frenchman will take his eighth title in his final season.

Let’s take a look at the stages facing them all. 280km over the seventeen stages. The conditions will remain pretty consistent throughout the weekend with sunny weather forecast for the whole weekend.

Rally de España opens with shakedown on the morning of Thursday 14 October, followed by the ceremonial start near the Salou-based service park.

Friday’s six-stage itinerary features two runs of Vilaplana (20.00km), La Granadella (21.80km) and Riba – roja (14.21km).

Saturday is the longest day of the rally, with two loops of Savallà (14.08km), Querol – Les Pobles (19.17km) and El Montmell (24.40km) followed by a short street stage in the heart of Salou (2.24km).

Santa Marina (9.10km) and Riudecanyes (16.35km) close the event on Sunday, with the second pass of the latter stage forming the event’s Power Stage.

RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada itinerary:
Friday October 15
SS1 Vilaplana 1 20.00km (12.42 miles) 0843
SS2 La Granadella 1 21.80km (13.38 miles) 1021
SS3 Riba-roja 1 14.21km (8.72 miles) 1142
Service Port Aventura 1317
SS4 Vilaplana 2 20.00km (12.42 miles) 1500
SS5 La Granadella 2 21.80km (13.38 miles) 1638
SS6 Riba-roja 2 14.21km (8.72 miles) 1759
Service Port Aventura 1949

Saturday October 16
SS7 Savallà 1 14.08km (8.74 miles) 0844
SS8 Querol-Les Pobles 1 19.17km (11.91 miles) 0937
SS9 El Montmell 1 24.40km (15.15 miles) 1038
Service Port Aventura 1200
SS10 Savallà 2 14.08km (8.74 miles) 1414
SS11 Querol-Les Pobles 2 19.17km (11.91 miles) 1507
SS12 El Montmell 2 24.40km (15.15 miles) 1608
SS13 Salou 2.24km (1.39 miles) 1800
Service Port Aventura 1820

Sunday October 17
SS14 Santa Marina 1 9.10km (5.65 miles) 0700
SS15 Riudecanyes 1 16.35 km (10.15 miles) 0808
Service Port Aventura 0854
SS16 Santa Marina 2 9.10km (5.65 miles) 1029
SS17 Riudecanyes 2 16.35 km (10.15 miles) 1218

 

Now, let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“I’m really looking forward to Spain and to being back on asphalt again. It will be nice to have all three days of the rally on asphalt because those roads are really fun to drive. Also, for us it will good to not be sweeping gravel on the first day of the rally like we have been doing for much of the season. We are still in a strong position for the championship. Spain will be the first realistic chance to claim the title and I know what I need to do to make it happen. When I have the chance to win, I try to fight for it, and this will be the most simple way to achieve our goal.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 11 / Rally Catalunya/Spain / 14-17 October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans

“The win on Rally Finland was a great result for us. The drivers’ title is still a long shot for us but once more we’ll be giving our best in Spain and trying to get the best possible result there. The asphalt roads in Spain are really fantastic to drive, so I’m looking forward to competing on an all-asphalt event this time around. So far whenever I’ve driven the Yaris WRC on asphalt, the surface has usually been quite dirty or provided very low grip, so I’m excited to drive the higher-grip roads in Spain in this car. That said, at this time of year the weather is never guaranteed to be dry even in Spain. If it does rain, as we’ve seen in previous years, it can still be quite a tricky and demanding event.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“I have driven in Spain twice before in WRC 2 and I always liked the days on asphalt there, so for me it’s a positive thing that it will be a full asphalt rally again. If the weather is good then it’s a really nice event. The roads are really fast and flowing and a bit different to the other rounds we normally do on asphalt. It’s more like circuit driving and you need to be really precise, but when you get it right then it’s really enjoyable. The characteristics were quite different in Ypres but there I had a good feeling in the car in asphalt specification, and I hope we can have that again in Spain and fight for a good result for ourselves and the team.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“When I first participated in Rally de España it was a full tarmac event and now we are back to that profile after a few years of mixed terrain. I’m looking forward to tackling some of the famous stages we have seen in the past. It is a rally I like; the nice flowing roads are really good fun to drive with these WRC cars. It is more of a circuit-style of driving, so you need to be clean and efficient, taking care not to slide too much. You also need good pace notes to rely on to be fast, as it is difficult to make a big difference in the gaps on these types of roads.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de España
14-17 October 2021
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak

“It has been a while since we’ve had three days of tarmac competition at Rally de España. It is a very fast event and one that I really enjoy. The roads require pure, clean driving – the routes in the forest are quite smooth with not many cuts and the weather is consistent there, which makes it an enjoyable event for me. After two consecutive podium finishes, it would be nice to secure a hat-trick in Spain as we aim for a strong finish to this season.”

Dani Sordo

“I am really happy to be back driving in Spain after two years without a rally in my home country. I’m looking forward to the challenge of a full tarmac event; I’m hoping the weather will be nice and that we will have a lot of fans there as well. You need to have a really good car set-up and be confident – then, you enjoy the rally a lot. If you have a car that is understeering and not working very well, you won’t be happy. I can’t wait to be back at Rally de España.”

Jari Huttunen

“I’m looking forward to the return of tarmac next weekend after our victory in Ypres Rally Belgium. We were able to find a good confidence and rhythm with the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 on those roads which we hope will put us on the front foot in Spain. Finland didn’t quite go our way from the start of the rally, so the target is to perform well from the very first stage.”

Teemu Suninen

“I’m looking forward to Rally de España with the Hyundai i20 N Rally2. Spain has been one of my all-time favourite rallies. At the same time, it’s the best event to feel the balance of the new car on tarmac because of the long curves. There are a lot of new stages in the rally this year, and therefore the pace notes will play an important role next weekend.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Gus Greensmith

“Spain’s a beautiful event with very smooth, fast and flowing Tarmac roads which is always a pleasure to drive in these cars. It’s something that seems to have always suited the Fiesta in the past so we know that it should be much stronger than in Finland and we’re hoping for a good result as a team.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“I am really happy to be back in Spain, I was there two years ago in the Fiesta Rally2 and have some good experience on this event. I really like this Tarmac event which is quite interesting with the lines you need for the corners. It’s quite a grippy event and my second event with Alex so we still want to improve our pace together.

“We want to have a good result we know the car is really good on Tarmac and want to able to fight with the rest of the guys.”

Seb Perez

“Really excited for Catalunya this weekend, it is going to be really good. My circuit knowledge should help with the gravel stuff, obviously the cuts are going to be a bit of a challenge. Hopefully I get my head around them and use them to my advantage, it’s going to be exciting as my first WRC round.

“I’ve done plenty events in the Fiesta Rally2 now so I’m looking forward to a couple of days of good rallying.”

 

Well, we are set then for an amazing Rally Spain. Elfyn and Scott do need to win this weekend to take the title battle to the final round. There can be no sitting back and hoping that second place will do the job. I don’t think that Seb and Julien can count their chickens either. It’s not a foregone conclusion that they will win either. Their teammates are very quick on tarmac. Then there’s the Hyundai challengers. Ott won the title for Toyota in 2019, but it was Thierry Neuville who took victory for Hyundai that year. Perhaps either of them could also challenge for the win and that could bring extra spice to the championship, if they are ahead of either Seb or Elfyn.

Shakedown starts in the morning, and it will be interesting to see who has dialled their car in in their pre-event test, as they may the one leading at the end of day one. Pop back on Friday for my Day One report.

Extreme E: UK Set to Host Extreme E Finale

image courtesy of Simon Tassie

Extreme E announced earlier today that the fifth and final race on the Extreme E calendar, the Jurassic XPrix, will take place at Bovington in the English county of Dorset on the 18-19th December.

Supposed to take place in Argentina, the all electric racing series made the difficult decision to cancel the event a few months ago due to the developing coronavirus situation. The decision to now host the finale in the UK instead, comes just a few weeks before the Island XPrix, which replaced the Amazon XPrix for similar reasons.

Bovington is a UK Army Barracks situated in the south of England. Extreme E will work closely with British Ministry of Defence to share innovative ideas on electrification to allow both parties to be at the forefront of sustainable technology. The details of the Legacy Program will be revealed closer to the event.

Speaking about the decision to move the finale to the UK, Extreme E CEO Alejandro Agag said “I am very excited by this race location… This move is a poignant shift in our mission to race in remote, far-away places to highlight the effects of Climate Change, as more increasingly, the issues we talk about are literally happening in our backyards”

The announcement comes after the UK experienced an unusually warm September, with a mean temperature 2.1 degrees above the 1981-2010 long term average and the second hottest September since records began in 1884. As temperatures continue to rise above their averages, it seems important that Extreme E emphasises that climate change is not just felt by those in remote locations; it is felt by everyone.

The Jurassic XPrix will finish the season, following the penultimate round, which takes place in Sardinia later this month. With the championship battle getting closer and closer, we look forward to seeing the winner crowned on UK soil.

Let’s talk about Carlos Sainz’s season

Carlos Sainz has been the best, most consistent Ferrari driver and he does not get the credit he deserves.

When they say that a driver is underrated, I tend to believe that he is not – simply because we talk about him, we mention his achievements and, by definition, he is not underrated.

Carlos Sainz claimed his first Ferrari podium in Monaco – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari press Office

In Carlos Sainz’s case, things are different.

He is truly underrated, and without a doubt the most consistent driver in the midfield during this season.

Firstly, it must be noted that this is not the first year in which Sainz is consistent or his performance is going under the radar. His tenure in McLaren was full of races where he did everything correctly and got to the points or even the podium. He was a focal point of McLaren’s ascent to the top of the midfield, with their 3rd position in the contructors’ standings last year being the ultimate proof of Sainz’s contribution to the team.

And all this starts with his brave decision to leave the Red Bull ‘family’ and go to Renault at first, and then to McLaren. He chose to leave the Austrians, because he felt he could achieve more outside their Verstappen-focused system.

This was a decision that paid off. He found himself as a person and a driver in McLaren, and he’s more mature than ever coming to Ferrari.

Driving for the Maranello squad is -without saying- the most challenging experience for any driver – even the very best of them have crumbled under the pressure this position puts to you.

The Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz brought the cars home in fifth and seventh respectively – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

It must be said though, that every modern driver’s first year at Ferrari is a good one, generally speaking. Kimi Raikkonen won his one and only title in 2007, Fernando Alonso was the favourite for the championship in 2010, Sebastian Vettel returned to his winning ways in 2015 and Charles Leclerc took 2 wins and 7 pole positions in 2019.

It’s the second year, and what comes after it, that gets into the nerves of most drivers in that team.

Nevertheless, even with that ‘caveat’ (if you can call it like that), Sainz is impressive in terms of his speed and consistency.

This is a rundown of the Spaniard’s results this year, both in qualifying and in the race. Bear in mind that he has received a penalty only once in terms of qualifying position, in last week’s Turkish GP:

Race Q position R position
Bahrain 8 8
Emilia-Romagna 11 5
Portugal 5 11
Spain 6 7
Monaco 4 2
Azerbaijan 5 8
France 5 11
Styria 12 6
Austria 10 5
Britain 10 6
Hungary 15 3
Belgium 11 10
Netherlands 6 7
Italy 6 6
Russia 2 3
Turkey 19 8

You will notice that his qualifying performance is not his strongest point. That’s not a bad thing at all, because he is extremely good in race pace.

He has that kind of race craft that allows him to gain places in the race, even when the car is not the most competitive in the midfield.

What I find the most impressive result of them all (up until this point) is the one in Istanbul. He started P19 due to the new engine Ferrari fitted to his car, and he absolutely drove the wheels out of it. In a damp track, with intermediates and no DRS use, he seemed to be able to pass drivers left and right.

Sainz has shown some early positive signs of promise do far for Ferrari – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

On top of that, Sainz has managed to out qualify Charles Leclerc 3 times and finish ahead of him in the race on 5 occasions – and this comes from a driver who came to the team to serve an unofficial no. 2 role.

This goes to show that he entered this year’s campaign with a lot of confidence, which derives from his meticulous preparation before the season, his deep understanding of a car he didn’t help develop and set up, and his tendency to maximise what the car’s limit is, even in difficult situations.

An example of this latter argument is his ability to preserve his tires and do the opposite strategy from other drivers in the midfield. This is a trait that is handy when your team is in a tight battle with McLaren, and you have to get every point you can to help them win.

Carlos Sainz’s podium was not enough to close the gap to McLaren, but it was an impressive performance nonetheless – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

Carlos Sainz is an asset for Ferrari at this point, and this makes their partnership ahead of the big regulation changes of 2022 even more interesting.

Main image courtesy of Ferrari Media