Rally Italia Sardegna 2020 Review – Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio take the win!

Cast your mind back twelve months, plus a bit more to June 2019. Dani and Carlos took a popular win in the service park. Having not competed since Mexico 2020, the Hyundai crew showed their class to take a very good victory in the delayed Rally Italia Sardegna this season. Here’s the story how it happened.

 

Thursday as ever saw shakedown take place, and there were a few key moments. In the first run through, Kalle set the fastest time in his Yaris, and then promptly put the car on its roof after the flying finish!

Ultimately, Ott was fastest in shakedown, with Elfyn and Seb second and third. The Welshman set the same time as his former Estonian teammate. There was also a Citroen C3 WRC being driven by former Hyundai, Citroen and Volkswagen pilot Andreas Mikkelsen, running on the new Pirelli tyres in shakedown, the new tyre supplier running in shakedown and then also running in the power stage on Sunday, with 2003 world champion Petter Solberg driving and Andreas sitting alongside him on the pace notes.

 

Friday

With 95km’s over six stages on the first day, this was the start list for day one – Evans, Ogier, Tänak, Rovanperä, Neuville, Lappi, Suninen, Greensmith, Katsuta, Sordo, Loubet.

At the end of the opening test, SS1 Tempio Pausania 1 – 12.08 km the two M-Sport Fiesta’s were at the top of the field, with Teemu winning the stage by 12 seconds from his teammate! We all know what he said in the interview at stage end! Elfyn and Scott, the first car into the stage, were holding fourth overall, 13.4 seconds from the Finn, and last seasons winner Dani was third. Ott didn’t have a good start, losing 14 seconds in the stage. Oliver Solberg deserves a mention, after setting the seventh fastest time in his Fabia R5, quicker than Thierry, and only 16 seconds from the leader!

Dani moved closer to the front in SS2 Erula – Tula 1 – 21.78 km with a time seven seconds faster than Teemu, and now the gap between them was just five seconds. First to finish the stage was Elfyn who reported that it was a bit slipperier than expected, ending up fifth fastest and holding fourth overall at this point. Sadly, we lost Esapekka Lappi after his car overheated. Seb was now in third overall.

Elfyn took his first stage win of the weekend, winning SS3 Tempio Pausania 2 – 12.08 km from Seb and Dani. A good drive from the Welshman, despite being the first car through! Suninen remained in the lead as he and Dani were very closely matched in the stage and the gap just five seconds between the top two.

Into SS4 Erula – Tula 2 – 21.78 km and Dani won the stage, from Thierry, who was nine seconds slower in the stage, but second fastest and Kalle who was third. Dani was now in the lead, having passed Teemu who was 12 seconds slower than the i20 driver and only fifth fastest. It was going very badly for Ott, who was only ninth fastest in the stage and now almost two minutes from the lead.

After the lunchtime break, we had two stages to complete the day. The break gave the Hyundai team the opportunity to find out what the suspension problem was with Ott’s car.

Into SS5 Sedini – Castelsardo 1 – 14.72 km and it was another stage win for Dani, with a fired-up Ott only nine tenths slower and second fastest. Teemu was third in the stage and remained in second overall. Thierry moved past Elfyn in the stage with the Welshman going only eighth in the stage.

SS6 Tergu – Osilo 1 – 12.81 km ended the day and it was another stage win for Dani, with Thierry second fastest. The Belgians pace lifted them ahead of Seb and into third overall. Ott was third fastest in the stage, making it a Hyundai 1-2-3, and this brought the reigning champion up into eighth overall.

 

Classification after Day One

1 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1:12:40.9
2 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +17.4
3 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +35.2
4 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +36.0
5 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +51.9
6 G. Greensmith E. Edmondson Ford Fiesta WRC +1:07.1
7 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:33.5
8 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:53.7
9 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +2:32.3

 

 

Let’s hear from the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (1st)

“I am happy to be back in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC and pleased to return to this rally which has so many special memories from last year. I have been feeling really competitive all day and some of the stages have been really nice. We made a good tyre choice and we are in an encouraging position. It is only the first day, so we have to keep our feet on the ground. We want to continue like this for the rest of the rally; everyone is pushing hard but we’re here to fight.”

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“Honestly speaking I was expecting better from our day. We didn’t have a great start to the rally on this morning loops. We weren’t comfortable with the settings of the car. We did the maximum to improve our times by trying some different things. I was able to push a bit – actually I pushed quite hard in SS4 and that showed as we set the second fastest time. We made the necessary changes to the car for the afternoon and I felt immediately more comfortable. Unfortunately, and bizarrely, we stalled twice today. It never happened to me before, but the second time the car wouldn’t restart. We lost about 12 seconds in all, which is important time in such a close battle. Tomorrow, with the changes we’ve made, I am confident we will have better pace.”

Ott Tänak (8th)

“It has been a demanding day and we’re obviously disappointed. We were getting some suspension issues from the start of the day, and it proved to be something that we could not repair on the road sections with the tools and bits that we had. It is difficult to say what happened exactly, but we could do nothing about it. In the afternoon stages, everything was working fine from our side, just a big amount of cleaning but generally no drama and no surprises. We will try to keep going as we did this afternoon; our position is not great so let’s see. Hopefully the fight is now a bit more straightforward.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (2nd)

“We had a really good morning and I think we proved what we can do. On that first stage I knew it was going to be challenging for everyone and I tried to take as many seconds as I could – which worked out really well. We lost some aero after that which cost us some time, but it was still a good morning.

“Then in the afternoon the tyre choice didn’t really work out for us. We thought it was going to be a bit warmer, but the sun went down just as the last stage started and I wasn’t able to make the most of the hard tyres.

“Still it was a really good day for us, and tomorrow we just have to focus on our own driving and let the others do their own thing. The stages will be a bit faster tomorrow, but the main thing is to do my best – because that’s the way to get the best results.”

Gus Greensmith (6th)

“This has definitely been one of my better drives and I’m pretty happy with the way things have gone. There were a few little mistakes here and there, and I was a bit disappointed with myself on the first stage this afternoon (SS5) as I think we could have really taken a big chunk out of the people around us. But the time wasn’t too bad, and I can definitely see an improvement which was exactly what we wanted from this weekend.”

Esapekka Lappi (DNF)

“Our initial pace was really promising so it’s really disappointing that things had to end the way they did. It was all over pretty quickly to be honest. About 300 metres before I stopped, we got all the warnings on the screen and the steam from the bonnet and we knew then that it was over. We had a good look and couldn’t see any impacts, but there was no water left in the engine and unfortunately we won’t be back out again tomorrow.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“It was a good start this morning. We were all fearing this first stage a little bit, which was very challenging, very narrow and we were happy to make it through with a good time. Overall, the morning loop was good: We were in third and the two cars in front had a big advantage from their start position. The afternoon was more difficult for us like we had expected. We tried what we could but we lost a bit too much time. Tomorrow should be better with a better road position. I’m looking forward to having some better grip hopefully and to try to make some good times.”

Elfyn Evans (5th)

“The morning was quite good for us. The first stage was particularly slippery and I was surprised on the second pass how much grip we had, and we had a good run. There was a bit more loose gravel on the second stage but overall we came through it quite OK and managed to lose not too much time. The afternoon stages had dried quite a lot since the recce and there was a lot more loose than expected and we really suffered a lot. It’s not been an easy day, which we knew would be the case. But tomorrow our road position will be better and hopefully we can look to fight with those around us.”

Kalle Rovanperä (9th)

“This morning we took the wrong tyre choice, with three mediums and two hards. I don’t have the experience here to know how much the tyre will wear, and it was quite tricky to drive with one hard tyre on the car all the time and in the end, we didn’t need them. I was preparing to have a better feeling in the afternoon, with some small changes to the car, but we got a steering-related issue at the start of SS5, so we had to drive slowly through both stages to bring the car back to service.  Tomorrow we will have to now open the road so it’s going to be a difficult day.”

 

Saturday

With 101km’s over six stages in day two, the running order would be key once again, with the leader from day one being the last car through. The running order looked like this – Katsuta, Rovanperä, Tänak, Loubet, Greensmith, Evans, Ogier, Neuville, Suninen, Sordo.

 

The first stage of the day, SS7 Monte Lerno 1 – 22.08 km features Mickey’s Jump and this year was just 500 metres into the stage. The top three was Seb, Elfyn and Thierry with just 3.6 seconds between them. The two leaders, Dani and Teemu were fourth and fifth fastest, Seb’s pace lifted him up into third overall, and was now just 8.4 seconds behind Teemu.

Dani was back to his best in SS8 Coiluna – Loelle 1 – 15.00 km, winning the stage from Elfyn and Thierry. Unfortunately, Teemu’s run near the front came to an end as he set the sixth fastest time and ultimately dropped two positions into fourth with Seb moving into second and Thierry into third. Ott was also moving up the order, now into seventh.

The rerun of SS9 Monte Lerno 2 – 22.08 km was won by Seb from Thierry and Dani who continued to lead the rally from the Frenchman by a huge 31 seconds. Elfyn was closing on Teemu as well in their battle for fourth overall, the gap now just two seconds between the former teammates.

SS10 Coiluna – Loelle 2 – 15.00 km, and Thierry was fastest from Dani and Elfyn, once again just three seconds covering the top three. Both the Belgian and the Welshman moved up the order, with Thierry moving into second place and Elfyn passing Teemu. The top four cars were Hyundai, Hyundai, Toyota, Toyota. Ott continued to climb up the leaderboard and was now into sixth overall.

Seb won SS11 Sedini – Castelsardo 2 from Thierry and Ott. Elfyn was sixth fastest, and holding onto fourth overall behind Dani, Thierry and Seb. Going well was Oliver again, setting the seventh fastest time in his Skoda Fabia, and he moved ahead of Jari Huttunen into eighth overall.

The final stage of the day SS12 Tergu – Osilo 2 – 12.81 km was won by Seb as well, and this pace lifted him ahead of Thierry who was third in the stage behind the leader who was still Dani Sordo. Elfyn doubled the gap to Teemu, going 4.6 seconds faster then the Finn and securing fourth at the end of day two.

 

Classification after Day Two

1 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2:14:35.5
2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +27.4
3 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +28.9
4 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +58.4
5 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +1:06.9
6 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:25.3
7 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +3:37.0

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (1st)

“We end today in the same way we finished on Friday, feeling very positive and pleased with our performance. We have had to be careful to manage our tyres today, making the right selection for each loop and pushing when we could, while also conserving when needed. At the end of the final stage of the day, our tyres were finished so we had to take it a bit more cautiously. In rally, we know from experience that there is no such thing as a comfortable advantage. We have to maintain this pace and rhythm on Sunday morning if we want to get the job done.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Rally Italia Sardegna
8 – 11 October 2020
Dani Sordo
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“I was happy with our morning, even if I feel that carrying an extra spare was not the best option. Our target was to get P2 and to try and increase our gap. We ended the loop with a stage win and were ready to resume the fight in the afternoon. There were different tyre strategies at play and the times were really close. I tried very hard but Ogier seemed to have a bit more speed. Unfortunately, we lost 1.5-2-seconds on the bridge in the final stage, when I was late on the brakes. When you’re pushing to the max, these things can happen. We go again tomorrow.”

Ott Tänak (6th)

“Today was a clean day with no drama. More or less everything was working well and we did what we could. I guess we achieved all that was planned, so there was nothing more we could have done ourselves. The feeling with the car was all good. Tomorrow, we can expect more of the same typically Sardinian stages – narrow and twisty. Our first priority is to get to the Power Stage and then try to push. Every point is critical at the moment.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“I feel pretty happy with my day today, winning four stages out of six. Unfortunately, the two other stages were not so good and were a bit costly in terms of time: On the first pass I was not on the limit enough and on the second one I really tried harder but I stalled the engine in a hairpin and lost some seconds. But overall, it’s still a positive day. Tomorrow we’re going to fight for second place and put the pressure on the leader until the end. You never know what can happen on these tricky stages.”

Elfyn Evans (4th)

“Overall, the morning loop wasn’t bad. For the most part I was driving pretty well. I just gave away too much time in SS9, being a bit too careful and too focused on being smooth and not pushing hard enough. Then in the first stage of the afternoon I tried to push a bit more and ended up going slower, so in the final stage I just kept it clean. Now we need to keep hold of fourth tomorrow, that will be key. It’s not going to be possible to catch the guys in front on pace alone on such short stages, but we have to keep going until the end.”

Kalle Rovanperä (DNF)

“On the second stage of the day, we went a bit wide in the final part of the stage: It was a narrow section where we had some things to avoid on the inside. We hit a tree on the outside and then the impact sent us into a second tree, and the damage was too much for us to restart tomorrow. It was clearly not our weekend, starting already from the shakedown. We had a bit of bad luck also yesterday which was not our fault, but today was my mistake. It’s been a tricky weekend.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (5th)

“It’s been a challenging day for us. It started okay this morning – we lost a few seconds to the guys at the front but we were on good pace with Elfyn. Then we had some issues with the handbrake and lost a lot of time in the slower sections.

“But we came back again in the afternoon – taking time out of Elfyn on the first stage [SS11] and then losing a bit to him on the second [SS12]. It’s going to be a tight fight tomorrow, and I will give it my best. It’s only two seconds per stage, and we will keep the pressure on.”

Gus Greensmith (29th)

“It was one of the best days of my career yesterday. I was really pleased with the way I was driving and really pleased with the car – everything was working well. It started okay again this morning – maybe my pacenotes were a little bit slow and the second spare wasn’t the best choice, but we seemed to make it work.

“Unfortunately, we then had a low voltage warning on SS9 and as soon as we left the stop line the whole car died – right in the bottom of a dip! So even though we managed to change the alternator belt, we could never get enough momentum to bump start it. After about 45 minutes of trying we had to call it a day, and tomorrow we’ll just focus on continuing the improvements we have made so far.”

 

Sunday

With 42km’s over four stages, the question was could either Seb or Thierry do anything about Dani? The start list looked like this – Katsuta, Greensmith, Loubet, Tänak, Suninen, Evans, Neuville, Ogier, Sordo.

Seb flew through SS13 Cala Flumini 1 – 14.06 km and with Dani Sordo only fourth fastest behind Thierry and Elfyn, the gap was now just fifteen seconds between the top two. Thierry was right with Seb, just 1.7 seconds between them in their fight over second overall.

The short blast of SS14 Sassari – Argentiera 1 – 6.89 km was taken by Thierry with Dani and Seb second and third fastest. Now the gap between second and third was just one tenth of a second! Dani’s lead was actually increased a little to just over sixteen seconds now. Elfyn was a comfortable fourth both in the stage and overall, as well.

SS15 Cala Flumini 2 – 14.06 km, the penultimate stage was won by Seb, and the gap opened up a little to 1.7 seconds to Thierry in third. What would we see from the Belgian in the final stage? Dani was just bringing the car home for a very good victory, his lead now 9.2 seconds over Seb.

The final stage then, SS16 Sassari – Argentiera 2 [Power Stage] – 6.89 km. The top five fastest were Ott, Thierry, Seb, Elfyn and Dani. Thierry was 2.7 seconds faster than Seb, and passed him for second overall as well. Seb missed out on second position by just one second in the end.

 

Final Overall Classification – Rally Italia Sardegna

1 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2:41:37.5
2 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +5.1
3 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +6.1
4 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +1:02.3
5 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +1:33.9
6 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:27.5
7 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +4:43.8
8 J. Huttunen M. Lukka Hyundai i20 R5 +8:41.7
9 K. Kajetanowicz M. Szczepaniak Škoda Fabia R5 +10:02.9
10 P. Tidemand P. Barth Škoda Fabia R5 +10:20.9

 

Let’s hear from the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (1st)

“This is an amazing result and I am really happy to have taken my second victory for Hyundai Motorsport, at the scene of my first one last year. This place is really special, and we have seen a strong performance across the whole team. I am not particularly pleased with my pace today; we had a big lead coming into Sunday morning, but I wasn’t able to set the same times as Thierry and Ogier, so things were a bit too close by the end of the Power Stage. Still, we were able to get the job done and to help the team move into the lead of the manufacturers’ standings. Mission accomplished. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to send – on behalf of myself and Carlos – our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Laura Salvo. We will always remember her.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Rally Italia Sardegna
08-11 October 2020
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“I am so happy to finish in second place and to collect four points from the Power Stage. The result moves us to third in the drivers’ standings after a fantastic battle with Sébastien. I really enjoyed it. We did the best we could all weekend after a few issues which lost us some valuable time. Huge congratulations to Dani and Carlos for a beautiful victory, and to the team for this incredible 1-2, which has really helped our position in the manufacturers’ championship.”

Ott Tänak (6th)

“It has been a difficult and disappointing weekend for us. From the suspension problems on Friday, we knew we wouldn’t be able to mount a serious challenge. We still kept pushing and supporting the team as best we could. Aside from the issues on Friday, the car has been OK, but we know we could have done so much more this weekend. We managed to complete the rally on a more positive note with five points in the Power Stage. The team is working really hard, as it has all season long, and they are doing a great job. We haven’t had things go our way, but we’ll push through and surely improvements will come.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“It’s been very intense for more or less the whole weekend. Of course, at the end, third place maybe doesn’t show the performance that we had here, but that’s how it is. We had to be second on the road for a big part of the rally and a lot of time was lost there. After that it was always going to be difficult. But I think we tried our best and I cannot be disappointed with my performance, I gave everything I had and it’s still solid points for the championship. I’m getting more and more settled in the Yaris WRC and the performance is there. I just need to continue with that and I’m confident about the future.”

Elfyn Evans (4th)

“Today the main objective was to stay ahead of the driver behind and make sure that position was secure. Unfortunately, I didn’t get as many points on the Power Stage as I would have liked, but all in all at least we secured the result and came away with solid points at the end of the weekend. Of course, you always want more than fourth place but we knew coming here starting first on the road was going to be tough, and we were almost out of the fight for the podium by the end of the first day. We continued to push but the times were close and, in the end, I think fourth was realistically the most we could achieve. Going onto asphalt, being first on the road should normally be an advantage and we’ll be hoping that will be the case.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (5th)

“We started this rally really strongly and had great speed in the slower sections – proving that we can be competitive when the conditions are right. But we also had some small issues and were struggling a bit in the faster sections – meaning that fifth was the best we could do this weekend. Still there are a lot of positives that we can take away, and we’ll focus now on the Tarmac rallies where the Fiesta has always been strong.”

Gus Greensmith (25th)

“I think we made some really good steps forward this weekend, and a lot of that was due to the time I spent at M-Sport before the rally. Going through all of the data with my engineer we were able to find a lot of ways to improve and also tried something new with the set-up which gave me a lot more confidence. For me it was definitely one of my better performances. It was pretty disappointing about some of the issues we had, but that’s rallying and we’ve shown that we can fight a lot closer to the top.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round six

1 E. Evans 111
2 S. Ogier 97
3 T. Neuville 87
4 O. Tänak 83
5 K. Rovanperä 70
6 T. Suninen 44
7 E. Lappi 38
8 D. Sordo 26
9 C. Breen 25
10 S.Loeb 24

 

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round six

1 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 208
2 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 201
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 117
4 Hyundai 2C Competition 8

 

 

Warren’s Thoughts

At Hyundai it was a good drive by Dani Sordo. Five stage wins gave him the lead, and he was able to keep his pace high enough so that when others hit the pace that they needed to challenge, he had enough in reserve to hold on the lead and therefore take the victory. Unfortunately, the issue with the subframe being underweight by 24kg’s has slightly taken the shine off the result. The significant fine that the team picked up because of this will set some minds at rest, but others may think more should have been done. Ott Tänak was really held back with his woes on Friday, but once the problems were resolved, he was on the pace. Sadly, it makes it even harder for him to retain his title. Thierry kept his title hopes alive with a strong drive, and nearly took the win from his teammate. He is now Hyundai’s best hope for the driver’s championship.

 

At Toyota the championship leader, Elfyn Evans did what he could given that he was opening the road on Friday, including a stage win and finished in fourth. His teammate, Seb, did what he could to finish higher up, but third overall could have been second, and a smaller gap to close come the end of the year. Kalle showed well, but retirement beckoned for the young Finn.

 

Finally, at M-Sport they started really well, holding a 1-2 after the first stage, with Teemu ‘Sending It’! As the rally went on throughout Saturday, the pace was too much for the Finn to hold the faster cars behind and ultimately ended the event in fifth. We didn’t get to see what Esapekka could do, after his engine overheated and he retired. Gus Greensmith went well, setting eleven top ten times. Reliability cost him a decent result, but we shall see what he and Elliot his co-driver can do in the last couple of events.

 

One more thing to mention is that Petter Solberg and Andreas Mikkelsen teamed up in a Citroen C3 WRC running on next year’s Pirelli tyres, with the younger Norwegian on the stage notes as they completed the final stage. We don’t know what time they set, but nevertheless it is a significant moment for the tyre manufacturer.

Petter Solberg (NOR) and Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) of team Citroen C3 WRC. Photo credit Red Bull Content Pool

Looking ahead, we now have two events left to complete this season. Ypres in Belgium at the beginning of November, and now in December, Rally Monza. This event was announced on Friday afternoon!

Rally Italia Sardegna 2020 – Preview.

We come to this event much later in the year than normal. It will be interesting what the weather does, as it is normally a dry and hot rally. As I write this, the weather reports suggest that there will be rain at the start of the week, but that it will warm up and the rain will stop.

Of course, as championship leaders, Elfyn Evans and his co-driver Scott Martin will be opening the road on Friday. The last time they did that in Mexico, they finished in fourth place. What kind of a result will they be able to get in this rally? They hold an 18-point lead over their teammates and former champions.

Seb and Julien, and will be working hard to get a good result for their championship challenge. The former champions will want a strong result, and at least a podium finish to set up a title decider in the Ypres Rally. I suspect they will target winning on the island of Sardinia.

Third on the road, Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja lie 27 points from the championship leader. The Hyundai team know how to win here, with Thierry taking victories in 2016 and 2018. The Estonians hopes of getting a top result and successfully defending their world title, make this event very important. They have to outscore both former teammates, and ideally win.

Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio and, who won this event last year will start for Hyundai as well, their first competitive start in the car since Rally Mexico.

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 08, Rally Italia Sardegna
13 – 16 June 2019
Dani Sordo
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

At Toyota, Kalle Rovanpera, who has just turned 20 will have much to learn about getting to grips with this event, but will have the best teammates alongside him. He also competed last year in a Skoda Fabia R5, and finished in ninth place. This season he has taken some very good results in this first season at the top, sitting fourth in the championship.

At M-Sport, Teemu is the only driver to have stood on the podium this season, taking third in Mexico and took second place last year in this event behind Dani. It gives all three drivers hope that they can secure a good result in this event, and to finish the season strongly.

Petter Solberg and Andreas Mikkelsen will be driving the final stage of the rally in a Citroen C3 WRC on Pirelli tyres. The Norwegian pairing have been helping Pirelli test their tyres, in their preparations for next season when they become the tyre supplier for the championship.

Here’s the stage information for you. Sixteen stages and 238km of action in total.

Let’s hear from the drivers!

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“Sardinia is a rally that I like, but we’re going to be competing there at a different time of the year compared to usual, so the challenge might not be the same as what we are used to. For this reason, the test that we did there last week was important preparation. At this time of year, the weather can be more uncertain than normal, and on an island like Sardinia it can change very quickly anyway. In the test we had some heavy rain showers and the conditions on the stage changed completely in just a few minutes. Everything is still open in the championship, so we have to keep doing our best and target the maximum points in Sardinia.”

Elfyn Evans

“Whenever you finish one rally on a high like we did in Turkey then it’s always a good boost for the following round. Leading the championship is certainly a good position to be in, even though it does come with an added challenge in that we will need to sweep the road in Sardinia. It is how it is but it’s not going to make it an easy event for us – providing it stays dry, of course. Going to Sardinia in October could change the weather forecasts somewhat. It might make it a little bit less demanding for the tyres, but we will still have some difficult choices: We face some loops of stages where we have to choose the tyres for the first and second passes of stages without returning to service, so it’s still going be a big challenge.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 08 / Rally dÕItalia Sardegna / 13-16 June, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Kalle Rovanperä

“In my pre-event test for Sardinia I had a good feeling straight away in the car, and it got even better once we made some changes, so I’m happy going into the rally. In Sardinia there’s usually a lot of road cleaning on the first pass, so it will be important to have good grip there. It can also be quite rough in some places and on the second pass there will be big ruts, so you need to have a good setup to deal with that also. It seems we can expect to have some rain showers and that they can be quite local – so it will only be wet in some parts of the stages. The information from our weather crews is going to be really important to know if there will be rain or not and what tyres we need to take, especially as I’ve heard that the stages can be really slippery when it rains.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“There are nice beautiful roads at Rally Italia Sardegna, with flowing, narrow stages. The natural characteristic of the stages suits my pace notes system and my driving style. It’s a rally where we have always demonstrated good speed, and we’ve also won there twice in the past. The weather could be different to what we’re used to during the usual summer slot, so that could be challenging on that side, particularly if it rains. Most of the stages are well known to us from previous years, so we are looking forward to the event.”

Ott Tänak

“Rally Italia Sardegna is normally a hot and tough event; this year the rally is taking place a bit later in the season so we might face some difficult weather conditions. Wet weather can change the full concept of the rally, so we have to expect a range of situations. The stages are made up of high grip roads typically, which can be tough on the tyres, so tyre management is generally important. We hope to show the performance of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC on this different type of gravel roads and be in the fight for victory.”

Dani Sordo

“This is a very special rally for me, with some incredible memories from last year’s event. I will never forget the feeling of taking that victory with Hyundai Motorsport and I hope we can repeat it this year! The stages are normally quite slippery on the first pass because there is a lot of loose gravel on the surface; this can benefit those crews starting further back on the order. The second pass is much more aggressive on the tyres, offering greater grip levels. I tested the car recently and had a good feeling, so the objective is victory.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 08 Rally Italia Sardegna
13 – 16 June 2019
Day 3, Podium, Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Anders Jaeger,
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

M-Sport WRT

Esapekka Lappi

“We’re heading to Sardinia a bit later than usual so things could be a little different this year. The temperatures might not be as high, and the weather could be a bit more unpredictable. This has never been an event where you can push flat-out all the time, and that could be even truer this year. We’ll have to complete two loops of stages without service so there’ll be a compromise to consider when deciding set-ups and tyre strategies that will work over both passes. It’s going to be a challenging weekend, but we’re determined to produce a good result and I think this is an event where we have a good chance of doing that.”

Teemu Suninen

“I’ve always performed well in Sardinia and it’s an event I look forward to every year. It’s the first event I did with Jarmo, and where I secured my best ever result last year. Of course, we’ll be competing in the autumn this time which will make things a bit different, but I hope we’ll be able to show the same good pace. As always in Sardinia, we’ll need to be really focused and careful to mark every stone on the recce. We’ll also have to think carefully about the set-up and strategy as we’ll have to drive two loops without service – meaning that myself and Jarmo will have to make any changes remotely with what we carry in the car.”

Teemu Suninen and Jarmo Lehtinen took three stage victories last year on their way to second overall. Photo credit M-Sport WRT

Gus Greensmith

“I’ve only competed in Sardinia once before, but I really like the island and the stages. They’re not quite as rough as those in Turkey, but they’re certainly not smooth and we will need to deliver another good performance if we want to secure another good result this week. That’s our aim and I see no reason why we can’t achieve it. We know from Teemu’s performance last year that the car is suited to Sardinia’s stages, and I also feel as though I am developing better consistency every time I get behind the wheel.”

 

Summary

We are really set for an incredible finish to the end of the championship. There are only three crews who can realistically win the title, two at Toyota and one at Hyundai. Kalle at Toyota and Thierry at Hyundai still have a mathematical chance, but it’s unlikely to be their year.

In terms of who will be fighting for victory, I think that Seb and Ott will fight it out for victory, with either Thierry, Dani or Teemu getting the final podium position. Ott will hope that Thierry or Dani can finish ahead of Seb and Elfyn, taking points away from his championship rivals, as he bids to win his second title. Elfyn will want to get a good result, as he bids for his first world championship title.

In the manufacturers’ battle, Toyota lead the way, but Hyundai who are the reigning champions will want to score well. With three winners at Hyundai, they have a good chance of doing just that.

Rally Turkey 2020 Review – Elfyn and Scott take their second win of the year!

Shakedown saw a fight for the fastest time between Thierry and Ott with the Belgian emerging fastest. The Toyota’s were next, with Kalle and then Ogier and Elfyn with Loeb sixth fastest. Fastest of the M-Sport Fiesta’s was Teemu and then Gus and Esapekka. Loubet went well in his i20, setting the second fastest time on the second run through!

 

Friday

Thierry Neuville took the first stage of the weekend, winning SS1 İçmeler – 13.90 km from nine-time champion Loeb, with Ott making it a 1-2-3 for Hyundai. Elfyn was next up in his Yaris, with Ogier fifth and Teemu the fastest Fiesta.

Ogier took SS2 Gökçe – 11.32 km, from Loeb and Kalle. Loeb’s pace moved him into the lead from Thierry and Ogier, whilst Elfyn held fourth overall.

Classification after Day One

1 S. Loeb D. Elena Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 18:50.9
2 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1.2
3 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +1.3
4 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +2.1
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +2.7
6 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +4.2
7 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +4.8
8 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +6.6
9 G. Greensmith E. Edmondson Ford Fiesta WRC +16.1
10 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +28.5
2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Turkey
18-20 September 2020
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Saturday

The start list looked like this – Loubet, Greensmith, Lappi, Tänak, Suninen, Rovanperä, Evans, Ogier, Neuville, Loeb.

The first stage of the day, SS3 Yeşilbelde 1 – 31.79 km saw Ogier win the stage from Thierry and Elfyn, who’d jumped into third. The gap between Ogier and Neuville was just 1.7 seconds at the top of the leaderboard. It was a disaster for Ott however. 25km into the stage he’d stopped and the reason was that he had a steering problem. He was out for the day.

Next up, SS4 Datça 1 – 8.75 km and Ogier opened up the gap to Thierry, with the gap afterwards now three seconds between them. Elfyn continued to hold third overall, and was now eleven seconds from the lead. Best of the M-Sport drivers was Teemu, and he was in sixth overall, and 45 seconds from the lead, but still in the running for a good result.

Thierry came back at Ogier on the next one SS5 Kızlan 1 – 13.15 km, halving the gap to the leader. Was this the start of the push to remove the Toyota driver from the lead? Elsewhere, the gaps remained much the same.

After the service break, the second run of SS6 Yeşilbelde 2 – 31.79 km saw Thierry set a really fast time, jumping into the lead. Sadly, Ogier’s good run in the lead was brought to an end with the Frenchman coming to the stage end with a left front puncture. Elfyn was now in second place overall and 21 seconds from our new leader. Ogier still held third however.

Thierry also took SS7 Datça 2 – 8.75 km as well, with Ogier second in the stage. Elfyn could only manage the seventh fastest time and dropped behind his teammate, and Loeb was now just 8 tenths from the Welshman.

It was a stage win for Loeb in SS8 Kızlan 2 – 13.15 km which moved him into second overall behind his Belgian teammate, who now held a 33 second lead. Esapekka was finding some pace now, going fourth fastest in this one. Just such a shame that he’s lost so much time already. Ogier and Elfyn held third and fourth overall.

Classification after Day Two

1 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1:36:38.6
2 S. Loeb D. Elena Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +33.2
3 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +33.2
4 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +1:00.8
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +1:18.8
6 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +1:35.0
7 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +2:28.0
8 G. Greensmith E. Edmondson Ford Fiesta WRC +3:15.4
9 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +4:20.4

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“This afternoon went much better than the morning. We worked a lot on the set-up, and I was much happier with the car on the repeat loop, especially in the rougher sections. We found what we were looking for and, although it’s not quite 100%, we’re heading in a good direction. I am very pleased with the work of the team that has allowed us to fight at the front. Tomorrow is going to be the toughest day of the rally; we will have to avoid punctures and damage, while also pushing to drive fast. I am going to try my best and hope we’ll come through in one piece!”

Sébastien Loeb (2nd)

“We were frustrated after the first loop because a poor tyre choice lost us a lot of time, when we were determined to give it everything. In the afternoon, thankfully, we were able to fight back. We were still at the limit with the tyres, so we had to save a bit on the middle stage, but we managed it well. We have been able to regain ground to second overall, but it’s too early to think about what we might be able to achieve tomorrow. There are still a lot of kilometres to cover.”

Ott Tänak (DNF) Rally 2

“Not much positive for us to report today, as we were forced to stop on the first stage of the day with a steering issue. There was no warning, it was quite instant and nothing we could do. It had generally been a pretty demanding stage with very low grip and a lot of cleaning. The conditions were not particularly harsh, just loose. Tomorrow, we will go again and try to score some points in the Power Stage; there’s little else for us to do unfortunately.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“It was a good morning loop for us, winning two stages and being in the lead of the rally. The car was working well and we had some ideas to make it even better for the afternoon. Unfortunately, it was not exactly the afternoon we were looking for. But it’s part of the game sometimes in motorsport, and in the end I’m happy to still be here tonight. Of course, it is frustrating not to be in the fight for the win, but at least we are still in a position to fight for the big points and for the podium. I’m sure the team can fix the car tonight and we can finish the rally well tomorrow. There are still some long stages with conditions that are probably even more challenging than today, so nothing is over yet.”

Elfyn Evans (4th)

“It was a decent morning for us. Already from the first stage it was very hot in the car, but everything was working well. We had a good feeling in the car and the rhythm was good. We knew the afternoon would be tough. The time in the long stage was not so bad but my tyre wear was much higher than expected. We need to study it to find out why, but I wasn’t managing the tyre well. That made the next two stages very difficult: It was a case of trying to manage it as best as we could. It’s still all to play for tomorrow. The long stage will be very challenging and there could still be an opportunity to be on the podium, so we have to go and try our best.”

Kalle Rovanperä (5th)

“The morning was quite OK for me even though the road was quite slippery and it was still cleaning. The afternoon was really tough. On the longest stage we had a puncture: The conditions were really rough and rocky all the time so it’s impossible to know where we got it. After that we had to be careful to get through the other two stages. The overall position is still good for us though, and tomorrow is a long day so anything can happen. If we can keep this position or even gain something more, that would be good.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (6th)

“I’ve been quite happy with the day. I felt like I was driving well and that our tyre management was good. We were pushing hard while still taking care of the tyres and we were able to set some good times this afternoon. But then on the last two stages we had quite a lot of dust in the car when one of the small windows on the side popped open – which was really distracting. Tomorrow the plan is to continue what we are doing and get through the day. We have some really rough stages – the roughest of the weekend I would say – so we need to keep our eyes open and make sure we get to the end with some more good times.”

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

“It’s been really hot and challenging out there today – it’s tough on the cars, on the tyres and on the crews as well. It was tricky running so early on the road, but we tried to drive well and learn as much as we could about the car on these kinds of roads. We learnt quite a lot and things got better this afternoon, but there’s still some more to do so let’s see what we can discover tomorrow.”

Gus Greensmith (8th)

“We were making quite a few changes after each stage and on the long one this afternoon the splits were looking really strong. But unfortunately, we picked up a puncture. I’m not sure where we got it, but we did, and for the last two I had a bald tyre on the rear which made things pretty interesting with some pretty big slides! I’m trying to do the best I can and it seems to be getting better with every stage. We’ve been pretty good on the rough sections, and that’s what we’ll have to contend with tomorrow so let’s see what we can do.”

Sunday

With four stages to run, totalling almost 89km, the drama would really happen in the first stage of the day. The start list looked like this: Tänak, Loubet, Greensmith, Lappi, Suninen, Rovanperä, Evans, Ogier, Loeb, Neuville.

 

As Ott started the first stage of the day, SS9 Çetibeli 1 – 38.15 km, there was a problem for the Estonian pairing! Their intercom had failed, and Ott couldn’t hear what Martin was saying. Martin resorted to using hand signals to guide Ott through and they still took second fastest in the stage, behind Elfyn who was 30 seconds fastest than the Hyundai crew. It was a stage of drama, with first Loubet and then Suninen stopping. The Finnish pairing had broken his left rear suspension and they were out. The stage was living up to its reputation to be a car breaker. Then Ogier had a puncture at 18km and stopped to change the wheel. Lappi then also got a puncture at 10km, and so did Kalle! Rally leaders, Thierry and Nicolas were another crew to suffer a puncture, albeit much closer to the end of the stage at 25km’s. Loeb also suffered a puncture, losing a minute and twenty seconds! Elfyn now led, from Ogier who was 47 seconds from his teammate and Thierry dropped to third, just one second from second place.

 

Thierry won SS10 Marmaris 1 – 6.22 km, and moved ahead of Ogier into second place. Loeb and Ogier were second and third fastest in the stage. The new leaders Elfyn and Scott were fifth fastest, and were now just making sure that they completed the remaining stages with no problems.

 

There was more drama in the rerun of SS11 Çetibeli 2 – 38.15 km! Our leader suffered a stall in a hairpin, but was still second fastest behind Thierry. Ogier was the big loser though, with engine failure, and he stopped at 16.7km’s into the stage. Lappi completed with a puncture, but was still faster than his teammate Gus Greensmith by 7.3 seconds who was now in fifth overall. Loeb was now into third overall, with the demise of his former Citroen teammate.

 

A tweak to the running order then before the final stage of the rally, and the starting order looked like this: Brynildsen, Fourmaux, Tidemand, Heller, Avci, Bulacia, Kajetanowicz, Tänak, Lappi, Greensmith, Rovanperä, Loeb, Neuville, Evans.

 

Thierry won SS12 Marmaris 2 [Power Stage] – 6.22 km, with Ott just four tenths from the stage victory, picking some points up, but not the result that he and Martin wanted. Elfyn was third fastest in the stage, sealing a very good third victory. Kalle and Loeb completed the top five in the power stage.

There you go then, with all kinds of drama on the morning of the final day, Elfyn and Scott took a remarkable victory, with Thierry and Nicolas taking second position, and Seb and Daniel completing a good third place for Hyundai.

 

Final Overall Classification – Rally Turkey

1 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC 2:43:02.7
2 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +35.2
3 S. Loeb D. Elena Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +59.4
4 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +2:35.9
5 G. Greensmith E. Edmondson Ford Fiesta WRC +4:08.3
6 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +5:36.2
7 K. Kajetanowicz M. Szczepaniak Škoda Fabia R5 +12:35.5
8 P. Tidemand P. Barth Škoda Fabia R5 +12:59.7
9 A. Fourmaux R. Jamoul Ford Fiesta R5 +14:42.6
10 M. Bulacia M. Der Ohannesian Citroën C3 R5 +14:46.4

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“It obviously feels good to come away from a really tough rally with a win. We showed some good pace from the start. We were perhaps not the fastest driver out there this weekend, but we were there or thereabouts and we knew that today was going to be critical. We really tried to focus on keeping it in the middle of the road and that paid off for us, and I’m happy to come away with all those points. It’s probably not the sweetest victory because we know that others had some bad luck, but this is the nature of Rally Turkey and we knew this coming into the weekend. It’s a great result towards the championship and a good position to be in.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 05 / Rally Turkey / September 18-20, 2020 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Kalle Rovanperä (4th)

“This is another good result for us. It’s nice to keep finishing these rallies with good points. I have to say a really big thank you to the team, because they are doing a very big job in a rally like this to keep the car in a good condition as it’s really rough for the car. The long stage today was tough as we expected. On the second pass we were really careful to save the car and the tyres. Then in the Power Stage we couldn’t push too much because we wanted to get the points for the manufacturers’ championship, but we still managed to set a nice time and get some more points.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“I have the feeling we deserved to have taken more away from this weekend, but it is still a great feeling to be back on the podium again. We showed a strong performance and the car was working really well; we made some changes on Saturday afternoon and the speed was definitely there. Unfortunately, we were among the unlucky crews to pick up a puncture on the first stage today, which prevented us from taking the victory. Still, we fought back to take P2 and five Power Stage points, so from a championship point of view it was a good move. Even if we didn’t take the win, we did the maximum we could. I have to say thanks to the team for all their efforts.”

Sébastien Loeb (3rd)

“It has been a tough final day of this rally. The first stage this morning was a bit of a lottery and we didn’t get the right numbers! There was a lot of dust and I was driving carefully because I knew there was a chance of a puncture, and suddenly that’s exactly what happened. We only had ten pages of notes left so we decided to bring the car to the end, but I lost the tyre completely so had to drive really slowly. We were still in the battle for the podium. Our aim in the second loop was the get the car through safely and we were able to do that to secure third place – and a great podium finish.”

Ott Tänak (17th)

“Since the beginning of the weekend, it has been a very challenging event for us. Friday night, we had some demanding conditions, then on Saturday morning we had to retire with the steering issue. Today, we had to drive through the first three stages with a target of getting something from the Power Stage. I didn’t really have the full commitment to go flat out, somehow it was only at 90%, but we made it through and got four extra points which is much better than nothing.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Gus Greensmith (5th)

“I’m pretty pleased at the end of this one and happy with how our weekend panned out. That long stage today was so rough, and considering where we were, I decided that caution was the better act of valour. That turned out to be the right decision – it worked out, and we come away from this weekend with our best ever result.

“I was hoping that we would be able to transfer our Shakedown pace to the rally, but without a pre-event test that proved difficult and we still made a lot of improvements over the course of the weekend – so a big thanks to the team for that. And I think I’ve also made an improvement inside the car. Whereas I might have just sent it once upon a time, I’m now focused on being mistake-free and getting the mileage under my belt – and the confidence will come with that.”

Esapekka Lappi (6th)

“It’s always a challenge coming here, but I think you also need a little bit of luck and that wasn’t really on our side today. That long stage is the roughest of the weekend and we got a puncture on both passes through there. The first one was quite early on so we had to stop and change, and the second was about five kilometres from the end.

“It was a shame because the times on both passes of that stage were actually looking pretty good. We’d made quite a few changes throughout the weekend, and it looked as though everything was starting to come together. So hopefully that’s all good information that we can take forward to Sardinia in two weeks times.”

Teemu Suninen (DNF)

“It’s really disappointing how we had to end the day as I think we could have achieved another good result this weekend. I would say that we were quite unlucky. There were so many big rocks on the stage and so many people having problems – unfortunately for us, our problem was quite a big one as the damper was completely broken and it meant that we couldn’t continue.

“It’s a shame because I think we were driving well and the time looked pretty okay too. We’ve still learnt a lot this weekend, and it’s all good practice for Sardinia where we’ll try again to close the gap and bring home a good result for the team.

“And there was some good news from today as we found out that my engineer Callum has become a father for the very first time – so I would like to say a big congratulations to him and his girlfriend.”

 

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round 5

1 E. Evans 97
2 S. Ogier 79
3 O. Tänak 70
4 K. Rovanperä 70
5 T. Neuville 65
6 E. Lappi 38
7 T. Suninen 34
8 C. Breen 25
9 S.Loeb 24
10 G. Greensmith 16

 

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 5

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 174
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 165
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 101
     

Summary

This event lived up to its reputation as the modern-day Rally Acropolis. Just when you thought it was settled, the first run of the Çetibeli 38km stage threw Thierry’s hopes for victory right out.

Elfyn and Scott were a minute from the leader at the start, but came through to win that stage, and take the lead of the rally. All three crews in front of them suffered punctures, and lost so much time. It was a great victory for the Toyota pairing, and as you can see, this has moved them back into the championship lead.

Thierry and Nicolas kept their heads and showed their pace, coming through to second place, after winning seven stages. Definitely one that got away from the Belgian pairing though, who at least got their second podium of the year, after their win in Monte Carlo.

Seb Loeb and Daniel Elena showed their class, with a first podium since Rally Chile last year, but again a puncture meant that they were always playing catchup.

Kalle has proved that Tommi made the right decision, with a good drive to fourth place, now holding fourth in the championship.

At M-Sport, Gus Greensmith got his best finish to date, with fifth place. What could he do next time out in Rally Italia? He still has a lot to learn from his teammates. Teemu would have been ahead, but for the damage to the left-rear wheel and suspension.

Next up is Rally Italia Sardegna in two weeks’ time! Another gravel event, and as championship leaders Elfyn and Scott will open the road. Pop back before the 8th of October to check out my preview for this event.

Rally Turkey 2020 Preview

Time for the fifth round of this year’s championship. As you will be aware of, our current world champion took victory last time out in his home event. This lifted him into third place in the drivers’ championship. It was a Hyundai 1-2, but could have been much more. Thierry Neuville will want to hit back and get his challenge for this season’s drivers title back underway. Joining Ott and Thierry will be Seb Loeb. Hyundai team boss Andrea will hope that the combination of these three drivers will bring the team a good haul of points.

Last year Seb Ogier and Esapekka Lappi took a one-two for Citroen in this event. Now they drive for Toyota and M-Sport. They will hope to be able to repeat this result this year with their new teams.

At Toyota, they lead both the drivers and teams’ championships. This does mean that Seb Ogier and Elfyn Evans will be the first two cars onto the stages throughout Friday. They will be praying for rain, and lots of it! It will be tough for them otherwise.

M-Sport will be wanting a much better event, and the road positions should help them, as their two quick Finns will start sixth and seventh on the road. Gus Greensmith will take this opportunity to learn more about his car on these stages. The young Englishman finished tenth overall last year, and won the WRC2 Pro category. What will he be able to do this year?

 

Here’s the stage information for you. There are two stages on Friday, totalling 24km. The longest day is Saturday, with three stages run twice totalling 107km’s and then on Sunday 90km’s over two stages.

 

 

Okay, let’s hear from the drivers then.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 17)

“I obviously have some good memories of Turkey from last year when Julien and I won the rally. To repeat this result this time is not going to be easy: It is a tough rally for everybody, but for us opening the road it will be especially challenging I’m sure. But I’m actually excited to see what we can do with the Yaris WRC. We had some very good tests recently to prepare for the event, and I believe we have definitely made some improvements and some steps forward with the car, so let’s see what we do.”

FIA World Rally Championship / Round 11 / Rally Turkey 2019 / Sep 12-15, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)

“Rally Turkey is always a difficult event and it will be quite a stark contrast to the fast roads that we had in Estonia: It’s a lot more slow-speed and a different character altogether. It is sure to be very hot and very physically demanding for the crews, and also very demanding on the cars. We need to be ready to adapt to that. We did some testing in Greece a few weeks ago to prepare and the car felt pretty good, so we hope that will transfer to a good feeling on the rally.”

Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)

“The roads in Turkey are very rough and I think that these conditions are generally quite difficult for me: I haven’t done so many rallies like this yet in my career, although I did do Rally Turkey last year in WRC2 so I have a little bit of experience of what the rally is like. It seems that the team has made a very big step from last year with the car and I think we should be better now in these types of conditions. I hope that we can all show good pace there.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (Driver car 11)

“We didn’t get a representative result in Estonia, so we definitely want to put that right in Turkey. It’s our third time visiting this event, since it moved to Marmaris, and it’s one of the roughest rallies of the season. The stages are really nice, some flowing parts and other very twisty sections. We have to try to push hard, even in the rough, while trying to survive with the car. Our objective will be to get the maximum points we can from the event with a focus on the championship. We’ve always had good speed in Turkey but haven’t been able to get the desired result, so hopefully it will be third time lucky.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally Turkey
12-15 September 2019
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (Driver car 8)

“It was a special moment to get our first victory for Hyundai Motorsport in Estonia, but now we must refocus on the next event. The championship is short, so we need to make the most out of every opportunity that presents itself. Rally Turkey is definitely the roughest event of the season; it is always very hot and demanding for both car and crew. Our objective this year is to fight for the win and to continue our title push.”

Sébastien Loeb (Driver car 6)

“I am excited to be back competing for Hyundai Motorsport for the first time since Monte-Carlo – and my first gravel event since Catalunya last season. I actually haven’t competed in Rally Turkey since 2010, and I have no knowledge of these particular stages compared to other crews who have taken part in the past two seasons. We have had a day of testing ahead of the rally, so I am focused and ready to do the best I can for the team. My aim is simply to be competitive and in the game; we require a lot of familiarisation, but I am always motivated to push for a good result.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Esapekka Lappi (Driver car 4)

“We finished second in Turkey last year, and it would be great to follow that up with another strong result this week. We’ve seen good speed from the Fiesta there in the past, and for sure we will be better suited to these stages. You need to use your head at a rally like this and know when to push and when to take your foot off the pedal. It’s a fine balance between speed and endurance, but if we can get that right then we shouldn’t be too far away from a strong result.”

Teemu Suninen (Driver car 3)

“We had a really good rally in Turkey last year. I learnt a lot that weekend and I think we had the right balance between showing good pace and driving well through the stages without making any mistakes. The goal will be to build on that again this week, and hopefully challenge for another strong result. A rally like this is never easy and it demands a lot physically, mentally and mechanically, but if we can have another clever drive with the right speed for the right sections then I’m confident of another strong result.”

Gus Greensmith (Driver car 44)

“I’m really looking forward to Rally Turkey, and hope it won’t be quite as eventful as last year! That has to be the most dramatic win of my career, but it just goes to show how strong the Fiesta is across all categories. That strong chassis should be a big advantage for us this week as we know how demanding the Turkey stages are. They’re the roughest of the year, but they’re also physically and mentally demanding and you need to calculate when to push that loud pedal and when to back off. It’s a tricky balance, but we plan to get it right and continue learning as much as we can.”

 

Summary

The winner will be the driver that keeps out of trouble. The stages of this event are very rough, and can damage the car. Keeping it smooth will be the key. Now anyone of these three drivers can win it, Seb Ogier, Ott or Thierry.

With the consistent drive that Elfyn can bring, he could be a podium contender, along with Esapekka and Seb Loeb.

We shall see! Enjoy the event!

Rally Estonia 2020 Review – Ott Tänak wins on home soil!

It all started with shakedown on Friday morning. Ott Tänak was quickest, ahead of Seb, Esapekka and Kalle. Elfyn was sixth. The pace of the young Estonia world champion on home soil was clear to see. Every time he went out, he got faster and faster.

 

Then it was back to the service park, and time to get the cars ready for the first stage of the event. Normally the service park is full of fans, but of course, they were not there. Covid still having its impact on things.

 

Stage one then, a short 1.28 km blast in Tartu, and it was a win for Esapekka Lappi, with Seb Ogier matching the young Finn, and Ott Tanak just one tenth back in third. Elfyn Evans was six tenths back in fifth place.

The top three had this to say ;

Esapekka Lappi 1st

“It didn’t feel that good to be honest,” explained the Finn. “This is not what the stages will be tomorrow but we had a good shakedown and a good opening stage, so I’m looking forward.”

Seb Ogier 2nd

“It’s good to be back and fighting. Everything is ready, the car feels good and we’ve had good preparations, so let’s go for it.”

Ott Tänak 3rd

“It’s special. It will be a tough few days, the competition will be tight but it’s definitely our opportunity so we need to make the best of it,” he said.

 

Saturday

This would see the first full day of action, with five stages covering 147.19 km’s just south of Tartu.

Kalle Rovenpera blasted through SS2 Prangli 1 – 20.93 km in a time of 9 minutes, 52 seconds, with Craig Breen just 1.3 seconds behind. Overnight leaders Seb and Esapekka were 6th and 7th fastest respectively, and fell to 5th and 7th on the overall leader board.  Elfyn went well, setting the third fastest time, and moved into 3rd place overall.

Into SS3 Kanepi 1 – 16.88 km, and it was Ott Tänak who took his opportunity to hit the front, setting a time of 8 minutes 16 seconds, 5.6 faster that Craig Breen, and the Estonian jumped three positions, and into the lead! Kalle, who was leading into this had dropped 28.9 seconds in the stage. He’d suffered a puncture on the right rear of his Yaris, and was now in eight overall. Still holding second and third were Craig and Elfyn.

Next up was SS4 Otepää 1 – 9.30 km. Ott was now in his element, winning this stage, but only by one tenth of a second from Craig, and Thierry getting into the groove too, giving Hyundai a 1-2-3 not only in the stage, but overall, too. The Belgians pace pushed Elfyn down to fourth overall, now 12 seconds off the lead.

Seb was quick in SS5 Mäeküla 1 – 14.76 km, setting a time of 7 minutes and 46.2 seconds in the stage, with Kalle 6 tenths off in second. Ott was third, staying in the lead, now 6.4 ahead of Craig who was having a fantastic morning. Seb’s pace in the stage moved him up one place overall to fourth at the expense of Elfyn. After his puncture earlier, Kalle was also on the move, now into seventh.

Thierry took his first stage win of the rally in SS6 Elva 1 – 11.72 km, just 7 tenths of a second faster than Kalle and Ott third fastest. The top three overall was still held by Ott, Craig and Thierry. Kalle’s pace now meant that he’d moved up another position into sixth, at the expense of his teammate Katsuta Takamoto.

It was now time for the lunchtime break, so the cars all headed back to the service park.

When the afternoon stages started, there was a change to the running order.  Greensmith, Loubet, Suninen, Lappi, Katsuta, Rovanperä, Evans, Ogier, Neuville, Breen, Tänak.

Seb Ogier set the fastest time, going through SS7 Prangli 2 – 20.93 km in a time of 9 minutes, 45.3 seconds, with leader Ott just six tenths off and second fastest. Kalle was continuing his fight back up the leaderboard, setting the third fastest time. Elfyn suffered a tyre delamination on a straight part on the stage, near the end, losing 4.2 seconds.  It was not a good stage for Thierry who’d hit something in the stage, and had ripped his right rear wheel and suspension. The Belgian lost a minute in the stage, and didn’t stop for an interview. Unfortunately, it was game over for Thierry, and he retired from the event. Seb was now in third place, 14.9 seconds from the lead.

Into SS8 Kanepi 2 – 16.88 km next, and Ott was really in the groove. 3.3 seconds faster than Kalle, with Elfyn third, 3.8 seconds slower. The damage to his Yaris, clearly not holding him back! The top placed M-Sport driver was Esapekka Lappi, who was in seventh overall.

Craig Breen took stage SS9 Otepää 2 – 9.30 km, with a time of 5 minutes. Ott was eight tenths off and second fastest, and Kalle third. The rally leader was looking very comfortable out front, but the stage winner was also really enjoying his i20 WRC.

The Irishman took SS10 Mäeküla 2 – 14.76 km as well, with a time of 7 minutes 40 seconds, with Kalle once again second fastest. Ott’s overall lead reduced to 9.8 seconds, after he completed the stage, fifth fastest. Elfyn once again was third fastest. Makes you wonder what he’d be doing with a car that wasn’t damaged.

The final stage of the day, SS11 Elva 2 – 11.72 km was taken by Kalle, with a time of 5 minutes 58 seconds, and 1.8 seconds faster than the leader Ott. Gus Greensmith had a big moment, with a spin in the stage, but he got away with it. The top three remained the same and Ott had increased his lead over Craig to 11.7. Elfyn was actually getting closer to Seb, who was 4 seconds slower than the Welshman.

 

Well, it had been a pretty good day for three of our four championship challengers, with only the Belgian losing out. Here’s the top ten at the end of Saturday.

Classification after Day One

1 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1:15:08.4
2 C. Breen P. Nagle Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +11.7
3 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +28.7
3 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +34.9
5 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +36.8
6 T. Katsuta D. Barritt Toyota Yaris WRC +1:01.9
7 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +1:41.7
8 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +1:50.9
9 P.L. Loubet V. Landais Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:15.2
10 G. Greensmith E. Edmondson Ford Fiesta WRC +3:03.1

 

Let’s hear from the drivers then!

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak – Car 8

“We have definitely returned to WRC action properly today, and it’s very special to be competing on our home roads. It has been a challenging and demanding day with a lot of new stages – high-speed and rough – with some surprises in places. I feel like I’ve done a whole rally already! We have had to be sensible and drive with caution to get through the day, especially in the middle of this afternoon’s loop where conditions were quite rough. But I also pushed at times to build a gap at the front. The car has been performing well and the feeling has definitely been there, but we can’t risk anything.”

Craig Breen – Car 42

“I am really happy to be in the fight here in Estonia. I find it hard to express just how much I have been enjoying driving the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC on these stages. It’s been amazing. We felt it was important to get through the morning loop in a good position, and I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly everything came together from the opening kilometres. We got really into the groove in the afternoon, taking two stage wins which was an incredible feeling. The car was doing everything I asked of it; it was absolutely joyous to drive and what we strive for – perfection! When I see the work that has been done by the team in recent weeks and months, this is really a reward for all their efforts. We have to keep this rhythm tomorrow – a podium would be very, very nice indeed!”

Thierry Neuville – Car 11

“A tough and challenging day, which unfortunately ended early for us, as we were kicked off the line in very fast and quite rutted left-hander in SS7. I tried to recover the car but unfortunately there was something on the outside that broke the lower rear suspension arm and the wheel. It was not possible to fix the car, so we had no choice but to retire. We were finding our rhythm in the morning and the times were coming. We had a stage win in SS6 and a Hyundai 1-2-3 overall at the end of the first loop. We have to keep our heads high; there are some good events still to come and we are capable of taking important points, starting with the Power Stage tomorrow. We have seen that our car has improved a lot, which is very positive. The team has done an incredible job, it’s just unfortunate we missed our chance this weekend.  It’s not over until it’s over, so we will keep pushing.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Sébastien Ogier – Car 17

“It was a good morning for me. It was fun to drive and the conditions were nice even though we were opening the road and I was quite close to the lead. Unfortunately, this afternoon the car didn’t feel so great, we made a bad call with the setup in the service. It worked in the first stage of the loop because it was a very fast one, but otherwise we were lacking grip this afternoon. I also ended SS7 with a damaged tyre and had no spares for the rest of the afternoon, so I couldn’t push too hard. In the final stage I was really losing the grip from the tyres and I stalled in a junction. But tomorrow is another day! I hope we can have a clean day and let’s see what we can do.”

Elfyn Evans – Car 33

“The day started very well for us; everything was working well in the car. Later in the morning I made a few small errors and that cost me my rhythm a little bit. I think the conditions were also very slippery and then I was braking too early or braking too late and it’s very costly when you’re driving like that. In the afternoon, we were nearing the end of the first stage of the loop and the tyre let go. We only lost a few seconds but we had to do the rest of the loop with no spare wheel, so we were trying to balance good speed with not taking crazy risks. We have to keep on it tomorrow and hopefully we can have a good day.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 04 / Rally Estonia / September 4-6, 2020 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä – Car 69

“Today was really nice, aside from the tyre issue that we had. It was a surprise for us because we didn’t hit anything and I didn’t even feel it for a long time. If you lose a lot of time in this kind of rally it’s not easy to catch up so it was a difficult situation. But otherwise we had a nice pace and I was enjoying the driving. I’m quite happy that I could be on the pace all the time without taking any risks on these fast roads. You have to be really confident here and my confidence in the car is good. Tomorrow we will just continue in the same way and see how it goes.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Esapekka Lappi – Car 4

“It’s good to be back behind the wheel, but it’s not been an easy day for sure. It felt good to set the fastest time last night, but we weren’t able to continue that today. We’ve been trying to keep the speed up, but it’s been difficult. Now we just need to be smart and see what we can learn to improve tomorrow.”

Teemu Suninen – Car 3

“It’s good to be back in the rally, but we’re not where we wanted to be this weekend. After a long break without driving it took a while to get back into the rhythm. Once we did that the driving actually felt quite good, but still we were missing something. We will try a few things tomorrow – with the car and with the driving – and hopefully we can make some improvements.”

Gus Greensmith – Car 44

“Any day in a rally car is a good day, but I was hoping for a little bit more to be honest. Realistically we knew it would be tough, and after the first few stages I knew that I just had to focus on my own rally. I wanted to progress and that’s what we did. We were about a second a kilometre off my team mates in the morning, and by the afternoon we’d got that down to two tenths – so I’m happy with that, but there is still more to find.”

 

Sunday

The final day then, and Hyundai had fixed Thierry’s car, so that he could restart. The start list looked like this. Neuville, Greensmith, Loubet, Suninen, Lappi, Katsuta, Evans, Rovanperä, Ogier, Breen, Tänak. Rain overnight was reported, and would make the grip levels different!

Elfyn won the first stage of the day SS12 Arula 1 – 6.97 km, and edged a little closer to Seb in their battle for third place. Ott still held a 13 second lead over Craig, with Seb now 29 seconds from the lead.

Into SS13 Kaagvere 1 – 15.46 km, and Kalle won the stage with a time of 8 minutes 42 seconds, just 2 seconds faster than Ott and Craig third in the stage, who had picked up where he’d left off at the end of Friday, driving really quickly, but also with consistency! Sadly, Katsuta would roll out of the event on this stage. A big shame for the Japanese, who’d driven really well, and he was almost through the stage as well.

Seb Ogier won SS14 Kambja 1 – 20.04 km, 1.8 seconds faster than Kalle, with Elfyn third through the stage. Craig was seven tenths faster than Ott, setting the fourth fastest time, and rally leader fifth in the stage. In the battle to be the top M-Sport car, Teemu took six seconds out of the gap to Esapekka, with the gap between the Fiesta WRC drivers now just 3.8 seconds.

Seb also won SS15 Arula 2 – 6.97 km, and was now stretching the gap to Elfyn. Ott and Craig were second and third fastest, whilst Kalle matched the time of Craig in the stage. The fight between the two M-Sport drivers continued as well, but in the end, there was just one tenth of a second between them.

The penultimate stage then, SS16 Kaagvere 2 – 15.46 km, and Kalle took it, with Seb and Ott second and third fastest. The battle between Teemu and Esapekka took a new twist. Pushing hard in his number 4 Fiesta, Esapekka had a spin, and avoided the trees thankfully. Teemu was now ahead of his teammate, with a 9.9 second lead.

Well, time for the final stage then, SS17 Kambja 2 [Power Stage] – 20.04 km. Kalle was fastest, from Elfyn and Ott. Seb and Craig rounded out the points scorers in the stage. It was disaster for Thierry though. He suffered an electrical problem, and could not push hard through the stage.

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak 1st

“I am happy to take this first win for Hyundai Motorsport. It means a lot, especially in my home event. There was a lot of pressure this weekend, to be honest, and moments of stress which are now relief! The first WRC event in Estonia was one that I had to win, while also knowing it would be my first with Hyundai Motorsport. It was extremely important to bring it home. I couldn’t afford any mistakes, taking no risks but also performing with the required pace to win; bringing all of that together was a real challenge. We had to use this chance to catch back points for the championship, and thankfully we were able to use it well. My thanks to the whole team, who have all been working very hard during the past months; it’s been a truly great job and we must keep on pushing because we’ve shown what we can achieve.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04, Rally Estonia
04-06 September 2020
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Craig Breen 2nd

“What an incredible weekend! I took it easy in the Power Stage, to make sure we made it through safely. I probably didn’t mean to take it that easy, but this is a great result. From the opening kilometres of the rally, everything just clicked. The car has done absolutely everything I’ve asked of it and has given me the confidence I needed. The man beside me, Paul, has done a fantastic job and I’d like to thank everyone who has made this possible. I feel like I’m starting my career all over again; I’ve certainly not forgotten how to do it and I want to do it even more!”

Thierry Neuville DNF

“It has definitely not been our weekend, and we didn’t really deserve it to be honest. Our target today was to salvage some points from the Power Stage, but we had an issue ahead of the start, which meant we couldn’t drive at speed. The issue on Saturday was also unfortunate as we were kicked out of the line and hit something on the outside. We saw the videos from other crews at the same place, and it was similar for everyone, it was just we lost a wheel. Disappointing but the next one will be better.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier 3rd

“It’s a positive result for us. To finish on the podium is good for the championship. For sure there is a bit of frustration for us as we know that we could have done better this weekend, there was some potential that we didn’t manage to exploit. To win here would have been difficult but we had the ability to be much closer or at least in second place. I also would have liked to get more from the Power Stage but it was the roughest stage of the weekend and when I feel it’s too risky to go for it, I don’t dare and prefer to secure the podium. Still it’s nice to score some good points in a difficult weekend.”

Elfyn Evans 4th

“I’m not fully satisfied at the end of the rally but we come away with fourth overall and second place in the Power Stage. There was obviously good pace there at points but I was just unable to deliver it consistently. We made some changes overnight and in the slippery conditions this morning it seemed to be a bit better. Then I struggled when it got quite rough, but it seems to always be a compromise here. Like always there’s some things we can work on but at the end of the day we’re here after a difficult weekend with a decent haul of points.”

Kalle Rovanperä 5th

“I’m really happy. My weekend was really good in terms of the pace and the driving. I think I did everything I could and I didn’t make any mistakes, even when driving on this very fast pace. We had some bad luck and it was just not our weekend but that’s rallying sometimes. The Power Stage was quite nice, I had a big push there but it was still a clean run so I’m happy. A big thanks to the team because the car was great to drive.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen 6th

“It’s been a really difficult weekend for us. It took a while to get back in the rhythm, but it was good to be back after such a long time away. We were trying our best and today the times were a bit better, but we know that there is still some work to do. Now I’m looking forward to Turkey and Sardinia. We were strong at both those rallies last year, and I hope it will be the same again this year.”

Esapekka Lappi 7th

“Firstly, I have to say that the organisers have done a fantastic job this weekend. Everything worked smoothly with no problems and it really was an amazing job from everyone involved. It was good to be back in the rally car and to show some pace in the beginning, but after that it became a really challenging weekend for us. There is a lot of work to do on these type of stages, but hopefully in Turkey and Sardinia we can be stronger.”

Gus Greensmith 8th

“We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy weekend as we didn’t have the same experience or preparation as some of the other guys. But we were able to make some improvements throughout the weekend and the times got better the more kilometres we did. Also, a big thanks to everyone at M‑Sport. They’ve been working really hard, and it was a big effort from everyone here and back in Cumbria.”

Final Overall Classification – Rally Estonia

1 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1:59:53.6
2 C. Breen P. Nagle Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +22.2
3 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +26.9
4 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +41.9
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +1:18.7
6 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +2:39.6
7 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +2:52.0
8 G. Greensmith E. Edmondson Ford Fiesta WRC +4:53.8
9 O. Solberg A. Johnston Volkswagen Polo R5 +7:38.6
10 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 R5 +8:17.3
2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04, Rally Estonia
04-06 September 2020
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, Craig Breen, Paul Nagle
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Summary

It had been an impressive drive from Ott and his co-driver Martin. They had taken the lead in stage three, and produced a consistent drive to take his first victory for Hyundai Motorsport, and a win on home soil!

Craig and Paul repaid Andrea Adamo, with a very good drive to second place, winning a stage, and even at points reducing the gap to Ott. I suspect that we will see Craig and Paul in the i20 again this year. For Thierry, it was a case of what could had been. Holding third place, a mistake saw him have to retire, and then when he was going for power stage points, a car problem meant that he’d fail to score any points.

At Toyota, we saw all three drivers win stages, and with the demise of Thierry, Seb scored a good third place. Elfyn took a good fourth place, despite a puncture, which damaged the left-hand rear corner of his Yaris. Kalle also had a very good event, taking fifth position. A penalty for a technical infringement cost him a minute, and with it, a potential podium finish.

At M-Sport, after leading early on after stage one, had an eventful rally. All three drivers suffered spins, with Teemu scoring a sixth place with Esapekka in seventh. Gus Greensmith finished in eighth place, he mostly set stage times that kept him in the lower reaches of the top ten, but set his best stage result in stage sixteen, setting the seventh best time.

 

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings

1 S. Ogier 79
2 E. Evans 70
3 O. Tänak 66
4 K. Rovanperä 55
5 T. Neuville 42
6 T. Suninen 34
7 E. Lappi 30
8 C. Breen 25
9 S.Loeb 8
10 T. Katsuta 8

 

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 137
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 132
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 83

Rally Estonia! The WRC restarts after a long break!

After the early end of Rally Mexico, and the cancellation of a number of events throughout May, June, July and August, the WRC returns to action with it’s first event in Estonia. It is a rally that has only taken place ten times, with the first event taking place in 2010.

Now, what can we say about this new event to the championship? There will be seventeen stages held over the three days, covering 232 km’s.

Shakedown and stage one take place on Friday the 4th of September. Shakedown is at 9:01am on a stage called Abissaare, and then there is a short 1.28 km stage in Tartu in the evening. Saturday sees ten stages, covering 73 km’s starting just before 8am local time and finishing after 6pm. Then on Sunday there are six stages, covering the remaining 84 km’s. This is quite different to the normal final day, which normally sees a couple of stages in the morning. There are six stages on the final day, starting at 7:35 am, and the power stage at 13:18. It’s a much earlier start for a final day.

 

Here’s the full stage list.

Time      No.         Stage name                        Distance

4th September

09:01     —           Abissaare [Shakedown] 5.51 km

Leg 1 — 1.28 km

4th September

19:08     SS1         Tartu                                     1.28 km

Leg 2 — 146.40 km

5th September

07:40     SS2         Prangli 1                               20.23 km

08:21     SS3         Kanepi 1                               16.89 km

09:08     SS4         Otepää 1                              9.60 km

10:00     SS5         Mäeküla 1                           14.76 km

11:19       SS6         Elva 1                                     11.72 km

14:37     SS7         Prangli 2                               20.23 km

15:18     SS8         Kanepi 2                               16.89 km

16:08     SS9         Otepää 2                              9.60 km

17:00     SS10       Mäeküla 2                           14.76 km

18:19     SS11       Elva 2                                     11.72 km

Leg 3 — 84.96 km

6th September

07:35     SS12       Arula 1                                  6.97 km

08:09     SS13       Kaagvere 1                          15.46 km

09:08     SS14       Kambja 1                              20.05 km

10:49      SS15       Arula 2                                  6.97 km

11:28      SS16       Kaagvere 2                          15.46 km

13:18      SS17       Kambja 2 [Power Stage] 20.05 km

 

Okay, let’s hear from the drivers! It’s been a while!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia – Car 17

“I’m happy that we are able to compete again after so long. Rally Estonia will be new for many of us, but I’m always excited to take on a different challenge. It’s certainly going to be a demanding rally with very fast roads. The Yaris WRC gives you good confidence at these speeds and after the testing we have done in Finland and in Estonia, I have a good feeling in the car. It was also important to have this event last week to help us prepare, because after such a long break it is not easy to find the limit straight away. We will be starting first on the road so we hope that the weather in September could maybe help us to not have too much of a disadvantage, and the target will be to try to fight as best as we can.”

Elfyn Evans / Scott Martin – Car 33

“It has been a long time since we have driven competitively. It’s been eased by the fact that we could at least do some testing and get back behind the wheel but there’s nothing like competition. Rally Estonia is new to the WRC and I was lucky enough to be there for last year’s event. Although the rally didn’t end so well for me, I did enjoy it and I know a little bit about what to expect. The roads are very, very fast: Similar to Finland in some ways but with a few less jumps, and even faster in some places. As I’ve seen from the testing we’ve done, the car feels strong on these high-speed gravel roads. We’re definitely hoping that we have a good package and hopefully we can get the most out of it.”

Kalle Rovanperä / Jonne Halttunen – Car 69

“The roads in Estonia are really fast and flowing but there are also some narrow and technical sections, so it’s going to be a really tricky rally. You have to be flat out most of the time but then you also have places where you need to be really precise. After the long break, it won’t be so easy to be up to speed in the beginning, but we have had some good testing to help us to be ready. We have been driving in some different weather conditions which has been useful experience for me. I have still only done three WRC rallies in this car and I still need to continue learning over the rest of the season, but this is a rally that should be good for me and I’m hoping for a good result.”

Ott and Martin won the event for Toyota in 2018 and 2019.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul – Car 11

“With the restart of the season, I think we all have hopes for a good result. After such a long break we want to come back and immediately deliver a strong performance. Rally Estonia is a new event and I did compete there back in 2012 but obviously the roads have changed a lot. It will be a challenging rally but with Ott and Martin as our teammates, I’m hoping we’re going to get a little advantage over the other teams.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 09, Rally Finland
1 – 4 August 2019
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja – Car 8

“Of course, it’s nice to be back in the championship again. Having the first event back in Estonia is special for us. It’s a big thing for Estonia to run a WRC event. I really hope we have a home advantage and it’s most important we really use it. The target is very easy; we don’t know how long the season will be but for sure we have to take the maximum from every event now. It will be a short sprint so there is no way to hold back anymore.”

Craig Breen / Paul Nagle – Car 42

“I’m really looking forward to Rally Estonia. It’s an event where I have quite a bit of experience in comparison to other crews. This year will be my fifth time going there and I am definitely looking forward to being back in a WRC car again after this strange and long period without anything. I was fortunate enough to be back in competition soon after lockdown was lifted and already in June we were testing. This restart period has been quite busy; it’s great to get back to competing and some form of normality. I think we can perform well in Estonia, as fast rallies generally seem to suit us, so we’ll be aiming for some good results there.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm – Car 4 

“It’s been a long time away from the action, so I’m really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel. I was at Estonia’s WRC Promotional event last year and the stages are really nice. They’re quite similar to Finland in some ways, and even faster in some places so the pace is going to be pretty much flat out!

“We know that we’re not in the same position as the other teams and we’ve not had the opportunity to do the same level of testing, but I did manage to drive Lõuna-Eesti Ralli which was really good fun. It was important to get that seat time, and our main objective next week will be to get back out there, get back up to speed, and enjoy rallying again.”

Elfyn and Scott competed last year for M-Sport.

Teemu Suninen / Jarmo Lehtinen – Car 3

“I did some simulator racing during lockdown, but I’m definitely ready to get back behind the wheel of the rally car now! It’s been a long time, and I’m really looking forward to Rally Estonia which will be a bit like a home rally for me now!

“We’ve not had a lot of seat time, but I drove Lõuna-Eesti Ralli with a Fiesta R5. That was quite a special rally for me as I organised everything myself – and it made me appreciate how much the team do for us on WRC events as there really is so much you have to think about.

“We also had a day testing the Fiesta WRC in Greystoke. The stages in Estonia are really fast so it was important to have that day getting back up to speed. And we stayed in Cumbria a few days afterwards too – exploring the Lake District with Rich and catching up with some of the guys before we head out to the rally.”

Gus Greensmith / Elliott Edmondson – Car 44

“I cannot wait to get back behind the wheel of the Fiesta WRC! We had a couple of days testing in Greystoke last week and I’d forgotten just how much I enjoy pushing the loud pedal in this car!

“We know that we’ve not had the same amount of seat time as some of the other guys, but this is still a learning year for me and the most important thing is to go out there and enjoy it.

“This will be my first time in Estonia and I’ve heard that the stages are incredible. I’m looking forward to experiencing them for myself, and will just aim to focus on my own event – and on learning and improving my times as the weekend goes on.”

Summary

Well, here we go! We are set for the resumption of the championship. In the last two years Ott Tanak has taken victory for Toyota in this event. We have to consider him for the win this weekend. He’ll have good competition from his former teammates Seb Ogier and Elfyn Evans, plus there is the intra team battle with Thierry Neuville. Then there is the M-Sport team, with two very fast Finns. It would be great to see them both in the mix for stage victories, and if they can, then they will be challenging for a podium finish.

Here’s a reminder of the championship standings.

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round three

1 S. Ogier 62
2 E. Evans 54
3 T. Neuville 42
4 K. Rovanperä 40
5 O. Tänak 38
6 T. Suninen 26
7 E. Lappi 24
8 S. Loeb 8
9 T. Katsuta 8

 

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round three

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 110
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 89
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 65

 

World Rally Championship 2020 Calendar Changes

We had some exciting news reported this afternoon! There has been an announcement with changes made to the calendar after the loss of many rounds through the summer period.

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Rallye Monte-Carlo 2020
22-26 January 2020
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Making its championship debut at the start of September is Rally Estonia, long rumoured during this lockdown period to be joining the calendar. Taking place during the first weekend of September, this becomes the 33rd country to host a full world rally championship event. It will be a gravel round, and I can imagine that Ott Tänak and his co-driver Martin Järveoja will be very excited about competing on home soil!

2020 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 02 / Swedish Rally / February 13-16, 2020 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Following up is the scheduled Rally Turkey, over the weekend of the 24th to 27th of September, then Rally Germany, the all tarmac round from the 15th to the 18th of October. Following those two events is the rescheduled Rally Italia Sardegna which takes place over the final weekend of October, 29th October to the 1st of November, that would have seen Wales Rally GB take place. The season will conclude in Japan in November over the weekend of the 19th to 22nd.

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 03 / Rally Mexico / March 7th-10th, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Here’s the full updated calendar for you!

Monte-Carlo 23rd to 26th January

Rally Sweden 13th to 16th February

Rally Mexico 12th to 15th March (this finished early on the 14th of course)

Rally Estonia 4th to 6th September

Rally Turkey 24th to 27th September

Rally Germany 15th to 18th October

Rally Italia Sardegna 29th October to 1st November

Rally Japan 19th to 22nd November

 

There also may be the addition of Ypres Rally in Belgium which could take place over the weekend of the 2nd to the 4th of October and Croatia with a date yet to be confirmed as other options.

 

Here’s a reminder of the current championship standings.

 

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round 3

1 S. Ogier 62
2 E. Evans 54
3 T. Neuville 42
4 K. Rovanperä 40
5 O. Tänak 38
6 T. Suninen 26
7 E. Lappi 24
8 S.Loeb 8
9 T. Katsuta 8

 

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 3

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 110
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 89
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 65

 

Well, we are hopefully set for an exciting remainder of this season’s championship.

Autosport International Show Gallery 2020

At this years Autosport International Show, there were some pretty iconic cars on display, from all parts of the motorsport world.

The main feature included Seventy Years of Motorsport, and there were some incredibly beautiful cars on display from Le Mans, World Rally Championship, Indycar, British Touring Car Championship, Formula One and Formula E.

All were game changers in their own way.

The decades of the 1950’s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, ’00s, ’10s are all represented.

Away from there, there were other amazing displays. The Le Mans Toyota TS050 from 2018, the car that finally gave Toyota the victory that it has craved for decades, with Sébastien Buemi, Fernando Alonso and Kazuki Nakajima sharing the driving duties.

There was a display of Formula One cars as well.

Below is a group of classic rally cars – Some iconic machinery here, from the seventies, eighties, nineties and two-thousands. Three cars driven by Colin McRae featured as well.

Well, we hope that you have enjoyed this look back to this year’s Autosport International Show, while we wait for the racing season to re-start.

 

All photos courtesy of Warren Nel

Rally Mexico 2020 Review – Seb and Julien take victory for Toyota!

As ever this event started on Thursday evening with two short street stages. Thierry Neuville won both of them, whilst Elfyn Evans second fastest behind him on both, and in sharing third fastest times were Teemu Suninen in the first run, and Ott Tanak in the second run. Overall top three at this point were Thierry, Elfyn and Ott.

Friday

With ten stages covering 132.86 km’s ahead of the crews, it would be a challenging day out there, particularly as the temperature began to rise. The start list looked like this – 1. Evans 2. Neuville 3. Ogier 4. Rovanperä 5. Lappi 6. Tänak 7. Suninen 8. Greensmith 9. Sordo.

 

The reigning world champion set the fastest time in SS3 El Chocolate 1 – 31.45 km, making the most of his good starting position and took the lead. His closest challengers were Teemu Suninen and Seb Ogier. Championship leaders, Elfyn Evans and Thierry Neuville held seventh and fourth respectively.

 

Into SS4 Ortega 1 – 17.24 km, saw a very good time from Seb Ogier, who won the stage from Dani Sordo and Esapekka Lappi, whilst Ott Tanak lost 45 seconds and dropped from the lead down to eighth place, having damaged the rear of his car. Top three was now Seb, Teemu and Thierry.

 

A good run for Dani Sordo in SS5 Las Minas 1 – 13.69 km, saw the Spaniard win the stage from Ott, with rally leader Seb third. However, Elfyn was going well too, considering he was opening the road and he’d set the fourth best time, just 5.2 slower than the stage winner.

 

It was a second stage win for Hyundai, with Thierry Neuville winning SS6 Parque Bicentenario – 2.71 km from Elfyn and Seb. The former champion still held the lead from Teemu Suninen with Thierry still in third.

 

Well, after lunchtime service Ott Tanak won SS7 El Chocolate 2 – 31.45 km, with Teemu just six tenths slower than the Estonian, and Seb in third. Sadly, it was the last stage that Esapekka Lappi completed, as their Fiesta caught fire at the rear. It was an ignominious end for a great car, as the whole car was engulfed. Esapekka and Janne made it out okay.

 

The following stage, SS8 Ortega 2 – 17.24 km was cancelled. In fact, the organisers announced that SS9 was also cancelled, but subsequently was reinstated, with a start time that was 30 minutes later.

 

Ott Tanak won SS9 Las Minas 2 – 13.69 km and moved from seventh into third place as a result. Kalle was second quickest, and Seb was third. Teemu remained in second place overall.

 

Next up was SS10 SSS Autodromo Shell V-Power 1 – 2.33 km, which had two runs. The top three in the first run was Seb, Elfyn and Ott and in the second run, Seb, Teemu and Ott.

 

The final stage of the day SS12 Street Stage León – 0.73 km was won by Kalle, with teammate Elfyn second fastest and Teemu in third. Elfyn’s good time, meant that he’d moved up into third place as well.

 

Classification after Day One

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC 1:23:09.2
2 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +13.2
3 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +33.2
4 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +33.4
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +35.7
6 G. Greensmith E. Edmondson Ford Fiesta WRC +1:16.8

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It’s been a good day, I’m very pleased to be in the lead tonight. This morning the times were not bad but the confidence was not at the maximum. I was still trying to get comfortable, but I made some adjustments to the setup and having some more miles in the car on this surface helped me to feel much better in the afternoon. Tomorrow will be another long day. We will have the best starting position, so we have to try to make the most out of it.”

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

“It’s been a pretty difficult day opening the road, as we knew it would be. But overall, it’s not been bad. The car was working generally very well. Both El Chocolate stages were the challenging stages to find a good feeling, but that was probably down to the road condition as the surface was very loose. In other places it went better than expected. We’ll just keep pushing as hard as we can and see what’s possible.”

Kalle Rovanperä (5th)

“It was getting better all the time today and I’m building the confidence up. It’s nice to see that I’m learning the car quite quickly. There is still some work to do, but it was a nice day. I don’t know where I got the slow puncture on the first stage this morning, but it can happen. After that I was a bit more cautious for the rest of the morning loop because we didn’t have any spare tyres, but on the second loop I tried to be a bit cleaner and faster and it went well.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (4th)

“We’ve had a really bad day as a team. We lost a lot of time on the second stage, which dropped us back. I went wide and hit quite a big stone which damaged the rear suspension. We had some spare parts to fix it but not enough, so we had to limp to the end. Thankfully, we didn’t lose too much time, but it made for a difficult Friday. Road position is crucial for tomorrow so I am pleased we could make up some places. Everything is still possible, but it’s certainly more complicated.”

Thierry Neuville (Rally2)

“We started the rally well, considering our starting position, and I felt we had a very good run on the opening stages. We pushed hard and got some good performance from the car. We still needed to find some rear grip, but we made some changes at lunchtime service to improve that. We were still in the podium fight after the second run through El Chocolate. The following stage was cancelled but we were still focused. Unfortunately, something happened with the car in the repeat of Las Minas, which meant we had to stop mid-stage after about 5km. A very frustrating end to a tough day for the team. We hope we can re-join on Saturday, but the team needs to assess the car first.”

Dani Sordo (Retired)

“This was not how we envisaged our Rally México to turn out. We started this morning with high expectations but already in the El Chocolate stage we hit trouble when our radiator pipe came loose. I was driving normally, but clearly it wasn’t fixed tightly enough. We made some repairs and tried to push hard on the following stages but unfortunately the damage to the engine forced us to stop in the afternoon loop. These things can happen; we are all human and we have to recover from this disappointment as a team. Of course, it’s hard to take when we had such big hopes for this event but that’s rallying sometimes.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (2nd)

“It’s been a really good and trouble-free day for us. I was sending the car into the corners and driving on the limits – which is what you need to do if you want to push for the top results at this level. We will try and hold our podium place tomorrow, but at the same time I want to make sure I bring the car to the finish and will focus on myself and on continuing the good rhythm we had today.”

Teemu and Jarmo drove brilliantly all weekend. Photo credit, M-Sport Ford WRT

Gus Greensmith (6th)

“I just haven’t been able to get into my rhythm today and I’m a long way off where I wanted to be. We’ve not had the speed we were hoping for, but Teemu has proven that the car is quick so it’s all down to me! The objective now is just to focus on improvements, and bring the car home for some good points.”

Esapekka Lappi (Retired)

“On the stop line we understood that the rear of the car was on fire, but in that moment I didn’t realise how bad it was. We tried to put it out and drove on to a safer place, but when I lost the brakes I realised it was still burning quite bad – and jumped out as quickly as I could!

“I don’t know what caused it as there was no issue on the stage and it was actually a pretty good time. We were going well and fighting for the podium, so it’s a really big disappointment for us and for the whole team. But everyone is okay, and that is the most important thing right now.”

Saturday

With nine stages over 133km’s, it would be a challenging day again for the crews. The running order looked like this – 1. Neuville 2. Greensmith 3. Rovanperä 4. Evans 5. Tänak 6. Suninen 7. Ogier

 

Seb Ogier won SS13 Guanajuatito 1 – 24.96 km from Ott, who moved back into third overall, whist fast Finn Teemu set the third best time, looking to keep a charging world champion at bay.

 

Thierry showed that he could set a good time, winning SS14 Alfaro 1 – 16.99 km, from Ott and Seb. The Estonian closed the gap to Teemu a little as well who had set the same as Elfyn. The top three remained the same, and Seb had now increased his lead a further five seconds to 27.6. Sadly, Gus Greensmith stopped in this stage, losing ten minutes, before getting going again. There were some start lineup changes, with Thierry now starting the stage ahead of Ott. The Hyundai team were trying all the tricks to help their world champion get ahead of Teemu! All within the rules….

 

The top three in SS15 Derramadero 1 – 21.78 km was Ott, Elfyn and Seb. With his quick pace, Ott had closed the gap to Teemu a further 6.8 seconds in their battle for second place. Thierry overshot a junction and lost 7.1 seconds.

 

After the lunchtime service, SS16 Guanajuatito 2 – 24.96 km was next up. There was some big news however. The organisers had decided that the Sunday’s stages would be cancelled, meaning there were six stages left to decide the result of this year’s event. Covid 19 was affecting this event. The fact that the rally even started was a surprise, but the impeding travel restrictions were having their affect. The stage was won by Thierry, with Seb and Ott just behind. Teemu had a six second lead over the world champions.

 

The battle for second place continued between them into SS17 Alfaro 2 – 16.99 km, with Ott winning the stage from Thierry and Teemu. The Finn was just 3.1 ahead of a charging world champion. Seb was still leading by a huge 28.1 seconds.

 

The Estonian crew in their Hyundai were on a charge, winning SS18 Derramadero 2 – 21.78 km and moving ahead of Teemu who lost 9.4 seconds. Thierry and Seb were second and third fastest. The French pairing held a 27.4 second lead now with just three stages left.

 

SS19 SSS Autodromo Shell V-Power 3 was won by Thierry with Ott and Elfyn second and third fastest. The gap between Ott and Teemu widened a bit more. The Hyundai crew were making second place theirs.

 

The second run of SS20 SSS Autodromo Shell V-Power 4 – 2.33 km would see Thierry and Ott first and second again, with Seb their closest challenger.

 

The final stage then, SS21 Rock & Rally León – 1.62 km, and the top three was Thierry, Seb and Ott. Seb’s winning margin was a dominant 27.8 seconds. The French pairing had taken their first victory for Toyota. Ott had driven incredibly well to take second place, and Teemu took third, after a very good drive, much like Elfyn last year.

Final Overall Classification – Rally México

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC 2:47:47.6
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +27.8
3 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +37.9
3 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +1:13.4
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +2:20.5
6 P. Tidemand P. Barth Škoda Fabia R5 +10:29.3
7 N. Gryazin Y. Fedorov Hyundai i20 R5 +12:27.0
8 M. Bulacia G. Bernacchini Citroën C3 R5 +13:37.5
9 G. Greensmith E. Edmondson Ford Fiesta WRC +13:56.5
10 O.C. Veiby J. Andersson Hyundai i20 R5 +15:32.2

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It’s been a good weekend. We had a good feeling straight from the start and we took our chance to take the lead on Friday morning. Today we had a better starting position and we pushed straight away and increased the gap, and then we tried to control it until the end. It’s a strange victory and it’s hard to celebrate in these circumstances. But thank you to the team, they’ve done a fantastic job this weekend. The car has been faultless all weekend. It’s been really reliable and fast, and these are good points for the championship.”

Elfyn Evans (4th)

“It’s not been an easy weekend for us, but I felt like we drove pretty well. This morning I think we maximised everything we could, but with the road positions it didn’t work out. This afternoon we made a few little errors and we picked up some little issues along the way, so we weren’t able to challenge. So, I’m a little bit disappointed in one way, but at the same time, fourth place after opening the road on the first day in Mexico is not so bad. All three Yaris WRCs are here at the finish, so it’s a testament to the team and the strength of the car.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 03 / Rally Mexico / March 12-15, 2020 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (6th)

“I’m quite happy overall. It was not the best weekend, but we had a few unlucky moments, and it was nice to see that when we tried to push, we had a good pace. It’s not so easy to have good speed on the first time here, so I can be happy. Today was mostly sweeping the road, and so we went for a safe pace just to keep our position while also learning about the road cleaning. It’s been a really good beginning to the season for me: It’s nice to have had clean rallies without any big mistakes and some proper pace sometimes.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“I am pleased to add another second place to my results for Hyundai Motorsport. I feel that I have pushed as hard as I could this weekend, my first proper gravel rally with the team and in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. We had the performance to win this weekend; the incident on Friday morning was my mistake, and I accept full blame for that. We then just tried to get the most out of the rest of the event, and could slowly, slowly make up time and positions. It’s been a demanding event for many reasons, and mentally quite tough, but we have another podium to our name, which is good.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03, Rally Mexico
12-15 March 2020
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (16th)

“In general, it has been a difficult weekend for Hyundai Motorsport. Unfortunately, we were caught out by some technical issues on the first proper day of the rally and that put us on the backfoot. It’s tough to take but it’s also part of the game in motorsport. On a positive note, we have shown that the speed is there to fight for the victory. After our troubles yesterday we wanted to come back fighting, and we did just that with a strong Saturday overall. We had some competitive runs, including two more stage wins. I tried to push as hard as possible. Together, as a team, we are going to work hard to avoid the sort of problems we’ve had this weekend, and to come back stronger than ever.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (3rd)

“I’m really happy with what I was able to do here this weekend, and really proud to bring this good result home for the team. After Sweden it wasn’t looking too good and the bosses were asking for some more pace! Then I switched the switch and was able to come back a stronger man – back on the good pace, and back challenging for the top results.

“I think it was a good drive from me this weekend and we were able to be really consistent which was important. Of course, it would have been nice to have taken the second position, but Ott was driving really fast and we had some brake issues that we had to manage. Still I think we have shown that the potential is there, so let’s see what we can do in the next rallies.”

Gus Greensmith (9th)

“It’s not been the weekend we wanted. Going into the rally we felt really good, but I just haven’t had the feeling and made too many mistakes. I would drive one good kilometre, and then one bad kilometre, and that time just adds up. But things were getting better and I really started to enjoy myself this afternoon. I’ve still got lots to learn, but we’ll get there – we’ve just got to keep at it.”

Summary

It was a very good drive from Seb and Julien to victory, their sixth in this event. It was Toyota’s first though, since their return to the championship in 2017. Last year, showed the progress they’d made, finishing at the time in second place with Ott. All three cars made it to the finish inside the top six as well. Elfyn and Scott took the opportunity to learn, as they opened the road for the first time in their careers, and it was not a perfect drive by any means, by their own admission, but none-the-less, a drive that has kept them near the top of the championship standings. Kalle was once more showing the quality that he and Jonne have shown previously, which had earnt them the drive at Tommi’s team, with a strong drive to sixth position.

 

At Hyundai, Ott Tänak confirmed that he was getting a really good handle on his new car, with a strong drive to second. Thierry and Dani suffered with reliability problems, which had hit their hopes both as a team, and as individuals with their own wishes for a good result. The team used some loopholes to put Thierry Neuville in front of Ott Tänak.

 

M-Sport showed why they are such a great team. With Teemu driving really well, he held off a charging Ott Tänak until almost the very end. Third place was a worthy result. Disaster struck Esapekka however, and a car that Elfyn Evans drove last year was completely destroyed. Gus Greensmith lacked consistency, after holding sixth coming into Saturday, he slumped to ninth place.

Well, we just don’t know now when we’ll see the next event, after Rally Argentina was postponed. The following rounds in Portugal and Sardegna may also go the same way. It all depends on the ease of travel. Once it gets back underway, we will see a big battle for this year’s crown.

Rally Mexico 2020 Podium. Photo credit, M-Sport Ford WRT

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round 3

1 S. Ogier 62
2 E. Evans 54
3 T. Neuville 42
4 K. Rovanperä 40
5 O. Tänak 38
6 T. Suninen 26
7 E. Lappi 24
8 S.Loeb 8
9 T. Katsuta 8

 

 

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 3

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 110
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 89
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 65

Rally Mexico 2020 Preview – Heat and Height bring a tricky combination

It’s time for the first round of the year on gravel, and Elfyn Evans with co-driver Scott Martin head to Mexico as leaders of the World Championship for the first time in their careers, just like Ott Tanak and Martin Jarveoja last year. This brings them a whole new challenge. Opening the road on day one, with lots of road cleaning is going give them a whole new learning curve. The one thing that could allow them to stay in the hunt for a win would be if it rains. If that doesn’t happen, the best they can hope for is finishing on the podium.

 

Throwback to 2019

Twelve months ago, Seb and Julien took a strong victory winning four stages. Ott Tanak and Martin Jarveoja took five stage wins, and finished in second position, 30 seconds behind the French duo. Welsh wizard Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin took their first podium of the year as well at the time, despite not winning any stages, with a really good consistent run, which kept them in second place until Sunday.

Now, who will be in the fight for victory? It’s hard to look past Seb Ogier, Ott Tanak and Thierry Neuville battling for this one, but can either of M-Sport Ford’s Finns come through to challenge? Elfyn took a very good podium last year for his former team, so the car has good pace on gravel.

 

12 March

10:01     —                Llano Grande [Shakedown]                         5.51 km

 

Leg 1 — 135.10 km

12 March

20:08     SS1         Monster Energy Street Stage GTO 1          1.12 km

20:31     SS2         Monster Energy Street Stage GTO 2          1.12 km

13 March

9:08        SS3         El Chocolate 1                                                    31.45 km

10:16      SS4         Ortega 1                                                                 17.24 km

11:14       SS5         Las Minas 1                                                          13.69 km

12:12      SS6         Parque Bicentenario                                          2.71 km

15:35     SS7         El Chocolate 2                                                    31.45 km

16:43     SS8         Ortega 2                                                                17.24 km

17:41      SS9         Las Minas 2                                                          13.69 km

19:21     SS10       SSS Autodromo Shell V-Power 1                 2.33 km

19:26     SS11       SSS Autodromo Shell V-Power 2                 2.33 km

19:26     SS12       Street Stage León                                              0.73 km

 

Leg 2 — 133.74 km

14 March

8:58       SS13       Guanajuatito 1                                                    24.96 km

10:01      SS14       Alfaro 1                                                                  16.99 km

11:08      SS15       Derramadero 1                                                    21.78 km

14:56     SS16       Guanajuatito 2                                                   24.96 km

15:59     SS17       Alfaro 2                                                                   16.99 km

17:08     SS18       Derramadero 2                                                    21.78 km

18:38     SS19       SSS Autodromo Shell V-Power 3                 2.33 km

18:43     SS20       SSS Autodromo Shell V-Power 4                 2.33 km

19:26     SS21       Rock & Rally León                                                  1.62 km

 

Leg 3 — 56.01 km

15 March

8:38        SS22       Otates                                                                   33.61 km

9:56        SS23       San Diego                                                            12.76 km

11:18        SS24       El Brinco [Power Stage]                                 9.64 km

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans

“It’s obviously been a great start to the year with the team, and I’m looking forward now to the first gravel event of the season. In a way, Mexico is quite like the first two rallies of the year, in that it has its own specific challenges that we have to try and adapt to. And this year, it’s another new surface for us to get used to with a new car. But we found a good feeling in the first two rounds, and we hope to do the same in Mexico. Leading the championship does mean we will be opening on the road on Friday, which will not make it easy for us, but we almost have to forget about that and just focus on the job in hand.”

Sébastien Ogier

“It’s always a great feeling every year to go to Rally Mexico. I have so many good memories there: It was my first WRC event back in 2008, when we started with a win in the Junior category, and since then we’ve had a lot of good results there. I have had the chance to do two days of testing in Spain recently, and I think the first feeling with the car on gravel is really good. After two events where we had some good pace but didn’t manage to claim a win yet, this will definitely be the target in Mexico. With more mileage in the car now, I start to feel more and more comfortable in the Yaris WRC. Being third on the road is not a bad starting position, and our plan will be to try to fight as hard as we can for the victory.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“The pre-event test in Spain was the first time for me on gravel in the Yaris WRC, but I was getting used to the feeling more and more. We tried a few different setup options and I think we found a good compromise. I competed on Rally Mexico two years ago, and the main difficulty there is the high altitude, which means you need to adapt your driving style. Sweden was of course a very nice rally for us, but I think that Mexico could be one of the trickiest events for me this year with my experience, and we will have to see how it goes.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 03 / Rally Mexico / March 7th-10th, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Rally México is the first ‘summer’ event with hotter temperatures than we faced in Monte and Sweden, as well as high altitude and some demanding long stages. They are tough conditions, especially as one of the first cars on the road. I have great memories of Mexico, including our first podium with Hyundai Motorsport, and my first-ever WRC top-three finish the year before. It has always been one of the rallies I wanted to win; I was never quite able to achieve it, but it would be nice to change that this year.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03 Rally Mexico
07-10 March 2019
Day 2, Action, Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak

“I was pleased to get my first podium with Hyundai Motorsport in Sweden, but Mexico will be very different – it’s a unique challenge. The heat and altitude make it a very specific event on the calendar. On the fan side, too, it’s amazing; we have a lot of people spectating and going crazy which makes it very special and emotional for us as drivers. There’s nowhere better than Mexico to come and get some sunny weather after the winter. Physically, it can be tough. At altitude we don’t have as much oxygen, so our driving style needs to be smooth and flowing, while the engine power is reduced, so we have to be efficient.”

Dani Sordo

“I am excited to be back in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC at Rally México, an event I enjoy a lot and where I have always had a good performance. I have stayed close to the team in the opening events of the season, and took part in Rally Serras de Fafe last weekend, so I feel fit and ready. I really want to win in Mexico and to take another victory for the team. Our road position on the first day should be advantageous but that alone is not enough. The altitude makes it a difficult event, so we have to be prepared physically and to look after the car as well. We have a lot of support and passion from the fans, which only adds to the character of this event. I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Esapekka Lappi

“Every time I get behind the wheel I’m learning more and fine-tuning the set-up to better suit my driving. We worked on a few things in Sweden, and continued that at the pre-event test last week. We’ve not been too far off challenging for the podium, and I think that has to be our goal in Mexico.

“I’m getting more and more confident with the Fiesta, but of course Mexico is a tricky and unique event where you really need to be clean and efficient in your driving. The altitude also means that we run with less power, so small mistakes take longer to recover. But the feeling is good, so let’s see what we can do.”

Teemu Suninen

“I’ve always enjoyed this event and the stages are really nice to drive, but the high temperatures and altitudes mean that it can also be really challenging. Even with a world rally car you can feel the lack of oxygen and we need to be prepared for that – both physically and in our driving too.

Teemu and Markko had a tricky event last year. Photo credit, M-Sport WRT

“We haven’t had the best start to the season, but I’m now fully focused on this event. We completed a pre-event test last week where we found a good set-up, and we know from previous years that the Fiesta is a fast and reliable car here. We will certainly be trying our best to score some good points next week.”

Gus Greensmith

“I’m a huge fan of Rally Mexico and it’s probably my favourite place to visit on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar. The scenery and colours of Guanajuato and the enthusiasm of the fans provide a truly special experience for everyone and I can’t wait to get back there.

“I really enjoyed my time there in 2018, but it will be a completely different challenge this year. I’ve been preparing in the heat and altitude chambers so my body is definitely feeling efficient and I’m sure that will help my performance next week, so let’s see what we can do.”

Summary

Well, we are set for a very exciting rally again from Mexico as the battle for this year’s title continues. Many questions will be answered by the end of this classic event, but we may have even more added. Can Elfyn and Scott, just like Ott and Martin last year did last year keep the championship lead by finishing on the podium? Can Seb and Julien score their first win for Toyota? Or will it be Ott and Martin on top? Shakedown will be very interesting on Thursday, and may reveal some answers. Enjoy!