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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Overall Classification –Rally de España

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

Let’s here from the drivers then!

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

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

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

Dani Sordo (3rd)

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

Oliver Solberg (7th)

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

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

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

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

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

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

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

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

Kalle Rovanperä (5th)

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day Two

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

 

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

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

Dani Sordo (4th)

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

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

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

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

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

Kalle Rovanperä (5th)

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

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

Sunday

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

Rally Spain 2021 Preview – Back to Tarmac!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Now, let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier

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

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

Elfyn Evans

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

Kalle Rovanperä

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

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

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

Ott Tänak

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

Dani Sordo

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

Jari Huttunen

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

Teemu Suninen

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

M-Sport Ford WRT

Gus Greensmith

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

Adrien Fourmaux

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

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

Seb Perez

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

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

 

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

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

BTCC Donington Park – Turkington wins 60th race to match Andy Rouse’s tally

Colin Turkington took his 60th British Touring Car Championship win in a lights to flag victory for the BMW driver.

He has matched touring car legend Andy Rouse’s tally of 60 in an uneventful race for the Northern Irishman. His 330i M Sport was ballast free and meant he had the advantage out front.

The Safety Car was deployed on lap one as Jack Butel and Sam Smelt clashed coming out of Redgate, ending both their afternoons.

The restart came on lap four with Turkington pulling away thanks to those behind him having ballast to deal with. Newly crowned Jack Sears Trophy winner Dan Rowbottom and Dan Lloyd were both given five second penalties for jumping the start.

Following his race two penalty, Tom Ingram was doing his best to hold on to eighth with title rival Ash Sutton behind him. The fight was close, with Stephen Jelley in the mix too.

The win was looking like a foregone conclusion by lap 11 as Turkington was far ahead. Behind him Jake Hill passed Rowbottom for second but was too far back to challenge Turkington. Josh Cook tried to get through too but couldn’t make the move stick and fell to fifth with Rory Butcher sneaking past too.

Sutton finally passed Ingram into Coppice corner and came home eighth, with only one title rival in Turkington ahead of him.

The BMW man took the win, with Hill four seconds back. Aiden Moffat capped off a fine weekend with third, Butcher and Cook were fourth and fifth once Rowbottom’s penalty was applied, he finished sixth with Lloyd seventh after his penalty was applied too. Sutton, Jelley and Ingram rounded off the top ten.

Pos Driver Car Team +/-
1 Colin Turkington BMW 330i M Sport Team WSR 22:27:150
2 Jake Hill Ford Focus ST MB Motorsport +4.096
3 Aiden Moffat Infiniti Q50 Laser Tools +4.945
4 Rory Butcher Toyota Corolla Toyota Gazoo +7.401
5 Josh Cook Honda Civic Type R BTC Racing +7.752
6 Dan Rowbottom* Honda Civic Type R Team Dynamics +11.136
7 Dan Lloyd* Vauxhall Astra Power Maxed +13.260
8 Ash Sutton Infiniti Q50 Laser Tools +13.594
9 Stephen Jelley BMW 330i M Sport Team WSR +18.258
10 Tom Ingram Hyundai i30N Excelr8 +19.615
11 Ollie Jackson Ford Focus ST MB Motorsport +20.201
12 Aron Taylor-Smith Cupra Leon Team HARD +22.557
13 Gordon Shedden Honda Civic Type R Team Dynamics +24.079
14 Jack Goff Cupra Leon Team HARD +24.251
15 Jason Plato Vauxhall Astra Power Maxed +24.651
16 Chris Smiley Hyundai i30N Excelr8 +25.309
17 Carl Boardley Infiniti Q50 Laser Tools +25.679
18 Tom Chilton BMW 330i M Sport Ciceley +25.887
19 Sam Osborne Ford Focus ST Motorbase +26.533
20 Tom Oliphant BMW 330i M Sport Team WSR +27.104
21 Jack Mitchell Cupra Leon Team HARD +28.928
22 Rick Parfitt Jr Hyundai i30N Excelr8 +29.252
23 Andy Neate Ford Focus ST Motorbase +33.338
24 Nicholas Hamilton Cupra Leon Team HARD +41.519
25 Adam Morgan BMW 330i M Sport Ciceley +47.549
26 Jade Edwards Honda Civic Type R BTC Racing +2 Laps
Retirements
DNF Senna Proctor Honda Civic Type R BTC Racing Mechanical
DNF Sam Smelt Toyota Corolla Toyota Gazoo Collision
DNF Jack Butel Hyundai i30N Excelr8 Collision
  • – Rowbottom and Lloyd handed five second penalties for jumping the start.

BTCC Donington Park – Shedden inherits win from Ingram

Gordon Shedden inherited the race two win from Tom Ingram, won had won his fourth race of the season on the road to keep his title hopes alive in race two at Donington Park in stunning fashion.

The Hyundai driver made up ten places, having started 11th, and was followed home by race one winner Gordon Shedden and Rory Butcher finished third. However Ingram was given a one second penalty as he was adjudged to have made contact with Shedden in order to pass him.

Butcher muscled his Toyota into the lead on lap one having started third but soon lost it a lap later as brother in law Shedden regained his lead. Ingram had an incredible start moving to sixth by the end of the lap from 11th on the grid.

By the end of lap two Ingram was fourth before moving into the top three by the end of lap three. His ballast free car easing past his heavier opponents.

Lap five saw Ingram pass Butcher at Redgate and he hunted down Shedden in the lead. Championship leader Ash Sutton was struggling, deciding to be defensive rather than attack. He was passed by the Honda’s of Josh Cook and Dan Rowbottom but had a late resurgence in the final few laps to finish fourth in the end.

Another title fighter Colin Turkington was up into fourth, chasing down Butcher. Meanwhile back at the front Ingram finally made his way past Shedden, with the Scotsman’s Honda struggling with the maximum 75kg of ballast.

On lap 13 Turkington was fighting hard for third, but going into the Old Hairpin corner he got too much on the grass on the inside and it put his BMW into a spin, dropping him down to 11th where he finished.

Ingram took the win on the road, but was demoted to second, with Shedden and Butcher following behind. Sutton was fourth, with Dan Lloyd, Senna Proctor, Josh Cook, Aiden Moffat, Jake Hill and Dan Rowbottom rounding off the top ten.

Pos Driver Car Team +/-
1 Gordon Shedden Honda Civic Type R Team Dynamics 18:50:277
2 Tom Ingram* Hyundai i30N Excelr8 +0.254
3 Rory Butcher Toyota Corolla Toyota Gazoo +2.451
4 Ash Sutton Infiniti Q50 Laser Tools +3.218
5 Dan Lloyd Vauxhall Astra Power Maxed +6.114
6 Senna Proctor Honda Civic Type R BTC Racing +7.486
7 Josh Cook Honda Civic Type R BTC Racing +7.524
8 Aiden Moffat Infiniti Q50 Laser Tools +7.791
9 Jake Hill Ford Focus ST MB Motorsport +8.212
10 Dan Rowbottom Honda Civic Type R Team Dynamics +8.299
11 Colin Turkington BMW 330i M Sport Team WSR +8.561
12 Chris Smiley Hyundai i30N Excelr8 +10.243
13 Stephen Jelley BMW 330i M Sport Team WSR +10.427
14 Ollie Jackson Ford Focus ST MB Motorsport +10.622
15 Jack Goff Cupra Leon Team HARD +11.246
16 Sam Osborne Ford Focus ST Motorbase +12.309
17 Aron Taylor-Smith Cupra Leon Team HARD +13.501
18 Jason Plato Vauxhall Astra Power Maxed +14.163
19 Jack Mitchell Cupra Leon Team HARD +15.407
20 Tom Chilton BMW 330i M Sport Ciceley +15.667
21 Jade Edwards Honda Civic Type R BTC Racing +17.105
22 Sam Smelt Toyota Corolla Toyota Gazoo +17.661
23 Carl Boardley Infiniti Q50 Laser Tools +19.350
24 Tom Oliphant BMW 330i M Sport Team WSR +19.519
25 Jack Butel Hyundai i30N Excelr8 +21.616
26 Andy Neate Ford Focus ST Motorbase +22.467
27 Rick Parfitt Jr Hyundai i30N Excelr8 +28.185
28 Nicholas Hamilton Cupra Leon Team HARD +34.254
Retirements
DNS Adam Morgan BMW 330i M Sport Ciceley Crash Damage
  • – Tom Ingram given one second penalty following incident with Gordon Shedden.

BTCC Donington Park – Shedden with lights to flag win in race one

Gordon Shedden converted pole position to victory in the first race of the day at Donington Park.

The Team Dynamics driver held off Dan Lloyd in his Power Maxed Vauxhall Astra to take another win this season after a slow start to life back in the BTCC.

The top two got away with Jason Plato losing his third place to Rory Butcher and then lost fourth to Senna Proctor as the pair had better first laps.

The Safety Car was deployed on lap three when Adam Morgan’s BMW was tapped by the MB Motorsport Ford Focus of Jake Hill, spinning the Ciceley driver into the tyre wall at the Craner Curves. Hill recovered, pitted and surged back up the grid to finish 17th.

On the restart Ash Sutton was forcing his way through the field, picking his battles and capitalising on others fighting ahead of him. He squeezed his Infiniti past and was soon on the back of former team mate Plato’s Astra.

While the Ash Sutton of old would force a move, the Laser Tools driver has learned and chose to be patient and bank the championship points he needs. Finishing seventh with only one title rival in Colin Turkington ahead of him, who finished fifth.

Up front Shedden took the win by just over a second with Lloyd behind him in another impressive finish for the Vauxhall backed team. Butcher finished third with Proctor close behind. Turkington, Plato and Sutton all followed, eight titles between them. Josh Cook, Chris Smiley and Ollie Jackson rounded off the top ten.

Two title protagonists finished outside the top ten, with Tom Ingram 11th and Jake Hill 17th after his early contact with Morgan.

Pos Driver Car Team +/-
1 Gordon Shedden Honda Civic Type R Team Dynamics 24:43:829
2 Dan Lloyd Vauxhall Astra Power Maxed +1.331
3 Rory Butcher Toyota Corolla Toyota Gazoo +2.524
4 Senna Proctor Honda Civic Type R BTC Racing +2.789
5 Colin Turkington BMW 330i M Sport Team WSR +3.359
6 Jason Plato Vauxhall Astra Power Maxed +4.300
7 Ash Sutton Infiniti Q50 Laser Tools +4.551
8 Josh Cook Honda Civic Type R BTC Racing +7.198
9 Chris Smiley Hyundai i30N Excelr8 +10.631
10 Ollie Jackson Ford Focus ST MB Motorsport +11.026
11 Tom Ingram Hyundai i30N Excelr8 +13.650
12 Sam Osborne Ford Focus ST Motorbase +13.995
13 Aiden Moffat Infiniti Q50 Laser Tools +14.269
14 Dan Rowbottom Honda Civic Type R Team Dynamics +16.685
15 Stephen Jelley BMW 330i M Sport Team WSR +17.121
16 Tom Oliphant BMW 330i M Sport Team WSR +17.887
17 Jake Hill Ford Focus ST MB Motorsport +18.976
18 Aron Taylor-Smith Cupra Leon Team HARD +20.070
19 Tom Chilton BMW 330i M Sport Ciceley +20.376
20 Jack Goff Cupra Leon Team HARD +20.828
21 Sam Smelt Toyota Corolla Toyota Gazoo +21.345
22 Rick Parfitt Jr Hyundai i30N Excelr8 +21.745
23 Jack Butel Hyundai i30N Excelr8 +22.113
24 Jack Mitchell Cupra Leon Team HARD +24.122
25 Jade Edwards Honda Civic Type R BTC Racing +24.671
26 Andy Neate Ford Focus ST Motorbase +27.233
27 Carl Boardley Infiniti Q50 Laser Tools +29.657
28 Nicholas Hamilton Cupra Leon Team HARD +34.189
Retirements
DNF Adam Morgan BMW 330i M Sport Ciceley Crash

Rally Finland 2021 – My Thoughts

Well, what an amazing rally that we witnessed last weekend. Let’s take a look at the performances of the crews over the weekend.

 

Well, first up Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin. Nine stage wins, with four in a row on Saturday morning set up their best victory of their careers. It was the kind of drive that we would expect to see from Ott or Seb and have brought to the stages over the recent years. The key thing with this drive was that it happened in Finland. Elfyn took stage wins and second overall in 2017, so we knew that he could score a good result at this rally. The other thing to consider is the way that he responded to his closest challenger throughout the rally. Ott did what he could to put pressure on his former M-Sport teammate, but Elfyn had an answer every time. He’d gone in a different setup route with his Yaris, and was far more comfortable than his teammates, and able to put the car where he wanted, allowing him to produce this result. Never forget, he’s the first Welshman to win in Finland. It’s brought him right back into the championship fight, now only twenty-four points behind Seb Ogier.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Finland / 28 September – 4th October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Next up is Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja. Seven stage wins for double Rally Finland winner showed that Hyundai were really benefitting from the 2019 championship winners understanding of the challenges of this event. Normally that kind of performance would likely deliver the victory, but no matter what he did, Elfyn and Scott always had an answer to the Estonian duo. Never-the-less they’d delivered Hyundai their first ever podium at this event, and for that they should be applauded. This certainly bodes well for the future.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 10, Rally Finland
01-03 October 2021
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, WRC, Action during Day 3 of Rally Finland 2021
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Okay, lastly, we have to talk about Craig Breen and Paul Nagle. The Irish duo came to this rally as podium finishers in the past. Craig took third in 2016 when he was with Citroen and Paul was Kris Meeke’s co-driver when they won this rally in 2016, also for Citroen, so we knew that if they could get comfortable out there, that a top result was on, and so it was. They led early on and for a crew only doing a part season, they were really on it. Once Elfyn and Ott stepped up their pace in their battle though a crew that is only doing a part season was not likely to be able to challenge those that are in their cars full-time. Mind you, they had one over their other teammates, Thierry and Martijn, and that is why this drive to third place has to be shouted about. Of course, the great news is that Craig and Paul have signed for M-Sport Ford for two years, starting next year to spearhead their championship challenge with the new Puma Rally1 car.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 10, Rally Finland
1-3 October 2021
Craig Breen
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Let’s look at the other points finishers then, starting with Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm. Fourth place for the 2017 winners was a good result for a crew that last competed the Yaris WRC at the end of 2018, not forgetting that he last drove a WRC at the end of 2020 with M-Sport at Rally Monza. For a crew of such quality, it must have been very hard to be away, but with this result it shows that they deserve to be at the top of this sport. Of course, it was announced on the 7th of October that he will be back at Toyota sharing a car with Seb from next year. This is great news for them and of course for the championship.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Finland / 28 September – 4th October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Let’s talk about Seb Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. They weren’t really on the pace to be honest, until they adopted Elfyn’s setup. Obviously, it was always going to be very hard for them what with opening the road throughout Friday’s stages. Once they did take those settings, they were quicker but the damage had been done early on and fifth was the best that they could get. Of course, a time penalty was handed to them after Seb didn’t do his helmet strap properly for stage twelve, but I think even without that I’m not sure that they would have got fourth anyway. To add to their woes, the power problem on the powerstage meant that they only took the points for fifth place.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Finland / 28 September – 4th October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

At M-Sport, Gus and Chris and Adrien and Alex weren’t really on the pace, but to be honest for them to just complete the rally without any problems and mistakes on a very challenging event, they certainly managed that well. Of course, it was to be expected that Gus and Chris who have more experience with this car on this surface would finish ahead of his teammate. For Adrien with a new co-driver alongside him and also competing in a WRC Fiesta on this event for the first time, it’s fair to not have expected a massive result from them.

Takamoto with, with another temporary co-driver as we await Dan Barritt’s return actually led the rally after the first stage, but then he fell back after his 360-degree spin, and then had a mistake on Saturday meant that he restarted on Sunday. Still, for his debut in a Yaris WRC on this rally, there were some positives for the Japanese driver, who actually considers this rally as a home event, mainly as he has lived in Jyväskylä for a number of years. He will return though with some good experience and will likely have some good results in the future.

Finally, the crews that didn’t finish the rally. Thierry and Martijn were not really at this one. Sadly it’s the kind of performance that we have got used to from Thierry at this event, and it’s really odd as well. It’s not like he’s not fast and consistent on gravel rallies. I’m sure that he and the team will be working hard to figure out what it is about this particular rally so that he can get onto the pace. I think that without this, he may never win the drivers’ world title that he really wants.

Kalle and Jonne came to this rally with big hopes, but after showing some good pace, suffered a small accident that had big consequences, with him picking up a back injury. The crew came back just to complete most of the stages, kind of like a fast recce, but didn’t complete the powerstage. It’s not like they were going to push hard for the points in there. They will return though and will almost certainly stand on the podium at some point.

 

Well, who was your driver of the event? Let us know in the comments section below!

Rally Finland Day Three Report – Elfyn and Scott take Victory!

The last day then of this autumnal Rally Finland, and with 45.7km over four stages. The startlist looked like this – Katsuta, Rovanperä, Fourmaux, Greensmith, Ogier, Lappi, Breen, Tänak, Evans.

Just a couple of things to update you on. Seb Ogier was handed a one-minute time penalty for not having his helmet strap done up properly on stage 12. Takamoto and Kalle both returned to the action for Toyota under the SuperRally rules. For the young Finn, he would be taking it easy, as he had a sore back after his off yesterday. Both drivers would be looking just to get experience of these two stages for the future.

Well, into SS16 Laukaa 1 – 11.75 km and it was a fastest time for Ott who was looking to put pressure on Elfyn. The Welshman was not having any of this though and although second fastest kept the time loss to just four tenths of a second. He didn’t think it was a good stage though, saying he could have gone better in places, and that it was low grip. Craig started the stage well, but suffered a spin in a slow speed junction and did a 360 spin to get facing the right way.

The following stage, SS17 Ruuhimäki 1 – 11.12 km and the first run of what would be the power stage and Ott would be denied by Elfyn who extended his lead by a further 3.5 seconds to 12.2! Ott was second and Craig third. Kalle was taking it so easy out there that he was only eighteen quickest. The battle for the win in WRC2 continued between Teemu and Mads with the Finn pulling away a little from the Citroen driver.

What followed in SS18 Laukaa 2 – 11.75 km was amazing as Elfyn had clearly learnt from the earlier running of this stage, beating Ott’s time by two tenths of a second and therefore extending his lead! Esapekka was third on the stage. Nikolay was fastest in the WRC2, but it was good news for Teemu who now had a lead of 14.1 over Mads.

The final stage then, SS19 Ruuhimäki 2 [Power Stage] – 11.12 km and as usual there was a change in the running order. Gryazin (WRC2), Linnamäe (WRC2), Prokop (WRC2), Huttunen (WRC2), Østberg (WRC2), Suninen (WRC2), Katsuta, Fourmaux, Greensmith, Ogier, Lappi, Breen, Tänak, Evans.

Takamoto set the early benchmark and the two M-Sport crews came through slower. What was a surprise was that Seb was slower as well! He was suffering a problem with his car and losing time! Esapekka came through and beat Takamoto’s time, before Ott completed with the best time. What would Elfyn do? Would he go for the fastest time, or just settle for the points for victory? We got the first hint at the first split and the Welshman was up by seven tenths of a second. It increased to one second at the second split as well. Finally, when he crossed the line, he’d beaten Ott’s time by 1.7 seconds! What a drive from Elfyn and Scott! Just amazing!

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Finland / 28 September – 4th October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Final Overall Classification –Rally Finland

1 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC 2:19:13.7
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +14.1
3 C. Breen P. Nagle Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +42.2
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +58.8
5 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +2:54.4
6 G. Greensmith C. Patterson Ford Fiesta WRC +5:02.3
7 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Fiesta WRC +6:22.9
8 T. Suninen M. Markkula Volkswagen Polo GTI +9:52.1
9 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 Rally2 +10:07.8
10 E. Lindholm R. Hämäläinen Škoda Fabia Evo +10:52.8

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“It feels pretty special to win for the team on its home rally. After a difficult rally for me in Estonia on roads with similar characteristics, it feels really good and especially the way we managed to do it. We made some changes to the car in our test and I found great confidence with it pretty early on Friday. I’m really happy and thankful for the team for all their work, it’s been a great weekend. I feel fortunate to have been able to drive this car on these roads, and to take the win is extra special. It’s a positive result in terms of the championship. The drivers’ title is still a long shot for me, but we’ll keep giving our best on every event.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Finland / 28 September – 4th October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“Today for us was all about trying to get some more points in the Power Stage. Unfortunately, we had a problem just after the start of the stage, so we couldn’t set a good time. This was not our rally but that’s how it is sometimes. We have to move on. We are still in a good position in the championship and I am really looking forward to Spain and to asphalt. I know what I have to do there. Elfyn did very well this weekend, so well done to him.”

Kalle Rovanperä (34th)

“For us we just had to drive through the stages today. The team did a great job fixing the car yesterday but the damage was quite big and the car wasn’t a hundred percent, so we had to take care not to jump or stress the car too much. I also had pain in my back from yesterday. So we just drove through to be there to score some manufacturers’ points if it was needed. Congratulations to Elfyn, he did an amazing job. For me this was a difficult weekend where we had been expecting a lot, but I’m looking forward to Spain.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“It has been great fun to be competing in Rally Finland, the first time for me on these roads with this car. Hyundai didn’t have a great track record in this event in previous years, however this weekend we were fighting for stage wins and for victory for most of the event. We almost made it, but we know what we can achieve now. Coming back next year – admittedly with a new concept of car – we will try to go one better.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 10, Rally Finland
01-03 October 2021
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, WRC, Action during Day 3 of Rally Finland 2021
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Craig Breen (3rd)

“It’s a proud moment to finish on the podium in Rally Finland, and to have been part of the team’s best result in this event. I can’t honestly believe that we’ve taken three podiums in a row! It has been a really good weekend for us, and I have loved every single second. Of course, I’d have loved to have gone to that extra level, and to fight for the win. We’re not quite there yet, but it’s so much better than it has been.”

 

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

1 S. Ogier 190
2 E. Evans 166
3 T. Neuville 130
4 K. Rovanperä 129
5 O. Tänak 128
6 C. Breen 76
7 T. Katsuta 68
8 G. Greensmith 52
9 D. Sordo 43
10 A. Fourmaux 42

Rally Finland Day Two Report – Elfyn and Scott lead for Toyota!

Day two then and the crews faced 151km over nine stages. The start list looked like this – Fourmaux, Greensmith, Katsuta, Ogier, Neuville, Rovanperä, Lappi, Evans, Tänak, Breen. Super Saturday is how it was described and with some long stages throughout the day. There would be a service break as well.

First up then, SS7 Kakaristo – Hassi 1 – 18.17 km, and Elfyn was fastest from Craig by two tenths, with Ott a further second or so back. These three were our leaders, with the Irishman still a good chunk ahead of Ott and Elfyn. Kalle moved ahead of Esapekka and the gap between them was just 1.6 seconds. Oliver rolled out of the rally on this stage.

The following stage, SS8 Päijälä 1 – 22.61 km, saw Elfyn take another stage win, but it was such a great time, that it took him from third into the lead! Ott was 4.2 off the Welshman’s pace and Craig 6.8 off and he now held a lead of nine tenths over Craig, with Ott 2.3 seconds back. The battle for fourth between the young Finns continued, with Kalle keeping EP behind him. Unfortunately, we lost Takamoto after he went off the road and couldn’t continue. The demise of the Japanese driver meant that Teemu who was leading WRC2 in his Polo moved into the top ten.

Elfyn made it three in a row, winning SS9 Arvaja 1 – 13.49 km from Kalle and Craig. His lead over Craig was now four seconds, with Ott a further two seconds back. Thierry remained ahead of Seb despite losing 1.6 to the Frenchman as they battled over sixth place. Gus and Adrien remained seventh and eight just gaining good experience for the future.

The last stage then before service, SS10 Patajoki 1 – 20.55 km and Elfyn was fastest again, 1.6 seconds ahead of Craig again with Ott, who was not comfortable with the stage conditions a further 2.1 behind Craig. It was a brilliant set of stage wins for the Welshman as he looked to take a first Rally Finland win as well. Unfortunately, we lost Kalle who lost control of his car on a lefthander and went of the road into a pile of dirt on the right. It was game over for him.

After the break, SS11 Kakaristo – Hassi 2 – 18.17 km was Ott’s though from Elfyn and Craig. Elfyn was only six tenths slower than the Estonian though and the gap between them remained 9.1 seconds, and Craig was still holding second overall with a reduced time difference to his teammate.

Into SS12 Päijälä 2 – 22.61 km and Ott was fastest from Elfyn and Craig and this meant that the Estonian had now passed his teammate for second place. The gap to Elfyn remained a very healthy 7.9 seconds. In the WRC2 category, Mads was fastest from Teemu, but the Finn remained 10 seconds ahead of the Citroen driver.

Well, it was another stage win for Ott in SS13 Arvaja 2 – 13.49 km as he continued to find good pace, but he was only two tenths faster than the leader, so Elfyn’s lead was barely touched. Esapekka was third fastest and was making fourth place his. Mads continued to reduce the gap to Teemu in their fight over the category lead.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Finland / 28 September – 4th October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

The light was starting to fade as SS14 Patajoki 2 – 20.55 km and Elfyn broke early-stage pacesetters Seb’s time, and then Craig and Ott came through and were not able to beat his time. The Welshman had increased his lead over former M-Sport teammate to 9.1 seconds. However, there was drama for Thierry as he landed heavily and he lost his light pods from the front of his car. There was other damage, mainly to his cooling system, and he pulled over in an access road. He was out and any hopes of this year’s title have gone with this result.

The final stage of the day, SS15 Harju 2 – 2.31 km and there was a slight change in the running order with Elfyn going last. Ott eclipsed early pace setter Seb’s time, but it was great to see Elfyn match Ott time as they set identical times.

Classification after Day Two

1 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC 1:57:46.7
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +9.1
3 C. Breen P. Nagle Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +19.5
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +44.8
5 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +1:23.7
6 G. Greensmith C. Patterson Ford Fiesta WRC +4:16.9
7 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Fiesta WRC +5:31.5

 

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“I’m pretty happy tonight, it’s been a strong day. It was a good morning for us, the car was working well and I just tried to keep a good rhythm. We made some minor changes last night to improve a few areas that weren’t working quite so well yesterday, and now I have a car that gives quite a lot of confidence, which helps a lot here and makes it easier to push like we have. There was a little bit of time dropped in some of the stages this afternoon but overall, we can be happy with the day. There’s still quite a way to go tomorrow, so we just have to focus stage-by-stage and keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Finland / 28 September – 4th October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“This morning it was still difficult for me, the speed was pretty much the same as yesterday. The championship has been too much in the back of my head and I was not daring enough. But at lunchtime we made a setup change which made the car much more enjoyable to drive. It gave me more confidence and the times were quite good if you consider that we were still running quite early on the road. So this is a positive: At least I have some answers now for my lack of pace at the start of the rally and we could find a solution. Elfyn is doing a really strong rally and can close up in the championship, but I still have the Power Stage tomorrow to try and recover some more points.”

Kalle Rovanperä (38th)

“The first couple of stages this morning were again quite tricky on the bigger roads, the grip level was really low and it was not suiting my setup and driving so well. On the third stage which was more technical and with more grip, straight away the feeling was really good and we could set quite a good time. Then on the next stage I made a mistake in a really simple corner: The cut was deeper than I expected, and it pulled us sideways towards the inside. I tried to save it from spinning but there wasn’t enough space and when we came back to the road, we went into this pile of sand on the other side. It has been a tricky weekend for me but hopefully we can restart tomorrow.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“The pace has been quite good today; I was trying hard on every stage. In the afternoon, the grip was higher so it was easier to manage the car and I could push a bit more. I tried to put as much pressure as possible on Elfyn and push him hard, so that if he is able to win then it will be because he deserves it. But from first thing tomorrow morning we will try our best to battle for the victory.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 10, Rally Finland
1-3 October 2021
Ott Tanak
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Craig Breen (3rd)

“I’m really proud of what we’ve done so far, managing to do these two full days without making any mistakes and staying consistent, so we have to be happy with that. It’s slightly frustrating to lose some time to the top two, but it’s just the case of them having that little bit extra today. It’s a short day tomorrow, but it’s one that still needs to be treated with respect. I would love to get another podium and make it three in a row, as that would be amazing for me and Paul. I’m looking forward to it.”

Thierry Neuville (DNF)

“Everything was going well, but a couple of kilometres into the stage on a fast left corner there was a compression which damaged the radiator. We immediately got a water pressure alarm and then three corners later I saw that the temperature was getting higher and higher, so we knew that it would be difficult to go to the end. We tried our best to solve the issue, but the leak was too big and we had to retire the car. It is a shame as it had been a good day, but unfortunately there was nothing we could do.”

Oliver Solberg (DNF)

“I am so sorry and disappointed with what happened. This is not at all what we needed and I am gutted for everyone in the team.

“Everyone in Hyundai Motorsport and RedGrey have worked so hard to prepare a very good car and the test we had was perfect. So, it’s just a big disappointment!” The accident happened on the first run through Kakaristo-Hassi. “The accident came in quite a fast corner.”

“Over a small jump the car bottomed out and sent us in the ditch, then we rolled.  Like I said, this is just such a disappointment – especially after such a positive result in Finland at the start of the season [on Arctic Rally Finland]. I came to make some experience of this event and I can’t do that now. I am sorry for this for this.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 10, Rally Finland
01-03 October 2021
Oliver Solberg / Craig Drew
Photographer: Jordi Rierola
Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Sunday

One more day then with 45.7km’s over four stages, including the Power Stage. Can Elfyn and Scott hold on for a famous victory? Only four non-Scandinavian drivers have won this rally in the past. Elfyn could become the first Welshman to win? We’ll find out tomorrow!

Rally Finland, Day One Report – Craig and Paul lead for Hyundai

The first day of the 70th running of Rally Finland saw almost 90km over six stages. The startlist looked like this – Ogier, Evans, Neuville, Rovanperä, Tänak, Katsuta, Breen, Fourmaux, Greensmith, Lappi. It was great to see the 2017 winner back in a Yaris WRC!

The short first stage, SS1 Harju 1 – 2.31 km saw Takamoto with his new co-driver Aaron Johnston set the fastest time from Thierry and Esapekka. Only 1.9 seconds covered the top nine positions as well. It was game one! Quickest of the M-Sport drivers was Adrien with a top five time as well! Mads led the WRC2 category from Jari and Nikolay, whilst Emil was leading WRC3 from Pepe and Teemu.

Into SS2 Ässämäki 1 – 12.31 km then, the first long stage and Takamoto had a huge moment in the stage with a 360 spin. He managed to keep it out of the scenery and finished the stage with the tenth best time. Craig set the fastest time from Ott and Elfyn and now just 1.8 seconds covered the top three as they all moved up a place and were now the top three overall. Esapekka, Thierry, Adrien and Seb all dropped down the leaderboard.

Ott won the following stage, SS3 Sahloinen – Moksi 1 – 21.37 km from Craig and Esapekka. The Finn’s pace took him into third overall as well, deposing Elfyn down to fourth. Championship leader, Seb, was not having a good day though, with him only eighth best time and holding seventh overall. After Takamoto’s moment earlier, he was now making his way back up the leaderboard and was now ahead of both Gus and Adrien and holding eighth place.

The first afternoon stage, SS4 Ässämäki 2 – 12.31 km after the tyre fitting zone saw Ott win the stage from Kalle and Craig. The Estonian still held the lead from his teammate, but there was a change for third place with Elfyn passing Esapekka after the Finn was only sixth fastest. It certainly wasn’t over though, as the top six was covered by just 9.7 seconds.

We had a new stage winner with Craig winning SS5 Sahloinen – Moksi 2 – 21.37 km from Kalle and Ott. The Irishman’s time cut the gap to Ott to just 1.5 seconds. Meanwhile Kalle and Esapekka had just moved ahead of Elfyn into third and fourth respectively. In WRC2 Nikolay was fastest from Teemu and Mads. The Russian’s time took him ahead of Teemu and into second place in the category.

The final stage then of the day SS6 Oittila – 19.75 km, and this started just as the sun was starting to set as well. Elfyn was fastest from Esapekka and Craig. The Welshman’s time took him back ahead of Esapekka and into third, but the big moment was for Craig who jumped into the lead after Ott was just sixth fastest in the stage. The Irishman’s pace meant that he now had a lead of 2.8 seconds. The drama of the night stage had paid off as well, with the top five now covered by just 7.9 seconds. Everything had closed up at the end of the day.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Finland / 28 September – 4th October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Classification after Day One

1 C. Breen P. Nagle Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 43:51.3
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2.8
3 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +6.1
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +6.7
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +7.9
6 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +31.3
7 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +33.6
8 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota Yaris WRC +46.9
9 G. Greensmith C. Patterson Ford Fiesta WRC +1:20.6
10 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Fiesta WRC +1:48.9

 

Let’s hear from the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

Craig Breen (1st)

“It sounds pretty good to be rally leader this evening. We have had an amazing day and I’ve enjoyed every second of it. The stages are really nice, and especially the final one in the dark. I have always questioned what Finland would be like in night conditions and now we know – absolutely incredible! The later runners were a bit more in darkness, and I actually had some moments at the start. We lost a bit of rhythm, missed a couple of junctions but nothing terrible; I enjoyed the last part inside the forest, and it was nice to see the time at the end. I think everyone is going to find a little something extra tomorrow, so we’ll try to take any opportunity that comes our way.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 10, Rally Finland
1-3 October 2021
Craig Breen
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“It has been a surprisingly good day and very consistent. On the small narrow roads, we were a bit handicapped and lost a lot, but on the fast and flowing parts we were on the pace. The improvements in the car on these fast roads are down to the efforts of the team, who have been working hard; they’ve done their job well and the performance here is better than it has been for them in the past. My pre-event test was not fully representative, so I had to make some changes to the car to find some confidence. Thankfully, it was a better direction. Tomorrow, we have some tough stages and a long loop, so it’s definitely going to be the big day of the weekend.”

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“From our side, the day was going quite ok, and we were in the fight up to the final night stage. I struggled to see the road at the end in the darkening conditions. I was quite fast in the first two splits, but the last section was very challenging, and I couldn’t commit as I would have liked. Up to that point, I had a good rhythm in the car and could push, so if we can pick up that level of performance tomorrow then we’ll see what we can do. Nothing is lost yet. We have to try and do the best we can to close the gap and if not, then we’ll try to keep our position and enjoy the stages.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

“I’m relatively happy with how it went out there today. The feeling has generally been good in the car. There are some areas where I’ve struggled a little bit more and we still need to work on, but overall, I’ve enjoyed the day. We obviously had a strong time in the final stage; it’s never easy driving in the dark and especially at these speeds, but the pacenotes were working quite well and I just went with the rhythm. Tomorrow’s a massive day with four rather different stages, and two of them are brand new. It’s close now in the top five, and anything can still happen, so we have to keep doing our best and see what comes.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Finland / 28 September – 4th October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (5th)

“It has been a really demanding day with tough conditions and a lot of new pacenotes. I think it was a difficult day for everybody with the grip level, which was really low. For us the first pass was not easy but we will try to improve the setup for that for tomorrow, and the times were better on the second pass. It is really close and everything is still open. Of course, after pushing really hard the whole day you would prefer the time gap to be the other way around, but we will try to do something about that tomorrow.”

Sébastien Ogier (7th)

“It was not a great day for me today. We were hoping for better. There should be at least three cars in front of us tomorrow, so hopefully that will be better for us, but we need to understand exactly why we had no pace today. For sure, part of the time loss today was down to road position but that was not the only reason. I have to understand if I was just too slow or if there is something we can do with the car setup. The grip was not fantastic but I still enjoyed the driving, so I was surprised to be losing so much. The night stage I was expecting to be very challenging but actually this one went better than I expected; our lights were working well there.”

Tomorrow

Day two sees the longest day of the rally with 151km over nine stages. Pop back at the end of tomorrow for the full day’s report. Can Craig stay in the lead, or will we see Ott and Kalle move into the lead? One thing is for sure. It will be an amazing day.