Rally Italia Sardegna – Day Two Report – Ott and Martin lead for Hyundai!

This was going to be an important day to get through, with no mid-day service and eight stages for the crews to tackle. They were split into two loops, which meant that there were new stages in the afternoon. Elfyn and Scott returned to competition and would be first on the road. Here is the startlist for Saturday – Evans, Greensmith, Neuville, Rovanperä, Katsuta, Fourmaux, Sordo, Breen, Loubet, Tänak, Lappi.

First up then, SS10 Tempio Pausania 1 – 12.03 km and Ott was fastest from Craig and Thierry. There was huge drama though as Esapekka came through, clipped a rock and pinballed off the bank at the side of the road, ripping a rear wheel off the GR Yaris and the Finn was out for the day. Thierry was on a big push to catch the cars ahead, closing the very large gap to Kalle ahead but still 39 seconds behind the championship leader. Craig was now in second and Dani held third overall after passing Pierre-Louis who was now 2.3 seconds behind the Spaniard.

Next was SS11 Erula – Tula 1 – 15.27 km and it was a 1-2-3 for Hyundai with Ott fastest from Thierry and Dani. Takamoto had a stall in the stage and dropped one place behind Kalle who was now up to sixth place.

Craig took his Puma to a stage win in SS12 Tempio Pausania 2 – 12.03 km with Ott and Pierre-Louis second and third in the stage. The big news from this stage though, was that Thierry rolled his i20 and although he and Martijn got the car back on its wheels, it was clear that they could not continue and retired in the stage.

Ott came back in SS13 Erula – Tula 2 – 15.27 km with the fastest time from Dani and Craig. Kalle had a little spin in this one, setting the eighth best time but still maintaining sixth overall. The stage winner was starting to really build on his lead, the gap now over 30 seconds.

After the break Ott also won SS14 Coiluna – Loelle 1 – 21.60 km with Kalle and Craig second and third. Elfyn showed the pace that we briefly saw yesterday with the fifth best time, despite being the first car into the stage. Ott’s lead over Craig was now approaching 40 seconds, whilst the Puma driver was moving further ahead of Dani.

Into SS15 Monte Lerno di Pattada 1 – 17.01 km and It was another stage win for the Estonian crew, with Dani and Elfyn second and third. Ott’s lead was now 45 seconds over Craig, and he said that he wasn’t even pushing hard, but clearly, he was very comfortable in his i20 and he could show his best pace.

Just two stages left then, and Ott won SS16 Coiluna – Loelle 2 – 21.60 km as well. Craig and Kalle were second and third in the stage. Unfortunately, Elfyn stopped again with a problem with his rear suspension. Meanwhile, Takamoto was getting through the stages in the best was possible after first damaging the aero and then the radiator later in the water splash.

The final stage then, SS17 Monte Lerno di Pattada 2 – 17.01 km and first to complete was Gus. Next through was Kalle and Takamoto. It all changed with the next crew though, as Adrien lost control of his Puma and ended up beached on the edge of the road with the rear in the trees lining the right-hand side of the stage. The stage was red flagged, but in the meantime, Dani had started the stage, so he had to slow down. Once Adrien was moved to a safe spot, the stage was restarted and Craig, Pierre-Louis and Ott started the stage, but the only one that completed the at a competitive pace was the Frenchman. There was some confusion for both Craig and Ott, who both got shown the red flag again and slowed accordingly. In the end the three drivers that slowed, were given a notional time.

Classification after Day Two

1 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 2:43:35.6
2 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +46.0
3 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +1:06.8
4 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Ford Puma Rally1 +1:31.8
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:23.2
6 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +3:52.3
7 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +5:03.3

Let’s hear from the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (1st)

“Today was very good, I had a great feeling in the car, and I was able to control things. It’s been quite a long time since we had a run like that, to be honest. It was a bit more challenging when the conditions were hot, especially at lunchtime, otherwise the roads were holding up well. It was enjoyable. In the first stage this morning, when Esapekka was still in the fight, we gave it a good push. We wanted to start well. After that, we were step by step kind of slowing down but the times kept coming. If you are in the right mood and rhythm that’s how it should be. We had a few driveability issues at times, but that seems to be related to the temperature; when it cooled down it became better again. We’ve been in this position before, and we know anything can still happen. It’s not over until the finish line is crossed.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Italia Sardegna
02-05 June 2022
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (3rd)

“We had some good luck to be here at the end of the day in one piece – we had a few moments today. It was a mixed day for us. We lost some time on the more slippery stages and we need to work a bit in this area. On the second pass, things were generally better. We had a problem in the SS16 water splash. I went in a bit fast, and water came into the car. For a moment, I thought we’d stop there but thankfully the engine started running again and we could complete the stage. The battle with Craig for second was nice, but he had a really good day and was faster than me, so it will be difficult to catch him. We don’t have many kilometres left tomorrow. We want to fight with no problems, while also keeping Loubet behind. Let’s see if our good fortune continues until the end of the rally.”

Thierry Neuville (SuperRally)

“After the disappointment of Friday’s technical issue, our target this morning was to go out there, give it a big push and have some fun. We made an aggressive tyre strategy and went hard on the opening stages. The tyres felt good, and the first two times were interesting. Unfortunately, we went a bit over the limit on the third one. I got caught out at a slow right-hander; I was late on the brakes, I climbed up the embankment and rolled the car. We kept going but I couldn’t make it to the end, and we had to retire for the day. Our rally was basically over yesterday but we wanted to continue fighting, not only for us but also for the team and mechanics, who always do an incredible job. We knew it would be a risk, especially when trying to make the impossible possible. We will be back in action tomorrow when we’ll be giving it everything to take maximum points in the Power Stage.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (6th)

“This morning especially was quite tricky with low grip and technical stages we couldn’t do too much. But we managed to just keep our own pace and then in the afternoon we could start to be a bit faster. We changed some small things on the car and I was able to find a bit more grip and feeling. That made the afternoon a bit more enjoyable. The plan was to stay out of trouble and this meant we were able to gain some places with others dropping out. Tomorrow the aim will be similar until the Power Stage and then we’ll see what we can do there.”

Elfyn Evans (SuperRally)

“Today we knew it was going to be a difficult day opening the road and it’s never easy to set good times from the front. So really it was just an opportunity to learn more about the car on gravel and use it as a test session, and everything was going quite OK actually. Then in the penultimate stage unfortunately something broke at the rear after an impact, but we didn’t lose too much from that. Tomorrow the main aim is to see what we can do from our position on the Power Stage and try to take some points if we can.”

Esapekka Lappi (SuperRally)

“This morning we didn’t change the rhythm from yesterday and the beginning of the first stage went pretty cleanly. We weren’t taking any risks. But in this narrow section there was a stone on the ground which threw us off the line – only slightly, but it was enough to make us hit the wall on the right and then a tree on the other side. It is pretty hard to accept because we were not going particularly fast. But this stage is very tricky and narrow and clearly in some places it was pretty rough as well. I had been feeling really comfortable in the car and we will see if we can try to find that feeling again tomorrow.”

Sunday

Just 39km’s over four stages for the crews to tackle. Can Ott hold on and take a well-deserved victory?

Rally Italia Sardegna 2022 – Day One Report – Esapekka and Janne lead!

The first full day then and the startlist was taken from before Thursday’s evening stage. Rovanperä, Neuville, Breen, Tänak, Katsuta, Greensmith, Evans, Lappi, Loubet, Fourmaux, Sordo. After the evening stage, SS1 Olbia – Cabu Abbas – 3.23 km, Thierry held the lead from Takamoto and Elfyn.

The first full day then and with 133km’s over eight stages, it would be a challenging day out there. The day would also have the longest stage of the weekend.

First up was SS2 Terranova 1 – 14.19 km and Elfyn was fastest, from Pierre-Louis and Ott. Three different cars in the top spots! All three moved up positions, with Elfyn moving up two places and into the lead, Ott gaining four and into second and Pierre-Louis jumped eight places and into third! The young Frenchman was showing great form, just like last time out in Portugal.

The lead changed at the end of SS3 Monti di Alà e Buddusò 1 – 24.70 km with Esapekka moving up four places and into the lead. The Finn won the stage from Craig and Ott. There was disaster for Elfyn though whose GS Yaris was suffering from a loss of water pressure, and the Welshman retired for the day after the stage. The M-Sport drivers had a mixed stage, the highlight being lead driver, Craig whose time took him ahead of his teammate Pierre-Louis, whilst Adrien dropped back despite setting the fourth best time in the stage. It was a different situation for Gus though who suffered a half-spin and trouble restarting his Puma. The Brit sadly fell to 25th from 10th.

It was all change in SS4 Terranova 2 – 14.19 km as Dani won the stage from Ott and Thierry. The Estonian’s pace took him ahead of Esapekka and into the lead after the Finn could only manage the fifth best time. The gap between them was tiny though, at just nine tenths of a second. Pierre-Louis moved up to third overall, after Kalle suffered a spin and took off his rear wing!

The final stage then before the service break, SS5 Monti di Alà e Buddusò 2 – 24.70 km and Dani took the stage win from M-Sport duo Craig and Pierre-Louis! The top two overall remained the same, with Ott setting the fourth best time from Esapekka who was fifth in the stage. Meanwhile, Thierry had transmission failure, with the result that he now only had front wheel drive. The Belgian dropped down from sixth to tenth. At least there was a service break now for the team to fix the problems.

After the break SS6 Osilo – Tergu 1 – 14.63 km was won by Ott with Esapekka in second and Craig the third fastest time, although he did have a lockup into a left hander just before the bridge, sliding into a bank. Never the less, the Irishman moved up into third place, passing Pierre-Louis.

Into SS7 Sedini – Castelsardo 1 – 13.26 km then and what turned out to be the final stage of the day, and the top three were Esapekka, Dani and Adrien. There was a change again in the leaders, with the stage winner taking the lead and Ott dropping back to second. Pierre-Louis was also gaining places, moving back ahead of Craig and into third again.

Classification after Day One

 

1 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 1:10:41.9
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +0.7
3 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Ford Puma Rally1 +15.1
4 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +15.5
5 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +16.1
6 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Puma Rally1 +30.8
7 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:05.5
8 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:13.1
9 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +2:07.2

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (1st)

“I thought we could be close to the front at the end of today but not necessarily to be leading, so it’s been a good day and I’m really satisfied. It’s been three years since I’ve been leading after a Friday and it feels very good. We started at a safe pace, also because of the hanging dust, but then when it was clear we could push like normal. On this rally you can’t drive at 100 per cent all the time but I think we were consistently at 90 per cent and that was the key today. The most important thing was to secure a good road position for tomorrow and now we have the best position possible, so it’s job done for today and let’s continue like this tomorrow.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 05 / Rally d’Italia Sardegna 2022 / 02-05 June, 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (8th)

“Today was difficult as we expected, more so in the afternoon. The stages we did this morning were a bit more sandy so it was not so bad to be the first car in some places. We made a few mistakes and lost a bit of time but otherwise it was OK. In the afternoon there was really a lot of loose gravel so it was very slippery. But we managed to get through it. Tomorrow is a long day without any service and it’s going to be tough conditions, so anything can happen. As fourth car on the road it should be a bit better and we’ll try and gain some positions.”

Elfyn Evans (55th)

“The feeling was quite good in the car this morning. The opening stage was difficult with the amount of dust but the time was good. Then, in the second stage, we had quite a bad compression through a dip in the road that caught us by surprise and damaged the underside of the car. We started to get some warnings in the car and tried to manage it as best as we could until the end of the stage. But after that, when we investigated it further, it was quite clear it was too difficult to repair at the side of the road in the time we had. It was disappointing for our day to end so early but we’ll get back out there tomorrow and try to take what we can from the weekend.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“Today’s focus was all about getting a good road position for tomorrow’s stages, and we have achieved that. The guys we are fighting are around us on the order, so the game is much fairer. We had some extreme Sardinia stages this morning between the trees and at high speed; in these places with limited visibility, you can only keep your fingers crossed. We survived the morning and the car felt better on the second loop. In the afternoon, it was a bit more difficult. It was as if the car had three-wheel drive on the final run, which affected the braking and acceleration. The two cancelled stages gave us a chance to bring the car back to service and get it all checked out for tomorrow. We need to go out and fight for the win.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship Round 05,
Rally Italia Sardegna 2022, 2-5 June 2022
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 N Rally1, Action during Day 1 of WRC Rally Italia Sardegna 2022
Photographer: Romain Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (5th)

“We’ve had a good first ‘proper’ day and we are again in the podium fight. We lost a lot of time on the opening stages with the dust, which put us far from the lead, but we’ve come back a bit since. Without that, we’d be a lot closer for sure. I think overall we are performing better than in Portugal if you look at the times. I have completed more kilometres in the car, but I still need some time to adapt; the cars weigh more, it’s a different way of driving, braking points aren’t the same, that sort of thing. Overall, we are in promising shape, and we have a long day tomorrow. We’ll keep pushing for the podium.”

Thierry Neuville (9th)

“It was not a great day. We lost the rear drive at the end of the morning and had to do the stage with front wheel drive. The team needs to investigate what happened exactly. It’s sad because I had a better and better feeling from the car, and we were getting closer to the top places. It is what it is, we’re ninth but two minutes from the lead, which means our rally is effectively over. We did the two afternoon stages as best we could, but nothing really changed. Anything can happen, of course. It’s going to be a rough day tomorrow, and I wish my team-mates the best of luck in their fight for the win. The manufacturer points are just as important as the driver ones. From my side, I’ll see how things go; if I feel good in the car, I’ll try to push and have some fun.”

Summary

Well, what an incredible first day we have had. Lots of lead changes and yet another problem for Elfyn as well. He’ll restart tomorrow and target getting points in the powerstage on Sunday. Tomorrow sees 131km’s over eight stages, and no mid-day service. Getting to the end of the day will be very tricky.

Pop back at the end of tomorrow to check out my day two report.

Rally de Italia Sardegna 2022 Preview – Jumping in the Dust!

Just two weeks after the completion of Rally de Portugal, the teams move to the fifth round of this year’s championship on the island of Sardegna. Hyundai are hoping for a good result in this rally, having won with Dani Sordo in 2019 and 2020.

This year there are 307km’s over 21 stages. Shakedown and the first stage take place on Thursday. Saturday sees the crews face eight stages with no service break. This will make this year’s event very challenging.

The seaside rally returns to Alghero for 2022 and begins on Thursday with Shakedown, followed by a brand-new single super special stage in the evening. Friday will see crews tackle two passes of four stages, including the rally’s longest, totalling 133.56km in distance. Saturday’s itinerary is similar in length, covering a distance of 131.82km across eight stages. The event will wrap up on Sunday with four final stages, including the Power Stage, which offers additional points to those who finish in the top five.

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

“Sardinia will be another tough rally. The stages there have been tricky for me in the past but last year I had a better feeling even though we had some issues during the weekend. Hopefully this year we can enjoy the stages and be fast. If the conditions are hot and dry like normal, I think it could be more difficult for us to fight for the win from first on the road than in Portugal, but the target will be the same: to do the best job we can. We go there knowing that we have a good base with the car on gravel and although we need to focus on making it even better, we are already in a good place.”

Elfyn Evans

“It was good to get a strong result on the board in Portugal and although I wasn’t fully satisfied with the weekend, it gives us something to build on in Sardinia. As a team we showed that we have a great starting point with the car on gravel and I think we can still improve some things for the next event. It helps to have two rallies in succession that are relatively similar in character, although the roads in Sardinia tend to have a harder base than the typical stages in Portugal. The weather is likely to be even hotter, so it is going to be a challenging weekend for the cars and the drivers.”

Esapekka Lappi

“It was great to see the performance of the GR YARIS Rally1 on gravel in Portugal and this has certainly made me more excited for next week. Of course, I’ve not had as much time in the car on gravel as the others but the feeling has been good so far and it looks like the team has done a really good job. I’ve always liked going to Sardinia; the location and the weather is really nice and I had some good rallies there when I was last with the team. So, I’m really looking forward to it. Our starting position will be good for the Friday and I hope we can fight for the top four or even a podium.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Having claimed a couple of wins in Sardinia, it is always an event I enjoy. The Hyundai cars have been strong there in the past and hopefully this year we can repeat this form. You must expect anything and everything from this rally; it’s quite tough on the cars when it is hot, and there could be some rain occasionally, which might help us. It is a very demanding event with long days, where we will be waking up very early and finishing late, so it will be challenging. It is one of the most technical gravel rallies in the calendar: the roads are quite narrow and twisty. There is no room for mistakes, so you have to be really on it and keep the car on the clean line. The grip can be quite high, especially on the second pass, but also the road conditions can be rough.”

Ott Tänak

“Sardinia is another tough gravel event, but one I am looking forward to taking on. Overall, it is quite demanding, with high temperatures and rough roads. The heat also makes it very hot in the car, so this is something we need to get used to as well. We have shown that we can compete for the podium if we can avoid issues and have a clean rally, so we are targeting a smooth weekend fighting at the front. Last year at Rally Italia Sardegna, we were battling for the win for most of the event, and we would very much like to be doing the same this time. We hope to use our learnings from Rally de Portugal to help us improve and get a strong result.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Rally Italia Sardegna 2021 3-6 June 2021
Dani Sordo, Borja Rozada, WRC, Action during Day 2 of Rally Italia Sardegna 2021
Photographer: Romain Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo

“Rally Italia Sardegna is always a really nice event for me. I feel comfortable there; I like both the roads and the location. Last year we didn’t have a lot of luck, as I made a small mistake and we went off, but the previous year was strong and I hope this year will be the same. The rally has very narrow roads, and the outer line can also be slippery, so you have to be clever and careful to stay in the lines; if you go wide, you can hit some large stones. It’s also normal to adjust the set-up of the car between the first and second pass here because of the difference in grip – in the first it is low, in the second quite high. Having two rallies in quick succession is very demanding after my break in competition, but I am really motivated.”

Teemu Suninen (WRC2)

“Rally Italia Sardinia is one of the hardest gravel rallies on calendar. I would describe its nature as mid speed; the rhythm changes quite a lot as a result of a lot of junctions and we have to adapt to the different type of roads very quickly. Normally they are quite narrow and there is no room for any errors, as there is a lot of stones and trees just next to road. The gravel is quite abrasive and we have to manage tyre wear very well. The weather doesn’t make the challenge any easier – it can be really warm, sometimes above 35°C, which puts more stress on the car and the crews too.”

Fabrizio Zaldivar (WRC2)

“Having now completed my first WRC2 event, the goal for Sardinia is definitely to continue to improve. I learned a lot in Portugal with the Hyundai i20 N Rally2; the car can be very competitive and reliable, which will be decisive in Sardinia. This weekend we will have our pre-event test in Italy. I think the kilometres we have done, many of which were in extreme conditions, gave us good information. Sardinia can be incredibly tough at times, with a mix of challenging stages, high temperatures and long road sections. Our category is incredibly competitive, but our objective is always the same: to improve our performance and scoring a lot of points for the team.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen

“Really looking forward to Sardinia, it hasn’t been very long since the rally in Portugal but I’m happy with what we learned there, I think we’ve learned a lot during the weekend and it’s given us food for thought. I’m hoping that we can put that into practice already early on in Sardinia, we have a better road position starting on Friday, so let’s try to make the biggest advantage we can of that.

“It’s a rally I haven’t done for a few years, but the stages are a mix of old and new, but I like what I’ve seen from the onboards, and I think it’ll be a rally that’ll suit us. Let’s attack it as best we can, we obviously want to get ourselves back on track again and gain some good points, and start making some more inroads into our championship progress.”

Gus Greensmith

“It’s a very quick turnaround between Portugal and Sardinia, so it’s a nice feeling to get back on the road and get out to Sardinia. It’s a very similar rally to Portugal, probably more on the rougher side, but we’re expecting temperatures to be very high.

“All should be good, the cars are set up very well I think, we’re not doing a test, but it’s not the most critical of the year. I’m really looking forward to it, hoping to make the most of a good weekend and get a good result.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet

“I’m really happy to be going to Sardinia, it’s one of my favourite rallies and one of my favourite places and it’s very close to home. We hope to have the same pace we had in Portugal on the Friday, with a pace like this I think we can hope for a good result, and to continue to build the confidence for the rest of the season, and tackle it step-by-step.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“I’m very happy to be back in Sardinia, it will be my fourth time doing the rally, but the first time competing in a top-level WRC car. So, it’ll be quite a big challenge for me, but we’ve taken the experience from Portugal and the feeling with the car was good. We hope to get a better result and score some points on this rally, and of course enjoy our time on such a beautiful island.”

Jari Huttunen, (WRC2)

“I’m looking forward to getting out on the roads in Sardinia, I enjoy gravel events and we had a good result on the event last year, so hoping to do the same again. It is a challenging event, and my first gravel event this season with M-Sport, but I am happy to be back and hope we can score some good points for the championship.”

 

Summary

Well, what a challenging rally we are set for. Saturday with it’s 131km over eight stages and no mid-day service will be key to the event, and the likely podium finishers will be the crews that make it through that day with the least problems. Now, who can take the win? Well, it’s hard to look past the crews that are in the lower half of the championship standings. They will have a road advantage that will allow them to set the pace.

Rally de Portugal 2022, Day Three Report – Kalle and Jonne take Victory!

The final day then with 49km over five stages, could Elfyn move past Kalle again and would Taka hold off Dani for third overall? The startlist looked like this – Ogier, Greensmith, Fourmaux, Tänak, Loubet, Breen, Neuville, Sordo, Katsuta, Evans, Rovanperä.

Well, first up was SS17 Felgueiras 1 – 8.91 km and after Elfyn had set the best time from early pacesetter Ott, Kalle came through to take the stage win and increase his lead over his Welsh teammate to 8.4 seconds. Elfyn admitted that he wasn’t on it as much as last year. In the battle between Taka and Dani for third, the Spaniard reduced the gap to just 1.2 seconds. The top Puma driver was Gus in this one setting the seventh best time.

Into SS18 Montim – 8.69 km then, a single run stage for the final day and in his bid to close the gap to Craig, Ott was fastest from Thierry and Kalle. The Estonian’s pace meant that he not only moved past Pierre-Louis but also reduced the gap to his former Hyundai teammate, Craig, to just 25.4 seconds. Thierry arrived at the stage end with some damage to the front corner of his i20 Rally1.

To the first run then of SS19 Fafe 1 – 11.18 km and our overall leader, Kalle, was only seventh fastest, whilst the top three were Ott, Thierry and Elfyn. The Welshman was able to close a little to Kalle, bringing the gap down to 6.6 seconds. Craig’s gap to Ott came down a further 4.9 seconds as the Estonian continued to push out there.

Okay then, the second run of SS20 Felgueiras 2 – 8.91 km and our top two overall were the top two in the stage. Elfyn again beat early pacesetter Ott, before Kalle came through and went 2.4 faster than Elfyn and now the lead was 9 seconds! Now there was drama for Craig and Paul who were suffering with a brake problem and were late into the stage, gaining penalties and they dropped to eighth overall, with both Ott and Pierre-Louis moving ahead into sixth and seventh respectively.

Well, the final stage then, SS21 Fafe 2 [Power Stage] – 11.18 km and early pacesetter Seb Ogier was finally beaten by Thierry before Dani came through and beat their time and at the same time securing third overall as Taka was 2.1 seconds slower than Dani when he finished the stage. Next to finish was Elfyn and he was certainly pushing out there, but unfortunately, he was slower than all the cars that finished in front of him apart from Taka. Kalle had taken victory over his Welsh teammate, and Elfyn had taken his first podium of the season.

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 04 / Rally Portugal 2022 / 19-22 May, 2022 / 21-24 April 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Final Overall Classification – Rally de Portugal

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 3:44:19.2
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +15.2
3 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +2:17.3
4 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:19.4
5 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +2:37.8
6 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +4:45.7
7 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Ford Puma Rally1 +5:52.1
8 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +7:03.4
9 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Puma Rally1 +8:09.6
10 Y. Rossel V. Sarreaud Citroën C3 Rally2 +13:48.9

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“This victory was definitely a bit unexpected. Starting first on the road on Friday, I didn’t think we could fight for the win like this. But we managed to stay close to the guys in front and build it from there. We had a good pace all the time and a problem-free rally and to get the maximum points was really nice. Big thanks to the team, because we saw a lot of issues this weekend in really tough conditions but our car was perfect as always, so everybody in the team can be really proud of this result.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 04 / Rally Portugal 2022 / 19-22 May, 2022 / 21-24 April 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“Hats off to Kalle for the victory, he has done a great job. We had a good start to the rally but he has been very fast towards the end of the weekend. I was not quite as happy with the feeling today; I wasn’t able to fully relax and deliver as I would like. So there are naturally still some areas for us to work on with the car, but the performance in general has been very strong for the first event on gravel. Although I’m disappointed with the outcome today, it’s nice to be back on the podium and we should be able to build from here.”

Sébastien Ogier (51st)

“Congratulations to the team for this fantastic one-two result. For myself it was a difficult weekend after the bad luck that we had on Friday, just as we were moving closer to the lead battle. But the positive thing from this weekend is the experience that I have gained with the car, discovering and learning about it on gravel. The kilometres we did get have been very valuable and I’m definitely ending the rally with a better feeling than I started it with. We can see from the result that it is a strong car on gravel and I’m looking forward to my next event with the team.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (3rd)

“I am really pleased to finish this rally on the podium. It has not been easy in our first event competing with the new Hyundai i20 N Rally1 car. I have given my best all weekend, but I’ve needed to learn the car stage by stage and adapt my driving to suit its characteristics. We finished third and we know we have to work even harder to close the gap. Cándido has done a great job and I am pleased for the team that we can take a top-three result away from a challenging rally. I am sorry for Taka; he had an amazing rally and would have equally deserved the podium.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04, Rally de Portugal
19-22 May 2022
Dani Sordo, Candido Carrera, Hyundai i20 N Rally1, Action during Day 3 of WRC Rally de Portugal 2022
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (5th)

“We have given it everything this weekend, and we pushed quite hard in the Power Stage to take as many points as possible from this weekend, which wasn’t the greatest for us. We brought the car home with 13 points and we’re still second in the championship, although with an extended gap to the front. We have some positives with our car, I feel quite comfortable, and we have shown that the speed is there but there is definitely more work we need to do. We know we can push for the win, but if we are slowed by issues, then it’s not great. I’d like to say congratulations to the rally organisers; it’s been an incredible job, and with the old stars and cars back this weekend it’s been a top show for the fans.”

Ott Tänak (6th)

“There is no other way to describe our weekend than frustrating. We completed all the stages, we have tried to learn a few different things, and hopefully we can take something away from this rally that makes us a little bit better for the next one. We are quite far, there are plenty of jobs to do, and many things quite open. It has generally been difficult to get the confidence we need but there’s no other option than hard work to try and turn things around.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Pierre-Louis Loubet (7th)

“We can be really happy about our weekend for the first time in the car on gravel. The pace was there when everything was working in a good way, so we have learnt a lot ahead of Sardinia and if we make the right choices, we will have the same sort of pace there as we had on Friday in Portugal.”

Craig Breen (8th)

“Obviously, we didn’t have the best of weekends here in Portugal. Our good start on Friday unfortunately was hampered by our puncture on the same afternoon. We made some progress with the car during the weekend and I was gaining more confidence, but unfortunately a brake problem put us out of the fight for any power stage points today. We now focus on Sardinia, where we will try to do the best job possible to get our championship back on track.”

Adrien Fourmaux (9th)

“It’s been a good rally for us to get the confidence back, we can be happy to get to the end and take some points for the championship, and for the manufacturer’s championship also. It was great to be back on the gravel with this new generation of cars, and we’re now looking forward to Sardinia.”

Gus Greensmith (19th)

“Friday started off really well, at the end of Friday we were fighting for the podium which is where we wanted to be this weekend. Unfortunately, a bad tyre choice and also a puncture on Saturday morning took us out of the fight for the podium, and then it was just about clawing back some positions after dropping from fifth to eighth.

“Unfortunately, in the afternoon on Saturday, I went to use a sandbank to straighten the car up, to carry a bit more speed, but hidden in there was a large rock and it tore apart the rear suspension. Sunday was just about driving around, so not the best results for sure, not very happy. But there are plenty of positives to take away in terms of our performance on Friday.”

Sebastien Loeb (Retired)

“For sure I can’t be too happy about my weekend, it was already finished on Saturday morning so it wasn’t what we expected. Yesterday I made a mistake, on Saturday we broke the turbo, so it’s not great. But on the other side, we saw at the beginning of the rally that the car is good, and it’s fast, we were leading the rally after four stages, so that was a very good start. So that is the positive thing we will try to remember, we’ll try to get experience from that and I hope there will be another chance to try this car later this year.”

 

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’

After Round Four

1 K. Rovanperä 106
2 T. Neuville 60
3 T. Katsuta 38
4 O. Tänak 37
5 E. Evans 36
6 C. Breen 34
7 S. Loeb 27
8 G. Greensmith 20
9 S. Ogier 19
10 D. Sordo 19

 

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’

After Round Four

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 175
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 116
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 94
4 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team NG 42
2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 04 / Rally Portugal 2022 / 19-22 May, 2022 / 21-24 April 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Summary

Well, what a drive again from Kalle and Jonne. Winning this rally has been an amazing result for the crew that opened the road on Friday. They have really stamped their authority on this championship with another victory, their third just this season, bringing them onto five for their careers so far. They hold a huge 46-point lead over Thierry which is the kind of performance that you’d expect from Seb Loeb or Seb Ogier.

What about Elfyn and Scott then? They led at the end of Friday’s stages and were looking really strong in their lead, especially after their drive last year to their first win in Portugal. They took six stage wins along their way to their first podium of the year, and they as well as their Finnish teammates completely dominated the top of the timesheets throughout the rally. They will want to go one better at the next rally, and hope that they can close the gap to the championship leaders.

The final podium finishers, Dani and Cándido, had a really good first rally of the year. Quick when they needed to be, it was their experience that took them to the third step. Well, that and their amazing performance in the Porto Street stage at the end of Saturday. Taking 8.4 seconds out of Taka and Aaron was certainly helpful to their challenge.

Well, the next rally is Rally Italia Sardegna from the 2nd to the 5th of June, yes just two weeks from now! Who will conquer the dust on the Island?

Rally de Portugal 2022 Day Two Report – Kalle and Jonne lead!

Day two then and this would have the longest stage of the weekend. The startlist looked like this – Loeb, Ogier, Tänak, Fourmaux, Breen, Neuville, Loubet, Greensmith, Katsuta, Sordo, Rovanperä, Evans.

First stage then, SS10 Vieira do Minho 1 – 21.57 km and the Welshman was quick out of the blocks with a stage win from his two teammates, Kalle and Taka. Thierry was fourth and climbed two positions into sixth. In fact, Pierre-Louis, Thierry and Craig all gained positions as Gus dropped back with a puncture. Its seems that if you had the soft tyres then your pace would be quite decent and those that took hard tyres were finding hard to feel the grip.

Kalle struck back on SS11 Cabeceiras de Basto 1 – 22.03 km with the fastest time from Elfyn and Taka. The Toyota crews were showing their pace out there, making the most of the road positions and their tyres choices. The Japanese driver had now closed on Dani Sordo who was holding third overall, the gap between them just 1.7 seconds. Dani’s teammate, Thierry was also making up places, moving ahead of Pierre-Louis and into fifth overall.

Well, it all happened on the next one! The longest stage of the rally, SS12 Amarante 1 – 37.24 km, and Elfyn took the stage from Ott and Kalle. The Welshman’s pace was a real statement in intent that he was not going to be caught, taking his lead from 10.2 seconds to 18.4. He used all of his knowledge and experience, having looked after his tyres on the middle stage. Dani lost third to Taka as the Japanese driver set the fourth best time.

After the lunchtime service SS13 Vieira do Minho 2 – 21.57 km was next. Kalle was fastest from Elfyn and Taka. Meanwhile the Japanese driver was edging away from his Spanish rival and making third place his, the gap now 4 seconds. Gus had a moment in this one, sliding wide and clipping his rear right wheel on some rocks at the edge of the road, damaging the wheel. At least it was near the end and he was able to complete the stage. However, there was more damage to the suspension and he retired the car before the next stage. There was some rain in this one which did affect the drivers.

Next up was SS14 Cabeceiras de Basto 2 – 22.03 km and Kalle was fastest from Elfyn and yes Taka again. The Finns closed the gap to their teammate to just 9.9 seconds though. The fight was on for sure. Again, rain affected most of the drivers, making the stage quite slippery.

The rerun of SS15 Amarante 2 – 37.24 km saw huge drama though! The pace was set early on by Thierry and the crews behind came through a much tricker set of conditions with the rain coming in. The Belgian set the best time and no one was getting close to his pace. Kalle was second fastest, but a full 16.9 seconds slower than the i20 crew. The big news was that when Elfyn crossed the line as the last car, he’d lost the lead and was now 4 seconds behind Kalle, the new leader.

So, to the final stage then, SS16 SSS Porto – Foz – 3.30 km and the Rally1 cars went through fastest to start with Kalle setting the best time and Dani setting an incredible time and closing the gap to Taka to just 5.7 seconds in the battle for third overall. However, this all changed as the Rally2 cars came through and, in the end, Kalle’s time was only good for tenth best time.

Classification after Day Two

 

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 3:13:46.7
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +5.7
3 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:50.1
4 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +1:55.8
5 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +2:25.9
6 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +4:00.4
7 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Ford Puma Rally1 +4:14.7
8 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +4:40.9
9 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Puma Rally1 +7:04.3

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“It has been a really good day for us. Another clean day without mistakes was really important. I felt quite comfortable in the car so I didn’t need to push right to the limit all of the time, and this afternoon we were able to catch up to Elfyn, so we have to be really happy. I wasn’t expecting to be able to take the lead in the way we did: To have full rain in the middle of the long stage while on hard tyres was not easy, but I tried to push and to make a difference and it worked out. Tomorrow will be tight and we will have to see how the feeling and the pace is in the morning. Elfyn was really fast on those stages last year, so we will need to push hard if we want to fight with him for the win.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 04 / Rally Portugal 2022 / 19-22 May, 2022 / 21-24 April 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“The rhythm was quite good this morning and we had a nice fun battle with Kalle. He then did a really good job this afternoon, and the rain in the long stage definitely didn’t help us. We faced quite changeable conditions: It was raining quite hard at the beginning and there were a few patches that were exceptionally slippery which caught us by surprise. The ending wasn’t so bad but I think we probably gave away too much time early on and the damage was done. But Kalle also drove really well in those conditions, to be fair. I’m sure it will be a good fight tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it.”

Sébastien Ogier (55th)

“Unfortunately, I did a mistake in the second stage this morning. I lost the concentration a bit, as we had lost the use of the hybrid system about 200 hundred metres before, and I didn’t really listen to the pacenote for the next corner. So, I came a bit too fast, hit the bank and spun and got stuck. It was not worth risking any further damage by going back out this afternoon with nothing to fight for. Of course, I would have loved to use this day as a test to get some more experience with the car. But we still have some stages left tomorrow, and we’ll be there as a backup to take some points for the team if needed.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (4th)

“I must start by saying congratulations to Taka (Katsuta) because I gave it everything today to keep hold of third place. It was impossible as he put in an amazing drive on all stages. I had a bit of bad luck in the second pass of Amarante because I had to contend with a lot of rain, which allowed Thierry to close the gap to me. It was difficult to see the road a lot of the time, so I said to myself that I would push hard on the super special. I lost a bit of time at the first roundabout, but it was good in the end, and we set a competitive time. The road was improving, of course, which was an advantage. Tomorrow is a new day, and we will try again to push hard to reclaim that third spot – and finish the rally with a podium if we can.”

Thierry Neuville (5th)

“It is always difficult to prepare when you’ve had a setback like we had yesterday, but we never give up. It’s important for us and the team to keep pushing. The morning went well, and we managed to gain two positions in the classification. It was really challenging with the tyres because we had used all our soft compounds on Friday to compensate for the road cleaning. The technical issues then changed the plan. We made it through the first loop today and caught back some time. In the afternoon, we got a bit closer to the podium. The conditions were changing throughout the Amarante stage with rain in the middle, but we had a decent run. Tomorrow, everyone knows these stages well; perhaps the weather could make things interesting, who knows? One thing is for sure: we will give everything we have.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04, Rally de Portugal
19-22 May 2022
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (8th)

“We have had fewer issues today than we had yesterday, but that doesn’t mean it was any more straightforward. Some stages were a bit more promising, while others were a bit less so. The second loop was more challenging as there was more cleaning, and with the hard tyres it was difficult to be first on the road. During the rally, there’s only so much progress you can make; it’s minimal. We are playing in the box which makes it a tricky game, but we still try to understand some things, how the car is behaving, and to make a good plan for the next one. It’s our job that needs to be done.”

Sunday

One day left then and just under 49km’s over five stages. Can Elfyn do what he did last year and set the best time on the first stage and therefore retake the lead? We will find out!

Rally de Portugal 2022 Day One Report – Elfyn and Scott lead for Toyota!

The first day saw the crews tackle eight stages over 122km. The startlist looked like this – Rovanperä, Neuville, Breen, Loeb, Tänak, Katsuta, Greensmith, Ogier, Evans, Loubet, Fourmaux, Sordo.

 

The first stage then, SS2 Lousã 1 – 12.03 km and Elfyn set the pace and took the overall lead, whilst Puma duo, Gus and Adrien were second and third fastest. We had a British one two at this point, with Ott holding third overall. Gus was the early pacesetter before Elfyn came through with the best time. The four-minute gaps were showing how important they were, with some dust still hanging over the road sections due to the trees lining the road.

Into SS3 Góis 1 – 19.33 km then and the Welshman was quickest again from Ott and Taka third. The Estonian’s time was good enough to move the crew into second overall, the gap to former M-Sport teammate now exactly five seconds. Interestingly the Japanese crew reported a lack of power in the stage, but it didn’t appear to affect his time.

SS4 Arganil 1 – 18.72 km was next and it was the 9-time champion that was fastest for M-Sport, moving up an incredible six places and into the lead! Thierry and Kalle were second and third fastest. Elfyn was only half a second from the new leader and holding second overall. Thierry and Martijn’s good time meant that they were now the top Hyundai crew. Further back, Kalle was also moving up and got past his teammate Seb Ogier into fifth overall.

It was time for Ogier to be fastest in the next one, SS5 Lousã 2 – 12.03 km from Pierre-Louis and Thierry third. Loeb’s lead didn’t last long as he went wide at the start of the stage and clipped a concrete wall, breaking his rear right suspension. He and Isabella were out. We had a new top three will Elfyn, Thierry and Seb Ogier. Ott dropped down to fifth with problems in the rough stage.

It was another stage win for Elfyn in SS6 Góis 2 – 19.33 km with another top two time for Pierre-Louis, whilst Thierry was third again. Elfyn had increased his lead over Thierry to 5.8 seconds and Kalle was now up to third overall. Seb Ogier, Craig and Ott all suffered punctures in this one and those to benefit were Pierre -Louis moving up six positions, and Gus gaining four!

Kalle won SS7 Arganil 2 – 18.72 km from Elfyn and Taka was third giving the Toyota team a 1-2-3! Elfyn increased his lead over Thierry. Dani was on the move jumping ahead of Gus and into fifth overall.

Next up was SS8 Mortágua – 18.15 km and Kalle took this one as well from Elfyn and Taka again. The Finn was now into second overall as Thierry dropped five places and into seventh overall. The Belgian suffered a driveshaft problem after losing a wheel on the road section. Dani was now third, Taka in fourth, Gus in fifth.

Just the final stage then, held at the SS9 SSS Lousada – 3.36 km rally cross venue. Elfyn was fastest from Taka and Ott. He and Adrien set the same time though. The top three overall was Elfyn, Kalle and Dani, whilst the top M-Sport Ford was Gus holding fourth overall.

 

Classification after Day One

 

1 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 1:25:43.3
2 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +13.6
3 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +44.4
4 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +49.6
5 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +1:00.7
6 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Ford Puma Rally1 +1:15.6
7 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +1:46.4
8 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +1:49.3
9 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Puma Rally1 +2:03.6
10 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +3:38.4

 

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“It’s been a really long and tough day, pretty hot in the car and really demanding conditions, especially this afternoon. Everything worked really well immediately in the first stage this morning. We were maybe a bit brave with our tyre choice and struggled a little bit after that, but overall, it was a good start. This afternoon it was extremely rough and a bit of a lottery but we managed to get through it and hopefully we’ve seen the worst of the conditions now this weekend. We maybe left a bit of a speed out there but it was a balancing act between surviving and going quickly. It’s good to be in the fight but it’s the result on Sunday that counts and there’s still a long way to go before then.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 04 / Rally Portugal 2022 / 19-22 May, 2022 / 21-24 April 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (2nd)

“I have to be really happy with what we did today. To be in second place is not what we expected but we did a really good job today and the team prepared the car to be strong in these tough conditions and that was important because we saw a lot of issues. It was hard to open the road, and even on the second pass we were creating a line for the others and it was really difficult but I think we were quite clever to avoid any problems. Tomorrow there are a lot of kilometres and it will be tough again but we will try to do our best.”

Sébastien Ogier (45th)

“This morning I wasn’t super happy with the feeling but we made some adjustments and it started to get better. The afternoon started well with a first stage win but unfortunately that feeling didn’t last long. Even if we would have had another spare tyre, any hopes for a good result were gone. The stages were definitely rougher this afternoon than I expected, and although I tried to avoid every big rock, it was a bit of a lottery with so many sharp stones everywhere. Of course, it’s a pity to have to stop early, as we came here to try to have fun and fight at the front. Now we need to use the rest of the weekend as a test as I don’t have many kilometres on gravel with this car.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (3rd)

“That was a really hard day with difficult conditions, and at times I was just trying to keep the car on the road. We didn’t drive flat out all the time in case we got caught out by punctures. We did not want to take any risks. Looking ahead to tomorrow, our aim will be on defending our position because it’s coming on strong. I think todays were the hardest roads of the weekend. There will of course be some tricky parts on tomorrow’s stages, but I don’t think as harsh as we faced today.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04, Rally de Portugal
19-22 May 2022
X
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (7th)

“We could have been in the fight for the lead of this rally, but unfortunately, we have been hit again by issues. It’s frustrating. The morning loop wasn’t too bad; it wasn’t easy with our starting position, but I was feeling comfortable with the car. We had several issues during the afternoon, but the biggest problem was that we lost the wheel on the road section (after SS7). A bolt came loose and the whole upright was gone. We tried to fix it, but it damaged the driveshaft and we had to drive the remaining stages in rear-wheel drive. It was also very hot in the car, too much actually, so there are a lot of things to which we must react quickly.”

Ott Tänak (10th)

“If I had to summarise today’s stages, I would say hot, rough, and very demanding. The second loop, particularly, was tough and it’s quite hard in these cars. We had two separate punctures on consecutive stages in the afternoon, which cost us a lot of time. All things combined, it made for an incredibly challenging first day. Still, we made it to the end, so we’ll see what we can do on the long Saturday.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 04 / Rally Portugal 2022 / 19-22 May, 2022 / 21-24 April 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Tomorrow

Saturday sees 164km over seven stages, and with the leader running last on the road, will anyone be able to catch him? First stage is at 7:38 UK time. If you can’t follow what happens, check out my Day Two report tomorrow evening.

Rally de Portugal 2022 Preview, Round Four – Return to Gravel!

Time to unleash these new Rally1 cars on gravel and what a place to do it with an iconic rally and one of the all-time great events, which is going to be run this year for the fifty-fifth time.

This year there will be 338km over 21 stages. Returning to the top cars are Seb Loeb and Seb Ogier, and with the two most successful drivers returning, you have to consider that they will challenge at the top of the standings, especially given their starting positions.

Let’s take a look then at the stages.

Rally de Portugal begins on Thursday evening with a single super special stage: Coimbra (2.82km)

Friday’s running consists of two loops of Lousã (12.03km), Góis (19.33km) and Arganil (18.72km) followed by a single pass each of Mortágua (18.15km) and the Lousada super special (3.36km)

Saturday is the longest day of the event, with its seven stages totalling 164.98km. It also contains the longest individual test in Amarante (37.24km), which the crews must tackle twice

The Sunday itinerary boasts five stages, including two passes of the Fafe stage and its famous jump. The second pass of Fafe (11.18km) will offer additional points, acting as the rally’s Power Stage.

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

“The feeling with the new car on gravel has been quite good overall, especially in our pre-event test last week with some improvements made from before. Portugal is a rally that I usually like; the stages are nice and technical and there is a great atmosphere. For us, the road-cleaning will probably be the biggest challenge, especially as it’s something quite new for us. Friday could be much more important than on other rallies and we will try to be at a good pace straightaway to remain in contention for the rest of the weekend. The key thing in these next rallies will be to just try to keep calm and focus on doing a good job, without taking too much pressure or making mistakes, and keep taking good points where we can.”

Elfyn Evans

“As with a lot of rallies this year, it’s difficult to know how we will fare against the competition in our first event on gravel with the Rally1 cars, but the feeling in testing last week was generally quite positive. Portugal is a rally I’ve enjoyed more and more as the years have gone on, and it was great to win there last year. We could definitely do with a strong result on this occasion too and that will be the aim like always. With a run of gravel events coming up, hopefully we can hit the ground running in Portugal and then carry some momentum forwards. If it’s dry then our road position should be favourable, but that’s not an automatic ticket to a good result and there’s still a lot to focus on and to get right in order to make the most of it, especially as everyone tries to get comfortable in these cars.”

Sébastien Ogier

“I’m excited to be back competing in Portugal. I’ve really enjoyed having some time off and now I feel quite fresh coming back. I’m of course happy to see the team has continued winning in the last couple of rallies, and I’m here not only to enjoy it and get some good results for myself but also to help win another manufacturers’ title. Portugal is a special place for me: I have a good connection with the country and the fans and have had some good success there over the years. It will be something different for me to not be starting near the front and hopefully that can be a bit of an advantage if it doesn’t rain. The biggest challenge will be getting back in the rhythm straightaway after only one test day on gravel last week. But at the same time, these cars are new for everyone on gravel, so let’s see what we can do.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Rally de Portugal is very exciting event for us competitors; there are always huge crowds of fans and a great atmosphere. The stages are enjoyable yet challenging. This is mainly due to the high temperatures, so tyre wear is important here as well, and it can be quite rough on the second pass of the stage. It’s going to be our first gravel event with the new hybrid cars; we saw in Sweden on the gravel set-up in the snow that the car was fast and we hope that we are going to be strong on this surface.”

Ott Tänak

“Portugal is a very fun rally to drive, and one that I really enjoy. It’s the first time this year we are competing on gravel, so this will be our first indicator of how competitive we are. Portugal is fast with a rather soft surface, and the second loop of the stages can be tough and demanding after the first pass. You need good reliability as well as speed here to be successful. Martin and I know what it takes to win in Portugal; we hope that the momentum from our podium last time out in Croatia will continue with a good result next weekend.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04, Rally de Portugal
20-23 May 2021
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo

“Portugal is always really nice, so I am very happy that this will be my first event of the season, as I’ve scored a podium here twice in the past with Hyundai. There are normally a lot of spectators who travel from my home of Spain and the crowds have always been fantastic. I’m excited to drive the car on gravel for the first time. I’m hoping to have a good rhythm with the car and adapt myself quickly to this new challenge. It won’t be easy as the other drivers have done three rallies already so I hope the feeling for the car comes quickly.

Oliver Solberg

“It’s cool to be back again after last year – we had a couple of issues that stopped us getting a great result, but won a couple of stages and I enjoyed the rally! This year will be very tricky with so many quality WRC2 cars – over 40 – but we prepared well in the test and will be pushing for a top result. It’s also cool to have the new all black livery and show off my partners with such a nice design so that’s a nice thing this weekend too.”

Photo credit Oliver Solberg

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sebastien Loeb

“The first feeling in the Puma on gravel at our test was quite good, I was quite happy with the feeling I had as we worked on the suspension and the differential setups. Only one day of testing isn’t a lot when it’s the first time you are driving a car on gravel, but at the end I was happy with the feeling I had.

“My goal will be to find a rhythm as quickly as possible, hopefully I will be in a good rhythm to fight at the front, if I could be not far from the podium that would be a good performance. The challenges of Rally de Portugal for me will be that I am fourth on the road, road cleaning is always a challenge in this kind of rally if it is dry. I don’t really know what to expect there so we need to do a good first day, and for the rest we will see where we are.”

Craig Breen

“I am looking forward to Portugal, it’s a rally that I haven’t done for several years, I think it was 2018 the last time I did it. After the first three rallies, they were all a bit unique in their own way, so looking forward to seeing what the pace of the Puma will be in Portugal.

“We had a good test, I felt good in the car and we got some good work done. I am looking forward to discovering the rally, there are a lot of new stages and some changes since the last time I was there, so it will be interesting. I’d like to have a bit more speed than what we showed in Croatia, so we’ll be working as hard as we can to make that possible.”

Gus Greensmith

“I am really looking forward to Portugal, it is without doubt my favourite rally and the first rally I did overseas. I’ve got a lot of fond memories of this rally, it will be my seventh time doing the rally, so I’ve got lots of experience here.

“I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time with the car, co-driver and everything. There’s no pressure this weekend as I’m not scoring any manufacturer points so I’m just here to enjoy myself. Usually when I enjoy myself, things go well, so that’s the plan.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“This will be my second time in Portugal, and I had a good feeling last year with the WRC car, so I am looking forward to getting out in the Puma and see how it goes. It is a really nice event, the spectators are great and it’s a fantastic atmosphere.

“We are looking forward to all the gravel events coming up, there are quite a few ahead of us now, so we’re really excited to get going in Portugal and hoping for a good result for the team.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet

“Portugal has always been my favourite rally in the past, it’s where I have had some of my best results. It was my first ever WRC event, when I was only 18, so I’m looking forward to it and hope it will be a strong second event for us this season.

“We were happy with our pace in Croatia, and we’re hoping that with the same pace, and no punctures, it will go well and we can hope for a good result.”

 

Summary

Well, we are set for another spectacular rally on the Portuguese stages, and really any of the top drivers could take victory. The two Seb’s will be well placed to challenge just because of their stating position on Friday, whilst Elfyn, Craig and Ott will be targeting victory to get their championship challenges really underway. We shall get our first idea of the crews that have the pace to take stage wins and challenge at the top when shakedown is over. All the teams have been testing and preparing for the challenge ahead, and we know that championships are won with good consistent results and if a victory is up for grabs, being in there to take it.

Enjoy and pop back at the end of Friday for my first day report!

Rally Croatia 2022 – Day Three Report – Kalle and Jonne Take Victory!

The final day then and with 54km over four stages. The startlist looked like this – Lappi, Greensmith, Loubet, Katsuta, Evans, Neuville, Breen, Tänak, Rovanperä. The character of these stages were quite different compared to the first two days, with wide roads and a new stage to start the final day.

That first stage then, SS17 Trakošćan – Vrbno 1 – 13.15 km, and once again due to opening the road, Esapekka was fastest, with Kalle second and Thierry third. The Belgian and Irishman, Craig were battling over the final spot on the podium, with the Puma driver keeping the time loss to just four tenths. Kalle opened up his lead to 31.1 seconds after Ott could only manage the ninth best time, a full 12 seconds slower than the leader.

Into SS18 Zagorska Sela – Kumrovec 1 – 14.09 km, the first look at the power stage and the top three was Thierry, Ott and Gus. With Thierry going fastest and Craig with the sixth best time saw him emerge behind Thierry in fourth place.

There was huge drama though in SS19 Trakošćan – Vrbno 2 – 13.15 km as the rain came down around 30 minutes before the stage start and continued to pour down! Some of the crews tackled the stage with their hybrid systems turned off, just to make the cars more controllable, particularly if running harder tyres that take time to warm up. Well, Ott was fastest from two WRC2 drivers, Emil Lindholm and Chris Ingram who had both run full wets in the stage and giving them a grip advantage. Thierry had set the early pace before being knocked down to fourth.  The huge news for the leaderboard was that with Kalle only eighth fastest that there was a lead change for the first time and now Ott led by 1.4 seconds over erstwhile leader Kalle.

The final stage then, SS20 Zagorska Sela – Kumrovec 2 [Power Stage] – 14.09 km, run around two hours after the end of the previous stage. The startlist was changed – Rossel, Kajetanowicz, Lindholm, Gryazin, Lappi, Loubet, Greensmith, Katsuta, Evans, Breen, Neuville, Rovanperä, Tänak. Emil Lindholm set the early pace on this one, which was amazing as three Rally1 cars came through and didn’t eclipse the time set by the Finn in his Skoda Fabia Rally2. Then Elfyn came through and was fastest. What followed that was that Craig came through next and was slower than Elfyn but faster than Emil. Thierry was next and what unfolded for him was incredible. He slid wide on a left-hander and the car went into a ditch on the outside of the corner, followed by the front corner digging into the ditch and the rear pitching into the air. The car near rolled, but thankfully landed back onto it wheels, albeit facing the wrong way! Once he’d turned the car around, there was a further problem as now it appeared that the intercom had failed, so now Martijn needed to use hand signals for the rest of the stage. The Belgian finished the stage with damage and a puncture, but somehow managed to hold on to his third place. Just two cars left then, Kalle and Ott. The Finn came through and was really fast, setting the best time. What would Ott do then? Would he hold onto the lead? Well, he came through the splits and was slower than Kalle in each one and then ended up 5.7 seconds slower than Kalle, the Finn ultimately taking victory by 4.3 seconds. The top five in the stage was Kalle, Ott, Elfyn, Craig and Emil, and they all took power stage points.

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03, Croatia Rally
21-24 March 2022
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Final Overall Classification –Croatia Rally

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 2:48:21.5
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +4.3
3 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +2:21.0
4 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +3:07.3
5 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +3:46.0
6 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +8:08.5
7 Y. Rossel V. Sarreaud Citroën C3 Rally2 +10:01.0
8 K. Kajetanowicz M. Szczepaniak Škoda Fabia Evo +11:01.2
9 E. Lindholm R. Hämäläinen Škoda Fabia Evo +11:11.9
10 N. Gryazin K. Aleksandrov Škoda Fabia Evo +11:48.5

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“This feels like the best win for me so far. It was such a tough weekend; the conditions were incredibly difficult and I think everyone had some issues or moments at some point. Today was really tough again. It looked like it was going to be too difficult for us to win with the way that the weather turned out. We lost a lot of time in the rain and we didn’t think the tyre choice would be too good for the final stage either with how much mud there was. But we just decided to go for it and push hard and the time was great. There will be some more difficult rallies to come opening the road on gravel which will be a new experience for me, but for now I’m happy of course: The pace is really good and everything is going well.”

Elfyn Evans (5th)

“It was a pretty difficult final day. A lot of rain that we weren’t expecting and with four hard tyres that was very tough. But I was happy to secure the fifth place, which is better than nothing, and at least we managed to top it up with a few points from the Power Stage – which was pretty much as good as we could expect with the tyre choice we had in those conditions. Overall, it’s been a really difficult weekend again for us. When we had a start like we had on Friday and were effectively last already, it’s difficult to fight back. But we try to look positively to Portugal and hope for better. Congratulations to Kalle: He did an incredible job all weekend and clearly deserved to win.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 03 / Rally Croatia 2022 / 21-24 April 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (49th)

“Today started well but then the conditions were not on our side with the tyre choice, which was a bit optimistic. Then the confidence just went away and I didn’t want to any stupid mistake so the speed dropped. But otherwise, I’m very satisfied with our speed this weekend. After Friday I think we did what we could. I wasn’t expecting that we could win so many stages in these conditions, and I need to take that with me for the future. It feels like we have a great car on asphalt: For me it’s better than the Yaris WRC was in 2018. Well done to Kalle: He did an amazing job, especially on the last stage.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“Compared to where we were on Friday evening, where we ended up today was not so bad. In fact, it was more promising than we could have expected at that moment. We were lacking the kind of pace to really compete directly with the other guys, but we were really clever with our tyre choices, which definitely played out well. We were always on the right tyres at the right time, even compared to others. In the end, Kalle had the performance that we were missing, and that’s the area on which we need to focus. Let’s see what the next rallies bring us. We go onto gravel next which will be another completely new topic again.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03, Rally Croatia
21-24 March 2022
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (3nd)

“We always try to take the positives away, and we can certainly be happy with third place. It was far from a trouble-free weekend, which included two minutes of time penalties. On the sporting side, it was a challenging event however, on the driving side, it was enjoyable. The car felt good, the roads were beautiful and it was fun. Despite the issues, we never gave up. We fought hard and at the end the team has been rewarded with a 2-3 result, and strong points for the manufacturers’ championship. We have improved our pace; the car is much nicer to drive and we have made another step forward. I am sure there is more to come, so we need to keep improving to get ourselves in a better position for future events.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen (4th)

“Obviously the weather made it an incredibly difficult weekend, but we made it through. For sure Paul and I learnt a lot, plus we managed to get some points in the power stage, and points for coming fourth. Unfortunately, a little mistake on the tyre choice on Sunday morning maybe ruled us out of a podium place, but apart from that we have to be satisfied.”

Gus Greensmith (15th)

“The weekend started out well and we were fifth after Friday morning. Going into the afternoon, if we look at the splits and times for the rest of the weekend, I think that was a realistic position for us to have held. But unfortunately, we had a lot of punctures – five in total – which took us out of the running completely. We had some good speed, but it is disappointing to walk away from the weekend with no points.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet (47th)

“We can be happy with the pace for this first rally with the team. To be able to fight with the guys felt good and in some stages I think we were close to doing our first fastest stage time. We need to continue in this way and this has been a great start to build our confidence.”

Adrien Fourmaux (DNF)

“It was at the start of the rally where I lost control of the car due to some aquaplaning. It was a really unfortunate mistake and not the way I planned to start the rally, the approach was to get points for the team and get through what was going to be a tricky rally. “I’m really sorry to the team and partners, and to all the fans who came out to watch.”

Jari Huttunen, WRC2 (28th)

“It has been a difficult weekend, but I enjoyed my first event in Croatia and I think I have learnt a lot about Tarmac rallying. I am pleased we got a stage win on Saturday morning, and we had some okay speed in other places too. It was a shame to retire on Friday, but I think I will learn from my mistake and we can do more next time.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round three

1 K. Rovanperä 76
2 T. Neuville 47
3 C. Breen 30
4 S. Loeb 27
5 O. Tänak 27
6 T. Katsuta 26
7 G. Greensmith 20
8 S. Ogier 19
9 E. Evans 17
10 E. Lappi 15
11 A. Mikkelsen 12
12 O. Solberg 8

 

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round three

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 126
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 84
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 80
4 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team NG 30

Summary

Well, what an incredible third round of this years’ world championship. Stay tuned for my driver report in the next few days. The next round is not so far away, with just three weeks to Rallye Portugal over the weekend 19th to 22nd of May.

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 03 / Rally Croatia 2022 / 21-24 April 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Rally Croatia – Day Two Report

The second day had 116.98km over eight stages and the startlist looked like this – Lappi, Loubet, Greensmith, Katsuta, Evans, Solberg, Neuville, Breen, Tänak, Rovanperä.

It was a very early start on Saturday, with the first stage starting almost an hour earlier than Friday. First up was SS9 Kostanjevac – Petruš Vrh 1 – 23.76 km and Elfyn started well taking the stage win from Esapekka and Ott. Rally leader, Kalle was sixth, setting the same time as two drivers ahead of him, those drivers being Craig and Thierry. Kalle still held a strong lead though, still maintaining a 1 minute 23 second lead over Ott. Unfortunately, Oliver and Elliott retired following a spin and an off that lead to the car exhaust setting a tree on fire that then passed to the car. The fire was put out, first by Oliver and then a marshal, when it restarted.

The next stage, SS10 Jaškovo – Mali Modruš Potok 1 – 10.10 km and Esapekka was next to win a stage, making good use of being the first into the stage and having the cleanest road. Elfyn was second fastest and Gus third. At the top of the leaderboard, Kalle lost just under ten seconds of his huge lead to Ott after setting only the eighth best time, whilst the Estonian was fourth fastest.

Into SS11 Platak 1 – 15.85 km and the conditions in this stage were like those faced by the crews yesterday with a rain-soaked road and heavy fog throughout the stage, that only cleared in the last few corners. Esapekka had a small spin but was still fourth quickest, behind the top three of Ott, Thierry and Craig. Things closed up at the top with Kalle suffering a puncture early in the stage and losing 54 seconds to Ott, the gap now just 18.2 seconds between the top two! The weather was such a leveller as we often see in motorsport with Stephane Lefebvre sixth in his Rally2 Citroen C3 and amazingly Sami Pajari in his Fiesta Rally3 was eighth!

The last stage before the service break then, SS12 Vinski Vrh – Duga Resa 1 – 8.78 km and the top three was Thierry, Elfyn and Pierre-Louis. Ott closed the gap a little bit more to Kalle. Further back there was drama for Esapekka, Craig and also Gus. The Englishman suffered yet another puncture and dropped a place to 22nd overall, whilst Esapekka and then later Craig both spun their cars at the same spot into a right-hand hairpin. The Irishman in the Puma lost a bit more time to Thierry, but remained a good 41 seconds ahead of the Belgian.

After the break, SS13 Kostanjevac – Petruš Vrh 2 – 23.76 km Esapekka took another stage win from Thierry and Elfyn. Ott closed the gap by a further few seconds to just 13 seconds. Thierry was unhappy though as he complained about a loss of power at the end of the stage, and he likely lost a stage win because of it. Mind you, at least he didn’t have another puncture, which is the problem that Takamoto had suffered again.

Into SS14 Jaškovo – Mali Modruš Potok 2 and it was another win for Esapekka, from Thierry and Kalle. The overall lead actually increased a little between Kalle and Ott as the Estonian was 1.8 seconds slower than the Toyota driver. Meanwhile Thierry had reduced the gap to Craig a further few seconds to just 5.9 as they battled over the final podium position.

The following stage, SS15 Platak 2 – 15.85 km – 23. 4. 17:42 was cancelled over safety grounds, as there was still heavy rain and thick fog covering the stage.

The final stage then, SS16 Vinski Vrh – Duga Resa 2 – 8.78 km and last on the road Kalle took the fastest time from Esapekka and Thierry. Craig’s lead over Thierry was reduced a little more to just 4.9 seconds.

Classification after Day Two

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 2:14:54.5
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +19.9
3 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +1:13.4
4 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +1:18.3
5 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2.08.2
6 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +5:47.7

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“It was a difficult morning and not what we hoped for. I don’t know how we lost the tyre but it happened very early in the stage so we lost quite a lot of time. That was making it a bit more difficult but I think we managed this quite well, with no mistakes and being consistent and gaining some time back at the end of the day. The last stage was in quite a clean condition so I knew where I had the grip and could push. I tried to be as fast as possible and it was good to get a bit more of a gap. Tomorrow will be a long and tricky day but we’ll give it our best.”

Elfyn Evans (5th)

“This morning was pretty good. Things were working quite well and the rhythm was good, though I was definitely on the cautious side in the fog in SS11. The afternoon was more difficult in places and probably not quite as strong. I wasn’t quite at the same level of confidence in the muddy sections and the mixed conditions. But it was solid enough with no mistakes. It’s always difficult when you’re not really fighting for position anymore and there’s no need to take risks. Now we just need to bring these points home and target a few more in the Power Stage, and I’m looking forward to that.”

Esapekka Lappi (53rd)

“It’s been a pretty good day. The conditions this morning was very tricky. The first two stages were mainly damp, then the third one was probably the trickiest I’ve ever done on asphalt. The fog was so thick I could only see 20 metres in some places, so that was a bit crazy. We made some adjustments for the afternoon and I was more than pleased with the pace. OK, we had an advantage with the road position but considering we didn’t do much yesterday I’m really satisfied. I’ve never been driving this fast on dirty asphalt, but the car feels really good and I hope I can continue in a similar way tomorrow.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 03 / Rally Croatia 2022 / 21-24 April 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“It was no easier today than it was yesterday with some incredibly difficult stages, including one much further away (Platak). In the morning, we had some concerns that it might rain there, so we took wet weather tyres for the loop – a gamble that paid off. This afternoon, we tried our best but there wasn’t the confidence nor feeling that we needed to go to the limit. In the end, Rovanperä made a strong statement, so we’ll have to see what’s possible tomorrow. In a way, it’s good he’s having to push because it means we’re putting some pressure on. Hopefully, it will be a cleaner day and we can find something overnight. I am not happy with second place, but the extra risk might not pay dividends, so we have to avoid having any tricky moments.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship Round 03,
Rally Croatia 2022, 21-24 April 2022
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 N Rally1, Action during Day 2 of WRC Croatia Rally 2022
Photographer: Romain Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“At the end of this penultimate day, we have closed in on third place, so our target now is to end up on the podium. We did what we could today. We lost a bit of time this afternoon with a small engine-related issue in SS13, but otherwise the loop went well. The engine power was limited; the throttle wasn’t opening more than 40%, mainly in the final kilometres, so we lost some seconds there. I am not normally a guy who takes big risks, I prefer to control things, but I feel that we can push a bit harder if we need to. I tried this afternoon, and we could catch back some good time, so let’s fight for it tomorrow.”

Oliver Solberg (DNF)

“Unfortunately, this morning didn’t go to plan. On the first stage of the day, we lost the rear of the car on a muddy left turn, over a crest, and went off the road. It wasn’t dramatic at first. The rear went a bit wide, and I thought it would be a normal slide, but it snapped, and we ended up in a tree. We were unlucky that the hot exhaust caused a fire in the back of the car and caused a lot of damage. Thanks to the organisers for putting it out. I am sorry it happened but it’s part of our learning. This has been one of the most difficult rallies I have ever done, crazy demanding, but we have lots more experience now to prepare us better for the future.”

Summary

Just Sunday’s stages left then. 54km over four stages to decide the victor. Can Ott take his first win since February 2021, or will Kalle hold him off to further extend his championship lead? If you’re not able to follow it live, make sure that you pop back to read how the final day unfolds.

Rally Croatia – Day One Report – Friday

The crew faced 120km over eight stages on the first leg of the rally. The startlist looked like this –Rovanperä, Neuville, Greensmith, Katsuta, Breen, Lappi, Solberg, Tänak, Evans, Fourmaux, Loubet. The rain was falling out on the stages and as the road climbed up, there was the additional extreme of heavy fog!

Heading into the first stage then, SS1 Mali Lipovec – Grdanjci 1 – 19.20 km and what we saw that the earlier you entered the stage, the more favourable the conditions were. The result of this was that Kalle took the lead from Thierry, the first two crews into the stage and then Craig was next up and third fastest. Elsewhere in the leaderboard, Ott had a good stage and was fourth, but there was disaster for two of the Toyota crews, with Esapekka hitting a large rock on the corner of a right-hander and damaged his suspension. He was out for the day. Elfyn also had troubles, getting a puncture and only going 15th fastest.

Into SS2 Stojdraga – Gornja Vas 1 – 20.77 km then and once again it was Kalle fastest from Thierry and then Ott third in the stage. The Estonian’s time moved him into third overall, pushing Craig down to fourth. The drama continued further back, with Gus in his Puma sliding wide onto a bank on the right and damaging the nose of his car. Never the less, he made it to the end of the stage. Elfyn’s fifth best time moved him up the leaderboard into ninth overall.

It came good for Elfyn in SS3 Krašić – Vrškovac 1 – 11.11 km as he set the fastest time from Kalle and Thierry. One of the Pumas’ exited on this one, with Adrien crashing out, whilst his teammate for this event, Pierre-Louis, went out as well, getting three punctures! The conditions were really tricky out there!

Last morning stage then, SS4 Pećurkovo Brdo – Mrežnički Novaki 1 – 9.11 km and the top three was Kalle, Thierry and Craig. Elfyn suffered another puncture in this one and after setting the eighth best time fell down the leaderboard into eighth place.

After the service break, Kalle continued to make the most of his starting position and was fastest in SS5 Mali Lipovec – Grdanjci 2 – 19.20 km, with Thierry and Ott second and third, and these three remained the top overall three. Elfyn showed that when he did not have punctures, that he could set some strong pace out there, going fifth fastest and jumping two places up the leaderboard into sixth overall. One of the drivers that fell back was Gus who had his own puncture in this one and fell back three places to eighth overall.

Into SS6 Stojdraga – Gornja Vas 2 – 20.77 km and Kalle was making it look easy, even though it definitely was not, winning again from Ott this time and Thierry third fastest. The two Hyundai drivers swapped positions with the Estonia moving up into second overall, although this mostly down to the penalty that the Belgian received after arriving late at service and also having trouble demisting his windscreen with all the rain coming into the car. Elfyn went well, with fourth fastest and had a good 17 second lead over his Japanese teammate and he was now just seven seconds behind Oliver who held fifth overall.

Next up was SS7 Krašić – Vrškovac 2 – 11.11 km and once more, Kalle set the best time from Thierry and Oliver. Fourth equal fastest was Takamoto and Elfyn. Meanwhile, Ott had a puncture in this one and was passed by Thierry for second overall. So many problems, but none at all for our erstwhile Finnish leader.

The final stage then of the day, SS8 Pećurkovo Brdo – Mrežnički Novaki 2 – 9.11 km, and we had a different car take the fastest time as Thierry took the stage win from Kalle and Ott. Oliver made it three Hyundai’s in the top four, whilst Elfyn was fifth in the stage. The Welshman was now just 10.6 seconds behind Oliver for fifth overall.

Classification after Day One

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 1:15:35.5
2 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +1:04.0
3 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +1:23.3
4 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +1:35.2
5 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +2:38.5
6 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:49.1
7 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +3:28.0

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“It’s been a really good day for us. This morning we tried to really use our starting position which we knew could be good for these conditions. This afternoon it was a lot more dirty, as we expected. All the cuts were very muddy so I don’t think it was then such a big difference being first on the road. On some stages there was a lot of fog and rain and we could still push quite well and set some nice times. It’s nice to be leading but tomorrow is a long day, anything can happen and we’ll need to keep up our pace to maintain the concentration and avoid problems. Hopefully the conditions should be drier and a bit more enjoyable.”

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“Today has been pretty difficult. We knew it would be a challenge running near the back of the field in these conditions, and to twice have tyres off the rim this morning was really not ideal. That was possibly down to the cuts in the corners getting worse as more cars go through, and with mud all over the road there’s little to no choice: You either have to slow down massively or take the cuts. SS3 on the other hand was a bit cleaner with a lot less cutting, so we weren’t affected so much by the dirt coming from those ahead. I found myself being quite careful this afternoon and that obviously hasn’t helped the times. I’m looking forward to going again tomorrow although I’m not expecting it to be fully dry with all the rain we’ve had.”

Esapekka Lappi (57th) Super Rally

“The first stage this morning started OK. Then there was a combination of left and right corners, and in the left, there was a big cut with a lot of mud. So, for the right-hander I thought the tyres would be muddy, and I turned in a bit too early and touched this large rock at the side of the road, which unfortunately broke our suspension. It was quite a stupid thing to do and quite frustrating to lose the chance of a good result so early. But thanks to the team for fixing the car for tomorrow: I’m looking forward to doing some more kilometres because I had a really good feeling yesterday in the shakedown.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“It was a challenging day. After the last stage of the morning loop, we had a technical issue on the road section. We managed to repair the car but it stopped again when we got close to the service park. We pushed it for 800 metres – it was very tough but we always say that we never give up. I don’t think we could have matched Rovanperä’s speed today without taking big risks, and that was not our target, so I am happy with second place. We always want the best for the team and for ourselves as well, so it is important that we keep going and get strong points from this weekend.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03, Croatia Rally
21-24 March 2022
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (3rd)

“Today was very demanding with low visibility and more dirt on the road than we expected. I was hoping it would be more like a tarmac rally but it ended up being very muddy. With everything we had to deal with, we got the maximum out of the situation so we must be happy with that. I think today everyone was just trying to survive, so we will see tomorrow if the conditions will improve a bit and we can start to be more competitive, especially if we can go back to the slick tyres. Our focus right now is not on the championship, it is just on the rally and doing the best we can for ourselves and the team.”

Oliver Solberg (5th)

“The morning was quite interesting as the road was very slippery and it is always difficult getting up to speed with new pace notes. I was very happy with the afternoon – my speed was good and I was often setting top three or four times. I also got more experience on the road which helps too, so it was all positive. Tomorrow it is new roads so I have to be realistic with my expectations, but I will see where I am in the morning and hope to get quicker during the day. Overall, the consistency and pace are good so we need to just keep doing what we are and see what happens.”

Saturday

The second leg of the rally will see the crews tackle 116km over eight stages again. One crew that will not be re-joining is Adrien and Alex as M-Sport confirmed that the damage to their Puma was too heavy to allow them to continue.

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