Rally Spain Day Two Report – Saturday. Seb moves clear

The second day of Rally Spain saw the crews tackle 118km’s of competitive over seven stages.

First up was SS9 Savallà 1 – 13.93 km and Thierry was fastest from Seb and Kalle. Only 1.5 seconds covered the top three. The overall gap now between Thierry and Kalle in their battle for second place was just 6.2 seconds. Could the Belgian close the gap any further in the following stages? Meanwhile Craig felt a lot better, with the changes made to his Puma making the car really good and he was only eight tenths slower than Ott who was fourth fastest.

Next up was SS10 Querol – Les Pobles 1 – 20.19 km and Seb once again set the fastest time from Thierry and Kalle. There was quite a big-time gap between the 2021 and 2022 champions with the young Finn now almost 10 seconds from the leader. Also Thierry closed a little bit more to the second placed Kalle, bringing the gap down to less than five seconds.

The first run of SS11 El Montmell 1 – 24.18 km and the only drivers to complete were Pierre-Louis and Jourdan in their Puma’s. Unfortunately, as Gus, who was the next car into the stage, came to the end on the stage, he slid wide on a right-hander and in an attempt to turn the Puma into the corner using his handbrake, the car then slid sideways into the barrier on the outside and was spun around so that the car was facing the opposite direct back the way it had come. With the car blocking the stage, first the red flag was shown and the later the decision was made to cancel the stage. All the crews were given a notional time that matched Pierre-Louis’ time.

After lunchtime service SS12 Savallà 2 – 13.93 km, Seb was fastest from Ott and Kalle, with Thierry fourth quickest. Kalle was now five seconds away from Thierry in their battle for second overall, but this battle was not over. Meanwhile, Seb was now 12 seconds ahead of Kalle.

Into SS13 Querol – Les Pobles 2 – 20.19 km and Seb was really into the groove now, going fastest again from Ott and Kalle. Thierry was again fourth, and Kalle was taking a few tenths of a second out of the Belgian.

The rerun of SS14 El Montmell 2 – 24.18 km went better than earlier in the day as all the crews made it through this time. Dani took his first stage win of the rally as well, with Thierry and Seb second and third fastest.

Finally, the short SS15 Salou – 2.15 km and Hyundai teammates Ott and Thierry shared the fastest time and Seb was third. Meanwhile Kalle was only fifth fastest and actually fell to third place behind Thierry and the gap was now 1.4 seconds between them.

Let’s take a look at the standings and hear from the drivers.

Classification after Day Two

1 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 2:10:18.5
2 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +20.7
3 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +22.1
4 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +36.6
5 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +1:13.2
6 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:27.6
7 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +1:39.7
8 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:58.6
9 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Puma Rally1 +2:13.7
10 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Ford Puma Rally1 +2:59.2

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It’s been another good day today. It’s a nice feeling to have this kind of speed and to be able to increase the gap on almost every stage like we did today. It’s what you dream for coming to a rally. I’m really enjoying driving the GR YARIS this weekend, and today with a comparable road position to our nearest competitors we were able to make more of a lead. It would be nice to get a win and now we have to finish the job. Normally this should be a decent gap but there are still some kilometres to go, so the target is to stay out of trouble until the end.”

Kalle Rovanperä (3rd)

“It has been a nice day overall. Of course, Seb was faster all the time, he was pushing hard and driving really well and we couldn’t really match him, but we were not taking all the risks that we could have done. This afternoon in the first two stages we still had consistent and quite nice pace, but then on the next one we had a small issue with some settings which were wrong on the startline. It meant we were losing time with the hybrid system and we had to try and fix it during the stage. Thierry is now ahead of us but it’s still really close and hopefully tomorrow we will score a good result either way.”

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“Today we were consistently a bit off the pace unfortunately. We already had some struggles yesterday and we couldn’t really overcome that today and find that last bit of feeling and confidence needed to fight at the front where we want to be. The car is clearly competitive and working well in the hands of my team-mates, but it’s just not suiting me perfectly at the moment. So, it’s a bit of a frustrating situation but of course we’re trying to improve all the time and see what we can do, and again we’ll explore what we can tomorrow.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“It was a tough day, but we had some speed in the morning. We won the first stage, but the longest sector of the loop was cancelled, so we held our third place. We wanted to keep pushing in front of the fans; it’s been great to see so many spectators. We had less speed in the afternoon, but we were just hoping to stay in the fight for the lead. There wasn’t much more we could do. All three of our crews struggled to find that little bit extra to match the frontrunner. Some stages we were there, but others we weren’t. We’re going to see what happens tomorrow; it could be tricky in the dark early morning conditions.”

Ott Tänak (4th)

“It was an OK day for us. Technical wise, we had no issues, but we were just missing a bit of pace and lacking a general feeling in the car. This afternoon, I was pushing quite a bit, actually outside of my comfort zone. We had a moment, well it was actually more of an off, but we got back on the road. It was a bit of a miracle. Other than that, it has been a challenging day. The roads have been nice to drive, so we have tried to enjoy ourselves as much as we can. Tomorrow morning in the dark on tarmac could be fun.”

Dani Sordo (5th)

“We made some important set-up changes during the day, and we seem to have unlocked some performance and confidence from the car. Things were much better, and we could show that in the El Montmell stage. My friend said that I had to do a fastest time today, and not just the short one at Salou, so I knew it would have to be this stage. I know the people living in the area; they wait for me to come through. It’s really fast in the middle and you just want to push hard. The car was working well, so I could just enjoy it. I gave it everything I had, and it was an amazing time. This was the feeling I’ve been looking for all weekend. We’ve not been doing badly, but the times were not there. Tomorrow, there are more stages like this one so I will try again to find that confidence to push, especially for all these fans we have cheering us on.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 12, Rally de Espana, 20-23 October 2022
Dani Sordo, Candido Carrera, Hyundai i20 N Rally1, Action during Day 2 of WRC Rally de Espana 2022
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Tomorrow (Sunday 23rd October)

The final day sees the crews tackle 56km’s over four stages. Can Seb hold on and take his fourth victory, or will Thierry join the Frenchman with three wins? Look out for my report tomorrow evening.

Rally Spain – Day One Report – Friday. Toyota’s World Champions keep Hyundai at bay.

The first day is over and whilst there wasn’t huge drama, we did have a few lead changes. The startlist looked like this with our new world champion opening the road – Rovanperä, Tänak, Neuville, Evans, Katsuta, Breen, Ogier, Sordo, Greensmith, Loubet, Fourmaux, Serderidis.

Kalle won SS1 Els Omells – Maldà 1 – 11.05 km from Thierry and Ott. There was less than three seconds between the top five. The top placed Puma crew was Craig and Paul who held seventh overall.

The first run of SS2 Serra de la Llena 1 – 11.79 km saw Kalle set the fastest time from Thierry and Elfyn, but sadly Ott dropped back a bit after suffering issues with his hybrid unit. The Estonian was only fifth fastest and dropped two places to fifth overall. Seb and Elfyn benefitted from this, moving up into third and fourth respectively. Kalle now had a 3.3 second lead over Thierry.

It all changed at the end of SS3 Les Garrigues Altes 1 – 22.64 km. Seb was showing his pace out there, setting the fastest time from Thierry and Ott. The Estonian was still having some issues with the hybrid, but it was working more often meaning that he had a better pace out there, and his pace took him ahead of Elfyn and into fourth. Meanwhile, Seb’s pace took him into the lead, whilst Thierry remained in second place and Kalle fell to third place. Once again there was only 3.5 seconds between the top three.

The final stage then of the morning loop SS4 Riba-roja 1 – 13.98 km and Thierry was fastest this time from Ott and Seb. This propelled the Belgian into the lead and Seb dropped to second place. Kalle remained in third overall.

After lunchtime service Seb won SS5 Els Omells – Maldà 2 – 11.05 km and he moved back into the lead, the gap over Thierry now 3.2 seconds. Elfyn and Dani had a better start to the afternoon stages and set the identical time for third fastest.

Kalle was fastest in SS6 Serra de la Llena 2 – 11.79 km from Seb and Dani, the Spaniard showing great pace out there. He was a lot happier. Kalle’s pace lifted him up into second overall, the gap between the two teammates was 4.3 seconds. Sadly, things were not so good for Elfyn, who was only ninth fastest.

Kalle also won SS7 Les Garrigues Altes 2 – 22.64 km from Seb and Thierry. This is the stage that had some drama for the crews with Dani and Elfyn both getting punctures. The Welshman dropped one place to sixth overall to Dani who despite his puncture gained one place. Takamoto also got a puncture in this one. This problem meant that the very consistent pace from Craig brought him ahead of the Toyota driver and into seventh overall.

The final stage then of the day, SS8 Riba-roja 2 – 13.98 km and Seb was fastest from Kalle and Pierre-Louis. Elfyn was back up to some pace going sixth fastest but expected the conditions to be quite different and not as dry as it was.

Let’s take a look at the top ten and hear from some of the drivers.

Classification after Day One

1 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 1:06:07.9
2 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +4.8
3 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +12.5
4 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +20.0
5 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +50.9
6 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:01.2
7 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +1:03.7
8 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:28.6
9 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Puma Rally1 +1:31.3
10 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +1:38.8
11 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Ford Puma Rally1 +1:48.7

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It’s been a good day. We had fun in the car, I really enjoyed driving the GR YARIS today. I was not really sure this would be possible today starting seventh on the road with the amount of cutting in the stages. But the feeling was good and we were able to push most of the time even though the conditions were a bit challenging and changing all the time. It’s nice to be in the lead tonight and have two Toyotas at the front – it’s been a great day for the team today – but the gap behind us is not so big so we will have to keep pushing tomorrow.”

Kalle Rovanperä (2nd)

“I can be quite happy with what we did today. The morning was quite nice with two new and fast stages where we could do good times. Then the longest stage was tricky with a lot of grip changes and we a lost a bit too much time there. The afternoon was a bit more consistent and I had a better feeling with the hard tyres on the car. It’s nice to be in this battle but the cars behind are still close, so tomorrow we will need to continue going as fast as possible and see what we can do.”

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“For us it’s not been the best day overall. It started OK this morning in difficult mixed conditions, with differing levels of grip through the stage, but I wasn’t fully at one with everything and was a bit hesitant in places. In the afternoon we seemed to be struggling a bit more. At some points the feeling was OK in the car but then we had the puncture in SS7 and lost quite a lot more time. It does give us an opportunity to look at changing a few things tonight and try to find a better feeling for tomorrow.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“It was an OK day. This morning, we had a good rhythm, and the speed was there. Unfortunately, this afternoon it seems our competitors were able to go a bit faster, so we were constantly losing time. We are twelve seconds off with two days to go, and everything is still open. I think personally that I could have gone a bit harder and pushed more, but also, I have lacked the feeling in some corners and didn’t know exactly where the limit is. We have to work on that. On Saturday, we have a different profile of stages, which we know well, so there will be room for more improvement.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 12, Rally de Espana, 20-23 October 2022
X
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (4th)

“On the first two stages this morning we had some hybrid issues. Somehow, we managed to get it working for the next two, but then we had to change a broken alternator belt in the road section. We had a similar hybrid issue in the afternoon, so the team needs to find out what’s causing it. Generally, we struggled to get the feeling we would expect from tarmac. We knew before the rally it would be difficult. For Thierry and Dani, it seems to suit but for me it’s demanding. The plan is to try and get the car to work like it should be and hopefully keep in touch with Thierry tomorrow. That’s our objective at least.”

Dani Sordo (5th)

“I have been frustrated with today because we came here hoping to push for victory. Unfortunately, the conditions and circumstances have meant we’ve not been able to. I knew when we picked up the puncture in SS7 because I heard something; I think it was a stone in the mud during a small corner. There was nothing in our pace notes, but I know that others had the same issue. We took it steady after that to avoid losing the tyre off the rim, which would have lost more time. I expected better today, but there are still two days to go, and we need to push more. I hope the weather will be OK.”

Tomorrow (Saturday 22nd October)

The crews will have six normal stages to face, and then a superspecial in the evening. There is a total of 118km’s over the seven stages. Pop back tomorrow evening for my report on the day’s action.

Rally Spain 2022 Preview

We are down to the last two rounds of this season’s championship and with Kalle and Jonne having taken their first world title in the last round, will we see a completely a new level of pace from the youngest ever world champions? They will open the road throughout Friday and as we know the road will get slower as the dirt and gravel that gets pulled on with the level of cutting in the corners.

Any number of crews from the top teams could win this rally, and it’s worth looking at the list of the last winners of this rally. Thierry won the last two times in 2021 and 2019 for Hyundai Motorsport, whilst Citroen took the two wins before with Kris Meeke winning in 2017 and Seb Loeb in 2018.

This rally will see the final drive of Paul Nagle in the world of rallying. He has sat alongside Craig since the start of 2019, taking a number of podiums for Hyundai and then M-Sport. He took a win with Kris Meeke here in 2017, and will be much missed. Could we see a final flourish for the Irish duo this weekend? Here’s hoping!!

Let’s take a look at the stages then for this year and hear from the drivers.

After a Thursday morning Shakedown, Rally de España will officially open with a ceremonial start in the seaside town of Salou – home of the WRC service park.

Friday will see the first running of the event, with two brand-new stages for crews to contend with. Eight stages will total a competitive distance of 118.92km.

Crews will tackle a similar distance in Saturday’s seven stages, including the rally’s longest stage (El Montmell, 24.18km), finishing with a short sprint in Salou.

Four stages on Sunday will round out the event, with Riudecanyes – which features a 360° donut in front of the fans – bestowed with the honour of the rally’s Power Stage.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

“It has been nice to have a few days to appreciate what we achieved in New Zealand but we still have two rallies to go where we want to perform as strongly as possible, so the work doesn’t stop. Already last week when we got back to Europe, we were almost straight back in the car for our pre-event test in Spain. The big goal now is to win the manufacturers’ championship and it would be great if we could secure it already in Spain. It’s a really nice rally with fast and flowing roads, and the stages are the closest thing we have to a racing circuit. That means we need to be quite precise with the driving, but it’s really enjoyable when you get it right.”

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

Elfyn Evans

“Spain is a really enjoyable rally now that it’s fully on asphalt again since last year. The stages will be by-far the raciest asphalt roads we’ve encountered with this car. We were strong on the last asphalt event in Belgium but Spain could hardly be more different in character. Arguably Monte Carlo is actually the most similar, but the temperatures and conditions will obviously be completely different in Spain. It’s a rally where the margins tend to be quite tight so we can expect it to be a hard-fought weekend. The manufacturers’ championship is an important target for the team and the easiest way to achieve it will be with good results. Hopefully we will manage to score a top one for the team.”

Sébastien Ogier

“New Zealand was a very nice comeback for me after a few months away, and it was a really special weekend to be a part of. Our one-two finish also took us a good step closer to the manufacturers’ championship and this is now the next target for Spain. For me it will be good to have two events on asphalt to finish the season, and it gives me the opportunity to get back in the rhythm on this surface and be as ready as possible for Japan, which will obviously be a special event for the whole team. But before that we also have a job to do in Spain to try and get the best result possible there. The roads are always great to drive and I’m sure it will be a strong fight for the victory.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak 

“I would say Spain is the first true tarmac rally of the season, as it is quite smooth and at the same time quite fast. It is always difficult to find the correct balance there, so our confidence in the car will need to be high. The stages have lots of long, fast corners that make you fight with understeer, which is something we will have to get right with the setup of the Hyundai i20 N Rally1. I’m expecting it to be a fun and enjoyable rally, but it also quite important for us to be competitive and fight for as many points as possible. We showed how good our tarmac package is in Croatia and Belgium, and our aim is to continue that streak in Spain.”

Thierry Neuville 

“I think Rally de España is quite straightforward now that it is back to being a full tarmac event. The roads are flat, wide and smooth; the grip level is more or less the same across all of the stages. Being quick there is about getting a good setup and finding a nice flow with the car – then pushing as hard as you can. The gaps are always very small, so it almost feels like you are driving on a race track, fighting for every tenth of a second. It would be nice to take a third win in a row in Spain; we’ll certainly be aiming to fight at the front and finish the event on the podium again. We will try our best to perform to our maximum and secure a good result for the team.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de Espana
14-17 October 2021
X
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo 

“Going to Rally de España is always special for me, as it is my home event and I am lucky to have a lot of support from the fans there. I also really like the roads; they are very nice to drive and suit my style. I am excited to drive the stages with the new hybrid-powered Hyundai i20 N Rally1 car for the first time. It should be an amazing experience. Cándido and I are enjoying a good run of results, which we will do everything in our power to continue in front of our compatriots. There will be lots of people coming out to see the rally, so like every year I will do my best to deliver a win.”

Hyundai WRC2

Teemu Suninen

“I have liked Rally de España from the very beginning of my career; it is the most similar to circuit racing with nice, smooth tarmac. Wide long corners make you feel like you are driving on a track, and you have to choose the best driving line to carry your speed. It is quite an unique rally in terms of how you set up the car, so we have to do a lot of work on the pre-event test and get into a good rhythm quickly. The last time I drove a tarmac event was last year in Rally Monza, so almost a year ago, but we had a good outing last year in the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 and finished second in class. I hope we can replicate those results this time out.”

Fabrizio Zaldivar

“Spain will be our first commitment on tarmac and naturally, we really want to see how much we can achieve with the Hyundai i20 N Rally2. We are learning a little more every day. To prepare for this event, we have organized a very thorough preparation, with three days of testing on different roads in the Catalan region. Our focus in the tests will be to find the most comfortable car to face this challenge. Having engineering support every day will allow us to work very efficiently, and to adjust everything that is necessary. I want to thank my team-mate Teemu as well, who is also helping me with his experience, and he will surely contribute a lot that will benefit me at the next event.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen

“Spain should be nice, it’s an event that I haven’t done for a couple of years, 2018 was my last time. It’s an event that I like and the closest we ever really get to circuit racing on a rally stage with nice smooth tarmac. Hopefully the weather will be nice and dry so that we can enjoy the high grip and speeds there. We had our test before New Zealand and it went really well, the feeling was good so hopefully we can find a good feeling in the shakedown and try to get the best result possible. There are two events left on Tarmac to finish off the season so we want to try and finish on a high and see if we can turn this bad luck around.”

Gus Greensmith

“Spain is like the race track rally of the year, it has very, very smooth roads that are beautiful to drive on which is something that I think suits the Puma very well. The test went really well, we made very few changes and the car felt fantastic from the first runs so I am looking forward to it.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“I am really pleased to be back in the car and it’s a beautiful rally, we have some really nice flowing stages and I will be really happy to be back in the World Rally Championship. We had a really good test and I am really happy to drive the car in Spain and enjoy the moment, I hope for a good result for the team and all our crews.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet

“I am looking forward to Spain, I hope that we will be confident with the car like we have been all season. After our test I am really confident in the car and sure it will perform very well on the Spanish Tarmac. This will be mine and Vincent’s last time in the car this year, so we are hoping for a strong end to the year.”

Round up

We are set for a spectacular event then and anyone could take victory. The stages may suit the Hyundai with it’s longer wheelbase, but the Toyota team will want to take victory for the first time in this event for the first time since they returned to the championship in 2017. However, M-Sport Ford will want to have their say as well, and given that the Puma has shown great pace on all surfaces’ throughout this year. Enjoy!

Ypres Rally Belgium Report 2022 – Ott and Martin win for Hyundai!

The 2019 world champions have taken their second victory in a row and their third win of this season, whilst Kalle and Jonne who crashed out on Friday see their lead in the championship to just 72 points. Here’s the story of this year’s Ypres Rally.

Friday

With eight stages on Friday and a service break in the middle, we saw a big surprise with Kalle crashing out in stage two. This meant that Elfyn moved into the lead of the rally at the end of the stage. The top three were Elfyn, Ott and Thierry at this point. The last stage of the morning loop saw the rain arrive, and this affected a number of crews, and mostly the M-Sport Puma’s. Adrien had moved up some places in the previous stage, but fell down to eighth from fourth at the end of this one.

After the service break, Ott reduced the gap to Elfyn in the first stage of the afternoon. Thierry won the third stage of the afternoon and moved into the overall lead from third position. Ott remained in second as Elfyn dropped from the lead into third, but there were only seven tenths of a second covering the top three at this point. In the WRC2 Junior class, Chris and Craig were holding second overall in their Skoda Fabia run by Toksport. Before the final stage of the day, Elfyn was given a ten second penalty for clocking in one minute too late. He remained in third overall at the end of the day, whilst Thierry led Ott in a Hyundai 1-2. In the WRC2 Junior category, Chris and Craig took a stage win, now firmly holding second place in the category after their earlier troubles during the morning loop.

Chris and Craig, Photo Credit, Heather KinetixAF

Let’s see the top ten and hear from the drivers.

Classification after Day One

1 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 49:50.4
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +2.5
3 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +13.7
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +37.3
5 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +56.1
6 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +1:34.5
7 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +2:01.2
8 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Puma Rally1 +2:09.5

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“It has definitely been a close day, but I have been much happier with the handling of the car in this afternoon’s loop after a tricky morning. The grip was lower than expected first thing and the weather was also uncertain. I made some mistakes, dropping several seconds in SS1, but we have also set some good stages since to catch back time. I felt more comfortable on the repeat run, even if we still have somehow to work a bit to get more out of the car and to make it easier to drive. We made a good step already and have been able to build confidence, which in turn helps us to go faster. The weather guys have done a strong job to give us precise information which is important on a day like this. Tomorrow, there will still be a high risk of punctures, so we’ll be aiming first of all for a clean run.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 09, Ypres Rally Belgium
18-21 August 2022
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“This afternoon’s loop felt a lot smoother than the opening stages, and generally the stability of the car was much better. We struggled a bit this morning to find the necessary confidence and feeling. We still couldn’t push to 100% but I’d say we’re at around 90% at the moment. The rally itself is a bit tricky so these two things combined makes life a bit difficult. We had a consistent second loop and, in a way, we were lucky with the weather. Our weather guys put in a strong effort to predict things before we entered the loop because the rain here disappears and reappears in places where you don’t expect it.”

Oliver Solberg (7th)

“The first day is complete and we can be satisfied overall; the feeling has got better and despite a couple of issues, including a sticking gear shift in SS8, it’s been generally a clean run with no mistakes, and lots learned. We lost a lot of time on that last stage, but we’re here and we’ve been building up nicely this afternoon with better pace. It’s just about gaining more confidence in our first time here with the WRC car. These stages need 100% commitment, and the top guys have so much more experience, so we need to be smart and learn for the future.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

“Overall, it has not been a bad day. We had a solid morning loop, but the end of the afternoon was a bit difficult. We had a slow puncture near the end of the second stage, so we were a bit unlucky there, and then we had to use the rain tyre for the last two and the feeling was not so good to be honest. An unfortunate error checking in for the final stage got us the penalty, but this can happen sometimes in this sport. There’s definitely still a long way to go, it’s a big day out on the stages tomorrow and we just have to try and enjoy it and see what happens.”

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

“I feel it’s been a good day. We had quite a decent morning, nothing crazy but not too slow anyway. I felt we could improve the car during the mid-day service and we were able to do that, so I felt much more comfortable. A lot of the cars took the wrong tyres for this afternoon because the rain never came. It was just about managing this as well as we could, and we were the fastest of those on the softer tyre options, so I can be really satisfied with that. I think this is a good place to be. I don’t think it’s possible to match the speed of the top guys so we’ll just try to continue in the same way tomorrow.”

Kalle Rovanperä (SuperRally)

“This morning the conditions were tricky with very little grip but I was driving at quite a normal pace and everything seemed to be OK. Then in the middle of the second stage, there were two corners together and for the second one my pacenote was just too optimistic. I had it marked as a short corner, but I turned in too early and couldn’t make it and hit the ditch. It was a big impact but both myself and Jonne were fine. Hopefully the team is able to fix the car and we can be back out tomorrow.”

Saturday

Well with the longest day of the event, it started well for Ott as he passed Thierry for the lead at the end of the first stage and top M-Sport driver was Adrien, setting the fifth best time. Meanwhile, Craig remained the highest placed Puma, holding fifth overall. Chris was continuing to move closer to Gregoire Munster in their battle for the lead in the WRC2 Junior category, the gap reducing to 17.2 seconds as the Brit took 9.2 seconds out of the Luxembourg drivers lead. There was a change in the lead before the last stage of the morning loop as Thierry passed Ott. Gregoire was also fastest in the final morning stage and now he was just 4.9 seconds ahead of Chris as they continued their fight.

Chris and Craig, Photo Credit, Heather KinetixAF

After the lunch service there was no change in the lead as Thierry continued to pull away from Ott after the two first stages, but there was disaster for Thierry as he slid off the road into the ditch in the third afternoon stage, thus ending his challenge for victory. Some spectators got him out and he drove to a section in the stage and pulled off the stage. Ott was now leading from Elfyn and Esapekka. Chris and Gregorie continued to battle over the WRC2 Junior category with the Luxembourg driver holding the advantage over the Brit.

Let’s take a look at the top ten and hear from the drivers.

Classification after Day Two

1 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 1:58:55.2
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +8.2
3 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:09.8
4 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +2:51.6
5 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Puma Rally1 +3:05.9
6 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +5:39.3

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (1st)

“In the morning, we were struggling with the transmission, which left us with inconsistent four-wheel drive. At lunchtime, we were able to change it, although it was a different setting, so it took me some time to adapt. In the end, I could trust it and got used to it. We had a generally good afternoon loop. It was a shame what happened to Thierry. Tomorrow will be a bit like Finland take two; we will have a big push in the morning, but it will be far from easy. Elfyn has been doing a good job, so we’ll have to see what tomorrow brings.

Oliver Solberg (4th)

“We have stuck to our plan today but have also shown some good pace as we climbed up the standings. This morning’s loop was good, even if we were fighting some understeer and carrying an extra spare tyre. We made some changes at lunchtime service and the car felt much better, with thanks to my engineer and the team. In the afternoon, we felt the extra weight of the spare tyre on some fast corners, but it was safety first. It was sad what happened to Thierry in his home rally, it is never nice, especially when you have fans and family watching. Now it is important for the team to bring both cars home on the final day. We have some short but tricky stages to negotiate, and with a small gap to Fourmaux everything is still open. We have to keep our nose clean.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship Round 09,
Ypres Rally Belgium 2022, 18-21 August 2022
Oliver Solberg, Elliot Edmondson, Hyundai i20 N Rally1, Action during Day 1 of WRC Ypres Rally Belgium 2022
Photographer: Romain Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (SuperRally)

“A huge disappointment for the whole team and for all of our fans, who have been numerous on the stages all weekend. I came to a slow left-hand corner in SS15, on quite slippery tarmac, and it was full of dirt from the cars in front. There was nothing in our pace notes and we weren’t aware it could be that tricky. When the gravel crew passed through, it was still clean, so we were just caught by surprise. Nothing we could do, I just understeered into a ditch. The car didn’t have much damage but unfortunately, we couldn’t make it to the end and had to retire there. The target was clearly to get the victory, to give something back to the fans who have been an absolute joy this weekend. It is what it is and we’re really disappointed, but we go again tomorrow for a few more kilometres and will try to put on a show.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“It was pretty difficult this morning with a lot of new pacenotes, especially when you have a lot of places where the road goes from very fast to very slow in an instant. There’s always places where you think you could have gone quicker. So, I wasn’t fully at ease but things were working OK. The gap is not massive tonight, so it’s definitely all to play for tomorrow. On a rally like this when the margins are so tight, it will be a challenge to make up the time but we’ll have to keep the pressure on and see what we can do.”

Esapekka Lappi (3rd)

“It’s been a very consistent day from our side. There was potential to be faster but with the gaps around us, it didn’t make sense to push like crazy. In fact, I wasn’t really concentrating on the times at all, just trying to get through with a good rhythm and with no mistakes, and here we are in third position, so it’s paying off. As we’ve seen the margins are so fine and we have been smart and stayed on the road. We’ll aim to do the same job tomorrow and hopefully have a more straightforward Sunday than in Finland.”

Kalle Rovanperä (SuperRally)

“A big thanks to the team who did an amazing job fixing the car so we could restart. The car was like new, it was perfect today. Straightaway in the first stage the feeling was good and we could have the fastest time. Of course, we had nothing to fight for today but we tried to enjoy it. It was important to push a bit to have a nice feeling and we set some good times. Hopefully we can do the same tomorrow in the Power Stage when we need to try and get some points.”

 

Sunday

The final day saw Elfyn close the gap to Ott in the first two stages, bringing the gap down to Ott to just under seven seconds before the final two stages of the event. There had been a change in the WRC2 Junior category as Chris moved past Gregorie and into the lead. Sadly, Adrien crashed out in the first afternoon stage, suffering the same fate as Craig on Saturday. The final stage then and Kalle was fastest taking maximum powerstage points. Ott took victory, but only by five seconds over Elfyn, whilst Esapekka was third. Chris was the WRC2 Junior winner, from Gregorie! The Brit had driven really well to take victory!

Chris and Craig – Photo Credit, Heather KinetixAF

Let’s see the top ten and hear from the drivers.

Final Overall Classification – Ypres Rally Belgium

1 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 2:25:38.9
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +5.0
3 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:41.6
4 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +3:28.5
5 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +6:06.1
6 S. Lefebvre A. Malfoy Citroën C3 Rally2 +9:45.7
7 A. Mikkelsen T. Eriksen Škoda Fabia Evo +10:03.8
8 Y. Rossel V. Sarreaud Citroën C3 Rally2 +10:54.8
9 C. Ingram C. Drew Škoda Fabia Evo +11:20.8
10 N. Gryazin K. Aleksandrov Škoda Fabia Evo +11:26.8
2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 09, Ypres Rally Belgium
18-21 August 2022
Ott Tanak
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (1st)

“To win in Ypres is a big surprise for us, just as it was in Finland. We were not expecting to come here and take the victory, but it is great to see such strong results coming. We were somehow able to pull things together during the rally, even if I didn’t feel completely comfortable all the time. We know we can still improve even more and be stronger, so we will carry on working hard. The speed was enough to maintain our position today and to keep a good rhythm right to the end; I’m very happy with what we’ve achieved.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 09, Ypres Rally Belgium
18-21 August 2022
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Oliver Solberg (4th)

“It is fantastic to have such a great result finally. We have come close many times, but it is nice to get the whole package working so strongly together. It has not been easy at all, a challenging rally on difficult roads. I didn’t have a good tarmac rally last time in Croatia and coming off the back of a frustrating time in Finland, it has definitely been a hard couple of weeks. The team has been incredibly supportive, we’ve had great teamwork to get where we are now. It’s nice to get to the finish of the rally.”

Thierry Neuville (SuperRally)

“A disappointing weekend for us and the fans. Congratulations to Ott for bringing home the victory after we lost our first place on Saturday. The team has done an incredible job, and this result will be a great motivational boost. From my side, the most positive thing to take away from this event is the reliability and performance of the car. We have had three rallies in a row without any major issues. I would also like to express my thanks to the very many spectators who have been cheering us on – it’s been amazing support. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the win, but at least we were able to have some fun, and we hope the fans did as well.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“You can never be completely happy to finish second but it’s been a strong weekend overall. There were just a few unfortunate things that cost us some time here and there, but that’s rallying and it’s part of the game. The car has been good and it was nice to be in the fight from the beginning of the rally. We made some good steps for the final day with the setup and I feel really comfortable with where we’ve ended up at the end of the rally. Today we tried to keep the pressure on Ott, and we knew it was a bit of a tall order with the limited kilometres we had left but we clawed back some time; as we expected it just wasn’t quite enough.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 09 / Ypres Rally Belgium 2022 / 17th-21st August 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (3rd)

“I’m very satisfied with the job we did this weekend. Third position on this rally is a very good result for us and it’s good for the team as well. I wasn’t really expecting this kind of result before the rally, having not been here for eight years. We were not the fastest but other drivers were making mistakes and we didn’t really do any and this paid off in the end. A final day like today is always tricky when you’re in a good position and you want to finish the rally but we managed to get through it.”

Takamoto Katsuta (5th)

“I have to be happy to have got through this rally. Unfortunately, on day one we had some issues and I almost had to stop completely but thankfully we were able to continue, and thank you to the team for fixing the problem. After that, to finish where we did is really good. Saturday was a really positive day for me. I tried to improve my pace and when everything was working well. I felt quite confident with the car and the driving. These last three rallies were really difficult for me last year so it’s nice to get through them and to finish them in the points. After this weekend I feel I’m getting better and more comfortable on asphalt in this car which is really good for the rallies to come later this season and I hope I can push a bit more in Spain.”

Kalle Rovanperä (SuperRally)

“Of course, it has not been the best weekend, but the season has been good until this point and sometimes mistakes happen. After the crash on Friday, I think we did everything we could as a team to bounce back which was important, and it was a nice way to thank the mechanics for the great work they did repairing the car. In the Power Stage it was not easy to step up the pace after driving quite safely before that, but it was good to get the maximum five points and it means that the gap in the championship hasn’t closed too much. We just need to keep getting good results, starting in Greece.”

 

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’

After Round Nine

1 K. Rovanperä 203
2 O. Tänak 131
3 E. Evans 116
4 T. Neuville 106
5 T. Katsuta 92
6 C. Breen 64
7 E. Lappi 57
8 S. Loeb 35
9 S. Ogier 34
10 D. Sordo 34
11 G. Greensmith 34
12 A. Mikkelsen 25
13 O. Solberg 21

 

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’

After Round Nine

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 381
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 293
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 188
4 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team NG 100

 

Summary

Well, what an incredible rally we were treated to! Here’s my thoughts about each team and the crews.

M-Sport Ford WRT

Malcolm’s team had big hopes, but unfortunately, they really missed out on a good result as their crews’ suffered incidents with running wide and damaging their cars. Craig was setting good pace before their off that meant they did not finish the stage and were out for the rest of the day. Gus also went wide on the same stage and damaged the rear suspension, meaning that he had to crawl through the remaining stages in the morning so that he could get his Puma fixed at lunchtime service. Adrien was holding a good position on Sunday, but again had a crash that put him out. A big shame, but I’m sure that all will bounce back at the next rally.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Apart from Kalle crashing out on Friday morning, Toyota had a great rally, even though they missed out on the win. Elfyn led the team with a brilliant drive to second place, with Esapekka backing him up with third place and giving good points to the team. Takamoto also brushed off technical problems with his hybrid unit and having the wrong tyres when he gambled on heavy rain during Friday’s stages to come home with fifth place. Kalle remains at the top of the championship though and still in a very strong position.

Elfyn and Scott, Photo Credit, Heather KinetixAF

Hyundai Motorsport

It would appear that this team have got on top of their problems with their car. Three wins now for Ott shows that they are now extracting some performance potential. Thierry was going really well, before his off on Saturday afternoon. He won the most stages as well. Ott did have some technical problems with his car’s transmission, but once they were solved, he was able to close the gap to his teammate and be in a position to take the lead. Oliver had a brilliant run to his best ever result of fourth place. It’s great to see the young driver bounce back after his off in Finland.

Rally Estonia 2022 Preview – Can anyone stop Kalle and Jonne?

The championship heads back from the Kenya plains to the fast roads of Estonia, with Kalle and Jonne holding a huge lead over their closest rivals from Hyundai. The young Finnish pairing took their first victory on these roads last year, but it will be interesting if they can repeat this feat this year. Last year he came to this event holding sixth in the championship standings and had a good road position therefore. The challenge this year will be quite different as they open the road. Still, who knows what they will be able to do given their results from the last few rounds.

His closest challengers are the two regular Hyundai crews, Thierry and Martijn and Ott and Martin. The Estonian crew will eye up a strong run on their home roads, and hope to take victory and boost their championship chances.

Amongst the usual WRC2 runners will be a returning Hayden Paddon and John Kennard, driving a i20 Rally2. The Rally Argentina 2016 winners are making a return to the world championship stages, and its fantastic to see them back.

Let’s take a look at the stages then – This year there are 313km’s over twenty-four stages.

A Super Special Stage – Tartu (1.66km) – on Thursday evening kicks off the action at Rally Estonia

Friday is the longest day of the event, with two passes each of Peipsiääre (24.35km), Mustvee (17.09km), Raanitsa (21.45km) and Vastsemõisa (6.70km) totalling 139.18km

Saturday’s running consists of two loops of four new stages, followed by another pass of the Tartu super special stage

The event concludes on Sunday with a final six stages, as the crews twice take on Tartu Vald (6.56km), Kanepi (16.48km) and Kambja (15.95km).

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

“Of course, it’s going to be nice for me to go back to Rally Estonia. Winning there last year was a great moment and it was a really strong weekend for us. This year we are in a different situation leading the championship and so we will be opening the road, but hopefully we can do another good result there. I always enjoy rallies like this one with fast and flowing roads, they suit me pretty well. It’s really important to feel confident in the car when driving at those speeds, so we have done a lot of work in testing to try and get the setup how we want it.”

Elfyn Evans

“I’m looking forward to these next two rallies on fast gravel roads, which will be quite different to what we’ve experienced during the last few events. Estonia will be the first really fast gravel rally that we’ve done with these cars, so the testing has been really important to try and prepare for that. I enjoy the high-speed stages we have in Estonia but it always helps a lot if you feel good in the car, so the target is to have a car that works well in all conditions and then hopefully secure a strong result at the end of the weekend.”

Esapekka Lappi

“I’m really looking forward to being in the car for these next two events, and especially my home rally in Finland of course. Estonia will not be so easy as I didn’t do the rally last year, so there are some stages that will be new for me. I believe I can do well there, but I’m not going into it with any big expectations. So far this year we have had good pace on every surface but I haven’t always been able to put it together. Therefore, the main goal for Estonia is just to have a good, clean rally.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Rally Estonia is one of the fastest events on the calendar, and also the home event of Ott, so it is a rally where we always want to be strong and get good results. Personally, it is a rally I enjoy. The first season there was a bit difficult, but once you get to know the roads you start to like it more. This is because the speeds are very high, so it helps to know the conditions and the terrain. It’s very similar in terms of setup to Rally Finland, as both have fast roads that are generally flat. In Estonia the surface is a bit softer than Finland so it gets more rutted on the second pass, and the jumps are actually bigger and faster too. I was able to finish on the podium there in 2021 so hopefully I can do the same again this year.”

Ott Tänak 

“Rally Estonia is always a great event. For the first time this year we will be going to smoother, faster roads, so I am expecting it to be fun, but we also need to make sure we extract all the performance and speed we can from the car. It will be a big challenge and we will have to be fast out of the box right from the beginning. The best part for me is that I have no travel days! It’s also great to have a rally at home because we get to have the amazing fans and those close to us around us. But there is no extra pressure, we just want to score as many points as possible. We will try our best and do everything we can to finish in the top positions.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Italia Sardegna
2-5 June 2022
Ott Tanak
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Oliver Solberg

“Rally Estonia is the event I have been looking forward to most all year. It is one I have done many times before and I have been able to win there twice. Hopefully I will be able to fight for the podium, that is my personal goal for next weekend. It is a very tricky event with a lot of jumps. It’s also very fast and it is the first time I’ve competed there in these WRC cars, so it will be a different challenge. I’ve have driven in Estonia so much it feels almost like my second country, so I feel very comfortable on the roads. In the second loop the roads can get very rutted, so you need a car that is easy to drive and has good traction. But the main thing you need is to just keep your right foot flat down!”

Teemu Suninen WRC2

“Rally Estonia has been always a great challenge with a mixture of technical, narrow roads and super-fast wide roads. However, I have always liked the rally as it is similar to my home rally in Finland. Normally conditions change quite a lot from first loop to second loop when big ruts start appearing, so you have to adapt your driving to that. We had a good pre-event test and I am starting to feel happier with car; I have a better understanding of how to get a more balanced setup for fast gravel rallies. I am looking forward to bring good points home for me and team.”

Fabrizio Zaldivar WRC2

“Rally Estonia is a very interesting event. The roads are incredibly fast and very technical at the same time, so much so that sometimes you think you are going fast and then that is not reflected in the final time. A few weeks ago, we did an excellent test here, together with Teemu and Ott. The truth is that I learned a lot from their experience, especially when they were driving the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 on these kind of roads. I am confident that we will put everything into practice which will allow us to continue learning and scoring points for the team.”

Also competing for Hyundai and sponsored by Hyundai New Zealand is Hayden Paddon and co-driven by longstanding mate, John Kennard. This is what he had to say.

Hayden Paddon WRC2

“We don’t have the stage experience and still trying to get their head around the car, so just a smooth consistent event is what we are looking for.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen

“Obviously really looking forward to Estonia, it’s a rally that has served us well in the past, we’ve been on the podium now a good couple of times, and the last two years as part of the world championship we managed to bring home two podiums there as well. Honestly, I can’t wait for it, it’s a run of three rallies now that I’m very familiar and comfortable with. They are the complete opposite of the last couple of rallies of the season so far! I don’t feel alien heading to Estonia, I know what it’s all about.

“We had a really good test last week, the car felt great and I was really comfortable from the beginning, so I’m looking forward to it. The stages look great, obviously with high speeds, big jumps and big crests.”

Gus Greensmith

“Really looking forward to Rally Estonia, last year we already had a good package, and things were going very well before some problems, so we showed that we can certainly set up the car in a way that works.

“From the test, I probably haven’t been this comfortable in the car since Monaco, so really looking forward to this one for sure. Super-fast rallies mean very close times and putting everything together is a big job here, so we’ll do our best.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet

“I’m very happy to be going to Estonia, it’s always amazing to drive this type of car on such a fast rally. From our side it will be very important to continue our progression after Portugal and Sardinia, to stay calm and not try to do too much because on a rally like this it is very easy to make a mistake, like always, but you can’t make any mistakes at these high speeds.

“For us it will be important to keep continuing our progress and be very focused on our side and to build maximum confidence in the car. After Estonia we also have Finland, so these are two very important rallies in the season for me.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“Estonia will be completely different to the previous rallies; it will be a really fast rally. It will be my first time with top category car on this event, but it’ll be my fourth participation in total, so I have a good knowledge of most of the stages.

“It will be nice to drive on these fast roads with all the big jumps, it’s always a good experience and a good feeling, so we can look forward to that. We had a good day of testing before the rally, and we’ll use that to do our best to achieve a good result for the team.”

Jari Huttunen WRC2

“Sardinia was a good event for us, and I am feeling very happy in the car. Estonia is a big challenge with the high-speeds, but we are looking forward to it. We started well last year, and I’ve learnt a lot from the events this season so far, so I think it’ll be good. The focus will be on not making any mistakes and keeping in tune with the car and hopefully we will get a good result for the team.”

Summary

Well, what a very interesting rally we are set for then. Can the championship leaders take another amazing win, or will it be one of his teammates? Elfyn and Scott will want to win and make some steps up the championship standings, and given that he showed such amazing pace in last season’s Rally Finland, the scene of their last win, they have a very good chance of it. There will be competition from Ott and Martin though, who will also want victory on home soil. Meanwhile, Craig and Paul in their Puma come to a rally that has seen some good success for them, and given that their car has shown good pace in their hands, they could be the dark horses for a win, which would be very welcome in the service park. Also, just want to welcome back Kiwi duo Hayden and John. It’s great to have them back.

Safari Rally Kenya 2022 – The Final Day. Toyota celebrates!

The final day then had 15km’s over six stages. Big gaps throughout the top ten meant that for there to be a big change in the standing, something very big would need to happen. The startlist looked like this – Fourmaux, Greensmith, Tänak, Loeb, Breen, Neuville, Serderidis, Solberg, Ogier, Katsuta, Evans, Rovanperä.

First up was SS14 Oserian 1 – 17.52 km and the only five cars completed the stage. They were Adrien who was fastest, Thierry, Gus, Seb Loeb and Gus. The stage was stopped when Oliver became buried in the fesh-fesh very early in the stage and could not get moving again. The top three were Adrien, Seb Loeb and Seb Ogier, who owed this to his nominal time given later. It seemed that being first on the road was the place to be, if you were going to be fast with stages that had a long section of fesh-fesh.

Onto SS15 Narasha 1 – 13.30 km and Kalle was fastest from Elfyn and Thierry. The young Finn now had an even bigger lead over Elfyn, close to 50 seconds. Seb Loeb showed the pace that the Puma could show with the fourth best time despite his starting position.

Next up was SS16 Hell’s Gate 1 – 10.53 km, run before the service break, something very unusual for Sunday’s. Ott was fastest from Thierry and Seb Ogier. Kalle opened up his lead again over Elfyn, and it was just four seconds short of a full minute. Craig was still going, but just cruising through the stages, whilst Seb Loeb was the fastest Puma driver, just six tenths of a second from the third best time.

The second run of SS17 Oserian 2 – 14.83 km saw the stage trimmed a little, and the crews starting further into the stage and away from the fesh-fesh section. Seb Loeb was fastest from Adrien and Seb Ogier. Loeb’s time brought him ahead of Kajetan and into ninth overall. Meanwhile Kalle took his lead over Elfyn to 1 minute, 2.3 seconds.

Onto the penultimate stage then, SS18 Narasha 2 – 13.30 km and it was a third stage win for Seb Loeb from Seb Ogier and Takamoto. We did lose another car and crew, with Ott and Martin retiring with failed powersteering and this brought his challenge to an end. His teammate also suffered a problem, with Oliver taking a penalty for starting the stage late and he dropped behind Kajetan who now was in ninth overall again.

Finally, it was time for SS19 Hell’s Gate 2 [Power Stage] – 10.53 km and as usual there was a change to the startlist – Johnston (WRC2), Kajetanowicz (WRC2), Greensmith, Fourmaux, Loeb, Solberg, Serderidis, Breen, Neuville, Ogier, Katsuta, Evans, Rovanperä. Seb Loeb set the early pace going fastest, before Thierry came through and set the fastest time whilst Seb Ogier was third, Gus fourth and Adrien fifth fastest. Kalle took victory though from Elfyn and Takamoto, the Japanese driver repeating his podium finish from last year, albite not in second this time, and Seb Ogier was fourth meaning that Toyota celebrated an incredible 1, 2, 3, 4. The closest Hyundai crew was Thierry in fifth place, but over eight minutes behind following his restart and other problems on these tricky stages.

Here’s the final top ten and driver comments after an amazing rally.

Final Overall Classification – Safari Rally Kenya

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 3:40:24.9
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +52.8
3 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:42.7
4 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:10.3
5 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +10:40.9
6 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +23:27.9
7 J. Serderidis F. Miclotte Ford Puma Rally1 +30:16.5
8 S. Loeb I. Galmiche Ford Puma Rally1 +32:12.6
9 K. Kajetanowicz M. Szczepaniak Škoda Fabia Evo +35:37.6
10 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +37:36.6

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“This is a result that I don’t think we could have even imagined before the event. To have a top four that is all Toyota is something amazing and such a great result for the team. It was the hardest rally I’ve ever done, so to have all four cars at the finish with no big issues, it’s clearly the strongest and fastest car. For myself to get the win here like this in such a special rally is really nice. Thank you to the team, everybody did a great job. They are developing the car all the time which is important and that’s helping us to put some good results together.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally Kenya 2022 / 22nd-68th June, 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“It’s been a really nice weekend. Of course, we really wanted to fight for the win, but that slipped away from us on Saturday with one thing or another, and today was about securing this 1-2-3-4 for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing which is obviously a fantastic result to be a part of. It was a tough fight to get through this extreme terrain here in Kenya and while everybody else has struggled, our cars have really come through it so a big well done to the team.”

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“It has been a really strong weekend. I was only missing a bit of luck but that’s part of the game. Most of all, I’m happy to be a part of this amazing result for the team and I want to congratulate everybody at TOYOTA GAZOO Racing because it’s been a great effort to provide all four of us drivers with such a strong car for three full days on the toughest rally of the season. This rally was a tough challenge up to the end so the whole team deserves a big round of applause, and also my team-mates because they drove very well this weekend.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (5th)

“We have achieved the maximum we could. Taking fifth place after all the trouble and mess we have experienced can probably be called a satisfying result. It has been a tough and challenging weekend, and this morning was no exception. Our focus was clearly on getting something from the Power Stage, which we managed at least. There’s not much more to say. The situation is obvious. I am really disappointed, not just for us but also for the mechanics, who have been working so hard, but like us don’t get the reward.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Safari Rally Kenya
23-26 June 2022
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 N Rally1, Action during Day 3 of WRC Safari Rally Kenya 2022
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Oliver Solberg (10th)

“On the positive side, it’s been a much better Safari Rally Kenya than I had last year. It’s still not the result we had hoped for, but that’s part of rallying. My thanks to all the mechanics, without whom we would not have been able to reach the end of this challenging event. Nothing is possible if we don’t have their expertise and hard work, so very big thanks to them all. We know as a team we have a lot of work to do, but we’ll be flat out from here.”

Ott Tänak (DNF)

“This Safari Rally itself has been quite fun this year with some incredibly demanding conditions. From our side, we have had a very safe approach, not taking any risks. On the first day, things worked out quite well, but unfortunately on Saturday we had a transmission issue and today we have had a power steering problem. We can’t take any points from here, but it is what it is; we must learn from this and move forward. There are many things for the engineers to take away and I hope we’ll be in a better shape for Estonia.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen (6th)

“The experience has been nice; I’ve never been in the country so I’ve been taking it all in. From a sporting point of view, it hasn’t gone all that well which is a pity especially off the back of Sardinia, I thought we were going to get in a rhythm over a couple of events. It all just kind of flowed against us this weekend. There was a lot of potential in the car this weekend, Seb showed that. Friday was really good, I was really happy as the pace was nice, that last stage in the evening was flowing well and then it all just snowballed downward from there with the problems that we had.”

Sebastien Loeb (9th)

“We had bad luck on day one because the technical problem we had was a little detail, a small tube started to leak and then the car didn’t start so I finished five kilometres from the service. The next day was going quite well, we had an issue with the steering arm but the team will be able to fix it as it was the first really rough rally of the season with new cars. I am a bit frustrated about the classification because our speed was quite good and we were able to fight at the front and did some good times.”

Adrien Fourmaux (14th)

“Sunday was a good day, I had a really good feeling in the car, pushing on the first stage of the loop each time and we made good times with fastest and second fastest. I also claimed my first power stage points which I am very proud of. They were the positives of the weekend, overall, it has been a really tough rally for all of the team but we have learned a lot and will come back stronger.”

Gus Greensmith (15th)

“We started really well as a team with three cars in the top five but unfortunately that didn’t last very long. We had a puncture; I didn’t realise I had had it for so long because the ground was so soft and we damaged a rim as well as some parts of the car. From that point then it was tricky and we had the roll which, as much as I was driving just to finish, it is just one of those things. I felt I needed to help the guys out so I offered my help, as much as it was the clerical work rather than the mechanical work. It was nice to round off the weekend with some power stage points and to give us a bit of a silver lining to the weekend.”

Summary

Well, what can I say? What an incredible drive from Kalle and Jonne. The key moment that decided this rally in the young Finns favour were the stages at the end of Saturday. He put some amazing times in and pretty much doubled his lead, when Elfyn had been closing on him.

Elfyn and Scott drove really well, and completed this event unlike last year. They took a couple of stage wins as well, showing that they could be on the pace as well and fight at the front. They remain sixth in the championship.

Takamoto and Aaron took a superb third place having set some very good stage times and kept out of trouble as well. It was Aaron’s first WRC podium as well, and what a place to get it!

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally Kenya 2022 / 22nd-68th June, 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After Round Six

1 K. Rovanperä 145
2 T. Neuville 80
3 O. Tänak 62
4 T. Katsuta 62
5 C. Breen 60
6 E. Evans 57
7 S. Loeb 35
8 S. Ogier 34
9 D. Sordo 34
10 G. Greensmith 28
11 P. Loubet 18
12 E. Lappi 17
13 A. Mikkelsen 12
14 O. Solberg 9

 

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After Round Six

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 246
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 184
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 144
4 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team NG 68

 

Next up is Rally Estonia over the weekend of the 14th to the 17th of July. Pop back in the week before to take a look at my preview.

Safari Rally Kenya 2022, Day Two – Toyota continue to hold the lead

Well, Saturday’s action had everything. With 150km’s over six stages it would be a big challenge for the crews. The startlist looked like this – Loeb, Fourmaux, Breen, Greensmith, Serderidis, Solberg, Ogier, Neuville, Tänak, Evans, Katsuta, Rovanperä.

First up was SS8 Soysambu 1 – 29.32 km, a very long stage to get Saturday underway, and Elfyn won the stage from Thierry and Kalle. The Welshman’s pace moved him ahead of Takamoto and closer to Kalle, the gap now down to 16.1 seconds. Seb Loeb opened the road, but still set a very good time good enough for fifth fastest. His teammate, Craig went well as well and passed Kajetan for eighth overall, but the Pole remained firmly in the lead of WRC2.

 

The much shorter SS9 Elmenteita 1 – 15.08 km was won by Theirry from Seb Loeb and Ott. Elfyn was faster than Kalle but by only 1.1 seconds. Craig remained the highest placed M-Sport driver, holding eighth place, and just driving very carefully. Unfortunately, Gus rolled his car in the stage but he got the car back onto its wheels with some help and completed the stage. His teammate Adrien retired though with broken suspension.

The first run of SS10 Sleeping Warrior 1 – 31.04 km, a spectacular run across the plains saw Thierry win a second stage in a row from Kalle and Elfyn. Sadly, there was drama with the Belgians teammate suffering a mechanical problem with his i20 and he pulled over with just about two kilometres left and retired for the day from fourth overall. Gus went on to finish this stage, but retired at the end, the engine having suffered with the low-speed roll.

Elfyn won the second run of SS11 Soysambu 2 – 29.32 km as well, with Kalle second fastest, 3.6 seconds slower and Takamoto third. The Japanese driver now had a good gap over Thierry, and was holding third place. The demise of Ott meant that Craig was now up to seventh overall, despite getting a puncture in the stage.

The following stage, SS12 Elmenteita 2 – 15.08 km was hit by heavy rain at least an hour before it started, and the last five kilometres were affected. Kalle won the stage from Thierry and Elfyn. The Belgian passed Takamoto for third place overall as well after the Japanese driver could only manage the sixth best time. Elfyn said that he could not see anything, so just had a safe run through as best he could. Kalle now had a 27.1 second lead. The end part of the stage was starting to dry, so he had the best possible conditions to drive.

On to the final stage of the day then, SS13 Sleeping Warrior 2 – 31.04 km and this stage had also had some of the rain dropped onto it, with the wet conditions starting at around ten kilometres. Seb Ogier set the best time from Kalle and Takamoto. The drive by the Japanese was great, when you consider that he had a puncture as well. Elfyn’s speed was also affected as his windscreen got covered in mud and he could not see. There were worse problems for Thierry, Oliver and also Seb Loeb. The Belgian had the worse of it and crashed into a tree, whilst his teammate Oliver’s engine cut out twice. He managed to finish though. Seb Loeb had a huge problem as his front left suspension broke at around half distance in the stage. The whole assembly was moving around and the tyre touching the wheel arch, making for some interesting sounds in the car. Still, he managed to finish the stage and was now in tenth overall.

 

Let’s take a look at the standings and hear from the drivers.

 Classification after Day Two

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 2:52:39.7
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +40.3
3 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:25.6
4 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:38.3
5 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +10:59.3
6 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +12:19.1
7 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +18:56.1

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“It has been another tough day like we expected. Today the stages were not so soft but with the rocks and ruts it was still hard for the cars. In our position it was not so easy to try to avoid all the stones and bad places but still try to push. The conditions that came in the afternoon were really tricky. It was my first time driving here in the rain because I didn’t experience that last year and it was quite a surprise with no grip at all and so much standing water. I tried to keep it clean and find the grip from somewhere. Tomorrow is much longer than a normal Sunday so there is still a proper day of driving ahead. We need to stay sharp because still anything can happen.”

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“I wasn’t giving too much thought to the times of anyone else today, I was mostly just trying to pick my way through the conditions. The morning was quite nice, and a bit more predictable than yesterday in terms of where it was going to be rough, but it was still difficult to judge the speed correctly all of the time. Then in the muddy conditions this afternoon it was pretty difficult, as I had a small issue cleaning the screen. I decided to try and keep the risk down but it’s impossible not to have the odd slide in conditions like that. As a team we’re in a great position but tomorrow will still be challenging with two passes of all the stages, and the second loop especially could be very interesting.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally Kenya 2022 / 22nd-68th June, 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“Today I knew I couldn’t catch any positions from speed alone so there was no point in pushing like crazy – I just tried to stay out of trouble and reach the end. This morning the conditions were a bit more controllable than yesterday and I could keep a good rhythm without pushing the car too much, because it was still very rough. Then this afternoon after the rain there were many tricky sections and a lot of rhythm changes. In some places the ruts were full of water and we knew we had to be careful. With the conditions getting better I just tried to get through cleanly. Now it’s only my team-mates in front and I don’t wish them any bad luck, because if we can bring it home like this it’s an amazing result for Toyota.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (5th)

“A challenging afternoon after a trouble-free morning in which we set two fastest stage times in Elmenteita and Sleeping Warrior. We were able to climb back to fourth position in the classification, 7.4 seconds from the podium. In the second loop, we lost some bodywork in the bumpy section of SS11. We then got hit by some electrical issues at the end of SS12 as the alternator belt went. Somehow Martijn and I made the impossible possible by fixing the car to get to the last stage just in time. A couple of kilometres in, a huge water puddle sucked water into the engine and the car stopped. It took us four minutes to get restarted but with bad visibility caused by mud on the screen, 200 metres further on we went straight into a tree. The overall classification has not been too greatly affected, we keep fifth place, and we will continue tomorrow to try and grab some points at least.”

Oliver Solberg (6th)

“The only way I can summarise today is crazy. We have been very lucky to make it to the end. We had a hectic start to the day after I clipped a big rock in the opening stage, which bent an arm. I had to take it easy to get through. For the second one, I changed it, but I made a mistake, so it was wobbling around a bit. Then, the final stage of the loop was just really rough. We had nothing to gain today, either ahead of us or behind, so we wanted to keep on the road and maintain our position. We made some changes at lunchtime which improved the feeling; the start of the second loop was a night and day difference. Then the rain came which made things even crazier. The final stage was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, and even if it was far from easy and trouble-free, we survived to face another day.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Safari Rally Kenya
22-26 June 2022
Oliver Solberg, Elliott Edmondson, Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (SuperRally)

“Suddenly, we heard some noise and immediately had fire in the car, so we stopped to check. It was somewhere in the transmission and the underbody of the car is closed, so we couldn’t really see what was wrong. We tried to continue but even going slowly it was catching fire so we would have burned the car. It’s frustrating but looking overall the rally has been quite good in some ways, very demanding and challenging. Yesterday we were playing in the sand, and today it was rocks and general roughness. I started the day safely, checking things out to make sure there were no surprises, but unfortunately the prop shaft ended our day.”

Sunday

The final day features a very long day with 83km’s over six stages. A proper day of rallying for sure. Kalle may have a good lead, but we’ve seen that anything is possible with this rally. Pop back tomorrow for my final day report.

Safari Rally Kenya 2022 – Day One Report. Toyota hold the lead.

The first day had everything, so here’s what happened in the first full day of competition. The startlist looked like this – Rovanperä, Neuville, Tänak, Breen, Katsuta, Evans, Loeb, Greensmith, Ogier, Solberg, Fourmaux, Serderidis.

Seb Loeb won the first stage, SS2 Loldia 1 – 19.17 km from Elfyn and Seb Ogier. Thierry who did hold second overall after SS1 fell six places to eighth. Our new top three was Ogier, Evans and Loeb. Meanwhile, Ott in his Hyundai had a big problem with his gear lever having broken, so he could only use it when changing down, but the thing broke off completely before the end of the stage, meaning he was having to lean forwards to use the selector at the bottom of his seat. The championship leader was down in ninth overall at this point.

Next up was SS3 Geothermal 1 – 11.68 km, a new stage for this year. This was interesting as Kalle was fastest from Takamoto and Elfyn. The stage was getting slower with each passing car which was crazy really. Ott had used a wheel brace as a temporary gear change lever, but was still having trouble. Never the less he still managed the fifth best time.

Onto the longest stage then of the day, SS4 Kedong 1 – 31.25 km and chaos ruled! Once again Kalle took the stage win from Ott and Takamoto. Incredibly the championship leader was now up to third overall, just 11 seconds from the leader, who was now Elfyn. Both Seb’s fell down the leaderboard, with Ogier now in second and Loeb in fifth.

After the lunchtime break and service Ogier won SS5 Loldia 2 – 19.17 km from Takamoto and Kalle. Elfyn fell down from the lead to third after getting a puncture in the stage, whist Kalle was now holding fourth. Takamoto was now second overall.

The second run of SS6 Geothermal 2 – 11.68 km saw Ogier take the stage win from Takamoto and Kalle. Elfyn fell behind Kalle into fourth overall. Just 14 seconds covered the top four at this point.

The final stage then of the day, SS7 Kedong 2 – 31.25 km and Kalle won it again from Thierry and Ott. The championship leaders pace meant that he moved into the lead of the rally again as the former leader Ogier suffered a puncture and he stopped to change it, losing a minute. He was now in sixth place. Others also having trouble were Thierry with a puncture and Craig who went off and broke his steering.

Well, what an amazing first day in the wilds of Kenya. Let’s take a look at the top ten and hear from the drivers.

Classification after Day One

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 1:20:58.1
2 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +14.6
3 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +22.4
4 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +25.3
5 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +57.5
6 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:08.2
7 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +4:27.1

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“It has been quite a good day for us. The conditions were very tricky in the last stage of the loop on both passes with the deep sand and I’m really happy to have made it through. The other two stages were not so bad – there was some cleaning to do for us, even on the second pass, but they were quite enjoyable to drive. I think we did a good job and we’re in a nice position now. Tomorrow will be another challenge and the plan will be the same: to try and drive at the same pace and avoid any issues.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally Kenya 2022 / 22nd-26th June, 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

“It’s been tough out there and a bit of an up-and-down day to be honest. The first stage of the loop today was really quite a nice stage and I had a good rhythm there, but on the longest stage the conditions were quite rough, and when it gets extreme like that it’s so hard to know how hard to push and it looks like I haven’t pushed hard enough. But we’re still here and that’s the positive thing. The car has been working really well but we know the rally could keep getting tougher.”

Sébastien Ogier (6th)

“Up until the last stage it was a good day. The rhythm was good and I tried not to attack too much because we know that it’s important to manage things on this rally. The last stage was the one we all feared the most today because we knew there were some rough and rocky sections. With 10 kilometres still to go we had no choice but to stop and change the tyre, because it would not have been possible to get through the ‘fesh-fesh’ near the end on three wheels. It’s never good to lose two minutes, but there are still two days to go and many things can still happen. We just need our luck to turn.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (4th)

“At the beginning of the rally, we thought this would be the easiest day, but we’ve already been playing on the limit. It’s been a challenging survival day, and we’ve been fighting more with the rally itself than with our competitors. The first two stages of the loop were quite fun, and it was down to pure performance, but the final one was something else. In the first 20km, it’s rocky and difficult to avoid the stones. We knew if we had a puncture there, we’d have no chance, so we just tried to get through cleanly. After that came 5-10km of fesh-fesh, you must keep full throttle through there despite not seeing anything, otherwise you get stuck. We need a vacuum cleaner on our lungs because it’s difficult to breathe. It’s important to keep going.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Safari Rally Kenya
21-26 June 2022
Ott Tanak
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (5th)

“A very challenging day for us; we obviously knew it would be hard but unfortunately, we got hit by some trouble on the first pass on the long stage, Kedong. We lost power as the air filter became blocked with sand and dust. We dropped almost one minute of time with that, and down to ninth place. The target for the afternoon was to have a cleaner run, which we managed, and as a result we’ve moved back up to fifth. The gap to the lead is just under a minute and getting closer. I’ve not been 100% happy with the handling of the car so far, which has limited us in the bumpy sections. I haven’t been able to go as fast as last year, but we’ll make some changes to try and improve. Tomorrow is the hardest, roughest day so we’ll have to be clever and avoid problems.”

Oliver Solberg (7th)

I am very happy to get the car back to service at the end of this incredibly tough day. I would go as far as to say this last stage is the craziest one that I’ve ever driven in my entire life. I’ve struggled a lot today, to be honest. The car hasn’t felt good for me, but we survived with no mistakes, which remains the aim for this weekend. The driving itself feels OK when it’s nice and flowing, and you can push a bit, but when it’s rocky it’s something else. This is still a very long event, and tomorrow looks set to be even more demanding in a different way. Seventh place is nothing when we have so much ahead; we hope to climb further up the leader board.”

Saturday

Tomorrow sees the crew tackle 150km over six more stages. It will be another challenging day on the plains of Kenya! Be sure to pop back and check out my day two report.

Safari Rally Kenya 2022 Preview – Round Six

Here we go then, after a great return to the championship last year, it’s time for the new Rally1 cars to tackle the amazing stages in Kenya! This year features 362.62km over nineteen stages. Shakedown takes place at 8am UK time on Wednesday morning. It will be interesting who is on the pace and at the front of the field.

 

Safari Rally Kenya begins on Thursday with the Super Special Kasarani (4.84km)

Friday’s running consists of two passes each of Loldia (19.17km), Geothermal (11.68km) and Kedong (31.25km)

Two loops of Soysambu (29.32km), Elmenteita (15.08km) and Sleeping Warrior (31.04km) on Saturday make it the longest day of the event in terms of distance, totalling 150.88km

The rally concludes on Sunday with the crews twice tackling Oserian (17.93km), Narasha (13.30km) and Hell’s Gate (10.53km).

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (Championship leader)

“I think the Safari Rally will be another interesting weekend. Of course, Sardinia was maybe not as strong a rally for us as we wanted it to be, but I’m hoping that in Kenya maybe we will not lose so much time opening the road and we can try to have a good weekend. Last year, it was a good rally for us overall, we were just a bit unlucky to get stuck when we did at the end of Friday. This year we will try to avoid things like that and tackle the event in a better way, because we see a lot of difficult conditions there and things we don’t normally see in modern rallies. So for sure it’s a special place and you need to approach it a bit differently too.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally, Kenya / 22-27 June, 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (Sixth in Championship)

“Even though we have experience from last year, it’s always difficult to know exactly what we’re going to face on an event like the Safari Rally. There’s always an element of the unknown, and we saw last year that the conditions can change massively from one area to the next. Some sections can be very soft sand, some parts are much more hard-packed, and in other places it’s very rough. It’s a big challenge for the drivers, for the cars and for the engineers as well. I’ve had a good feeling with the GR YARIS Rally1 on gravel so far and the speed has been there. Safari requires something slightly different in terms of setup but hopefully that positive feeling will still carry forward.”

Sébastien Ogier (Tenth in Championship)

“I’m looking forward to returning to Kenya. Last year we had a really nice welcome and a great atmosphere. It was something special and different to what we are used to. To win was the cherry on the cake and it will be great to try to repeat that this year with a bit of knowledge of what to expect from the stages. We saw that it can be a very tough rally; I think nearly everybody had an issue at some point and we came back from over two minutes down to win. So, it’s definitely a rally where you have to never give up, and this year with the cars still being so new, we might have to be even more clever than before.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (Second in Championship)

“Last year was my first time in Kenya and I have some good memories from it. It was a real adventure, as we got to discover the country, the culture, the beautiful scenery, and the wildlife. But unfortunately, we left feeling disappointed as we were clearly in the lead and could have easily won the rally if it had not been for a small issue. It is a rough event where you need to find a good balance between pushing hard and knowing when to take it slower. The weather can also play a big factor. But I feel comfortable on the stages and this year we are out for revenge, so that is what we are looking forward to.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Italia Sardegna
02-05 June 2022
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (Third in Championship)

“Last year Safari Rally Kenya was an incredible adventure, but also quite a big challenge. We thought it to be a very demanding event and it was, with rough roads and difficult terrain such as soft sand. It was also technically challenging, and we expect it to be the same this time. As always, the first priority is to keep the car together and finish. It is possible to push there 100% but you have to be careful not to damage the car in the process. Hopefully we can build on our win in Sardinia and get another good result in Kenya.”

Oliver Solberg (Fourteenth in Championship)

“Kenya is going to be very exciting as it is a really special rally. It will be very demanding and tough, but I am looking forward to competing there in the Hyundai i20 N Rally1. The country and the fans there are amazing, so it is a place that you always look forward to, even if it didn’t go well in 2021. But this year there are new possibilities, and we will be going for it again. Weather had a big impact on last year’s event so we will see if that is the same next weekend, but even if doesn’t we expect it to be a real challenge. The aim is to find a good rhythm, keep the car in one piece and score a good result for the team.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally Kenya 2022 / 22nd-68th June, 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen (Fourth in Championship)

“I am very much looking forward to Kenya and discovering what seems to be quite the adventure. For me, I’ll be discovering a new continent, I have never been to Africa before, so I will be soaking it all up.

“The Safari Rally is an incredibly prestigious and historic event that I’ve watched many times on the TV as a kid, so I cannot wait to see what it is all about. It will be a huge challenge for all the crews, but we have prepared well. Sardinia went well, and we want to try to carry that rhythm forward so we will try to bring home another good result this week.”

Sebastien Loeb (Eighth in Championship)

“It was nice to be competitive in Portugal, the feeling in the car was good which is encouraging, Kenya is something very different, but it’s better to know we were competitive in Portugal. I don’t know the Kenya of today, all I have seen is onboards, it seems to be rough with big stones so punctures could be an issue.

“Kenya is quite amazing; it is a rally where I have the most memories with wildlife everywhere during the recce. I know the rally is very different to when I last competed there, it is more like a WRC rally, and it is easier to do it this way. The difference for me compared to the other rallies I have competed on this year is I have no experience of the stages in Kenya, I have never done them before so it will be complicated.”

Gus Greensmith (Ninth in Championship)

“I am looking forward to Safari Rally Kenya, it is one of the best experiences, probably the best experience of the year to go and compete in Kenya. It is an absolutely beautiful place, but also the stages can be incredibly unforgiving on the cars.

“It is the biggest challenge of the year and probably the only rally where we cannot drive flat out on every stage. We do have to manage the wear of the cars and have some kind of mechanical sympathy. It will be a huge challenge; we were very strong here last year so we hope to have a good result together as team here this year.”

Adrien Fourmaux (Twenty-second in Championship)

“Last year was a great result for the team, especially for me, I was really happy with what we did. Kenya is a really different rally to others; it is not all about pace and it is easier to damage the car because it is so rough. Kenya is really nice as an experience, it is a really different culture, and I will be very happy to see everyone there. Last year there were a lot of spectators, I remember in Nairobi there were a million people watching the cars going through the capital.

“There are a lot of things to say about this rally, the wildlife in the stages is quite impressive when you are driving and it makes the experience so special. You have to watch the side of the road to make sure there is nothing coming!”

Summary

Last year when this event returned to the championship after a long gap, Seb Ogier won from Takamoto and Ott was third. M-Sport duo Gus and Adrien took fourth and fifth, with the Frenchman taking a stage win as well. There were also three R5 crews in the top ten and Elfyn took tenth place after having to restart following his impact with a rock on stage three, Kedong, near the end of the stage. Again, road position will be really important, with the fesh fesh dust making grip levels very tricky!

We could see a good battle between the two Seb’s, but Elfyn will fancy his chances this year. Hopefully his lack of knowledge on the stages that he missed last year won’t hinder him and Scott. It would be good for them to finish ahead of Kalle, Ott and Thierry, so that he can start to close the gap to the top championship positions. Even though Craig and Paul don’t have any experience, they should go well and could take stage wins. The Irish duo have shown good pace on events this year that they have not competed at for years.

 

The action starts Thursday afternoon, so do enjoy, and pop back at the end of each day to check out my daily reports.

Rally Italia Sardegna 2022 – Day Three Report – Ott and Martin win for Hyundai!

The final day then and 39km over four stages to decide this event. The startlist looked like this – Lappi, Neuville, Evans, Greensmith, Katsuta, Rovanperä, Loubet, Sordo, Breen, Tänak.

First up then was SS18 Cala Flumini 1 – 12.55 km and Ott started the day as he ended Saturday with a stage win from Esapekka and Craig. Takamoto and Gus set the same time for fifth equal in the stage. For those restarting today, think Elfyn, Thierry, for them it was a case of getting through and saving their tyres for the power stage later. Elfyn was twelfth and Thierry twenty-fourth. The only change on the leader board was Jari getting past Chris and into tenth overall.

Onto SS19 Sassari – Argentiera 1 – 7.10 km and Thierry was fastest from Elfyn and Esapekka. The Belgian was looking strong on this one. The overall top three remained unchanged, with Ott fifth, Craig seventh and Dani eighth fastest in the stage.

Ott returned to the top of the timesheets in SS20 Cala Flumini 2 – 12.55 km, with Esapekka and Craig second and third. Chris Ingram in his Fabia was the top Rally2 driver, with eighth fastest. He still remained in eleventh overall.

The final stage then, SS21 Sassari – Argentiera 2 [Power Stage] – 7.10 km and there were changes as usual to the startlist – Ingram (WRC2), Huttunen (WRC2), Solans (WRC2), Gryazin (WRC2), Lappi, Neuville, Evans, Greensmith, Katsuta, Rovanperä, Loubet, Sordo, Breen, Tänak. Esapekka set the early pace, before Thierry came through setting the best time, before Elfyn came through and could not eclipse the Belgian’s time. The championship leader came closest, just 2.3 seconds behind his closest championship challenger. Esapekka and Takamoto completed the top five fastest drivers through the stage.

Final Overall Classification – Rally Italia Sardegna

1 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 3:10:59.1
2 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +1:03.2
3 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +1:33.0
4 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Ford Puma Rally1 +2:09.4
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +3:02.8
6 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +4:02.6
7 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +5:23.6
8 N. Gryazin K. Aleksandrov Škoda Fabia Evo +7:37.7
9 J. Solans R. Sanjuan Citroën C3 Rally2 +8:05.7
10 J. Huttunen M. Lukka Ford Fiesta MkII +8:10.8
2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Italia Sardegna
02-05 June 2022
Dani Sordo, Candido Carrera, Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Julien Moncet
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Let’s hear from the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (1st)

“I am very happy to take this victory, especially for all the mechanics and people in the team who have put in an incredible effort to prepare for this new generation. It’s been a challenging time, but we have shown that hard work pays off. This has not been an easy rally, so the team has done a good job to keep the car going. We have made some steps since Portugal; we’ve improved the car performance and our feeling with it. There’s no doubt that when we have the confidence, we can do a good job. We need to keep working in this direction.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Italia Sardegna
2-5 June 2022
Ott Tanak
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (3rd)

“This is a very motivating result for the whole team, and I am pleased to score another podium for them. I am here with the target of competing for points, and to support our team’s fightback in the championship. Ott’s win and my third place has helped us to close the gap, which was the objective this weekend. Honestly, it would have been nice to fight more closely with Craig, but he had amazing speed and I didn’t want to take any risks. We lost some time in some stages, especially in the dust on Friday morning, but we achieved what we came for and we have to be happy with that.’

Thierry Neuville (41st)

“Looking at the positives, we have seen a strong team result this weekend. The victory is an important reward for the team after all the effort they have put in. On our side, unfortunately it’s another rally where we’re left thinking what might have been. It’s disappointing, of course, but we’ve continued to push hard, and we’ve been often on the limit. To be competitive, we really need to get everything working together across the whole event. The car performance is there, it’s not 100%, but somehow despite the struggles we have shown that we can set some fastest times. We gave it everything, and we could at least take maximum points from the Power Stage.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen (2nd)

“Obviously it’s been a great weekend, really happy with how everything went. It was important that we got a good result here after a couple of difficult rallies. So we’re definitely feeling better, and looking forward to Kenya now, having this good result in the bag should give us a bit more confidence.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet (4th)

“Really happy about this weekend for only the third race with the car and the team, we can be proud about what we’ve done. Thanks to everybody, they did a fantastic job to build such a nice guy, so to the mechanics and to everyone, thank you a lot.”

Gus Greensmith (7th)

“Obviously not a good weekend at all, really struggled to find a good feeling with the car for some reason this weekend, and could just never really find the confidence. So, we spent a lot of the weekend just trying new things, looking towards Kenya, and today on the penultimate stage that was the first time I felt comfortable with the car, and the speed showed it. At least we’ve gone in the right direction, but yeah, not a great weekend.”

Jari Huttunen (3rd WRC2)

“We’re quite happy. Especially on the pace, it is there, and there was a really nice feeling. I don’t know what it is, maybe back luck with the two punctures, and we lost quite a lot of time, but not really any more problems with the car, so overall we’re quite happy. “Our next event is Estonia, it’s difficult to say now, but hopefully we can make a good impression there also, but for sure it is a bit more difficult than this event.”

Adrien Fourmaux (DNF)

“It was a disappointing end to what was looking to be a strong weekend for the team. The plan for this event was to collect some good points for the team, which we were on track to do, but unfortunately a small mistake resulted in an accident. “I’d like to apologise to the team and thank them for their hard work over the weekend.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“Today we tried something a bit different to help the team for the next rally in Kenya and I think the changes worked really well. Considering we were opening the road, it felt really good. The speed has been great on this event, as it has been on every surface so far this year, and that means that the car is easy to drive. We just need to put it together. Yesterday I think we were a bit unlucky but that’s how rallying is sometimes: you get surprises. We’ll try to take the positive things from this rally into our next event.”

Elfyn Evans (40th)

“Today we were aiming towards the Power Stage and although we didn’t come away with as many points as we would have liked, some points is better than none. It’s another difficult weekend for us but there were at least some positives to take away from it, with some good moments inside the car in terms of stage times and in terms of feeling once again. The speed was quite good at many points but things just didn’t go our way. Now we try to improve for Kenya.”

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

Kalle Rovanperä (44th)

“We knew that today our only goal was to reach the end and try to score some extra points on the Power Stage. The feeling was not as good as I would have liked and it was quite tough but we still managed to be second-fastest, so four more points, together with fifth place on the rally. It was a tough weekend. We just knew that we had to be clever because results like this can be important when we count the points at the end of the year. We scored more than our nearest rival in the championship so we can be quite happy with that.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After Round Five

1 K. Rovanperä 120
2 T. Neuville 65
3 O. Tänak 62
4 C. Breen 52
5 T. Katsuta 47
6 E. Evans 39
7 D. Sordo 34
8 S. Loeb 27
9 G. Greensmith 26
10 S. Ogier 19
11 P. Loubet 18
12 E. Lappi 17
13 A. Mikkelsen 12
14 O. Solberg 8

 

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After Round Five

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 200
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 161
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 120
4 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team NG 53

 Summary

Well, what a fantastic result for Ott and Martin, taking only their third win for Hyundai. Yes, that is true, and a huge result for the 2019 world champions. They also have taken over three hundred stage wins now.

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Italia Sardegna
2-5 June 2022
Ott Tanak
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Given that Craig had not driven this rally since 2018 for Citroen Racing, he had a fantastic result with second overall. A stage win on Saturday, which kept Dani at arm’s length showed how comfortable he is getting with his Puma, and will give him and Paul confidence for later in the season with the rallies that he knows.

Dani won this rally twice in 2019 and 2020, and showed again why Hyundai continue to keep him as one of their drivers. He used his experience to move away from Pierre-Louis and secure a well-deserved third place and boosting the team with some good points in their fight for the manufacturer’s championship.

Next

Next up is Round Six, Safari Rally Kenya held from the 23rd to the 26th of June! We already know that Seb Loeb will be driving for M-Sport Ford and so it will be very interesting to see how he gets on. Really any of the teams could take the victory in the African wilds. Make sure you keep an eye out for my preview just before.

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