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

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

 

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

 

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

The top three had this to say ;

Esapekka Lappi 1st

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

Seb Ogier 2nd

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

Ott Tänak 3rd

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

 

Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Classification after Day One

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers then!

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak – Car 8

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

Craig Breen – Car 42

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

Thierry Neuville – Car 11

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Sébastien Ogier – Car 17

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

Elfyn Evans – Car 33

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

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

Kalle Rovanperä – Car 69

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

 

M-Sport WRT

Esapekka Lappi – Car 4

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

Teemu Suninen – Car 3

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

Gus Greensmith – Car 44

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

 

Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak 1st

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

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

Craig Breen 2nd

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

Thierry Neuville DNF

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier 3rd

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

Elfyn Evans 4th

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

Kalle Rovanperä 5th

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

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen 6th

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

Esapekka Lappi 7th

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

Gus Greensmith 8th

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

Final Overall Classification – Rally Estonia

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

 

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings

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

 

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings

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

Rally Estonia! The WRC restarts after a long break!

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

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

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

 

Here’s the full stage list.

Time      No.         Stage name                        Distance

4th September

09:01     —           Abissaare [Shakedown] 5.51 km

Leg 1 — 1.28 km

4th September

19:08     SS1         Tartu                                     1.28 km

Leg 2 — 146.40 km

5th September

07:40     SS2         Prangli 1                               20.23 km

08:21     SS3         Kanepi 1                               16.89 km

09:08     SS4         Otepää 1                              9.60 km

10:00     SS5         Mäeküla 1                           14.76 km

11:19       SS6         Elva 1                                     11.72 km

14:37     SS7         Prangli 2                               20.23 km

15:18     SS8         Kanepi 2                               16.89 km

16:08     SS9         Otepää 2                              9.60 km

17:00     SS10       Mäeküla 2                           14.76 km

18:19     SS11       Elva 2                                     11.72 km

Leg 3 — 84.96 km

6th September

07:35     SS12       Arula 1                                  6.97 km

08:09     SS13       Kaagvere 1                          15.46 km

09:08     SS14       Kambja 1                              20.05 km

10:49      SS15       Arula 2                                  6.97 km

11:28      SS16       Kaagvere 2                          15.46 km

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

 

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia – Car 17

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

Elfyn Evans / Scott Martin – Car 33

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

Kalle Rovanperä / Jonne Halttunen – Car 69

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

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul – Car 11

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

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

Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja – Car 8

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

Craig Breen / Paul Nagle – Car 42

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

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm – Car 4 

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

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

Elfyn and Scott competed last year for M-Sport.

Teemu Suninen / Jarmo Lehtinen – Car 3

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

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

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

Gus Greensmith / Elliott Edmondson – Car 44

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

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

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

Summary

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

Here’s a reminder of the championship standings.

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

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

 

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

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

 

Rally Sweden 2020 Review – Elfyn and Scott take their first victory together!

Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin scored an impressive and dominant victory in last weekend’s Rally Sweden, and now lead the World Rally Championship for the first time. Here’s the story about it.

The action started on Friday with three stages. The running order was in championship order 1. Neuville 2. Ogier 3. Evans 4. Lappi 5. Rovanperä 6. Suninen 7. Katsuta 8. Tänak 9. Latvala 10. Breen

 

First up was SS2 Hof-Finnskog 1 – 21.26 km. Elfyn started brilliantly, winning the stage and taking a small one second lead from Ott and Kalle in third.

 

Into SS3 Finnskogen 1 – 20.68 km and the world champion hit back, winning the stage and reducing Elfyn’s lead to just two tenths of a second. Third quickest again was young Finn Kalle, who was starting very strongly as well. Top M-Sport driver was Esapekka Lappi held fifth overall having passed championship leader Thierry.

 

Elfyn won SS4 Nyckelvattnet 1 – 18.94 km from Kalle by 2.6 seconds with Seb Ogier third fastest. Kalle’s great pace in this stage lifted him ahead of Ott Tänak and into second place. Elfyn held a 7.9 second lead over his younger teammate, and was a solid 22 seconds ahead of Thierry who was in sixth.

 

Onto the short SS5 Torsby Sprint 1 – 2.80 km to end the day, and Ott won the stage, thus deposing Kalle back into third place. Elfyn held a good lead over Ott of 8.5 seconds, whilst Seb Ogier was in fourth place 3.5 seconds behind Kalle Rovanperä.

 

Classification after Day One

1 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC 30:43.7
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +8.5
3 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +14.3
4 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +17.8
5 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +20.9
6 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +23.6
7 C. Breen P. Nagle Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +24.2
8 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +31.4
9 T. Katsuta D. Barritt Toyota Yaris WRC +49.6

 

Driver thoughts at the end of Friday.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“It’s been a pretty good day. The feeling in the car was immediately good this morning. It was quite difficult to know exactly how hard to push on the first stage: We had quite high grip, but it looked quite aggressive on the tyres. We tried to be quick but also relatively smooth and it seemed to work out pretty well. Now we need to try and do more of the same tomorrow. Nobody knows what the conditions will be like, so we have to adapt to whatever is put in front of us. I don’t think we’ll need to change much as everything worked very well today, but we’ll look over the data and try to find a few more seconds.”

Kalle Rovanperä (3rd)

“Today was nice. The conditions on the stages were better than everybody expected. There was more ice and snow and the tyres were lasting well. In the morning loop we were doing really well and we had good speed. There were a few mistakes here and there, but we were learning more about the car all the time. The last one didn’t go so well as I stalled the car and we lost a lot of time. So that was not so nice, but hopefully we can gain back the time tomorrow. Let’s will see if there is snowfall tonight, as that would make the conditions quite different.”

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

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“The conditions were not that bad today; I think it was close to normal winter conditions. We could have good fun in some sections with good grip. It’s not been a bad day for us, but our team-mates have proven that we can go faster. It was not easy to start second on the road today, but that’s not the only reason why we have been slower. We need to be a little bit more committed in some places and maybe accept to take a bit more risk. The long-game is always important but we want to leave this event with as many points as possible. We’re going to try to make some little changes on the car for tomorrow and try to improve our pace if we can.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“It’s been a good day. Conditions have been quite similar to the recce so we had an idea of what we would face. The start was not so bad. The first stage, especially on the gravel, was actually quite good. I felt nice in the car, it was in the icy places where I was not so confident. The final stage of the morning was a bit more demanding. With only one day of testing in the car, I was not really full of confidence but it’s coming step by step. I am happy to have made it to the end of this first day; we will now analyse all that we’ve learned from today and aim to speed up a bit tomorrow.”

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“It has been tricky to be first on the road today, but we’ve had a trouble-free run with no mistakes. I’m not happy with the overall classification but I am satisfied with what we’ve done in the car and with the speed. We couldn’t do much more. The first stage was quite consistent but the following two we knew would be trickier. This morning, the layer of ice was very thin in places and the gravel was coming out, which gives more grip to the cars behind. There were also a lot of cuts, where I was the first to discover. This rally is so short, it won’t be possible to catch up a lot of time, but we will fight hard and see what we can achieve tomorrow.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, Rally Sweden
13-16 February 2020
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Craig Breen (8th)

“It is great to be back in a WRC car; it’s been a while since Wales Rally GB. This is a different Rally Sweden to what we’ve seen in previous years, a much shorter event and missing a lot of the kilometres we should have been doing. As the day went on, I started to get more confidence. It’s always going to take a stage or two to get settled back in; fighting against guys who are in the car all the time, it’s hard to be flat out from the start. I really enjoyed it and I felt we were getting stronger with each kilometre. Tomorrow, it could be difficult to make much of a difference, but we’ll certainly try.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“It’s been quite a consistent day for us. We can’t match the guys at the front which is a bit frustrating, but we are best of the rest and I’m happy with that. I’m really trying and was twice in the ditch already – losing a couple of seconds with that – but I feel that we can still improve. If we can make some small changes to the set-up then I think the pace can be better and tomorrow is a new day so for sure it’s not over yet. We’ll keep trying and keep pushing until the end.”

Teemu Suninen (7th)

“The conditions have been quite challenging today with a lot of gravel making it tricky to judge the grip. We didn’t have the pace we wanted in the fast sections and that’s something we know we need to work on. But the pace was a lot better in the slower sections and we’ll keep pushing tomorrow.”

Teemu Suninen and Jarmo Lehtinen at speed. Photo credit, M-Sport WRT

Saturday

This day action featured 68km’s over just four stages. The running order for day two was in reverse order – 1. Katsuta 2. Suninen 3. Breen 4. Neuville 5. Lappi 6. Ogier 7. Rovanperä 8. Tänak 9. Evans

 

Elfyn started the day well, winning SS6 Hof-Finnskog 2 – 21.26 km, with Ott Tänak once more second fastest and Seb setting the third best time. Kalle Rovanperä could only manage fifth fastest and the gap between him and shrinking to just one tenth of a second. Thierry was doing the best he could, given that he was opening the road, but was the best part of half a minute from the leader.

The great drive from the Welsh wizard continued into SS7 Finnskogen 2 – 20.68 km, which he also won, going 3.6 seconds faster than Ott once more and now the lead was a massive 15.3 seconds. Ogier also moved up the leaderboard, passing Kalle for third position after the Finn could only manage the seventh fastest time. The top M-Sport driver continued to be Esapekka Lappi, who was holding onto fifth position.

 

Well, Elfyn continued his dominance winning SS8 Nyckelvattnet 2 – 18.94 km as well, from Kalle Rovanperä, who’s great time moved him back ahead of Seb Ogier into third. Ott Tänak was now almost 17 seconds behind his former M-Sport teammate. The gap that Thierry had been reducing to Esapekka, now grew larger again, in their battle over fifth position, with the Belgian now over four seconds behind.

 

Just the short SS9 Torsby Sprint 2 – 2.80 km stage to round out the day and the top three were Thierry, Seb and Esapekka. Rally leader, Elfyn, was fourth quickest, and ahead of Ott as well giving him a 17.2 second lead over his closest challenger and the world champion.

 

Classification after Day Two

1 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC 1:00:38.9
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +17.2
3 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +28.8
4 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +29.3
5 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +34.7
6 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +39.2
7 C. Breen P. Nagle Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +49.7
8 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +1:14.8
9 T. Katsuta D. Barritt Toyota Yaris WRC +1:37.4

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“It has been another good day for us and we can be happy with what we’ve managed to do. I had a really good feeling in the car, I’ve been happy with the balance and the confidence it’s giving me. The first two stages this morning were really good. The third one was quite tricky, a bit softer with more loose ice and snow, and the last stage was quite rough but we got through it OK. Let’s see what we face tomorrow, as the conditions are a bit of an unknown. It could be very difficult with the warmer temperatures we have now, but hopefully we can find the same rhythm we have in the last two days. It’s a long stage and we just need to keep our head down and keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“It’s not been a bad day. We set some good times this morning. The third stage was not the best for me, but other than that I think we’ve done a good day. I’ve felt pretty good in the car. We’ve been playing around a bit with the setup and we’re learning with every kilometre. The Power Stage is obviously going to be important tomorrow. It’s still very tight with Kalle, and also the others guys are not far behind, so we cannot relax. We will have to push to the end, and the conditions could be quite tricky.”

Kalle Rovanperä (4th)

“This morning I had a good feeling but I was a bit too hard on the tyres and not managing them well, so we were losing time at the end of the stages as we were losing the studs. But we made some small setup changes on the car so that it was not understeering and not loading the front tyres so much, and then the third stage went well. The last stage was in a really rough condition and these were new conditions for me. It’s going to be really difficult for us tomorrow as we don’t have the same experience on this stage as the others, but I will try my best.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“I can’t really say we’re happy, but we have been steadily making progress and getting valuable experience in the car. We’re still missing some feeling and confidence but that’s down to my lack of seat time. There are still a lot of things that are a bit fresh and some things to learn. We’re taking it step-by-step, improving all the time and understanding what we need to do to be on the pace. We’re not far off but it’s not as enjoyable to see such a gap. It has been a solid start for a short event, and I am sure the speed is there for the future; we just need to work on it.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, Rally Sweden
13-16 February 2020
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“Performance-wise, I am quite satisfied with how things have gone; we have tried to do the best we could and optimise the situation we’re in. At the same time, we’ve had to be clever and avoid making silly mistakes. So far, it’s all fine but it’s also disappointing and frustrating not to be in the position we’d want to be. It’s a very short rally, so it is difficult to catch up lost time solely through driving. We are going to try and maintain our rhythm into tomorrow’s final stage and see what we can pick up for the championship.”

Craig Breen (7th)

“I’d summarise by saying the day has been sometimes good, sometimes bad. Obviously, it’s taking me a bit of time to get going. Again, on this morning’s opening stage, I don’t know why but I dropped too much time. The two other stages of the loop were really nice and I enjoyed myself. Compared to the people around us, we were quite competitive, but obviously there was a lot of cleaning, especially on the third one (SS7) with lots of fresh snow overnight. Thierry was running just behind us and we have been able to match his pace in some stages; we have to be happy with that. In a rally as specific like this you really have to be at one with everything. All things considered; I think we’re still doing a good job.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“It’s been a very positive day. We made some changes to improve the set-up overnight and I was really pleased with the driving. This was a good step forward, and it’s something that we can use in the future too. I’m learning all the time the little things and small details that affect the feeling and allow you to push more. We’re still not quite up there with the top times, but we’re getting closer and closer. We just have the one stage tomorrow but nothing is over yet. With 4.5 seconds behind and 5.4 seconds ahead it will be a big push to the end for everyone!”

Teemu Suninen (8th)

“We didn’t have the best road position today, but like yesterday we’re still struggling to find the top pace. The first two stages weren’t too bad, but then in the third one I had a few big slides and took it carefully after that. Tomorrow we just have the Power Stage, so let’s see what the conditions are like and see what we can do in there.”

 

Sunday

Just one stage left then, after the first run of Likenäs was cancelled, giving us just the single run with counted as the power stage. Coming into the final day, Elfyn and Scott had a 17 second lead over Ott Tänak.

 

It was a first stage victory for the young Kalle Rovanperä in SS11 Likenäs 2 – 21.19 km who was almost four seconds faster than Thierry Neuville, with Seb Ogier third, Ott Tänak in fourth, Esapekka Lappi in fifth. Rally leader Elfyn Evans come through to finish the stage in sixth place, but crucially took a very special victory in his second event for Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT. It was the first for an all British crew as well.

It was a dominant drive from them both. They won by over twelve seconds from Ott Tänak and Kalle Rovanperä took a very impressive first podium, passing Seb Ogier in the final stage.

 

Final Overall Standings

1 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC 1:11:43.1
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +12.7
3 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +20.2
4 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +23.6
5 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +32.4
6 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +33.8
7 C. Breen P. Nagle Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:00.9
8 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +1:24.5
9 T. Katsuta D. Barritt Toyota Yaris WRC +1:59.6
10 J. Huttunen M. Lukka Hyundai i20 R5 +4:03.0

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“I feel really good to have my first win with Toyota Gazoo Racing in our second event together. I have to give a lot of credit to the team for not only giving me a great car but also giving me the support and help in testing for me to get the car to where I wanted it. The car is giving me great confidence, and in changeable conditions like we’ve had here, that’s really worth a lot. It has been very enjoyable to drive so far and hopefully we can carry this feeling onto gravel in the events to come. A big thanks to Scott too: he’s been very good since he’s been alongside me and I’m very happy to finally be with him for his first win too.”

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

Kalle Rovanperä (3rd)

“I feel really good to be on the podium. It was a really demanding rally because it was shorter than usual and all the time you had to be flat-out. We were losing some time because of my mistakes but it was nice to get back on the podium today and also, to have five points from the Power Stage. It was a really good run, I gave it everything I have. It didn’t feel so good in the beginning because I was maybe a bit more careful and saving the tyres, but it paid off in the end as we were doing really fast split times and the final time was really good.”

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“I cannot be unhappy about this weekend. I don’t really enjoy being fourth but it’s still some good points for the championship and it puts us in a good position ahead of Mexico. Kalle deserves this podium. He did a really great job the whole weekend, and he went for it in the Power Stage and he did a brilliant time. It was very difficult conditions, and when you’re thinking about the championship, it was hard to really go for it. Elfyn was driving fantastic this weekend and it’s a nice win for him and for the team. It’s always better to have these strong guys in your team rather than in the opposition: I think Toyota has a very strong line-up for this season. For us now we focus on the next one, where we will try to fight for the win.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“I am pleased to take my first podium with the team, particularly considering the challenging conditions we’ve all experienced this weekend. There are certainly positives to take away. The car has shown it has the speed; we just need to learn more about it. After Monte-Carlo, it was important for us to complete the full event, to get some kilometres in the car, and to get some points on the board. We weren’t able to compete at the sharp end, but we are making good progress, improving all the time and finding more confidence in the car. Looking at things from that perspective, it has been a useful weekend.”

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“We had only one target today, which was to try and optimise the situation and push for points in the Power Stage. It wasn’t quite enough to set the fastest time, and the conditions were incredibly tricky, just like they have been the entire weekend. It has been a tough rally, but we couldn’t have done much more. There were a few stages where we lost a few seconds here or there; I don’t think it would have changed the end result.”

Craig Breen (7th)

“It has been a difficult weekend and, personally, I am not happy with my result. I have enjoyed being back in a WRC car immensely, don’t get me wrong, but it’s hard not to be up there fighting for podiums and wins. The weather and road order have been against us and it’s a pity we’ve had short loops. That’s made it hard to make much of an impression. Today we’ve seen completely different conditions again, with a lot of standing water, so there were no heroics; the priority was to bring the car home, which we did, and to support the team as best we could.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“I need to be pleased with our performance this weekend. We’re not exactly where I wanted to be as I wanted to fight for the podium, but we’re not far away. We’re missing that last little bit, but it’s getting closer. We’ve made a good step forward – especially yesterday when the pace was really good – and that gives us some confidence going forward to Mexico. Everything is going well at the moment, so let’s see what we can do next.”

Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm secured a good result, but they will want more. Photo credit, M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (8th)

“This hasn’t been a good rally for us. It all started with a big moment on Shakedown and then on Friday I was just taking it a bit too carefully in places. We lost a few seconds there and just couldn’t get the time back. Then on Saturday we had to open the road and that made it even more difficult. Now we just need to analyse this rally and look forward to being better on the next one.”

 

Summary

Well, that was a special weekend for Elfyn and Scott. Their first win together after coming so close last year in Corsica. It was a very dominant win as well, given that they never lost the lead at any point and always increased the lead that they had. It’s also given them the championship lead for the first time in their careers.

Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja came back from a very big accident to show exactly why they are the world champions. Getting used to their new car and delivering top pace with two stage wins and a well-deserved second place.

Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen scored a very impressive third place after taking their first stage win in their second event. It was a very good drive from the young Finn’s. It won’t be the first time that we see them on the podium this year.

Next event is Rally Mexico, from the 12th to the 15th of March.

 

Elfyn and Scott celebrate an incredible result, one that was well over due. Photo credit, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

 

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round 2

1 E. Evans 42
2 T. Neuville 42
3 S. Ogier 37
4 K. Rovanperä 30
5 E. Lappi 24
6 O. Tänak 20
7 T. Suninen 11
8 S. Loeb 8
9 T. Katsuta 8
10 C. Breen 6

 

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 2

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 73
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 63
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 40
Photo credit, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Rally Sweden 2020 Preview

Just a few day’s ago this event was looking like it wouldn’t happen. I’m sure that you’ll be aware of the lack of snow this year in Sweden. Anyway, the organisers and the FIA came to an agreement to run a much shorter event. Here’s the full stage information. The sixty-eighth Rally Sweden is happening!

Stages & times

Thursday   February 13
09:01 Shakedown Skalla 7,21 km Stage info
12:30 Meet the crews, Torsby Service Park Arena – Full programme
20:08 SS 1 Karlstad SSS 1 1,9 km Arena – Full programme Stage info
Friday   February 14
06:47 Torsby Service Park Arena – Full programme
08:42 SS 2 Hof-Finnskog 1 21,26 Stage info
10:08 SS 3 Finnskogen 1 20,68 km Stage info
11:08 SS 4 Nyckelvattnet 1 18,94 Stage info
15:00 SS 8 Torsby Sprint 1 2,8 km Arena – Full programme Stage info
15:32 Torsby Service Park Arena – Full programme
Saturday   February 15
06:47 Torsby Service Park Arena – Full programme
08:42 SS 5 Hof-Finnskog 2 21,26 km Stage info
10:08 SS 6 Finnskogen 2 20,68 Stage info
11:08 SS 7 Nyckelvattnet 2 18,94 Stage info
15:00 SS 16 Torsby Sprint 2 2,8 km Arena – Full programme Stage info
15:32 Torsby Service Park Arena – Full programme
Sunday   February 16
08:46 Torsby Service Park Arena – Full programme
10:08 SS 17 Likenäs 1 21,19 km Stage info
10:48 Regroup Ambjörby
12:18 SS 18 Likenäs 2 Wolf Power Stage 21,19 km Stage info

 

As you can see the stages have kept their original stage numbers, giving us an idea as to how many stages have been lost.

 

Throwback

Last year Ott Tanak took victory for Toyota with six stage victories, with Esapekka Lappi finishing second and 2018 winner Thierry in third. Can M-Sport challenge at the front like last year? Teemu Suninen led early on, and with a double Finn lineup, perhaps we will see a three-way battle at the front between the them all? Elfyn went well, taking two good stage wins, his first in Sweden, and given his performance in Rallye Monte Carlo, we can expect more of the same this year too. Returning to the championship is Craig Breen who scored a brilliant second overall in 2018 when driving for Citroen. He replaces Seb Loeb.

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 02 / Rally Sweden / February 14-17th, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“An ideal Rally Sweden would have lots of snow, huge snowbanks, very icy roads, the perfect conditions for us to go fast with full confidence to get the most out of the car. When the road is properly frozen, the studs get good grip and you can go flat out. Obviously, if there will be less snow than previous years it could be quite tough to do the stages. Our tyres are very thin and very high, so they won’t work the same on gravel stages and it’s going to be really tricky. Without the snowbanks, the rally gets faster and faster, and less interesting, so we keep our fingers crossed for a lot of snow to arrive.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, Rally Sweden
15-18 February 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak

“Since Monte, I have been feeling better every day. We learned a very good lesson, and we know now that each time we have to drive a new section, we really need to focus more than ever before. Driving in Sweden is always very special, particularly when we get some frozen, icy conditions. The grip from the spiked tyres is extremely high and gives a great feeling. It will be important for us to get back some points and to improve step-by-step. It will be our first time on loose surface with Hyundai, but I hope we can deliver a good result.”

Craig Breen

“I am very humbled to have the chance of getting behind the wheel of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC again. It’s been a long time since Wales Rally GB, so I’m excited and anxious. From the first moment I drove the car, I felt a lot of confidence and that I could drive my own natural way. Sweden is a rally I enjoy; I scored my best-ever result in the World Championship there a few years ago. Hopefully the conditions will be favourable for us and the cold will arrive in the region for us to have ‘proper’ roads. Regardless, when I am back in my happy place driving a WRC car, I will have a nice weekend.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“I definitely love Rally Sweden. It’s a magic event, the only one on full snow on the calendar, and driving on those roads is very special. I certainly hope to be performing well there again this year. I’ve had some good times there in the past, but it has been a bit more of a struggle in the last few years – I guess partly because of my start position, as coming to Sweden while leading the championship has been very challenging. This year will be slightly different so let’s see what we can do. Rallye Monte-Carlo was a very positive start for the whole team, and they have been performing very well in Sweden, so hopefully we are able to do the same this time.”

Elfyn Evans

“I’m really looking forward to Rally Sweden. The car was feeling really good in our winter testing on snow, so I’m hoping for another good event there. Rallye Monte-Carlo was overall a positive start for us in the Toyota Yaris WRC, even though our result could have been even better. Road position can play a big part in Sweden, depending on what sort of conditions we’ll find: if there’s a lot of loose snow, then there is a big advantage for those starting further back. But like any other rally, we’ll go in and do the best we can from the first stage.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“I enjoy snow rallies a lot, so Rally Sweden should be a nice event for us. I think it should be easier for me than Rallye Monte-Carlo, but we will also need to push more to the limits there. Driving the Yaris WRC has been a lot of fun so far, and on snow it has been an amazing car to drive. We did the Arctic Rally in January in the Yaris and that was good preparation for us, but the conditions in Sweden could be tricky because there has been not so much snow, so we will have to see just how helpful it really was.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Esapekka Lappi

“I’ve had some good results at Rally Sweden – especially last year when we finished second on our second event with a new car so let’s see if we can do the same again this year! Of course, the competition will be strong and no one really knows what the conditions will be like, but we will give it our best.

“We’re testing this weekend when we’ll get our first indication of what to expect. The Swedish stages are always fast, which I enjoy, but there could only be a small layer of ice which will make tyre management pretty important when it comes to retaining the studs for the whole loop. Fourth on the road could be a decent position, but let’s wait and see.”

Teemu Suninen

“Last year we found a good set-up for the soft snow and rutted conditions, and it worked really well for us – leading after the first full day and showing good speed throughout the weekend. This year the plan is to show that same speed consistently and without mistakes.

“Of course, a lot will depend on the weather. It’s great that the organisers have been able to make the rally happen, but we will have to wait and see what the conditions are like. I’m hoping for snow, and we’ll have a test this weekend to prepare. Whatever the weather, we will give it our best and I hope to be in a good battle.”

The R5 class

Also competing this weekend are Adrien Fourmaux and Rhys Yates, at the wheel of two Fiesta R5 Mk2’s and Ole Christian Veiby and Nikolay Gryazin who will compete in i20 R5’s.

Adrien Fourmaux

“It’s really nice to hear that the organisers have found a way for us to go rallying and we can say a big thanks to the Rally Sweden team for that. This is the only full-snow rally on the calendar, and that makes it really special. Driving in the forests with the white landscape and hundreds of fans makes it a beautiful rally, and I’m really looking forward to getting back out there this year.

“I competed in Sweden last year, but this will be my first time with the Fiesta R5 which makes it a completely new experience for me with more speed and totally different lines. The biggest challenge will be in trusting the grip and speed through the corners and learning how to fight on the same level as the locals – but I can’t wait to get started. I plan to enjoy every second, and if I can deliver a smart rally and leave with good points, good stage times and a good experience I’ll be very happy.”

Rhys Yates

“We’ve got a really good feeling with the car at the moment and I’ve never felt more comfortable on gravel than I did with the Fiesta at the Cambrian last weekend. The pace was pretty quick at times – as it will be this week in Sweden – so you’ve got to be comfortable with the car moving about underneath you. You’ve got to be comfortable with it going sideways in fifth gear. I got that feeling in Wales and that’s great for me.

“I want to hit the ground running in Sweden. We’ve got a test on Tuesday and then the rally starts Thursday. One thing I’m so chuffed with is how much time I’m getting in the car. By the time Sweden starts I’ll have been in this Fiesta four times in a week – I’ve never had that much seat time before and that can only be good for the confidence!

Ole Christian Veiby

“Rally Sweden is one of the highlights of the season. It’s very much a home rally, one of the stages even goes through our family forest. I was watching there since I was a little kid, so it means a lot. There are lots of supporters, friends and family; to see so many Norwegian flags is really special. To drive on proper snow conditions is, I think, one of the best things to do. The grip level can even sometimes be better than gravel, especially with studded tyres. The target for the rally is for sure a victory. We were a bit disappointed about Monte-Carlo; I think the car worked really well so hopefully it will also do that in Sweden. I’m looking forward to it!”

Nikolay Gryazin

“Sweden for us means quite a lot because it’s winter. Back in my country, we drive in the cold a lot. We had a valuable experience in Monte-Carlo, adapting to a new car in tricky conditions. I feel more confident now and I hope the result reflects that. This will be my second time in Rally Sweden. It will be difficult to compete against the local crews, but I am determined to secure a good result and to see how the Hyundai i20 R5 performs. It has definitely shown good pace in all conditions so I hope we will have a positive weekend – whatever the conditions.”

Summary

We are set as ever for an incredible rally then, and despite the changes to the schedule, including the loss of the stage that includes Colins Crest, it’s almost certain to be a fascinating event. Don’t miss it!