Rallye Monte Carlo Preview – Round One of the 2023 season.

The championship returns after as always, a short winter break. This will be the 91st running of this classic event, and M-Sport Ford return as the winning team after their victory with Seb and Isabella.

Let’s take a look at the stages then. The rally has over 325km’s over the 18 stages.

Rallye Monte-Carlo begins on Thursday with two evening stages, including the longest test of the rally: La Cabanette / Col de Castillon (24.90km)

Friday’s itinerary consists of two loops of Roure / Roubion / Beuil (18.33km), Puget-Théniers / Saint-Antonin (19.79km) and Briançonnet / Entrevaux (14.55km), separated by a tyre fitting zone

Saturday is the longest day of the event, with the six stages boasting a total distance of 111.78km

The rally concludes on Sunday with two passes each of Lucéram / Lantosque (18.82km) and La Bollène-Vésubie / Col de Turini (15.12km), with the second of the latter acting as the Power Stage.

We have already seen the detailed changes to two of the three teams. It will be interesting to see who has made the most of their testing schedule over the winter as they attempt to understand their new cars and how to get the most out the performance capabilities.

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Kalle Rovanperä

“My feeling is good before the start of the new season. We know that it will not be easy to defend the championship. We have seen that the competition level is getting higher all the time, so we need to try and raise our game also and keep pushing hard. The team is again doing a great job to try and maximise the performance and make the car faster and stronger. Rallye Monte-Carlo is a special event, and usually makes for a bit of a tricky and nervous start to the season. But I’m more confident going into the rally than I was last year when everything was so new with the car; now I know that we should have everything in the right direction and be able to have an easier start. It’s never simple to have a clean rally there, but that will be our plan to begin the season in the right way.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 01 / Rallye Monte Carlo 2022 / 20-23 January 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans

“The WRC off-season is always pretty short, but I was still happy to take a bit of a break and now I feel ready to go into the new season. Last year fell short of my own expectations personally, but we managed to make some progress and I’m hoping to be able to put better results together this season. The team is always working to evolve the car, and twelve months in to the Rally1 era we understand things a lot better. Like always it should be a competitive year, but I definitely feel that we’re in a better place to challenge, and to fight for the title remains my goal. Rallye Monte-Carlo is a classic event and one that everyone wants to win. It’s always a big challenge, especially with the conditions, but it’s a challenge I enjoy and hopefully we can start the year with a positive result.”

Sébastien Ogier

“I’m still very excited at the start of the season, even though I’m no longer taking part in the full year. It’s always a pleasure to sit behind the steering wheel of a top WRC car. Last year I really enjoyed doing these few rallies. It was good to see I could still be competitive, and the target is to try and stay on a similar level this year and fight for some more wins. I know that the team is never relaxing; even though the last seasons have been very successful, they are still working very hard. Rallye Monte-Carlo is probably the one I want to win the most and I will do my best once more. Preparation has been more difficult as everybody is limited to one day of testing, which is difficult for such a complex event with different conditions and tyre options. But it’s the same for everybody, and I will try to make the most of my experience.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Ott Tänak

“Rallye Monte-Carlo is always a difficult one to expect something, but for sure it’s the trickiest rally of the season. It won’t be any easier this time as well to get into the rhythm right away, so we expect nothing less than another tricky weekend in the mountains.

“We tried to get the best out of our first test days and we were lucky to experience the car in different conditions. It’s never easy to start the season from the blank page and building up the setup, but the boys and girls from M-Sport are working hard and hopefully we are well prepared for the upcoming challenge. I’m really looking forward to our first race together.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet

“I’m really happy with this week’s test; we tried a number of things, much more than usual, and the car felt great. The car is built for these kinds of roads and it’s very enjoyable to drive. I hope we will see similar conditions to the test on the rally next week, that would suit us really well.

“I’m trying to stay calm, it’s a fantastic opportunity to have my first full season with M-Sport, but it’s also a big responsibility and I take that very seriously. So, I’m trying to keep a cool head, and we’ll see how we do throughout the season. We have all the tools we need to do well.”

Jourdan Serderidis

“Starting the WRC season with a Puma Rally1, with M-Sport at Monte-Carlo is first a privilege but also a major challenge. Considering the level of competition and the tricky snow and ice conditions, I will be more than happy to be in the top 20 of this fantastic rally. It’s not only the most beautiful event on the calendar but the most challenging as well. We had a good test in snowy conditions yesterday, so I believe we are ready for the fun!”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“I always like starting the year with Rallye Monte-Carlo; it is an event where we have been competitive in recent years. I expect we will face some tricky conditions, despite the warm weather in the region at the moment. Monte-Carlo is always a bit of a surprise, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s nice to kick off a new season; everyone is on equal points again, and it’s up to us to make the best out of the clean slate. The package of the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid has improved so much since its first round in 2022, which helps with our confidence going into this year. There’s been some slight evolutions on the car which will give it even more performance. We never know what our opponents have done during the winter, but I don’t think there will be any big changes. While everybody will have improved a bit, hopefully we are all on a similar level.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo 2022
17-23 January 2022
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Esapekka Lappi

“Rallye Monte-Carlo changed location last year; it moved closer to Monaco and there was a bit less snow and ice than before. I don’t know whether that will be the case this year as well, but if it is, then it will certainly make things simpler for us, as we also have to learn a whole new car. Thursday night is always quite tense – I have to say it is not the nicest feeling climbing up the hill in the darkness on slick tyres in potentially icy conditions! There is excitement, but there is also a small bit of fear. However, it’s quite special, and the following morning you feel more at ease – at least in your mindset. I’m excited to start this adventure with a new team; I will only have one test day on tarmac, but I will go there with my mind open and not give up before we’ve even started. I am confident we can have good pace – maybe not from the very first stage, but certainly we will develop a lot during the weekend and hopefully finish well.”

Dani Sordo

“Rallye Monte-Carlo is a difficult event, but now it is based more around Monaco and the south of France it may be a little bit better in terms of the weather. It is always a challenge due to the conditions; normally it is cold, and you have the potential for ice, especially first thing in the morning. As a result, in the course of one stage you can come across so many different levels of grip on the tarmac, so it is very demanding. However, we need to be a little bit closer to the rally to see what the weather will do and understand what we are going to face on the stages. It is important to start the season well; every time you arrive to the first event you do so with full power and recharged batteries. Overall, I really like Monte-Carlo and its stages, so hopefully we can perform well and begin the year with a positive result.”

The WRC2 category is hugely supported as well in this round with Skoda, Ford, Citroen, Hyundai and Volkswagen cars being run.

M-Sport are running two Fiesta Rally2 cars for Adrien and Gregoire this year. Let’s hear from them both.

Adrien Fourmaux

“Rallye Monte Carlo is, of course, the most famous in the Championship, and it’s always a fantastic way to start the season. We’re hoping for a good result on this rally to give us the best start possible for the WRC2 Championship. It’s one of the most difficult rallies of the season, with tricky and changing road conditions, and we should have the full effect with some snow and ice conditions too. I’m looking forward to getting back out in a Rally2 and seeing what we can achieve.”

Grégoire Munster

“We’re looking forward to going to Monte Carlo for the first time with a car prepared by M-Sport. We’ve done the rally a few times in the past so we have some experience there, but I don’t think it would be realistic to say we will aim straight for a big result. We will just try to get familiar with the car, be consistent throughout the weekend and see where we end up. We want to start our campaign on a good footing.”

TokSport will also be running a number of the new Skoda Fabia RS Rally2 for the following drivers: Sami Pajari, Nikolay Gryazin and Marco Bulacia. In addition to those drivers, Oliver Solberg, Chris Ingram and lots of others will also be driving Skoda’s as well. Hyundai’s will be run by Motorsport Ireland for Josh McErlean and William Crieighton. Finally, there are also some C3 Rally2’s for Yohan Rossell, Stephane Lefebvre and Sean Johnson. It’s great to see this championship so well supported and this championship will likely be decided just like last year on the final round. The drivers get to choose the rounds that they enter, which brings an interesting element of uncertainty and unpredictability to the championship.

Summary

Who are the drivers that are likely to challenge for victory this weekend? It’s fair to say that Seb Ogier will be in the mix along with Thierry Neuville. Other drivers likely at be at the front include Kalle, Elfyn and Ott. Rising young stars Takamoto and Pierre-Louis will look to gain more experience for the future and the young Frenchman will certainly benefit from his new co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul who won this rally with Thierry in 2020.

The action starts on Thursday evening with the first two stages in the evening. Enjoy!

Rally Japan 2022 Full Report – Thierry wins for Hyundai Motorsport!

Friday

The first full day of action would encompass 130km’s over six stages. The startlist looked like this – Rovanperä, Tänak, Neuville, Evans, Katsuta, Ogier, Breen, Sordo, Greensmith.

The first morning stage then and the second of the rally, SS2 Isegami’s Tunnel 1 – 23.29 km was won by Kalle with Thierry and Elfyn second and third fastest. All three of them jumped up into the top three overall positions. Those to fall down the order were Ott, Craig and overnight leader Seb, who suffered a puncture in this one. He did not know where he picked this up and sounded very unhappy already. In the WRC2 category, Kajetan crashed out at the exit of the tunnel and his hopes of this year’s category title were gone, as his Skoda had very heavy damage. Emil Lindholm was now leading the category. It was far worse though for Dani Sordo. Just after the section with the tunnel, he stopped as there was smoke in his car. He and Candida found that the car was on fire, and whilst attempting to put this out, Gus arrived at the scene, but unfortunately despite their best attempts, they could not put it out. The stage would then be red flagged.

The next stage SS3 Inabu Dam 1 – 19.38 km which was cancelled, as the cars were all not able to make it to the start line.

Next up then was SS4 Shitara Town R 1 – 22.44 km and Elfyn was fastest from Seb and Thierry. Former leader Kalle could only manage sixth fastest and fell to third overall. Elfyn and Thierry held the lead, having so far set the same overall time after these stages. Sadly, the day was over for Craig and his new co-driver James. They hit a barrier and damaged their Puma, putting them out for the rest of the day. All was not well with their teammate, Gus and Jonas either. They were suffering with a broken driveshaft, a problem that they’d been dealing with all morning, but at least they could get back to the service and get the car fixed.

After service, SS5 Isegami’s Tunnel 2 – 14.33 km, massively shortened due to the fire in Dani’s car (it finished at the tunnel entrance) was won by Elfyn with Thierry second fastest and Seb third. The Welshman took the lead by 1.1 seconds over Thierry. With his driveshaft replaced, Gus moved back into sixth overall, moving ahead of Emil and Reeta who were still leading the WRC2 category.

The following stage, SS6 Inabu Dam 2 – 19.38 km, was taken by Kalle, from Elfyn and Ott and now Elfyn’s lead over Thierry was three seconds. Things were going well for the Toyota crew. There were changes in the WRC2 leaderboard though, with Teemu going fastest from Sami and Heikki Kovalainen (yes, the former McLaren F1 driver). Sami now assumed the lead of the category, from Teemu and Emil was now in third.

The final stage of the day SS7 Shitara Town R 2 – 22.44 km was cancelled, due the damage sustained to the barrier following Craig’s incident.

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

Classification after Day One

1 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1  57:18.8
2 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +3.0
3 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +5.1
4 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +13.9
5 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +20.6
6 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +2:00.4

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“It’s always nice to be leading at the end of the day but there’s still a long way to go, so it doesn’t mean too much just yet. The morning’s first stage was very demanding and a proper wake-up call. We lost a bit of time in there but then we had a good run through the second stage that we did, and we’ve followed that up with a decent afternoon as well. It’s still been pretty difficult, very twisty and very technical, and the grip levels have been changing all the time. The character changes within stages so we need a car that works well in many different scenarios. Again, there will be a bit of everything tomorrow but we’ll give it our best as always.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 13 / Rally Japan / 10-13th November, 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (3rd)

“It’s has been not too bad today and it’s still fairly close, so we can be somewhat happy. It definitely wasn’t easy driving these stages, with a lot of corners all the time. Without testing and going onto fully new roads, it’s not easy to have everything feeling 100 per cent straightaway – especially on these types of roads, as I like to have the balance a bit different to the others. We made some changes at lunch and it was better this afternoon. If we can find a bit more precision with the car, I will be able to push harder tomorrow.”

Sébastien Ogier (10th)

“Unfortunately for us the hope of a top result here ended very early this morning with this puncture in the first stage. It’s very frustrating of course, and we’re not sure why it happened but we had to stop to change the wheel and lost over two-and-a-half minutes to the lead. Now the excitement is not quite the same when you’re no longer fighting for victory, but of course we’ll try to keep pushing and to keep enjoying these stages. It’s also an opportunity to work with my new co-driver Vincent who is doing a very good job so far, and also to work with the setup of the car. These roads are very unique and the feeling is not yet at the optimum like we had in Spain on roads we knew very well.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“Despite a shorter day than we expected, it was still a tough challenge out there; a lot of hard work for the drivers and the co-drivers. We managed our day quite well, I think. It was a bit up and down because of the characteristics of the road, and some changing conditions. It’s difficult coming to a brand-new rally because we have to start from zero; you have to go through different options and settings. We prepared as well as we could, but we didn’t expect so many grip changes. We need to find the right compromise and we’re fighting with that a bit at the moment. At the end, we’ve done a good job, and we’re near the front and with some good times. We will do our best to continue in this way.”

Ott Tänak (4th)

“We managed two stages in the morning; the first one was very demanding with many grip changes and overall, it wasn’t easy to drive. On the following one it was almost the opposite, with high grip but tricky with the visibility and we also had some issues with our diffs. The afternoon felt a bit better, gaining in some places and losing out in others; but altogether it was an improvement. It’s been hard to find a confident feeling on tarmac, but we are there or thereabouts. It’s challenging, of course, but if the grip levels are higher then it’s OK. Tomorrow’s stages are more or less the same as today, the first one quite slow and twisty, but the other ones a bit more ‘racey’. We are still in the fight; there is a long way to go, so let’s see what the rally looks like at the end.”

Dani Sordo (DNF)

“At some point during SS2 we started to have a lot of smoke in the car, and it all happened really fast. I stopped, and we used the small extinguisher to try and put out the fire. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do more; I was trying all that I could, but it was impossible. I’m so sorry to the team to lose the car. I have never seen anything like this before. It is definitely something we all have to look into and learn from.”

Saturday

The second day would see 80km’s over seven stages. The startlist would now be the reversed top ten, with Craig opening the stages and Elfyn being the final car through.

The Welshman would make a very good start to the day, winning SS8 Nukata Forest 1 – 20.56 km from Thierry and Seb third. Elfyn’s lead was now up to 5.9 seconds over the Belgian crew, whilst Kalle went wide on a corner and suffered a puncture, the result being that the new world champions dropped three places falling to sixth overall. The fight continued for the WRC2 win, with Emil moving back ahead of Teemu.

Seb took SS9 Lake Mikawako 1 – 14.74 km from Thierry and Elfyn. The gap narrowed a little between the top two overall crews, but Elfyn remained in the lead by 4.7 seconds. Seb’s pace had now brought him ahead of Kalle, who was now down in seventh overall. Emil remained the leader of WRC2 and was holding eighth overall as well.

Ott took his first stage win, in SS10 Shinshiro City – 7.08 km from Seb and Takamoto. Meanwhile, Elfyn, who was fourth fastest increased his lead over Thierry who was sixth fastest. Kalle took a penalty of a minute due to being six minutes late to the time control. The Finn fell down to 12th overall.

After lunch time service, Seb won SS11 Nukata Forest 2 – 20.56 km from Thierry and Elfyn. The Frenchman’s pace took him ahead of Gus and into fifth overall. The Brit was suffering with an intermittent powersteering problem and this was really affecting his ability to push hard on these twisty stages. Emil and Reeta remained in control of WRC2 with a lead of 46 seconds over Sami and Enni.

Into SS12 Lake Mikawako 2 – 14.74 km and Seb took another stage win from Thierry, with Elfyn third fastest. Elfyn lost the lead to Thierry and was now two seconds behind the Belgian. Top three in WRC2 was Emil, Sami and Gregoire.

SS13 Okazaki City SSS 1 – 1.40 km was cancelled due to delays getting it underway.

The final stage then, SS14 Okazaki City SSS 2 – 1.40 km and Thierry showed that as always, he’s the super special stage specialist, winning the stage from Ott and Seb. Elfyn was only sixth fastest, setting the same time as Teemu.

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

 

Classification after Day Two

1 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 1:51:28.3
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +4.0
3 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +39.9
4 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:04.5
5 S. Ogier V. Landais Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:46.7
6 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +3:25.4

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“We got off to a good start this morning. Everything was working well in the car and we managed to extend our lead. Then this afternoon we were not performing as well as we would like. I was still trying but I was struggling to find the same feeling and deliver the stage times. We’ll need to have a look tonight and try to understand why that was. It’s unfortunate to be in this position now after the strong morning we had. But it’s still pretty tight – like it has been for the whole rally – and there are plenty of kilometres left in which to fight back, and if the rain comes as expected then it could be a complicated day.”

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“It’s been a positive day for us. To be fastest over the day is always good and it’s been enjoyable in the car with a good rhythm. We’ve been working on the setup, trying to make the most of this opportunity and we now have a better idea on how we should set-up the car for conditions like these. It’s also working well with Vincent, who is doing a great job. Unfortunately, we’re not fighting for so much anymore in terms of positions, but we managed to get into the top five which was the maximum we could do on speed. But tomorrow will be a long day with rain expected and many things can still happen.”

Kalle Rovanperä (11th)

“Things got a bit tricky for us straightaway in the opening stage this morning. I got caught out in a slippery braking area which I didn’t have in the pacenotes and we went a bit wide and broke the wheel. We had to stop and change it, so basically, we lost the chance to fight for the podium right there. This afternoon was more positive, not necessarily in terms of pace but we were trying some new things on the car and learning a bit about the setup. There is nothing for us to fight for now so it’s just trying to manage everything. Let’s see how the rain is tomorrow but it seems like it will be a big challenge.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“The target at the start of the day was to stay close to Elfyn and to keep the gap behind. He had a great morning loop, and we were generally looking for a better balance with our car. We just drove to our rhythm and pushed when we could. We got it right for the afternoon with a good tyre choice, and a soft for the final stage, which allowed us to take and increase the lead. Tomorrow is going to be another difficult day, just as it’s been all event, and with extra excitement. To finish the season with a victory would be great.”

Ott Tänak (3rd)

“It’s good to end the day in the provisional podium positions but it’s not over yet. We had a generally clean day, with no trouble; everything worked well. We weren’t far off the pace but the cars at the front were able to find a bit more and go faster than us. Stage 10 was a bit different, and we could set the fastest time. It was a very “racey” stage, so we stiffened the car a bit and it was a big improvement. Tomorrow looks set to be trickier with more challenging stages. Let’s see what it brings; we’ll do all we can to bring home a good result for the team.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 13, Rally Japan
10-14 November 2022
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 N Rally1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Sunday

The final day of the rally and whole season had arrived and there would be 69km’s over five stages. There was also the predicted rain that was due to arrive at any time throughout the day. Once again Craig opened the road and Thierry would be last to complete the stages.

Into SS15 Asahi Kougen 1 – 7.52 km and Elfyn was fastest from Seb, with Thierry third fastest and 3.4 seconds slower than the Welshman. It was game on for the lead between the top two. Meanwhile, Emil remained on course for the WRC2 title holding the lead from Sami.

The longest stage of the day, SS16 Ena City 1 – 21.59 km was taken by Thierry, from Seb and Ott. It was disaster for Elfyn though. He went wide in a corner and picked up a puncture. He stopped around 9.9 km’s into the stage and dropped a minute 30 with the tyre change and with it any hopes of victory. He fell to fourth overall, now one minute 47 seconds from Thierry. Takamoto was now holding third overall and Ott moved into second place.

Into the single run SS17 Nenoue Plateau – 11.60 km and Seb was fastest from Elfyn and Takamoto. It was a case of what might have been, as Elfyn may have been able to retake the lead, as the Belgian was three and a half seconds slower than the Welshman. Meanwhile, Craig was just cruising through the stages, waiting for the rain and saving his wet weather tyres for this.

The rain arrived for the second running of SS18 Ena City 2 – 21.59 km and Craig showed he’s kept his tyres in very good shape, winning the stage from Seb and Gus. Thierry was faster than Elfyn by a huge margin, just because he’d had some wet weather tyres, whereas, Elfyn only had hard and soft tyres. If the battle had continued, it’s likely that Thierry would have pulled away, but we’ll never really know now. There was a change around in the WRC2 category though! Gregoire took the lead- and long-time leader Emil was now in second and Sami was holding third.

The final stage then SS19 Asahi Kougen 2[Power Stage] – 7.52 km and the early pacesetter in his Skoda, Maurio Miele’s time was not beaten by a number of top-class crews, until Craig came through and went 11 seconds faster. The WRC2 master ended up with the second fastest time in the stage, Teemu was third fastest Thierry fourth and Fabrizio, another WRC2 category driver fifth fastest, all taking home powerstage points. The reason that there were only two top class crews in the top five, was because the weather was moving around and therefore the conditions were constantly changing. If you’ve not seen the stage, I would recommend watching it if you have WRC Live. We also had a new WRC2 champion crew, with Emil Lindholm and Reeta Hamalainen taking the crown! So good to see a female co-driver taking a championship. They completely deserve this success.

 

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

Final Overall Classification –Rally Japan

1 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 2:43:52.3
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +1:11.1
3 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:11.3
4 S. Ogier V. Landais Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:23.6
5 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +4:05.1
6 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +4:07.4
7 G. Munster L. Louka Hyundai i20 N Rally2 +7:50.8
8 T. Suninen M. Marrkula Hyundai i20 N Rally2 +8:12.4
9 E. Lindholm R. Hämäläinen Škoda Fabia Evo +8:25.6
10 H. Kovalainen S. Kitagawa Škoda Fabia +8:59.8
2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 13, Rally Japan
10-14 November 2022
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 N Rally1, Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Julien Moncet
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“This victory feels fantastic! It wasn’t an easy weekend, or indeed season, but to end with this result is incredible and shows that the performance is there. Thanks to our weather guy for a great job. We knew that the title chase was over, but the target was to come here to Japan to win and we’ve achieved that with a 1-2. It has been a challenging season; we’ve shown a turnaround but there is still plenty of work left to do. Results like this give a special boost to the whole team. We know the areas where we need to improve; I keep believing in this team and I will keep pushing also. Next season will be a different challenge. Monte is less than two months away and we have to be ready for that.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 13, Rally Japan
10 – 13 November 2022
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“It is good to finish the season on the podium. These were extremely tricky conditions at the end, and it’s been a demanding rally overall. For the past couple of events on tarmac, we’ve been lacking some speed to be where we should be. Still, we took the result that we could this weekend and there’s been nothing much left. We came to Hyundai Motorsport to fight for another championship title; obviously we have never delivered enough to achieve that, but it’s been an incredible experience. We’ve met another bunch of people and probably made some friends for life, so it’s been worth every year.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Takamoto Katsuta (3rd)

“It is a very special feeling to be on the podium in my home country. I need to say a huge thanks to the team and to the many fans who were supporting us and cheering for us everywhere – on the stages and also on the road sections. It was a really tough weekend with very tricky stages, and the grip level was changing a lot. At first, I was struggling a bit with the feeling but on Friday lunchtime we changed the setup with the team and it went in a very good direction, so I had a more comfortable feeling and the times were pretty good. We had some very difficult conditions at the end of the rally especially, but we were able to survive. Thank you to Aaron and also to our gravel crew, Juho Hänninen and Craig Parry, who did a great job supporting us with information for the pacenotes.”

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“It was a challenging end to the rally today with the rain which we knew was coming. It was a tough tyre choice this morning with some stages to be driven in the dry and some in the wet so we had to go with a compromise. I think we had the correct choice overall as we were fastest again over the day. It’s been a good weekend in terms of the performance and speed we showed again this weekend, and the first time with Vincent who has done a perfect job. Of course, it would have been even better if we were rewarded with the result that I think we deserved, but some bad luck hit us again this weekend. We are all happy to see Taka on the podium at home and it’s been great to have so much support here in Japan.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 13 / Rally Japan / 10-13th November, 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (5th)

“Naturally I’m massively disappointed about today. It’s been a tough season personally and we had a chance here and threw everything at it. Today started really well, we had a good rhythm in the car and things were working well. But on the second stage we ran marginally wide and damaged the tyre. It was a big penalty for a small error but that’s the nature of the game. It’s really busy on the stages here so it was easily done. After that the battle for the win was over and then the rain came and the tyres, we had left were not optimal for that. I’m really happy for Taka to be on the podium at his home event: He’s worked hard all year and really deserves it.”

Kalle Rovanperä (12th)

“This has been a tough rally and a challenging one just as we expected. It didn’t go our way this weekend but sometimes it’s like this. The main thing is we got to the end of the rally and learned some things for the future. Again, we were using today as a test day and we wanted to keep the balance with the tyres consistent for the dry stages so that we could try some more things with the setup. I think we made a positive step and found some things which were nice to drive and at least we know the direction for the future. Overall, we’ve had a really good season so we can be very happy with that and thanks to the team and everybody who made it possible.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round 13

1 K. Rovanperä 255
2 O. Tänak 205
3 T. Neuville 193
4 E. Evans 134
5 T. Katsuta 122
6 S. Ogier 97
7 C. Breen 84
8 D. Sordo 59
9 E. Lappi 58
10 G. Greensmith 44

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 13

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 525
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 455
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 257
4 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team NG 138

Summary

Well, what an amazing final round of the championship. Two Finnish crews walk away with both titles, and Takamoto takes an amazing third place at his home rally.

There were the issues throughout the weekend, with punctures, mechanical problems, and even a road car getting onto a stage (that was number 4) leading to it being cancelled, when the WRC2 crews were going through.

I’ll be reviewing the season, team by team. Look out for these coming soon.

Rally Japan 2022 Preview – The final round of this year’s championship

Well, after a long-awaited return, including two cancelled attempts in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, the championship is heading to the land of the rising sun, with an all-new tarmac event. This has 283km over 19 stages

Toyota head there having secured the manufacturers world championship last month in Spain, to go with the driver title that Kalle and Jonne took in New Zealand.

Now the last time this rally featured in the championship was in 2010 and there are two drivers going there this year that competed all those years ago. Seb Ogier and Dani Sordo. However, there are no carry over stages, as 12 years ago, this event was an all-gravel rally.

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

Rally Japan begins on Thursday evening with 2.75km stage in Kuragaike Park

Friday is the longest day of the event in terms of distance, with the two loops of stages totalling 130.22km.

The itinerary on Saturday consists of seven stages, including two passes of the super special Okazaki City (1.40km).

Five stages, including the Asahi Kougen Power Stage (7.52km), bring the event to a close on Sunday.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

“It’s going to be very nice to finally be able to go to Rally Japan, and especially after a season like we have had with the team this year with such good results and the championships already in the bag. It means the team can go to Japan more relaxed and enjoy this home rally, and we will try to push hard and hopefully have a really good result at the end of it. Having seen some stages there three years ago, I think it’s going to be a really tricky event. There are some wider and smoother roads as well as some very narrow forest sections which can also be quite dirty. So it’s going to be a difficult recce before the rally with roads that we’re not used to and a lot of new pacenotes to write.”

 

Elfyn Evans

“I think the whole team is looking forward to finally have the chance to compete at Rally Japan. Of course, the target will be to try and get a good result on home ground for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. Personally, the last round in Spain was not the best for me but hopefully we can use the rally in Japan to find some improvements and prepare for next year in a good way. I was there in 2019 to recce some of the stages around the area of the rally and from what I remember the roads were very demanding with sections that were extremely twisty and narrow and others which were more fast and flowing, so there will probably be a lot of changes in character to deal with during the rally.”

Sébastien Ogier

“I’m really excited for Rally Japan. It was quite a big disappointment the last two years that this rally had to be cancelled as we definitely see it as a highlight for us as TOYOTA GAZOO Racing drivers. I love the country itself and have some good memories from there: I only competed there once before but it was a win, so there is also some pressure to try and keep my 100 per cent record! This rally will be totally different to before though and probably quite a demanding one from what we have seen so far. But I always like the challenge of a completely new rally where everybody starts from scratch and has to adapt as quickly as possible. I’m sure the experience is going to be a special one and I’m looking forward to it.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak 

“Rally Japan is going to be a challenging one for us because it’s a new event, so I personally don’t have too much information on what to expect, but we will gather all the info we have available with the recce and prepare for it as much as possible. After three years with Hyundai Motorsport, this is going to be my last one with them, so I hope that we can find a good feeling on the roads and finish the season and our partnership on a high note.”

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

Thierry Neuville 

“New country, new rally, new adventure. Other than knowing it will be tarmac stages we have no clue what is waiting for us. This obviously makes it a bit more difficult to prepare but most of the time I have done better when the rally is new than when it is one, I have done before. We always want to finish in the highest place possible at the end of the season, as it gives you a nice feeling going into the winter break and helps motivate you for the next year. So, the target will be to give the best of ourselves, get the most out of the car, and then see where we end up.”

Dani Sordo 

“I have rallied in Japan back when it was on gravel, but I am excited to try the new tarmac stages, which I have been told are very narrow and difficult. When you don’t know what to expect it is always more challenging, as all you can do to prepare for the stages is to watch videos. Once we are at the event, the recce and pace notes will be important to producing a good weekend. As always, our goal is to get on the podium at a minimum and deliver the best result possible for the team.”

Hyundai WRC2

Teemu Suninen

“I had a taste of Rally Japan back in 2019 when I did the recce of the candidate event and I have been looking forward to coming back ever since. It is a unique rally with nice smooth tarmac, but it can be surprisingly slippery. There are many slow sections, which creates a big challenge for the drivers and the car has to be good in the slow corners. It’s going to be a fantastic experience to rally in Japan as the fans there are amazing.”

Fabrizio Zaldivar

“I am happy with how we have performed this season and hope that we can finish the year with another good result. At each event I feel like I have learned more about the car and improved my feel and pace in it. I have never competed in Japan before, but I am really looking forward to it. I have also heard that the fans are very passionate, so hopefully we can put on a good show for them.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen

“It is the last rally of the year and a new rally for everyone. From what we can see so far, the roads look challenging; incredibly twisty and technical. It looks like it will be up there as one of the most difficult rallies that we’ve seen on Tarmac so far. Still, it should be a nice challenge, Spain got better and better as the weekend went on, I felt like we made some good progress and changes with the car. Hopefully we can hit the ground running here in Japan and try to bring home a good result to end the season.”

Gus Greensmith

“Japan as a country itself is a place I’ve always dreamed about visiting, the fact I am able to go and compete on there and then enjoy the country after is a double bonus. We feel we will have a strong package coming into this weekend. It’s going to be a good weekend; we want to round out the season on a high.”

Summary

Well, we are set for a big end to this year’s championship, and although the titles are wrapped up, I still recommend following the rally through my reports and also if you can, follow the coverage either live, or watching later on WRCPlus. We are looking at similar time difference to the New Zealand stage times.

You might ask why follow the rally? Well, with all drivers not worrying about titles and getting points finishes for their teams, we might well see a no holds barred approach to the stages from all the top crews and this with the predicted to be very technical stages that make up this year’s route, we are likely to have a very spectacular rally!

My last word on this? Enjoy!

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!

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day Two

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

Let’s hear from the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

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

Dani Sordo (3rd)

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

Thierry Neuville (SuperRally)

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (6th)

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

Elfyn Evans (SuperRally)

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

Esapekka Lappi (SuperRally)

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

Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day One

 

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (1st)

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

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

Kalle Rovanperä (8th)

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

Elfyn Evans (55th)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

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

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

Dani Sordo (5th)

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

Thierry Neuville (9th)

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

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

Elfyn Evans

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

Esapekka Lappi

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

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

Ott Tänak

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

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

Dani Sordo

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

Teemu Suninen (WRC2)

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

Fabrizio Zaldivar (WRC2)

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

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen

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

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

Gus Greensmith

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

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

Pierre-Louis Loubet

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

Adrien Fourmaux

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

Jari Huttunen, (WRC2)

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

 

Summary

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

©2017 The Pitcrewonline