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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day Two

 

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

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

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

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

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

Sébastien Ogier (55th)

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (4th)

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

Thierry Neuville (5th)

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

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

Ott Tänak (8th)

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

Sunday

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Classification after Day One

 

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

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

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

Kalle Rovanperä (2nd)

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

Sébastien Ogier (45th)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (3rd)

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

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

Thierry Neuville (7th)

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

Ott Tänak (10th)

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

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

Tomorrow

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

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

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

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

Let’s take a look then at the stages.

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

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

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

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

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

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

Elfyn Evans

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

Sébastien Ogier

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

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

Ott Tänak

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

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

Dani Sordo

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

Oliver Solberg

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

Photo credit Oliver Solberg

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sebastien Loeb

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

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

Craig Breen

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

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

Gus Greensmith

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

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

Adrien Fourmaux

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

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

Pierre-Louis Loubet

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

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

 

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Overall Classification –Croatia Rally

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

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

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

Elfyn Evans (5th)

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

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

Esapekka Lappi (49th)

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

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

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

Thierry Neuville (3nd)

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

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen (4th)

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

Gus Greensmith (15th)

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

Pierre-Louis Loubet (47th)

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

Adrien Fourmaux (DNF)

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

Jari Huttunen, WRC2 (28th)

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

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

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

 

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

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

Summary

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

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

Rally Croatia – Day Two Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day Two

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

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

Elfyn Evans (5th)

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

Esapekka Lappi (53rd)

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

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

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

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

Thierry Neuville (4th)

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

Oliver Solberg (DNF)

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

Summary

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

Rally Croatia – Day One Report – Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day One

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

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

Elfyn Evans (6th)

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

Esapekka Lappi (57th) Super Rally

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

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

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

Ott Tänak (3rd)

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

Oliver Solberg (5th)

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

Saturday

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

Rally Croatia Preview 2022 – Round Three

Time for the third round then if this seasons championship and just like last season, Kalle Rovanpera is leading the championship coming into this event. This season’s rally has 291km over 20 stages. Thierry is second in the championship standings following a good result in Sweden back in February. Gus Greensmith is the leading M-Sport Ford full time driver holding fourth in the standings, although Seb Loeb holds third following his victory in Rallye Monte Carlo.

One driver not having a good start to the season, Elfyn following two bad results for the Welshman in Monte and Sweden, will be looking at this rally as a reset to his championship challenge. He and Seb Ogier battled for victory right till the end last year, and the Frenchman took the win. However, Elfyn has always shown very good pace on sealed surfaces and will definitely be targeting victory.

Another driver targeting a better result will be Ott Tanak, who just like his former Welsh teammate has not had a good start to the season, and I suspect will also be targeting a win.

Croatia Rally begins on Friday with two loops of Mali Lipovec – Grdanjci (19.20km), Stojdraga – Gornja Vas (20.77km), Krašić – Vrškovac (11.11km) and Pećurkovo Brdo – Mrežnički Novaki (9.11km), covering a total distance of 120.38km

The itinerary on Saturday contains a further eight stages, as the crews twice tackle Kostanjevac – Petruš Vrh (23.76km), Jaškovo – Mali Modruš Potok (10.10km), Platak (15.85km) and Vinski Vrh – Duga Resa (8.78km)

Two passes each of Trakošćan – Vrbno (13.15km) and Zagorska Sela – Kumrovec (14.09km) make up Sunday’s schedule, with the second run of the latter acting as the rally’s Power Stage.

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

“I have been waiting to get back in the car for Croatia and that’s always a good sign! We’ve only had two rallies but it’s always nice to have some good points in the beginning of the season. We are in the same situation as last year leading the championship going to Croatia and hopefully, we can do better there this time around. It will be a big challenge for us because we didn’t get to experience most of the stages last year, but we have been in this situation before with less experience than our rivals and I will do my best to manage. The feeling in the test was positive and I think there has been really good progress with the car. Hopefully it will go well on the event too.”

Esapekka Lappi

“Sweden was a great start to our season sharing the car with Seb. I hope I can take the confidence from there, but that was in conditions I know well and something I’m comfortable with, while Croatia will be a completely new rally for me. But I’m still really looking forward to what we could do there. The car felt really good in the test. It had been a while since I had driven on asphalt and it’s crazy how impressive the grip is on this surface. You can also really appreciate how much extra power we have from the hybrid. It was a bit like a Finnish road with a lot of crests and jumps, which is not so common on asphalt and pretty fun. There’s also a lot of dirt on the roads and managing that is something I want to be better at. I want to perform well and have a clean rally and I’m sure we can do it.”

Elfyn Evans

“It’s been quite a long break since the last rally so it’s been good to get back in the car for some testing and to get ready for Croatia. For me it has not been the start to the year that we wanted by a long way and we need to look forward and focus on performing in the coming events. Croatia is not an easy rally but it was a good one for us last year and hopefully we can have a strong run again. There are some things from last year that we have tried to learn from so that we have a car that’s suited to all of the different conditions. On our test we had a particularly slippery road that’s similar to what we’ll face on the rally, and that was a good place to work through some options.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Croatia Rally is a very challenging event as the grip is quite low and the profile of the stages is very demanding. There’s lots of blind corners, crests, jumps and cutting, and the roads can be quite dirty as well as being very narrow. Last year we were lucky with the weather and the conditions were quite dry, but it was still quite cold. There are definitely a lot of challenges we are going to face again in potentially tricky conditions, especially with these new cars, but it is a surface I feel very comfortable on. It is a rally I enjoyed a lot last year and I am looking forward to it.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03, Croatia Rally
22-25 April 2021
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak

“Competing at Croatia Rally for the first-time last year was a bit more demanding than we expected as the tarmac there is very different – it looks good but the grip is very low. The surface changes and the general characteristics of the roads also make it quite challenging to drive, with lots of crests and jumps that you normally don’t have too much on tarmac. It was a big job to manage in 2021 but we expect it will be a lot more fun this year now that we have experience and know what to expect from the event.”

Oliver Solberg

“Croatia Rally looked like a fantastic event last year. It is very exciting for me to go there for the first time– it’s a beautiful country and I think it will be a fantastic tarmac rally, although I know it is very tricky. The roads don’t have a lot of grip, but personally I like a bit of slippery tarmac, so that makes me happy. My expectations for the event are difficult to set as unlike my team-mates, I haven’t driven there before. For me it will be about getting lots of experience and not as much about pace. We will just drive and have fun and see where we end up.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen

“I’m really looking forward to Croatia, it’s a rally I really enjoy. Tarmac rallying is actually what I prefer, so to get back out in Croatia is going to be great. We had a really good test last week, I found a really good feeling with the car and I was happy with everything, so let’s see if we can bring on the pace that we showed in Monte, our last part-Tarmac rally.

“It should be a good event – if not tough – but the stages are similar to last year, there are some new ones, but most are relatively the same. So we’re looking forward to it, and let’s hope that together as a team we can do a good job and bring home some good points.”

Craig Breen (IRL) and Paul Nagle (IRL) perform during their practice run at the World Rally Championship Croatia in Karlovac, Croatia on April 4th, 2022 // Tomislav Moze / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202204050458 // Usage for editorial use only //

Gus Greensmith

“After the team’s performance in Monte-Carlo, on what was a very dry version of the rally, we’re feeling very confident going into Croatia, and I think the pre-event test has validated that. We started on a very similar surface to Monaco, and the car immediately felt so alive. It’s just such an impressive car on Tarmac so we’re feeling very good, I’m very excited for this rally. It’s been a long time away so we’re looking forward to getting going.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“Last year I started my first event in a WRC car in Croatia, so it feels like we have come full circle now after a full year. We’re very happy to be going back to Croatia, where I managed to get a good result last year, and to get back out on asphalt before a long line of gravel events is going to be great. I think we’re really going to enjoy it, it’s a tricky rally with lots of different grip levels, but it’s a great rally to do because you have so much variety between the stages.

“The team gave a strong performance on asphalt at the beginning of the season, so we hope to be in a strong position after that. I’m looking forward to the event, and it marks the first time I’ve competed twice on the same event in a WRC car, so I’m pretty happy about that as well.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet

“I’m really happy to be going back to Croatia and to be joining the M-Sport team. We did a pre-event test with the team a few weeks ago, as well as a rally in Belgium, and everything was working really well and the feeling in the car is nice. I hope I will be able to do my best for the team this week in my first rally, we’re going to take this one step-by-step and try our best to be competitive. We’ll see you there!”

Jari Huttunen, WRC2 Driver

“This year is my first time competing in Croatia, so I’m not really sure what to expect, but I’ve watched some footage and the conditions look nice. This will be my fourth event with the M-Sport team, starting in Monza last year, and so far, is it going well and the car feels good. Hopefully we will be somewhere in the top three, but the aim will be to maintain a consistent pace over the weekend.”

Summary

Well, we are all set for round three of this year’s championship. Can Hyundai take victory with either Thierry or Ott, or will we see M-Sport or Toyota take victory this weekend? If M-Sport take victory, then we will have a new winner, as none of their drivers have taken victory yet. Shakedown takes place on Thursday morning!

 

Enjoy the rally!

Rally Sweden 2022 Full Report – Kalle and Jonne take Victory!

It was a brilliant return to Sweden for round two of this year’s world rally championship, with young Finns Kalle and Jonne taking victory for the Toyota Gazoo WRT. Here’s the story as to how they took a third career win at the top level.

Friday

The first day saw 125km’s over seven stages and the startlist looked like this – Rovanperä, Breen, Neuville, Greensmith, Katsuta, Evans, Tänak, Fourmaux, Lappi, Solberg.

First stage then, Kroksjö 1, 14.98km and the top three was Ott, Kalle and Oliver and only one second covered the top three. The top Puma crew were Craig and Paul who held seventh and was a little over seven seconds from the lead.

Onwards then to SS2 Kamsjön 1 – 27.81 km and we had a change in the top positions. Esapekka was fastest from Kalle and Oliver and now he was in the lead from Kalle and Oliver. Ott dropped from the lead into fourth place. Two other drivers were also moving up with Elfyn moving into fifth and leapfrogging Thierry and Takamoto jumped into seventh. Unfortunately, Craig suffered a spin and was out.

Into SS3 Sävar 1 – 17.28 km and Kalle took his first stage win from Thierry and Elfyn. This performance was enough to take him into the lead with Thierry moving into second overall. Oliver incredibly remained in third overall after setting the fourth fastest time. Elfyn was also on the move gaining one place into fourth overall, passing Ott. Sadly, Esapekka had dropped from the lead to sixth overall and it was not all down to the stall on the line

After the service break, SS4 Kroksjö 2 – 14.98 km was next up and we had yet another different leader and stage winner, with Elfyn setting the fastest time from Esapekka and Oliver. The Welshman jumped three places into the lead and Kalle fell down to fourth place. It was still very close at the top though, with just 5.2 seconds covering the top five!

Into SS5 Kamsjön 2 – 27.81 km and fastest was Ott from Esapekka and Elfyn. The Welshman continued to lead from Ott who was now in second overall. Oliver was passed and was now down to fourth place. Thierry was also on the move, passing Kalle for fifth place.

SS6 Sävar 2 – 17.28 km was won by Thierry from Kalle and Esapekka and now the Belgian jumped into second place, just six tenths behind Elfyn. Kalle’s pace also lifted him up the leaderboard into fourth. There was disaster for Ott though who lost time in the stage with a problem with his hybrid unit and fell down to 28th overall.

The final stage then, SS7 Umeå Sprint – 5.53 km, and Kalle was fastest from Thierry and Takamoto. Elfyn was passed by the Belgian for the lead and fell to third overall behind Kalle as well.

 

Classification after Day One

1 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 1:02:31.2
2 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +4.3
3 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +7.4
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +8.8
5 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +28.1
6 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:18.9
7 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Puma Rally1 +1:32.9
8 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +1:48.1

 

Let’s hear from the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“This has been an important day for the whole team, and a great start to this rally for us. Leading after the first day has certainly put smiles back on our faces after Monte-Carlo. We started well this morning. We had a red flag in the second stage, but we got a new notional time which kept us in our representative position. We made some small set-up changes at lunchtime service but only a few adjustments. I felt comfortable and I was able to drive fast. The car was working perfectly. We managed our tyres well in the afternoon to catch back important seconds and we made it into the lead. The rally is still long, and I am going to keep pushing hard.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, Rally Sweden
24-27 February 2022
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Oliver Solberg (5th)

“At the end of this first day, I am happy. Fifth place is not really what we hoped for, but the pace this morning was good. I know that with consistent and clean speed, I am up there, and that’s very encouraging. We just need a bit more experience. I made a mistake with the tyres this afternoon, which was a gamble that didn’t pay off. That was a bit annoying, but we have a long weekend still ahead of us. We have to keep pushing. The others today have had times when they are on the limit, so tomorrow will come down to whoever makes the fewest mistakes. The aim for me is the same as today: drive clean, fast and stay smart.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (2nd)

“I’m really happy to be in this position tonight. It was a better day than I had been expecting with our road position. The morning loop especially was good: We were right in the fight and the car was working well in those conditions. We expected the second pass to be more difficult and it was. In some places it was really difficult, like in the first stage of the loop with huge ruts. But we managed it quite well with no mistakes and got some time back at the end of the day with some good tyre usage. Tomorrow we’ll have the same starting place as our rivals and hopefully we can fight against them and push on.”

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

“I’m not completely happy with my day. This morning I didn’t quite feel at one with everything and I felt I could have gone a bit better. The afternoon started off pretty well in difficult conditions but we probably took a bit more out of the tyres than I would have liked. We paid a price for that in the final stage, which was slippery with fresh ice and a lot of junctions and the acceleration was difficult. The tyre management on snow is something I’ve been trying to work on since last year and there’s clearly still a bit of work to do. But we’re still in a good position for tomorrow.”

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

“It’s been a good comeback day for me. Not a perfect day, but close to it. It’s so nice to be in the battle for the podium, which was the target beforehand, and maybe still fighting for the victory. The gap is less than ten seconds, so anything can happen. It was really nice to get that stage win already this morning; this was giving us some extra boost for the day. I’ve still been getting comfortable in the car today and trying a few things with the setup: The extra power from the hybrid feels crazy, especially on the smaller roads. But I will be more ready for tomorrow than I was for this morning.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 02 / Rally Sweden 2022 / 24-27 February 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

 

Saturday

With 82km’s over six stages on this day, who would be leading at the end of the day? The startlist looked like this – Breen, Tänak, Greensmith, Fourmaux, Katsuta, Solberg, Lappi, Evans, Rovanperä, Neuville.

Welshman, Elfyn was fastest in SS8 Brattby 1 – 10.49 km from Esapekka who had set the early benchmark in this first stage of the, with fellow GR Yaris Rally1 driver Kalle third. Kalle’s pace took him past Thierry and into the lead, but just seven tenths of a second ahead of the Belgian. Craig returned to the fight and was the fastest Puma driver as well, really encouraging for the M-Sport Ford team.

The top three of the following stage, SS10 Långed 1 – 19.49 km was Kalle, Ott and Elfyn. Thierry fell behind Elfyn as the Welshman moved up into second place and just four seconds from his teammate who still held the lead.

Craig took a stage win is SS11 Umeå 1 – 11.17 km from Kalle and Ott. Ott and Elfyn set the same time. There was another change in positions with former rally leader Thierry only going tenth fastest and dropping behind Esapekka in the overall standings to fourth. The Belgian duo were now 15 seconds behind Kalle, but remained within a few seconds of the podium positions.

Elfyn took SS12 Brattby 2 – 10.49 km from Thierry and Kalle, thereby reducing the lead that Kalle had to just 1.2 seconds. Thierry moved a little closer to the podium, the Belgian was now just three tenths from Esapekka.

Kalle was fastest in SS14 Långed 2 – 19.49 km from Elfyn and Thierry and extended his lead over his Welsh teammate to 5.7 seconds, whilst Thierry re-passed Esapekka. Adrien was having a good run, holding seventh overall, but his teammate Craig had a mechanical problem and fell down the leaderboard again.

The final stage of the day then, SS15 Umeå 2 – 11.17 km and Kalle was quickest from Elfyn who went off at the final corner and going over the snowbank at the side of the stage, hitting the red board. The car was stuck on the snowbank and Elfyn attempted to reverse back onto the stage, but this did not work. He went forwards instead and knocked a light that was lighting the side of the stage. The Welshman was eventually given a penalty for not following the correct line after the finish line.

Classification after Day Two

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 1:45:26.7
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +8.3
3 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +21.7
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +25.9
5 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:44.8
6 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +2:48.1
7 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +5:19.9

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“Overall, it was a nice day and we have to be happy tonight to be where we are. The first stage of the loop seemed to be a little bit difficult for us compared to our rivals. But we were able to fight back well in the second stage on both loops. It’s good to be leading but the gap is still really small, so we need to keep pushing hard from the start tomorrow morning.”

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“It’s been good fun today the car has generally been working well and I have really enjoyed it. It’s not been bad from my side, just a few errors here and there. Kalle’s done very well, he’s had a little edge on some stages and grown his advantage this afternoon. But it’s still pretty tight going into tomorrow. We’re going to keep trying to do our best and it’s not over until it’s over.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 02 / Rally Sweden 2022 / 24-27 February 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

“The car has been working well today, the feeling was really good and better than yesterday. We’ve been consistent, but just losing a little bit of time on each stage to our team-mates. We just seem to be missing a little bit at the moment, but it’s just very small details with the car, and maybe I just need more kilometres. We will keep pushing until the end tomorrow.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“Not an easy day for us today, but we are in third place which I think would be a great achievement for us if we can hang onto that position tomorrow. We had a complicated morning; we were trying our best but the other three were going really quick. It was hard to resist them. We also went wide under braking in the final morning stage, and I had to spin the car round which lost us a couple of seconds. I thought we might have a chance in the dark stages to catch back some time, and we were able to gain back a position. Our main issue this weekend has been under braking, and we still have some work to do on the chassis to gain more confidence in this area. Let’s see what’s possible tomorrow – if we can finish on the podium, I’ll be satisfied.”

Oliver Solberg (5th)

“It is difficult to say exactly what happened. It seems we had a throttle issue after the long stage this afternoon; certainly, the car was not moving forward! Elliott and I, with quick communications from the team, tried to repair it. We were at least able to make it to the end of the day, which was the most important thing. This morning, things were not clicking, neither with the car nor with myself. We changed some stuff, and the car was behaving more consistently. I could push again, which was nice, back a little to the rhythm from yesterday. I couldn’t take huge risks, but the times were good. We go again tomorrow.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, Rally Sweden
24-27 February 2022
Oliver Solberg, Elliott Edmondson, Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (28th)

“We had nice conditions in the morning, the first stage was more snowy and the second one more icy and technical. We had to come back under re-start regulations, so we just had to do our job and have some fun. The pace didn’t really matter much, as we are not competing for anything meaningful. The second loop was tricky – harder work than in the gym. Tomorrow’s stages are generally fast, with straights and high-speed corners. It will be special.”

 

Sunday

The final day then and as usual the shortest day with 5km over 4 stages. The startlist looked like this – Breen, Tänak, Solberg, Greensmith, Katsuta, Lappi, Neuville, Evans, Rovanperä.

SS16 Vindeln 1 – 14.19 km was first up and it led to disaster for Elfyn who had a spin in the stage, clipping a snow bank and his bonnet opened onto the windscreen. In the M-Sport Ford camp Adrien pulled out before even starting the stage with a mechanical problem. Kalle was fastest in the stage from Thierry and Oliver and with the exit of Elfyn, Thierry and Esapekka both moved up into second and third places respectively.

The first run through SS17 Sarsjöliden 1 – 14.23 km which would be the rally ending powerstage saw Ott go fastest from Oliver and Esapekka, whilst Craig remained quick with the fourth best time. Takamoto had a moment with a stall in the stage, but remained in fourth overall.

Into the penultimate stage then, SS18 Vindeln 2 – 14.19 km and Thierry was fastest from Esapekka and Kalle. The younger Finns were still firmly in the lead, a full 21.6 seconds ahead of the Belgians in their i20 Rally1.

The final stage then, SS19 Sarsjöliden 2 [Power Stage] – 14.23 km and the top five was Ott, Kalle, Thierry, Takamoto and Craig. Kalle had taken his third career victory at the top level and had moved into the championship lead as well. What a simply amazing drive from him and Jonne.

Final Overall Classification –Rally Sweden

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 2:10:44.9
2 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +22.0
3 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +30.6
4 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:19.4
5 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +3:20.4
6 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +5:39.4
7 A. Mikkelsen T. Eriksen Škoda Fabia Evo +7:11.1
8 O. C. Veiby S. Skærmoen Volkswagen Polo GTI +7:34.3
9 J. Huttunen M. Lukka Ford Fiesta MkII +8:14.2
10 E. Kaur K. Aleksandrov Volkswagen Polo GTI +8:24.8

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“It feels very good to win here in Sweden. It was a really nice fight the whole weekend. After being the first car on the road on Friday, this is a really good result. It was a bit of a pity that Elfyn went out this morning because it was a great fight, but otherwise it’s a very good result for the team. I struggled a bit in the first rally with this car in Monte Carlo, but now I felt much more confident over the whole weekend with the car. Big thanks to the team because it has been a big job for them to make the car better all the time and make me comfortable.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 02 / Rally Sweden 2022 / 24-27 February 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (3rd)

“It’s great to be back and to be back on the podium. That was my target before the weekend but I knew it would be tough. But we managed it and I’m so happy. I’m so proud of myself, of Janne and of the whole team. We didn’t have any issues on my car the whole weekend. I couldn’t get second place without taking more risks. It cannot have started better than this. To expect more would have been ridiculous. We had a long break; our last rally was in October last year so this is a top result.”

Takamoto Katsuta (4th)

“To finish the rally in fourth place is very good. In the beginning of the weekend, I was struggling a lot, but by the end I was very comfortable in the car and I was enjoying it a lot on the stages. Thank you so much to the team, because they changed a lot of things during each service and the feeling in the car was perfect at the end of the weekend. From Saturday onwards especially, I felt so comfortable in the car. In the Power Stage I tried a big push to get some extra points for the team and took two points, which was good even though there was room to improve. But the most important thing is that we finished the rally. Thanks to Aaron as well: He did a really good job during the weekend.”

Elfyn Evans (DNF)

“It was a huge disappointment for me to end the rally this way. Everything was going OK in the first stage but on a long left-hander I lost the rear-end of the car and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch it, so we had quite a high-speed spin. After making some repairs we managed to get going again but unfortunately, we had to stop for hybrid-related reasons. I’m sorry for the team because they’ve obviously built a very fast car but so far, I haven’t been able to bring back the results they deserve. It’s not nice to go into this break on a bad note but we’ll focus on the next round and on being the best we can there.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“It’s a great feeling to take a podium here in Sweden, our first in the new hybrid era. It’s a bit unexpected after what we saw in Rallye Monte-Carlo, but the team has done a good job. My thanks go to everyone at the factory in Germany for pushing hard. We could already see in shakedown that the speed was not too bad, and it was a surprise to be leading the rally on Friday evening. After that, it was a bit more difficult to find the right set-up, but we had enough pace to keep our focus on the podium – and eventually secure second place. We now have one-and-a-half-months to prepare ourselves and the car for Croatia. These weeks will be very important, and there’s a lot of work to be done, but after this result we can look ahead to the upcoming events with more positivity.”

Oliver Solberg (6th)

“The Power Stage was not the perfect end to the rally that we were hoping for. I made a few mistakes, and was a bit careful in other places, so it was not a clean run. Still, I have enjoyed this weekend very much. It has been great to be competing at home in a WRC car for the first time, you really can’t get better than that. The car has been working well all weekend and the team has done an amazing job, so thanks to them. It’s not the result we wanted after some bad luck with the car but that’s how it is. We need to work hard with a big smile on our faces because the speed is there. We just need to improve our performance more to get to the top, but I have no doubt we will get there.”

Ott Tänak (20th)

“There are not really many positives for us to take away from this rally. Overall, it has been a frustrating and disappointing weekend. On the plus side, we showed that we had the pace to be competitive. The downside is that we weren’t able to score many points. We were lucky to take some points away from the Power Stage, but they are few compared to what we should be scoring. I can’t really stress too much about the situation because there’s little I could have done differently from my side. The team has been working hard and the podium for Thierry offers a bit of pay back. I’ve said before that the potential of the car is there, it just needs work to get where we want to be.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, Rally Sweden
24-27 February 2022
Ott Tanak
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

M-Sport Ford WRT

Gus Greensmith (5th)

“I didn’t have a great start to the weekend, I wasn’t very happy with how Friday went because we lost a lot of time, either through my mistakes or problems with the car, which kind of took us out of the fight a little. At that point then, it was just a bit of a reset and taking it step-by-step, and through some other people’s mistakes and misfortune we picked up some good positions. Two fifths in a row puts us fourth in the championship and a de-facto third, if you take Mr Loeb out of the equation, so I’d say that’s pretty good.”

Craig Breen (36th)

“A relatively disappointing weekend for us in Sweden, after the great result in Monte we were looking to build on it again and get some more good points for the championship. Unfortunately, the error we made on Friday put out any hopes of getting a good result, but nonetheless we improved as the weekend went on; we had a stage win on Saturday which is great, our first stage win in the team.

“We definitely have a lot of things where we can improve for the upcoming events. We’re looking forward to getting our heads down and getting focused on Croatia, which is coming up very soon.”

Adrien Fourmaux (DNF)

“It has been a nice weekend for me to get my confidence back after Monte, and I’ve enjoyed my time on the snow. This was my first snow event in a WRC car, and I can be happy with my pace and gathering that experience. At the end of the first day, we were in 7th position, so I was really happy with that, and unfortunately on Saturday we had to retire before the last stage due to an engine issue.”

Jari Huttunen, WRC2 Driver (9th)

“The first part of the weekend was tricky but today it went well, and I felt I didn’t make as many mistakes. I am happy with the result, getting a podium was our target so it’s good. I think I have some work to do on my driving, and maybe a few things with the car, as we look to get even better results. We still have a lot of work to do, so let’s see.”

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

1 K. Rovanperä 46
2 T. Neuville 32
3 S. Loeb 27
4 G. Greensmith 20
5 S. Ogier 19
6 T. Katsuta 18
7 C. Breen 16
8 E. Lappi 15
9 A. Mikkelsen 12
10 O. Solberg 8
11 O. Tänak 5
2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, Rally Sweden
24-27 February 2022
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

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

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 83
2 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 59
3 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 47
4 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team NG 22

 

Next up is Rally Croatia at the end of April!

Rally Sweden 2022 Preview – Round Two

Time for the championship to return to Sweden for the first time since 2020! Elfyn and Scott picked up victory for the Toyota team the last time this rally was run and of course this rally was cancelled last year because of the covid situation faced by Sweden last year and we had a replacement event in Finland instead.

Well, back to this year and we have a very interesting situation that the top two crews from M-Sport Ford and Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT that finished first and second are not competing. This means that Kalle and Jonne will be opening the road throughout Friday’s stages in their GR Yaris Rally1.

 

Let’s take a look at the stages

Rally Sweden begins with its longest day, with Friday’s running consisting of two loops of Kroksjö (14.98km), Kamsjön (27.81km) and Sävar (17.28km) plus a single pass of Umeå Sprint (5.53km), totalling 125.72km

Saturday’s itinerary contains six stages and sees the crews twice tackle Brattby (10.49km), Långed (19.49km) and Umeå (11.17km)

Sunday features two tests each of Vindeln (14.19km) and Sarsjöliden (14.23km). The second pass of the latter will be the rally’s Power Stage.

 

Now with a number of fast crews further down the championship standings following Rallye Monte Carlo we should be looking to Ott, Elfyn and Thierry to challenge for the podium given their starting positions. Returning to the top cars we see Esapekka Lappi, and if he can get a good start and set some top times, then the Finn can hope to challenge near the top as well.

Craig Breen will also be quick in the Puma Rally1, whilst teammates Gus and Adrien will look to have good pace and see if they can both set some top times and maybe even some stage wins out there!

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans

“We didn’t start the year how we wanted to on the first rally, but the one small benefit is that our road position should be a bit better for Sweden. We want to capitalise on that as best as we can and, like always, do as well as possible. With everything being so new there have been a lot of different things to try during our testing on snow and ice, but overall, I’m feeling comfortable – although it is always hard to tell exactly how fast you are on this surface because things like traction vary depending on the conditions. We’ve also been looking through the videos of the stages provided by the organiser, and they look very fast in places but also with some very narrow and technical sections.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“Overall, I was really happy with our weekend in Monte Carlo. We started out in a difficult place but we did a lot of work together with the team to improve my feeling in the car. Of course, taking the extra points in the Power Stage means we start first on the road in Sweden and will have some road cleaning to do there on the first day. But we will do our best to take as many points as we can at the end of the weekend and hopefully, we can still have a really good rally. In testing we were starting from zero with the snow setup for the new car and it felt a bit tricky to drive in the beginning, but together with our team-mates I think we have made some good steps in the right direction during the two tests.”

Esapekka Lappi

“I am very excited about this moment. To be competing at the highest level once more is something I have been looking forward to for a long time. It has felt very natural to be working with the team again over the last few weeks and through testing. My feeling in the GR YARIS Rally1 was already quite good from the beginning and it’s been getting better step by step. I think the events I did with a Rally2 car last year are helping me a lot to understand how best to drive these cars. Rally Sweden is an event I have always enjoyed and I have always been competitive there. We need to remember that it’s been five months since my last rally, but I believe we can be on the pace and I want to fight for the podium – that’s my minimum target. It won’t be easy but I feel it’s possible.”

Hyundai Motorsport

2021 FIA World Rally Championship, Rally1 Test, November 2021
Action during Rally1 Test 2021
Photographer: Romain Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville

“With the all-new itinerary, it’s very difficult to know what is waiting for us at Rally Sweden, but it will definitely be interesting. While we don’t have a lot of experience with the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 in these conditions – it is a proper full-snow rally –I think our driving style will be pretty similar to the previous cars we’ve competed with at Rally Sweden. Rallying is always a bit more spectacular on snow with the studded tyres. Usually, the stages are quite fast, you have to lean into the snowbanks and drive sideways a bit more. You have to be slightly more brutal to get the studs to grip into the ground. Everybody has worked so hard over the last couple of months and we hope that we will see a good return for that effort next weekend.”

Ott Tänak

“Rally Sweden will be an all-new event as we are moving more north than we have in previous years. I really don’t know what to expect but snow is always something I’ve really enjoyed competing on. Sweden was the location of our first podium with Hyundai Motorsport, and it would mean a lot to be able to replicate that result next weekend. We have the inner drive to come back fighting from our difficult first round of the season; we want to turn that into positive momentum that will carry us throughout the year ahead. Last season we were victorious in the snow in Arctic Rally Finland, so we know we are fast and competitive on this surface. The target will be to hit the ground running and find a good rhythm with the Hyundai i20 N Rally1.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, Rally Sweden
24-27 February 2022
Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Oliver Solberg

“First of all, it is going to be very emotional to compete in my first home event as a factory driver. It is something I have dreamed about my whole life. I think the new location is an important step, as it is what the rally needs to secure fantastic conditions, even if it is sad to move away from my hometown. Snow and ice is also my favourite surface as well so it will be a very special rally. You have to be quite aggressive with your driving style, keeping the front of the car in the lines but pushing the rear. It will be new for everybody, so preparations are more equal and gives me a good opportunity to have a strong weekend. Rally Sweden will be a mix of everything: fast and twisty roads, wintry conditions, lots of snow banks – and maybe some reindeers.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen

“I’m really excited to discover a new rally in Umea. I’ve done the rally many times before in Torsby, but it’ll be completely new this time, and I’m looking forward to having some great conditions. This is the first rally on loose surfaces with the new cars and the Puma hybrid, so hopefully it’ll be good.

“Obviously, we start near the front of the road on the first stage, so that will be something new for me to discover. Being second car on the road will be not the best conditions but honestly, it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to. It comes with having a good championship position, so at the end of the day it’s good for that reason.

“I’m hoping for a good event, trying to build more confidence with the car like we did in Monte Carlo, and to see if we can get another strong result; the most important thing is to keep the championship position strong heading into Croatia, so let’s see how it goes.”

Gus Greensmith

“We’re looking forward to Rally Sweden, especially now it’s based up in Umea. From what we’ve seen the stages look really, really fast, some of the fastest I’ve ever seen, so that’s going to be really exciting. Generally, the conditions sound great so we’re looking forward to having big snowbanks to lean on. From my previous experience of testing the Puma last year on loose surfaces, the balance of the car and everything feels great, so we’re excited for this one.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“I’m really happy to come back to Sweden after two years, and it looks like we’ll have nice road conditions for this famous rally. The atmosphere is so special with this being the only event with 100 per cent snow, so it’s always something I look forward to as I enjoy driving on snow. For sure, I want a good result but first of all I want to enjoy it and get some experience on this surface. It’ll be the first time for me on snow in a WRC car, so it will be quite a big step, but I’m really looking forward to it.”

Jari Huttunen, WRC2 driver

“I’m very excited to start Rally Sweden, it’s nice to be back with M-Sport for my first rally this year. This is a very unique event with some challenging conditions, but it’s a great opportunity to add to my experience in WRC2.

“We’ve got a new location and some new roads, and it’s also my first time on snow with M-Sport Ford – so let’s see what we can do.”

Mattias Adielsson, WRC2 driver

“It will be a fantastic opportunity and proud moment for me to start our home rally in WRC with M-Sport Ford World Rally Team. I feel very well prepared for the upcoming challenge, and I know I have the material to be at our best in a Fiesta Rally2!

“But I’m also humble and I know the guys in WRC2 are much more experienced drivers then I am; luckily it is our home surface and I think we can put down some really good pace during the rally once we start feeling comfortable.”

Summary

We are set then for a great rally! Enjoy it. It’s going to be special and we’ll have a new championship leader at the end.

Rallye Monte Carlo – Sunday’s Report, Seb Loeb and Isabelle Galmiche win!

The final day then and 67km’s over four stages were ahead of the crews. The startlist looked like this – Katsuta, Solberg, Evans, Neuville, Greensmith, Rovanperä, Breen, Loeb, Ogier. Once again, there wasn’t a midday service, just a regroup and tyre changing zone.

First up was SS14 La Penne / Collongues 1 – 19.37 km and Loeb trimmed 1.1 seconds from Ogier’s’ lead, the two former Citroen teammates setting the pace out front, whilst Craig was just 9 tenths back with the third fastest time. Kalle continued his excellent pace with the fourth best time. It would be the last time we’d see Oliver and Elliott though, as the Hyundai crew withdrew at the end of the stage, still feeling the aftereffects of the fumes that had been coming into the cabin of their i20 Rally1.

SS15 Briançonnet / Entrevaux 1 – 14.26 km was next up and the top three was Thierry, Ogier and Takamoto. Loeb was fifth in the stage, losing some more time to Ogier in their battle for victory, the gap now 24.6 seconds! Elfyn stopped in the stage to change a tyre after getting a puncture, but it was better to have the car in good shape for the final stages.

The penultimate stage then, SS16 La Penne / Collongues 2 – 19.37 km and there was drama! The top three were Loeb, Gus and Takamoto, but a big problem for Ogier, as his left-hand front tyre suffered a puncture and he was 34.1 seconds slower than Loeb. The M-Sport driver was back in the lead, 9.5 seconds ahead of Ogier. Takamoto’s time was good enough to lift him up into ninth overall.

The final stage then, SS17 Briançonnet / Entrevaux 2 [Power Stage] – 14.26 km, and the startlist was changed again – Mikkelsen (WRC2), Cais (WRC2), Gryazin (WRC2), Johnston (WRC2), Munster (WRC2), Evans, Katsuta, Neuville, Greensmith, Rovanperä, Breen, Ogier, Loeb. Elfyn set the early benchmark, which Takamoto, Thierry and Gus could not get close to. Then came Kalle who was almost a second faster than his teammate, setting the fastest time. After Craig finished the stage, only eighth fastest, it was time to see who’s take the win. The early splits showed that Ogier was setting a faster pace than Kalle, but then we found out that he’d jumped the start and would get a 10 second penalty. All Loeb had to do was finish the stage and he’d win the rally. Loeb and Isabelle were the winners of Rallye Monte Carlo 2022 for M-Sport Ford! It was the first time a female co-driver had stood on the top step of the podium since 1997 when Piero Liatti and Fabrizia Pons took the win for Subaru and Prodrive. Just amazing and about time!

Final Overall Classification –Rallye Monte-Carlo

1 S. Loeb I. Galmiche Ford Puma Rally1 3:00:32.8
2 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +10.5
3 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +1:39.8
4 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:16.2
5 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +6:33.4
6 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +7:42.6
7 A. Mikkelsen T. Eriksen Škoda Fabia Evo +11:33.8
8 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +12:24.7
9 E. Cais P. Tesínský Ford Fiesta Mk II +12:29.2
10 N. Gryazin K. Aleksandrov Škoda Fabia Evo +13:41.3

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

M-Sport Ford WRT

Seb Loeb (1st)

“I feel really happy! I didn’t expect so much when I came here, but it was a great fight. Ogier was really fast and I struggled a bit yesterday and even this morning.”

Craig Breen (3rd)

“It feels amazing. This is the result of 18 months of incredibly hard work by a group of people all the way through Covid, and it’s all worth it because this is an absolutely amazing machine.”

Gus Greensmith (5th)

It’s been a good weekend in terms of performance and I want to congratulate everyone at M-Sport and Ford Performance because this thing is a weapon and it’s going to get better all through the year.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“It has been a huge joy to compete in this special rally again and to be in this incredible fight. This weekend we don’t come out as the winner but we can definitely keep our head up. Together with Benjamin and the team we did the job. We have done a great performance over the weekend and there were no issues on the car, which is a fantastic achievement. Fate decided differently today but I’m still smiling and I still enjoyed this fight very much. Honestly, I feel there was nothing I could do about what happened on the penultimate stage. It was a cut I avoided on the first pass but on the second pass it was impossible to avoid, it was very dirty and I had to follow the line of the others. But well done to Sébastien and Isabelle for the victory, they have done a remarkable performance and it was a very tough fight. It’s been a good weekend for the sport.”

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

Kalle Rovanperä (4th)

“I am really happy to see the progress we made during the rally. I didn’t really know what was happening at the beginning but we believed in ourselves, pushed hard and found a good pace in the car. We did everything we could and finally got the setup much better and I could start to learn the car myself. I have to say big thanks to my engineer for pushing with me and doing big changes to the car. So, it was a really positive weekend in the end and we could do a good run in the Power Stage also. It’s important to get all the points we can so it’s nice to be in this position, even if it means we will be cleaning the road in Sweden. That’s going to be a bit tricky but we will do our best to be ready for that.”

Elfyn Evans (21st)

“It’s been an encouraging weekend in some ways but it’s massively frustrating to make the error that was so costly yesterday. I had a good feeling in the car but that doesn’t count for much because we finish the rally with very few points, which is a disappointment. I had a pretty good run in the Power Stage but maybe towards the end I didn’t make the most of the hybrid system in the tricky conditions. Overall, the team has done a really good job. We didn’t have a lot of testing but I found a much happier place with the car during the event. I think it performed really well without any issues, so a big thank you to the team.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“At the end of this rally, we are left with feelings of disappointment and frustration. We had a tough weekend. I drove for my life in the Power Stage, I gave it absolutely everything, so I was disappointed with the time. There has been a huge amount of work behind the scenes to prepare for this event, from me and Martijn, as well as the team, so to come away without any reward is hard to accept. We won’t give up. We are trying to keep everyone motivated and we will continue pushing. The will is definitely there and that’s important. There are different areas we are going to work on but most important is the reliability. We need to be much stronger for the upcoming events.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship Round 01,
Rallye Monte-Carlo 2022, 20-23 January 2022
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 N Rally1, Action during Day 3 of WRC Rallye Monte-Carlo 2022
Photographer: Romain Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Oliver Solberg (DNF)

“We started the day with some hope. Our plan was to gain more mileage today – for the car, the team and ourselves – we just wanted to drive and have fun. We were seventh through SS14 but after the stage we agreed with the team to retire the car as we were not feeling well after what we’d experienced over the past couple of days. It’s been a long, tough weekend but I am happy with what I’ve done. Even if it’s been tricky, we’ve set some good splits and stage times. There are always positives to take away. Big thanks to the team too, it’s been long days and the dedication is fantastic. Together as a team we’ll keep pushing and working to improve for next time!”

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

1 S. Loeb 27
2 S. Ogier 19
3 K. Rovanperä 17
4 C. Breen 15
5 T. Neuville 11
6 G. Greensmith 10
7 A. Mikkelsen 6
8 T. Katsuta 4
9 E. Evans 4
10 E. Cais 2
11 M. Gryazin 1

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 1

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 40
2 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 39
3 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 13
4 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team NG 8

Summary

Well, that was amazing! Just an incredible first round of this season’s championship. Look out for my roundup of the driver and co-driver performances this coming week.

©2017 The Pitcrewonline