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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Kalle Rovanperä

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

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

Elfyn Evans

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

Sébastien Ogier

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

M-Sport Ford WRT

Ott Tänak

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

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

Pierre-Louis Loubet

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

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

Jourdan Serderidis

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

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

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

Esapekka Lappi

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

Dani Sordo

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

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

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

Adrien Fourmaux

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

Grégoire Munster

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

Friday

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

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

Chris and Craig, Photo Credit, Heather KinetixAF

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

Classification after Day One

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

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

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

Ott Tänak (2nd)

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

Oliver Solberg (7th)

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

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

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

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

Kalle Rovanperä (SuperRally)

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

Saturday

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

Chris and Craig, Photo Credit, Heather KinetixAF

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

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

Classification after Day Two

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

Oliver Solberg (4th)

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

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

Thierry Neuville (SuperRally)

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

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

Esapekka Lappi (3rd)

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

Kalle Rovanperä (SuperRally)

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

 

Sunday

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

Chris and Craig – Photo Credit, Heather KinetixAF

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

Final Overall Classification – Ypres Rally Belgium

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

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

Oliver Solberg (4th)

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

Thierry Neuville (SuperRally)

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

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

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

Esapekka Lappi (3rd)

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

Takamoto Katsuta (5th)

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

Kalle Rovanperä (SuperRally)

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

 

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’

After Round Nine

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

 

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’

After Round Nine

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

 

Summary

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

M-Sport Ford WRT

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

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

Elfyn and Scott, Photo Credit, Heather KinetixAF

Hyundai Motorsport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

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

Elfyn Evans

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

Esapekka Lappi

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

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

Ott Tänak 

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

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

Oliver Solberg

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

Teemu Suninen WRC2

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

Fabrizio Zaldivar WRC2

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

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

Hayden Paddon WRC2

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

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen

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

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

Gus Greensmith

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

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

Pierre-Louis Loubet

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

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

Adrien Fourmaux

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

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

Jari Huttunen WRC2

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Overall Classification – Rally Italia Sardegna

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

Let’s hear from the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

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

Dani Sordo (3rd)

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

Thierry Neuville (41st)

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

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen (2nd)

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

Pierre-Louis Loubet (4th)

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

Gus Greensmith (7th)

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

Jari Huttunen (3rd WRC2)

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

Adrien Fourmaux (DNF)

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

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

Elfyn Evans (40th)

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

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

Kalle Rovanperä (44th)

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

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

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

 

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

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

 Summary

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

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

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

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

Next

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day Two

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

Let’s hear from the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

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

Dani Sordo (3rd)

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

Thierry Neuville (SuperRally)

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (6th)

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

Elfyn Evans (SuperRally)

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

Esapekka Lappi (SuperRally)

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

Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day One

 

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (1st)

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

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

Kalle Rovanperä (8th)

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

Elfyn Evans (55th)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

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

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

Dani Sordo (5th)

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

Thierry Neuville (9th)

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

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

Elfyn Evans

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

Esapekka Lappi

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

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

Ott Tänak

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

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

Dani Sordo

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

Teemu Suninen (WRC2)

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

Fabrizio Zaldivar (WRC2)

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

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen

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

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

Gus Greensmith

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

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

Pierre-Louis Loubet

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

Adrien Fourmaux

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

Jari Huttunen, (WRC2)

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

 

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Overall Classification –Croatia Rally

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

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

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

Elfyn Evans (5th)

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

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

Esapekka Lappi (49th)

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

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

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

Thierry Neuville (3nd)

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

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen (4th)

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

Gus Greensmith (15th)

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

Pierre-Louis Loubet (47th)

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

Adrien Fourmaux (DNF)

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

Jari Huttunen, WRC2 (28th)

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

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

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

 

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

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

Summary

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

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

Rally Croatia – Day Two Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day Two

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

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

Elfyn Evans (5th)

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

Esapekka Lappi (53rd)

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

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

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

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

Thierry Neuville (4th)

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

Oliver Solberg (DNF)

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

Summary

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

Rally Croatia – Day One Report – Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day One

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

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

Elfyn Evans (6th)

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

Esapekka Lappi (57th) Super Rally

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

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

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

Ott Tänak (3rd)

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

Oliver Solberg (5th)

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

Saturday

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

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