Rally Finland 2021 – My Thoughts

Well, what an amazing rally that we witnessed last weekend. Let’s take a look at the performances of the crews over the weekend.

 

Well, first up Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin. Nine stage wins, with four in a row on Saturday morning set up their best victory of their careers. It was the kind of drive that we would expect to see from Ott or Seb and have brought to the stages over the recent years. The key thing with this drive was that it happened in Finland. Elfyn took stage wins and second overall in 2017, so we knew that he could score a good result at this rally. The other thing to consider is the way that he responded to his closest challenger throughout the rally. Ott did what he could to put pressure on his former M-Sport teammate, but Elfyn had an answer every time. He’d gone in a different setup route with his Yaris, and was far more comfortable than his teammates, and able to put the car where he wanted, allowing him to produce this result. Never forget, he’s the first Welshman to win in Finland. It’s brought him right back into the championship fight, now only twenty-four points behind Seb Ogier.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Finland / 28 September – 4th October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Next up is Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja. Seven stage wins for double Rally Finland winner showed that Hyundai were really benefitting from the 2019 championship winners understanding of the challenges of this event. Normally that kind of performance would likely deliver the victory, but no matter what he did, Elfyn and Scott always had an answer to the Estonian duo. Never-the-less they’d delivered Hyundai their first ever podium at this event, and for that they should be applauded. This certainly bodes well for the future.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 10, Rally Finland
01-03 October 2021
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, WRC, Action during Day 3 of Rally Finland 2021
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Okay, lastly, we have to talk about Craig Breen and Paul Nagle. The Irish duo came to this rally as podium finishers in the past. Craig took third in 2016 when he was with Citroen and Paul was Kris Meeke’s co-driver when they won this rally in 2016, also for Citroen, so we knew that if they could get comfortable out there, that a top result was on, and so it was. They led early on and for a crew only doing a part season, they were really on it. Once Elfyn and Ott stepped up their pace in their battle though a crew that is only doing a part season was not likely to be able to challenge those that are in their cars full-time. Mind you, they had one over their other teammates, Thierry and Martijn, and that is why this drive to third place has to be shouted about. Of course, the great news is that Craig and Paul have signed for M-Sport Ford for two years, starting next year to spearhead their championship challenge with the new Puma Rally1 car.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 10, Rally Finland
1-3 October 2021
Craig Breen
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Let’s look at the other points finishers then, starting with Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm. Fourth place for the 2017 winners was a good result for a crew that last competed the Yaris WRC at the end of 2018, not forgetting that he last drove a WRC at the end of 2020 with M-Sport at Rally Monza. For a crew of such quality, it must have been very hard to be away, but with this result it shows that they deserve to be at the top of this sport. Of course, it was announced on the 7th of October that he will be back at Toyota sharing a car with Seb from next year. This is great news for them and of course for the championship.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Finland / 28 September – 4th October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Let’s talk about Seb Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. They weren’t really on the pace to be honest, until they adopted Elfyn’s setup. Obviously, it was always going to be very hard for them what with opening the road throughout Friday’s stages. Once they did take those settings, they were quicker but the damage had been done early on and fifth was the best that they could get. Of course, a time penalty was handed to them after Seb didn’t do his helmet strap properly for stage twelve, but I think even without that I’m not sure that they would have got fourth anyway. To add to their woes, the power problem on the powerstage meant that they only took the points for fifth place.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Finland / 28 September – 4th October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

At M-Sport, Gus and Chris and Adrien and Alex weren’t really on the pace, but to be honest for them to just complete the rally without any problems and mistakes on a very challenging event, they certainly managed that well. Of course, it was to be expected that Gus and Chris who have more experience with this car on this surface would finish ahead of his teammate. For Adrien with a new co-driver alongside him and also competing in a WRC Fiesta on this event for the first time, it’s fair to not have expected a massive result from them.

Takamoto with, with another temporary co-driver as we await Dan Barritt’s return actually led the rally after the first stage, but then he fell back after his 360-degree spin, and then had a mistake on Saturday meant that he restarted on Sunday. Still, for his debut in a Yaris WRC on this rally, there were some positives for the Japanese driver, who actually considers this rally as a home event, mainly as he has lived in Jyväskylä for a number of years. He will return though with some good experience and will likely have some good results in the future.

Finally, the crews that didn’t finish the rally. Thierry and Martijn were not really at this one. Sadly it’s the kind of performance that we have got used to from Thierry at this event, and it’s really odd as well. It’s not like he’s not fast and consistent on gravel rallies. I’m sure that he and the team will be working hard to figure out what it is about this particular rally so that he can get onto the pace. I think that without this, he may never win the drivers’ world title that he really wants.

Kalle and Jonne came to this rally with big hopes, but after showing some good pace, suffered a small accident that had big consequences, with him picking up a back injury. The crew came back just to complete most of the stages, kind of like a fast recce, but didn’t complete the powerstage. It’s not like they were going to push hard for the points in there. They will return though and will almost certainly stand on the podium at some point.

 

Well, who was your driver of the event? Let us know in the comments section below!

Rally Finland Day Three Report – Elfyn and Scott take Victory!

The last day then of this autumnal Rally Finland, and with 45.7km over four stages. The startlist looked like this – Katsuta, Rovanperä, Fourmaux, Greensmith, Ogier, Lappi, Breen, Tänak, Evans.

Just a couple of things to update you on. Seb Ogier was handed a one-minute time penalty for not having his helmet strap done up properly on stage 12. Takamoto and Kalle both returned to the action for Toyota under the SuperRally rules. For the young Finn, he would be taking it easy, as he had a sore back after his off yesterday. Both drivers would be looking just to get experience of these two stages for the future.

Well, into SS16 Laukaa 1 – 11.75 km and it was a fastest time for Ott who was looking to put pressure on Elfyn. The Welshman was not having any of this though and although second fastest kept the time loss to just four tenths of a second. He didn’t think it was a good stage though, saying he could have gone better in places, and that it was low grip. Craig started the stage well, but suffered a spin in a slow speed junction and did a 360 spin to get facing the right way.

The following stage, SS17 Ruuhimäki 1 – 11.12 km and the first run of what would be the power stage and Ott would be denied by Elfyn who extended his lead by a further 3.5 seconds to 12.2! Ott was second and Craig third. Kalle was taking it so easy out there that he was only eighteen quickest. The battle for the win in WRC2 continued between Teemu and Mads with the Finn pulling away a little from the Citroen driver.

What followed in SS18 Laukaa 2 – 11.75 km was amazing as Elfyn had clearly learnt from the earlier running of this stage, beating Ott’s time by two tenths of a second and therefore extending his lead! Esapekka was third on the stage. Nikolay was fastest in the WRC2, but it was good news for Teemu who now had a lead of 14.1 over Mads.

The final stage then, SS19 Ruuhimäki 2 [Power Stage] – 11.12 km and as usual there was a change in the running order. Gryazin (WRC2), Linnamäe (WRC2), Prokop (WRC2), Huttunen (WRC2), Østberg (WRC2), Suninen (WRC2), Katsuta, Fourmaux, Greensmith, Ogier, Lappi, Breen, Tänak, Evans.

Takamoto set the early benchmark and the two M-Sport crews came through slower. What was a surprise was that Seb was slower as well! He was suffering a problem with his car and losing time! Esapekka came through and beat Takamoto’s time, before Ott completed with the best time. What would Elfyn do? Would he go for the fastest time, or just settle for the points for victory? We got the first hint at the first split and the Welshman was up by seven tenths of a second. It increased to one second at the second split as well. Finally, when he crossed the line, he’d beaten Ott’s time by 1.7 seconds! What a drive from Elfyn and Scott! Just amazing!

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Finland / 28 September – 4th October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Final Overall Classification –Rally Finland

1 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC 2:19:13.7
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +14.1
3 C. Breen P. Nagle Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +42.2
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +58.8
5 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +2:54.4
6 G. Greensmith C. Patterson Ford Fiesta WRC +5:02.3
7 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Fiesta WRC +6:22.9
8 T. Suninen M. Markkula Volkswagen Polo GTI +9:52.1
9 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 Rally2 +10:07.8
10 E. Lindholm R. Hämäläinen Škoda Fabia Evo +10:52.8

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“It feels pretty special to win for the team on its home rally. After a difficult rally for me in Estonia on roads with similar characteristics, it feels really good and especially the way we managed to do it. We made some changes to the car in our test and I found great confidence with it pretty early on Friday. I’m really happy and thankful for the team for all their work, it’s been a great weekend. I feel fortunate to have been able to drive this car on these roads, and to take the win is extra special. It’s a positive result in terms of the championship. The drivers’ title is still a long shot for me, but we’ll keep giving our best on every event.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Finland / 28 September – 4th October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“Today for us was all about trying to get some more points in the Power Stage. Unfortunately, we had a problem just after the start of the stage, so we couldn’t set a good time. This was not our rally but that’s how it is sometimes. We have to move on. We are still in a good position in the championship and I am really looking forward to Spain and to asphalt. I know what I have to do there. Elfyn did very well this weekend, so well done to him.”

Kalle Rovanperä (34th)

“For us we just had to drive through the stages today. The team did a great job fixing the car yesterday but the damage was quite big and the car wasn’t a hundred percent, so we had to take care not to jump or stress the car too much. I also had pain in my back from yesterday. So we just drove through to be there to score some manufacturers’ points if it was needed. Congratulations to Elfyn, he did an amazing job. For me this was a difficult weekend where we had been expecting a lot, but I’m looking forward to Spain.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“It has been great fun to be competing in Rally Finland, the first time for me on these roads with this car. Hyundai didn’t have a great track record in this event in previous years, however this weekend we were fighting for stage wins and for victory for most of the event. We almost made it, but we know what we can achieve now. Coming back next year – admittedly with a new concept of car – we will try to go one better.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 10, Rally Finland
01-03 October 2021
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, WRC, Action during Day 3 of Rally Finland 2021
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Craig Breen (3rd)

“It’s a proud moment to finish on the podium in Rally Finland, and to have been part of the team’s best result in this event. I can’t honestly believe that we’ve taken three podiums in a row! It has been a really good weekend for us, and I have loved every single second. Of course, I’d have loved to have gone to that extra level, and to fight for the win. We’re not quite there yet, but it’s so much better than it has been.”

 

2021 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After Round Ten

1 S. Ogier 190
2 E. Evans 166
3 T. Neuville 130
4 K. Rovanperä 129
5 O. Tänak 128
6 C. Breen 76
7 T. Katsuta 68
8 G. Greensmith 52
9 D. Sordo 43
10 A. Fourmaux 42

Rally Finland Day Two Report – Elfyn and Scott lead for Toyota!

Day two then and the crews faced 151km over nine stages. The start list looked like this – Fourmaux, Greensmith, Katsuta, Ogier, Neuville, Rovanperä, Lappi, Evans, Tänak, Breen. Super Saturday is how it was described and with some long stages throughout the day. There would be a service break as well.

First up then, SS7 Kakaristo – Hassi 1 – 18.17 km, and Elfyn was fastest from Craig by two tenths, with Ott a further second or so back. These three were our leaders, with the Irishman still a good chunk ahead of Ott and Elfyn. Kalle moved ahead of Esapekka and the gap between them was just 1.6 seconds. Oliver rolled out of the rally on this stage.

The following stage, SS8 Päijälä 1 – 22.61 km, saw Elfyn take another stage win, but it was such a great time, that it took him from third into the lead! Ott was 4.2 off the Welshman’s pace and Craig 6.8 off and he now held a lead of nine tenths over Craig, with Ott 2.3 seconds back. The battle for fourth between the young Finns continued, with Kalle keeping EP behind him. Unfortunately, we lost Takamoto after he went off the road and couldn’t continue. The demise of the Japanese driver meant that Teemu who was leading WRC2 in his Polo moved into the top ten.

Elfyn made it three in a row, winning SS9 Arvaja 1 – 13.49 km from Kalle and Craig. His lead over Craig was now four seconds, with Ott a further two seconds back. Thierry remained ahead of Seb despite losing 1.6 to the Frenchman as they battled over sixth place. Gus and Adrien remained seventh and eight just gaining good experience for the future.

The last stage then before service, SS10 Patajoki 1 – 20.55 km and Elfyn was fastest again, 1.6 seconds ahead of Craig again with Ott, who was not comfortable with the stage conditions a further 2.1 behind Craig. It was a brilliant set of stage wins for the Welshman as he looked to take a first Rally Finland win as well. Unfortunately, we lost Kalle who lost control of his car on a lefthander and went of the road into a pile of dirt on the right. It was game over for him.

After the break, SS11 Kakaristo – Hassi 2 – 18.17 km was Ott’s though from Elfyn and Craig. Elfyn was only six tenths slower than the Estonian though and the gap between them remained 9.1 seconds, and Craig was still holding second overall with a reduced time difference to his teammate.

Into SS12 Päijälä 2 – 22.61 km and Ott was fastest from Elfyn and Craig and this meant that the Estonian had now passed his teammate for second place. The gap to Elfyn remained a very healthy 7.9 seconds. In the WRC2 category, Mads was fastest from Teemu, but the Finn remained 10 seconds ahead of the Citroen driver.

Well, it was another stage win for Ott in SS13 Arvaja 2 – 13.49 km as he continued to find good pace, but he was only two tenths faster than the leader, so Elfyn’s lead was barely touched. Esapekka was third fastest and was making fourth place his. Mads continued to reduce the gap to Teemu in their fight over the category lead.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Finland / 28 September – 4th October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

The light was starting to fade as SS14 Patajoki 2 – 20.55 km and Elfyn broke early-stage pacesetters Seb’s time, and then Craig and Ott came through and were not able to beat his time. The Welshman had increased his lead over former M-Sport teammate to 9.1 seconds. However, there was drama for Thierry as he landed heavily and he lost his light pods from the front of his car. There was other damage, mainly to his cooling system, and he pulled over in an access road. He was out and any hopes of this year’s title have gone with this result.

The final stage of the day, SS15 Harju 2 – 2.31 km and there was a slight change in the running order with Elfyn going last. Ott eclipsed early pace setter Seb’s time, but it was great to see Elfyn match Ott time as they set identical times.

Classification after Day Two

1 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC 1:57:46.7
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +9.1
3 C. Breen P. Nagle Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +19.5
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +44.8
5 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +1:23.7
6 G. Greensmith C. Patterson Ford Fiesta WRC +4:16.9
7 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Fiesta WRC +5:31.5

 

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“I’m pretty happy tonight, it’s been a strong day. It was a good morning for us, the car was working well and I just tried to keep a good rhythm. We made some minor changes last night to improve a few areas that weren’t working quite so well yesterday, and now I have a car that gives quite a lot of confidence, which helps a lot here and makes it easier to push like we have. There was a little bit of time dropped in some of the stages this afternoon but overall, we can be happy with the day. There’s still quite a way to go tomorrow, so we just have to focus stage-by-stage and keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Finland / 28 September – 4th October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“This morning it was still difficult for me, the speed was pretty much the same as yesterday. The championship has been too much in the back of my head and I was not daring enough. But at lunchtime we made a setup change which made the car much more enjoyable to drive. It gave me more confidence and the times were quite good if you consider that we were still running quite early on the road. So this is a positive: At least I have some answers now for my lack of pace at the start of the rally and we could find a solution. Elfyn is doing a really strong rally and can close up in the championship, but I still have the Power Stage tomorrow to try and recover some more points.”

Kalle Rovanperä (38th)

“The first couple of stages this morning were again quite tricky on the bigger roads, the grip level was really low and it was not suiting my setup and driving so well. On the third stage which was more technical and with more grip, straight away the feeling was really good and we could set quite a good time. Then on the next stage I made a mistake in a really simple corner: The cut was deeper than I expected, and it pulled us sideways towards the inside. I tried to save it from spinning but there wasn’t enough space and when we came back to the road, we went into this pile of sand on the other side. It has been a tricky weekend for me but hopefully we can restart tomorrow.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“The pace has been quite good today; I was trying hard on every stage. In the afternoon, the grip was higher so it was easier to manage the car and I could push a bit more. I tried to put as much pressure as possible on Elfyn and push him hard, so that if he is able to win then it will be because he deserves it. But from first thing tomorrow morning we will try our best to battle for the victory.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 10, Rally Finland
1-3 October 2021
Ott Tanak
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Craig Breen (3rd)

“I’m really proud of what we’ve done so far, managing to do these two full days without making any mistakes and staying consistent, so we have to be happy with that. It’s slightly frustrating to lose some time to the top two, but it’s just the case of them having that little bit extra today. It’s a short day tomorrow, but it’s one that still needs to be treated with respect. I would love to get another podium and make it three in a row, as that would be amazing for me and Paul. I’m looking forward to it.”

Thierry Neuville (DNF)

“Everything was going well, but a couple of kilometres into the stage on a fast left corner there was a compression which damaged the radiator. We immediately got a water pressure alarm and then three corners later I saw that the temperature was getting higher and higher, so we knew that it would be difficult to go to the end. We tried our best to solve the issue, but the leak was too big and we had to retire the car. It is a shame as it had been a good day, but unfortunately there was nothing we could do.”

Oliver Solberg (DNF)

“I am so sorry and disappointed with what happened. This is not at all what we needed and I am gutted for everyone in the team.

“Everyone in Hyundai Motorsport and RedGrey have worked so hard to prepare a very good car and the test we had was perfect. So, it’s just a big disappointment!” The accident happened on the first run through Kakaristo-Hassi. “The accident came in quite a fast corner.”

“Over a small jump the car bottomed out and sent us in the ditch, then we rolled.  Like I said, this is just such a disappointment – especially after such a positive result in Finland at the start of the season [on Arctic Rally Finland]. I came to make some experience of this event and I can’t do that now. I am sorry for this for this.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 10, Rally Finland
01-03 October 2021
Oliver Solberg / Craig Drew
Photographer: Jordi Rierola
Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Sunday

One more day then with 45.7km’s over four stages, including the Power Stage. Can Elfyn and Scott hold on for a famous victory? Only four non-Scandinavian drivers have won this rally in the past. Elfyn could become the first Welshman to win? We’ll find out tomorrow!

Rally Finland, Day One Report – Craig and Paul lead for Hyundai

The first day of the 70th running of Rally Finland saw almost 90km over six stages. The startlist looked like this – Ogier, Evans, Neuville, Rovanperä, Tänak, Katsuta, Breen, Fourmaux, Greensmith, Lappi. It was great to see the 2017 winner back in a Yaris WRC!

The short first stage, SS1 Harju 1 – 2.31 km saw Takamoto with his new co-driver Aaron Johnston set the fastest time from Thierry and Esapekka. Only 1.9 seconds covered the top nine positions as well. It was game one! Quickest of the M-Sport drivers was Adrien with a top five time as well! Mads led the WRC2 category from Jari and Nikolay, whilst Emil was leading WRC3 from Pepe and Teemu.

Into SS2 Ässämäki 1 – 12.31 km then, the first long stage and Takamoto had a huge moment in the stage with a 360 spin. He managed to keep it out of the scenery and finished the stage with the tenth best time. Craig set the fastest time from Ott and Elfyn and now just 1.8 seconds covered the top three as they all moved up a place and were now the top three overall. Esapekka, Thierry, Adrien and Seb all dropped down the leaderboard.

Ott won the following stage, SS3 Sahloinen – Moksi 1 – 21.37 km from Craig and Esapekka. The Finn’s pace took him into third overall as well, deposing Elfyn down to fourth. Championship leader, Seb, was not having a good day though, with him only eighth best time and holding seventh overall. After Takamoto’s moment earlier, he was now making his way back up the leaderboard and was now ahead of both Gus and Adrien and holding eighth place.

The first afternoon stage, SS4 Ässämäki 2 – 12.31 km after the tyre fitting zone saw Ott win the stage from Kalle and Craig. The Estonian still held the lead from his teammate, but there was a change for third place with Elfyn passing Esapekka after the Finn was only sixth fastest. It certainly wasn’t over though, as the top six was covered by just 9.7 seconds.

We had a new stage winner with Craig winning SS5 Sahloinen – Moksi 2 – 21.37 km from Kalle and Ott. The Irishman’s time cut the gap to Ott to just 1.5 seconds. Meanwhile Kalle and Esapekka had just moved ahead of Elfyn into third and fourth respectively. In WRC2 Nikolay was fastest from Teemu and Mads. The Russian’s time took him ahead of Teemu and into second place in the category.

The final stage then of the day SS6 Oittila – 19.75 km, and this started just as the sun was starting to set as well. Elfyn was fastest from Esapekka and Craig. The Welshman’s time took him back ahead of Esapekka and into third, but the big moment was for Craig who jumped into the lead after Ott was just sixth fastest in the stage. The Irishman’s pace meant that he now had a lead of 2.8 seconds. The drama of the night stage had paid off as well, with the top five now covered by just 7.9 seconds. Everything had closed up at the end of the day.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Finland / 28 September – 4th October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Classification after Day One

1 C. Breen P. Nagle Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 43:51.3
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2.8
3 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +6.1
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +6.7
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +7.9
6 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +31.3
7 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +33.6
8 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota Yaris WRC +46.9
9 G. Greensmith C. Patterson Ford Fiesta WRC +1:20.6
10 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Fiesta WRC +1:48.9

 

Let’s hear from the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

Craig Breen (1st)

“It sounds pretty good to be rally leader this evening. We have had an amazing day and I’ve enjoyed every second of it. The stages are really nice, and especially the final one in the dark. I have always questioned what Finland would be like in night conditions and now we know – absolutely incredible! The later runners were a bit more in darkness, and I actually had some moments at the start. We lost a bit of rhythm, missed a couple of junctions but nothing terrible; I enjoyed the last part inside the forest, and it was nice to see the time at the end. I think everyone is going to find a little something extra tomorrow, so we’ll try to take any opportunity that comes our way.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 10, Rally Finland
1-3 October 2021
Craig Breen
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“It has been a surprisingly good day and very consistent. On the small narrow roads, we were a bit handicapped and lost a lot, but on the fast and flowing parts we were on the pace. The improvements in the car on these fast roads are down to the efforts of the team, who have been working hard; they’ve done their job well and the performance here is better than it has been for them in the past. My pre-event test was not fully representative, so I had to make some changes to the car to find some confidence. Thankfully, it was a better direction. Tomorrow, we have some tough stages and a long loop, so it’s definitely going to be the big day of the weekend.”

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“From our side, the day was going quite ok, and we were in the fight up to the final night stage. I struggled to see the road at the end in the darkening conditions. I was quite fast in the first two splits, but the last section was very challenging, and I couldn’t commit as I would have liked. Up to that point, I had a good rhythm in the car and could push, so if we can pick up that level of performance tomorrow then we’ll see what we can do. Nothing is lost yet. We have to try and do the best we can to close the gap and if not, then we’ll try to keep our position and enjoy the stages.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

“I’m relatively happy with how it went out there today. The feeling has generally been good in the car. There are some areas where I’ve struggled a little bit more and we still need to work on, but overall, I’ve enjoyed the day. We obviously had a strong time in the final stage; it’s never easy driving in the dark and especially at these speeds, but the pacenotes were working quite well and I just went with the rhythm. Tomorrow’s a massive day with four rather different stages, and two of them are brand new. It’s close now in the top five, and anything can still happen, so we have to keep doing our best and see what comes.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Finland / 28 September – 4th October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (5th)

“It has been a really demanding day with tough conditions and a lot of new pacenotes. I think it was a difficult day for everybody with the grip level, which was really low. For us the first pass was not easy but we will try to improve the setup for that for tomorrow, and the times were better on the second pass. It is really close and everything is still open. Of course, after pushing really hard the whole day you would prefer the time gap to be the other way around, but we will try to do something about that tomorrow.”

Sébastien Ogier (7th)

“It was not a great day for me today. We were hoping for better. There should be at least three cars in front of us tomorrow, so hopefully that will be better for us, but we need to understand exactly why we had no pace today. For sure, part of the time loss today was down to road position but that was not the only reason. I have to understand if I was just too slow or if there is something we can do with the car setup. The grip was not fantastic but I still enjoyed the driving, so I was surprised to be losing so much. The night stage I was expecting to be very challenging but actually this one went better than I expected; our lights were working well there.”

Tomorrow

Day two sees the longest day of the rally with 151km over nine stages. Pop back at the end of tomorrow for the full day’s report. Can Craig stay in the lead, or will we see Ott and Kalle move into the lead? One thing is for sure. It will be an amazing day.

Rally Finland 2021 Preview – Big jumps and fast gravel!

We return to Finland for the second time this year, but the first time on the gravel roads since 2019. It’s been too long, but it is good to return! Also returning to a full world rally machinery is Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm. The 2017 Rally Finland winners are back in a Toyota Yaris and have recently tested that car. It’s been too long for them out of one of these cars, and I am glad that they are back.

With 287.11km of competitive kilometres over nineteen stages and run much later than usual, it will be an interesting event. Here’s a look at the stages. The last two stages on Friday and Saturday will be run as the sunsets.

Secto Rally Finland itinerary:
Friday October 1
Shakedown, Vesala 0801
SS1 Harju 1 2.31km (1.43 miles) 1338
SS2 Ässämäki 1 12.31km (7.64 miles) 1436
SS3 Sahloinen-Moksi 1 21.37km (13.27 miles) 1526
SS4 Ässämäki 2 12.31km (7.64 miles) 1708
SS5 Sahloinen-Moksi 2 21.37km (13.27 miles) 1758
SS6 Oittila 19.75km (12.27 miles) 1900

Saturday October 2
SS7 Kakaristo-Hassi 1 18.17km (11.29 miles) 0816
SS8 Päijälä 1 22.61km (14.04 miles) 0914
SS9 Arvaja 1 13.49km (8.38 miles) 1038
SS10 Patajoki 1 20.55km (12.76 miles) 1128
Service Jyväskylä 1243
SS11 Kakaristo-Hassi 2 18.17km (11.29 miles) 1516
SS12 Päijälä 2 22.61km (14.04 miles) 1614
SS13 Arvaja 2 13.49km (8.38 miles) 1738
SS14 Patajoki 2 20.55km (12.76 miles) 1828
SS15 Harju 2 2.31km (1.43 miles) 2000

Sunday October 3
SS16 Laukaa 1 11.75km (7.30 miles) 0835
SS17 Ruuhimäki 1 11.12km (6.90 miles) 0938
SS18 Laukaa 2 11.75km (7.30 miles) 1101
SS19 Ruuhimäki 2 11.12km (6.90 miles) 1318

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“Rally Finland is another rally that I love to drive. At this time of year, it could be a different challenge and a bit more difficult than what we are used to. We will discover more in our test just before the rally. For sure we can expect some colder conditions, and I have to say I am hoping for some dampness as well so we have less of a disadvantage opening the road. The Yaris WRC was born on Finnish roads so it should perform well there but I am expecting tough competition as well, including from my team-mates. Nothing is decided in the championship yet so let’s see what approach we will take on this rally, but I’m looking forward to driving those roads in this car.”

Elfyn Evans

“Finland is one of my favourite rallies on the calendar and I always enjoy the feeling of driving there. For me it’s actually been over three years since I last competed there, having missed the event in 2019, so I’m really looking forward to being back on those stages. At this time of year there will be a few new challenges which will be interesting, with the potential for different weather conditions and the fact we’ll be doing some stages in the dark. Our test before the rally will be quite important, as much for getting back up to speed on those roads as for deciding on car setup. For myself the drivers’ championship looks more difficult now but our approach won’t change, and I’ll go to Finland trying to do my best like always.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“Driving Rally Finland in a World Rally Car is going to be one of the coolest things for me in my career so far. A home rally is always different and Rally Finland is something special: It’s normally a really nice event and you can really feel the atmosphere there. Now that it’s later in the year, the conditions could be really difficult if it’s wet and muddy. That could change things a bit but I’m really looking forward to it, and it’s going to be really nice to see the fans cheering for us on the stages. It helps to have three really good rallies under our belt going there, but I think that it’s going to be a tight fight. Hopefully we can have a good weekend.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Rally Finland is a very popular event – in the past, it seemed only Scandinavians could win there, but other drivers have recently been getting faster in Finland as well. I haven’t been able to win it yet, but I have finished on the podium once in the past. It is a very nice event, but it’s one of the tougher ones for me. I am always fast at technical rallies where road position is very important, however in Finland the goal is to keep it flat and it’s very different to my natural driving style. However, I am able to adapt, and this is where the recce plays a vital role; you need to have a lot of trust in your pace notes and just go for it. We know we have what it takes to finish on the podium, so that’s our target for next weekend.”

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

Ott Tänak

“The characteristics of this rally will be very different. There is a big part of the route that we haven’t seen previously, so we will need to put a lot of effort into our recce to ensure our pace notes are completely accurate. The weather could also change quite a bit, so this will keep us on our toes. As the last full gravel rally with this generation of WRC cars – in my opinion, they are probably the best ever – I will definitely enjoy this event. The roads are normally both fun and challenging at the same time, and as it is so fast with small gaps, we should have a great competition. Let’s see if we can take a third Rally Finland victory – we know our competitors and it will be tough, but we have worked very hard in the last two years so now is our chance to show we can fight in fast rallies.”

Craig Breen

“As a crew we tend to go well on events with this kind of profile, and I think this could be another strong event for us given our current form. The roads evolve every year, and as we’ve had a two-year break, I think we will notice a lot of changes. In terms of set-up, you need a car that gives you confidence to carry the speed on the roads, and a stable rear will enable you to really chuck the car into those long, fast corners and jumps. It’s the rally where you have to be the most committed. I’m still searching for my first win – it feels like it has been eluding us now for some time, but we are getting closer and Finland will present one of the better opportunities this year, so we will do everything in our power to make it happen.”

Jari Huttunen

“I am really looking forward to getting back into the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 in Finland. This will be my first WRC2 event on gravel with the car, so we might face a steep learning curve. I am hoping my existing knowledge of these roads will put me on the front foot next weekend, as I have finished on the podium in the past and taken a victory there. We have shown the car is capable of winning rallies in Ypres Rally Belgium, and I think we have the potential for another good result at this demanding and fast rally.”

Oliver Solberg

“This is probably the rally I have been looking forward to the most this year. I can’t wait to take the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 there – we saw we had good speed and we were leading in Greece. The roads are gravel again but they are very different from Acropolis and so much faster. One of the things I really look forward to is driving in the dark, which will add to the extra challenge. In terms of a result, I know there are some really fast guys who know almost every inch of these roads, so we have to be realistic. I am focused on taking the experience and enjoying driving the car. My new co-driver Craig is a good guy, a former team-mate and somebody I know well. I’m looking forward to working with him.”

WRC Rally Estonia 2021

M-Sport Ford WRT

Gus Greensmith

“Very much looking forward to Finland, it’s one of the rallies every single driver looks forward to. It’s probably the rally that gives each driver the most satisfaction, in terms of pure driving experience. Especially in these 2017 cars, it’s something remarkable. I am really grateful the last gravel stage I will drive this incredible 2017 machinery will be Ruihimaki. It’s been special to drive these cars and something I will never forget.

Adrien Fourmaux

“I am really happy and glad to be taking part in this famous rally. Rally Finland has always been an exciting rally for me, especially in terms of spectators, even in 2019 when I did the rally in a Fiesta R2. It will be my first time in Finland with four-wheel drive, and will be interesting to work with Alex for the first time together. It will be a big challenge but we will do our best and take all the experience we can from the event.

 

Summary

Well, who can win this weekend then? Well, it’s hard to look past Ott Tanak. If he gets comfortable in his i20, then he has to be one to consider. Joining his teammate as a possible winner is Craig. His co-driver Paul Nagle guided Kris Meeke to victory in 2016 – Perhaps Craig who has taken third in this event, and was Kris Meeke’s teammate in 2016 can go even better? Thierry who has scored a best result of second place in 2013 is probably the one driver that we would most surprised to win this weekend, given his recent results in Finland, but we shall see.

The world champion, Seb, will hope that a slightly damp first day will allow him to keep the gap to the leaders small and to then be able to unleash the performance of his Yaris on these stages. 2017 winner, Esapekka, will be hoping that his return to the top cars will bring him another victory. He knows the car very well, but he’s not sat in it since the end of 2018. Will this hold him back? Time will tell. Elfyn will look upon this event as a chance to show the speed that took him to second place in 2017, and perhaps he’ll take victory and join Kris Meeke as British winners? Finally, Kalle who is now a double winner at the top level has to be considered as a possible winner of this year’s event.

For the M-Sport drivers, Adrien will look upon this rally as a chance to gain experience for the future, but perhaps on the second run stages, will show some pace if he can get comfortable. Gus crashed out of this event in 2019, but with a new co-driver this year has shown good pace. Again, if he can get comfortable, then we should see some top times from him.

 

Well, it all starts on Friday morning. Keep up to date with our daily reports at the end of each day.

Arctic Rally Finland 2021 Preview

This is going to be special! If you’ve watched any of the pre-event testing footage online, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, be sure to check them out!

When we knew that Rally Sweden was cancelled, the FIA looked to see what could be done, and this event was put together pretty quickly as a replacement.

Now looking at the championship, Seb and Elfyn hold the top two places, with Thierry third. As championship leader, Seb will open the road on day one, thus sweeping the road of fresh snow. This will likely mean that he won’t be in the fight for victory, but will hope that he can score a podium, and some good points from the power stage. Elfyn will be certainly be eyeing up the win however, and starting second on the road will give him a good opportunity to do this.

Last year, Thierry came to Rally Sweden as championship leader and finished sixth. This time around he starts third on the road, and having won Rally Sweden in 2018, he knows how to win on the snow and ice. The new partnership with Martijn will be the key to possible to victory. Twelve months ago, Ott Tanak came back from his big shunt to score a well-deserved second place, and he won in Sweden during his championship year as well, meaning that the Estonian duo can’t be discounted from the fight for victory. Also driving an i20 will be Craig who took seventh overall last year, but was not happy with his drive.

Teemu took eighth in Sweden last year, and the M-Sport Fiesta has shown good pace on the snow in the past, win Elfyn taking stage wins in 2019 when he was at the team. Gus will continue his learning of this car, and will want to just finish the event. He will be happy if he shows some pace similar to Teemu.

Now, here are the key figures for Round Two of this year’s championship.

251.08: Competitive distance in kilometres

10: Service park and event HQ are located 10 kilometres south of Rovaniemi Airport

31.05: Sarriojärvi is the longest stage of the rally at 31.05 kilometres in length

19.91: In contrast the 19.91-kilometre Kaihuavaara stage is the shortest

-20: The ambient temperate could drop below as -20 degrees centigrade during the rally

 

Here’s the full stage details for each day and the map showing the stage locations.

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 1)

“We should have proper winter conditions for Arctic Rally Finland, which will be quite a contrast to what we have seen in the WRC in the last few years. When I tested in the area around Rovaniemi last week I enjoyed it a lot: I felt happy with the car and I think we are ready. We just have to wait and see how the conditions are for us opening the road, as usually this can play a big role on snow rallies like this. After last year I know to expect tough competition from my team-mates in these conditions – I’m sure Elfyn will be very motivated and Kalle probably even more so on home ground – but also from the other teams as well. So, I expect it will be a difficult rally to win, but I’m up for the challenge.”

Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)

“Arctic Rally Finland will be brand new for most of the drivers. Naturally, we want to strive for a similar result to Sweden last year, but we have to wait and see how things go. The conditions are likely to be different to what we’ve seen in Sweden in recent years, when there’s been very little ice or snow. So that’s been something to consider in our testing, where it’s been really cold. We’ve also had to adapt the setup for the new Pirelli tyre. Similar to Monte-Carlo we have no prior experience with the tyre, but it’s a bit more straightforward because we only have one choice for this rally, so we’ve been able to focus our efforts on that. Overall, the feeling is good and I’m looking forward to the rally.”

Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)

“It will be nice to be back competing in Lapland again. I did the rally there once before – last year, when it was my first event in the Yaris WRC. For sure, this experience will help a bit. But there will be some stages that I haven’t driven before or they will be in the opposite direction, so I don’t think it will be a big advantage. In our tests the biggest thing we needed to do was find the right setup for the new tyre, as the style of the tyre is different from what we had before, but the feeling has been good. For me there is a bit more pressure than normally, but I would say it’s more excitement than pressure – especially from the Finnish people, as everybody is following me more than on other rallies.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (Car number 11)

“Aside from our recent pre-event test, the only time I had been in Rovaniemi before was for a test with the team many years ago. It’s proper winter conditions, lots of snow on the stages, huge snowbanks and quite narrow in places. It’s a challenging profile but one we are really looking forward to. We were able to pick up a podium in Monte-Carlo, in our first competitive rally together, so the target for Martijn and I is to build some momentum and aim to deliver another solid result for the team.”

Ott Tänak (Car number 8)

“Arctic Rally Finland will be a very interesting event. Rovaniemi is very far north in Finland so it is certain to be cold and snowy. I competed there about ten years ago, so I have some experience of a few of the stages. It’s definitely a full snow event and I’m sure it has a rightful place on the WRC calendar. We will be aiming to get our championship off to a proper start after the disappointment and challenges of Monte, targeting a more representative result for ourselves and the team.”

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

Craig Breen (Car number 42)

“I am thrilled that Paul and I get to start our 2021 championship at a brand-new event for the WRC, a rally that is going to be an amazing adventure for us all. We can be quite sure that we will have cold weather and big snowbanks at Arctic Rally Finland. It’s important for Paul and me to start our season in the right way. It will take a bit of time to get back into the swing of things again, but we can’t wait for it.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (Car number 3)

“The rally is similar to Sweden but even faster and with more narrow roads. There are quite a lot of compressions and bumps because when the ground freezes it gets bumpy and that’s going to create a big challenge for the drivers but also for the teams with the set-up. My aim is to be as fast as possible in the first two stages where there is some chance to make some difference with the time. The Friday stage is the most challenging and the most technical, especially when we are doing it for the second time in the dark. My starting position is good, but if it’s not too cold the snow can get dusty. And the snow dust can stay in the air for minutes like on a gravel rally. If you can’t see you get slower.”

Gus Greensmith (Car number 44)

“I think everyone is looking forward to this week’s event and the ultimate winter rally playground. I’ve not done a lot of snow rallies, but what I have done I’ve really enjoyed and – being in the Arctic Circle – this one is going to be on a completely different level.

“We’ve not had a lot of snow in the championship over the past few years, but there’ll be no shortage of it in Rovaniemi and I’m really looking forward to the experience – learning how to use those big snow banks and how to extract the most from the studded tyres on the snow and ice.

“We had a full day testing last weekend to really get to grips with the conditions and learn as much as we could about winter rallying. But I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself this week. This rally is all about focusing on ourselves – on improving our pace over the course of the weekend and having fun doing it.”

Other key competitors

Esapekka Lappi (Car number 25) Movisport, Volkswagen Polo GTI R5

“I have done the Arctic Lapland Rally three times and the last time was nine years ago so I can’t take a lot from back then although the stages are a bit different now, of course. I am sure most of the drivers will like this adventure with the snowbanks although the roads are a bit different to what they will find in Sweden, more bumpy and more straightforward in some places with long straights and tight corners. But the rhythm and characteristics will change a few times per stage so each stage is not going to be similar from start to finish. The target is to fight for the win in WRC2 but the challenge will be tough. The quality of the drivers is very good and the competition is very high and I don’t know the car.”

Oliver Solberg (Car number 2) 2C Compétition

The first thing is for me to say is a very big thank you to Andrea [Adamo, Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal], Alain [Penasse, Hyundai Motorsport Team Manager] and everybody for giving me this opportunity and for putting their trust in me to drive this rally in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. “This really is a dream for me. To think I have only been competing for four years and now I’m here; it’s just a dream to be making my debut in a World Rally Car from the World Rally Champions!

“Honestly? I’m counting the minutes until I get to sit in this fantastic Hyundai for the first time. “Obviously, I did Arctic [Lapland Rally] last month with the Hyundai i20 R5, so that gave me an idea of what’s coming later this month.” Delighted to drive the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC anywhere, anytime, Oliver’s particularly pleased to make his debut in the car on a surface and in surroundings he knows well. “That is,” he said, “one of the good things about driving the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in Lapland – the snow and ice conditions should be consistent, which is a nice way to learn about a new car. The consistency will help me to understand the grip and how any changes we make to the car will affect it.

“And we go there with just one tyre, Pirelli’s Sottozero Ice which is also nice and certainly less complicated than on the first round of the WRC, Rallye Monte-Carlo, where we had four tyres to choose from and so many conditions it was sometimes quite crazy! “If I had to choose a rally to take a debut in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, it would be my home event at Rally Sweden, of course! But I have to be honest and say the snow in Finland is pretty good as well. “I have driven quite a lot on the snow and I know this type of condition quite well.”

 

Summary

Well, we are set for an exciting event. Can Elfyn repeat his win from last year, or will Ott and Thierry deny the Welshman? What will Oliver be able to achieve in his first start in a full-on world rally car? With his co-driver out as he tested positive for Covid, Seb Marshall will be sitting next to Oliver instead.  It will be interesting to compare him and Gus Greensmith.

In the battle for the podium places, its fair to say that any of the drivers from the top teams will be in the fight. It will be interesting to see how Esapekka Lappi will do. Last year he was the best placed M-Sport driver with fifth place overall. He’s a world class driver, and will want to win the class to show that he deserves a spot in the top cars. For me, there is no doubt that he deserves this, and the sooner he’s back in one of those cars, the better.

Enjoy!

Rally Monza 2020 – Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia take Victory!

After Thursday’s shakedown and the short first stage, SS1 Sottozero The Monza Legacy – 4.33 km we had Seb, Thierry and Ott as our top three. The championship leader was 2.7 seconds from the lead in fourth.

Friday

This day saw action across 74km of stages around the Monza race track and included some sections on the banking and the service roads and some of the carparks within the grounds of the track.

First up was SS2 Scorpion 1 – 13.43 km and the top three was Dani, Esapekka and Kalle. This led to some changes on the leaderboard, with Dani moving into the lead, Esapekka into second. Seb was now in third, with Kalle ahead of Elfyn who was fifth.

The teams were running 15-minute breaks between the stages with SS3 Scorpion 2 – 13.43 km run again. The top three fastest drivers were Esapekka, Dani and Thierry, and now the Esapekka was leading, with Dani now in second place and Andreas in a Skoda R5 in third overall! Championship rivals and teammate Seb and Elfyn held fourth and sixth respectively.

SS4 Cinturato 1 – 16.22 km, the first proper stage was won by Elfyn, with Esapekka second fastest and Dani matching the time set by the M-Sport driver. Seb and Elfyn both climbed up the standing into third and fourth positions.

SS5 Cinturato 2 – 16.22 km was taken by Seb, from Kalle and Elfyn. Esapekka was still leading from Dani, with Seb’s pace bringing him closer to second overall. Sadly, Teemu was out of the rally after suffering an engine problem that could not be fixed.

The final stage of the day, SS6 PZero Grand Prix 1 – 10.31 km and Dani won the stage, beating Esapekka who was only sixth fastest with the result that the Finn was now in second place, with the Spaniard crew now taking the lead. Ott was third fastest and was catching Elfyn in the battle over fourth overall.

Day One

1 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 53:29.3
2 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +1.0
3 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC 12.0
4 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +17.1
5 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +17.7
6 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +24.8

 

Let’s hear from the drivers at the end of Day One.

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo 1st

“Today was a really tough day but we end it on the top of the classification, which is positive. We had a good start with a stage win on the opening test, but we lost a bit of time in the muddy sections which didn’t suit us as much. We tried to keep pushing to be at the front. Tomorrow, if it is as snowy as it currently seems, road position will be important to be further back and to see the cleaner lines. We made some important changes to the car to give me more confidence and improved handling, but in these conditions, it is never easy. We have had a good start but let’s see what happens.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07 Rally Monza 03-07 December 2020
Action, Day 1, Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak 5th

“The conditions we have faced today have been unique and some of the toughest of the year. Driving on tarmac with some gravel section is tricky at the best of times but, in this weather, you can’t imagine how demanding it is – especially with no gravel crew. We have had to read the road by ourselves, focusing on the surface to see where the grip would be. You have to be 100% on it to find the limit because if you push too much, there’s always one place that can catch you out. We have made it through and had a clean run to end the day. There was a lot of rain and aquaplaning, so it was far from easy. During the day I found some improvements; now and then the feeling with the car has been nice. Tomorrow’s stages might be even more difficult but if there’s anything more interesting than what we’ve seen today, I want to see it!”

Thierry Neuville DNF

“It was not the end to the opening day that we wanted to have. After a mistake this morning, we were aiming to climb back up the ranking, pushing hard. We went too close to a concrete block in the chicane in SS4 (Cinturato), which damaged the suspension. We were losing time but the car was still driveable, the steering was OK and the rim and tyre too. Unfortunately, in the water splash, too much water got into the car and the engine stalled; we were not able to restart so had to stop the car where it was. I am really disappointed for the team that I wasn’t able to do the job I should have done, but – as always – we keep our heads up and try to improve. The team is going to fix the car so we can continue tomorrow.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier 3rd

“It has been an eventful day for us. We had good pace but there were also some small mistakes and issues which cost us some time. However, the most important thing is that tonight we are still in the fight for the win and that’s what matters. Tomorrow there is going to be even more room to make differences with our rivals with the very tricky conditions that await us in the mountains. Our road position should be good as well if there is fresh snow. Let’s see what we can do.”

Elfyn Evans 4th

“Overall, today’s been reasonably OK. There’s been no mistakes, and no time lost. Perhaps it was not spectacularly fast either, but I feel that in the difficult conditions it was important to strike a balance between going quickly and also not making mistakes. We’ve seen a lot of standing water, especially in the ruts throughout the second pass of the stages, so that’s been tricky. It looks like we’re going to have another very challenging day tomorrow. It’s been winter conditions out on the the stages today but I believe it’s changing hourly, so we have to wake up in the morning and see what awaits us.”

Kalle Rovanperä 6th

“I think the plan today was to drive without any big risks, and we didn’t do any mistakes, basically. There was only one bad stage time on the second stage this morning where we lost a bit too much; otherwise, it was quite good. The conditions were extremely tricky with the standing water. In the afternoon it was starting to be really difficult, but we chose the snow tyre like many of the others and it worked really well. Tomorrow is going to be really tricky: I think we have to see the conditions in the morning and then we decide what we do in terms of tyre strategy.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Esapekka Lappi 2nd

“It’s been a very good day for us. It’s been a while since we were in this position and it doesn’t even matter that we’re not leading at the end of the day – just to be here challenging for that lead is a really positive thing for the whole team. We have a good starting position for tomorrow, and we will definitely try and take back the lead. We have nothing to lose and I will try to do my best. We know that it will be a very tricky day, but normally I am quite good on snow so let’s see what we can do.”

Teemu Suninen DNF

“I was struggling with the rhythm yesterday, but today started well and we had a really good feeling in the car. The first sector was quick, but after that we had an issue with the engine. I want to say thanks to the team who tried everything to try and fix it, but in the end it proved terminal and we had to retire. It’s a real shame as I had a good rhythm this morning and looking at EP we could have been really strong here. Hopefully EP can continue as he is and bring home a good result for the team – we all deserve that after this tough year.”

Gus Greensmith – Restart

“After a bit of a cautious start we made some set-up changes and it felt a lot better. Then nothing silly – I just went through a gate post and my wheel was too open. I tapped the inside post and it pulled the whole suspension. It was a bad outcome for a small mistake, but it is what it is and we’ll aim to get back out there tomorrow.”

 

Saturday

Seven stages awaited the crews on Saturday, with three in the morning and four in the afternoon, totalling 126km of action.

First car into SS7 Selvino 1 – 25.06 km was the restarting Gus Greensmith, but it was Kalle who when pushing on slid wide into a bank, and ended up facing the wrong way. He got his Yaris WRC turned round and completed the stage sixth fastest. The top three was Seb, Dani and Elfyn and this meant that Seb had now moved into the overall lead, pushing Dani and Esapekka down into second and third respectively. Elfyn was now just a couple of seconds behind the Finn.

SS8 Gerosa 1 – 11.09 km followed and Dani fought back to retake the lead as Seb was only eighth fastest, whilst Elfyn passed Esapekka for third overall. Elfyn was doing what he needed to do for the world championship by keeping Seb in sight.

Into SS9 Costa Valle Imagna 1 – 22.17 km and it was a stage victory for Elfyn, whilst Seb retook the lead from Dani. Ott was also moving up the leaderboard, as Esapekka dropped down into fifth place. In the battle for the manufacturer’s championship, it was looking good for Toyota to regain the championship that Hyundai had won last year with Seb, Elfyn and Kalle in good positions.

The only thing to say about SS10 Selvino 2 – 25.06 km was that it was cancelled, but not before three cars had entered the stage. Gus, Ole Christian and Katsuka were all in the stage, but first Gus crashed, hitting the barrier has he came out of a right-hand corner, which sent the car over the road into the side of the hill and up, before it rolled onto its roof and then back across the road to the left and over the barrier. Ole Christian Veiby making his first start in a i20 WRC then came to the same part of the road and slammed into the barrier ripping the front nearside suspension and wheel from the car and sending the car spinning down the road, with it ending the up sideways across the road. It was at this point that Katsuka arrived on the scene and had to wait for the Hyundai to be moved out of the way before he continued to complete the stage. The rest of the crews completed the stage, but not at competition speed.

The SS11 Gerosa 2 – 11.09 km was where the championship suddenly was up in the air for Elfyn. The Welshman who had up till this moment completed every single stage so far this year had slid off the road. The snow had been coming down, and was settling on the road. As he approached the right hander he was on the left-hand side of the road and then the rear of the car stepped out as he went round the corner. He floored the throttle to get the car straightened up, but the car continued to slide sideways and then slid off the side of the road. There was no way back onto the road, and Elfyn climbed out the car grabbed his coat and headed back down the stage to warn his teammate and title rival.  Seb was next on the road and as he came to the section where Elfyn and Scott had slipped off the road to see the Welshman standing just before the section warning him about the conditions. Seb slowed enough to make it around, but it was close – He nearly didn’t make it around. He completed the stage and now just need to finish the rally in the top three to be able to take his seventh world title. The stage was won by Umberto Scandola in his Hyundai i20 R5, with Seb second fastest and Ott in third.

The next stage, SS12 Costa Valle Imagna 2 – 22.17 km was cancelled. The snow had been coming down for about an hour and the organisers took the decision as Katsuka and Dan were waiting at the startline.

Therefore, it was time to head back to the Monza track and prepare for the final stage of the day which was using parts of the Monza Grand Prix track.

SS13 PZero Grand Prix 2 – 10.31 km was held in very wet conditions, with the rain coming down and Dani won the stage not only beating Katsuka, but also increased his slender margin over Ott to 4.3 seconds in their battle over the runner up spot. Katsuka’s time stood for a long time, as he was first to complete the stage.

Classification after Day Two

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC 1:47:47.2
2 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +17.8
3 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +22.1
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +38.2
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +1:10.1

 

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Sébastien Ogier 1st

“This was a very, very tricky day. The first loop was enjoyable actually: These mountain stages are very nice and when the conditions were fairly consistent with just a little bit of snow on top of the mountain, it was good fun. But this afternoon when the weather turned with much more rain and snow it was incredibly challenging and actually not really enjoyable to drive. It was just about surviving and trying to keep the car on the road. Where Elfyn went off, it could have happened to anybody. The grip change on this corner was just impossible to anticipate, honestly. In this moment I felt sorry for him, for sure. I would have enjoyed to fight until the end: It’s always more fun that way, and it was looking good for the team in both championships. Now I have an opportunity to clinch a seventh title tomorrow and that’s my target, and I try to finish the job tomorrow. It’s never over until it’s over.”

Elfyn Evans DNF, Rally2

“The snow really came down in the afternoon and the conditions were difficult. The first stage was going quite OK and then the stage was stopped. Then in the second stage of the loop, we were having quite an OK run. But the snow started to fall and I basically just got caught out by a surface change underneath the snow that you couldn’t see. I had it in my notes but ultimately the grip level change was far worse than I expected and there was no chance to stop for the next corner. Obviously, I’m feeling massively disappointed with the position we’re in now. I’m also very sorry for the team, as it’s a big blow to our hopes for the manufacturers’ title. On the drivers’ side it’s not completely over for me: There’s a glimmer of hope and obviously we’ll keep fighting tomorrow. It’s looking very unlikely now but we won’t give up until the end.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 07 / ACI Rally Monza / 3-6 November, 2020 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Kalle Rovanperä 5th

“It was a tricky day but I think that was the case for everybody. We had a lot of snow and slush and there were a few places that were the trickiest I’ve ever been in with a rally car. In the first stage this morning when we reached the slush section, I made a mistake in one corner and we hit the bank. There was no big damage to the car, but enough for it to be a bit more tricky to drive. The afternoon was really difficult I would say. When the snowfall came the road, conditions changed totally. We were a bit unlucky that the first stage of the loop was cancelled as we were setting a good time there. But it was just good that we got through it and we are here tonight. We are too far away to catch anyone in front tomorrow without something happening, but I will just try to bring home as many points as we can for the team.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo 2nd

“It was another really difficult day. We expected it to be worse because when we saw the conditions yesterday it was already amazing. Honestly, we had one really bad stage today where we lost a bit of time. When the second loop started, I was at the back so perhaps we had worse conditions, but I can’t complain. It was disappointing to see Elfyn and Scott retire in the stage, but I am thankful to them for warning us to slow down. The snow was tricky, and it was the right decision to cancel the afternoon stage (SS12). Tomorrow, we have our focus on trying to secure the manufacturers’ title so we will try to drive safely; in these conditions it’s too easy for something to happen. If we could go flat out but safely that would be nicest!”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07, Rally Monza
03-06 December 2020
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak 3rd

“This morning, I felt that things were easier than expected. The stages were a bit more consistent, but it was a very different story in the afternoon loop. All in all, it was something incredibly demanding. We were often not with the ideal tyres because we were expecting more rainy, wet conditions, but then – in the middle of the stage – suddenly there was white stuff on the ground. We had to discover this for the first time ourselves, which was far from straightforward. We made it through and the aim for tomorrow is to finish this rally cleanly.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Esapekka Lappi 4th

“Things didn’t go our way this afternoon and we were quite unlucky to be honest. For the first stage of the loop, I had the snow tyres on, and then it was cancelled. For the middle stage we had information that the stage was dry, and I took the snow tyres off. And for the last stage of the loop, I had the snow tyres on, and it was cancelled again.

“Still, I need to be happy with our performance. Our tyre choices have been good, even if the strategy wasn’t perfect, and I’ve really enjoyed driving this car on Tarmac in the forests again.

“We’re not too far away from the podium, but I realise 15 seconds is still quite a big gap at this level. Of course, the conditions will be tricky, but everyone already knows what to do and what tyres to choose as I’ve already taught them. But let’s see, and I’ll give it my best.”

Gus Greensmith – DNF

“Once we got up to speed and into our rhythm things were going pretty well. But that changed this afternoon when we went from having good grip to pure aquaplaning on slush at 155kph. And with that transition of conditions at that speed, we were passengers.

“Thankfully both myself and Elliott are okay, but I’m just sorry for the team. It was such an immediate change in conditions that there was nothing I could do – but I’m still sorry for the guys and girls at M-Sport who have all been working so hard this year.”

 

Sunday

Just three stages then to complete the event totalling 38km’s.

The first stage, SS14 PZero Grand Prix 3 – 10.31 km would be taken by Seb, with Kalle and Ott second and third fastest, whilst Dani who was fifth fastest in the stage was passed by Ott for second overall. Elfyn finished the stage in tenth, and was in 35th overall. Katsuta was fourth quickest in the stage, setting a very good time.

The first run of SS15 Serraglio 1 – 14.97 km, which would also be the final stage was won by Dani Sordo going through 2.9 seconds faster than Ott and retook second overall. The Spanish duo were working well together! Elfyn came through with the fifth best time in a dress rehearsal for the final stage and gained three places on the leader board, now in 32nd place.

Into the final stage then of 2020, SS16 Serraglio 2 [Power Stage] – 14.97 km, and Elfyn set the benchmark 11:07.9. Other drivers came through and did not beat it, and then finally, Katsuta came through to beat Elfyn’s time by 1.4 seconds. Ott emerged second fastest and this confirmed that Hyundai had won the manufacturer’s title for the second year in a row. The final points scorers in the stage were Esapekka and Dani. Last to finish the stage was Seb and Julien who had a minor drama when their wipers stopped working, but they started working again just before the end of the stage and they completed with the seventh fastest time. They are the 2020 World Rally Champions, their seventh World Crown!

2020 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 07 / ACI Rally Monza / 3-6 November, 2020 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Final Overall Classification – Rally Monza

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC 2:15:51.0
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +13.9
3 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +15.3
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +45.7
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +1:11.1
6 A. Mikkelsen A. Jaeger Škoda Fabia R5 +3:56.2
7 O. Solberg A. Johnston Škoda Fabia R5 +4:12.1
8 J. Huttunen M. Lukka Hyundai i20 R5 +5:15.4
9 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 R5 +5:27.4
10 P.Tidemand P. Barth Škoda Fabia R5 +5:53.0

 

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier 1st

“For sure, this is a good day for us. It’s been an incredible weekend and very, very challenging. This last stage was definitely one of the less enjoyable stages of my career. It was so rough, we were just trying to survive and not make mistakes. We knew coming here that the only thing we had to do was to win this rally. The start of the rally was very tight but we kept to our plan, we kept pushing and trying to keep the pressure on. What happened to Elfyn was significant for us and our title hopes. At the same time I felt for him and Scott, they did a great season. I feel the team would also have deserved to win the manufacturers’ title; we fought as three drivers against five and came so close. But this seventh title for me is also a big achievement for the team and I couldn’t have done it without them, so thank you to them and I’m looking forward already to this bonus season for my career in 2021.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 07 / ACI Rally Monza / 3-6 November, 2020 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Elfyn Evans 29th

“Today it was obviously difficult to get going again after what happened yesterday. We were targeting the Power Stage and I think the pace was quite good but unfortunately, we managed to stall the car twice in quite extreme conditions. We still managed to get some points from there to make sure we were able to secure the position behind Seb in the championship – congratulations to him and to Julien. To finish the season in second place is obviously not what we wanted, but it’s still not bad and a step forward on my previous seasons. I’ve really enjoyed my first year with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing and I’m sure with the motivation within the team we can continue to improve and be in better positions next year.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 07 / ACI Rally Monza / 3-6 November, 2020 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Kalle Rovanperä 5th

“It has been a really tricky weekend and today it was just about getting through. On the Power Stage I was really careful. It was really rough conditions on the gravel sections and it was good to get to the end and finish the rally. It has been quite a nice first season for me with a World Rally Car. I think we did quite well. We had some bad luck in some rallies, which is normal in rallying, and we had some really good weekends too. The main thing is that we had quite a consistent season and proved that we can be fast also. Big thanks to the team and congratulations to Seb and Julien.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak 2nd

“Our first priority today was to ensure we finished the rally with Dani to make sure we cemented the manufacturers’ title for Hyundai Motorsport. It has been a really difficult rally from the start; we have had to endure some complicated conditions, which continued on this morning’s stages with tricky, rough roads. It was demanding but we achieved our target for the team, and it’s an achievement we can now celebrate together.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07 Rally Monza 03-07 December 2020
Action, Day 3, Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo 3rd

“The target all weekend has been to secure the result we needed for the manufacturers’ championship. It has been an incredibly tricky event, but we have come through with another double podium result. For me, it wasn’t important whether it was second or third; we just needed to get the combined result for the team, which we have done. This has been a hard-fought result, not just here in Monza but at all the events since Monte-Carlo. The team has pushed all the way and we can now share a second championship title together.”

Thierry Neuville (DNF)

“A very special season comes to an end; it might not have been the championship that anyone expected at the beginning of the year due to the crisis, but we have achieved our goal to take our second manufacturers’ title. This is a phenomenal result for everyone at Hyundai Motorsport and I am happy to be part of this winning team. The Monza weekend did not go to plan for me and Nicolas after our retirement on Friday, but in the end the title is confirmed. My thanks go to every team member for their hard work and dedication. It’s time to celebrate!”

 

M-Sport WRT

Esapekka Lappi 4th

“This was a good weekend for us and we can be pleased with our performance. It was good to be back on Tarmac, and good to see that we can be competitive in these tricky conditions.

“Things didn’t always go our way and we were quite unlucky at times, but I was very happy with my driving and we proved that we can be up there fighting at the top.

“A big thanks to everyone who has supported us throughout the year, and to the FIA, WRC Promotor and event organisers for ensuring we could finish the season and continue rallying in these difficult times.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After Round Seven

1 S. Ogier 122
2 E. Evans 114
3 O. Tänak 105
4 T. Neuville 87
5 K. Rovanperä 80
6 E. Lappi 52
7 T. Suninen 44
8 D. Sordo 42
9 C. Breen 25
10 S.Loeb 24

 

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After Round Seven

1 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 241
2 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 236
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 129
4 Hyundai 2C Competition 8

Warren’s Thoughts

Well, what an event! Where do I start to sum up? Let’s start with Elfyn and Scott. Coming to this event as the championship leaders, they drove really well, and were making their way up the leaderboard when they slid off the road. Now what we saw from the Welshman was amazing sportsmanship when he ran up the road and warned Sébastien Ogier to slow down.

With Sébastien and Julien taking their seventh world title and with it coming with their third different manufacturer, they are cementing their status as true greats of the championship. Once Elfyn and Scott went off the road on Saturday, they just brought the car home. After all, they had already taken the lead. The other Toyota drivers certainly did well, with Kalle finishing a great season and Katsuta taking a stage victory right on the final stage of the year.

At Hyundai, Ott and Martin took a well-earned second place and maybe he could have challenged for victory. Dani and Carlos also drove a great event, leading at points and scoring another very good result with third place. In fact, without the penalty that he took for a problem on Friday he may well have taken second overall.

At M-Sport it was a rally to forget for two of their three drivers. Teemu retired early on with an engine problem, whilst Gus was an early retiree on Friday, but re-joined on Saturday, only to crash out one of the Saturday stages. Meanwhile, Esapekka drove really well, challenging at the top of the leader board. He was given the same penalty as Dani Sordo at the end of Friday, suffered some issues with tyre choices at key moments when the snow came down and he had changed the tyres just before the stage. Looks like he won’t be getting a drive for 2021, which is a shame, as there is no doubt over his speed and consistency.

Look out soon for a 2020 Pit Crew WRC Pit Cast as we look back on this amazing season!

Rally Monza 2020 – The WRC finale!

It’s the finale of this year’s World Rally Championship, in what has been a very unusual season. With many events cancelled and rescheduled such as Rally Italia we come to this event which was announced just a little over a month ago.

 

Coming into this event, we have Elfyn and Scott leading the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championship from their teammates Seb and Julien. Their lead is 14 points, meaning that they can afford to finish in second place, and even if Seb and Julien win the event and take all five points in the power stage the they will be this season’s champions. If they do it, they will join Colin and Derek and Richard and Robert as British Champions, and be the first Welsh crew as well!

 

Now as discussed, the French duo can reclaim the world championship if certain things fall into place, and its possible that might happen. It’s just too hard to predict though!

 

The other two crews still in contention for the championship, Thierry and Nicolas and Ott and Martin in the Hyundai’s can win the title, but only if they win and take the power stage and both the Toyota crews retire from the event and don’t score any points.

 

Let’s hear from the crews then.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans

“Since Sardinia we’ve just been focused on preparing for the next event: We have always wanted to see the rallies happen and to do as many as possible. I’m going into it in a positive frame of mind. We know that a strong result is needed and we’re ready to go there and give it our best shot. From what we’ve seen in videos from the organiser, the Saturday stages up in the mountains look really nice. There are some real fast, flowing asphalt stages, and they could be quite challenging at this time of year. We’re probably lacking a bit of mileage under our belts with the car on this surface, but it felt good in Monte Carlo and we know that it’s strong in this area. The difficulty is that the circuit stages are a completely different scenario from the mountains. So, we have to do our best to find a good feeling and adapt the car as we see fit.”

Elfyn leads the championship coming into the final event. Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“Monza will be a new challenge. I’m happy to finally jump in the car again and have a last shot at the championship. For sure, it’s better to finish it this way rather than at home. I’ve never done the event before, but I’ve been looking at some videos and I think the stages at the circuit won’t be as easy as they seem initially. There are some sections on gravel, even on grass or mud, and with a car set up for asphalt that’s never easy. And then the stages on Saturday look like pretty nice mountain roads. They could also be very challenging depending on the weather conditions. We haven’t really driven the car on asphalt since Monte Carlo, so the testing this week has been very important to get as much experience as possible. I feel like I have nothing to lose, so I don’t feel any pressure and I’m just doing my best to be as ready as I can be.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“This year has been a big learning process for me but it has been going really well. I have been learning more and more all the time. Without any full asphalt rallies this year, I think I have the most to learn on this surface. So, Monza will be a difficult one for me, but it’s going to be interesting. It has been a long time since Monte Carlo, so it was a strange feeling to be back on asphalt in my test this week, but the feeling was getting better all the time. Even though it’s late in the year and it was quite cold, the grip level was still really high and really enjoyable to drive with the Yaris. This is going to be a new kind of rally with things that we haven’t experienced, like driving on some gravel sections with asphalt tyres which I have never done before. But we just have to be as quick as possible and attack to the maximum, as there is nothing to lose for me.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Rally Monza is definitely a special event for this year and it’s good to add it to the WRC calendar in such a difficult situation. I have done Monza a couple of times as a rally show, which was certainly different to the format in which we are going to run it this year in WRC. I’ve always had an enjoyable experience there; this season finale is going to be an exciting event, very intense and almost like a sprint with small gaps between the crews. We will give it everything we’ve got.”

Ott Tänak

“Monza is obviously a new event, somewhere that I’ve never been before. I’ve seen some footage and mostly it looks to be very different in terms of concept. We’ll have a full day of circuit-based stages, followed by a day in the forest, so a big challenge. From the team’s perspective, we need to do all we can to defend the manufacturers’ title. There are also some things still open in the drivers’ championship too. As it’s the last event, it will be all or nothing.”

Dani Sordo

“The objective is very clear: to try and fight for the overall victory and to target the manufacturers’ title. It is a very important mission for our team. We are leading by just seven points so it will be a close fight. I have been to Monza Rally Show in the past, but this event will be unique. We have the first day enclosed in the circuit, using new and old parts, including famous sections like Parabolica, as well as gravel and mud sections. The next day will be completely outside. It promises to be a nice rally!”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen

“I’m really looking forward to Rally Monza. I was there in 2018 and have a lot of really great memories – it’s definitely one of the best events I’ve ever done with a world rally car. The format will be a bit different this year with a day in the mountains, but driving these cars on that circuit is going to be so good. All the power and aero makes them so much fun to drive on the track, and I can’t wait to experience it again. I started my career in circuit racing, and hope that will help me challenge for a good result to end the year.”

Esapekka Lappi

“It’s been a crazy year, but good to get another rally in before the end of the season. I’ve not been to Monza Rally Show before, but I started my career in circuit racing and am really looking forward to seeing what these cars can do on this track. We’ve not driven the Fiesta on Tarmac since Rallye Monte-Carlo back in January so we’ll need to get a feel for it straight away. But the Fiesta felt good in Monte, and if we can get a good set-up for the stages then I think it’ll be a really enjoyable end to the season.”

Esapekka will want to end his first season with M-Sport on a high. Photo credit M-Sport

Gus Greensmith

“I’ve not done anything like this event before, but really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel and seeing what a world rally car can do on such an historic racetrack. The Fiesta felt good in Monte so I’m looking forward to Saturday’s mountain stages; pacenotes will be really important, so I’ve spent a lot of time with Elliott trying to make improvements since Sardinia. Also, to best prepare for the circuit we spent a day at Goodwood – adapting to the style needed to really attack at Monza. Hopefully this will be a fun event to end season and we can finish the year on a high.”

 

This event is set to be the shortest championship event in history of the championship with sixteen stages over four days. Shake down takes place on Thursday at Monza itself with a stage just under 5km’s, and then the first stage later the same day.

On Friday there are five stages, then seven on Saturday and finally three on Sunday. There are some predictions of ice on the road and snow falling on Friday and Saturday which will add to the mix!

Here’s a look at the stages.

Summary

This really is it. We could have our first Welsh World Rally Champion at the end of this event, but you can certainly expect that there will be a big fight to the finish for the championship between the top four, and all of them are very good on tarmac. Ultimately the driver that wins this event will be the one that adapts to the changing conditions out on the stages, particularly with the second runs and the now predicted snow as well!

You may ask who could challenge for the podium positions? Well, Teemu has shown good pace in the past and finished this event in second place when he competed in 2018. Dani Sordo as well could show good pace as well.

The manufacturers’ title could go either way, with just seven points between last seasons champions and Toyota. I suspect that this won’t be decided till the very end of the rally.

Rally Italia Sardegna 2020 Review – Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio take the win!

Cast your mind back twelve months, plus a bit more to June 2019. Dani and Carlos took a popular win in the service park. Having not competed since Mexico 2020, the Hyundai crew showed their class to take a very good victory in the delayed Rally Italia Sardegna this season. Here’s the story how it happened.

 

Thursday as ever saw shakedown take place, and there were a few key moments. In the first run through, Kalle set the fastest time in his Yaris, and then promptly put the car on its roof after the flying finish!

Ultimately, Ott was fastest in shakedown, with Elfyn and Seb second and third. The Welshman set the same time as his former Estonian teammate. There was also a Citroen C3 WRC being driven by former Hyundai, Citroen and Volkswagen pilot Andreas Mikkelsen, running on the new Pirelli tyres in shakedown, the new tyre supplier running in shakedown and then also running in the power stage on Sunday, with 2003 world champion Petter Solberg driving and Andreas sitting alongside him on the pace notes.

 

Friday

With 95km’s over six stages on the first day, this was the start list for day one – Evans, Ogier, Tänak, Rovanperä, Neuville, Lappi, Suninen, Greensmith, Katsuta, Sordo, Loubet.

At the end of the opening test, SS1 Tempio Pausania 1 – 12.08 km the two M-Sport Fiesta’s were at the top of the field, with Teemu winning the stage by 12 seconds from his teammate! We all know what he said in the interview at stage end! Elfyn and Scott, the first car into the stage, were holding fourth overall, 13.4 seconds from the Finn, and last seasons winner Dani was third. Ott didn’t have a good start, losing 14 seconds in the stage. Oliver Solberg deserves a mention, after setting the seventh fastest time in his Fabia R5, quicker than Thierry, and only 16 seconds from the leader!

Dani moved closer to the front in SS2 Erula – Tula 1 – 21.78 km with a time seven seconds faster than Teemu, and now the gap between them was just five seconds. First to finish the stage was Elfyn who reported that it was a bit slipperier than expected, ending up fifth fastest and holding fourth overall at this point. Sadly, we lost Esapekka Lappi after his car overheated. Seb was now in third overall.

Elfyn took his first stage win of the weekend, winning SS3 Tempio Pausania 2 – 12.08 km from Seb and Dani. A good drive from the Welshman, despite being the first car through! Suninen remained in the lead as he and Dani were very closely matched in the stage and the gap just five seconds between the top two.

Into SS4 Erula – Tula 2 – 21.78 km and Dani won the stage, from Thierry, who was nine seconds slower in the stage, but second fastest and Kalle who was third. Dani was now in the lead, having passed Teemu who was 12 seconds slower than the i20 driver and only fifth fastest. It was going very badly for Ott, who was only ninth fastest in the stage and now almost two minutes from the lead.

After the lunchtime break, we had two stages to complete the day. The break gave the Hyundai team the opportunity to find out what the suspension problem was with Ott’s car.

Into SS5 Sedini – Castelsardo 1 – 14.72 km and it was another stage win for Dani, with a fired-up Ott only nine tenths slower and second fastest. Teemu was third in the stage and remained in second overall. Thierry moved past Elfyn in the stage with the Welshman going only eighth in the stage.

SS6 Tergu – Osilo 1 – 12.81 km ended the day and it was another stage win for Dani, with Thierry second fastest. The Belgians pace lifted them ahead of Seb and into third overall. Ott was third fastest in the stage, making it a Hyundai 1-2-3, and this brought the reigning champion up into eighth overall.

 

Classification after Day One

1 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1:12:40.9
2 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +17.4
3 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +35.2
4 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +36.0
5 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +51.9
6 G. Greensmith E. Edmondson Ford Fiesta WRC +1:07.1
7 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:33.5
8 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:53.7
9 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +2:32.3

 

 

Let’s hear from the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (1st)

“I am happy to be back in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC and pleased to return to this rally which has so many special memories from last year. I have been feeling really competitive all day and some of the stages have been really nice. We made a good tyre choice and we are in an encouraging position. It is only the first day, so we have to keep our feet on the ground. We want to continue like this for the rest of the rally; everyone is pushing hard but we’re here to fight.”

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“Honestly speaking I was expecting better from our day. We didn’t have a great start to the rally on this morning loops. We weren’t comfortable with the settings of the car. We did the maximum to improve our times by trying some different things. I was able to push a bit – actually I pushed quite hard in SS4 and that showed as we set the second fastest time. We made the necessary changes to the car for the afternoon and I felt immediately more comfortable. Unfortunately, and bizarrely, we stalled twice today. It never happened to me before, but the second time the car wouldn’t restart. We lost about 12 seconds in all, which is important time in such a close battle. Tomorrow, with the changes we’ve made, I am confident we will have better pace.”

Ott Tänak (8th)

“It has been a demanding day and we’re obviously disappointed. We were getting some suspension issues from the start of the day, and it proved to be something that we could not repair on the road sections with the tools and bits that we had. It is difficult to say what happened exactly, but we could do nothing about it. In the afternoon stages, everything was working fine from our side, just a big amount of cleaning but generally no drama and no surprises. We will try to keep going as we did this afternoon; our position is not great so let’s see. Hopefully the fight is now a bit more straightforward.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (2nd)

“We had a really good morning and I think we proved what we can do. On that first stage I knew it was going to be challenging for everyone and I tried to take as many seconds as I could – which worked out really well. We lost some aero after that which cost us some time, but it was still a good morning.

“Then in the afternoon the tyre choice didn’t really work out for us. We thought it was going to be a bit warmer, but the sun went down just as the last stage started and I wasn’t able to make the most of the hard tyres.

“Still it was a really good day for us, and tomorrow we just have to focus on our own driving and let the others do their own thing. The stages will be a bit faster tomorrow, but the main thing is to do my best – because that’s the way to get the best results.”

Gus Greensmith (6th)

“This has definitely been one of my better drives and I’m pretty happy with the way things have gone. There were a few little mistakes here and there, and I was a bit disappointed with myself on the first stage this afternoon (SS5) as I think we could have really taken a big chunk out of the people around us. But the time wasn’t too bad, and I can definitely see an improvement which was exactly what we wanted from this weekend.”

Esapekka Lappi (DNF)

“Our initial pace was really promising so it’s really disappointing that things had to end the way they did. It was all over pretty quickly to be honest. About 300 metres before I stopped, we got all the warnings on the screen and the steam from the bonnet and we knew then that it was over. We had a good look and couldn’t see any impacts, but there was no water left in the engine and unfortunately we won’t be back out again tomorrow.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“It was a good start this morning. We were all fearing this first stage a little bit, which was very challenging, very narrow and we were happy to make it through with a good time. Overall, the morning loop was good: We were in third and the two cars in front had a big advantage from their start position. The afternoon was more difficult for us like we had expected. We tried what we could but we lost a bit too much time. Tomorrow should be better with a better road position. I’m looking forward to having some better grip hopefully and to try to make some good times.”

Elfyn Evans (5th)

“The morning was quite good for us. The first stage was particularly slippery and I was surprised on the second pass how much grip we had, and we had a good run. There was a bit more loose gravel on the second stage but overall we came through it quite OK and managed to lose not too much time. The afternoon stages had dried quite a lot since the recce and there was a lot more loose than expected and we really suffered a lot. It’s not been an easy day, which we knew would be the case. But tomorrow our road position will be better and hopefully we can look to fight with those around us.”

Kalle Rovanperä (9th)

“This morning we took the wrong tyre choice, with three mediums and two hards. I don’t have the experience here to know how much the tyre will wear, and it was quite tricky to drive with one hard tyre on the car all the time and in the end, we didn’t need them. I was preparing to have a better feeling in the afternoon, with some small changes to the car, but we got a steering-related issue at the start of SS5, so we had to drive slowly through both stages to bring the car back to service.  Tomorrow we will have to now open the road so it’s going to be a difficult day.”

 

Saturday

With 101km’s over six stages in day two, the running order would be key once again, with the leader from day one being the last car through. The running order looked like this – Katsuta, Rovanperä, Tänak, Loubet, Greensmith, Evans, Ogier, Neuville, Suninen, Sordo.

 

The first stage of the day, SS7 Monte Lerno 1 – 22.08 km features Mickey’s Jump and this year was just 500 metres into the stage. The top three was Seb, Elfyn and Thierry with just 3.6 seconds between them. The two leaders, Dani and Teemu were fourth and fifth fastest, Seb’s pace lifted him up into third overall, and was now just 8.4 seconds behind Teemu.

Dani was back to his best in SS8 Coiluna – Loelle 1 – 15.00 km, winning the stage from Elfyn and Thierry. Unfortunately, Teemu’s run near the front came to an end as he set the sixth fastest time and ultimately dropped two positions into fourth with Seb moving into second and Thierry into third. Ott was also moving up the order, now into seventh.

The rerun of SS9 Monte Lerno 2 – 22.08 km was won by Seb from Thierry and Dani who continued to lead the rally from the Frenchman by a huge 31 seconds. Elfyn was closing on Teemu as well in their battle for fourth overall, the gap now just two seconds between the former teammates.

SS10 Coiluna – Loelle 2 – 15.00 km, and Thierry was fastest from Dani and Elfyn, once again just three seconds covering the top three. Both the Belgian and the Welshman moved up the order, with Thierry moving into second place and Elfyn passing Teemu. The top four cars were Hyundai, Hyundai, Toyota, Toyota. Ott continued to climb up the leaderboard and was now into sixth overall.

Seb won SS11 Sedini – Castelsardo 2 from Thierry and Ott. Elfyn was sixth fastest, and holding onto fourth overall behind Dani, Thierry and Seb. Going well was Oliver again, setting the seventh fastest time in his Skoda Fabia, and he moved ahead of Jari Huttunen into eighth overall.

The final stage of the day SS12 Tergu – Osilo 2 – 12.81 km was won by Seb as well, and this pace lifted him ahead of Thierry who was third in the stage behind the leader who was still Dani Sordo. Elfyn doubled the gap to Teemu, going 4.6 seconds faster then the Finn and securing fourth at the end of day two.

 

Classification after Day Two

1 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2:14:35.5
2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +27.4
3 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +28.9
4 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +58.4
5 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +1:06.9
6 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:25.3
7 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +3:37.0

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (1st)

“We end today in the same way we finished on Friday, feeling very positive and pleased with our performance. We have had to be careful to manage our tyres today, making the right selection for each loop and pushing when we could, while also conserving when needed. At the end of the final stage of the day, our tyres were finished so we had to take it a bit more cautiously. In rally, we know from experience that there is no such thing as a comfortable advantage. We have to maintain this pace and rhythm on Sunday morning if we want to get the job done.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Rally Italia Sardegna
8 – 11 October 2020
Dani Sordo
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“I was happy with our morning, even if I feel that carrying an extra spare was not the best option. Our target was to get P2 and to try and increase our gap. We ended the loop with a stage win and were ready to resume the fight in the afternoon. There were different tyre strategies at play and the times were really close. I tried very hard but Ogier seemed to have a bit more speed. Unfortunately, we lost 1.5-2-seconds on the bridge in the final stage, when I was late on the brakes. When you’re pushing to the max, these things can happen. We go again tomorrow.”

Ott Tänak (6th)

“Today was a clean day with no drama. More or less everything was working well and we did what we could. I guess we achieved all that was planned, so there was nothing more we could have done ourselves. The feeling with the car was all good. Tomorrow, we can expect more of the same typically Sardinian stages – narrow and twisty. Our first priority is to get to the Power Stage and then try to push. Every point is critical at the moment.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“I feel pretty happy with my day today, winning four stages out of six. Unfortunately, the two other stages were not so good and were a bit costly in terms of time: On the first pass I was not on the limit enough and on the second one I really tried harder but I stalled the engine in a hairpin and lost some seconds. But overall, it’s still a positive day. Tomorrow we’re going to fight for second place and put the pressure on the leader until the end. You never know what can happen on these tricky stages.”

Elfyn Evans (4th)

“Overall, the morning loop wasn’t bad. For the most part I was driving pretty well. I just gave away too much time in SS9, being a bit too careful and too focused on being smooth and not pushing hard enough. Then in the first stage of the afternoon I tried to push a bit more and ended up going slower, so in the final stage I just kept it clean. Now we need to keep hold of fourth tomorrow, that will be key. It’s not going to be possible to catch the guys in front on pace alone on such short stages, but we have to keep going until the end.”

Kalle Rovanperä (DNF)

“On the second stage of the day, we went a bit wide in the final part of the stage: It was a narrow section where we had some things to avoid on the inside. We hit a tree on the outside and then the impact sent us into a second tree, and the damage was too much for us to restart tomorrow. It was clearly not our weekend, starting already from the shakedown. We had a bit of bad luck also yesterday which was not our fault, but today was my mistake. It’s been a tricky weekend.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (5th)

“It’s been a challenging day for us. It started okay this morning – we lost a few seconds to the guys at the front but we were on good pace with Elfyn. Then we had some issues with the handbrake and lost a lot of time in the slower sections.

“But we came back again in the afternoon – taking time out of Elfyn on the first stage [SS11] and then losing a bit to him on the second [SS12]. It’s going to be a tight fight tomorrow, and I will give it my best. It’s only two seconds per stage, and we will keep the pressure on.”

Gus Greensmith (29th)

“It was one of the best days of my career yesterday. I was really pleased with the way I was driving and really pleased with the car – everything was working well. It started okay again this morning – maybe my pacenotes were a little bit slow and the second spare wasn’t the best choice, but we seemed to make it work.

“Unfortunately, we then had a low voltage warning on SS9 and as soon as we left the stop line the whole car died – right in the bottom of a dip! So even though we managed to change the alternator belt, we could never get enough momentum to bump start it. After about 45 minutes of trying we had to call it a day, and tomorrow we’ll just focus on continuing the improvements we have made so far.”

 

Sunday

With 42km’s over four stages, the question was could either Seb or Thierry do anything about Dani? The start list looked like this – Katsuta, Greensmith, Loubet, Tänak, Suninen, Evans, Neuville, Ogier, Sordo.

Seb flew through SS13 Cala Flumini 1 – 14.06 km and with Dani Sordo only fourth fastest behind Thierry and Elfyn, the gap was now just fifteen seconds between the top two. Thierry was right with Seb, just 1.7 seconds between them in their fight over second overall.

The short blast of SS14 Sassari – Argentiera 1 – 6.89 km was taken by Thierry with Dani and Seb second and third fastest. Now the gap between second and third was just one tenth of a second! Dani’s lead was actually increased a little to just over sixteen seconds now. Elfyn was a comfortable fourth both in the stage and overall, as well.

SS15 Cala Flumini 2 – 14.06 km, the penultimate stage was won by Seb, and the gap opened up a little to 1.7 seconds to Thierry in third. What would we see from the Belgian in the final stage? Dani was just bringing the car home for a very good victory, his lead now 9.2 seconds over Seb.

The final stage then, SS16 Sassari – Argentiera 2 [Power Stage] – 6.89 km. The top five fastest were Ott, Thierry, Seb, Elfyn and Dani. Thierry was 2.7 seconds faster than Seb, and passed him for second overall as well. Seb missed out on second position by just one second in the end.

 

Final Overall Classification – Rally Italia Sardegna

1 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2:41:37.5
2 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +5.1
3 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +6.1
4 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +1:02.3
5 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +1:33.9
6 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:27.5
7 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +4:43.8
8 J. Huttunen M. Lukka Hyundai i20 R5 +8:41.7
9 K. Kajetanowicz M. Szczepaniak Škoda Fabia R5 +10:02.9
10 P. Tidemand P. Barth Škoda Fabia R5 +10:20.9

 

Let’s hear from the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (1st)

“This is an amazing result and I am really happy to have taken my second victory for Hyundai Motorsport, at the scene of my first one last year. This place is really special, and we have seen a strong performance across the whole team. I am not particularly pleased with my pace today; we had a big lead coming into Sunday morning, but I wasn’t able to set the same times as Thierry and Ogier, so things were a bit too close by the end of the Power Stage. Still, we were able to get the job done and to help the team move into the lead of the manufacturers’ standings. Mission accomplished. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to send – on behalf of myself and Carlos – our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Laura Salvo. We will always remember her.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Rally Italia Sardegna
08-11 October 2020
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“I am so happy to finish in second place and to collect four points from the Power Stage. The result moves us to third in the drivers’ standings after a fantastic battle with Sébastien. I really enjoyed it. We did the best we could all weekend after a few issues which lost us some valuable time. Huge congratulations to Dani and Carlos for a beautiful victory, and to the team for this incredible 1-2, which has really helped our position in the manufacturers’ championship.”

Ott Tänak (6th)

“It has been a difficult and disappointing weekend for us. From the suspension problems on Friday, we knew we wouldn’t be able to mount a serious challenge. We still kept pushing and supporting the team as best we could. Aside from the issues on Friday, the car has been OK, but we know we could have done so much more this weekend. We managed to complete the rally on a more positive note with five points in the Power Stage. The team is working really hard, as it has all season long, and they are doing a great job. We haven’t had things go our way, but we’ll push through and surely improvements will come.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“It’s been very intense for more or less the whole weekend. Of course, at the end, third place maybe doesn’t show the performance that we had here, but that’s how it is. We had to be second on the road for a big part of the rally and a lot of time was lost there. After that it was always going to be difficult. But I think we tried our best and I cannot be disappointed with my performance, I gave everything I had and it’s still solid points for the championship. I’m getting more and more settled in the Yaris WRC and the performance is there. I just need to continue with that and I’m confident about the future.”

Elfyn Evans (4th)

“Today the main objective was to stay ahead of the driver behind and make sure that position was secure. Unfortunately, I didn’t get as many points on the Power Stage as I would have liked, but all in all at least we secured the result and came away with solid points at the end of the weekend. Of course, you always want more than fourth place but we knew coming here starting first on the road was going to be tough, and we were almost out of the fight for the podium by the end of the first day. We continued to push but the times were close and, in the end, I think fourth was realistically the most we could achieve. Going onto asphalt, being first on the road should normally be an advantage and we’ll be hoping that will be the case.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (5th)

“We started this rally really strongly and had great speed in the slower sections – proving that we can be competitive when the conditions are right. But we also had some small issues and were struggling a bit in the faster sections – meaning that fifth was the best we could do this weekend. Still there are a lot of positives that we can take away, and we’ll focus now on the Tarmac rallies where the Fiesta has always been strong.”

Gus Greensmith (25th)

“I think we made some really good steps forward this weekend, and a lot of that was due to the time I spent at M-Sport before the rally. Going through all of the data with my engineer we were able to find a lot of ways to improve and also tried something new with the set-up which gave me a lot more confidence. For me it was definitely one of my better performances. It was pretty disappointing about some of the issues we had, but that’s rallying and we’ve shown that we can fight a lot closer to the top.”

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

1 E. Evans 111
2 S. Ogier 97
3 T. Neuville 87
4 O. Tänak 83
5 K. Rovanperä 70
6 T. Suninen 44
7 E. Lappi 38
8 D. Sordo 26
9 C. Breen 25
10 S.Loeb 24

 

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

1 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 208
2 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 201
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 117
4 Hyundai 2C Competition 8

 

 

Warren’s Thoughts

At Hyundai it was a good drive by Dani Sordo. Five stage wins gave him the lead, and he was able to keep his pace high enough so that when others hit the pace that they needed to challenge, he had enough in reserve to hold on the lead and therefore take the victory. Unfortunately, the issue with the subframe being underweight by 24kg’s has slightly taken the shine off the result. The significant fine that the team picked up because of this will set some minds at rest, but others may think more should have been done. Ott Tänak was really held back with his woes on Friday, but once the problems were resolved, he was on the pace. Sadly, it makes it even harder for him to retain his title. Thierry kept his title hopes alive with a strong drive, and nearly took the win from his teammate. He is now Hyundai’s best hope for the driver’s championship.

 

At Toyota the championship leader, Elfyn Evans did what he could given that he was opening the road on Friday, including a stage win and finished in fourth. His teammate, Seb, did what he could to finish higher up, but third overall could have been second, and a smaller gap to close come the end of the year. Kalle showed well, but retirement beckoned for the young Finn.

 

Finally, at M-Sport they started really well, holding a 1-2 after the first stage, with Teemu ‘Sending It’! As the rally went on throughout Saturday, the pace was too much for the Finn to hold the faster cars behind and ultimately ended the event in fifth. We didn’t get to see what Esapekka could do, after his engine overheated and he retired. Gus Greensmith went well, setting eleven top ten times. Reliability cost him a decent result, but we shall see what he and Elliot his co-driver can do in the last couple of events.

 

One more thing to mention is that Petter Solberg and Andreas Mikkelsen teamed up in a Citroen C3 WRC running on next year’s Pirelli tyres, with the younger Norwegian on the stage notes as they completed the final stage. We don’t know what time they set, but nevertheless it is a significant moment for the tyre manufacturer.

Petter Solberg (NOR) and Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) of team Citroen C3 WRC. Photo credit Red Bull Content Pool

Looking ahead, we now have two events left to complete this season. Ypres in Belgium at the beginning of November, and now in December, Rally Monza. This event was announced on Friday afternoon!

Rally Italia Sardegna 2020 – Preview.

We come to this event much later in the year than normal. It will be interesting what the weather does, as it is normally a dry and hot rally. As I write this, the weather reports suggest that there will be rain at the start of the week, but that it will warm up and the rain will stop.

Of course, as championship leaders, Elfyn Evans and his co-driver Scott Martin will be opening the road on Friday. The last time they did that in Mexico, they finished in fourth place. What kind of a result will they be able to get in this rally? They hold an 18-point lead over their teammates and former champions.

Seb and Julien, and will be working hard to get a good result for their championship challenge. The former champions will want a strong result, and at least a podium finish to set up a title decider in the Ypres Rally. I suspect they will target winning on the island of Sardinia.

Third on the road, Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja lie 27 points from the championship leader. The Hyundai team know how to win here, with Thierry taking victories in 2016 and 2018. The Estonians hopes of getting a top result and successfully defending their world title, make this event very important. They have to outscore both former teammates, and ideally win.

Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio and, who won this event last year will start for Hyundai as well, their first competitive start in the car since Rally Mexico.

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 08, Rally Italia Sardegna
13 – 16 June 2019
Dani Sordo
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

At Toyota, Kalle Rovanpera, who has just turned 20 will have much to learn about getting to grips with this event, but will have the best teammates alongside him. He also competed last year in a Skoda Fabia R5, and finished in ninth place. This season he has taken some very good results in this first season at the top, sitting fourth in the championship.

At M-Sport, Teemu is the only driver to have stood on the podium this season, taking third in Mexico and took second place last year in this event behind Dani. It gives all three drivers hope that they can secure a good result in this event, and to finish the season strongly.

Petter Solberg and Andreas Mikkelsen will be driving the final stage of the rally in a Citroen C3 WRC on Pirelli tyres. The Norwegian pairing have been helping Pirelli test their tyres, in their preparations for next season when they become the tyre supplier for the championship.

Here’s the stage information for you. Sixteen stages and 238km of action in total.

Let’s hear from the drivers!

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“Sardinia is a rally that I like, but we’re going to be competing there at a different time of the year compared to usual, so the challenge might not be the same as what we are used to. For this reason, the test that we did there last week was important preparation. At this time of year, the weather can be more uncertain than normal, and on an island like Sardinia it can change very quickly anyway. In the test we had some heavy rain showers and the conditions on the stage changed completely in just a few minutes. Everything is still open in the championship, so we have to keep doing our best and target the maximum points in Sardinia.”

Elfyn Evans

“Whenever you finish one rally on a high like we did in Turkey then it’s always a good boost for the following round. Leading the championship is certainly a good position to be in, even though it does come with an added challenge in that we will need to sweep the road in Sardinia. It is how it is but it’s not going to make it an easy event for us – providing it stays dry, of course. Going to Sardinia in October could change the weather forecasts somewhat. It might make it a little bit less demanding for the tyres, but we will still have some difficult choices: We face some loops of stages where we have to choose the tyres for the first and second passes of stages without returning to service, so it’s still going be a big challenge.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 08 / Rally dÕItalia Sardegna / 13-16 June, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Kalle Rovanperä

“In my pre-event test for Sardinia I had a good feeling straight away in the car, and it got even better once we made some changes, so I’m happy going into the rally. In Sardinia there’s usually a lot of road cleaning on the first pass, so it will be important to have good grip there. It can also be quite rough in some places and on the second pass there will be big ruts, so you need to have a good setup to deal with that also. It seems we can expect to have some rain showers and that they can be quite local – so it will only be wet in some parts of the stages. The information from our weather crews is going to be really important to know if there will be rain or not and what tyres we need to take, especially as I’ve heard that the stages can be really slippery when it rains.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“There are nice beautiful roads at Rally Italia Sardegna, with flowing, narrow stages. The natural characteristic of the stages suits my pace notes system and my driving style. It’s a rally where we have always demonstrated good speed, and we’ve also won there twice in the past. The weather could be different to what we’re used to during the usual summer slot, so that could be challenging on that side, particularly if it rains. Most of the stages are well known to us from previous years, so we are looking forward to the event.”

Ott Tänak

“Rally Italia Sardegna is normally a hot and tough event; this year the rally is taking place a bit later in the season so we might face some difficult weather conditions. Wet weather can change the full concept of the rally, so we have to expect a range of situations. The stages are made up of high grip roads typically, which can be tough on the tyres, so tyre management is generally important. We hope to show the performance of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC on this different type of gravel roads and be in the fight for victory.”

Dani Sordo

“This is a very special rally for me, with some incredible memories from last year’s event. I will never forget the feeling of taking that victory with Hyundai Motorsport and I hope we can repeat it this year! The stages are normally quite slippery on the first pass because there is a lot of loose gravel on the surface; this can benefit those crews starting further back on the order. The second pass is much more aggressive on the tyres, offering greater grip levels. I tested the car recently and had a good feeling, so the objective is victory.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 08 Rally Italia Sardegna
13 – 16 June 2019
Day 3, Podium, Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Anders Jaeger,
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

M-Sport WRT

Esapekka Lappi

“We’re heading to Sardinia a bit later than usual so things could be a little different this year. The temperatures might not be as high, and the weather could be a bit more unpredictable. This has never been an event where you can push flat-out all the time, and that could be even truer this year. We’ll have to complete two loops of stages without service so there’ll be a compromise to consider when deciding set-ups and tyre strategies that will work over both passes. It’s going to be a challenging weekend, but we’re determined to produce a good result and I think this is an event where we have a good chance of doing that.”

Teemu Suninen

“I’ve always performed well in Sardinia and it’s an event I look forward to every year. It’s the first event I did with Jarmo, and where I secured my best ever result last year. Of course, we’ll be competing in the autumn this time which will make things a bit different, but I hope we’ll be able to show the same good pace. As always in Sardinia, we’ll need to be really focused and careful to mark every stone on the recce. We’ll also have to think carefully about the set-up and strategy as we’ll have to drive two loops without service – meaning that myself and Jarmo will have to make any changes remotely with what we carry in the car.”

Teemu Suninen and Jarmo Lehtinen took three stage victories last year on their way to second overall. Photo credit M-Sport WRT

Gus Greensmith

“I’ve only competed in Sardinia once before, but I really like the island and the stages. They’re not quite as rough as those in Turkey, but they’re certainly not smooth and we will need to deliver another good performance if we want to secure another good result this week. That’s our aim and I see no reason why we can’t achieve it. We know from Teemu’s performance last year that the car is suited to Sardinia’s stages, and I also feel as though I am developing better consistency every time I get behind the wheel.”

 

Summary

We are really set for an incredible finish to the end of the championship. There are only three crews who can realistically win the title, two at Toyota and one at Hyundai. Kalle at Toyota and Thierry at Hyundai still have a mathematical chance, but it’s unlikely to be their year.

In terms of who will be fighting for victory, I think that Seb and Ott will fight it out for victory, with either Thierry, Dani or Teemu getting the final podium position. Ott will hope that Thierry or Dani can finish ahead of Seb and Elfyn, taking points away from his championship rivals, as he bids to win his second title. Elfyn will want to get a good result, as he bids for his first world championship title.

In the manufacturers’ battle, Toyota lead the way, but Hyundai who are the reigning champions will want to score well. With three winners at Hyundai, they have a good chance of doing just that.