Rallye Monte Carlo 2022 – Saturday’s Report, Seb Ogier and Ben Veillas move into the lead

With five stages and 96km of action, we were set for another really intense day of competition. The startlist looked like this, now running in reverse order – Solberg, Rovanperä, Katsuta, Greensmith, Breen, Tänak, Neuville, Evans, Ogier, Loeb.

Into the first stage then, SS9 Le Fugeret / Thorame-Haute – 16.80 km and Elfyn was fastest from Kalle and Ogier. It was Loeb’s turn to have a slow one, only setting the seventh best time and losing time to Ogier, the gap now just 6.5 seconds. There was drama again for Ott though, getting a puncture and losing three spots to Craig, Gus and Takamoto. The Estonian duo were now in eighth place. Of course, Elfyn’s great time meant that he’d closed the gap to Loeb to just 8.2 seconds.

Next stage then, into SS10 Saint-Jeannet / Malijai 1 – 17.04 km and Ogier was fastest from Elfyn and Kalle. The young Finn was definitely having a better day after his troubles on Friday and getting into a groove for sure. Ogier’s pace meant that he and Loeb now shared the lead after ten stages. There were contrasting fortunes for Craig and Gus. Gus suffered a mechanical problem and then a puncture in the stage, whilst Craig passed Thierry into fourth place.

The next one, SS11 Saint-Geniez / Thoard 1 – 20.79 km and it was smooth drive for Ogier who emerged from this one with a 5.4 second lead over Loeb. It was a disaster for Elfyn though who’s been setting some great splits throughout the stage. The Welshman slid off the road near the finish and the GR Yaris was stuck. His decision to go with studded tyres so nearly paid off with the lead. The stage was red flagged and this would mean that once the remaining cars had proceeded through, the car was moved and Elfyn could continue on and complete the rest of the day’s stages. Kalle continued to go well, setting the second fastest time, whilst Craig was third fastest and moved into third overall after the problem with Elfyn.

It got even better for Kalle SS12 Saint-Jeannet / Malijai 2 – 17.04 km as the Finn took the stage win from Loeb and Ogier. There were problems for Thierry, who was suffering with a damper problem and dropped back two places to sixth with Kalle and Takamoto both moving ahead into fourth and fifth place respectively.

So, to the final stage then, SS13 Saint-Geniez / Thoard 2 – 20.79 km and Kalle put his studded tyres to good work and set the fastest time, whilst Ogier and Oliver were second and third. Gus moved ahead of Thierry into fifth place as the Belgian battled through the stage with the returning problem with his front suspension as it attempted to break through the bonnet.

 

Classification after Day Three

1 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 2:19:43.1
2 S. Loeb I. Galmiche Ford Puma Rally1 +21.1
3 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +1:26.0
4 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:03.8
5 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +6:33.8
6 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +7:44.1

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It has been a good day for us and a positive step forward compared to yesterday. Generally, I felt better in the car today. In the first stage this morning I struggled to use the hybrid system in the way I wanted, but it’s something new for everyone and I try to adapt my driving style to make it work. We managed to make a bit of a gap tonight with a slightly crazy tyre choice in the last stage. It has been such a close battle all weekend with Sébastien [Loeb] and knowing him after all these years, I guessed he would try something. I wanted to have a straight fight with the same tyres and see who was faster, even though it was not the best choice for the conditions. It was a bit challenging in the snow but it felt really good on the dry roads and I had a really good stage. But tomorrow is still long and still with the potential for tricky conditions.”

Kalle Rovanperä (4th)

“We changed the car quite a lot from yesterday and the balance is much better for my driving style, it’s much easier to drive. We have done a bit of everything on the setup, a lot of small steps which are finally paying off. It felt really nice to win two stages, and the last stage was particularly good for us. At the beginning of the rally, it was hard to look at the stage times, but now it’s nice to start enjoying the driving. I am happy to have made such a big step and now we’ll try to see what more we can do. It always helps when you finally get a positive feeling in the car because it gives you the confidence to drive a bit better and everything gets easier.”

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

Elfyn Evans (26th)

“It is obviously frustrating what happened today. It was going pretty well up until then with a good morning overall and it was going well in SS11 as well. I’d made it out of the difficult part of the stage but then I just got caught out on a tricky right-hander. I had some information in my pace-notes but it seemed to spring out of nowhere and I just braked too late. The car was in a difficult position so thanks to the fans for all their help, they were really good. We got it back on the stage and got going again but we had lost so much time. After that it felt like a bit of a long afternoon. We didn’t want to do anything to jeopardise the Power Stage tomorrow when we will try to get some points.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Seb Loeb (2nd)

I lost some time with my super softs, I had two crossed super softs and I didn’t really understand why, then in Sisteron, Seb was really fast in both runs, so nothing really major. The gap to the front is large, so we’ll see tomorrow.

Craig Breen (3rd)

It’s been a rally of attrition more than others in recent years, and I’ve been quite happy with the pace today, honestly, we’ve definitely increased it up since yesterday, I feel that if we had the same settings as we run yesterday as today, we’d be a level up. That was just a consequence of not having all the seat time in the test, my own fault entirely, but it’s good and I’ve been happy with that. We have a good tyre package for tomorrow as we used old tyres this afternoon, and this means that we have new sets available tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the new stages tomorrow.

Gus Greensmith (5th)

Yeah, from as good as things were yesterday to as bad as things were today. Nothing more could have gone wrong, engine issues, puncture, everything. Not a good day, but not much I could have done about it, I’m proud of my bodge, it’s got us to the end of the day and at least we can go again tomorrow.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“I don’t know what to say, really. We have made it through the day somehow after experiencing an ongoing issue with the front-right damper. At the start of the middle morning stage (SS10), the car suddenly felt like it was pulling to one side, but it was only at the end we realised that the top-mount fixation of the damper was gone. We kept fighting, although it was a bit of a struggle without lunchtime service. We had to carry out some repairs ourselves in between the two loops, but a few kilometres into SS12 the damper came through the bonnet. We then did some fixes on the road section before the final stage, but it gave up again in the final kilometres. It’s been a day of survival.”

Oliver Solberg (49th)

“We had the same issue with fuel fumes coming into the car as we have had on the previous days. In SS10, we lost concentration in the middle of the stage and went off the road at a medium speed right-hander. Miraculously, we got the car out and could continue the rally. I really didn’t think we would manage it – we had about 25 people pushing, pulling, and dragging the car out. Thankfully it was just cosmetic damage. We used the afternoon as another valuable learning experience. Setting the joint third-fastest time through a snowy SS13, equalling my best-ever stage result, was a nice way to end to a really difficult day.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo
20-23 January 2022
Oliver Solberg, Elliott Edmondson, Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (DNF)

“The car felt OK today, there was no real drama. The puncture on the first stage was one of those things that happen. We continued but with no spare tyre left we had to keep things as tidy as possible. Unfortunately, in the final stage on the icy conditions, we made a very small, but ultimately costly mistake. We picked up some damage and that was it. We were leaking coolant and the engine was overheating so we had to stop the car on the road section. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to continue tomorrow but we are committed to learning from this challenging weekend to build for the rest of the season.”

Sunday

Well, we are set for 67km’s over four stages and no service again either. Who will emerge on top? Can Loeb fight back for M-Sport Ford, or will Ogier triumph again? We shall find out tomorrow!

Rallye Monte Carlo 2022 Preview – The Hybrid Era starts!

Time for the fiftieth world rally championship season to start with the new rules and new cars that were launched on Saturday evening. The driver movements are well documented as well, so let’s get on and review this incredibly iconic rally. With four days of competition ahead, lets take a look at the stages.

The 90th running of this event this year is based in Monaco instead of Gap and with 296km over 17 stages the challenge of this rally remains as tricky as ever. We may not see any snow, but there will almost certainly be ice on the stages making it a big challenge to stay on the road.

Shakedown takes place on Thursday the 20th of January with a short 2.29km stage that starts at 9:31 local French time.

Later the same day the opening ceremony takes place in Monaco followed by two stages run in the dark: Luceram / Lantosque (15.20km) and La Bollène-Vésubie / Moulinet (23.25km)

Friday’s itinerary consists of two attempts of Roure / Bevil (18.33km), Guillaumes / Péone / Valberg (13.49km) and Val-de-Chalvagne / Entrevaux (17.11km) with just a tyre fitting zone between the morning and afternoon loops

Saturday begins with Le Fugeret / Thorame-Haute (16.80km), before presenting the challenge of two passes of Saint-Jeannet / Malijai (17.04km) and Saint-Geniez / Thoard (20.79km)

Sunday features two loops of La Penne / Collongues (19.37km) and Briançonnet / Entrevaux (14.26km). The second pass of the latter will be the rally’s Power Stage.

The usual crews will be challenging for the podium spots I suspect.

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Team Toyota poses for a photograph during the WRC launch at the Hangar 7 in Salzburg, Austria on January 15, 2022.

Sébastien Ogier

“I’m at the beginning of a different stage in my career, and as I’m not taking part in the full championship the feeling is a little bit different to usual for me at this time of the year. But being part of this programme with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is still exciting and going to Rallye Monte-Carlo is always special for me. I’m still a competitor and I still want to win, so I will be giving my best to perform. I know the team has been working very hard to be ready with this new generation of car and big steps have been made in every test. I’ve had the chance to do three days of testing in the GR YARIS Rally1 in December and another day last week, all to prepare for this event. It’s quite a big change and it’s an exciting challenge to try and adapt to that. But I think going to Monte Carlo will be a huge challenge for everybody: There’s more uncertainty than ever going into this rally.”

Elfyn Evans

“This is an exciting time in our sport and I’m looking forward to the challenge of these new cars. Since I first tested the GR YARIS Rally1 we’ve made some good progress, but it’s impossible to know where we stand relative to the competition until we get to Monte Carlo. So much has changed and it’s a clean sheet of paper. It’s not been easy to jump from a car that was so well-developed, where everything was coming quite easily, and into something that is a lot more unknown. The additional power from the hybrid system makes a huge difference and how you manage it could be worth quite a lot in certain cases. We’ve already learned a lot in testing and I’m sure we’re going to continue learning a lot during the year, starting in Monte Carlo. It’s a rally that’s always a bit of a lottery with the weather anyway, and now the base has moved south there’s a lot of new stages and different terrain to get to grips with.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“My feeling with the new car is good and we have some good preparation behind us. With any new car there are always many things to work on and to improve, but I feel we have been making good progress all the time. It’s been especially interesting to get used to the boost from the hybrid. It gives you much more power, and that’s usually a good thing, but it can also be a bit tricky in certain points if you’re not ready to use it. As a driver you need to think about how to use it and if you can do that better than the others it could make quite a big difference. Rallye Monte-Carlo is going to be quite special this year. It’s always a tricky rally but this year we are going to have a lot of new stages as well as a totally new car. Friday and Saturday are going to be long days without mid-day service and if you can get through those days without issues that will already be quite good.”

Hyundai Motorsport

2022 FIA World Rally Championship, WRC Launch 2022,
15 January 2022
X
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville

“Our main target in Monte-Carlo is to finish and gain experience in the car. I don’t think we are going to have a completely dry event but I don’t think it will be full of snow either; as usual, we are expecting a mix of conditions. Because of this, it’s very hard to have the perfect tyre choice for all the stages, so it’s all about compromise next weekend – the driver who does it best is going to be the most competitive. Choosing the tyres is not so easy because you have to collect a lot of information, trust yourself and commit. It will be a challenge, but I like driving in these conditions, so it is going to be exciting.”

Ott Tänak

“I think there is some uncertainty heading to Monte-Carlo, so it is important that we get through the rally without any major issues and keep the car running so we gain as much experience as possible – that will be the priority. Rallye Monte-Carlo is not as much about pure performance; it is about the reliability and the small decisions you make. Of course, we want to finish well and score many points for the championship this weekend. The very first stage in the dark with the new car will certainly be an adventure.”

Oliver Solberg

“Starting my first WRC campaign in Monte-Carlo is going to be very exciting. I think we have realistic expectations for the event – the most important part for us is just finishing and helping the team as much as possible. Rallye Monte-Carlo is an event where everything can happen; a stage can start with snow and end with tarmac, so it’s a very interesting and unpredictable way to begin the season with the new cars, but it’s also very exciting. I know I will take some time to find my feet but I have the best guys in the team to learn from.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sebastien Loeb

“It’s a radical change of scenery after spending three weeks on the Dakar Rally but it’s still very exciting to be at the start of the Monte Carlo Rally, especially with the WRC’s new hybrid era.

“I’m also proud of this collaboration with Malcolm’s team, working with them has been talked about throughout my career but never quite managed to happen, so thank you all, M-Sport, Ford Performance and Red Bull for finally making this happen on such an amazing event.

“For this rally, I will certainly be less prepared than the other drivers but the feeling with the Puma Hybrid Rally1 was immediately very good and everything just came together. I am looking forward to having fun this weekend with Isabelle, my new co-driver, and the whole M-Sport team.”

Craig Breen

“It is always something very special competing on Rallye Monte Carlo, but to be doing it for the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team, is a dream come true! The team has done an unbelievable job building and developing the Puma Hybrid Rally1 and it really shows. It is by far the best rally car I have ever driven and with the addition of the hybrid unit, it is going to add another dimension to the rally. Paul and I are relishing the challenge and are really looking forward to the year ahead with M-Sport and Ford.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“For Rallye Monte-Carlo, we will try to do our best, feel the car and understand its level of performance compared to the others. It will be the first time here in the top category of the WRC, I have been here previously in the Fiesta Rally2, my first appearance was already a top ten overall finish! I love these roads; I have performed quite well in the past so I have good hopes. By the way it’s a new era for everyone so we’ll need the perfect match between the car’s reliability and driving skill to perform well until the end of the rally. We hope to deliver the best result as we can, everything is possible!”

Gus Greensmith

“I’m excited to be a part of the 2022 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team as we head into the most significant rule change in WRC history. The team has done a great job developing the new car, and I feel really comfortable driving it. We’re all confident the car should be a lot more competitive than recent years, which will hopefully give us more opportunities to fight near the front. I was happy with my improvements last season, and I want to build on that going into 2022. I was within a second of my first stage win last year, and I feel that with the new package, this is definitely an achievable goal, and we also want to try to push for our first podium as well. Monte Carlo has always been a tricky opener for the championship, but I have done the rally a few times now, and with the new car feeling so good, I am really looking forward to the challenge. It will be essential to build the speed throughout the weekend, especially with this being Jonas and I’s second rally together. Thanks again to all the team for all the hard work they have put into the Puma Hybrid Rally1, and I hope we can repay them with a good result in Monte.”

Summary

Well, we are set for another gripping season of top-level rallying. Which team have done the best job with the new regulations and who will take victory this weekend? Make sure that you are following the action online and pop back at the end of each day for my daily reports.

Rally Monza 2021 Preview – Championship Show Down

It’s time for the finale of this seasons World Rally Championship, with teammates Seb Ogier and Elfyn Evans both looking to win this season’s championship. Seventeen points separate them at the top of the table and assuming both drivers finish the rally, it is likely that the championship will be decided on the final stage.

Of course, there are a few driver and co-driver changes our there. First of all, Ott and Martin will not be competing at all. This means that Teemu and Mikko will be competing in the i20WRC. They were going to be in the i20 Rally2 of course, but have now been moved into the full WRC model. The other change is also within the Hyundai team, with Oliver Solberg taking a new co-driver. Elliott Edmondson, who was Gus Greensmith’s co-driver at the start of the season, will step into the seat along-side the young Swede.

Gus Greensmith also gets a new co-driver after the retirement of Chris Patterson. Jonas Andersson will step into the Fiesta. Ironically, he is Swedish as well, so we have a Swede with a British co-driver and a Brit with a Swedish co-driver!

Jonas Andersson (SWE) – Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Shakedown, 2013 Rally Sweden

Let’s take a look at the stages facing the crews.

Rally Monza opens with a shakedown on the evening of Thursday 18 November.

Friday features two passes each of Gerosa (11.09km), Costa Valle Imagna (22.17km) and Junior (14.97km) followed by an evening run of Grand Prix (10.21km) in darkness.

Saturday is the longest day of the rally, with two passes of San Fermo (14.45km) and Selvino (25.06km) in the morning proceeding back-to-back afternoon runs of Roggia (14.85km).

Sunday’s three stages only cover a competitive distance of 39.07km, as two passes of Serraglio (14.43km) follows a single run of Grand Prix. The second pass of Serraglio will be the rally’s Power Stage.

 

ACI Rally Monza itinerary:
Friday November 19
SS1 Gerosa 1 11.09km (6.89 miles) 0731
SS2 Costa Valle Imagna 1 22.17km (13.77 miles) 0816
SS3 Gerosa 2 11.09km (6.89 miles) 1016
SS4 Costa Valle Imagna 2 22.17km (13.77 miles) 1101
Service 1225
SS5 Junior 1 14.97km (9.30 miles) 1338
SS6 Junior 2 14.97km (9.30 miles) 1548
SS7 Grand Prix 1 10.21km (6.34 miles) 1820
Service 1840

Saturday November 20
SS8 San Fermo 1 14.45km (8.97 miles) 0715
SS9 Selvino 1 25.06km (15.57 miles) 0815
SS10 San Fermo 2 14.45km (8.97 miles) 1045
SS11 Selvino 2 25.06km (15.57 miles) 1145
Service 1338
SS12 Roggia 1 14.85km (9.22 miles) 1451
SS13 Roggia 2 14.85km (9.22 miles) 1701
Service 1726

Sunday November 21
SS14 Grand Prix 2 10.21km (6.34 miles) 0748
SS15 Serraglio 1 14.43km (8.96 miles) 1008
SS16 Serraglio 2 14.43km (8.96 miles) 1218
Service 1245

Friday and Saturday see stages away from the Monza race track and then the final stages will be run on parts of the Grand Prix track just like last year.

Let’s hear from the drivers –

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“While it’s true that this rally will be the end of a sporting chapter for myself and especially for Julien, this is not something I am thinking too much about for now: I think this is the best way to approach it, so that I can give my best as always and focus on our target of winning both titles. Of course, the situation going to Monza is much more favourable than one year ago, as this time I have some points in hand in the drivers’ standings. But it is not done yet and we need to stay focused. We had a good test in Italy last week, and I hope we can start the rally with the right rhythm, perform well and fight for a top result as well as keeping the championship in mind.”

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

Elfyn Evans

“It’s good to be going into the final round still with a chance of taking the drivers’ title. It’s an outside chance but Scott and I will give it our best shot: The approach will be just to aim for the best result possible and see what happens. After a difficult mid-season, the last couple of rounds have been better for us, but Monza will be a completely different challenge again. The stages in the mountains have a really nice character, but the stages at the circuit are very mixed and not so flowing. It’s impossible to capture all of that in a pre-event test, but after last year we have a pretty good idea of what to expect.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“It’s going to be interesting to go back to Monza. Last year it was quite a special event with the extreme weather that we had, and I’m sure it will be another difficult rally in any case. This time we will have more stages on the proper mountain roads, which will be nice. At the circuit, you can have a bit of everything in one stage, and if it rains it will be very muddy and tricky. The plan is to fight for the best position but also to have a clean rally: With our team-mates fighting for the championship, it will be important for us to be there to secure the points for the manufacturers’ title if needed.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“I have participated a couple of times at Rally Monza in previous years, both as a WRC event and as Monza Rally Show, so I know the roads quite well. The stages are unique with lots of chicanes and cones, which is not the traditional rally style, but this year’s there looks to be more typical Italian mountain stages. It is also a great experience to compete on the Monza circuit. As it is the last event of the season, our aim is to push hard and fight at the front.”

Dani Sordo

“Monza is always a very nice rally to drive, and of course is a special place for the team as we won the manufacturers’ championship here in 2020. I really like the format of the event, with some stages on the circuit and others in the mountains. Last year was very fun, especially with the tricky weather conditions, so I think crews and spectators both really love this rally. I will of course try my best to get the best result possible this year.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07 Rally Monza 03-07 December 2020
Action, Day 2, Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Teemu Suninen

“Being part of the Hyundai Motorsport WRC line-up for Rally Monza is a great opportunity for us. I will follow the goals set by the team and show our speed within those limits. The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC is a new car for me and for sure I will need some time to get used to it. After I drove it for the first time at the pre-event test, there is no doubt that it is a winning car. Monza, as an event, has a lot of variations in grip and rhythm. There is also quite a difference between the stages up in the mountains and circuit sections. What a wonderful way to end the season!”

Oliver Solberg

“I was 15 when this current generation of cars started competing in 2017. I remember the incredible excitement around that time: what would they be like? How fast would they be? And what about the downforce? How would that feel?

“To be driving one of these cars at the other end of this generation is something incredible for me. Honestly, if you had told me I would be a Hyundai Motorsport driver in an i20 Coupe WRC when this chapter closed, I would have thought you were a little bit crazy. Of course, it was always my dream, but this is something really special.

“It will be quite emotional to say goodbye to these cars. I know I didn’t drive this amazing Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC so many times like the other guys, but it’s a real privilege to be part of a group of drivers who have competed in the world’s fastest ever rally cars. And an even bigger privilege to do it with this team.

“Next year’s going to be incredible with new technology and quite the same speed and potential, but the ‘WRC Plus’ cars will always be special.

“For Monza, I can’t wait! Last year was a really cool rally. The conditions were a little bit – actually, completely – crazy with all the snow and rain. I hope it’s nicer this time. I know we have fans coming back to this great event, so it would be really nice for them to watch in the sunshine.

“It’s also exciting for me to compete with Elliott for the first time. We did a lot of practise together already and I’m sure we’re going to work well.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Gus Greensmith

“Monza is a rally of two halves, you have the stages on the circuit which also incorporate quite a lot of gravel and grass which is something we don’t see during the year on Tarmac. Also, the actual Tarmac part of the track is very different as well, it’s more of a single venue format which is very different to what we see all year. Then we go to the stages up in the mountains, three of which are the same as last year which I know from personal experience are very tricky but we also had some very good times there last year. It’s somewhere I think we can excel at this weekend.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“I’m really excited to be going back to Monza after doing the rally last year in a Fiesta Rally2, I was happy about my pace so hopefully we have some good pace on this rally. It’s always interesting to do some stages inside a circuit and also in the really nice mountains. There are some beautiful mountain stages here too, last year was a big challenge with the weather so let’s see and hopefully the conditions will be a bit nicer. We’re happy to see the spectators back in the circuit area and we are looking forward to seeing them there! Thanks to M-Sport and all my partners for an amazing season.”

Jari Huttunen

“For me it’s really exciting to be joining M-Sport for Rally Monza in WRC2. It’s a new car and team to get to know, which will be a steep learning curve, but one I am looking forward to.

“I know that the Fiesta Rally2 is very competitive on Tarmac so I am looking forward to seeing what we can do together. Ok, Rally Monza has extra challenges that come with the circuit stages, but I still cannot wait to line up on the start line of the event with a prestigious team like M-Sport. I would like to thank M-Sport for making this happen at short notice.”

Summary

It could be a really special weekend Elfyn, Scott and their fans. It could just as equally be a special weekend for Seb and Adrien, given that this will be their last rally together before they end their partnership. One of these crews will be victorious and whoever is will completely deserve their success. Hopefully it will a good straight fight between them to the end of the rally with no reliability problems.

Anyone could stand on the podium come the end of the rally. Dani Sordo took third place behind his teammate Ott last year. Could he go one better? Of course, Seb took victory, but Elfyn was thereabouts with his pace before sliding off the road in stage eleven. The weather reports look much more stable in terms of no snow forecast, but we’ll have to see how things go on each day.

Enjoy! The action starts with shakedown on Thursday evening.

Rally Spain Day Two Report – Thierry and Martijn pull away for Hyundai Motorsport

The second day then, and the crews had 117km seven stages ahead of them. The startlist looked like this – Katsuta, Solans, Solberg, Greensmith, Fourmaux, Rovanperä, Sordo, Ogier, Evans, Neuville. Now the interesting thing is that coming through the stages last would mean that the conditions for the leaders would be tricky with the corner cuts bringing gravel onto the road.

 

First up was SS7 Savallà 1 – 14.08 km and there was fog and mist in the stage, which kept moving.  The top three was Thierry, Elfyn and Kalle. The Belgian was 1.7 seconds faster and his lead was now up to 2.4 seconds. It was a good stage from the Hyundai driver, and perhaps the type of stage with it longer flowing and faster corners suited the i20 WRC more than the nimble Yaris, which seems to go better on the twisty stuff. Dani lost a little bit of time to Seb, as he looked to move into third, the gap between them now 6.3 seconds. Takamoto was back of course, and looking to build some confidence again on the stages, and did quite well to be just seven tenths behind Gus.

Into the longer SS8 Querol – Les Pobles 1 – 19.17 km and for a little while it looked like Adrien would take the fastest time, but he was denied by Thierry, whilst Dani set the third best time. Elfyn was only fifth fastest and 4.3 seconds down on Thierry’s time, so the gap now had grown to 6.7 seconds.

The final stage then of the morning loop, SS9 El Montmell 1 – 24.40 km and Thierry made it a clean sweep of the morning stage wins, from Dani and Elfyn. The Spainard who was six seconds faster than Seb, had now reduced the gap in their battle for third overall to just three tenths of a second now. It was game on for the final podium spot. Gus suffered a puncture in this one, and decided not to stop and change, but to complete, losing just over a minute. He’d have lost a lot more if he’d stopped, so it was the right choice. The M-Sport crew dropped two places to ninth overall as a result, with Olver and Nil Solans benefitting.

After the lunchtime break came SS10 Savallà 2 – 14.08 km and Thierry was fastest again from Seb who was 1.4 slower and then Elfyn third fastest a further seven tenths behind. The positions were pretty static to be honest, with no changes of places up and down the field. Sadly, Jari Huttunen retired after having an engine problem in his i20 Rally2.

There was a hint of some rain around an hour before SS11 Querol – Les Pobles 2 – 19.17 km, with some rain actually falling, but it soon stopped and didn’t change the surface of the road at all. Seb and Thierry shared the best time in this one, with Elfyn 1.6 slower. The Belgian was doing just enough to grow his lead over Elfyn. There was drama for Adrien though, as he hit a barrier on the left side and damaged his front wheel. He got it changed and limped to the end. A real shame for the Frenchman who’d been second fastest in the first running of the stage earlier.

The last long stage then of the day, SS12 El Montmell 2 – 24.40 km, and Seb finally broke Thierry’s stranglehold winning the stage from Thierry and Dani. Takamoto was fifth fastest, which was a good result for the Japanese driver, as he gained good experience for the future.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 11 / Rally Catalunya/Spain / 14-17 October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

The last stage then of the day, SS13 Salou – 2.15 km, and Thierry was fastest again, but to be honest there was drama for Seb who lost a huge chunk of time after a stall and only being 16th fastest. Dani was now just 1.2 seconds behind the champion in their battle for third place. There was good drama for Mads who placed his C3 Rally2 fourth fastest in the stage with a sideways display in the stage.

Classification after Day Two

1 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2:03:45.7
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +16.4
3 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +38.7
4 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +39.9
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +1:12.3
6 G. Greensmith C. Patterson Ford Fiesta WRC +3:45.2
7 O. Solberg C. Drew Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +3:45.9
8 N. Solans M. Martí Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +3:53.8

 

Let’s hear from the drivers then after Saturday’s stages.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“We have had a good day and it’s obviously a very nice feeling to be leading the rally going into the final day. It wasn’t easy; we had some fog early on and the roads were very dirty, so I relied a lot on information from the road note crew. We have taken a clever approach, trying to avoid the sharp cuts, and not risking any punctures. We made an important set-up change yesterday that allowed us to take more out of the car, but there are still things we could have done to go even quicker. I still felt comfortable, and we set six fastest times out of the seven stages, so it wasn’t too bad! It’s always nice to be in front but there are some challenging stages yet to come. Nothing is guaranteed but we keep believing.”

Dani Sordo (4th)

“Honestly, I am quite happy with our performance today, and particularly on the El Montmell stage. I would have preferred to be fighting for the win, of course, but I have been pushing hard to keep up with Sébastien for third. This morning, we were in a nice fight but in the afternoon, he was always a step ahead, setting some strong times. It was difficult for us to make up much ground. We have done the maximum we could, and we’ve been close to his pace. We will try to push for the podium tomorrow, but we know it will be difficult. We have to stay focused and do our best.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de Espana
14-17 October 2021
Dani Sordo
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“We didn’t have a such a great day today and not what we wanted. The times were OK but not as good as yesterday obviously. We tried to improve the car in certain areas, like in the dirty places where we were struggling yesterday afternoon – and also this morning when we were running further back on the road. To an extent we managed to improve that, but in the process, we affected the overall balance of the car. We had to try something but it didn’t work out: I never really found the sweet spot and never felt as comfortable as yesterday. Here you have to be very confident, and I wasn’t at my very best today and it showed in the times. But tomorrow we’ll keep trying.”

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“This morning some things had been improved: I was more happy with the balance and I could enjoy driving the car more in the clean sections at least. Still, the times were not so great. But we continued to work on the car setup and after service it was starting to feel better and the times were coming and we had a great afternoon. Unfortunately, the engine stalled on a hairpin in the final stage so it is close again behind, but the positive is that the car is suiting me and the pace is there so I’m still very confident going into tomorrow.”

Kalle Rovanperä (5th)

“The pace was much better today and we could do good times without taking maximum risk. We made some more setup changes last night and already the first stage this morning was really nice in quite tricky conditions with a bit of fog and some damp places. We had a slow puncture on the second stage and then a big moment on the third one, but overall, it was quite a good morning and I was happy with the car. The afternoon was again quite tricky with a lot of gravel from the cuts, but we were not in a big fight anymore so we took it steady without big risks, and I’m learning all the time. Tomorrow the target is to finish the rally safely but also try to push for points on the Power Stage.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 11 / Rally Catalunya/Spain / 14-17 October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sunday

Now we have 50km’s over four stages remain and it’s looking like Thierry will take victory. Can Elfyn deny his push, or will the Belgian take his second win of the season? We will find out tomorrow!

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!

Acropolis Rally 2021, Rally of Gods – My thoughts

Well, what an incredible return of the Acropolis Rally to the calendar. It may not have been the rough event that it was in the past, but it was no less challenging.

Let’s take a look at the performances of each driver.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

With Kalle taking such a strong victory, his second at the of the year, it’s fair to say the promise that he showed when he made his debut last year is definitely starting to bear out in some amazing results. Eight stage wins from the fifteen stages in total show complete domination, the kind that we would expect from any of the top drivers. If these results continue, then he could finish second or third in the championship.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 09 / Acropolis Rally Greece / 09-12, September 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Now Seb opened the road throughout Friday, and he did really well to stay close to the top positions, and was ready to swoop for second place if Ott had any problems. Three stage wins confirmed the pace that Toyota had and showed that the team had made the most of their pre-event test. With this drive, he and Julien have pretty much put one hand on this year’s championship.

Finally, Elfyn had a tough Saturday with his gearchange problems, but he kept his head in the right place and delivered a very good result with some top times. It was the first time since he joined the team that he’d experienced any technical problems with the Yaris, which is pretty impressive. He even nearly took his first Powerstage win for a long time, only to be denied by Kalle at the last moment.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

When Ott was at one with his car, he was really quick in the way that we have witnessed over the years. Three stage wins was a good reward for the Estonian’s, and their first podium since his third in the Safari Rally Kenya. Far too long for a driver of his quality. It seems at least that the team have got on top of their suspension problems.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 09, Acropolis Rally
09-12 September 2021
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, WRC, Action during Day 3 of Acropolis Rally 2021
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani was kind of stuck in no-mans land, which was a surprise for the Spaniard. Still, it was a good start to the new partnership with Candido Carrera, and it will be interesting to see how things develop for the rest of this season.

Thierry took a single stage win, but just like Elfyn his pace was held back by technical problems, namely powersteering problems. He turned mechanic and fixed it, but had lost so much time with penalties and having to struggle with his car on the stages. He’s still in third place in the championship, but it probably fair to say that his championship hopes are over for this year. Now it will be all about where he can finish in the championship.

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Finally, Malcolm’s team showed some pace, taking a second fastest time with Adrien on the last day. The Frenchman also suffered a technical problem, with him having to change the sparkplugs on the road section. This gave him and Renaud some huge time penalties and not only dropped him behind Gus, but also Elfyn. Up to that point, he’d been the fastest M-Sport driver all weekend.

Gus had a good weekend again, but was not quite on the pace of his teammate. Still, it was another decent weekend for the Brit and consistent pace brought him a more points. He’ll almost certainly be part of the team next year, given that he’s been testing the Puma Rally1 car.

In the WRC2 there was a great battle between Andreas and Marco in their Toksport run Fabia Evo’s. The Bolivian led at the end of Friday and Saturday, only to lose the lead each day. Andreas increased his lead on the final day and took a well-deserved victory, and thus extended his championship lead.

Finally, in WRC3, Chris held the lead for a while, before dropping back behind Yohan and then Kajetan. It was his first drive of the year with Toksport, the team that he won the ERC title in 2019 and ultimately brought him a deserved podium. Sadly, for Yohan, he was excluded from the results as his car when weighed was found to be overweight. A real shame considering his performance over the weekend, and the problem that he overcame after damaging his steering on the final stage and making a fix that meant that he could get back to the service park. The Frenchman has appealed the exclusion and we will have to await the outcome of this in the next few weeks. Emil took the final podium spot in the category as a result of the Citroen drivers’ exclusion.

Who was your driver of the rally? Let us know!

Acropolis Rally Sunday Review – Rally of Gods. Day Three

The final day then of this incredible event! Kalle had a huge lead coming into the last day. With just under 70km over three stages, there was still plenty of opportunities for things to happen!

The startlist looked like this – Loubet, Serderidis, Neuville, Evans, Greensmith, Fourmaux, Sordo, Ogier, Tänak, Rovanperä.

Into the first stage of the day then, SS13 Tarzan 1 – 23.37 km. There was drama for Adrien as he suffered a problem on the road section, meaning that he’d had to stop to change the spark plugs. He was 18 minutes late to the time control and picked up 3 minutes of time penalties as a result. This meant that his teammate picked up fifth overall, and also Elfyn moved up a place to sixth as well at the expense of Adrien. Kalle won the stage by a huge 14 seconds from Ott, with Seb a further 13.9 seconds back from Ott. In the WRC2 battle, Andreas got ahead of Marco once again and the gap was up to 6.8 seconds! The WRC3 top three was Yohan, Kajeten and Chris.

The following stage, SS14 Pyrgos – 33.20 km, again just a single run stage as well, and Ott denied Adrien and M-Sport a stage win, whilst Seb was third in the stage. With his pace, the Estonian now held a lead over the Toyota driver of 32.4 seconds. Adrien’s pace in the stage actually meant that he’s passed Elfyn who was sixth fastest, but the gap was just eight tenths of a second. Thierry passed Marco for ninth place, and was now just five seconds behind Andreas, the WRC2 leader.

To the final stage then, SS15 Tarzan 2 [Power Stage] – 12.68 km, a shortened version of the mornings first stage. The startlist was updated to this – Gryazin (WRC2), Bulacia (WRC2), Mikkelsen (WRC2), Serderidis, Neuville, Evans, Fourmaux, Greensmith, Sordo, Ogier, Tänak, Rovanperä.

Thierry was the first to go under nine minutes, and then his time was beaten by Elfyn. It was looking good for the Welshman to take the stage win, as the following drivers could not beat his time. Ott had drama on the start line as his car nearly didn’t fire up, and when it did there was blue smoke at first. Adrien had a spin in the stage, losing 12 seconds to Elfyn and he dropped behind into seventh. Kalle completed the stage, 1.2 seconds up on Elfyn, meaning that he took the stage win and maximum points in the powerstage with Elfyn second, Seb third. Ott and Dani rounded out the top five. Andreas took the WRC2 victory from Marco, and Nicolay on his first outing for M-Sport. Yohan took WRC3 honours from Kajeten and Chris third.

 

Well, there you have it. Kalle and Jonne have taken their second WRC victory from Ott and Seb. This has lifted them into fourth place in the championship, just one point behind Thierry and Martjin who are a now six points behind Elfyn. Seb now has a 44-point advantage over his Welsh teammate in the championship, with just three rounds left.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 09 / Acropolis Rally Greece / 09-12, September 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Final Overall Classification – Acropolis Rally

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC 3:28:24.6
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +42.1
3 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +1:11.3
4 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +3:01.0
5 G. Greensmith C. Patterson Ford Fiesta WRC +5:45.0
6 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +6:42.7
7 A. Fourmaux R. Jamoul Ford Fiesta WRC +6:54.4
8 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +8:41.1
9 A. Mikkelsen E. Edmondson Škoda Fabia Evo +9:02.5
10 M. Bulacia M. Der Ohannesian Škoda Fabia Evo +9:19.2

 

Let’s hear from the drivers then.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“I’m feeling really good to win here in Greece. It was a really tough rally to be honest, a long week with a lot of stages to recce and long nights watching the videos, so I feel really happy to be at the finish with this result. I felt good on Friday already, and then we did some setup changes to the car because the stages on Saturday were different, and I felt even better with the car. It came quite nicely; I could enjoy the driving a lot. A big thank you to the team, everybody did a great job and the car was running without issues. Hopefully we can take the same speed to Finland.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 09 / Acropolis Rally Greece / 09-12, September 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“This is a very good result for us. The target this weekend was to maintain the lead we had in the championship and we actually increased it, which is very positive. I think we did a very clever rally. The conditions were challenging all the time. Obviously, I was not in the same pace as Kalle, he was really flying and on the next level compared to everybody, so congratulations to him for a well-deserved win. In the position I was in in the championship after Friday, my mindset was not to risk everything to win the rally, so I’m very happy with my third place.”

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“This was not our weekend but these things happen in rallying and it’s been very rare at this team to have an issue like we had on Friday. The feeling in the car was generally quite good. Getting sixth place in the end today was a bit of a gift with an issue that somebody else had this morning. Maybe it was not a perfect run on the Power Stage for us, but four bonus points is still a good addition and at least we managed to salvage something from the weekend.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“At the end of a challenging weekend, it is good to come away with second place and another podium. We haven’t had the easiest rally, but we have worked hard to find improvements to get a better feeling from the car, and there have been some positive signs. Kalle has been on top form since the very start, so we have had to focus on confirming second place. We have made some bold decisions on tyres, which has only been possible because of the work of our weather crew. I’d like to say thanks to them for a great job. We know there is more work we need to do, but I think we’ve achieved all that was possible in Acropolis with second place.”

Dani Sordo (4th)

“This has been a tough weekend. The days on which we had to make our pace notes were difficult and as a result we didn’t have the confidence we needed. The conditions today were really nice, and I liked the stages, but it was difficult to follow the road at times. Fourth place was about the best we could manage, so we concentrated on securing the result, nothing more. This was the first WRC event with Cándido, and he has done a good job, but we will try to do better on the next one.”

Thierry Neuville (8th)

“We have given everything this weekend and we have fought hard from the start to the finish. Unfortunately, there is no compensation for all that work. Our rally was over with the power steering issues on Friday. Since then, our focus has been on recovering positions to try and salvage whatever we could from the rally. To be honest, I think we deserve more than this. We have put absolutely everything into it and haven’t got out of it what we should.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 09, Acropolis Rally
09-12 September 2021
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

M-Sport Ford WRT

Gus Greensmith (5th)

“The team have lived-up to the form that we have shown on rougher rallies this year and, although probably I could have hoped for more in terms of my finishing position, a top-five finish is a good thing for sure. I gave it everything I could.

Adrien hit problems early on this morning which you never like to see. We were having a great battle until that point, and he was at least able to continue and score good points.”

Adrien Fourmaux (7th)

“A mixed day for us really, after picking up penalties for being late this morning because of an engine issue. We were able to set second-fastest time on one stage, but that early problem allowed Gus to pull ahead of us and I was left to fight to hold my position.

“On the Power Stage, we made a mistake: unfortunately, I spun and had to reverse but I tried, I had a big push, but unfortunately we ended the rally in seventh place. It has been an amazing event to experience and I’m delighted for the team that we have shown our pace and got the cars home, I just am sorry to them not to be higher at the end.”

Jourdan Serderidis (10th)

“It was fun, so many people, so many fans from Greece and it was nice to come and the stages have been fantastic. It was great to be here and to get the car safely to the finish in the top 10 of the rally. The team has built a fantastic car, I want to thank them for an unforgettable event.”

Nikolay Gryazin (3rd, WRC2)

“It’s been okay, a lot of things to work with but at least we are on the finish. We have a lot to learn about the car and the team but a podium finish at our first attempt is certainly something to take away from our first Acropolis.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round nine

1 S. Ogier 180
2 E. Evans 136
3 T. Neuville 130
4 K. Rovanperä 129
5 O. Tänak 106
6 T. Katsuta 66
7 C. Breen 60
8 G. Greensmith 44
9 D. Sordo 43
10 A. Fourmaux 36

2021 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round nine

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 397
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 340
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 153
4 Hyundai 2C Competition 44

 

Next up is Rally Finland which takes place from the 1st to the 4th of October. Look out for my preview in the days before.

Acropolis Rally Saturday Review – Rally of Gods Report Day Two

Coming into day two, Kalle held a 3.7 second lead over Ott with Seb a further two tenths back from the Estonian. The startlist looked like this – Loubet, Serderidis, Neuville, Evans, Greensmith, Fourmaux, Sordo, Ogier, Tänak, Rovanperä.

Into the first stage then, SS7 Pavliani 1 – 24.25 km, and Kalle took full advantage of his road position winning the stage from Ott by 5.6 seconds, and Welshman Elfyn third a further 4.4 seconds back. Kalle now held a 9.3 second over Ott. Seb lost a little time only going fourth fastest and gap widening to Ott in their battle over second overall. There was a change in the lead in the WRC2 category, with Andreas setting the ninth best time in the stage, he passed Marco who was six seconds slower. The Norwegian was now twelve seconds ahead of the Bolivian. Chris Ingram remained in the lead of the WRC3 category, but there was a change in positions behind the Brit as Emil Lindholm passed Kajetan Kajtanowicz.

Following that stage was the single run of SS8 Gravia – 24.81 km, and the top three again was Kalle, Ott and Seb. Kalle unleashed a serious amount of pace, extending his lead a further seven and a half seconds to sixteen seconds. Seb was now almost fourteen seconds behind Ott, the gap widening between them. Marco remained behind Andreas in the WRC2 category, but there was another change in the WRC3 positions. Chris remained at the head, but Yohan Rossel moved from fourth to second, jumping both Kajetan and Emil who were now third and fourth respectively.

There was a second single run stage to follow, with SS9 Bauxites – 22.97 km up next. Once again, Kalle added a further 4.6 seconds to his lead over Ott and Seb was just 1.3 slower than Ott and they remained second and third overall. Elfyn was making excellent progress up the field, setting the fourth fastest time, just 8.8 slower than Kalle and jumping four positions into ninth overall. He was also just 29.2 seconds from Marco who was holding eighth. There was a change in the lead of WRC3, with Yohan passing Chris and also creating a decent gap over the Brit as he emerged from the stage 6.8 seconds to the good.

The final stage before the lunchtime service, SS10 Eleftherohori 1 – 18.14 km and Ott had a terrible stage, only setting the sixth best time, eighteen seconds slower than Kalle won the stage from Seb and Thierry. The Finn now held a massive 39.7 second lead over the Estonian, whose lead over Seb had come down to just 3.6 seconds. After Kalle finished the stage, it was red flagged, as there were spectators standing in the wrong places.

After the lunchtime service, SS11 Pavliani 2 – 24.25 km was won by Seb from Ott and Kalle. The Frenchman’s pace brought him a little closer to Ott, the gap now just two and a half seconds between them. Marco was fastest in WRC2 from Andreas and brought the gap between them to just 3.2 seconds. Yohan continued to pull away from Chris in WRC3, the gap now almost thirty seconds between them.

The final stage then of the day, SS12 Eleftherohori 2 – 18.14 km, and Ott flew through, with Kalle second fastest and Seb third. The gap between Seb and Ott was now 9.4 ahead of the championship leader. Marco passed Andreas again for the WRC2 lead, with a time four seconds faster than his Norwegian Toksport teammate. This battle will continue tomorrow. Finally, Yohan moved further into the WRC3 lead as Kajetan passed Chris as well, the Pole moving into second place.

Classification after Day Two

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC 2:36:52.8
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +30.8
3 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +40.2
4 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:09.4
5 A. Fourmaux R. Jamoul Ford Fiesta WRC +3:19.2
6 G. Greensmith C. Patterson Ford Fiesta WRC +3:35.0
7 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +5:51.9
8 M. Bulacia M. Der Ohannesian Škoda Fabia Evo +7:09.0
9 A. Mikkelsen E. Edmondson Škoda Fabia Evo +7:09.8
10 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +7:47.6

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“It was really enjoyable for us on the first loop of stages today. They were four difficult stages and I was a bit surprised that the time gaps were so big, but I also felt that we did a good job in the car. We also had a bit of a different tyre choice to the others and that was good for us: Overall I just had a bit more confidence on the hard tyres. For the second loop we made some setup changes to gain a bit of protection for the rough conditions, and we lost quite a bit of traction, but it was still quite good, and we were being wise and not doing anything stupid. There is still a long way to go to the end of the rally, so let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“This morning I was pretty consistent. Not extremely fast, but it was good enough to make our third place more secure from behind, which was the main target for the day. If we can finish on the podium tomorrow it will be another big step to the title. Kalle was extremely fast this morning and took a big lead, so well done to him for a very strong day. The afternoon loop was better for me. It’s always important to keep a bit of pressure on, we are not that far from second place. Tomorrow it will not be wise to take more risk but with many kilometres still to go, things can always happen. Those stages will be with all-new pacenotes for everybody and we recce’d it mostly in the fog, so it won’t be easy.”

Elfyn Evans (7th)

“It was a quite OK day today and I enjoyed the driving to be honest, even if it’s quite difficult when you’re no longer in a proper fight. Still, we had a target to move into the best overall position possible and from that side the goal of the day was achieved. I don’t think there’s a chance to climb up any further providing those ahead don’t have any trouble now, but we want to try and bring those points home tomorrow and add to the tally in the Power Stage if we can.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 09 / Acropolis Rally Greece / 09-12, September 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“I wouldn’t say the final stage was a turning point, but we have certainly been working hard to find solutions and feeling in the car. We have been trying different things with the tyre choice, going a bit more extreme, to try and keep the pace and retain our advantage over Séb (Ogier). So far that’s the maximum we’ve been able to do, but tomorrow will be another story. We still want more confidence and pace in the car, but there are three tricky long stages to go, so everything is still possible. I will for sure be doing my best to find a good rhythm in the car.”

Dani Sordo (4th)

“We have completed many kilometres today, so it has been a long and hard Saturday with very difficult conditions. We are still holding our fourth place, like yesterday, but a bit further away from the top-three. At the beginning of the day, I realised it was hard to catch them, so we focused on maintaining our place and not making any mistakes. If I’m honest, I can’t say I am entirely happy; I am in the middle of nowhere on the classification, and it’s difficult when you look at the times from the top-three. Still, we have managed our pace and it will be important to have another clean day tomorrow.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 09, Acropolis Rally
9-12 September 2021
Dani Sordo
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (10th)

“Our objective today has been to close the gap to the WRC 2 cars, which we have been able to do. This morning, there was a lot of road cleaning in the stages, and it was pretty challenging. In some stages the R5 cars could go quicker than us, but this afternoon the conditions were more equal. As a result, we could find a good rhythm and make up some positions. It will continue to be tough on the final day, especially being so early on the road, but we are going to give it our all and try to get through without any mistakes.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Adrien Fourmaux (5th)

“Today’s stages were much less risky in terms of the big rocks that we saw yesterday and we could push a little more. The car was good from the beginning but after a slight change to the differential in service I felt better still and this was shown in my stage times.

“We are in a very positive place for the team so far. It’s still a long way to go of course but we can consider the two first days to be a success and hopefully we can stay out of trouble and bring at least fifth place back”

Gus Greensmith (6th) said:

“I would have preferred to have more soft tyres on the car today, I think I could have pushed a little harder in some places with the extra grip, but we are very limited in terms of the number of the soft compound we are allowed to use.

“The stages this morning were very different to how we saw them on the recce – where it was so wet and foggy we could barely see them at all in places! Today was bright sunshine and gave ideal conditions to go quicker but without the experience of doing the recce in these conditions our notes couldn’t be as accurate as we needed them to be and we had to stay a bit within ourselves.”

Jourdan Serderidis (9th)

“There were no heroics from me today to be honest, I very much wanted to get through the stages, enjoy the experience and keep the car on the road. The stages were absolutely beautiful today, fast and flowing a lot of the time and the scenery for the fans is unbelievable. There were so many out there today, it was fantastic. We slipped back one place but it is still a day to remember.”

Nikolay Gryazin (3rd, WRC2)

“The day went well for us and we were able to push a little harder in the afternoon to set some good times. Everything is still new and exciting in that way we are learning the team and the same for them with us. Certainly, the Ford Fiesta Rally2 gave good confidence and even though some of the stages were tricky because the recce conditions were poor it was an enjoyable day and now, we hope to hold on to reach the podium.”

 

Final day

Sunday sees 69km over three stages, with the iconic Tarzan stage the first stage for the day. Can Kalle wrap up his second victory? The stages start at just after 6am UK time!

Acropolis Rally – Rally of the Gods

When this event was last held in 2013, we had three manufacturers represented, with Volkswagen, Ford and Citroen all entering a number of cars based on the Polo, Fiesta and DS3. All three manufacturers were represented on the podium, with Jari-Matti Latvala winning for VW, Mads Ostberg in second for Citroen and Thierry Neuville third for M-Sport Ford.

Thierry Neuville (BEL) / Nicolas Gilsoul – Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Day one, 2013 Acropolis Rally

Only three drivers from the last event will be returning as competitors, with Seb Ogier, Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo having competed last time out. Jari-Matti Latvala returns as a team principle, but I bet he’d love to be competing.

Jari-Matti Latvala

“It’s great to have the WRC back in Greece. The last time that the Acropolis Rally was on the calendar, I actually won it, and it’s an event that I like a lot myself. You have to really think about your driving because it can be rough in places and the tyre wear is quite high. Some of the stages close to Lamia have not been used for 16 years, so they will be completely new for all of the current drivers. We know that the organisers have been working on the roads quite a lot, and the road condition seems to be much better than in the past. There’s a lot of loose gravel on top, though, so opening the road could be pretty challenging. Although this is another new rally on the calendar, we do have some good Acropolis Rally experience within the team, and I hope this helps us to have a successful event.”

Stage overview

Acropolis Rally kicks off with shakedown on Thursday morning, followed by a ceremonial start in the famous Acropolis citadel and a street stage in the city centre.

After staying overnight in Athens, crews tackle five stages on Friday before heading north to Lamia for evening service: two passes of Aghii Theodori (17.54km) and one each of Loutraki (19.40km), Thiva (23.27km) and Elatia (11.65km).

Saturday is the longest day on the itinerary with six stages totalling 132.56km. Pavliani (24.25km) and Gravia (24.81km) are followed by a tyre fitting zone for Bauxites (22.97km) and Eleftherohori (18.14km). Following service, Pavliani and Eleftherohori are repeated.

Three stages bring the rally to a close; Tarzan 1 (23.37km) and Pyrgos (33.20) – the longest stage of the rally – are run before a tyre fitting zone. A shortened Tarzan 2 (12.68km) acts at the event’s Power Stage.

Let’s hear from the drivers;

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“It’s nice that the WRC is going back to Greece. The Acropolis Rally is one of these events which made the history of the WRC, and we’ve missed it now for a few years. It’s definitely a country I love and I’m looking forward to going back there. Of course, we can have some idea of what to expect from the past, but it will be a new event in the sense that I think everybody will have to write new pacenotes, and it’s always nice when everybody starts from the same level like that. I know it will be a rally where opening the road will be challenging, but it’s nice to be in the position we are in the championship and we’re going to do everything we can to maintain this gap. That will be our target.”

Elfyn Evans

“I’ve done the Acropolis once before, back in 2012, but that was with a two-wheel drive car. It’s obviously going to be a very different experience going there now with a World Rally Car, and there will be a lot of new pacenotes to write. So, it’s more or less like going to a brand-new rally for me, even though Scott does have a bit more experience there. The route has a lot of stages that will be used just once, which is unusual, and that means there will be a lot of road cleaning to contend with – as with any dry gravel rally. We don’t know exactly what we’re going to be facing, but we’re going there to get the best result possible, as always.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“It’s nice to be going to another classic event in the WRC. I know that previously the Acropolis was always a really tough event. This year, from the videos we have seen, the roads look to be in a better condition than in the past, and I think it’s going to be quite an interesting event. With many stages being driven only once, it’s going to be really important to have a good setup for those first-pass conditions when it’s a bit more slippery, so this was the main focus of our pre-event test. Hopefully we can have the pace to fight for the podium places again. We just need to try and have a clean rally and see what we get.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Acropolis Rally is going to be a tough event. When I was competing there back in 2012 and 2013 it was one of the roughest rallies – together with Argentina at that time. I always enjoyed it. We tested in Greece two years ago to prepare for Rally Turkey, so we have some knowledge of the terrain there. The stages have some very twisty profiles with a lot of loose stones, hot temperatures and it could be very similar to the rough conditions of Turkey. It will be very challenging as not only do you need to go flat out, but you also need to manage the car and the tyres. Strategy will be very important, but that’s something we like. We have high expectations for another good result, and we are looking forward to it.”

Thierry Neuville (BEL) – Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Shakedown, 2013 Acropolis Rally

Ott Tänak

“It’s been a long break since the last WRC rally in Greece eight years ago. Acropolis Rally is an event with a lot of history and tradition behind it. It’s an event which belongs to the WRC, and it is good to be back. The last time I competed there was back in 2012 – a long time ago, but I have some great memories. Acropolis Rally is a good replacement for Rally Turkey which is normally the roughest event of the year. I think it’s going to be a really nice event; it will be quite demanding, but the stages are really special and flowing. I can’t wait to be back and bring home a good result.”

Dani Sordo

“Acropolis Rally was one of the roughest rallies when I competed there in the past but, overall, it is a nice rally with good stages. Normally the main challenges are the rocky surface, which is really demanding on the tyres and the high temperatures. You can have a lot of issues in this rally but now we have other similar rallies on the calendar such as Portugal and Sardinia that are similarly demanding, so maybe we are more prepared for this kind of event. Our road position is advantageous when we look at the big picture; it is good to start at the back and we will try to make the most of our running order on the first day. I can’t wait to start it. It will be the first rally with Cándido alongside me and I hope we can get a good result.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally de Portugal
3-6 June 2021
Dani Sordo
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Oliver Solberg

“I can’t wait to take the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 to Greece. I did quite a lot of testing with the car on the gravel, so I know the potential and the speed it has. We have to remember though; we are still early in the life for the car so we have to make sure we are making a lot of kilometres. I think this is a rally where you drive more with your head than with the heavy right foot; there will be lots of big rocks waiting, especially on the second loop of stages. This is going to be especially true on the first day because we have no service in lunchtime. It’s going to be fantastic.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Gus Greensmith

“The Acropolis is on my list of events I want to do before I stop so it’s a rally I’ve been looking forward to for a very long time. I tend to enjoy rough rallies and I’ve done my best to prepare by watching old footage to get an idea of what it’s going to be like. I’ve also done nine days in a heat chamber in anticipation of the very high temperatures although the forecast is now for 30 degrees centigrade rather than 40, which is still warm but nothing out of the normal.

“If we compare the Acropolis to Turkey, we’ve seen that everyone is flat out all the way through. It means you have to commit in the rough stuff but also show a degree of mechanical sympathy because the bedrock will be hard for the suspension and the tyres. Usually when it’s rough anything can happen so it’s an exciting situation to be in.

“There are a lot of single-use stages, which means it won’t be as rough as it has been in previous years because you don’t have the second pass and we’ll have a good road position. Friday should therefore be a very good day for us and I plan to maximise the opportunities. We’ve got a good car for rough conditions and I feel we can have a very strong rally.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“Like most of the time, it’s a new rally for me but I do remember playing it on PlayStation when I was younger! Some drivers have some experience, but it was eight years ago and the cars have changed a lot since then. I’m just trying to prepare as I do for the other rallies, working on the videos and my physical and mental training. We had an issue on the last rally in Belgium, so we want to go back to our positive attitude from the beginning of the season and keep taking the experience.

“The Acropolis is in the WRC next year, so we need to get the experience of all stages. I know it will be hot, really tough with big rocks in the middle of the road that you don’t expect. It will be a big challenge and you can expect punctures, maybe some mechanical damage.

“I will take the experience from Turkey and Safari, which can also help me with the set-up of the car. I was probably too careful with the car on the Safari on the Friday but I know more about the limits of the car on rough rallies, that it’s really, really strong. I know many things can happen on this type of event so I will do my rally, do my best and try to do some good stage times. But the most important thing is to be at the end with no issue and have a good result. It was a good rally for M-Sport in the past and hopefully it will be the same in 2021.”

Look ahead

It’s going to be an interesting rally, with a very challenging set of stages which will be rough. Also, with some stages run only once, this will bring another unknown aspect to the event, and it will be the crew that best controls their pace on the hot stages that will take the win.

Hopefully Hyundai won’t suffer the rear suspension problems that they have in the other gravel events from this season, and we’ll get a good fight between all the top crews. Road position will be really important, so perhaps we’ll see Dani, or Ott at the top. Within the Toyota team, Elfyn will want to take win if he can and close the gap to Seb in their fight for the championship.

The M-Sport Ford team don’t have the drivers to fight at the front, so will have a plan I imagine like Safari Rally to get through the event, and this may mean that they’ll pick up positions as other crews drop out with problems.

Anyway, enjoy the rally, and pop back next week for my full stage by stage review.

©2017 The Pitcrewonline