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

Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day One

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

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

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

Kalle Rovanperä (3rd)

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

Sébastien Ogier (10th)

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

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

Ott Tänak (4th)

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

Dani Sordo (DNF)

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

Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Classification after Day Two

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

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

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

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

Kalle Rovanperä (11th)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

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

Ott Tänak (3rd)

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

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

Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Final Overall Classification –Rally Japan

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

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

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

Ott Tänak (2nd)

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Takamoto Katsuta (3rd)

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

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

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

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

Elfyn Evans (5th)

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

Kalle Rovanperä (12th)

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

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

 

Elfyn Evans

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

Sébastien Ogier

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak 

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

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

Thierry Neuville 

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

Dani Sordo 

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

Hyundai WRC2

Teemu Suninen

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

Fabrizio Zaldivar

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

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen

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

Gus Greensmith

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

Summary

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

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

My last word on this? Enjoy!

Rally Spain Day Two Report – Saturday. Seb moves clear

The second day of Rally Spain saw the crews tackle 118km’s of competitive over seven stages.

First up was SS9 Savallà 1 – 13.93 km and Thierry was fastest from Seb and Kalle. Only 1.5 seconds covered the top three. The overall gap now between Thierry and Kalle in their battle for second place was just 6.2 seconds. Could the Belgian close the gap any further in the following stages? Meanwhile Craig felt a lot better, with the changes made to his Puma making the car really good and he was only eight tenths slower than Ott who was fourth fastest.

Next up was SS10 Querol – Les Pobles 1 – 20.19 km and Seb once again set the fastest time from Thierry and Kalle. There was quite a big-time gap between the 2021 and 2022 champions with the young Finn now almost 10 seconds from the leader. Also Thierry closed a little bit more to the second placed Kalle, bringing the gap down to less than five seconds.

The first run of SS11 El Montmell 1 – 24.18 km and the only drivers to complete were Pierre-Louis and Jourdan in their Puma’s. Unfortunately, as Gus, who was the next car into the stage, came to the end on the stage, he slid wide on a right-hander and in an attempt to turn the Puma into the corner using his handbrake, the car then slid sideways into the barrier on the outside and was spun around so that the car was facing the opposite direct back the way it had come. With the car blocking the stage, first the red flag was shown and the later the decision was made to cancel the stage. All the crews were given a notional time that matched Pierre-Louis’ time.

After lunchtime service SS12 Savallà 2 – 13.93 km, Seb was fastest from Ott and Kalle, with Thierry fourth quickest. Kalle was now five seconds away from Thierry in their battle for second overall, but this battle was not over. Meanwhile, Seb was now 12 seconds ahead of Kalle.

Into SS13 Querol – Les Pobles 2 – 20.19 km and Seb was really into the groove now, going fastest again from Ott and Kalle. Thierry was again fourth, and Kalle was taking a few tenths of a second out of the Belgian.

The rerun of SS14 El Montmell 2 – 24.18 km went better than earlier in the day as all the crews made it through this time. Dani took his first stage win of the rally as well, with Thierry and Seb second and third fastest.

Finally, the short SS15 Salou – 2.15 km and Hyundai teammates Ott and Thierry shared the fastest time and Seb was third. Meanwhile Kalle was only fifth fastest and actually fell to third place behind Thierry and the gap was now 1.4 seconds between them.

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

Classification after Day Two

1 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 2:10:18.5
2 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +20.7
3 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +22.1
4 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +36.6
5 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +1:13.2
6 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:27.6
7 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +1:39.7
8 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:58.6
9 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Puma Rally1 +2:13.7
10 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Ford Puma Rally1 +2:59.2

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It’s been another good day today. It’s a nice feeling to have this kind of speed and to be able to increase the gap on almost every stage like we did today. It’s what you dream for coming to a rally. I’m really enjoying driving the GR YARIS this weekend, and today with a comparable road position to our nearest competitors we were able to make more of a lead. It would be nice to get a win and now we have to finish the job. Normally this should be a decent gap but there are still some kilometres to go, so the target is to stay out of trouble until the end.”

Kalle Rovanperä (3rd)

“It has been a nice day overall. Of course, Seb was faster all the time, he was pushing hard and driving really well and we couldn’t really match him, but we were not taking all the risks that we could have done. This afternoon in the first two stages we still had consistent and quite nice pace, but then on the next one we had a small issue with some settings which were wrong on the startline. It meant we were losing time with the hybrid system and we had to try and fix it during the stage. Thierry is now ahead of us but it’s still really close and hopefully tomorrow we will score a good result either way.”

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“Today we were consistently a bit off the pace unfortunately. We already had some struggles yesterday and we couldn’t really overcome that today and find that last bit of feeling and confidence needed to fight at the front where we want to be. The car is clearly competitive and working well in the hands of my team-mates, but it’s just not suiting me perfectly at the moment. So, it’s a bit of a frustrating situation but of course we’re trying to improve all the time and see what we can do, and again we’ll explore what we can tomorrow.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“It was a tough day, but we had some speed in the morning. We won the first stage, but the longest sector of the loop was cancelled, so we held our third place. We wanted to keep pushing in front of the fans; it’s been great to see so many spectators. We had less speed in the afternoon, but we were just hoping to stay in the fight for the lead. There wasn’t much more we could do. All three of our crews struggled to find that little bit extra to match the frontrunner. Some stages we were there, but others we weren’t. We’re going to see what happens tomorrow; it could be tricky in the dark early morning conditions.”

Ott Tänak (4th)

“It was an OK day for us. Technical wise, we had no issues, but we were just missing a bit of pace and lacking a general feeling in the car. This afternoon, I was pushing quite a bit, actually outside of my comfort zone. We had a moment, well it was actually more of an off, but we got back on the road. It was a bit of a miracle. Other than that, it has been a challenging day. The roads have been nice to drive, so we have tried to enjoy ourselves as much as we can. Tomorrow morning in the dark on tarmac could be fun.”

Dani Sordo (5th)

“We made some important set-up changes during the day, and we seem to have unlocked some performance and confidence from the car. Things were much better, and we could show that in the El Montmell stage. My friend said that I had to do a fastest time today, and not just the short one at Salou, so I knew it would have to be this stage. I know the people living in the area; they wait for me to come through. It’s really fast in the middle and you just want to push hard. The car was working well, so I could just enjoy it. I gave it everything I had, and it was an amazing time. This was the feeling I’ve been looking for all weekend. We’ve not been doing badly, but the times were not there. Tomorrow, there are more stages like this one so I will try again to find that confidence to push, especially for all these fans we have cheering us on.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 12, Rally de Espana, 20-23 October 2022
Dani Sordo, Candido Carrera, Hyundai i20 N Rally1, Action during Day 2 of WRC Rally de Espana 2022
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Tomorrow (Sunday 23rd October)

The final day sees the crews tackle 56km’s over four stages. Can Seb hold on and take his fourth victory, or will Thierry join the Frenchman with three wins? Look out for my report tomorrow evening.

Rally Spain – Day One Report – Friday. Toyota’s World Champions keep Hyundai at bay.

The first day is over and whilst there wasn’t huge drama, we did have a few lead changes. The startlist looked like this with our new world champion opening the road – Rovanperä, Tänak, Neuville, Evans, Katsuta, Breen, Ogier, Sordo, Greensmith, Loubet, Fourmaux, Serderidis.

Kalle won SS1 Els Omells – Maldà 1 – 11.05 km from Thierry and Ott. There was less than three seconds between the top five. The top placed Puma crew was Craig and Paul who held seventh overall.

The first run of SS2 Serra de la Llena 1 – 11.79 km saw Kalle set the fastest time from Thierry and Elfyn, but sadly Ott dropped back a bit after suffering issues with his hybrid unit. The Estonian was only fifth fastest and dropped two places to fifth overall. Seb and Elfyn benefitted from this, moving up into third and fourth respectively. Kalle now had a 3.3 second lead over Thierry.

It all changed at the end of SS3 Les Garrigues Altes 1 – 22.64 km. Seb was showing his pace out there, setting the fastest time from Thierry and Ott. The Estonian was still having some issues with the hybrid, but it was working more often meaning that he had a better pace out there, and his pace took him ahead of Elfyn and into fourth. Meanwhile, Seb’s pace took him into the lead, whilst Thierry remained in second place and Kalle fell to third place. Once again there was only 3.5 seconds between the top three.

The final stage then of the morning loop SS4 Riba-roja 1 – 13.98 km and Thierry was fastest this time from Ott and Seb. This propelled the Belgian into the lead and Seb dropped to second place. Kalle remained in third overall.

After lunchtime service Seb won SS5 Els Omells – Maldà 2 – 11.05 km and he moved back into the lead, the gap over Thierry now 3.2 seconds. Elfyn and Dani had a better start to the afternoon stages and set the identical time for third fastest.

Kalle was fastest in SS6 Serra de la Llena 2 – 11.79 km from Seb and Dani, the Spaniard showing great pace out there. He was a lot happier. Kalle’s pace lifted him up into second overall, the gap between the two teammates was 4.3 seconds. Sadly, things were not so good for Elfyn, who was only ninth fastest.

Kalle also won SS7 Les Garrigues Altes 2 – 22.64 km from Seb and Thierry. This is the stage that had some drama for the crews with Dani and Elfyn both getting punctures. The Welshman dropped one place to sixth overall to Dani who despite his puncture gained one place. Takamoto also got a puncture in this one. This problem meant that the very consistent pace from Craig brought him ahead of the Toyota driver and into seventh overall.

The final stage then of the day, SS8 Riba-roja 2 – 13.98 km and Seb was fastest from Kalle and Pierre-Louis. Elfyn was back up to some pace going sixth fastest but expected the conditions to be quite different and not as dry as it was.

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

Classification after Day One

1 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 1:06:07.9
2 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +4.8
3 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +12.5
4 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +20.0
5 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +50.9
6 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:01.2
7 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +1:03.7
8 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:28.6
9 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Puma Rally1 +1:31.3
10 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +1:38.8
11 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Ford Puma Rally1 +1:48.7

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It’s been a good day. We had fun in the car, I really enjoyed driving the GR YARIS today. I was not really sure this would be possible today starting seventh on the road with the amount of cutting in the stages. But the feeling was good and we were able to push most of the time even though the conditions were a bit challenging and changing all the time. It’s nice to be in the lead tonight and have two Toyotas at the front – it’s been a great day for the team today – but the gap behind us is not so big so we will have to keep pushing tomorrow.”

Kalle Rovanperä (2nd)

“I can be quite happy with what we did today. The morning was quite nice with two new and fast stages where we could do good times. Then the longest stage was tricky with a lot of grip changes and we a lost a bit too much time there. The afternoon was a bit more consistent and I had a better feeling with the hard tyres on the car. It’s nice to be in this battle but the cars behind are still close, so tomorrow we will need to continue going as fast as possible and see what we can do.”

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“For us it’s not been the best day overall. It started OK this morning in difficult mixed conditions, with differing levels of grip through the stage, but I wasn’t fully at one with everything and was a bit hesitant in places. In the afternoon we seemed to be struggling a bit more. At some points the feeling was OK in the car but then we had the puncture in SS7 and lost quite a lot more time. It does give us an opportunity to look at changing a few things tonight and try to find a better feeling for tomorrow.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“It was an OK day. This morning, we had a good rhythm, and the speed was there. Unfortunately, this afternoon it seems our competitors were able to go a bit faster, so we were constantly losing time. We are twelve seconds off with two days to go, and everything is still open. I think personally that I could have gone a bit harder and pushed more, but also, I have lacked the feeling in some corners and didn’t know exactly where the limit is. We have to work on that. On Saturday, we have a different profile of stages, which we know well, so there will be room for more improvement.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 12, Rally de Espana, 20-23 October 2022
X
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (4th)

“On the first two stages this morning we had some hybrid issues. Somehow, we managed to get it working for the next two, but then we had to change a broken alternator belt in the road section. We had a similar hybrid issue in the afternoon, so the team needs to find out what’s causing it. Generally, we struggled to get the feeling we would expect from tarmac. We knew before the rally it would be difficult. For Thierry and Dani, it seems to suit but for me it’s demanding. The plan is to try and get the car to work like it should be and hopefully keep in touch with Thierry tomorrow. That’s our objective at least.”

Dani Sordo (5th)

“I have been frustrated with today because we came here hoping to push for victory. Unfortunately, the conditions and circumstances have meant we’ve not been able to. I knew when we picked up the puncture in SS7 because I heard something; I think it was a stone in the mud during a small corner. There was nothing in our pace notes, but I know that others had the same issue. We took it steady after that to avoid losing the tyre off the rim, which would have lost more time. I expected better today, but there are still two days to go, and we need to push more. I hope the weather will be OK.”

Tomorrow (Saturday 22nd October)

The crews will have six normal stages to face, and then a superspecial in the evening. There is a total of 118km’s over the seven stages. Pop back tomorrow evening for my report on the day’s action.

Rally Spain 2022 Preview

We are down to the last two rounds of this season’s championship and with Kalle and Jonne having taken their first world title in the last round, will we see a completely a new level of pace from the youngest ever world champions? They will open the road throughout Friday and as we know the road will get slower as the dirt and gravel that gets pulled on with the level of cutting in the corners.

Any number of crews from the top teams could win this rally, and it’s worth looking at the list of the last winners of this rally. Thierry won the last two times in 2021 and 2019 for Hyundai Motorsport, whilst Citroen took the two wins before with Kris Meeke winning in 2017 and Seb Loeb in 2018.

This rally will see the final drive of Paul Nagle in the world of rallying. He has sat alongside Craig since the start of 2019, taking a number of podiums for Hyundai and then M-Sport. He took a win with Kris Meeke here in 2017, and will be much missed. Could we see a final flourish for the Irish duo this weekend? Here’s hoping!!

Let’s take a look at the stages then for this year and hear from the drivers.

After a Thursday morning Shakedown, Rally de España will officially open with a ceremonial start in the seaside town of Salou – home of the WRC service park.

Friday will see the first running of the event, with two brand-new stages for crews to contend with. Eight stages will total a competitive distance of 118.92km.

Crews will tackle a similar distance in Saturday’s seven stages, including the rally’s longest stage (El Montmell, 24.18km), finishing with a short sprint in Salou.

Four stages on Sunday will round out the event, with Riudecanyes – which features a 360° donut in front of the fans – bestowed with the honour of the rally’s Power Stage.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

“It has been nice to have a few days to appreciate what we achieved in New Zealand but we still have two rallies to go where we want to perform as strongly as possible, so the work doesn’t stop. Already last week when we got back to Europe, we were almost straight back in the car for our pre-event test in Spain. The big goal now is to win the manufacturers’ championship and it would be great if we could secure it already in Spain. It’s a really nice rally with fast and flowing roads, and the stages are the closest thing we have to a racing circuit. That means we need to be quite precise with the driving, but it’s really enjoyable when you get it right.”

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

Elfyn Evans

“Spain is a really enjoyable rally now that it’s fully on asphalt again since last year. The stages will be by-far the raciest asphalt roads we’ve encountered with this car. We were strong on the last asphalt event in Belgium but Spain could hardly be more different in character. Arguably Monte Carlo is actually the most similar, but the temperatures and conditions will obviously be completely different in Spain. It’s a rally where the margins tend to be quite tight so we can expect it to be a hard-fought weekend. The manufacturers’ championship is an important target for the team and the easiest way to achieve it will be with good results. Hopefully we will manage to score a top one for the team.”

Sébastien Ogier

“New Zealand was a very nice comeback for me after a few months away, and it was a really special weekend to be a part of. Our one-two finish also took us a good step closer to the manufacturers’ championship and this is now the next target for Spain. For me it will be good to have two events on asphalt to finish the season, and it gives me the opportunity to get back in the rhythm on this surface and be as ready as possible for Japan, which will obviously be a special event for the whole team. But before that we also have a job to do in Spain to try and get the best result possible there. The roads are always great to drive and I’m sure it will be a strong fight for the victory.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak 

“I would say Spain is the first true tarmac rally of the season, as it is quite smooth and at the same time quite fast. It is always difficult to find the correct balance there, so our confidence in the car will need to be high. The stages have lots of long, fast corners that make you fight with understeer, which is something we will have to get right with the setup of the Hyundai i20 N Rally1. I’m expecting it to be a fun and enjoyable rally, but it also quite important for us to be competitive and fight for as many points as possible. We showed how good our tarmac package is in Croatia and Belgium, and our aim is to continue that streak in Spain.”

Thierry Neuville 

“I think Rally de España is quite straightforward now that it is back to being a full tarmac event. The roads are flat, wide and smooth; the grip level is more or less the same across all of the stages. Being quick there is about getting a good setup and finding a nice flow with the car – then pushing as hard as you can. The gaps are always very small, so it almost feels like you are driving on a race track, fighting for every tenth of a second. It would be nice to take a third win in a row in Spain; we’ll certainly be aiming to fight at the front and finish the event on the podium again. We will try our best to perform to our maximum and secure a good result for the team.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de Espana
14-17 October 2021
X
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo 

“Going to Rally de España is always special for me, as it is my home event and I am lucky to have a lot of support from the fans there. I also really like the roads; they are very nice to drive and suit my style. I am excited to drive the stages with the new hybrid-powered Hyundai i20 N Rally1 car for the first time. It should be an amazing experience. Cándido and I are enjoying a good run of results, which we will do everything in our power to continue in front of our compatriots. There will be lots of people coming out to see the rally, so like every year I will do my best to deliver a win.”

Hyundai WRC2

Teemu Suninen

“I have liked Rally de España from the very beginning of my career; it is the most similar to circuit racing with nice, smooth tarmac. Wide long corners make you feel like you are driving on a track, and you have to choose the best driving line to carry your speed. It is quite an unique rally in terms of how you set up the car, so we have to do a lot of work on the pre-event test and get into a good rhythm quickly. The last time I drove a tarmac event was last year in Rally Monza, so almost a year ago, but we had a good outing last year in the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 and finished second in class. I hope we can replicate those results this time out.”

Fabrizio Zaldivar

“Spain will be our first commitment on tarmac and naturally, we really want to see how much we can achieve with the Hyundai i20 N Rally2. We are learning a little more every day. To prepare for this event, we have organized a very thorough preparation, with three days of testing on different roads in the Catalan region. Our focus in the tests will be to find the most comfortable car to face this challenge. Having engineering support every day will allow us to work very efficiently, and to adjust everything that is necessary. I want to thank my team-mate Teemu as well, who is also helping me with his experience, and he will surely contribute a lot that will benefit me at the next event.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen

“Spain should be nice, it’s an event that I haven’t done for a couple of years, 2018 was my last time. It’s an event that I like and the closest we ever really get to circuit racing on a rally stage with nice smooth tarmac. Hopefully the weather will be nice and dry so that we can enjoy the high grip and speeds there. We had our test before New Zealand and it went really well, the feeling was good so hopefully we can find a good feeling in the shakedown and try to get the best result possible. There are two events left on Tarmac to finish off the season so we want to try and finish on a high and see if we can turn this bad luck around.”

Gus Greensmith

“Spain is like the race track rally of the year, it has very, very smooth roads that are beautiful to drive on which is something that I think suits the Puma very well. The test went really well, we made very few changes and the car felt fantastic from the first runs so I am looking forward to it.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“I am really pleased to be back in the car and it’s a beautiful rally, we have some really nice flowing stages and I will be really happy to be back in the World Rally Championship. We had a really good test and I am really happy to drive the car in Spain and enjoy the moment, I hope for a good result for the team and all our crews.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet

“I am looking forward to Spain, I hope that we will be confident with the car like we have been all season. After our test I am really confident in the car and sure it will perform very well on the Spanish Tarmac. This will be mine and Vincent’s last time in the car this year, so we are hoping for a strong end to the year.”

Round up

We are set for a spectacular event then and anyone could take victory. The stages may suit the Hyundai with it’s longer wheelbase, but the Toyota team will want to take victory for the first time in this event for the first time since they returned to the championship in 2017. However, M-Sport Ford will want to have their say as well, and given that the Puma has shown great pace on all surfaces’ throughout this year. Enjoy!

Rally New Zealand 2022 – Full rally report. Kalle makes history!

Well, what an amazing return this event has made to the world championship. We were treated to a spectacular rally on the Northern Island of New Zealand.

Friday’s action.

The first full day of the rally would see almost 160km’s of stages and with just a tyre fitting zone in the middle of the day, it would be an important day to make it to the end with no problems. We already had a top ten after the stage run on the Thursday and Ott Tanak held the early lead for Hyundai, with Craig Breen second and Thierry Neuville holding third.

The startlist looked like this – Rovanperä, Tänak, Neuville, Evans, Katsuta, Breen, Greensmith, Ogier, Solberg, Bertelli.

The first proper stage then, SS2 Whaanga Coast 1 – 29.27 km, and after opening the stage, championship leader Kalle was only sixth fastest, 6.5 slower than Gus Greensmith who was fastest from Seb and Craig. These good times from the M-Sport Ford crews meant that they leapt up the overall leaderboard into the top two spots, whilst overnight leader Ott dropped down three spots to fourth. The top placed Toyota was Seb holding third place behind the two Puma crews.

The little bit longer stage, SS3 Te Akau South 1 – 31.48 km followed of course and there were a few crews on the move. Elfyn won the stage from Ott and Craig who set the same time!! Craig remained in the lead, whilst Ott and Elfyn moved up into the top three at the expense of Gus and Seb. Meanwhile, Hayden held ten overall and also the WRC2 lead by 34 seconds from Kajetan. It was going well for the Kiwi driver and his longstanding co-driver John. Keeping things very interesting was the rain that had so far affected both stages so far, and there were a few drivers that spun in the same spot, including Thierry, Takamoto and Harry Bates, who was another driver competing in the WRC2 category.

The shortest stage of the day, SS4 Te Akau North 1 – 18.53 km was a quick one as well, and Ott was fastest from Kalle and Elfyn. The Welshman’s pace lifted him up into second overall, but he and Craig were on the same overall time. The battle between Kajetan and Hayden was on, with the Pole driver winning the WRC2 category, but the gap between the local favourite and the second placed driver was over 30 seconds.

After the tyre fitting zone, the second run of SS5 Whaanga Coast 2 – 29.27 km was won by Seb from Elfyn and Gus. Kalle was only sixth fastest, but gained one place, moving into fifth overall pushing Thierry down one place. Meanwhile, Seb’s pace lifted him four positions and into the overall lead, whilst Ott dropped two into third. The top placed M-Sport driver was Gus holding fourth, but there was huge disappointment for his teammate Craig, who slid off the road at the so called Mcrae corner, the same corner the Scottish driver slid off twenty years ago.

SS6 Te Akau South 2 – 31.48 km was next and Kalle hit the top of the timesheets with Ott second and Seb third. Seb remained in the lead from Elfyn, whilst Kalle’s pace had brought him up into fourth overall. Meanwhile Hayden continued his great run in the WRC2 category, holding the lead by over a minute from Kajetan and was also ahead of Lorenzo Bertelli.

The final stage of the day then, SS7 Te Akau North 2 – 18.53 km and Ott was fastest from Elfyn and Kalle, and this pace lifted the Estonian into the lead, with Elfyn holding second and Seb dropping down to third. Kajetan set the pace in the WRC2 category, four seconds faster than Hayden and Shane van Gisbergen was third. The super car V8 and GT racer was going really well with his co-driver Glen Weston and having a lot of fun out there.

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

Classification after Day One

1 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 1:36:48.6
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +0.2
3 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +6.7
4 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +7.2
5 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +43.8
6 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +45.6
7 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +1:28.3
8 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:42.0

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It’s been a very long day with an early morning and a late evening finish. In a way, it’s been quite a consistent day; the conditions were not so bad for us, although some stages were worse than others. This afternoon, we had some heavy rain but aside from that it’s been OK. The roads here are really fun to drive, but it is just difficult to get into the right rhythm. You need confidence in the car to get into a good flow, and we definitely need to look for more to improve in this area. It seems that the weather is coming in quite strong tomorrow, so these tenths-of-a-second lead don’t really mean anything – we’ll have to see what happens.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship Round 11,
Rally New Zealand 2022, 29 September-02 October 2022
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 N Rally1, Action during Day 1 of WRC Rally New Zealand 2022
Photographer: Romain Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“The day kicked off with a bit of a struggle in the first three stages, which were tough. We set some good split times but were fighting with the rear of the car and got spun around a couple of times. We were able to react at the midday tyre fitting zone; we worked on the diffs to find a better feeling. We just went too stiff on the settings immediately this morning and were then too careful during the day to make bigger changes to get more grip. With the weather conditions, somehow, I see a chance for us to get more into the fight tomorrow. Anything can happen and we’ve not got much to lose so we going to try and gain some positions.”

Oliver Solberg (7th)

“It has been fantastic to drive these roads and it is great experience. It has been a tough and tricky day out there, but we have been improving with the car and building our speed. We worked hard in the morning but struggled to get the proper feeling, along with some power and transmission issues. We had only a short regroup and tyre fitting zone to refresh and refocus ourselves for the afternoon. We were very unlucky with the weather, it seemed to start raining every time I was on the stage, but with our road order for tomorrow I’ll be hoping for more of that! We’re just taking it steady and building step by step.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“I’m fairly happy overall with our day. It’s been a full-on day with a lot of long stages but also a lot of fun. The conditions have been challenging in some places but in others it’s felt like we’ve had quite a lot of grip, so it’s been changing quite a lot. It’s been a bit up-and-down with the conditions favouring different positions on the road and we got caught in the rain ourselves at one point but to finish the day right in the fight is positive. We’re expecting heavy rain tonight and tomorrow, and those stages are usually a bit faster, so it should be a challenging day but I’m looking forward to it.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 11 / Rally New Zealand 2022 / 29th September – 2nd October 2022// Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“Overall, it’s been a good day. It’s been fun to drive and I think we’ve had decent pace returning on such a fast rally where you need the commitment and the confidence. I had quite a good rhythm already on the first stage this morning, and the afternoon started really well in Whaanga Coast. In the next stage we got the rain quite heavily, I knew we had to take risks to not lose too much compared to the others and we went a bit wide. Unfortunately, we damaged the rear wing on some branches, and the last stage without that was quite difficult. But I’m happy to still be in the fight for the win.”

Kalle Rovanperä (4th)

“It’s been a long day and it’s nice to get through it in quite a good position tonight. It was good to get some rain this morning but there was still a bit of loose gravel in the first stage especially. Then on the other two we had a bit more grip and could enjoy the driving more. In the afternoon, Whaanga Coast was drying up so there was plenty of cleaning for us even on the second pass. On the next one there was a lot of rain and mud, I tried to push in the tricky conditions and we managed to get some time back. We’re still fairly close to the lead so we have to be happy. The weather was helping us a bit and hopefully we can enjoy it again tomorrow.”

Saturday’s action

The second full day then of this rally and the startlist looked like this – Breen, Bertelli, Katsuta, Solberg, Neuville, Greensmith, Rovanperä, Ogier, Evans, Tänak.

There were penalties for some of the crews due to hybrid over boost. Ott, Thierry and Kalle all received 5 second penalties, and this meant Elfyn would now be the leader at the end of the next stage. The rain had been really heavy overnight and was continuing to fall on the stages. It was a lot heavier than Friday, and would have a big impact on the day’s results.

First up was SS8 Kaipara Hills 1 – 15.83 km and showing great pace and also that the conditions in the stage were getting worse, Craig was fastest from Kalle and Ott. Kalle moved up one place into third at the expense of Seb. Elfyn held the lead from Ott, but the gap was just 2.9 seconds. Hayden continued to increase his lead over Kajetan, that gap now over I minute and 20 seconds.

Elfyn’s lead was sadly short lived as the Toyota driver lost control of his car in SS9 Puhoi 1 – 22.50 km spinning into a bank on the inside of a right-hander at high speed and causing a high-speed roll. The car landed on its wheels and the Welshman finished the stage. He and Scott drove away in electric mode, and were hoping to make some repairs to the radiators on the front of their car, so that they could stop the leaking and stop any overheating. The car had lost its rear tailgate as well. We had a new leader with Kalle winning the stage from Craig and Seb. Meanwhile Thierry was suffering with gearbox problems, having lost third gear.

Into SS10 Komokoriki 1 – 5.81 km and there was only one car that completed the stage, Craig. Gus and Jonas slid wide on a left hander into a ditch and rolled their Puma. The car ended up on the road and the stage was then red flagged after Kalle had been released into the stage. The Finn stopped alongside the stricken Puma as per the rules to check that Gus and Jonas were okay and got the thumbs up from Gus. The cars headed back to the service park for mid-day service. Sadly, once Elfyn and Scott got their car back, it was discovered that elements of the roll cage were damaged and the pair were now out of the rally.

The re-run of SS11 Kaipara Hills 2 – 15.83 km and Kalle was fastest from Seb and Thierry whose car now had a new gearbox and the Belgian could enjoy a full set of gears. However, things were not good in the Hyundai camp as all three of their drivers gained 10 second penalties due to more hybrid over boost. Ott was now in third behind Kalle and Seb. The loss of Elfyn meant that everyone moved up one place, and Hayden was now in seventh overall and a full two minutes ahead of Kajetan, whilst Harry Bates had set the best time in the WRC2 category.

Photo Credit, Tayler Burke

Next up was SS12 Puhoi 2 – 22.50 km and Kalle was fastest, showing great pace in the very tricky conditions. Seb and Ott were second and third, and continued to hold these two positions on the overall leaderboard. Sadly, we lost Takamoto in this one, as the Japanese driver slid off the road. Meanwhile Oliver was suffering his own technical problem, with his engine lapsing sometimes onto three cylinders, but he was finding that if he revved it more, then the problem would clear.

The final stage then of the day, SS13 Komokoriki 2 – 5.81 km and Craig was fastest from Kalle and Thierry. The gaps between the top cars remained high, with Kalle holding a 29 second lead over Seb and Ott a further 17.4 seconds behind. With the demise of Takamoto, Hayden was now into sixth overall.

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

Classification after Day Two

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 2:28:26.3
2 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +29.0
3 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +46.4
4 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +1:41.4
5 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +3:34.9

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“It has been a really tricky day but it was actually quite enjoyable in the car and I think we managed the conditions really well. It was a big challenge but I saw that as an opportunity more than anything and I think we took that opportunity and used it quite well. I was happy with the car and I was pushing really hard to gain some time. Now we are leading and can be pleased with the gap we have built. We will try to prepare for tomorrow like any other day. It’s not a long day but there’s still four stages to go and they could be tricky ones, so we just need to try and do a good job and see where we are at the end.”

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“We had really challenging conditions today and I’m happy that we could bring the car to the end of the day because there were some very tricky places. But it was still a lot of fun in the car. This afternoon when there was even more heavy rain and more water on the road, Kalle did an amazing job. Hats off to him, because doing this speed in these conditions was again very impressive. After what unfortunately happened to Elfyn this morning I knew it was important to be there for the team. Nothing is decided yet but I would be very happy if we can secure this result tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans (DNF)

“All went OK in the first stage this morning but then in the second stage in a downhill braking we were a bit too fast and lost control of the rear of the car. There was no chance to recover it with the throttle and we touched the bank on the inside and rolled the car. Thankfully we landed on our wheels and were able to carry on. Cosmetically the car didn’t look so good but it was still driving remarkably well. There was a small leak which we managed to plug so that we could bring the car back to service, but unfortunately there was some rollcage damage detected and we had to retire.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (3rd)

“Certainly not one of the best days we’ve had this season, and in fact it’s been very demanding at times. We have picked up some time penalties, as well as having other trouble, but we’ve made it to the end of the day. We’re still here in third place, so it’s not all so bad. We lack a bit in the package to find any confidence in these conditions. If it’s good, consistent grip then we can drive OK, but this afternoon when we’ve had stages full of water and mud, it’s much more difficult.”

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“It has been a challenging day but there’s not been much more we could do. We have been driving on our rhythm and trying to make it through. We are in a bit of no man’s land. We tried to do well this morning, but we had a problem with third gear. Conditions this afternoon were a bit more like we expected, but we couldn’t match the pace of the guys in front, so we have to be satisfied with fourth place. With two spins on Friday, and losing 15 seconds through time penalties, when you start a rally in that way, you can’t fight for victory. Tomorrow is one of the shortest days we’ve had for a while, so we’re going to try and end it in a good position.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally New Zealand
29 September – 2 October 2022
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Oliver Solberg (5th)

“We started this morning’s opening stage not so badly but on the second one I struggled with the car in a few areas, which knocked my confidence, so I backed off to avoid making any mistakes. We wanted to try and improve in the afternoon loop but we had an engine misfire and only had three cylinders. It’s a shame because we had quite a good feeling and the stages are fun in these tough conditions. I have enjoyed myself and it’s been a really cool experience. I’ve not made any mistakes, so hopefully we can find something overnight to have clean final day and to secure our fifth place.”

Sunday’s action

The final day then and with just 31km’s of action over two stages run twice, what would happen? The startlist looked like this – Breen, Bertelli, Solberg, Neuville, Tänak, Ogier, Rovanperä. The day dawned dry on the stages, but rain would arrive after the first two were run.

The first stage then, SS14 Whitford Forest – Te Maraunga Waiho 1 – 8.82 km and the top three was the same as the overall top three. Ott reported that he nearly crashed in this one, whilst Kalle was just stroking it home and was very comfortable.

Onwards to SS15 Jacks Ridge 1 – 6.77 km, the stage built with a nod to some famous stages around the world. This was taken by Ott, with Kalle second fastest and Seb third. Oliver was really spectacular over one of the jumps in this one landing so hard that his visor in his helmet came down! Hayden and Kajetan continued to fight it out for stage wins in the WRC2 category, with the Kiwi just pipping the Pole by 1 tenth of a second.

The afternoon stages began with the second run of SS16 Whitford Forest – Te Maraunga Waiho 2 – 8.82 km and Seb was fastest from Kalle and Ott third fastest. Harry Bates set the fastest time in the WRC2 category by 1 tenth of a second over Hayden.

To the final stage then, SS17 Jacks Ridge 2 [Power Stage] – 6.77 km and Hayden set the early pace in his Hyundai before the top cars came through. Ott set the best time, but then Kalle came through a full 6 tenths quicker than the Estonian and that was it. The young Finns, Kalle and Jonne had won their first world championship, with their sixth victory of the season and with it became the youngest ever world champions, taking the honour from Colin Mcrae who won it aged 27 in 1995.

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

Final Overall Classification –Rally New Zealand

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 2:48:01.4
2 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +34.6
3 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +48.5
4 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +1:58.8
5 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +3:55.3
6 H. Paddon J. Kennard Hyundai i20 N Rally2 +10:03.7
7 L. Bertelli L. Granai Ford Puma Rally1 +10:39.0
8 K. Kajetanowicz M. Szczepaniak Škoda Fabia Evo +12:36.8
9 S. Van Gisbergen G. Weston Škoda Fabia Evo +13:28.8
10 H. Bates J. McCarthy Škoda Fabia Evo +16:51.6

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“The biggest feeling right now is that it’s quite a big relief. We have had such a good season, then a few difficult rallies and now finally we could do it. I want to say a big thanks to the team who made such a fast and reliable car for this season which meant we could just enjoy the driving. Also, in the more difficult moments they were always believing in us and supporting us. I don’t think about the age too much but it’s still special to know we could achieve this. It means a lot, to become champion is the only goal we ever had in this sport. I was actually a bit more nervous on Friday than I was today: Then we needed to push hard to stay in the fight, but today we could just enjoy it.”

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“Today we have witnessed history. It’s fantastic for Kalle, Jonne and for the whole team. It’s been an amazing season from him and it was only a matter of time. He did it in style this weekend and I think that’s the mark of a great champion. I can take a lot of satisfaction from this weekend. It was a nice comeback after three months away, on a challenging rally with faster roads than those I’ve driven this season and with really tricky conditions. Kalle was untouchable in those difficult conditions like he has been many times this season. I realised it was not the moment to take crazy risks as I’m here to help the team, and we are also getting very close to the manufacturers’ championship.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 11 / Rally New Zealand 2022 / 29th September – 2nd October 2022// Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Takamoto Katsuta (DNF)

“This was my first time here in New Zealand and it was a big challenge but one that I enjoyed quite a lot. The conditions were difficult but the roads were nice and fun to drive. On Friday the rain was affecting the grip level and when the grip was consistent, I was quite comfortable and confident, but when it was inconsistent, I was not committed enough. On Saturday there was more rain and more mud, and the stages were also more technical. I was still missing a bit of pace but it was getting better in the afternoon. I felt very good in the first stage of the loop and then I tried to push in the second one. Unfortunately, in a high-speed right-hand corner I went too fast and couldn’t slow down for the tight left-hander that came straight afterwards and we rolled. It was not good to end our rally early, but I was still able to learn a lot about how to improve for the future.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (3rd)

“Altogether, Rally New Zealand has been a difficult weekend for us, but it’s been a great place to be, on amazing roads and fun to drive. We have not been up to the pace to fight for the win but we’re still on the podium with a good finish to add points onto the board. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve not been in the drivers’ championship fight, even if something was coming back in the middle of the season. Fair play to Toyota, and especially to Kalle, who has beaten everyone fair and square. Congratulations to them.”

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“Fourth place was about the maximum we could do this weekend with all the time penalties and the two spins we had on Friday. It was a bit of a harsh start to the event, so we really couldn’t do much more. We were just in a waiting position today, with our only chance to gain positions dependent on those in front of us. We need to work on the car in these conditions; I just don’t feel comfortable, and it’s been a bit of a struggle for me to drive and go fast. We’re getting there slowly but we’re going to carry on working on it. It has been nice to come back to this rally, which is a very special event, far from home, even if it didn’t go as we wanted.”

Oliver Solberg (5th)

“It has not been a perfect weekend for sure, so to come away with a fifth-place finish is a real positive. We’ve had a lot of small things occurring that prevented us from getting into a good rhythm. I tried to push a bit in the Power Stage but, again, it wasn’t great. At least we gave it a go. We have gained a whole lot of experience and learnings, for both us and for the car in the future. Thanks to the team for all their preparations for this long-haul event, and to the mechanics for sorting the car after all our issues this weekend.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 10, Rally New-Zealand
29 September – 02 October 2022
Oliver Solberg, Elliott Edmondson, Hyundai i20 N Rally1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Hyundai New Zealand

Hayden Paddon (6th Overall, 1st WRC2)

“We ticked all the boxes with this event, thanks to a big team effort, to win WRC2 and the NZRC titles. Having built up a lead on Friday morning, from then on there’s a huge amount of pressure to make no mistakes until the end. I’m pleased that part of it is over, to be honest, as I don’t really enjoy that kind of pressure when you’ve got everything to lose.

“The conditions were tricky throughout the weekend which is quite typical of Rally New Zealand and gives it a bit of character.

“The result does lead into our goal of putting together a full campaign for next year in WRC2. We don’t yet have the budget so that’s the first thing to work on. We’d love to not only do the full WRC2 season next year but also aim to do some one-off rallies in a Rally1 car.

Photo Credit, Tayler Burke

“It’s a massive achievement to secure the NZRC manufacturers and team’s championships this weekend as well. It truly reflects all the work that everyone’s put in all year. I’m really proud to represent Hyundai New Zealand.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’

After Round Eleven

1 K. Rovanperä 237
2 O. Tänak 173
3 T. Neuville 144
4 E. Evans 116
5 T. Katsuta 100
6 C. Breen 77
7 E. Lappi 58
8 S. Ogier 55
9 D. Sordo 49
10 G. Greensmith 36
11 S. Loeb 35
12 O. Solberg 33

 

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’

After Round Eleven

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 455
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 374
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 224
4 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team NG 112

 

Well, next up is Rally Spain in around 17 days’ time.  The teams will have a very busy time, travelling back from New Zealand and then preparing their cars to then go back out into Europe. Look out for my preview in the days before.

Rally New Zealand 2022 Preview – Back to the famous roads!

We have just three rounds of this season’s championship left and a brilliant and long-awaited return to New Zealand.

The championship race remains firmly in the young Finns Kalle and Jonne’s grip as they come to this event 53 points ahead of their closest challengers 2019 champions Ott and Martin. Last time out Hyundai Motorsport took their first ever 1-2-3 as Thierry took victory from Ott and Dani in the classic Rally of Gods, Acropolis Rally.

In the Toyota camp, Seb Ogier returns to his GS Yaris to bolster the bid for the driver and manufacturers titles after the mishaps suffered by Kalle in the last two rallies. Seb competed at this event the last time it was part of the championship, when driving for Citroen in 2010.

M-Sport Ford come with just two cars for Craig and Gus as Adrien sits this one out. The car has shown great pace on the gravel, but perhaps with the lack of knowledge, this may hamper their ultimate pace.

Also competing this weekend are Hayden and John in their Paddon Sport run i20 Rally2 sponsored by Hyundai New Zealand. They are hoping to compete at the front of the WRC2 class, and who knows, maybe take a top ten finish to boot!

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

Rally New Zealand gets underway on Thursday evening with the Pukekawa Auckland Domain (1.78km) super special stage.

Friday’s itinerary is extensive, containing two loops of three stages that combine to a total of 158.56km, more than half of the overall rally distance.

Two passes each of Kaipara Hills (15.83km), Puhoi (22.50km) and Komokoriki (5.81km) make up Saturday’s schedule.

The rally concludes on Sunday with the crews twice taking on Whitford Forest – Te Maraunga Waiho (8.82km) and Jacks Ridge Haunui (6.77km), with the final pass of the latter acting as the rally’s Power Stage.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

“It will be really interesting to go to Rally New Zealand. I have only heard good things about the country and the rally and how nice the roads are. To prepare we have been watching whatever videos we can to get an overview of how the stages are and to understand what we might need from the car before we get there. Recent rallies have not been ideal for us but we know what we need to improve and we are working hard to have more pace and be more comfortable. Again we will be opening the road in New Zealand but hopefully we can have good speed, enjoy the event and finish with a good result.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 08 / Rally Finland 2022 / 4th-7th August 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans

“It’s going to be exciting to finally have the chance to compete in New Zealand for the first time. I’ve heard many great things about the event and especially about the roads and how rewarding they are to drive. So, if what everybody says is true then I’m sure we’re going to have a lot of fun there and hopefully we can have a good rally. It’s never easy to prepare for a new event like this, particularly because we’re not able to test outside of Europe, but within the team we do at least have some previous experience from New Zealand, not least from Jari-Matti and Seb. We’ve also been having a look through the archives for old videos of the stages just to get an idea of what we’re likely to face.”

Sébastien Ogier

“After a nice break it’s exciting to be getting back in my GR YARIS for these three events to end the season. Rally New Zealand is one of the rallies I really wanted to do this year. I was there once before in 2010 and I have mostly good memories; it was a very close fight until the final corners when a spin handed the win to Jari-Matti. At the time it was hard to take but thankfully I could score my first WRC win just a few weeks later. The rally itself is beautiful with some of the best roads in the world. After this break it won’t be easy to get back in the rhythm right away, but like always I will try to compete for the victory and help the team to the best possible result.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak 

“I competed at Rally New Zealand ten years ago and I have good memories of the event, so I am looking forward to going back. I have been watching videos to refresh myself and the roads look fantastic; they have a lot of positive camber and seem as if they were made for rallying. As it is in a far corner of the world, we have not been able to test on similar roads, meaning getting the right set-up will be difficult. We will just have to do our best to learn from the shakedown and adjust as we go. Hopefully we can get 100% from the car and achieve a strong result.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 08, Rally Finland
4-7 August 2022
Ott Tanak
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville

“Rally New Zealand was an event I always dreamed of going to when I was a kid growing up watching guys like Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz on TV. For me it always looked like the rally with the most beautiful scenery in WRC. I was lucky enough to compete there in 2012 and it was an incredible event with very interesting and enjoyable stages. The roads are very loose on the first pass but grippy on the second pass, where you need to have a very precise and stable car. It is hard to prepare for such an event, but we will try our best to perform well.”

Oliver Solberg

“It is my first time going to Rally New Zealand, so I am very excited for this new adventure. The roads look amazing and the whole event seems to be very beautiful. Of course, we do not know what to expect from the stages, but hopefully we can get up to speed quickly and find a good balance and rhythm. The season has been a rollercoaster for us so far, but our last rally was a good one, coming fourth in Belgium. Our target for this event is to keep learning, keep pushing, and hopefully get a good result for the team.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen

“Really excited to get to New Zealand, it’s a rally that I’ve read lots about, watched lots of videos and heard all of the stories, but never witnessed it myself. It’ll be my first time in New Zealand and doing the rally it seems like it’s going to be a really nice adventure with beautiful roads. I feel really lucky to be able to go there and experience it all. It should suit us, we’ll have a good road position starting the rally on Friday so we will try and make the most of it. Greece was good in some respects, our pace was nice, I’d like to try and make some progress towards the podium positions after a difficult couple of rallies.”

Gus Greensmith

“Really looking forward to New Zealand, it’s the one rally I’ve always wanted to compete in since starting my career so I feel like I finally get to tick that one off the bucket list. Incredibly excited, arriving early to adjust to the jet lag and we will see what we can do on the rally.”

Hyundai New Zealand

Hayden Paddon

“Seeing the WRC back in New Zealand is something I’m very proud of for the New Zealand rally community. I’m grateful for the work done by a great team of people to make this happen. I’m excited to tackle these awesome rallying roads again in our Hyundai Rally2 car with our own homegrown team.

Hayden Paddon, Ashley Forest by Tayler Burke

“With the Rally2 and R5 cars competing in the same category, there’s going to be some great competition. Between Ben, Shane and Harry, I’m expecting there to be close competition which I’m looking forward to.

“Rally fans are in for a real treat as Rally New Zealand once again features on the world stage. The hybrid Rally1 cars and drivers are going to be a sight to behold on some of the most spectacular stages in the world. The Auckland Domain stage, with free public access on Thursday night, will be an amazing way to start the event.

Hayden Paddon John Kennard Rally Finland WRC2 by Timo Anis

“Our goal is simple, to win WRC2. There have been a lot of questions about the overall result, but the gap is now too big between Rally1 and Rally2 cars for us to even consider competing with them, but we will give it everything we’ve got!”

Summary

We are set for one of the most hotly anticipated rallies of the year. The roads in New Zealand are particularly iconic in the championship, and are loved by those that have had the opportunity to compete on them. We will now have a new generation of crews making their own history on them.

The action gets underway very soon with shakedown at 9:00pm on the 29th of September! Make sure that you pop back to check out my daily reports.

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

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

Friday

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

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

Chris and Craig, Photo Credit, Heather KinetixAF

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

Classification after Day One

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

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

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

Ott Tänak (2nd)

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

Oliver Solberg (7th)

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

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

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

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

Kalle Rovanperä (SuperRally)

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

Saturday

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

Chris and Craig, Photo Credit, Heather KinetixAF

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

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

Classification after Day Two

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

Oliver Solberg (4th)

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

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

Thierry Neuville (SuperRally)

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

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

Esapekka Lappi (3rd)

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

Kalle Rovanperä (SuperRally)

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

 

Sunday

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

Chris and Craig – Photo Credit, Heather KinetixAF

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

Final Overall Classification – Ypres Rally Belgium

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

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

Oliver Solberg (4th)

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

Thierry Neuville (SuperRally)

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

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

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

Esapekka Lappi (3rd)

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

Takamoto Katsuta (5th)

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

Kalle Rovanperä (SuperRally)

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

 

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’

After Round Nine

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

 

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’

After Round Nine

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

 

Summary

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

M-Sport Ford WRT

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

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

Elfyn and Scott, Photo Credit, Heather KinetixAF

Hyundai Motorsport

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

Safari Rally Kenya 2022 – The Final Day. Toyota celebrates!

The final day then had 15km’s over six stages. Big gaps throughout the top ten meant that for there to be a big change in the standing, something very big would need to happen. The startlist looked like this – Fourmaux, Greensmith, Tänak, Loeb, Breen, Neuville, Serderidis, Solberg, Ogier, Katsuta, Evans, Rovanperä.

First up was SS14 Oserian 1 – 17.52 km and the only five cars completed the stage. They were Adrien who was fastest, Thierry, Gus, Seb Loeb and Gus. The stage was stopped when Oliver became buried in the fesh-fesh very early in the stage and could not get moving again. The top three were Adrien, Seb Loeb and Seb Ogier, who owed this to his nominal time given later. It seemed that being first on the road was the place to be, if you were going to be fast with stages that had a long section of fesh-fesh.

Onto SS15 Narasha 1 – 13.30 km and Kalle was fastest from Elfyn and Thierry. The young Finn now had an even bigger lead over Elfyn, close to 50 seconds. Seb Loeb showed the pace that the Puma could show with the fourth best time despite his starting position.

Next up was SS16 Hell’s Gate 1 – 10.53 km, run before the service break, something very unusual for Sunday’s. Ott was fastest from Thierry and Seb Ogier. Kalle opened up his lead again over Elfyn, and it was just four seconds short of a full minute. Craig was still going, but just cruising through the stages, whilst Seb Loeb was the fastest Puma driver, just six tenths of a second from the third best time.

The second run of SS17 Oserian 2 – 14.83 km saw the stage trimmed a little, and the crews starting further into the stage and away from the fesh-fesh section. Seb Loeb was fastest from Adrien and Seb Ogier. Loeb’s time brought him ahead of Kajetan and into ninth overall. Meanwhile Kalle took his lead over Elfyn to 1 minute, 2.3 seconds.

Onto the penultimate stage then, SS18 Narasha 2 – 13.30 km and it was a third stage win for Seb Loeb from Seb Ogier and Takamoto. We did lose another car and crew, with Ott and Martin retiring with failed powersteering and this brought his challenge to an end. His teammate also suffered a problem, with Oliver taking a penalty for starting the stage late and he dropped behind Kajetan who now was in ninth overall again.

Finally, it was time for SS19 Hell’s Gate 2 [Power Stage] – 10.53 km and as usual there was a change to the startlist – Johnston (WRC2), Kajetanowicz (WRC2), Greensmith, Fourmaux, Loeb, Solberg, Serderidis, Breen, Neuville, Ogier, Katsuta, Evans, Rovanperä. Seb Loeb set the early pace going fastest, before Thierry came through and set the fastest time whilst Seb Ogier was third, Gus fourth and Adrien fifth fastest. Kalle took victory though from Elfyn and Takamoto, the Japanese driver repeating his podium finish from last year, albite not in second this time, and Seb Ogier was fourth meaning that Toyota celebrated an incredible 1, 2, 3, 4. The closest Hyundai crew was Thierry in fifth place, but over eight minutes behind following his restart and other problems on these tricky stages.

Here’s the final top ten and driver comments after an amazing rally.

Final Overall Classification – Safari Rally Kenya

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 3:40:24.9
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +52.8
3 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:42.7
4 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:10.3
5 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +10:40.9
6 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +23:27.9
7 J. Serderidis F. Miclotte Ford Puma Rally1 +30:16.5
8 S. Loeb I. Galmiche Ford Puma Rally1 +32:12.6
9 K. Kajetanowicz M. Szczepaniak Škoda Fabia Evo +35:37.6
10 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +37:36.6

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“This is a result that I don’t think we could have even imagined before the event. To have a top four that is all Toyota is something amazing and such a great result for the team. It was the hardest rally I’ve ever done, so to have all four cars at the finish with no big issues, it’s clearly the strongest and fastest car. For myself to get the win here like this in such a special rally is really nice. Thank you to the team, everybody did a great job. They are developing the car all the time which is important and that’s helping us to put some good results together.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally Kenya 2022 / 22nd-68th June, 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“It’s been a really nice weekend. Of course, we really wanted to fight for the win, but that slipped away from us on Saturday with one thing or another, and today was about securing this 1-2-3-4 for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing which is obviously a fantastic result to be a part of. It was a tough fight to get through this extreme terrain here in Kenya and while everybody else has struggled, our cars have really come through it so a big well done to the team.”

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“It has been a really strong weekend. I was only missing a bit of luck but that’s part of the game. Most of all, I’m happy to be a part of this amazing result for the team and I want to congratulate everybody at TOYOTA GAZOO Racing because it’s been a great effort to provide all four of us drivers with such a strong car for three full days on the toughest rally of the season. This rally was a tough challenge up to the end so the whole team deserves a big round of applause, and also my team-mates because they drove very well this weekend.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (5th)

“We have achieved the maximum we could. Taking fifth place after all the trouble and mess we have experienced can probably be called a satisfying result. It has been a tough and challenging weekend, and this morning was no exception. Our focus was clearly on getting something from the Power Stage, which we managed at least. There’s not much more to say. The situation is obvious. I am really disappointed, not just for us but also for the mechanics, who have been working so hard, but like us don’t get the reward.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Safari Rally Kenya
23-26 June 2022
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 N Rally1, Action during Day 3 of WRC Safari Rally Kenya 2022
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Oliver Solberg (10th)

“On the positive side, it’s been a much better Safari Rally Kenya than I had last year. It’s still not the result we had hoped for, but that’s part of rallying. My thanks to all the mechanics, without whom we would not have been able to reach the end of this challenging event. Nothing is possible if we don’t have their expertise and hard work, so very big thanks to them all. We know as a team we have a lot of work to do, but we’ll be flat out from here.”

Ott Tänak (DNF)

“This Safari Rally itself has been quite fun this year with some incredibly demanding conditions. From our side, we have had a very safe approach, not taking any risks. On the first day, things worked out quite well, but unfortunately on Saturday we had a transmission issue and today we have had a power steering problem. We can’t take any points from here, but it is what it is; we must learn from this and move forward. There are many things for the engineers to take away and I hope we’ll be in a better shape for Estonia.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen (6th)

“The experience has been nice; I’ve never been in the country so I’ve been taking it all in. From a sporting point of view, it hasn’t gone all that well which is a pity especially off the back of Sardinia, I thought we were going to get in a rhythm over a couple of events. It all just kind of flowed against us this weekend. There was a lot of potential in the car this weekend, Seb showed that. Friday was really good, I was really happy as the pace was nice, that last stage in the evening was flowing well and then it all just snowballed downward from there with the problems that we had.”

Sebastien Loeb (9th)

“We had bad luck on day one because the technical problem we had was a little detail, a small tube started to leak and then the car didn’t start so I finished five kilometres from the service. The next day was going quite well, we had an issue with the steering arm but the team will be able to fix it as it was the first really rough rally of the season with new cars. I am a bit frustrated about the classification because our speed was quite good and we were able to fight at the front and did some good times.”

Adrien Fourmaux (14th)

“Sunday was a good day, I had a really good feeling in the car, pushing on the first stage of the loop each time and we made good times with fastest and second fastest. I also claimed my first power stage points which I am very proud of. They were the positives of the weekend, overall, it has been a really tough rally for all of the team but we have learned a lot and will come back stronger.”

Gus Greensmith (15th)

“We started really well as a team with three cars in the top five but unfortunately that didn’t last very long. We had a puncture; I didn’t realise I had had it for so long because the ground was so soft and we damaged a rim as well as some parts of the car. From that point then it was tricky and we had the roll which, as much as I was driving just to finish, it is just one of those things. I felt I needed to help the guys out so I offered my help, as much as it was the clerical work rather than the mechanical work. It was nice to round off the weekend with some power stage points and to give us a bit of a silver lining to the weekend.”

Summary

Well, what can I say? What an incredible drive from Kalle and Jonne. The key moment that decided this rally in the young Finns favour were the stages at the end of Saturday. He put some amazing times in and pretty much doubled his lead, when Elfyn had been closing on him.

Elfyn and Scott drove really well, and completed this event unlike last year. They took a couple of stage wins as well, showing that they could be on the pace as well and fight at the front. They remain sixth in the championship.

Takamoto and Aaron took a superb third place having set some very good stage times and kept out of trouble as well. It was Aaron’s first WRC podium as well, and what a place to get it!

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally Kenya 2022 / 22nd-68th June, 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

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

1 K. Rovanperä 145
2 T. Neuville 80
3 O. Tänak 62
4 T. Katsuta 62
5 C. Breen 60
6 E. Evans 57
7 S. Loeb 35
8 S. Ogier 34
9 D. Sordo 34
10 G. Greensmith 28
11 P. Loubet 18
12 E. Lappi 17
13 A. Mikkelsen 12
14 O. Solberg 9

 

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

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 246
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 184
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 144
4 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team NG 68

 

Next up is Rally Estonia over the weekend of the 14th to the 17th of July. Pop back in the week before to take a look at my preview.

Safari Rally Kenya 2022, Day Two – Toyota continue to hold the lead

Well, Saturday’s action had everything. With 150km’s over six stages it would be a big challenge for the crews. The startlist looked like this – Loeb, Fourmaux, Breen, Greensmith, Serderidis, Solberg, Ogier, Neuville, Tänak, Evans, Katsuta, Rovanperä.

First up was SS8 Soysambu 1 – 29.32 km, a very long stage to get Saturday underway, and Elfyn won the stage from Thierry and Kalle. The Welshman’s pace moved him ahead of Takamoto and closer to Kalle, the gap now down to 16.1 seconds. Seb Loeb opened the road, but still set a very good time good enough for fifth fastest. His teammate, Craig went well as well and passed Kajetan for eighth overall, but the Pole remained firmly in the lead of WRC2.

 

The much shorter SS9 Elmenteita 1 – 15.08 km was won by Theirry from Seb Loeb and Ott. Elfyn was faster than Kalle but by only 1.1 seconds. Craig remained the highest placed M-Sport driver, holding eighth place, and just driving very carefully. Unfortunately, Gus rolled his car in the stage but he got the car back onto its wheels with some help and completed the stage. His teammate Adrien retired though with broken suspension.

The first run of SS10 Sleeping Warrior 1 – 31.04 km, a spectacular run across the plains saw Thierry win a second stage in a row from Kalle and Elfyn. Sadly, there was drama with the Belgians teammate suffering a mechanical problem with his i20 and he pulled over with just about two kilometres left and retired for the day from fourth overall. Gus went on to finish this stage, but retired at the end, the engine having suffered with the low-speed roll.

Elfyn won the second run of SS11 Soysambu 2 – 29.32 km as well, with Kalle second fastest, 3.6 seconds slower and Takamoto third. The Japanese driver now had a good gap over Thierry, and was holding third place. The demise of Ott meant that Craig was now up to seventh overall, despite getting a puncture in the stage.

The following stage, SS12 Elmenteita 2 – 15.08 km was hit by heavy rain at least an hour before it started, and the last five kilometres were affected. Kalle won the stage from Thierry and Elfyn. The Belgian passed Takamoto for third place overall as well after the Japanese driver could only manage the sixth best time. Elfyn said that he could not see anything, so just had a safe run through as best he could. Kalle now had a 27.1 second lead. The end part of the stage was starting to dry, so he had the best possible conditions to drive.

On to the final stage of the day then, SS13 Sleeping Warrior 2 – 31.04 km and this stage had also had some of the rain dropped onto it, with the wet conditions starting at around ten kilometres. Seb Ogier set the best time from Kalle and Takamoto. The drive by the Japanese was great, when you consider that he had a puncture as well. Elfyn’s speed was also affected as his windscreen got covered in mud and he could not see. There were worse problems for Thierry, Oliver and also Seb Loeb. The Belgian had the worse of it and crashed into a tree, whilst his teammate Oliver’s engine cut out twice. He managed to finish though. Seb Loeb had a huge problem as his front left suspension broke at around half distance in the stage. The whole assembly was moving around and the tyre touching the wheel arch, making for some interesting sounds in the car. Still, he managed to finish the stage and was now in tenth overall.

 

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

 Classification after Day Two

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 2:52:39.7
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +40.3
3 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:25.6
4 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:38.3
5 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +10:59.3
6 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +12:19.1
7 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +18:56.1

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“It has been another tough day like we expected. Today the stages were not so soft but with the rocks and ruts it was still hard for the cars. In our position it was not so easy to try to avoid all the stones and bad places but still try to push. The conditions that came in the afternoon were really tricky. It was my first time driving here in the rain because I didn’t experience that last year and it was quite a surprise with no grip at all and so much standing water. I tried to keep it clean and find the grip from somewhere. Tomorrow is much longer than a normal Sunday so there is still a proper day of driving ahead. We need to stay sharp because still anything can happen.”

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“I wasn’t giving too much thought to the times of anyone else today, I was mostly just trying to pick my way through the conditions. The morning was quite nice, and a bit more predictable than yesterday in terms of where it was going to be rough, but it was still difficult to judge the speed correctly all of the time. Then in the muddy conditions this afternoon it was pretty difficult, as I had a small issue cleaning the screen. I decided to try and keep the risk down but it’s impossible not to have the odd slide in conditions like that. As a team we’re in a great position but tomorrow will still be challenging with two passes of all the stages, and the second loop especially could be very interesting.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally Kenya 2022 / 22nd-68th June, 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“Today I knew I couldn’t catch any positions from speed alone so there was no point in pushing like crazy – I just tried to stay out of trouble and reach the end. This morning the conditions were a bit more controllable than yesterday and I could keep a good rhythm without pushing the car too much, because it was still very rough. Then this afternoon after the rain there were many tricky sections and a lot of rhythm changes. In some places the ruts were full of water and we knew we had to be careful. With the conditions getting better I just tried to get through cleanly. Now it’s only my team-mates in front and I don’t wish them any bad luck, because if we can bring it home like this it’s an amazing result for Toyota.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (5th)

“A challenging afternoon after a trouble-free morning in which we set two fastest stage times in Elmenteita and Sleeping Warrior. We were able to climb back to fourth position in the classification, 7.4 seconds from the podium. In the second loop, we lost some bodywork in the bumpy section of SS11. We then got hit by some electrical issues at the end of SS12 as the alternator belt went. Somehow Martijn and I made the impossible possible by fixing the car to get to the last stage just in time. A couple of kilometres in, a huge water puddle sucked water into the engine and the car stopped. It took us four minutes to get restarted but with bad visibility caused by mud on the screen, 200 metres further on we went straight into a tree. The overall classification has not been too greatly affected, we keep fifth place, and we will continue tomorrow to try and grab some points at least.”

Oliver Solberg (6th)

“The only way I can summarise today is crazy. We have been very lucky to make it to the end. We had a hectic start to the day after I clipped a big rock in the opening stage, which bent an arm. I had to take it easy to get through. For the second one, I changed it, but I made a mistake, so it was wobbling around a bit. Then, the final stage of the loop was just really rough. We had nothing to gain today, either ahead of us or behind, so we wanted to keep on the road and maintain our position. We made some changes at lunchtime which improved the feeling; the start of the second loop was a night and day difference. Then the rain came which made things even crazier. The final stage was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, and even if it was far from easy and trouble-free, we survived to face another day.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Safari Rally Kenya
22-26 June 2022
Oliver Solberg, Elliott Edmondson, Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (SuperRally)

“Suddenly, we heard some noise and immediately had fire in the car, so we stopped to check. It was somewhere in the transmission and the underbody of the car is closed, so we couldn’t really see what was wrong. We tried to continue but even going slowly it was catching fire so we would have burned the car. It’s frustrating but looking overall the rally has been quite good in some ways, very demanding and challenging. Yesterday we were playing in the sand, and today it was rocks and general roughness. I started the day safely, checking things out to make sure there were no surprises, but unfortunately the prop shaft ended our day.”

Sunday

The final day features a very long day with 83km’s over six stages. A proper day of rallying for sure. Kalle may have a good lead, but we’ve seen that anything is possible with this rally. Pop back tomorrow for my final day report.

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