Rally Monza Day Three Report – Seb and Julien take victory!

The final day then and just three stages on and around the Temple of Speed. The startlist looked like this – Fourmaux, Rovanperä, Greensmith, Suninen, Katsuta, Solberg, Neuville, Sordo, Evans, Ogier.

The first stage then, SS14 Grand Prix 2 – 10.29 km, and Thierry was fastest from Seb and Elfyn. The Toyota duo had in fact set the same time and this meant that the gap remained half a second between them. In fact, there were no changes in any positions in the leaderboard. Seb did have a scare on this one though after clipping a chicane block with the right-hand side wheel, but somehow avoided smashing up that corner of his Yaris.

Thierry made it two in a row, winning SS14 Grand Prix 2 – 10.29 km from Dani and Teemu. An all-Hyundai top three! The Finn’s pace took him ahead of Takamoto and back into sixth place. Of course, this happened after the Japanese driver had a huge moment after losing the rear of his Yaris and clipped a concrete block, the result being that his suspension and wheel on the front-left getting broken really badly. He limped to the end of the stage and completed it a full minute and five seconds slower than Thierry. He was now 15 seconds behind Teemu and 3.7 ahead of Gus. There was also drama for Elfyn, who had a couple of moments where his car seemed to stall and cut out. The gap that Seb had over Elfyn was suddenly 7.6 seconds!

Well, then the final stage of the event, year, and of these incredible cars. The starting list was changed a little before SS16 Serraglio 2 [Power Stage] – 14.62 km – Huttunen (WRC2), Gryazin (WRC2), Fourmaux, Rovanperä, Greensmith, Katsuta, Suninen, Solberg, Neuville, Sordo, Evans, Ogier. Thierry was fastest from Takamoto, Dani third, Elfyn fourth and the new world champion Seb fifth in the stage.

At the stop line we saw incredible scenes as Seb and Julien climbed onto the top of their car and celebrated their eighth world championship. They are true greats of the sport now having won titles with Volkswagen, M-Sport Ford and now Toyota!

Let’s take a look at the final standings.

Final Overall Classification –Rally Monza

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC 2:39:08.6
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +7.3
3 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +21.3
4 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +32.0
5 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:32.0
6 T. Suninen M. Markkula Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:22.6
7 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota Yaris WRC +2:34.5
8 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Fiesta WRC +2:50.2
9 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +4:49.6
10 A. Crugnola P. Ometto Hyundai i20 N Rally2 +9:06.9
2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 12 / ACI Rally Monza / 18th-21st November 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It’s so hard to describe these kind of emotions. Somehow you feel empty because it’s been such an exhausting season like always, where you need to put so much into it to win the championship. But we do it for moments like this. A big thanks to all the team members: Without them we are nothing and today we are all world champions, so let’s celebrate this. It’s pretty remarkable what Toyota has achieved, and the team deserves it because they’ve put a lot of effort into it. The emotion is even stronger knowing it’s the end of my journey with Julien. We could never have dreamed of a better way for it to end it. We knew we still had a lot to do this weekend and that it was not over yet. We didn’t have to beat Elfyn, but we couldn’t afford to relax and then drop positions, and to win in the end is just perfect.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 12 / ACI Rally Monza / 18th-21st November 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“Of course, it’s mixed feelings for us today. Naturally you always want more. We knew the drivers’ title would be difficult but we wanted to try and win the rally. In the end we didn’t quite get it but congratulations to Seb and Julien on another fantastic title and also on a fantastic career together. I want to thank everybody in the team, they’ve been working so hard, giving us fantastic equipment but also a fantastic atmosphere to work in. It’s also a very fond farewell to the Toyota Yaris WRC, it’s been a joy to drive.”

Kalle Rovanperä (9th)

“It feels really good to help the team secure the manufacturers’ championship. It was a really nice season for us, and getting the teams’ title also feels really good for us because we were able to bring good points in many rallies. It’s a big thing for the team and it feels really nice to be a part of it. It was not so easy to do the job we did this weekend, but it was important that we did it and this feeling makes it worth it. The team has been working really hard, so big congratulations and thank you to them. It’s been a great year with an amazing car and I think we really showed how strong our team is.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (3rd)

“I am honestly really happy to have secured a podium finish here in Monza, and to end this era of WRC cars with a top-three finish. It has been a relaxed final day for me, focused and just trying my best to avoid making any mistakes. I’d like to say thanks to the team for another year working together, with some good highlights. I hope next season with the new hybrid regulations will be even more fun.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 12, Rally Monza
18-21 November 2021
X
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“My focus today has been on enjoying these final stages of the season with our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, the last runs in this era of the WRC. I had a nice clean morning, picking up stage wins and just trying to savour the moments. We have had some incredible years with this car, and with Hyundai Motorsport; it’s been very exciting, and we’ve got a lot of special memories. I am now looking ahead to the new adventure in 2022 and adding more memorable moments together with the team.”

Teemu Suninen (6th)

“It has been a weekend in which we’ve been able to make steady improvements, learning all about the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in different conditions. It’s tricky to jump into a brand-new car for this rally, but I am grateful to the team for giving me the opportunity and the time to get up to speed. We’ve been able to improve our pace step-by-step, and we’ve been fast on the clean tarmac sections, which has been a good thing. We just focused on bringing the car home, which we have achieved.”

Hyundai 2C Competition

Oliver Solberg (5th)

“I want to carry on!” said Oliver at the finish. “When you have a car like the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, you just don’t want to stop driving it. This has been such a cool, such a fantastic week.

“The roads in the mountains which we did on Friday and Saturday morning were really, really nice. I was taking it quite steady, quite sensible to start with – there were damp patches and some fog on the top of the mountain. After I made some change to the set-up with the car and got some more grip with the rear, I was able to really push and, honestly, it was just so much fun.

“When you are driving a car like this on roads like that, it’s impossible not to smile. It’s the best feeling in the world!

“This rally is actually quite complicated because you go from driving the cars out there in the mountains and then we come to the circuit where it’s much more technical, so many more junctions and always turning and you have to really change the driving style. You have to be completely precise.

“We used some of the gravel roads in the circuit and this is also a lot of fun – this was reminding me of when I was competing in rallycross. I have to tell you; I was really sad when we came to the finish of the last stage.

“We made more progress and took more experience from this rally. Some people were asking me what was the difference between this event and the one before [Rally de España] where we were not so high up. The answer is that we went faster! I was never in Spain before, but I competed on this rally last year and I had some experience of the stages.

“I think the speed we had was good here. To be able to fight with my team-mates was more than I was expecting, to be honest.”

“It was perfect with Elliott,” said Oliver. “From the very start we were comfortable together; we did some practice before the rally and everything worked really well. He did a great job and I want to thank him.

“As well, I really want to thank everybody from Hyundai Motorsport and 2C. Andrea [Adamo, Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal] gave me the most amazing opportunity this season when I drove the i20 Coupe WRC for the first time in Arctic Rally Finland. That rally was incredible for me and this one as well.

 

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

1 S. Ogier 230
2 E. Evans 207
3 T. Neuville 176
4 K. Rovanperä 142
5 O. Tänak 128
6 D. Sordo 81
7 T. Katsuta 78
8 C. Breen 76
9 G. Greensmith 64
10 A. Fourmaux 42

 

2021 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After Round Twelve

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 522
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 463
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 202
4 Hyundai 2C Competition 62

 

Well, what a rally! Hope you’ve enjoyed my daily reports. Look out for my final driver review in the coming week.

Rally Monza, Day Two Report – Seb and Adrien lead after Day Two

The second day then, with 108km’s over six stages. The startlist looked like this – Fourmaux, Rovanperä, Suninen, Greensmith, Katsuta, Solberg, Sordo, Neuville, Ogier, Evans.

Into stage SS8 San Fermo 1 – 14.80 km and Thierry made the best start of them all, winning the stage from Seb and Dani. Elfyn could only manage the fourth best time dropping 4.6 seconds to the fastest time and falling behind Seb again, the gap between the top two now 1.5 seconds.

The longer SS9 Selvino 1 – 24.93 km saw Elfyn take the stage win from Dani and Seb. There was drama for Thierry though right at the start of the stage. His tyres weren’t warmed up and he lost the rear of his car, with the result that he then collided with the barrier and caused some big damage to the right-hand side front of his car. The bonnet was also very loose on the right as well and flapping about, but he got the car to the end of the stage despite all of this.

Back to the shorter SS10 San Fermo 2 – 14.80 km and it was another stage win for Seb from Thierry and Teemu. Elfyn was only sixth and fell back into second place, now 1.1 behind Seb. Further back, Teemu passed former M-Sport teammate Gus Greensmith as well, showing that the Finn was getting to grips with his i20WRC.

Seb increased his lead over Elfyn in SS11 Selvino 2 – 24.93 km to 5.2 seconds after setting a time that was 4.1 seconds faster. What a time! Dani was third fastest and making third place his over his teammate. The top ten was pretty static, but it’s worth mentioning that this was the last stage on public roads that these cars were unleashed on, as the remaining stages of Rally Monza would be held in the grounds of the Monza circuit.

Elfyn hit back in SS12 Sottozero 1 – 14.39 km winning the stage from Dani and Thierry! Seb could only set the fifth best time and was now back in the lead by just three tenths of a second. Takamoto was the best of the rest, taking fourth in the stage.

The final stage of the day then, SS13 Sottozero 2 – 14.39 km and run after the sun had set. All the cars had their light pods fitted. Dani won the stage from Thierry and Seb, and we had yet another leader change with Seb going back into the lead and Elfyn was now behind by just half a second.

Classification after Day Two

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC 2:13:27.2
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +0.5
3 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +27.4
4 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +46.6
5 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:21.2
6 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota Yaris WRC +1:38.8
7 T. Suninen M. Markkula Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:17.1
8 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Fiesta WRC +2:24.8
9 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +3:39.1

 

Lets hear from the drivers at the end of day two.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It’s been super close today between Elfyn and me, with so many swaps for the lead. It’s definitely exciting for the fans. We had a good loop this morning. Those were the last proper stages with this generation of car and I really enjoyed it. Generally, on the track I’ve been taking less risks and losing a bit of time, but tonight I managed to drive cleaner, and a slightly different tyre choice maybe helped with the traction on the gravel. Tomorrow I need to keep my focus on the title; if we can win the rally too it will be the cherry on the cake.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 12 / ACI Rally Monza / 18th-21st November 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“The morning loop was enjoyable but Seb was very strong again in the mountains. I struggled on the first stages both times through, had a good run on the other stage the first time through but I’d lost the tyres a bit by the end of the second pass. I was a bit disappointed to give away that time, but we got it back again in the first one at the circuit this afternoon. Then in the dark I was too careful in a few places where the visibility was quite difficult. But it’s set up very nicely for tomorrow and we’ll keep fighting.”

Kalle Rovanperä (9th)

“This morning the conditions were really nice and the stages were much cleaner than yesterday, so I could be a bit faster in some sections without having to take any risks and just enjoy the driving the car on those roads. The circuit stages were nice and enjoyable too, even though we were not pushing much. It’s important for the team to do the job that we’re doing, and tomorrow we just need to finish it off.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (3rd)

“Honestly, I am quite happy with how today has gone for us. We had some amazing stages in the mountains, and the circuit sections were better as well. We made some important modifications to the car at the end of Friday, which made it easier to drive and gave me more confidence. The stages were also drier, so we had a bit more grip as well. We are currently in the third-place podium position, which is great, however there is a small but tricky final day awaiting us. We will do our best to keep our advantage over Thierry.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 12, Rally Monza
18-21 November 2021
Dani Sordo
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“After the first day didn’t go as expected, we knew we had to push to catch back time. It worked well on the opening stage, setting the fastest time, but we wanted to improve more on the next one. Unfortunately, we had cold tyres and two corners into the stage we lost the rear, ripping off the bumper. We lost a position to Dani, and we’re still fighting to get it back. Still, I’ve been able to enjoy myself today, especially in the mountain stages; these cars are incredible, there has been a great atmosphere, lots of spectators and nice weather, it is really fantastic!”

Teemu Suninen (7th)

“I am pleased with the improvements we have made since yesterday, and especially in the first four stages. I was able to be confident in the car, and the driving was OK. I was still struggling on the gravel and muddy places in the Monza circuit stages. Still, we have taken a good step forward and that’s positive. I’m enjoying myself a lot, and it’s nice to see what the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC can do; it seems a strong car, so we will try to improve again on the final three stages tomorrow.”

 

Sunday

The last day beckons for the 2021 season and the last time that these cars will be seen on the world championship stages. It’s also the last few stages of Seb and Adrien’s partnership. Let’s see if they can go out on top, or maybe Elfyn and Scott will deny them a final victory. There are two championships to decide as well. Let’s see what happens…. Is there a final twist to this season, or can Seb and Adrien wrap up their eighth world title?

Rally Monza – Day One Report.

Well, day one was the Elfyn and Seb day, with the pair of them fighting over the lead throughout the seven stages that made up day one. Here’s how the action came together. The crews entered in championship positions, meaning that the startlist looked like this – Ogier, Evans, Neuville, Rovanperä, Katsuta, Sordo, Greensmith, Fourmaux, Suninen, Solberg.

Into the first stage, SS1 Gerosa 1 – 10.96 km then, and there was fog and low cloud on the mountains. Seb won the stage from Elfyn and Dani. There was a large gap at the end of the stage between the two championship protagonists of 3.6 seconds, with Dani the best of the Hyundai drivers holding third place.

It was all change into SS2 Costa Valle Imagna 1 – 22.11 km, with Elfyn setting the pace from Seb who was just a tenth slower. There was a change behind them, with Thierry passing Dani and moving into third place. There was also a change further back with Teemu getting to grips with his i20 and moving ahead of fellow Finn Kalle and into ninth place.

Next up was SS3 Gerosa 2 – 10.96 km and Seb was fastest and by quite a big margin of 2.1 seconds over Elfyn, whilst Thierry remained the closest challenger, but was now 20.7 seconds behind the two Toyota crews. The stage was now without huge drama though, with Adrien rolling his Fiesta. The Frenchman was out for the day.

Into stage SS4 Costa Valle Imagna 2 – 22.11 km and it was another stage win for the championship leaders, with Elfyn keeping the leaders honest with a time just nine tenths slower. The two Hyundai crews of Dani and Thierry set the exact same time. Further back, Oliver was having a great day, holding fifth place.

Elfyn was fastest in SS5 Cinturato 1 – 14.49 km and with Seb only fifth fastest and a huge 5.7 seconds slower the gap between them was now just eight tenths of a second. Oliver was quick too, with the fourth best time and only 2.6 seconds slower than Thierry. Impressive stuff from the young Swede.

After a short break the second run of SS6 Cinturato 2 – 14.49 km and Thierry won the stage with Elfyn second fastest just 4 tenths slower, whilst Seb was third and 2.5 seconds further back. Elfyn now moved into the lead. There was a change further back, with Takamoto moving past Gus and into sixth place.

The last stage of the day then, SS7 Grand Prix 1 – 10.29 km and Dani was quickest from Takamoto and Elfyn who led the rally by just 1.4 seconds from Seb. Dani’s pace meant that he’d taken 3.7 seconds from Thierry lead over him as they continued their battle for the final podium position.

Classification after Day One

1 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC 1:04:05.2
2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +1.4
3 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +21.6
4 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +24.6
5 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +50.6
6 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota Yaris WRC +1:05.5
7 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Fiesta WRC +1:14.1
8 T. Suninen M. Markkula Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:28.6
9 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +1:57.3

 

Let’s hear from the drivers at the end of day one.

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“It was a challenging morning with the thick fog and the grip levels were changing all the time, partly from the dampness and with the different surfaces as well, but it was really enjoyable to drive. We were losing a bit of time to Seb, I was frustrated to give a few seconds away. But we had a good afternoon. I put a lot of effort into being stronger on those stages this year. It’s good to be leading but the gap to Seb is virtually nothing; he was a bit stronger than us in the mountains so we need to look at this and try to improve for tomorrow morning.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 12 / ACI Rally Monza / 18th-21st November 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“It’s been a good day. This morning I really enjoyed driving the stages in the mountains. The feeling was good in the car, we did a good job on the pre-event test and it was good to see the times coming. When it’s nice to drive you can be close the limit but still feel comfortable. This afternoon around the circuit I was a little bit more on the safe side, because there’s a lot of things you can hit, and we also had an issue on SS5 that cost me some time. But it’s OK, I’m happy with where I am right now and we just need to try and do the same tomorrow.”

Kalle Rovanperä (9th)

“Our plan for this rally is to be there for the manufacturers’ points. We don’t want to take any big risks, and then if something happens with our teammates, we can still secure the points. It’s a really important weekend for the team and we want to help as much as we can. It’s not so easy to drive like this, especially when the conditions are tricky like they were this morning in the mountains and you can lose quite a lot of time. The stages at Monza this afternoon were a bit more enjoyable, even though they were tricky in some sections with the gravel and mud.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“I would say that we are satisfied with our performance in the car today. We pushed very hard this morning, almost at the edge, and the feeling was good. I was enjoying the driving, but the times were not there. Usually in tricky conditions the car is fast, but this time we weren’t and to be honest I don’t know why. Even in Spain, in the dirty places, we were quick, but it seems like we missed something this morning. Around the track, the speed is there so we’ll have to see what happens on tomorrow’s mountain stages.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 12, Rally Monza
18-21 November 2021
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (4th)

“We struggled a bit with the set-up of the car, especially in the slippery places, where we lost a lot compared to our rivals. The morning loop wasn’t amazing, we just didn’t have the precision that I needed. The feeling in the afternoon was better, but no less tricky. We made a small change on my car, in the direction we had in Catalunya, and we were able to find the precision we’d been looking for all day. A small change but also a big change. I expect tomorrow’s stages to be just as demanding.”

Teemu Suninen (8th)

“It has been a challenging first day in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. I’ve only had one day of testing with the car so in tricky places, I didn’t have the confidence to push hard. At the beginning, I was way too careful, but stage by stage I was happier. I was struggling a bit at times but that’s part of the learning curve and getting experience of a new car. Drivers always want to win the battles, and that’s the same with me, so if I can get a good feeling on Saturday, I will try to go for it a bit more. At the same time, it’s important to keep the car in one piece and bring it to the finish.”

Saturday

Day two sees 108km’s over six stages. Can Elfyn hold the lead over his teammate and championship rival? We shall find out tomorrow. Pop back at the end of the day for my day two report.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day Two

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

 

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

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

Dani Sordo (4th)

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

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

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

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

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

Kalle Rovanperä (5th)

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

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

Sunday

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

Rally Spain 2021 Preview – Back to Tarmac!

Well, we are coming to the end of this year’s championship, and for the first time since 2019 we head to Spain! Another twist is that for the first time since 2009 the event will be an all-tarmac event. This will at least mean that Seb Ogier won’t have to sweep the road clear of gravel. He and his teammate Elfyn will continue their battle for this seasons Drivers World Championship on the super smooth roads of Spain. If the Welshman wins in Spain, then he will take the fight to the finale at Rally Monza. However, if Seb scores six or more points than Elfyn, then the Frenchman will take his eighth title in his final season.

Let’s take a look at the stages facing them all. 280km over the seventeen stages. The conditions will remain pretty consistent throughout the weekend with sunny weather forecast for the whole weekend.

Rally de España opens with shakedown on the morning of Thursday 14 October, followed by the ceremonial start near the Salou-based service park.

Friday’s six-stage itinerary features two runs of Vilaplana (20.00km), La Granadella (21.80km) and Riba – roja (14.21km).

Saturday is the longest day of the rally, with two loops of Savallà (14.08km), Querol – Les Pobles (19.17km) and El Montmell (24.40km) followed by a short street stage in the heart of Salou (2.24km).

Santa Marina (9.10km) and Riudecanyes (16.35km) close the event on Sunday, with the second pass of the latter stage forming the event’s Power Stage.

RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada itinerary:
Friday October 15
SS1 Vilaplana 1 20.00km (12.42 miles) 0843
SS2 La Granadella 1 21.80km (13.38 miles) 1021
SS3 Riba-roja 1 14.21km (8.72 miles) 1142
Service Port Aventura 1317
SS4 Vilaplana 2 20.00km (12.42 miles) 1500
SS5 La Granadella 2 21.80km (13.38 miles) 1638
SS6 Riba-roja 2 14.21km (8.72 miles) 1759
Service Port Aventura 1949

Saturday October 16
SS7 Savallà 1 14.08km (8.74 miles) 0844
SS8 Querol-Les Pobles 1 19.17km (11.91 miles) 0937
SS9 El Montmell 1 24.40km (15.15 miles) 1038
Service Port Aventura 1200
SS10 Savallà 2 14.08km (8.74 miles) 1414
SS11 Querol-Les Pobles 2 19.17km (11.91 miles) 1507
SS12 El Montmell 2 24.40km (15.15 miles) 1608
SS13 Salou 2.24km (1.39 miles) 1800
Service Port Aventura 1820

Sunday October 17
SS14 Santa Marina 1 9.10km (5.65 miles) 0700
SS15 Riudecanyes 1 16.35 km (10.15 miles) 0808
Service Port Aventura 0854
SS16 Santa Marina 2 9.10km (5.65 miles) 1029
SS17 Riudecanyes 2 16.35 km (10.15 miles) 1218

 

Now, let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“I’m really looking forward to Spain and to being back on asphalt again. It will be nice to have all three days of the rally on asphalt because those roads are really fun to drive. Also, for us it will good to not be sweeping gravel on the first day of the rally like we have been doing for much of the season. We are still in a strong position for the championship. Spain will be the first realistic chance to claim the title and I know what I need to do to make it happen. When I have the chance to win, I try to fight for it, and this will be the most simple way to achieve our goal.”

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

Elfyn Evans

“The win on Rally Finland was a great result for us. The drivers’ title is still a long shot for us but once more we’ll be giving our best in Spain and trying to get the best possible result there. The asphalt roads in Spain are really fantastic to drive, so I’m looking forward to competing on an all-asphalt event this time around. So far whenever I’ve driven the Yaris WRC on asphalt, the surface has usually been quite dirty or provided very low grip, so I’m excited to drive the higher-grip roads in Spain in this car. That said, at this time of year the weather is never guaranteed to be dry even in Spain. If it does rain, as we’ve seen in previous years, it can still be quite a tricky and demanding event.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“I have driven in Spain twice before in WRC 2 and I always liked the days on asphalt there, so for me it’s a positive thing that it will be a full asphalt rally again. If the weather is good then it’s a really nice event. The roads are really fast and flowing and a bit different to the other rounds we normally do on asphalt. It’s more like circuit driving and you need to be really precise, but when you get it right then it’s really enjoyable. The characteristics were quite different in Ypres but there I had a good feeling in the car in asphalt specification, and I hope we can have that again in Spain and fight for a good result for ourselves and the team.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“When I first participated in Rally de España it was a full tarmac event and now we are back to that profile after a few years of mixed terrain. I’m looking forward to tackling some of the famous stages we have seen in the past. It is a rally I like; the nice flowing roads are really good fun to drive with these WRC cars. It is more of a circuit-style of driving, so you need to be clean and efficient, taking care not to slide too much. You also need good pace notes to rely on to be fast, as it is difficult to make a big difference in the gaps on these types of roads.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de España
14-17 October 2021
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak

“It has been a while since we’ve had three days of tarmac competition at Rally de España. It is a very fast event and one that I really enjoy. The roads require pure, clean driving – the routes in the forest are quite smooth with not many cuts and the weather is consistent there, which makes it an enjoyable event for me. After two consecutive podium finishes, it would be nice to secure a hat-trick in Spain as we aim for a strong finish to this season.”

Dani Sordo

“I am really happy to be back driving in Spain after two years without a rally in my home country. I’m looking forward to the challenge of a full tarmac event; I’m hoping the weather will be nice and that we will have a lot of fans there as well. You need to have a really good car set-up and be confident – then, you enjoy the rally a lot. If you have a car that is understeering and not working very well, you won’t be happy. I can’t wait to be back at Rally de España.”

Jari Huttunen

“I’m looking forward to the return of tarmac next weekend after our victory in Ypres Rally Belgium. We were able to find a good confidence and rhythm with the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 on those roads which we hope will put us on the front foot in Spain. Finland didn’t quite go our way from the start of the rally, so the target is to perform well from the very first stage.”

Teemu Suninen

“I’m looking forward to Rally de España with the Hyundai i20 N Rally2. Spain has been one of my all-time favourite rallies. At the same time, it’s the best event to feel the balance of the new car on tarmac because of the long curves. There are a lot of new stages in the rally this year, and therefore the pace notes will play an important role next weekend.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Gus Greensmith

“Spain’s a beautiful event with very smooth, fast and flowing Tarmac roads which is always a pleasure to drive in these cars. It’s something that seems to have always suited the Fiesta in the past so we know that it should be much stronger than in Finland and we’re hoping for a good result as a team.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“I am really happy to be back in Spain, I was there two years ago in the Fiesta Rally2 and have some good experience on this event. I really like this Tarmac event which is quite interesting with the lines you need for the corners. It’s quite a grippy event and my second event with Alex so we still want to improve our pace together.

“We want to have a good result we know the car is really good on Tarmac and want to able to fight with the rest of the guys.”

Seb Perez

“Really excited for Catalunya this weekend, it is going to be really good. My circuit knowledge should help with the gravel stuff, obviously the cuts are going to be a bit of a challenge. Hopefully I get my head around them and use them to my advantage, it’s going to be exciting as my first WRC round.

“I’ve done plenty events in the Fiesta Rally2 now so I’m looking forward to a couple of days of good rallying.”

 

Well, we are set then for an amazing Rally Spain. Elfyn and Scott do need to win this weekend to take the title battle to the final round. There can be no sitting back and hoping that second place will do the job. I don’t think that Seb and Julien can count their chickens either. It’s not a foregone conclusion that they will win either. Their teammates are very quick on tarmac. Then there’s the Hyundai challengers. Ott won the title for Toyota in 2019, but it was Thierry Neuville who took victory for Hyundai that year. Perhaps either of them could also challenge for the win and that could bring extra spice to the championship, if they are ahead of either Seb or Elfyn.

Shakedown starts in the morning, and it will be interesting to see who has dialled their car in in their pre-event test, as they may the one leading at the end of day one. Pop back on Friday for my Day One report.