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.

Safari Rally Kenya 2022 – Day One Report. Toyota hold the lead.

The first day had everything, so here’s what happened in the first full day of competition. The startlist looked like this – Rovanperä, Neuville, Tänak, Breen, Katsuta, Evans, Loeb, Greensmith, Ogier, Solberg, Fourmaux, Serderidis.

Seb Loeb won the first stage, SS2 Loldia 1 – 19.17 km from Elfyn and Seb Ogier. Thierry who did hold second overall after SS1 fell six places to eighth. Our new top three was Ogier, Evans and Loeb. Meanwhile, Ott in his Hyundai had a big problem with his gear lever having broken, so he could only use it when changing down, but the thing broke off completely before the end of the stage, meaning he was having to lean forwards to use the selector at the bottom of his seat. The championship leader was down in ninth overall at this point.

Next up was SS3 Geothermal 1 – 11.68 km, a new stage for this year. This was interesting as Kalle was fastest from Takamoto and Elfyn. The stage was getting slower with each passing car which was crazy really. Ott had used a wheel brace as a temporary gear change lever, but was still having trouble. Never the less he still managed the fifth best time.

Onto the longest stage then of the day, SS4 Kedong 1 – 31.25 km and chaos ruled! Once again Kalle took the stage win from Ott and Takamoto. Incredibly the championship leader was now up to third overall, just 11 seconds from the leader, who was now Elfyn. Both Seb’s fell down the leaderboard, with Ogier now in second and Loeb in fifth.

After the lunchtime break and service Ogier won SS5 Loldia 2 – 19.17 km from Takamoto and Kalle. Elfyn fell down from the lead to third after getting a puncture in the stage, whist Kalle was now holding fourth. Takamoto was now second overall.

The second run of SS6 Geothermal 2 – 11.68 km saw Ogier take the stage win from Takamoto and Kalle. Elfyn fell behind Kalle into fourth overall. Just 14 seconds covered the top four at this point.

The final stage then of the day, SS7 Kedong 2 – 31.25 km and Kalle won it again from Thierry and Ott. The championship leaders pace meant that he moved into the lead of the rally again as the former leader Ogier suffered a puncture and he stopped to change it, losing a minute. He was now in sixth place. Others also having trouble were Thierry with a puncture and Craig who went off and broke his steering.

Well, what an amazing first day in the wilds of Kenya. Let’s take a look at the top ten and hear from the drivers.

Classification after Day One

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 1:20:58.1
2 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +14.6
3 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +22.4
4 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +25.3
5 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +57.5
6 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:08.2
7 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +4:27.1

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“It has been quite a good day for us. The conditions were very tricky in the last stage of the loop on both passes with the deep sand and I’m really happy to have made it through. The other two stages were not so bad – there was some cleaning to do for us, even on the second pass, but they were quite enjoyable to drive. I think we did a good job and we’re in a nice position now. Tomorrow will be another challenge and the plan will be the same: to try and drive at the same pace and avoid any issues.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally Kenya 2022 / 22nd-26th June, 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

“It’s been tough out there and a bit of an up-and-down day to be honest. The first stage of the loop today was really quite a nice stage and I had a good rhythm there, but on the longest stage the conditions were quite rough, and when it gets extreme like that it’s so hard to know how hard to push and it looks like I haven’t pushed hard enough. But we’re still here and that’s the positive thing. The car has been working really well but we know the rally could keep getting tougher.”

Sébastien Ogier (6th)

“Up until the last stage it was a good day. The rhythm was good and I tried not to attack too much because we know that it’s important to manage things on this rally. The last stage was the one we all feared the most today because we knew there were some rough and rocky sections. With 10 kilometres still to go we had no choice but to stop and change the tyre, because it would not have been possible to get through the ‘fesh-fesh’ near the end on three wheels. It’s never good to lose two minutes, but there are still two days to go and many things can still happen. We just need our luck to turn.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (4th)

“At the beginning of the rally, we thought this would be the easiest day, but we’ve already been playing on the limit. It’s been a challenging survival day, and we’ve been fighting more with the rally itself than with our competitors. The first two stages of the loop were quite fun, and it was down to pure performance, but the final one was something else. In the first 20km, it’s rocky and difficult to avoid the stones. We knew if we had a puncture there, we’d have no chance, so we just tried to get through cleanly. After that came 5-10km of fesh-fesh, you must keep full throttle through there despite not seeing anything, otherwise you get stuck. We need a vacuum cleaner on our lungs because it’s difficult to breathe. It’s important to keep going.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Safari Rally Kenya
21-26 June 2022
Ott Tanak
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (5th)

“A very challenging day for us; we obviously knew it would be hard but unfortunately, we got hit by some trouble on the first pass on the long stage, Kedong. We lost power as the air filter became blocked with sand and dust. We dropped almost one minute of time with that, and down to ninth place. The target for the afternoon was to have a cleaner run, which we managed, and as a result we’ve moved back up to fifth. The gap to the lead is just under a minute and getting closer. I’ve not been 100% happy with the handling of the car so far, which has limited us in the bumpy sections. I haven’t been able to go as fast as last year, but we’ll make some changes to try and improve. Tomorrow is the hardest, roughest day so we’ll have to be clever and avoid problems.”

Oliver Solberg (7th)

I am very happy to get the car back to service at the end of this incredibly tough day. I would go as far as to say this last stage is the craziest one that I’ve ever driven in my entire life. I’ve struggled a lot today, to be honest. The car hasn’t felt good for me, but we survived with no mistakes, which remains the aim for this weekend. The driving itself feels OK when it’s nice and flowing, and you can push a bit, but when it’s rocky it’s something else. This is still a very long event, and tomorrow looks set to be even more demanding in a different way. Seventh place is nothing when we have so much ahead; we hope to climb further up the leader board.”

Saturday

Tomorrow sees the crew tackle 150km over six more stages. It will be another challenging day on the plains of Kenya! Be sure to pop back and check out my day two report.

Safari Rally Kenya 2022 Preview – Round Six

Here we go then, after a great return to the championship last year, it’s time for the new Rally1 cars to tackle the amazing stages in Kenya! This year features 362.62km over nineteen stages. Shakedown takes place at 8am UK time on Wednesday morning. It will be interesting who is on the pace and at the front of the field.

 

Safari Rally Kenya begins on Thursday with the Super Special Kasarani (4.84km)

Friday’s running consists of two passes each of Loldia (19.17km), Geothermal (11.68km) and Kedong (31.25km)

Two loops of Soysambu (29.32km), Elmenteita (15.08km) and Sleeping Warrior (31.04km) on Saturday make it the longest day of the event in terms of distance, totalling 150.88km

The rally concludes on Sunday with the crews twice tackling Oserian (17.93km), Narasha (13.30km) and Hell’s Gate (10.53km).

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (Championship leader)

“I think the Safari Rally will be another interesting weekend. Of course, Sardinia was maybe not as strong a rally for us as we wanted it to be, but I’m hoping that in Kenya maybe we will not lose so much time opening the road and we can try to have a good weekend. Last year, it was a good rally for us overall, we were just a bit unlucky to get stuck when we did at the end of Friday. This year we will try to avoid things like that and tackle the event in a better way, because we see a lot of difficult conditions there and things we don’t normally see in modern rallies. So for sure it’s a special place and you need to approach it a bit differently too.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally, Kenya / 22-27 June, 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (Sixth in Championship)

“Even though we have experience from last year, it’s always difficult to know exactly what we’re going to face on an event like the Safari Rally. There’s always an element of the unknown, and we saw last year that the conditions can change massively from one area to the next. Some sections can be very soft sand, some parts are much more hard-packed, and in other places it’s very rough. It’s a big challenge for the drivers, for the cars and for the engineers as well. I’ve had a good feeling with the GR YARIS Rally1 on gravel so far and the speed has been there. Safari requires something slightly different in terms of setup but hopefully that positive feeling will still carry forward.”

Sébastien Ogier (Tenth in Championship)

“I’m looking forward to returning to Kenya. Last year we had a really nice welcome and a great atmosphere. It was something special and different to what we are used to. To win was the cherry on the cake and it will be great to try to repeat that this year with a bit of knowledge of what to expect from the stages. We saw that it can be a very tough rally; I think nearly everybody had an issue at some point and we came back from over two minutes down to win. So, it’s definitely a rally where you have to never give up, and this year with the cars still being so new, we might have to be even more clever than before.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (Second in Championship)

“Last year was my first time in Kenya and I have some good memories from it. It was a real adventure, as we got to discover the country, the culture, the beautiful scenery, and the wildlife. But unfortunately, we left feeling disappointed as we were clearly in the lead and could have easily won the rally if it had not been for a small issue. It is a rough event where you need to find a good balance between pushing hard and knowing when to take it slower. The weather can also play a big factor. But I feel comfortable on the stages and this year we are out for revenge, so that is what we are looking forward to.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Italia Sardegna
02-05 June 2022
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (Third in Championship)

“Last year Safari Rally Kenya was an incredible adventure, but also quite a big challenge. We thought it to be a very demanding event and it was, with rough roads and difficult terrain such as soft sand. It was also technically challenging, and we expect it to be the same this time. As always, the first priority is to keep the car together and finish. It is possible to push there 100% but you have to be careful not to damage the car in the process. Hopefully we can build on our win in Sardinia and get another good result in Kenya.”

Oliver Solberg (Fourteenth in Championship)

“Kenya is going to be very exciting as it is a really special rally. It will be very demanding and tough, but I am looking forward to competing there in the Hyundai i20 N Rally1. The country and the fans there are amazing, so it is a place that you always look forward to, even if it didn’t go well in 2021. But this year there are new possibilities, and we will be going for it again. Weather had a big impact on last year’s event so we will see if that is the same next weekend, but even if doesn’t we expect it to be a real challenge. The aim is to find a good rhythm, keep the car in one piece and score a good result for the team.”

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

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen (Fourth in Championship)

“I am very much looking forward to Kenya and discovering what seems to be quite the adventure. For me, I’ll be discovering a new continent, I have never been to Africa before, so I will be soaking it all up.

“The Safari Rally is an incredibly prestigious and historic event that I’ve watched many times on the TV as a kid, so I cannot wait to see what it is all about. It will be a huge challenge for all the crews, but we have prepared well. Sardinia went well, and we want to try to carry that rhythm forward so we will try to bring home another good result this week.”

Sebastien Loeb (Eighth in Championship)

“It was nice to be competitive in Portugal, the feeling in the car was good which is encouraging, Kenya is something very different, but it’s better to know we were competitive in Portugal. I don’t know the Kenya of today, all I have seen is onboards, it seems to be rough with big stones so punctures could be an issue.

“Kenya is quite amazing; it is a rally where I have the most memories with wildlife everywhere during the recce. I know the rally is very different to when I last competed there, it is more like a WRC rally, and it is easier to do it this way. The difference for me compared to the other rallies I have competed on this year is I have no experience of the stages in Kenya, I have never done them before so it will be complicated.”

Gus Greensmith (Ninth in Championship)

“I am looking forward to Safari Rally Kenya, it is one of the best experiences, probably the best experience of the year to go and compete in Kenya. It is an absolutely beautiful place, but also the stages can be incredibly unforgiving on the cars.

“It is the biggest challenge of the year and probably the only rally where we cannot drive flat out on every stage. We do have to manage the wear of the cars and have some kind of mechanical sympathy. It will be a huge challenge; we were very strong here last year so we hope to have a good result together as team here this year.”

Adrien Fourmaux (Twenty-second in Championship)

“Last year was a great result for the team, especially for me, I was really happy with what we did. Kenya is a really different rally to others; it is not all about pace and it is easier to damage the car because it is so rough. Kenya is really nice as an experience, it is a really different culture, and I will be very happy to see everyone there. Last year there were a lot of spectators, I remember in Nairobi there were a million people watching the cars going through the capital.

“There are a lot of things to say about this rally, the wildlife in the stages is quite impressive when you are driving and it makes the experience so special. You have to watch the side of the road to make sure there is nothing coming!”

Summary

Last year when this event returned to the championship after a long gap, Seb Ogier won from Takamoto and Ott was third. M-Sport duo Gus and Adrien took fourth and fifth, with the Frenchman taking a stage win as well. There were also three R5 crews in the top ten and Elfyn took tenth place after having to restart following his impact with a rock on stage three, Kedong, near the end of the stage. Again, road position will be really important, with the fesh fesh dust making grip levels very tricky!

We could see a good battle between the two Seb’s, but Elfyn will fancy his chances this year. Hopefully his lack of knowledge on the stages that he missed last year won’t hinder him and Scott. It would be good for them to finish ahead of Kalle, Ott and Thierry, so that he can start to close the gap to the top championship positions. Even though Craig and Paul don’t have any experience, they should go well and could take stage wins. The Irish duo have shown good pace on events this year that they have not competed at for years.

 

The action starts Thursday afternoon, so do enjoy, and pop back at the end of each day to check out my daily reports.

Rally de Portugal 2022 Day Two Report – Kalle and Jonne lead!

Day two then and this would have the longest stage of the weekend. The startlist looked like this – Loeb, Ogier, Tänak, Fourmaux, Breen, Neuville, Loubet, Greensmith, Katsuta, Sordo, Rovanperä, Evans.

First stage then, SS10 Vieira do Minho 1 – 21.57 km and the Welshman was quick out of the blocks with a stage win from his two teammates, Kalle and Taka. Thierry was fourth and climbed two positions into sixth. In fact, Pierre-Louis, Thierry and Craig all gained positions as Gus dropped back with a puncture. Its seems that if you had the soft tyres then your pace would be quite decent and those that took hard tyres were finding hard to feel the grip.

Kalle struck back on SS11 Cabeceiras de Basto 1 – 22.03 km with the fastest time from Elfyn and Taka. The Toyota crews were showing their pace out there, making the most of the road positions and their tyres choices. The Japanese driver had now closed on Dani Sordo who was holding third overall, the gap between them just 1.7 seconds. Dani’s teammate, Thierry was also making up places, moving ahead of Pierre-Louis and into fifth overall.

Well, it all happened on the next one! The longest stage of the rally, SS12 Amarante 1 – 37.24 km, and Elfyn took the stage from Ott and Kalle. The Welshman’s pace was a real statement in intent that he was not going to be caught, taking his lead from 10.2 seconds to 18.4. He used all of his knowledge and experience, having looked after his tyres on the middle stage. Dani lost third to Taka as the Japanese driver set the fourth best time.

After the lunchtime service SS13 Vieira do Minho 2 – 21.57 km was next. Kalle was fastest from Elfyn and Taka. Meanwhile the Japanese driver was edging away from his Spanish rival and making third place his, the gap now 4 seconds. Gus had a moment in this one, sliding wide and clipping his rear right wheel on some rocks at the edge of the road, damaging the wheel. At least it was near the end and he was able to complete the stage. However, there was more damage to the suspension and he retired the car before the next stage. There was some rain in this one which did affect the drivers.

Next up was SS14 Cabeceiras de Basto 2 – 22.03 km and Kalle was fastest from Elfyn and yes Taka again. The Finns closed the gap to their teammate to just 9.9 seconds though. The fight was on for sure. Again, rain affected most of the drivers, making the stage quite slippery.

The rerun of SS15 Amarante 2 – 37.24 km saw huge drama though! The pace was set early on by Thierry and the crews behind came through a much tricker set of conditions with the rain coming in. The Belgian set the best time and no one was getting close to his pace. Kalle was second fastest, but a full 16.9 seconds slower than the i20 crew. The big news was that when Elfyn crossed the line as the last car, he’d lost the lead and was now 4 seconds behind Kalle, the new leader.

So, to the final stage then, SS16 SSS Porto – Foz – 3.30 km and the Rally1 cars went through fastest to start with Kalle setting the best time and Dani setting an incredible time and closing the gap to Taka to just 5.7 seconds in the battle for third overall. However, this all changed as the Rally2 cars came through and, in the end, Kalle’s time was only good for tenth best time.

Classification after Day Two

 

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 3:13:46.7
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +5.7
3 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:50.1
4 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +1:55.8
5 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +2:25.9
6 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +4:00.4
7 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Ford Puma Rally1 +4:14.7
8 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +4:40.9
9 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Puma Rally1 +7:04.3

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“It has been a really good day for us. Another clean day without mistakes was really important. I felt quite comfortable in the car so I didn’t need to push right to the limit all of the time, and this afternoon we were able to catch up to Elfyn, so we have to be really happy. I wasn’t expecting to be able to take the lead in the way we did: To have full rain in the middle of the long stage while on hard tyres was not easy, but I tried to push and to make a difference and it worked out. Tomorrow will be tight and we will have to see how the feeling and the pace is in the morning. Elfyn was really fast on those stages last year, so we will need to push hard if we want to fight with him for the win.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 04 / Rally Portugal 2022 / 19-22 May, 2022 / 21-24 April 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“The rhythm was quite good this morning and we had a nice fun battle with Kalle. He then did a really good job this afternoon, and the rain in the long stage definitely didn’t help us. We faced quite changeable conditions: It was raining quite hard at the beginning and there were a few patches that were exceptionally slippery which caught us by surprise. The ending wasn’t so bad but I think we probably gave away too much time early on and the damage was done. But Kalle also drove really well in those conditions, to be fair. I’m sure it will be a good fight tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it.”

Sébastien Ogier (55th)

“Unfortunately, I did a mistake in the second stage this morning. I lost the concentration a bit, as we had lost the use of the hybrid system about 200 hundred metres before, and I didn’t really listen to the pacenote for the next corner. So, I came a bit too fast, hit the bank and spun and got stuck. It was not worth risking any further damage by going back out this afternoon with nothing to fight for. Of course, I would have loved to use this day as a test to get some more experience with the car. But we still have some stages left tomorrow, and we’ll be there as a backup to take some points for the team if needed.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (4th)

“I must start by saying congratulations to Taka (Katsuta) because I gave it everything today to keep hold of third place. It was impossible as he put in an amazing drive on all stages. I had a bit of bad luck in the second pass of Amarante because I had to contend with a lot of rain, which allowed Thierry to close the gap to me. It was difficult to see the road a lot of the time, so I said to myself that I would push hard on the super special. I lost a bit of time at the first roundabout, but it was good in the end, and we set a competitive time. The road was improving, of course, which was an advantage. Tomorrow is a new day, and we will try again to push hard to reclaim that third spot – and finish the rally with a podium if we can.”

Thierry Neuville (5th)

“It is always difficult to prepare when you’ve had a setback like we had yesterday, but we never give up. It’s important for us and the team to keep pushing. The morning went well, and we managed to gain two positions in the classification. It was really challenging with the tyres because we had used all our soft compounds on Friday to compensate for the road cleaning. The technical issues then changed the plan. We made it through the first loop today and caught back some time. In the afternoon, we got a bit closer to the podium. The conditions were changing throughout the Amarante stage with rain in the middle, but we had a decent run. Tomorrow, everyone knows these stages well; perhaps the weather could make things interesting, who knows? One thing is for sure: we will give everything we have.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04, Rally de Portugal
19-22 May 2022
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (8th)

“We have had fewer issues today than we had yesterday, but that doesn’t mean it was any more straightforward. Some stages were a bit more promising, while others were a bit less so. The second loop was more challenging as there was more cleaning, and with the hard tyres it was difficult to be first on the road. During the rally, there’s only so much progress you can make; it’s minimal. We are playing in the box which makes it a tricky game, but we still try to understand some things, how the car is behaving, and to make a good plan for the next one. It’s our job that needs to be done.”

Sunday

One day left then and just under 49km’s over five stages. Can Elfyn do what he did last year and set the best time on the first stage and therefore retake the lead? We will find out!

Rally de Portugal 2022 Day One Report – Elfyn and Scott lead for Toyota!

The first day saw the crews tackle eight stages over 122km. The startlist looked like this – Rovanperä, Neuville, Breen, Loeb, Tänak, Katsuta, Greensmith, Ogier, Evans, Loubet, Fourmaux, Sordo.

 

The first stage then, SS2 Lousã 1 – 12.03 km and Elfyn set the pace and took the overall lead, whilst Puma duo, Gus and Adrien were second and third fastest. We had a British one two at this point, with Ott holding third overall. Gus was the early pacesetter before Elfyn came through with the best time. The four-minute gaps were showing how important they were, with some dust still hanging over the road sections due to the trees lining the road.

Into SS3 Góis 1 – 19.33 km then and the Welshman was quickest again from Ott and Taka third. The Estonian’s time was good enough to move the crew into second overall, the gap to former M-Sport teammate now exactly five seconds. Interestingly the Japanese crew reported a lack of power in the stage, but it didn’t appear to affect his time.

SS4 Arganil 1 – 18.72 km was next and it was the 9-time champion that was fastest for M-Sport, moving up an incredible six places and into the lead! Thierry and Kalle were second and third fastest. Elfyn was only half a second from the new leader and holding second overall. Thierry and Martijn’s good time meant that they were now the top Hyundai crew. Further back, Kalle was also moving up and got past his teammate Seb Ogier into fifth overall.

It was time for Ogier to be fastest in the next one, SS5 Lousã 2 – 12.03 km from Pierre-Louis and Thierry third. Loeb’s lead didn’t last long as he went wide at the start of the stage and clipped a concrete wall, breaking his rear right suspension. He and Isabella were out. We had a new top three will Elfyn, Thierry and Seb Ogier. Ott dropped down to fifth with problems in the rough stage.

It was another stage win for Elfyn in SS6 Góis 2 – 19.33 km with another top two time for Pierre-Louis, whilst Thierry was third again. Elfyn had increased his lead over Thierry to 5.8 seconds and Kalle was now up to third overall. Seb Ogier, Craig and Ott all suffered punctures in this one and those to benefit were Pierre -Louis moving up six positions, and Gus gaining four!

Kalle won SS7 Arganil 2 – 18.72 km from Elfyn and Taka was third giving the Toyota team a 1-2-3! Elfyn increased his lead over Thierry. Dani was on the move jumping ahead of Gus and into fifth overall.

Next up was SS8 Mortágua – 18.15 km and Kalle took this one as well from Elfyn and Taka again. The Finn was now into second overall as Thierry dropped five places and into seventh overall. The Belgian suffered a driveshaft problem after losing a wheel on the road section. Dani was now third, Taka in fourth, Gus in fifth.

Just the final stage then, held at the SS9 SSS Lousada – 3.36 km rally cross venue. Elfyn was fastest from Taka and Ott. He and Adrien set the same time though. The top three overall was Elfyn, Kalle and Dani, whilst the top M-Sport Ford was Gus holding fourth overall.

 

Classification after Day One

 

1 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 1:25:43.3
2 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +13.6
3 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +44.4
4 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +49.6
5 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +1:00.7
6 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Ford Puma Rally1 +1:15.6
7 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +1:46.4
8 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +1:49.3
9 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Puma Rally1 +2:03.6
10 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +3:38.4

 

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“It’s been a really long and tough day, pretty hot in the car and really demanding conditions, especially this afternoon. Everything worked really well immediately in the first stage this morning. We were maybe a bit brave with our tyre choice and struggled a little bit after that, but overall, it was a good start. This afternoon it was extremely rough and a bit of a lottery but we managed to get through it and hopefully we’ve seen the worst of the conditions now this weekend. We maybe left a bit of a speed out there but it was a balancing act between surviving and going quickly. It’s good to be in the fight but it’s the result on Sunday that counts and there’s still a long way to go before then.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 04 / Rally Portugal 2022 / 19-22 May, 2022 / 21-24 April 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (2nd)

“I have to be really happy with what we did today. To be in second place is not what we expected but we did a really good job today and the team prepared the car to be strong in these tough conditions and that was important because we saw a lot of issues. It was hard to open the road, and even on the second pass we were creating a line for the others and it was really difficult but I think we were quite clever to avoid any problems. Tomorrow there are a lot of kilometres and it will be tough again but we will try to do our best.”

Sébastien Ogier (45th)

“This morning I wasn’t super happy with the feeling but we made some adjustments and it started to get better. The afternoon started well with a first stage win but unfortunately that feeling didn’t last long. Even if we would have had another spare tyre, any hopes for a good result were gone. The stages were definitely rougher this afternoon than I expected, and although I tried to avoid every big rock, it was a bit of a lottery with so many sharp stones everywhere. Of course, it’s a pity to have to stop early, as we came here to try to have fun and fight at the front. Now we need to use the rest of the weekend as a test as I don’t have many kilometres on gravel with this car.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (3rd)

“That was a really hard day with difficult conditions, and at times I was just trying to keep the car on the road. We didn’t drive flat out all the time in case we got caught out by punctures. We did not want to take any risks. Looking ahead to tomorrow, our aim will be on defending our position because it’s coming on strong. I think todays were the hardest roads of the weekend. There will of course be some tricky parts on tomorrow’s stages, but I don’t think as harsh as we faced today.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04, Rally de Portugal
19-22 May 2022
X
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (7th)

“We could have been in the fight for the lead of this rally, but unfortunately, we have been hit again by issues. It’s frustrating. The morning loop wasn’t too bad; it wasn’t easy with our starting position, but I was feeling comfortable with the car. We had several issues during the afternoon, but the biggest problem was that we lost the wheel on the road section (after SS7). A bolt came loose and the whole upright was gone. We tried to fix it, but it damaged the driveshaft and we had to drive the remaining stages in rear-wheel drive. It was also very hot in the car, too much actually, so there are a lot of things to which we must react quickly.”

Ott Tänak (10th)

“If I had to summarise today’s stages, I would say hot, rough, and very demanding. The second loop, particularly, was tough and it’s quite hard in these cars. We had two separate punctures on consecutive stages in the afternoon, which cost us a lot of time. All things combined, it made for an incredibly challenging first day. Still, we made it to the end, so we’ll see what we can do on the long Saturday.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 04 / Rally Portugal 2022 / 19-22 May, 2022 / 21-24 April 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Tomorrow

Saturday sees 164km over seven stages, and with the leader running last on the road, will anyone be able to catch him? First stage is at 7:38 UK time. If you can’t follow what happens, check out my Day Two report tomorrow evening.

Rally de Portugal 2022 Preview, Round Four – Return to Gravel!

Time to unleash these new Rally1 cars on gravel and what a place to do it with an iconic rally and one of the all-time great events, which is going to be run this year for the fifty-fifth time.

This year there will be 338km over 21 stages. Returning to the top cars are Seb Loeb and Seb Ogier, and with the two most successful drivers returning, you have to consider that they will challenge at the top of the standings, especially given their starting positions.

Let’s take a look then at the stages.

Rally de Portugal begins on Thursday evening with a single super special stage: Coimbra (2.82km)

Friday’s running consists of two loops of Lousã (12.03km), Góis (19.33km) and Arganil (18.72km) followed by a single pass each of Mortágua (18.15km) and the Lousada super special (3.36km)

Saturday is the longest day of the event, with its seven stages totalling 164.98km. It also contains the longest individual test in Amarante (37.24km), which the crews must tackle twice

The Sunday itinerary boasts five stages, including two passes of the Fafe stage and its famous jump. The second pass of Fafe (11.18km) will offer additional points, acting as the rally’s Power Stage.

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

“The feeling with the new car on gravel has been quite good overall, especially in our pre-event test last week with some improvements made from before. Portugal is a rally that I usually like; the stages are nice and technical and there is a great atmosphere. For us, the road-cleaning will probably be the biggest challenge, especially as it’s something quite new for us. Friday could be much more important than on other rallies and we will try to be at a good pace straightaway to remain in contention for the rest of the weekend. The key thing in these next rallies will be to just try to keep calm and focus on doing a good job, without taking too much pressure or making mistakes, and keep taking good points where we can.”

Elfyn Evans

“As with a lot of rallies this year, it’s difficult to know how we will fare against the competition in our first event on gravel with the Rally1 cars, but the feeling in testing last week was generally quite positive. Portugal is a rally I’ve enjoyed more and more as the years have gone on, and it was great to win there last year. We could definitely do with a strong result on this occasion too and that will be the aim like always. With a run of gravel events coming up, hopefully we can hit the ground running in Portugal and then carry some momentum forwards. If it’s dry then our road position should be favourable, but that’s not an automatic ticket to a good result and there’s still a lot to focus on and to get right in order to make the most of it, especially as everyone tries to get comfortable in these cars.”

Sébastien Ogier

“I’m excited to be back competing in Portugal. I’ve really enjoyed having some time off and now I feel quite fresh coming back. I’m of course happy to see the team has continued winning in the last couple of rallies, and I’m here not only to enjoy it and get some good results for myself but also to help win another manufacturers’ title. Portugal is a special place for me: I have a good connection with the country and the fans and have had some good success there over the years. It will be something different for me to not be starting near the front and hopefully that can be a bit of an advantage if it doesn’t rain. The biggest challenge will be getting back in the rhythm straightaway after only one test day on gravel last week. But at the same time, these cars are new for everyone on gravel, so let’s see what we can do.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Rally de Portugal is very exciting event for us competitors; there are always huge crowds of fans and a great atmosphere. The stages are enjoyable yet challenging. This is mainly due to the high temperatures, so tyre wear is important here as well, and it can be quite rough on the second pass of the stage. It’s going to be our first gravel event with the new hybrid cars; we saw in Sweden on the gravel set-up in the snow that the car was fast and we hope that we are going to be strong on this surface.”

Ott Tänak

“Portugal is a very fun rally to drive, and one that I really enjoy. It’s the first time this year we are competing on gravel, so this will be our first indicator of how competitive we are. Portugal is fast with a rather soft surface, and the second loop of the stages can be tough and demanding after the first pass. You need good reliability as well as speed here to be successful. Martin and I know what it takes to win in Portugal; we hope that the momentum from our podium last time out in Croatia will continue with a good result next weekend.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04, Rally de Portugal
20-23 May 2021
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo

“Portugal is always really nice, so I am very happy that this will be my first event of the season, as I’ve scored a podium here twice in the past with Hyundai. There are normally a lot of spectators who travel from my home of Spain and the crowds have always been fantastic. I’m excited to drive the car on gravel for the first time. I’m hoping to have a good rhythm with the car and adapt myself quickly to this new challenge. It won’t be easy as the other drivers have done three rallies already so I hope the feeling for the car comes quickly.

Oliver Solberg

“It’s cool to be back again after last year – we had a couple of issues that stopped us getting a great result, but won a couple of stages and I enjoyed the rally! This year will be very tricky with so many quality WRC2 cars – over 40 – but we prepared well in the test and will be pushing for a top result. It’s also cool to have the new all black livery and show off my partners with such a nice design so that’s a nice thing this weekend too.”

Photo credit Oliver Solberg

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sebastien Loeb

“The first feeling in the Puma on gravel at our test was quite good, I was quite happy with the feeling I had as we worked on the suspension and the differential setups. Only one day of testing isn’t a lot when it’s the first time you are driving a car on gravel, but at the end I was happy with the feeling I had.

“My goal will be to find a rhythm as quickly as possible, hopefully I will be in a good rhythm to fight at the front, if I could be not far from the podium that would be a good performance. The challenges of Rally de Portugal for me will be that I am fourth on the road, road cleaning is always a challenge in this kind of rally if it is dry. I don’t really know what to expect there so we need to do a good first day, and for the rest we will see where we are.”

Craig Breen

“I am looking forward to Portugal, it’s a rally that I haven’t done for several years, I think it was 2018 the last time I did it. After the first three rallies, they were all a bit unique in their own way, so looking forward to seeing what the pace of the Puma will be in Portugal.

“We had a good test, I felt good in the car and we got some good work done. I am looking forward to discovering the rally, there are a lot of new stages and some changes since the last time I was there, so it will be interesting. I’d like to have a bit more speed than what we showed in Croatia, so we’ll be working as hard as we can to make that possible.”

Gus Greensmith

“I am really looking forward to Portugal, it is without doubt my favourite rally and the first rally I did overseas. I’ve got a lot of fond memories of this rally, it will be my seventh time doing the rally, so I’ve got lots of experience here.

“I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time with the car, co-driver and everything. There’s no pressure this weekend as I’m not scoring any manufacturer points so I’m just here to enjoy myself. Usually when I enjoy myself, things go well, so that’s the plan.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“This will be my second time in Portugal, and I had a good feeling last year with the WRC car, so I am looking forward to getting out in the Puma and see how it goes. It is a really nice event, the spectators are great and it’s a fantastic atmosphere.

“We are looking forward to all the gravel events coming up, there are quite a few ahead of us now, so we’re really excited to get going in Portugal and hoping for a good result for the team.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet

“Portugal has always been my favourite rally in the past, it’s where I have had some of my best results. It was my first ever WRC event, when I was only 18, so I’m looking forward to it and hope it will be a strong second event for us this season.

“We were happy with our pace in Croatia, and we’re hoping that with the same pace, and no punctures, it will go well and we can hope for a good result.”

 

Summary

Well, we are set for another spectacular rally on the Portuguese stages, and really any of the top drivers could take victory. The two Seb’s will be well placed to challenge just because of their stating position on Friday, whilst Elfyn, Craig and Ott will be targeting victory to get their championship challenges really underway. We shall get our first idea of the crews that have the pace to take stage wins and challenge at the top when shakedown is over. All the teams have been testing and preparing for the challenge ahead, and we know that championships are won with good consistent results and if a victory is up for grabs, being in there to take it.

Enjoy and pop back at the end of Friday for my first day report!

Rally Croatia – Day Two Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day Two

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

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

Elfyn Evans (5th)

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

Esapekka Lappi (53rd)

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

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

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

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

Thierry Neuville (4th)

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

Oliver Solberg (DNF)

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

Summary

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

Rally Croatia – Day One Report – Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day One

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

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

Elfyn Evans (6th)

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

Esapekka Lappi (57th) Super Rally

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

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

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

Ott Tänak (3rd)

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

Oliver Solberg (5th)

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

Saturday

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

Rally Croatia Preview 2022 – Round Three

Time for the third round then if this seasons championship and just like last season, Kalle Rovanpera is leading the championship coming into this event. This season’s rally has 291km over 20 stages. Thierry is second in the championship standings following a good result in Sweden back in February. Gus Greensmith is the leading M-Sport Ford full time driver holding fourth in the standings, although Seb Loeb holds third following his victory in Rallye Monte Carlo.

One driver not having a good start to the season, Elfyn following two bad results for the Welshman in Monte and Sweden, will be looking at this rally as a reset to his championship challenge. He and Seb Ogier battled for victory right till the end last year, and the Frenchman took the win. However, Elfyn has always shown very good pace on sealed surfaces and will definitely be targeting victory.

Another driver targeting a better result will be Ott Tanak, who just like his former Welsh teammate has not had a good start to the season, and I suspect will also be targeting a win.

Croatia Rally begins on Friday with two loops of Mali Lipovec – Grdanjci (19.20km), Stojdraga – Gornja Vas (20.77km), Krašić – Vrškovac (11.11km) and Pećurkovo Brdo – Mrežnički Novaki (9.11km), covering a total distance of 120.38km

The itinerary on Saturday contains a further eight stages, as the crews twice tackle Kostanjevac – Petruš Vrh (23.76km), Jaškovo – Mali Modruš Potok (10.10km), Platak (15.85km) and Vinski Vrh – Duga Resa (8.78km)

Two passes each of Trakošćan – Vrbno (13.15km) and Zagorska Sela – Kumrovec (14.09km) make up Sunday’s schedule, with the second run of the latter acting as the rally’s Power Stage.

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

“I have been waiting to get back in the car for Croatia and that’s always a good sign! We’ve only had two rallies but it’s always nice to have some good points in the beginning of the season. We are in the same situation as last year leading the championship going to Croatia and hopefully, we can do better there this time around. It will be a big challenge for us because we didn’t get to experience most of the stages last year, but we have been in this situation before with less experience than our rivals and I will do my best to manage. The feeling in the test was positive and I think there has been really good progress with the car. Hopefully it will go well on the event too.”

Esapekka Lappi

“Sweden was a great start to our season sharing the car with Seb. I hope I can take the confidence from there, but that was in conditions I know well and something I’m comfortable with, while Croatia will be a completely new rally for me. But I’m still really looking forward to what we could do there. The car felt really good in the test. It had been a while since I had driven on asphalt and it’s crazy how impressive the grip is on this surface. You can also really appreciate how much extra power we have from the hybrid. It was a bit like a Finnish road with a lot of crests and jumps, which is not so common on asphalt and pretty fun. There’s also a lot of dirt on the roads and managing that is something I want to be better at. I want to perform well and have a clean rally and I’m sure we can do it.”

Elfyn Evans

“It’s been quite a long break since the last rally so it’s been good to get back in the car for some testing and to get ready for Croatia. For me it has not been the start to the year that we wanted by a long way and we need to look forward and focus on performing in the coming events. Croatia is not an easy rally but it was a good one for us last year and hopefully we can have a strong run again. There are some things from last year that we have tried to learn from so that we have a car that’s suited to all of the different conditions. On our test we had a particularly slippery road that’s similar to what we’ll face on the rally, and that was a good place to work through some options.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Croatia Rally is a very challenging event as the grip is quite low and the profile of the stages is very demanding. There’s lots of blind corners, crests, jumps and cutting, and the roads can be quite dirty as well as being very narrow. Last year we were lucky with the weather and the conditions were quite dry, but it was still quite cold. There are definitely a lot of challenges we are going to face again in potentially tricky conditions, especially with these new cars, but it is a surface I feel very comfortable on. It is a rally I enjoyed a lot last year and I am looking forward to it.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03, Croatia Rally
22-25 April 2021
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak

“Competing at Croatia Rally for the first-time last year was a bit more demanding than we expected as the tarmac there is very different – it looks good but the grip is very low. The surface changes and the general characteristics of the roads also make it quite challenging to drive, with lots of crests and jumps that you normally don’t have too much on tarmac. It was a big job to manage in 2021 but we expect it will be a lot more fun this year now that we have experience and know what to expect from the event.”

Oliver Solberg

“Croatia Rally looked like a fantastic event last year. It is very exciting for me to go there for the first time– it’s a beautiful country and I think it will be a fantastic tarmac rally, although I know it is very tricky. The roads don’t have a lot of grip, but personally I like a bit of slippery tarmac, so that makes me happy. My expectations for the event are difficult to set as unlike my team-mates, I haven’t driven there before. For me it will be about getting lots of experience and not as much about pace. We will just drive and have fun and see where we end up.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen

“I’m really looking forward to Croatia, it’s a rally I really enjoy. Tarmac rallying is actually what I prefer, so to get back out in Croatia is going to be great. We had a really good test last week, I found a really good feeling with the car and I was happy with everything, so let’s see if we can bring on the pace that we showed in Monte, our last part-Tarmac rally.

“It should be a good event – if not tough – but the stages are similar to last year, there are some new ones, but most are relatively the same. So we’re looking forward to it, and let’s hope that together as a team we can do a good job and bring home some good points.”

Craig Breen (IRL) and Paul Nagle (IRL) perform during their practice run at the World Rally Championship Croatia in Karlovac, Croatia on April 4th, 2022 // Tomislav Moze / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202204050458 // Usage for editorial use only //

Gus Greensmith

“After the team’s performance in Monte-Carlo, on what was a very dry version of the rally, we’re feeling very confident going into Croatia, and I think the pre-event test has validated that. We started on a very similar surface to Monaco, and the car immediately felt so alive. It’s just such an impressive car on Tarmac so we’re feeling very good, I’m very excited for this rally. It’s been a long time away so we’re looking forward to getting going.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“Last year I started my first event in a WRC car in Croatia, so it feels like we have come full circle now after a full year. We’re very happy to be going back to Croatia, where I managed to get a good result last year, and to get back out on asphalt before a long line of gravel events is going to be great. I think we’re really going to enjoy it, it’s a tricky rally with lots of different grip levels, but it’s a great rally to do because you have so much variety between the stages.

“The team gave a strong performance on asphalt at the beginning of the season, so we hope to be in a strong position after that. I’m looking forward to the event, and it marks the first time I’ve competed twice on the same event in a WRC car, so I’m pretty happy about that as well.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet

“I’m really happy to be going back to Croatia and to be joining the M-Sport team. We did a pre-event test with the team a few weeks ago, as well as a rally in Belgium, and everything was working really well and the feeling in the car is nice. I hope I will be able to do my best for the team this week in my first rally, we’re going to take this one step-by-step and try our best to be competitive. We’ll see you there!”

Jari Huttunen, WRC2 Driver

“This year is my first time competing in Croatia, so I’m not really sure what to expect, but I’ve watched some footage and the conditions look nice. This will be my fourth event with the M-Sport team, starting in Monza last year, and so far, is it going well and the car feels good. Hopefully we will be somewhere in the top three, but the aim will be to maintain a consistent pace over the weekend.”

Summary

Well, we are all set for round three of this year’s championship. Can Hyundai take victory with either Thierry or Ott, or will we see M-Sport or Toyota take victory this weekend? If M-Sport take victory, then we will have a new winner, as none of their drivers have taken victory yet. Shakedown takes place on Thursday morning!

 

Enjoy the rally!

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