Safari Rally Kenya 2023, Day Three Report. Sunday

The final day then of this epic round of the championship and we had 75km’s over six stages to bring the event to a close. EP re-joined the action and would open the road throughout the day’s stages.

Into SS14 Malewa 1 – 8.33 km and when Esapekka got to the finish it emerged that he had another propshaft had failed. What, again?! Unbelievable for the Finn. Meanwhile Kalle took the stage win from Seb and Takamoto. Elfyn suffered a spin in the stage and with his Japanese teammate setting such a good time the gap between them came down to 11.4 seconds. Another gap that reduced was that between Kalle and Seb. Just 8.6 seconds was now separating them. The top three in WRC2 remained Kajetan, Martin and Carl.

Next up was SS15 Oserian 1 – 18.33 km and Seb won the stage from Kalle and Ott. The Frenchman doubled his lead as well over his younger teammate to 17.2 seconds. Their teammate Elfyn also increased the gap to Takamoto by 10 seconds.

The final stage before service then, SS16 Hell’s Gate 1 – 10.53 km and the first look at the power stage. EP struggled through with what he thought was front wheel-drive. His Spanish teammate also had technical problems after his powersteering failed. The Toyota’s had their problems, with Takamoto getting a problem with his hybrid system. There was a bigger problem for Seb though as he went wide and removed his rear wing and hatch completely. However, he only lost around four seconds of his lead. He was lucky that this happened on the stage before service. The top three were Ott, Thierry and Kalle.

After service SS17 Malewa 2 – 8.33 km was won by Kalle by just 6 tenths of a second from Seb and Takamoto third. Further back, Thierry was closing on eighth place overall which had been kept by Kajetan for most of the rally, the gap was just 13 seconds now.

Time then for the penultimate stage, SS18 Oserian 2 – 18.33 km and Takamoto took his second stage win of the weekend, beating Elfyn to the top spot, whilst Kalle was third. Once again, the gap reduced to just 9.2 seconds between the top two. Thierry made it past Kajetan and into eighth overall.

The final stage then SS19 Hell’s Gate 2[Power Stage] – 10.53 km and early pace setter EP’s time was eclipsed by first Thierry then Ott went second fastest and Kalle third. Rounding out the top five were Seb whose car crossed the line with a smashed windscreen, courtesy of a rock that flicked up near the end of the stage and Esapekka.

Let’s check out the final finishing positions and hear from the drivers.

Final Overall Classification –Safari Rally Kenya

1 S. Ogier V. Landais Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid 3:30:42.5
2 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +6.7
3 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:58.5
4 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +3:23.8
5 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid +5:05.4
6 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid +9:14.4
7 P. L. Loubet N. Gilsoul Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid +16:15.7
8 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +24:47.0
9 K. Kajetanowicz M. Szczepaniak Škoda Fabia Evo + 26:33.4
10 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Škoda Fabia Evo + 27:04.0

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“This was a hell of a rally and a hell of a fight. I really enjoyed it but I would have liked to have a few less incidents because it could have been a much more comfortable race: the pace was really good, the car was great to drive, I had a good feeling and it seemed that we had everything under control. But we were hit by some little things here and there, including today when we lost the tailgate, and we had some overheating in the fesh-fesh sand. But I’m happy that we could bring it home. I think it’s a deserved victory and result for the whole team and we need to enjoy it.”

Kalle Rovanperä (2nd)

“The battle with Seb got quite tight at the end, and when you miss out on the win by a small margin like this then it’s not always the best feeling for a driver. But at the end we still scored good points for the championship. I stuck to my plan for the whole weekend, driving with quite good pace but not taking huge risks. So to still finish like this is quite nice. The final day was really tough for the cars: the penultimate stage especially with a lot of deep sand and ruts. It’s good that our cars were so strong and made it through, because to have the 1-2-3-4 finish for the team again here in Kenya is amazing.”

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

“It’s been quite a rally with a lot of challenges, so I think the team can be very proud to again get four cars in the top four. It shows both the speed and the strength of the GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID and I’m proud to be a part of that and of this team. Of course, from a personal perspective I can’t be totally satisfied to be third in the order at the finish, but I’m very pleased for the team and of course to be on the podium in third means we take some reasonable points for the championship as well.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (5th)

“Safari Rally Kenya was a really tough event, but at least we took home some points. In the end it was not as bad as it could have been, but we did expect a little bit more. Today was quite ok, quite rough in some places but the car was really strong – it is amazing how much you can put these cars through. We were running well and trying not to make any mistakes to bring car the home in fifth, which we achieved.”

Thierry Neuville (8th)

“A tough and challenging weekend. Obviously, we tried what we could but unfortunately, another time in Kenya where it didn’t work out for us. There’s a lot of frustration to be honest, because it is not good for our championship aspirations, but it is what it is. We did our best in the car, took the five points in the Power Stage and fought back to eighth place, which was the maximum we could do today.”

2023 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07, Safari Rally Kenya, 22-25 June 2023
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid, Action during Day 3 of WRC Safari Rally Kenya 2023
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Esapekka Lappi (13th)

“It was an interesting week in many perspectives. The result is not what we all wanted but that’s a different story; I need to be pleased with the pace that we had and that we were really fighting for the podium positions until our technical problem yesterday. At least in the Power Stage I could try to drive more normally, but overall, I have to say it has been a good experience.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Ott Tänak (6th)

“Altogether a great safari with a lot of passionate fans a people who clearly love rally. So far it’s been a bit tricky this year, so we need to find a bit of speed for the next rally as it is all about the speed now.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet (7th)

“A lot of things happened! A couple of punctures on Friday unfortunately meant we missed the opportunity to do good things, and after that we were missing a bit of confidence and pace. We struggled to find good balance. It was a bit disappointing with the power stage, I wasn’t able to do a good run because I had an issue with the turbo pressure. So, I’m a bit disappointed about that, but it’s part of the game.”

Oliver Solberg (10th)

“What a fantastic rally. Before I say anything else, to Daniel [Chwist], thank you my friend for helping us this week – and to all of the Eurosol team. We couldn’t have managed to do this rally without you guys.

“And I’m so glad we came here. The roads have changed a lot from last year to this and it’s so important to keep up the knowledge base for next year.

“For the performance, I’m really happy. We weren’t pushing near the limit, that wasn’t what this rally was about for us. Of course, it would have been nice to win [RC2 class] but maybe that would have made the story too perfect.”

“Like I said, it would have been nice,” said Solberg, “but winning so many stages and even making fifth fastest time overall in the second run at that crazy Sleeping Warrior stage on Saturday afternoon was cool for me.

“I’m sure there will be time and chase a bigger Safari Rally Kenya trophy in the years to come. For me, this is really mission accomplished. It only remains to say congratulations to all of the organisers and thank you to the beautiful people of Kenya.”

 

2023 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round 7

1 K. Rovanperä 139
2 T. Neuville 102
3 E. Evans 98
4 O. Tänak 97
5 S. Ogier 97
6 E. Lappi 68
7 D. Sordo 46
8 T. Katsuta 35
9 P.L Loubet 20

 

 

2023 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 7

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 283
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 241
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 174

Summary

Well, what an epic rally we were treated to and another victory for the eight-time champion, his fifty-eighth as well! Just amazing. His decision to run throughout Friday with just one spare showed his intent that he wanted a second victory in Kenya. It was a brilliant drive.

 

Kalle had a great run and deserved a podium which he got. Not only that, but he increased his lead over Thierry and in fact all his challengers for the championship.

 

Elfyn took third of course and although he didn’t take a stage win, should be happy as the championship heads for two very fast rallies. He will have a good road position indeed.

 

Takamoto rounded out the top four with a very good drive which included two stage wins. Third place slipped away after some spins in the tricky conditions yesterday, plus the hybrid issues on the final day.

 

The next round is Rally Estonia on the weekend of the 20th to 23rd of July. Look out for my preview in the days ahead. The teams will enjoy something of a summer break till then.

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

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

Friday’s action.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day One

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

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

Thierry Neuville (6th)

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

Oliver Solberg (7th)

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

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

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

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

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

Kalle Rovanperä (4th)

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

Saturday’s action

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit, Tayler Burke

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

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

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

Classification after Day Two

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

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

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

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

Elfyn Evans (DNF)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (3rd)

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

Thierry Neuville (4th)

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

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

Oliver Solberg (5th)

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

Sunday’s action

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Overall Classification –Rally New Zealand

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

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

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

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

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

Takamoto Katsuta (DNF)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (3rd)

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

Thierry Neuville (4th)

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

Oliver Solberg (5th)

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

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

Hyundai New Zealand

Hayden Paddon (6th Overall, 1st WRC2)

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

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

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

Photo Credit, Tayler Burke

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

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’

After Round Eleven

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

 

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’

After Round Eleven

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

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

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

Elfyn Evans

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

Sébastien Ogier

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak 

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

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

Thierry Neuville

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

Oliver Solberg

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

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen

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

Gus Greensmith

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

Hyundai New Zealand

Hayden Paddon

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

Hayden Paddon, Ashley Forest by Tayler Burke

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

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

Hayden Paddon John Kennard Rally Finland WRC2 by Timo Anis

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

Friday

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

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

Chris and Craig, Photo Credit, Heather KinetixAF

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

Classification after Day One

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

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

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

Ott Tänak (2nd)

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

Oliver Solberg (7th)

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

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

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

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

Kalle Rovanperä (SuperRally)

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

Saturday

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

Chris and Craig, Photo Credit, Heather KinetixAF

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

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

Classification after Day Two

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

Oliver Solberg (4th)

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

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

Thierry Neuville (SuperRally)

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

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

Esapekka Lappi (3rd)

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

Kalle Rovanperä (SuperRally)

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

 

Sunday

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

Chris and Craig – Photo Credit, Heather KinetixAF

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

Final Overall Classification – Ypres Rally Belgium

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

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

Oliver Solberg (4th)

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

Thierry Neuville (SuperRally)

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

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

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

Esapekka Lappi (3rd)

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

Takamoto Katsuta (5th)

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

Kalle Rovanperä (SuperRally)

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

 

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’

After Round Nine

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

 

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’

After Round Nine

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

 

Summary

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

M-Sport Ford WRT

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

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

Elfyn and Scott, Photo Credit, Heather KinetixAF

Hyundai Motorsport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Overall Classification – Safari Rally Kenya

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

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

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

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

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

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (5th)

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

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

Oliver Solberg (10th)

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

Ott Tänak (DNF)

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

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen (6th)

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

Sebastien Loeb (9th)

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

Adrien Fourmaux (14th)

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

Gus Greensmith (15th)

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 Classification after Day Two

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

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

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

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

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

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (5th)

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

Oliver Solberg (6th)

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

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

Ott Tänak (SuperRally)

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

Sunday

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

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.

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