Rally Mexico 2020 Review – Seb and Julien take victory for Toyota!

As ever this event started on Thursday evening with two short street stages. Thierry Neuville won both of them, whilst Elfyn Evans second fastest behind him on both, and in sharing third fastest times were Teemu Suninen in the first run, and Ott Tanak in the second run. Overall top three at this point were Thierry, Elfyn and Ott.

Friday

With ten stages covering 132.86 km’s ahead of the crews, it would be a challenging day out there, particularly as the temperature began to rise. The start list looked like this – 1. Evans 2. Neuville 3. Ogier 4. Rovanperä 5. Lappi 6. Tänak 7. Suninen 8. Greensmith 9. Sordo.

 

The reigning world champion set the fastest time in SS3 El Chocolate 1 – 31.45 km, making the most of his good starting position and took the lead. His closest challengers were Teemu Suninen and Seb Ogier. Championship leaders, Elfyn Evans and Thierry Neuville held seventh and fourth respectively.

 

Into SS4 Ortega 1 – 17.24 km, saw a very good time from Seb Ogier, who won the stage from Dani Sordo and Esapekka Lappi, whilst Ott Tanak lost 45 seconds and dropped from the lead down to eighth place, having damaged the rear of his car. Top three was now Seb, Teemu and Thierry.

 

A good run for Dani Sordo in SS5 Las Minas 1 – 13.69 km, saw the Spaniard win the stage from Ott, with rally leader Seb third. However, Elfyn was going well too, considering he was opening the road and he’d set the fourth best time, just 5.2 slower than the stage winner.

 

It was a second stage win for Hyundai, with Thierry Neuville winning SS6 Parque Bicentenario – 2.71 km from Elfyn and Seb. The former champion still held the lead from Teemu Suninen with Thierry still in third.

 

Well, after lunchtime service Ott Tanak won SS7 El Chocolate 2 – 31.45 km, with Teemu just six tenths slower than the Estonian, and Seb in third. Sadly, it was the last stage that Esapekka Lappi completed, as their Fiesta caught fire at the rear. It was an ignominious end for a great car, as the whole car was engulfed. Esapekka and Janne made it out okay.

 

The following stage, SS8 Ortega 2 – 17.24 km was cancelled. In fact, the organisers announced that SS9 was also cancelled, but subsequently was reinstated, with a start time that was 30 minutes later.

 

Ott Tanak won SS9 Las Minas 2 – 13.69 km and moved from seventh into third place as a result. Kalle was second quickest, and Seb was third. Teemu remained in second place overall.

 

Next up was SS10 SSS Autodromo Shell V-Power 1 – 2.33 km, which had two runs. The top three in the first run was Seb, Elfyn and Ott and in the second run, Seb, Teemu and Ott.

 

The final stage of the day SS12 Street Stage León – 0.73 km was won by Kalle, with teammate Elfyn second fastest and Teemu in third. Elfyn’s good time, meant that he’d moved up into third place as well.

 

Classification after Day One

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC 1:23:09.2
2 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +13.2
3 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +33.2
4 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +33.4
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +35.7
6 G. Greensmith E. Edmondson Ford Fiesta WRC +1:16.8

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It’s been a good day, I’m very pleased to be in the lead tonight. This morning the times were not bad but the confidence was not at the maximum. I was still trying to get comfortable, but I made some adjustments to the setup and having some more miles in the car on this surface helped me to feel much better in the afternoon. Tomorrow will be another long day. We will have the best starting position, so we have to try to make the most out of it.”

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

“It’s been a pretty difficult day opening the road, as we knew it would be. But overall, it’s not been bad. The car was working generally very well. Both El Chocolate stages were the challenging stages to find a good feeling, but that was probably down to the road condition as the surface was very loose. In other places it went better than expected. We’ll just keep pushing as hard as we can and see what’s possible.”

Kalle Rovanperä (5th)

“It was getting better all the time today and I’m building the confidence up. It’s nice to see that I’m learning the car quite quickly. There is still some work to do, but it was a nice day. I don’t know where I got the slow puncture on the first stage this morning, but it can happen. After that I was a bit more cautious for the rest of the morning loop because we didn’t have any spare tyres, but on the second loop I tried to be a bit cleaner and faster and it went well.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (4th)

“We’ve had a really bad day as a team. We lost a lot of time on the second stage, which dropped us back. I went wide and hit quite a big stone which damaged the rear suspension. We had some spare parts to fix it but not enough, so we had to limp to the end. Thankfully, we didn’t lose too much time, but it made for a difficult Friday. Road position is crucial for tomorrow so I am pleased we could make up some places. Everything is still possible, but it’s certainly more complicated.”

Thierry Neuville (Rally2)

“We started the rally well, considering our starting position, and I felt we had a very good run on the opening stages. We pushed hard and got some good performance from the car. We still needed to find some rear grip, but we made some changes at lunchtime service to improve that. We were still in the podium fight after the second run through El Chocolate. The following stage was cancelled but we were still focused. Unfortunately, something happened with the car in the repeat of Las Minas, which meant we had to stop mid-stage after about 5km. A very frustrating end to a tough day for the team. We hope we can re-join on Saturday, but the team needs to assess the car first.”

Dani Sordo (Retired)

“This was not how we envisaged our Rally México to turn out. We started this morning with high expectations but already in the El Chocolate stage we hit trouble when our radiator pipe came loose. I was driving normally, but clearly it wasn’t fixed tightly enough. We made some repairs and tried to push hard on the following stages but unfortunately the damage to the engine forced us to stop in the afternoon loop. These things can happen; we are all human and we have to recover from this disappointment as a team. Of course, it’s hard to take when we had such big hopes for this event but that’s rallying sometimes.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (2nd)

“It’s been a really good and trouble-free day for us. I was sending the car into the corners and driving on the limits – which is what you need to do if you want to push for the top results at this level. We will try and hold our podium place tomorrow, but at the same time I want to make sure I bring the car to the finish and will focus on myself and on continuing the good rhythm we had today.”

Teemu and Jarmo drove brilliantly all weekend. Photo credit, M-Sport Ford WRT

Gus Greensmith (6th)

“I just haven’t been able to get into my rhythm today and I’m a long way off where I wanted to be. We’ve not had the speed we were hoping for, but Teemu has proven that the car is quick so it’s all down to me! The objective now is just to focus on improvements, and bring the car home for some good points.”

Esapekka Lappi (Retired)

“On the stop line we understood that the rear of the car was on fire, but in that moment I didn’t realise how bad it was. We tried to put it out and drove on to a safer place, but when I lost the brakes I realised it was still burning quite bad – and jumped out as quickly as I could!

“I don’t know what caused it as there was no issue on the stage and it was actually a pretty good time. We were going well and fighting for the podium, so it’s a really big disappointment for us and for the whole team. But everyone is okay, and that is the most important thing right now.”

Saturday

With nine stages over 133km’s, it would be a challenging day again for the crews. The running order looked like this – 1. Neuville 2. Greensmith 3. Rovanperä 4. Evans 5. Tänak 6. Suninen 7. Ogier

 

Seb Ogier won SS13 Guanajuatito 1 – 24.96 km from Ott, who moved back into third overall, whist fast Finn Teemu set the third best time, looking to keep a charging world champion at bay.

 

Thierry showed that he could set a good time, winning SS14 Alfaro 1 – 16.99 km, from Ott and Seb. The Estonian closed the gap to Teemu a little as well who had set the same as Elfyn. The top three remained the same, and Seb had now increased his lead a further five seconds to 27.6. Sadly, Gus Greensmith stopped in this stage, losing ten minutes, before getting going again. There were some start lineup changes, with Thierry now starting the stage ahead of Ott. The Hyundai team were trying all the tricks to help their world champion get ahead of Teemu! All within the rules….

 

The top three in SS15 Derramadero 1 – 21.78 km was Ott, Elfyn and Seb. With his quick pace, Ott had closed the gap to Teemu a further 6.8 seconds in their battle for second place. Thierry overshot a junction and lost 7.1 seconds.

 

After the lunchtime service, SS16 Guanajuatito 2 – 24.96 km was next up. There was some big news however. The organisers had decided that the Sunday’s stages would be cancelled, meaning there were six stages left to decide the result of this year’s event. Covid 19 was affecting this event. The fact that the rally even started was a surprise, but the impeding travel restrictions were having their affect. The stage was won by Thierry, with Seb and Ott just behind. Teemu had a six second lead over the world champions.

 

The battle for second place continued between them into SS17 Alfaro 2 – 16.99 km, with Ott winning the stage from Thierry and Teemu. The Finn was just 3.1 ahead of a charging world champion. Seb was still leading by a huge 28.1 seconds.

 

The Estonian crew in their Hyundai were on a charge, winning SS18 Derramadero 2 – 21.78 km and moving ahead of Teemu who lost 9.4 seconds. Thierry and Seb were second and third fastest. The French pairing held a 27.4 second lead now with just three stages left.

 

SS19 SSS Autodromo Shell V-Power 3 was won by Thierry with Ott and Elfyn second and third fastest. The gap between Ott and Teemu widened a bit more. The Hyundai crew were making second place theirs.

 

The second run of SS20 SSS Autodromo Shell V-Power 4 – 2.33 km would see Thierry and Ott first and second again, with Seb their closest challenger.

 

The final stage then, SS21 Rock & Rally León – 1.62 km, and the top three was Thierry, Seb and Ott. Seb’s winning margin was a dominant 27.8 seconds. The French pairing had taken their first victory for Toyota. Ott had driven incredibly well to take second place, and Teemu took third, after a very good drive, much like Elfyn last year.

Final Overall Classification – Rally México

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC 2:47:47.6
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +27.8
3 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +37.9
3 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +1:13.4
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +2:20.5
6 P. Tidemand P. Barth Škoda Fabia R5 +10:29.3
7 N. Gryazin Y. Fedorov Hyundai i20 R5 +12:27.0
8 M. Bulacia G. Bernacchini Citroën C3 R5 +13:37.5
9 G. Greensmith E. Edmondson Ford Fiesta WRC +13:56.5
10 O.C. Veiby J. Andersson Hyundai i20 R5 +15:32.2

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It’s been a good weekend. We had a good feeling straight from the start and we took our chance to take the lead on Friday morning. Today we had a better starting position and we pushed straight away and increased the gap, and then we tried to control it until the end. It’s a strange victory and it’s hard to celebrate in these circumstances. But thank you to the team, they’ve done a fantastic job this weekend. The car has been faultless all weekend. It’s been really reliable and fast, and these are good points for the championship.”

Elfyn Evans (4th)

“It’s not been an easy weekend for us, but I felt like we drove pretty well. This morning I think we maximised everything we could, but with the road positions it didn’t work out. This afternoon we made a few little errors and we picked up some little issues along the way, so we weren’t able to challenge. So, I’m a little bit disappointed in one way, but at the same time, fourth place after opening the road on the first day in Mexico is not so bad. All three Yaris WRCs are here at the finish, so it’s a testament to the team and the strength of the car.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 03 / Rally Mexico / March 12-15, 2020 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (6th)

“I’m quite happy overall. It was not the best weekend, but we had a few unlucky moments, and it was nice to see that when we tried to push, we had a good pace. It’s not so easy to have good speed on the first time here, so I can be happy. Today was mostly sweeping the road, and so we went for a safe pace just to keep our position while also learning about the road cleaning. It’s been a really good beginning to the season for me: It’s nice to have had clean rallies without any big mistakes and some proper pace sometimes.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“I am pleased to add another second place to my results for Hyundai Motorsport. I feel that I have pushed as hard as I could this weekend, my first proper gravel rally with the team and in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. We had the performance to win this weekend; the incident on Friday morning was my mistake, and I accept full blame for that. We then just tried to get the most out of the rest of the event, and could slowly, slowly make up time and positions. It’s been a demanding event for many reasons, and mentally quite tough, but we have another podium to our name, which is good.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03, Rally Mexico
12-15 March 2020
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (16th)

“In general, it has been a difficult weekend for Hyundai Motorsport. Unfortunately, we were caught out by some technical issues on the first proper day of the rally and that put us on the backfoot. It’s tough to take but it’s also part of the game in motorsport. On a positive note, we have shown that the speed is there to fight for the victory. After our troubles yesterday we wanted to come back fighting, and we did just that with a strong Saturday overall. We had some competitive runs, including two more stage wins. I tried to push as hard as possible. Together, as a team, we are going to work hard to avoid the sort of problems we’ve had this weekend, and to come back stronger than ever.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (3rd)

“I’m really happy with what I was able to do here this weekend, and really proud to bring this good result home for the team. After Sweden it wasn’t looking too good and the bosses were asking for some more pace! Then I switched the switch and was able to come back a stronger man – back on the good pace, and back challenging for the top results.

“I think it was a good drive from me this weekend and we were able to be really consistent which was important. Of course, it would have been nice to have taken the second position, but Ott was driving really fast and we had some brake issues that we had to manage. Still I think we have shown that the potential is there, so let’s see what we can do in the next rallies.”

Gus Greensmith (9th)

“It’s not been the weekend we wanted. Going into the rally we felt really good, but I just haven’t had the feeling and made too many mistakes. I would drive one good kilometre, and then one bad kilometre, and that time just adds up. But things were getting better and I really started to enjoy myself this afternoon. I’ve still got lots to learn, but we’ll get there – we’ve just got to keep at it.”

Summary

It was a very good drive from Seb and Julien to victory, their sixth in this event. It was Toyota’s first though, since their return to the championship in 2017. Last year, showed the progress they’d made, finishing at the time in second place with Ott. All three cars made it to the finish inside the top six as well. Elfyn and Scott took the opportunity to learn, as they opened the road for the first time in their careers, and it was not a perfect drive by any means, by their own admission, but none-the-less, a drive that has kept them near the top of the championship standings. Kalle was once more showing the quality that he and Jonne have shown previously, which had earnt them the drive at Tommi’s team, with a strong drive to sixth position.

 

At Hyundai, Ott Tänak confirmed that he was getting a really good handle on his new car, with a strong drive to second. Thierry and Dani suffered with reliability problems, which had hit their hopes both as a team, and as individuals with their own wishes for a good result. The team used some loopholes to put Thierry Neuville in front of Ott Tänak.

 

M-Sport showed why they are such a great team. With Teemu driving really well, he held off a charging Ott Tänak until almost the very end. Third place was a worthy result. Disaster struck Esapekka however, and a car that Elfyn Evans drove last year was completely destroyed. Gus Greensmith lacked consistency, after holding sixth coming into Saturday, he slumped to ninth place.

Well, we just don’t know now when we’ll see the next event, after Rally Argentina was postponed. The following rounds in Portugal and Sardegna may also go the same way. It all depends on the ease of travel. Once it gets back underway, we will see a big battle for this year’s crown.

Rally Mexico 2020 Podium. Photo credit, M-Sport Ford WRT

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round 3

1 S. Ogier 62
2 E. Evans 54
3 T. Neuville 42
4 K. Rovanperä 40
5 O. Tänak 38
6 T. Suninen 26
7 E. Lappi 24
8 S.Loeb 8
9 T. Katsuta 8

 

 

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 3

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 110
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 89
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 65

Rally Mexico 2020 Preview – Heat and Height bring a tricky combination

It’s time for the first round of the year on gravel, and Elfyn Evans with co-driver Scott Martin head to Mexico as leaders of the World Championship for the first time in their careers, just like Ott Tanak and Martin Jarveoja last year. This brings them a whole new challenge. Opening the road on day one, with lots of road cleaning is going give them a whole new learning curve. The one thing that could allow them to stay in the hunt for a win would be if it rains. If that doesn’t happen, the best they can hope for is finishing on the podium.

 

Throwback to 2019

Twelve months ago, Seb and Julien took a strong victory winning four stages. Ott Tanak and Martin Jarveoja took five stage wins, and finished in second position, 30 seconds behind the French duo. Welsh wizard Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin took their first podium of the year as well at the time, despite not winning any stages, with a really good consistent run, which kept them in second place until Sunday.

Now, who will be in the fight for victory? It’s hard to look past Seb Ogier, Ott Tanak and Thierry Neuville battling for this one, but can either of M-Sport Ford’s Finns come through to challenge? Elfyn took a very good podium last year for his former team, so the car has good pace on gravel.

 

12 March

10:01     —                Llano Grande [Shakedown]                         5.51 km

 

Leg 1 — 135.10 km

12 March

20:08     SS1         Monster Energy Street Stage GTO 1          1.12 km

20:31     SS2         Monster Energy Street Stage GTO 2          1.12 km

13 March

9:08        SS3         El Chocolate 1                                                    31.45 km

10:16      SS4         Ortega 1                                                                 17.24 km

11:14       SS5         Las Minas 1                                                          13.69 km

12:12      SS6         Parque Bicentenario                                          2.71 km

15:35     SS7         El Chocolate 2                                                    31.45 km

16:43     SS8         Ortega 2                                                                17.24 km

17:41      SS9         Las Minas 2                                                          13.69 km

19:21     SS10       SSS Autodromo Shell V-Power 1                 2.33 km

19:26     SS11       SSS Autodromo Shell V-Power 2                 2.33 km

19:26     SS12       Street Stage León                                              0.73 km

 

Leg 2 — 133.74 km

14 March

8:58       SS13       Guanajuatito 1                                                    24.96 km

10:01      SS14       Alfaro 1                                                                  16.99 km

11:08      SS15       Derramadero 1                                                    21.78 km

14:56     SS16       Guanajuatito 2                                                   24.96 km

15:59     SS17       Alfaro 2                                                                   16.99 km

17:08     SS18       Derramadero 2                                                    21.78 km

18:38     SS19       SSS Autodromo Shell V-Power 3                 2.33 km

18:43     SS20       SSS Autodromo Shell V-Power 4                 2.33 km

19:26     SS21       Rock & Rally León                                                  1.62 km

 

Leg 3 — 56.01 km

15 March

8:38        SS22       Otates                                                                   33.61 km

9:56        SS23       San Diego                                                            12.76 km

11:18        SS24       El Brinco [Power Stage]                                 9.64 km

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans

“It’s obviously been a great start to the year with the team, and I’m looking forward now to the first gravel event of the season. In a way, Mexico is quite like the first two rallies of the year, in that it has its own specific challenges that we have to try and adapt to. And this year, it’s another new surface for us to get used to with a new car. But we found a good feeling in the first two rounds, and we hope to do the same in Mexico. Leading the championship does mean we will be opening on the road on Friday, which will not make it easy for us, but we almost have to forget about that and just focus on the job in hand.”

Sébastien Ogier

“It’s always a great feeling every year to go to Rally Mexico. I have so many good memories there: It was my first WRC event back in 2008, when we started with a win in the Junior category, and since then we’ve had a lot of good results there. I have had the chance to do two days of testing in Spain recently, and I think the first feeling with the car on gravel is really good. After two events where we had some good pace but didn’t manage to claim a win yet, this will definitely be the target in Mexico. With more mileage in the car now, I start to feel more and more comfortable in the Yaris WRC. Being third on the road is not a bad starting position, and our plan will be to try to fight as hard as we can for the victory.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“The pre-event test in Spain was the first time for me on gravel in the Yaris WRC, but I was getting used to the feeling more and more. We tried a few different setup options and I think we found a good compromise. I competed on Rally Mexico two years ago, and the main difficulty there is the high altitude, which means you need to adapt your driving style. Sweden was of course a very nice rally for us, but I think that Mexico could be one of the trickiest events for me this year with my experience, and we will have to see how it goes.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 03 / Rally Mexico / March 7th-10th, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Rally México is the first ‘summer’ event with hotter temperatures than we faced in Monte and Sweden, as well as high altitude and some demanding long stages. They are tough conditions, especially as one of the first cars on the road. I have great memories of Mexico, including our first podium with Hyundai Motorsport, and my first-ever WRC top-three finish the year before. It has always been one of the rallies I wanted to win; I was never quite able to achieve it, but it would be nice to change that this year.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03 Rally Mexico
07-10 March 2019
Day 2, Action, Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak

“I was pleased to get my first podium with Hyundai Motorsport in Sweden, but Mexico will be very different – it’s a unique challenge. The heat and altitude make it a very specific event on the calendar. On the fan side, too, it’s amazing; we have a lot of people spectating and going crazy which makes it very special and emotional for us as drivers. There’s nowhere better than Mexico to come and get some sunny weather after the winter. Physically, it can be tough. At altitude we don’t have as much oxygen, so our driving style needs to be smooth and flowing, while the engine power is reduced, so we have to be efficient.”

Dani Sordo

“I am excited to be back in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC at Rally México, an event I enjoy a lot and where I have always had a good performance. I have stayed close to the team in the opening events of the season, and took part in Rally Serras de Fafe last weekend, so I feel fit and ready. I really want to win in Mexico and to take another victory for the team. Our road position on the first day should be advantageous but that alone is not enough. The altitude makes it a difficult event, so we have to be prepared physically and to look after the car as well. We have a lot of support and passion from the fans, which only adds to the character of this event. I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Esapekka Lappi

“Every time I get behind the wheel I’m learning more and fine-tuning the set-up to better suit my driving. We worked on a few things in Sweden, and continued that at the pre-event test last week. We’ve not been too far off challenging for the podium, and I think that has to be our goal in Mexico.

“I’m getting more and more confident with the Fiesta, but of course Mexico is a tricky and unique event where you really need to be clean and efficient in your driving. The altitude also means that we run with less power, so small mistakes take longer to recover. But the feeling is good, so let’s see what we can do.”

Teemu Suninen

“I’ve always enjoyed this event and the stages are really nice to drive, but the high temperatures and altitudes mean that it can also be really challenging. Even with a world rally car you can feel the lack of oxygen and we need to be prepared for that – both physically and in our driving too.

Teemu and Markko had a tricky event last year. Photo credit, M-Sport WRT

“We haven’t had the best start to the season, but I’m now fully focused on this event. We completed a pre-event test last week where we found a good set-up, and we know from previous years that the Fiesta is a fast and reliable car here. We will certainly be trying our best to score some good points next week.”

Gus Greensmith

“I’m a huge fan of Rally Mexico and it’s probably my favourite place to visit on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar. The scenery and colours of Guanajuato and the enthusiasm of the fans provide a truly special experience for everyone and I can’t wait to get back there.

“I really enjoyed my time there in 2018, but it will be a completely different challenge this year. I’ve been preparing in the heat and altitude chambers so my body is definitely feeling efficient and I’m sure that will help my performance next week, so let’s see what we can do.”

Summary

Well, we are set for a very exciting rally again from Mexico as the battle for this year’s title continues. Many questions will be answered by the end of this classic event, but we may have even more added. Can Elfyn and Scott, just like Ott and Martin last year did last year keep the championship lead by finishing on the podium? Can Seb and Julien score their first win for Toyota? Or will it be Ott and Martin on top? Shakedown will be very interesting on Thursday, and may reveal some answers. Enjoy!

Rally Sweden 2020 Review – Elfyn and Scott take their first victory together!

Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin scored an impressive and dominant victory in last weekend’s Rally Sweden, and now lead the World Rally Championship for the first time. Here’s the story about it.

The action started on Friday with three stages. The running order was in championship order 1. Neuville 2. Ogier 3. Evans 4. Lappi 5. Rovanperä 6. Suninen 7. Katsuta 8. Tänak 9. Latvala 10. Breen

 

First up was SS2 Hof-Finnskog 1 – 21.26 km. Elfyn started brilliantly, winning the stage and taking a small one second lead from Ott and Kalle in third.

 

Into SS3 Finnskogen 1 – 20.68 km and the world champion hit back, winning the stage and reducing Elfyn’s lead to just two tenths of a second. Third quickest again was young Finn Kalle, who was starting very strongly as well. Top M-Sport driver was Esapekka Lappi held fifth overall having passed championship leader Thierry.

 

Elfyn won SS4 Nyckelvattnet 1 – 18.94 km from Kalle by 2.6 seconds with Seb Ogier third fastest. Kalle’s great pace in this stage lifted him ahead of Ott Tänak and into second place. Elfyn held a 7.9 second lead over his younger teammate, and was a solid 22 seconds ahead of Thierry who was in sixth.

 

Onto the short SS5 Torsby Sprint 1 – 2.80 km to end the day, and Ott won the stage, thus deposing Kalle back into third place. Elfyn held a good lead over Ott of 8.5 seconds, whilst Seb Ogier was in fourth place 3.5 seconds behind Kalle Rovanperä.

 

Classification after Day One

1 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC 30:43.7
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +8.5
3 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +14.3
4 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +17.8
5 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +20.9
6 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +23.6
7 C. Breen P. Nagle Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +24.2
8 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +31.4
9 T. Katsuta D. Barritt Toyota Yaris WRC +49.6

 

Driver thoughts at the end of Friday.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“It’s been a pretty good day. The feeling in the car was immediately good this morning. It was quite difficult to know exactly how hard to push on the first stage: We had quite high grip, but it looked quite aggressive on the tyres. We tried to be quick but also relatively smooth and it seemed to work out pretty well. Now we need to try and do more of the same tomorrow. Nobody knows what the conditions will be like, so we have to adapt to whatever is put in front of us. I don’t think we’ll need to change much as everything worked very well today, but we’ll look over the data and try to find a few more seconds.”

Kalle Rovanperä (3rd)

“Today was nice. The conditions on the stages were better than everybody expected. There was more ice and snow and the tyres were lasting well. In the morning loop we were doing really well and we had good speed. There were a few mistakes here and there, but we were learning more about the car all the time. The last one didn’t go so well as I stalled the car and we lost a lot of time. So that was not so nice, but hopefully we can gain back the time tomorrow. Let’s will see if there is snowfall tonight, as that would make the conditions quite different.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 02 / Swedish Rally / February 13-16, 2020 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“The conditions were not that bad today; I think it was close to normal winter conditions. We could have good fun in some sections with good grip. It’s not been a bad day for us, but our team-mates have proven that we can go faster. It was not easy to start second on the road today, but that’s not the only reason why we have been slower. We need to be a little bit more committed in some places and maybe accept to take a bit more risk. The long-game is always important but we want to leave this event with as many points as possible. We’re going to try to make some little changes on the car for tomorrow and try to improve our pace if we can.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“It’s been a good day. Conditions have been quite similar to the recce so we had an idea of what we would face. The start was not so bad. The first stage, especially on the gravel, was actually quite good. I felt nice in the car, it was in the icy places where I was not so confident. The final stage of the morning was a bit more demanding. With only one day of testing in the car, I was not really full of confidence but it’s coming step by step. I am happy to have made it to the end of this first day; we will now analyse all that we’ve learned from today and aim to speed up a bit tomorrow.”

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“It has been tricky to be first on the road today, but we’ve had a trouble-free run with no mistakes. I’m not happy with the overall classification but I am satisfied with what we’ve done in the car and with the speed. We couldn’t do much more. The first stage was quite consistent but the following two we knew would be trickier. This morning, the layer of ice was very thin in places and the gravel was coming out, which gives more grip to the cars behind. There were also a lot of cuts, where I was the first to discover. This rally is so short, it won’t be possible to catch up a lot of time, but we will fight hard and see what we can achieve tomorrow.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, Rally Sweden
13-16 February 2020
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Craig Breen (8th)

“It is great to be back in a WRC car; it’s been a while since Wales Rally GB. This is a different Rally Sweden to what we’ve seen in previous years, a much shorter event and missing a lot of the kilometres we should have been doing. As the day went on, I started to get more confidence. It’s always going to take a stage or two to get settled back in; fighting against guys who are in the car all the time, it’s hard to be flat out from the start. I really enjoyed it and I felt we were getting stronger with each kilometre. Tomorrow, it could be difficult to make much of a difference, but we’ll certainly try.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“It’s been quite a consistent day for us. We can’t match the guys at the front which is a bit frustrating, but we are best of the rest and I’m happy with that. I’m really trying and was twice in the ditch already – losing a couple of seconds with that – but I feel that we can still improve. If we can make some small changes to the set-up then I think the pace can be better and tomorrow is a new day so for sure it’s not over yet. We’ll keep trying and keep pushing until the end.”

Teemu Suninen (7th)

“The conditions have been quite challenging today with a lot of gravel making it tricky to judge the grip. We didn’t have the pace we wanted in the fast sections and that’s something we know we need to work on. But the pace was a lot better in the slower sections and we’ll keep pushing tomorrow.”

Teemu Suninen and Jarmo Lehtinen at speed. Photo credit, M-Sport WRT

Saturday

This day action featured 68km’s over just four stages. The running order for day two was in reverse order – 1. Katsuta 2. Suninen 3. Breen 4. Neuville 5. Lappi 6. Ogier 7. Rovanperä 8. Tänak 9. Evans

 

Elfyn started the day well, winning SS6 Hof-Finnskog 2 – 21.26 km, with Ott Tänak once more second fastest and Seb setting the third best time. Kalle Rovanperä could only manage fifth fastest and the gap between him and shrinking to just one tenth of a second. Thierry was doing the best he could, given that he was opening the road, but was the best part of half a minute from the leader.

The great drive from the Welsh wizard continued into SS7 Finnskogen 2 – 20.68 km, which he also won, going 3.6 seconds faster than Ott once more and now the lead was a massive 15.3 seconds. Ogier also moved up the leaderboard, passing Kalle for third position after the Finn could only manage the seventh fastest time. The top M-Sport driver continued to be Esapekka Lappi, who was holding onto fifth position.

 

Well, Elfyn continued his dominance winning SS8 Nyckelvattnet 2 – 18.94 km as well, from Kalle Rovanperä, who’s great time moved him back ahead of Seb Ogier into third. Ott Tänak was now almost 17 seconds behind his former M-Sport teammate. The gap that Thierry had been reducing to Esapekka, now grew larger again, in their battle over fifth position, with the Belgian now over four seconds behind.

 

Just the short SS9 Torsby Sprint 2 – 2.80 km stage to round out the day and the top three were Thierry, Seb and Esapekka. Rally leader, Elfyn, was fourth quickest, and ahead of Ott as well giving him a 17.2 second lead over his closest challenger and the world champion.

 

Classification after Day Two

1 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC 1:00:38.9
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +17.2
3 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +28.8
4 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +29.3
5 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +34.7
6 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +39.2
7 C. Breen P. Nagle Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +49.7
8 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +1:14.8
9 T. Katsuta D. Barritt Toyota Yaris WRC +1:37.4

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“It has been another good day for us and we can be happy with what we’ve managed to do. I had a really good feeling in the car, I’ve been happy with the balance and the confidence it’s giving me. The first two stages this morning were really good. The third one was quite tricky, a bit softer with more loose ice and snow, and the last stage was quite rough but we got through it OK. Let’s see what we face tomorrow, as the conditions are a bit of an unknown. It could be very difficult with the warmer temperatures we have now, but hopefully we can find the same rhythm we have in the last two days. It’s a long stage and we just need to keep our head down and keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“It’s not been a bad day. We set some good times this morning. The third stage was not the best for me, but other than that I think we’ve done a good day. I’ve felt pretty good in the car. We’ve been playing around a bit with the setup and we’re learning with every kilometre. The Power Stage is obviously going to be important tomorrow. It’s still very tight with Kalle, and also the others guys are not far behind, so we cannot relax. We will have to push to the end, and the conditions could be quite tricky.”

Kalle Rovanperä (4th)

“This morning I had a good feeling but I was a bit too hard on the tyres and not managing them well, so we were losing time at the end of the stages as we were losing the studs. But we made some small setup changes on the car so that it was not understeering and not loading the front tyres so much, and then the third stage went well. The last stage was in a really rough condition and these were new conditions for me. It’s going to be really difficult for us tomorrow as we don’t have the same experience on this stage as the others, but I will try my best.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“I can’t really say we’re happy, but we have been steadily making progress and getting valuable experience in the car. We’re still missing some feeling and confidence but that’s down to my lack of seat time. There are still a lot of things that are a bit fresh and some things to learn. We’re taking it step-by-step, improving all the time and understanding what we need to do to be on the pace. We’re not far off but it’s not as enjoyable to see such a gap. It has been a solid start for a short event, and I am sure the speed is there for the future; we just need to work on it.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, Rally Sweden
13-16 February 2020
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“Performance-wise, I am quite satisfied with how things have gone; we have tried to do the best we could and optimise the situation we’re in. At the same time, we’ve had to be clever and avoid making silly mistakes. So far, it’s all fine but it’s also disappointing and frustrating not to be in the position we’d want to be. It’s a very short rally, so it is difficult to catch up lost time solely through driving. We are going to try and maintain our rhythm into tomorrow’s final stage and see what we can pick up for the championship.”

Craig Breen (7th)

“I’d summarise by saying the day has been sometimes good, sometimes bad. Obviously, it’s taking me a bit of time to get going. Again, on this morning’s opening stage, I don’t know why but I dropped too much time. The two other stages of the loop were really nice and I enjoyed myself. Compared to the people around us, we were quite competitive, but obviously there was a lot of cleaning, especially on the third one (SS7) with lots of fresh snow overnight. Thierry was running just behind us and we have been able to match his pace in some stages; we have to be happy with that. In a rally as specific like this you really have to be at one with everything. All things considered; I think we’re still doing a good job.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“It’s been a very positive day. We made some changes to improve the set-up overnight and I was really pleased with the driving. This was a good step forward, and it’s something that we can use in the future too. I’m learning all the time the little things and small details that affect the feeling and allow you to push more. We’re still not quite up there with the top times, but we’re getting closer and closer. We just have the one stage tomorrow but nothing is over yet. With 4.5 seconds behind and 5.4 seconds ahead it will be a big push to the end for everyone!”

Teemu Suninen (8th)

“We didn’t have the best road position today, but like yesterday we’re still struggling to find the top pace. The first two stages weren’t too bad, but then in the third one I had a few big slides and took it carefully after that. Tomorrow we just have the Power Stage, so let’s see what the conditions are like and see what we can do in there.”

 

Sunday

Just one stage left then, after the first run of Likenäs was cancelled, giving us just the single run with counted as the power stage. Coming into the final day, Elfyn and Scott had a 17 second lead over Ott Tänak.

 

It was a first stage victory for the young Kalle Rovanperä in SS11 Likenäs 2 – 21.19 km who was almost four seconds faster than Thierry Neuville, with Seb Ogier third, Ott Tänak in fourth, Esapekka Lappi in fifth. Rally leader Elfyn Evans come through to finish the stage in sixth place, but crucially took a very special victory in his second event for Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT. It was the first for an all British crew as well.

It was a dominant drive from them both. They won by over twelve seconds from Ott Tänak and Kalle Rovanperä took a very impressive first podium, passing Seb Ogier in the final stage.

 

Final Overall Standings

1 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC 1:11:43.1
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +12.7
3 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +20.2
4 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +23.6
5 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +32.4
6 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +33.8
7 C. Breen P. Nagle Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:00.9
8 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +1:24.5
9 T. Katsuta D. Barritt Toyota Yaris WRC +1:59.6
10 J. Huttunen M. Lukka Hyundai i20 R5 +4:03.0

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“I feel really good to have my first win with Toyota Gazoo Racing in our second event together. I have to give a lot of credit to the team for not only giving me a great car but also giving me the support and help in testing for me to get the car to where I wanted it. The car is giving me great confidence, and in changeable conditions like we’ve had here, that’s really worth a lot. It has been very enjoyable to drive so far and hopefully we can carry this feeling onto gravel in the events to come. A big thanks to Scott too: he’s been very good since he’s been alongside me and I’m very happy to finally be with him for his first win too.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 02 / Swedish Rally / February 13-16, 2020 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (3rd)

“I feel really good to be on the podium. It was a really demanding rally because it was shorter than usual and all the time you had to be flat-out. We were losing some time because of my mistakes but it was nice to get back on the podium today and also, to have five points from the Power Stage. It was a really good run, I gave it everything I have. It didn’t feel so good in the beginning because I was maybe a bit more careful and saving the tyres, but it paid off in the end as we were doing really fast split times and the final time was really good.”

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“I cannot be unhappy about this weekend. I don’t really enjoy being fourth but it’s still some good points for the championship and it puts us in a good position ahead of Mexico. Kalle deserves this podium. He did a really great job the whole weekend, and he went for it in the Power Stage and he did a brilliant time. It was very difficult conditions, and when you’re thinking about the championship, it was hard to really go for it. Elfyn was driving fantastic this weekend and it’s a nice win for him and for the team. It’s always better to have these strong guys in your team rather than in the opposition: I think Toyota has a very strong line-up for this season. For us now we focus on the next one, where we will try to fight for the win.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“I am pleased to take my first podium with the team, particularly considering the challenging conditions we’ve all experienced this weekend. There are certainly positives to take away. The car has shown it has the speed; we just need to learn more about it. After Monte-Carlo, it was important for us to complete the full event, to get some kilometres in the car, and to get some points on the board. We weren’t able to compete at the sharp end, but we are making good progress, improving all the time and finding more confidence in the car. Looking at things from that perspective, it has been a useful weekend.”

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“We had only one target today, which was to try and optimise the situation and push for points in the Power Stage. It wasn’t quite enough to set the fastest time, and the conditions were incredibly tricky, just like they have been the entire weekend. It has been a tough rally, but we couldn’t have done much more. There were a few stages where we lost a few seconds here or there; I don’t think it would have changed the end result.”

Craig Breen (7th)

“It has been a difficult weekend and, personally, I am not happy with my result. I have enjoyed being back in a WRC car immensely, don’t get me wrong, but it’s hard not to be up there fighting for podiums and wins. The weather and road order have been against us and it’s a pity we’ve had short loops. That’s made it hard to make much of an impression. Today we’ve seen completely different conditions again, with a lot of standing water, so there were no heroics; the priority was to bring the car home, which we did, and to support the team as best we could.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“I need to be pleased with our performance this weekend. We’re not exactly where I wanted to be as I wanted to fight for the podium, but we’re not far away. We’re missing that last little bit, but it’s getting closer. We’ve made a good step forward – especially yesterday when the pace was really good – and that gives us some confidence going forward to Mexico. Everything is going well at the moment, so let’s see what we can do next.”

Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm secured a good result, but they will want more. Photo credit, M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (8th)

“This hasn’t been a good rally for us. It all started with a big moment on Shakedown and then on Friday I was just taking it a bit too carefully in places. We lost a few seconds there and just couldn’t get the time back. Then on Saturday we had to open the road and that made it even more difficult. Now we just need to analyse this rally and look forward to being better on the next one.”

 

Summary

Well, that was a special weekend for Elfyn and Scott. Their first win together after coming so close last year in Corsica. It was a very dominant win as well, given that they never lost the lead at any point and always increased the lead that they had. It’s also given them the championship lead for the first time in their careers.

Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja came back from a very big accident to show exactly why they are the world champions. Getting used to their new car and delivering top pace with two stage wins and a well-deserved second place.

Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen scored a very impressive third place after taking their first stage win in their second event. It was a very good drive from the young Finn’s. It won’t be the first time that we see them on the podium this year.

Next event is Rally Mexico, from the 12th to the 15th of March.

 

Elfyn and Scott celebrate an incredible result, one that was well over due. Photo credit, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

 

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round 2

1 E. Evans 42
2 T. Neuville 42
3 S. Ogier 37
4 K. Rovanperä 30
5 E. Lappi 24
6 O. Tänak 20
7 T. Suninen 11
8 S. Loeb 8
9 T. Katsuta 8
10 C. Breen 6

 

2020 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 2

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 73
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 63
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 40
Photo credit, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Rally Sweden 2020 Preview

Just a few day’s ago this event was looking like it wouldn’t happen. I’m sure that you’ll be aware of the lack of snow this year in Sweden. Anyway, the organisers and the FIA came to an agreement to run a much shorter event. Here’s the full stage information. The sixty-eighth Rally Sweden is happening!

Stages & times

Thursday   February 13
09:01 Shakedown Skalla 7,21 km Stage info
12:30 Meet the crews, Torsby Service Park Arena – Full programme
20:08 SS 1 Karlstad SSS 1 1,9 km Arena – Full programme Stage info
Friday   February 14
06:47 Torsby Service Park Arena – Full programme
08:42 SS 2 Hof-Finnskog 1 21,26 Stage info
10:08 SS 3 Finnskogen 1 20,68 km Stage info
11:08 SS 4 Nyckelvattnet 1 18,94 Stage info
15:00 SS 8 Torsby Sprint 1 2,8 km Arena – Full programme Stage info
15:32 Torsby Service Park Arena – Full programme
Saturday   February 15
06:47 Torsby Service Park Arena – Full programme
08:42 SS 5 Hof-Finnskog 2 21,26 km Stage info
10:08 SS 6 Finnskogen 2 20,68 Stage info
11:08 SS 7 Nyckelvattnet 2 18,94 Stage info
15:00 SS 16 Torsby Sprint 2 2,8 km Arena – Full programme Stage info
15:32 Torsby Service Park Arena – Full programme
Sunday   February 16
08:46 Torsby Service Park Arena – Full programme
10:08 SS 17 Likenäs 1 21,19 km Stage info
10:48 Regroup Ambjörby
12:18 SS 18 Likenäs 2 Wolf Power Stage 21,19 km Stage info

 

As you can see the stages have kept their original stage numbers, giving us an idea as to how many stages have been lost.

 

Throwback

Last year Ott Tanak took victory for Toyota with six stage victories, with Esapekka Lappi finishing second and 2018 winner Thierry in third. Can M-Sport challenge at the front like last year? Teemu Suninen led early on, and with a double Finn lineup, perhaps we will see a three-way battle at the front between the them all? Elfyn went well, taking two good stage wins, his first in Sweden, and given his performance in Rallye Monte Carlo, we can expect more of the same this year too. Returning to the championship is Craig Breen who scored a brilliant second overall in 2018 when driving for Citroen. He replaces Seb Loeb.

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 02 / Rally Sweden / February 14-17th, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“An ideal Rally Sweden would have lots of snow, huge snowbanks, very icy roads, the perfect conditions for us to go fast with full confidence to get the most out of the car. When the road is properly frozen, the studs get good grip and you can go flat out. Obviously, if there will be less snow than previous years it could be quite tough to do the stages. Our tyres are very thin and very high, so they won’t work the same on gravel stages and it’s going to be really tricky. Without the snowbanks, the rally gets faster and faster, and less interesting, so we keep our fingers crossed for a lot of snow to arrive.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, Rally Sweden
15-18 February 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak

“Since Monte, I have been feeling better every day. We learned a very good lesson, and we know now that each time we have to drive a new section, we really need to focus more than ever before. Driving in Sweden is always very special, particularly when we get some frozen, icy conditions. The grip from the spiked tyres is extremely high and gives a great feeling. It will be important for us to get back some points and to improve step-by-step. It will be our first time on loose surface with Hyundai, but I hope we can deliver a good result.”

Craig Breen

“I am very humbled to have the chance of getting behind the wheel of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC again. It’s been a long time since Wales Rally GB, so I’m excited and anxious. From the first moment I drove the car, I felt a lot of confidence and that I could drive my own natural way. Sweden is a rally I enjoy; I scored my best-ever result in the World Championship there a few years ago. Hopefully the conditions will be favourable for us and the cold will arrive in the region for us to have ‘proper’ roads. Regardless, when I am back in my happy place driving a WRC car, I will have a nice weekend.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“I definitely love Rally Sweden. It’s a magic event, the only one on full snow on the calendar, and driving on those roads is very special. I certainly hope to be performing well there again this year. I’ve had some good times there in the past, but it has been a bit more of a struggle in the last few years – I guess partly because of my start position, as coming to Sweden while leading the championship has been very challenging. This year will be slightly different so let’s see what we can do. Rallye Monte-Carlo was a very positive start for the whole team, and they have been performing very well in Sweden, so hopefully we are able to do the same this time.”

Elfyn Evans

“I’m really looking forward to Rally Sweden. The car was feeling really good in our winter testing on snow, so I’m hoping for another good event there. Rallye Monte-Carlo was overall a positive start for us in the Toyota Yaris WRC, even though our result could have been even better. Road position can play a big part in Sweden, depending on what sort of conditions we’ll find: if there’s a lot of loose snow, then there is a big advantage for those starting further back. But like any other rally, we’ll go in and do the best we can from the first stage.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“I enjoy snow rallies a lot, so Rally Sweden should be a nice event for us. I think it should be easier for me than Rallye Monte-Carlo, but we will also need to push more to the limits there. Driving the Yaris WRC has been a lot of fun so far, and on snow it has been an amazing car to drive. We did the Arctic Rally in January in the Yaris and that was good preparation for us, but the conditions in Sweden could be tricky because there has been not so much snow, so we will have to see just how helpful it really was.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Esapekka Lappi

“I’ve had some good results at Rally Sweden – especially last year when we finished second on our second event with a new car so let’s see if we can do the same again this year! Of course, the competition will be strong and no one really knows what the conditions will be like, but we will give it our best.

“We’re testing this weekend when we’ll get our first indication of what to expect. The Swedish stages are always fast, which I enjoy, but there could only be a small layer of ice which will make tyre management pretty important when it comes to retaining the studs for the whole loop. Fourth on the road could be a decent position, but let’s wait and see.”

Teemu Suninen

“Last year we found a good set-up for the soft snow and rutted conditions, and it worked really well for us – leading after the first full day and showing good speed throughout the weekend. This year the plan is to show that same speed consistently and without mistakes.

“Of course, a lot will depend on the weather. It’s great that the organisers have been able to make the rally happen, but we will have to wait and see what the conditions are like. I’m hoping for snow, and we’ll have a test this weekend to prepare. Whatever the weather, we will give it our best and I hope to be in a good battle.”

The R5 class

Also competing this weekend are Adrien Fourmaux and Rhys Yates, at the wheel of two Fiesta R5 Mk2’s and Ole Christian Veiby and Nikolay Gryazin who will compete in i20 R5’s.

Adrien Fourmaux

“It’s really nice to hear that the organisers have found a way for us to go rallying and we can say a big thanks to the Rally Sweden team for that. This is the only full-snow rally on the calendar, and that makes it really special. Driving in the forests with the white landscape and hundreds of fans makes it a beautiful rally, and I’m really looking forward to getting back out there this year.

“I competed in Sweden last year, but this will be my first time with the Fiesta R5 which makes it a completely new experience for me with more speed and totally different lines. The biggest challenge will be in trusting the grip and speed through the corners and learning how to fight on the same level as the locals – but I can’t wait to get started. I plan to enjoy every second, and if I can deliver a smart rally and leave with good points, good stage times and a good experience I’ll be very happy.”

Rhys Yates

“We’ve got a really good feeling with the car at the moment and I’ve never felt more comfortable on gravel than I did with the Fiesta at the Cambrian last weekend. The pace was pretty quick at times – as it will be this week in Sweden – so you’ve got to be comfortable with the car moving about underneath you. You’ve got to be comfortable with it going sideways in fifth gear. I got that feeling in Wales and that’s great for me.

“I want to hit the ground running in Sweden. We’ve got a test on Tuesday and then the rally starts Thursday. One thing I’m so chuffed with is how much time I’m getting in the car. By the time Sweden starts I’ll have been in this Fiesta four times in a week – I’ve never had that much seat time before and that can only be good for the confidence!

Ole Christian Veiby

“Rally Sweden is one of the highlights of the season. It’s very much a home rally, one of the stages even goes through our family forest. I was watching there since I was a little kid, so it means a lot. There are lots of supporters, friends and family; to see so many Norwegian flags is really special. To drive on proper snow conditions is, I think, one of the best things to do. The grip level can even sometimes be better than gravel, especially with studded tyres. The target for the rally is for sure a victory. We were a bit disappointed about Monte-Carlo; I think the car worked really well so hopefully it will also do that in Sweden. I’m looking forward to it!”

Nikolay Gryazin

“Sweden for us means quite a lot because it’s winter. Back in my country, we drive in the cold a lot. We had a valuable experience in Monte-Carlo, adapting to a new car in tricky conditions. I feel more confident now and I hope the result reflects that. This will be my second time in Rally Sweden. It will be difficult to compete against the local crews, but I am determined to secure a good result and to see how the Hyundai i20 R5 performs. It has definitely shown good pace in all conditions so I hope we will have a positive weekend – whatever the conditions.”

Summary

We are set as ever for an incredible rally then, and despite the changes to the schedule, including the loss of the stage that includes Colins Crest, it’s almost certain to be a fascinating event. Don’t miss it!

©2017 The Pitcrewonline