Rally Estonia 2022 Preview – Can anyone stop Kalle and Jonne?

The championship heads back from the Kenya plains to the fast roads of Estonia, with Kalle and Jonne holding a huge lead over their closest rivals from Hyundai. The young Finnish pairing took their first victory on these roads last year, but it will be interesting if they can repeat this feat this year. Last year he came to this event holding sixth in the championship standings and had a good road position therefore. The challenge this year will be quite different as they open the road. Still, who knows what they will be able to do given their results from the last few rounds.

His closest challengers are the two regular Hyundai crews, Thierry and Martijn and Ott and Martin. The Estonian crew will eye up a strong run on their home roads, and hope to take victory and boost their championship chances.

Amongst the usual WRC2 runners will be a returning Hayden Paddon and John Kennard, driving a i20 Rally2. The Rally Argentina 2016 winners are making a return to the world championship stages, and its fantastic to see them back.

Let’s take a look at the stages then – This year there are 313km’s over twenty-four stages.

A Super Special Stage – Tartu (1.66km) – on Thursday evening kicks off the action at Rally Estonia

Friday is the longest day of the event, with two passes each of Peipsiääre (24.35km), Mustvee (17.09km), Raanitsa (21.45km) and Vastsemõisa (6.70km) totalling 139.18km

Saturday’s running consists of two loops of four new stages, followed by another pass of the Tartu super special stage

The event concludes on Sunday with a final six stages, as the crews twice take on Tartu Vald (6.56km), Kanepi (16.48km) and Kambja (15.95km).

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

“Of course, it’s going to be nice for me to go back to Rally Estonia. Winning there last year was a great moment and it was a really strong weekend for us. This year we are in a different situation leading the championship and so we will be opening the road, but hopefully we can do another good result there. I always enjoy rallies like this one with fast and flowing roads, they suit me pretty well. It’s really important to feel confident in the car when driving at those speeds, so we have done a lot of work in testing to try and get the setup how we want it.”

Elfyn Evans

“I’m looking forward to these next two rallies on fast gravel roads, which will be quite different to what we’ve experienced during the last few events. Estonia will be the first really fast gravel rally that we’ve done with these cars, so the testing has been really important to try and prepare for that. I enjoy the high-speed stages we have in Estonia but it always helps a lot if you feel good in the car, so the target is to have a car that works well in all conditions and then hopefully secure a strong result at the end of the weekend.”

Esapekka Lappi

“I’m really looking forward to being in the car for these next two events, and especially my home rally in Finland of course. Estonia will not be so easy as I didn’t do the rally last year, so there are some stages that will be new for me. I believe I can do well there, but I’m not going into it with any big expectations. So far this year we have had good pace on every surface but I haven’t always been able to put it together. Therefore, the main goal for Estonia is just to have a good, clean rally.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Rally Estonia is one of the fastest events on the calendar, and also the home event of Ott, so it is a rally where we always want to be strong and get good results. Personally, it is a rally I enjoy. The first season there was a bit difficult, but once you get to know the roads you start to like it more. This is because the speeds are very high, so it helps to know the conditions and the terrain. It’s very similar in terms of setup to Rally Finland, as both have fast roads that are generally flat. In Estonia the surface is a bit softer than Finland so it gets more rutted on the second pass, and the jumps are actually bigger and faster too. I was able to finish on the podium there in 2021 so hopefully I can do the same again this year.”

Ott Tänak 

“Rally Estonia is always a great event. For the first time this year we will be going to smoother, faster roads, so I am expecting it to be fun, but we also need to make sure we extract all the performance and speed we can from the car. It will be a big challenge and we will have to be fast out of the box right from the beginning. The best part for me is that I have no travel days! It’s also great to have a rally at home because we get to have the amazing fans and those close to us around us. But there is no extra pressure, we just want to score as many points as possible. We will try our best and do everything we can to finish in the top positions.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Italia Sardegna
2-5 June 2022
Ott Tanak
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Oliver Solberg

“Rally Estonia is the event I have been looking forward to most all year. It is one I have done many times before and I have been able to win there twice. Hopefully I will be able to fight for the podium, that is my personal goal for next weekend. It is a very tricky event with a lot of jumps. It’s also very fast and it is the first time I’ve competed there in these WRC cars, so it will be a different challenge. I’ve have driven in Estonia so much it feels almost like my second country, so I feel very comfortable on the roads. In the second loop the roads can get very rutted, so you need a car that is easy to drive and has good traction. But the main thing you need is to just keep your right foot flat down!”

Teemu Suninen WRC2

“Rally Estonia has been always a great challenge with a mixture of technical, narrow roads and super-fast wide roads. However, I have always liked the rally as it is similar to my home rally in Finland. Normally conditions change quite a lot from first loop to second loop when big ruts start appearing, so you have to adapt your driving to that. We had a good pre-event test and I am starting to feel happier with car; I have a better understanding of how to get a more balanced setup for fast gravel rallies. I am looking forward to bring good points home for me and team.”

Fabrizio Zaldivar WRC2

“Rally Estonia is a very interesting event. The roads are incredibly fast and very technical at the same time, so much so that sometimes you think you are going fast and then that is not reflected in the final time. A few weeks ago, we did an excellent test here, together with Teemu and Ott. The truth is that I learned a lot from their experience, especially when they were driving the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 on these kind of roads. I am confident that we will put everything into practice which will allow us to continue learning and scoring points for the team.”

Also competing for Hyundai and sponsored by Hyundai New Zealand is Hayden Paddon and co-driven by longstanding mate, John Kennard. This is what he had to say.

Hayden Paddon WRC2

“We don’t have the stage experience and still trying to get their head around the car, so just a smooth consistent event is what we are looking for.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen

“Obviously really looking forward to Estonia, it’s a rally that has served us well in the past, we’ve been on the podium now a good couple of times, and the last two years as part of the world championship we managed to bring home two podiums there as well. Honestly, I can’t wait for it, it’s a run of three rallies now that I’m very familiar and comfortable with. They are the complete opposite of the last couple of rallies of the season so far! I don’t feel alien heading to Estonia, I know what it’s all about.

“We had a really good test last week, the car felt great and I was really comfortable from the beginning, so I’m looking forward to it. The stages look great, obviously with high speeds, big jumps and big crests.”

Gus Greensmith

“Really looking forward to Rally Estonia, last year we already had a good package, and things were going very well before some problems, so we showed that we can certainly set up the car in a way that works.

“From the test, I probably haven’t been this comfortable in the car since Monaco, so really looking forward to this one for sure. Super-fast rallies mean very close times and putting everything together is a big job here, so we’ll do our best.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet

“I’m very happy to be going to Estonia, it’s always amazing to drive this type of car on such a fast rally. From our side it will be very important to continue our progression after Portugal and Sardinia, to stay calm and not try to do too much because on a rally like this it is very easy to make a mistake, like always, but you can’t make any mistakes at these high speeds.

“For us it will be important to keep continuing our progress and be very focused on our side and to build maximum confidence in the car. After Estonia we also have Finland, so these are two very important rallies in the season for me.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“Estonia will be completely different to the previous rallies; it will be a really fast rally. It will be my first time with top category car on this event, but it’ll be my fourth participation in total, so I have a good knowledge of most of the stages.

“It will be nice to drive on these fast roads with all the big jumps, it’s always a good experience and a good feeling, so we can look forward to that. We had a good day of testing before the rally, and we’ll use that to do our best to achieve a good result for the team.”

Jari Huttunen WRC2

“Sardinia was a good event for us, and I am feeling very happy in the car. Estonia is a big challenge with the high-speeds, but we are looking forward to it. We started well last year, and I’ve learnt a lot from the events this season so far, so I think it’ll be good. The focus will be on not making any mistakes and keeping in tune with the car and hopefully we will get a good result for the team.”

Summary

Well, what a very interesting rally we are set for then. Can the championship leaders take another amazing win, or will it be one of his teammates? Elfyn and Scott will want to win and make some steps up the championship standings, and given that he showed such amazing pace in last season’s Rally Finland, the scene of their last win, they have a very good chance of it. There will be competition from Ott and Martin though, who will also want victory on home soil. Meanwhile, Craig and Paul in their Puma come to a rally that has seen some good success for them, and given that their car has shown good pace in their hands, they could be the dark horses for a win, which would be very welcome in the service park. Also, just want to welcome back Kiwi duo Hayden and John. It’s great to have them back.

Rally Italia Sardegna 2022 – Day Three Report – Ott and Martin win for Hyundai!

The final day then and 39km over four stages to decide this event. The startlist looked like this – Lappi, Neuville, Evans, Greensmith, Katsuta, Rovanperä, Loubet, Sordo, Breen, Tänak.

First up then was SS18 Cala Flumini 1 – 12.55 km and Ott started the day as he ended Saturday with a stage win from Esapekka and Craig. Takamoto and Gus set the same time for fifth equal in the stage. For those restarting today, think Elfyn, Thierry, for them it was a case of getting through and saving their tyres for the power stage later. Elfyn was twelfth and Thierry twenty-fourth. The only change on the leader board was Jari getting past Chris and into tenth overall.

Onto SS19 Sassari – Argentiera 1 – 7.10 km and Thierry was fastest from Elfyn and Esapekka. The Belgian was looking strong on this one. The overall top three remained unchanged, with Ott fifth, Craig seventh and Dani eighth fastest in the stage.

Ott returned to the top of the timesheets in SS20 Cala Flumini 2 – 12.55 km, with Esapekka and Craig second and third. Chris Ingram in his Fabia was the top Rally2 driver, with eighth fastest. He still remained in eleventh overall.

The final stage then, SS21 Sassari – Argentiera 2 [Power Stage] – 7.10 km and there were changes as usual to the startlist – Ingram (WRC2), Huttunen (WRC2), Solans (WRC2), Gryazin (WRC2), Lappi, Neuville, Evans, Greensmith, Katsuta, Rovanperä, Loubet, Sordo, Breen, Tänak. Esapekka set the early pace, before Thierry came through setting the best time, before Elfyn came through and could not eclipse the Belgian’s time. The championship leader came closest, just 2.3 seconds behind his closest championship challenger. Esapekka and Takamoto completed the top five fastest drivers through the stage.

Final Overall Classification – Rally Italia Sardegna

1 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 3:10:59.1
2 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +1:03.2
3 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +1:33.0
4 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Ford Puma Rally1 +2:09.4
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +3:02.8
6 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +4:02.6
7 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +5:23.6
8 N. Gryazin K. Aleksandrov Škoda Fabia Evo +7:37.7
9 J. Solans R. Sanjuan Citroën C3 Rally2 +8:05.7
10 J. Huttunen M. Lukka Ford Fiesta MkII +8:10.8
2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Italia Sardegna
02-05 June 2022
Dani Sordo, Candido Carrera, Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Julien Moncet
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Let’s hear from the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (1st)

“I am very happy to take this victory, especially for all the mechanics and people in the team who have put in an incredible effort to prepare for this new generation. It’s been a challenging time, but we have shown that hard work pays off. This has not been an easy rally, so the team has done a good job to keep the car going. We have made some steps since Portugal; we’ve improved the car performance and our feeling with it. There’s no doubt that when we have the confidence, we can do a good job. We need to keep working in this direction.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Italia Sardegna
2-5 June 2022
Ott Tanak
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (3rd)

“This is a very motivating result for the whole team, and I am pleased to score another podium for them. I am here with the target of competing for points, and to support our team’s fightback in the championship. Ott’s win and my third place has helped us to close the gap, which was the objective this weekend. Honestly, it would have been nice to fight more closely with Craig, but he had amazing speed and I didn’t want to take any risks. We lost some time in some stages, especially in the dust on Friday morning, but we achieved what we came for and we have to be happy with that.’

Thierry Neuville (41st)

“Looking at the positives, we have seen a strong team result this weekend. The victory is an important reward for the team after all the effort they have put in. On our side, unfortunately it’s another rally where we’re left thinking what might have been. It’s disappointing, of course, but we’ve continued to push hard, and we’ve been often on the limit. To be competitive, we really need to get everything working together across the whole event. The car performance is there, it’s not 100%, but somehow despite the struggles we have shown that we can set some fastest times. We gave it everything, and we could at least take maximum points from the Power Stage.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen (2nd)

“Obviously it’s been a great weekend, really happy with how everything went. It was important that we got a good result here after a couple of difficult rallies. So we’re definitely feeling better, and looking forward to Kenya now, having this good result in the bag should give us a bit more confidence.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet (4th)

“Really happy about this weekend for only the third race with the car and the team, we can be proud about what we’ve done. Thanks to everybody, they did a fantastic job to build such a nice guy, so to the mechanics and to everyone, thank you a lot.”

Gus Greensmith (7th)

“Obviously not a good weekend at all, really struggled to find a good feeling with the car for some reason this weekend, and could just never really find the confidence. So, we spent a lot of the weekend just trying new things, looking towards Kenya, and today on the penultimate stage that was the first time I felt comfortable with the car, and the speed showed it. At least we’ve gone in the right direction, but yeah, not a great weekend.”

Jari Huttunen (3rd WRC2)

“We’re quite happy. Especially on the pace, it is there, and there was a really nice feeling. I don’t know what it is, maybe back luck with the two punctures, and we lost quite a lot of time, but not really any more problems with the car, so overall we’re quite happy. “Our next event is Estonia, it’s difficult to say now, but hopefully we can make a good impression there also, but for sure it is a bit more difficult than this event.”

Adrien Fourmaux (DNF)

“It was a disappointing end to what was looking to be a strong weekend for the team. The plan for this event was to collect some good points for the team, which we were on track to do, but unfortunately a small mistake resulted in an accident. “I’d like to apologise to the team and thank them for their hard work over the weekend.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“Today we tried something a bit different to help the team for the next rally in Kenya and I think the changes worked really well. Considering we were opening the road, it felt really good. The speed has been great on this event, as it has been on every surface so far this year, and that means that the car is easy to drive. We just need to put it together. Yesterday I think we were a bit unlucky but that’s how rallying is sometimes: you get surprises. We’ll try to take the positive things from this rally into our next event.”

Elfyn Evans (40th)

“Today we were aiming towards the Power Stage and although we didn’t come away with as many points as we would have liked, some points is better than none. It’s another difficult weekend for us but there were at least some positives to take away from it, with some good moments inside the car in terms of stage times and in terms of feeling once again. The speed was quite good at many points but things just didn’t go our way. Now we try to improve for Kenya.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 05 / Rally d’Italia Sardegna 2022 / 02-05 June, 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (44th)

“We knew that today our only goal was to reach the end and try to score some extra points on the Power Stage. The feeling was not as good as I would have liked and it was quite tough but we still managed to be second-fastest, so four more points, together with fifth place on the rally. It was a tough weekend. We just knew that we had to be clever because results like this can be important when we count the points at the end of the year. We scored more than our nearest rival in the championship so we can be quite happy with that.”

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

1 K. Rovanperä 120
2 T. Neuville 65
3 O. Tänak 62
4 C. Breen 52
5 T. Katsuta 47
6 E. Evans 39
7 D. Sordo 34
8 S. Loeb 27
9 G. Greensmith 26
10 S. Ogier 19
11 P. Loubet 18
12 E. Lappi 17
13 A. Mikkelsen 12
14 O. Solberg 8

 

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

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 200
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 161
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 120
4 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team NG 53

 Summary

Well, what a fantastic result for Ott and Martin, taking only their third win for Hyundai. Yes, that is true, and a huge result for the 2019 world champions. They also have taken over three hundred stage wins now.

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Italia Sardegna
2-5 June 2022
Ott Tanak
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Given that Craig had not driven this rally since 2018 for Citroen Racing, he had a fantastic result with second overall. A stage win on Saturday, which kept Dani at arm’s length showed how comfortable he is getting with his Puma, and will give him and Paul confidence for later in the season with the rallies that he knows.

Dani won this rally twice in 2019 and 2020, and showed again why Hyundai continue to keep him as one of their drivers. He used his experience to move away from Pierre-Louis and secure a well-deserved third place and boosting the team with some good points in their fight for the manufacturer’s championship.

Next

Next up is Round Six, Safari Rally Kenya held from the 23rd to the 26th of June! We already know that Seb Loeb will be driving for M-Sport Ford and so it will be very interesting to see how he gets on. Really any of the teams could take the victory in the African wilds. Make sure you keep an eye out for my preview just before.

Rally Italia Sardegna – Day Two Report – Ott and Martin lead for Hyundai!

This was going to be an important day to get through, with no mid-day service and eight stages for the crews to tackle. They were split into two loops, which meant that there were new stages in the afternoon. Elfyn and Scott returned to competition and would be first on the road. Here is the startlist for Saturday – Evans, Greensmith, Neuville, Rovanperä, Katsuta, Fourmaux, Sordo, Breen, Loubet, Tänak, Lappi.

First up then, SS10 Tempio Pausania 1 – 12.03 km and Ott was fastest from Craig and Thierry. There was huge drama though as Esapekka came through, clipped a rock and pinballed off the bank at the side of the road, ripping a rear wheel off the GR Yaris and the Finn was out for the day. Thierry was on a big push to catch the cars ahead, closing the very large gap to Kalle ahead but still 39 seconds behind the championship leader. Craig was now in second and Dani held third overall after passing Pierre-Louis who was now 2.3 seconds behind the Spaniard.

Next was SS11 Erula – Tula 1 – 15.27 km and it was a 1-2-3 for Hyundai with Ott fastest from Thierry and Dani. Takamoto had a stall in the stage and dropped one place behind Kalle who was now up to sixth place.

Craig took his Puma to a stage win in SS12 Tempio Pausania 2 – 12.03 km with Ott and Pierre-Louis second and third in the stage. The big news from this stage though, was that Thierry rolled his i20 and although he and Martijn got the car back on its wheels, it was clear that they could not continue and retired in the stage.

Ott came back in SS13 Erula – Tula 2 – 15.27 km with the fastest time from Dani and Craig. Kalle had a little spin in this one, setting the eighth best time but still maintaining sixth overall. The stage winner was starting to really build on his lead, the gap now over 30 seconds.

After the break Ott also won SS14 Coiluna – Loelle 1 – 21.60 km with Kalle and Craig second and third. Elfyn showed the pace that we briefly saw yesterday with the fifth best time, despite being the first car into the stage. Ott’s lead over Craig was now approaching 40 seconds, whilst the Puma driver was moving further ahead of Dani.

Into SS15 Monte Lerno di Pattada 1 – 17.01 km and It was another stage win for the Estonian crew, with Dani and Elfyn second and third. Ott’s lead was now 45 seconds over Craig, and he said that he wasn’t even pushing hard, but clearly, he was very comfortable in his i20 and he could show his best pace.

Just two stages left then, and Ott won SS16 Coiluna – Loelle 2 – 21.60 km as well. Craig and Kalle were second and third in the stage. Unfortunately, Elfyn stopped again with a problem with his rear suspension. Meanwhile, Takamoto was getting through the stages in the best was possible after first damaging the aero and then the radiator later in the water splash.

The final stage then, SS17 Monte Lerno di Pattada 2 – 17.01 km and first to complete was Gus. Next through was Kalle and Takamoto. It all changed with the next crew though, as Adrien lost control of his Puma and ended up beached on the edge of the road with the rear in the trees lining the right-hand side of the stage. The stage was red flagged, but in the meantime, Dani had started the stage, so he had to slow down. Once Adrien was moved to a safe spot, the stage was restarted and Craig, Pierre-Louis and Ott started the stage, but the only one that completed the at a competitive pace was the Frenchman. There was some confusion for both Craig and Ott, who both got shown the red flag again and slowed accordingly. In the end the three drivers that slowed, were given a notional time.

Classification after Day Two

1 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 2:43:35.6
2 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +46.0
3 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +1:06.8
4 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Ford Puma Rally1 +1:31.8
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:23.2
6 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +3:52.3
7 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +5:03.3

Let’s hear from the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (1st)

“Today was very good, I had a great feeling in the car, and I was able to control things. It’s been quite a long time since we had a run like that, to be honest. It was a bit more challenging when the conditions were hot, especially at lunchtime, otherwise the roads were holding up well. It was enjoyable. In the first stage this morning, when Esapekka was still in the fight, we gave it a good push. We wanted to start well. After that, we were step by step kind of slowing down but the times kept coming. If you are in the right mood and rhythm that’s how it should be. We had a few driveability issues at times, but that seems to be related to the temperature; when it cooled down it became better again. We’ve been in this position before, and we know anything can still happen. It’s not over until the finish line is crossed.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Italia Sardegna
02-05 June 2022
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (3rd)

“We had some good luck to be here at the end of the day in one piece – we had a few moments today. It was a mixed day for us. We lost some time on the more slippery stages and we need to work a bit in this area. On the second pass, things were generally better. We had a problem in the SS16 water splash. I went in a bit fast, and water came into the car. For a moment, I thought we’d stop there but thankfully the engine started running again and we could complete the stage. The battle with Craig for second was nice, but he had a really good day and was faster than me, so it will be difficult to catch him. We don’t have many kilometres left tomorrow. We want to fight with no problems, while also keeping Loubet behind. Let’s see if our good fortune continues until the end of the rally.”

Thierry Neuville (SuperRally)

“After the disappointment of Friday’s technical issue, our target this morning was to go out there, give it a big push and have some fun. We made an aggressive tyre strategy and went hard on the opening stages. The tyres felt good, and the first two times were interesting. Unfortunately, we went a bit over the limit on the third one. I got caught out at a slow right-hander; I was late on the brakes, I climbed up the embankment and rolled the car. We kept going but I couldn’t make it to the end, and we had to retire for the day. Our rally was basically over yesterday but we wanted to continue fighting, not only for us but also for the team and mechanics, who always do an incredible job. We knew it would be a risk, especially when trying to make the impossible possible. We will be back in action tomorrow when we’ll be giving it everything to take maximum points in the Power Stage.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (6th)

“This morning especially was quite tricky with low grip and technical stages we couldn’t do too much. But we managed to just keep our own pace and then in the afternoon we could start to be a bit faster. We changed some small things on the car and I was able to find a bit more grip and feeling. That made the afternoon a bit more enjoyable. The plan was to stay out of trouble and this meant we were able to gain some places with others dropping out. Tomorrow the aim will be similar until the Power Stage and then we’ll see what we can do there.”

Elfyn Evans (SuperRally)

“Today we knew it was going to be a difficult day opening the road and it’s never easy to set good times from the front. So really it was just an opportunity to learn more about the car on gravel and use it as a test session, and everything was going quite OK actually. Then in the penultimate stage unfortunately something broke at the rear after an impact, but we didn’t lose too much from that. Tomorrow the main aim is to see what we can do from our position on the Power Stage and try to take some points if we can.”

Esapekka Lappi (SuperRally)

“This morning we didn’t change the rhythm from yesterday and the beginning of the first stage went pretty cleanly. We weren’t taking any risks. But in this narrow section there was a stone on the ground which threw us off the line – only slightly, but it was enough to make us hit the wall on the right and then a tree on the other side. It is pretty hard to accept because we were not going particularly fast. But this stage is very tricky and narrow and clearly in some places it was pretty rough as well. I had been feeling really comfortable in the car and we will see if we can try to find that feeling again tomorrow.”

Sunday

Just 39km’s over four stages for the crews to tackle. Can Ott hold on and take a well-deserved victory?

Rally Italia Sardegna 2022 – Day One Report – Esapekka and Janne lead!

The first full day then and the startlist was taken from before Thursday’s evening stage. Rovanperä, Neuville, Breen, Tänak, Katsuta, Greensmith, Evans, Lappi, Loubet, Fourmaux, Sordo. After the evening stage, SS1 Olbia – Cabu Abbas – 3.23 km, Thierry held the lead from Takamoto and Elfyn.

The first full day then and with 133km’s over eight stages, it would be a challenging day out there. The day would also have the longest stage of the weekend.

First up was SS2 Terranova 1 – 14.19 km and Elfyn was fastest, from Pierre-Louis and Ott. Three different cars in the top spots! All three moved up positions, with Elfyn moving up two places and into the lead, Ott gaining four and into second and Pierre-Louis jumped eight places and into third! The young Frenchman was showing great form, just like last time out in Portugal.

The lead changed at the end of SS3 Monti di Alà e Buddusò 1 – 24.70 km with Esapekka moving up four places and into the lead. The Finn won the stage from Craig and Ott. There was disaster for Elfyn though whose GS Yaris was suffering from a loss of water pressure, and the Welshman retired for the day after the stage. The M-Sport drivers had a mixed stage, the highlight being lead driver, Craig whose time took him ahead of his teammate Pierre-Louis, whilst Adrien dropped back despite setting the fourth best time in the stage. It was a different situation for Gus though who suffered a half-spin and trouble restarting his Puma. The Brit sadly fell to 25th from 10th.

It was all change in SS4 Terranova 2 – 14.19 km as Dani won the stage from Ott and Thierry. The Estonian’s pace took him ahead of Esapekka and into the lead after the Finn could only manage the fifth best time. The gap between them was tiny though, at just nine tenths of a second. Pierre-Louis moved up to third overall, after Kalle suffered a spin and took off his rear wing!

The final stage then before the service break, SS5 Monti di Alà e Buddusò 2 – 24.70 km and Dani took the stage win from M-Sport duo Craig and Pierre-Louis! The top two overall remained the same, with Ott setting the fourth best time from Esapekka who was fifth in the stage. Meanwhile, Thierry had transmission failure, with the result that he now only had front wheel drive. The Belgian dropped down from sixth to tenth. At least there was a service break now for the team to fix the problems.

After the break SS6 Osilo – Tergu 1 – 14.63 km was won by Ott with Esapekka in second and Craig the third fastest time, although he did have a lockup into a left hander just before the bridge, sliding into a bank. Never the less, the Irishman moved up into third place, passing Pierre-Louis.

Into SS7 Sedini – Castelsardo 1 – 13.26 km then and what turned out to be the final stage of the day, and the top three were Esapekka, Dani and Adrien. There was a change again in the leaders, with the stage winner taking the lead and Ott dropping back to second. Pierre-Louis was also gaining places, moving back ahead of Craig and into third again.

Classification after Day One

 

1 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 1:10:41.9
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +0.7
3 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Ford Puma Rally1 +15.1
4 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +15.5
5 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +16.1
6 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Puma Rally1 +30.8
7 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:05.5
8 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:13.1
9 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +2:07.2

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (1st)

“I thought we could be close to the front at the end of today but not necessarily to be leading, so it’s been a good day and I’m really satisfied. It’s been three years since I’ve been leading after a Friday and it feels very good. We started at a safe pace, also because of the hanging dust, but then when it was clear we could push like normal. On this rally you can’t drive at 100 per cent all the time but I think we were consistently at 90 per cent and that was the key today. The most important thing was to secure a good road position for tomorrow and now we have the best position possible, so it’s job done for today and let’s continue like this tomorrow.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 05 / Rally d’Italia Sardegna 2022 / 02-05 June, 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (8th)

“Today was difficult as we expected, more so in the afternoon. The stages we did this morning were a bit more sandy so it was not so bad to be the first car in some places. We made a few mistakes and lost a bit of time but otherwise it was OK. In the afternoon there was really a lot of loose gravel so it was very slippery. But we managed to get through it. Tomorrow is a long day without any service and it’s going to be tough conditions, so anything can happen. As fourth car on the road it should be a bit better and we’ll try and gain some positions.”

Elfyn Evans (55th)

“The feeling was quite good in the car this morning. The opening stage was difficult with the amount of dust but the time was good. Then, in the second stage, we had quite a bad compression through a dip in the road that caught us by surprise and damaged the underside of the car. We started to get some warnings in the car and tried to manage it as best as we could until the end of the stage. But after that, when we investigated it further, it was quite clear it was too difficult to repair at the side of the road in the time we had. It was disappointing for our day to end so early but we’ll get back out there tomorrow and try to take what we can from the weekend.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“Today’s focus was all about getting a good road position for tomorrow’s stages, and we have achieved that. The guys we are fighting are around us on the order, so the game is much fairer. We had some extreme Sardinia stages this morning between the trees and at high speed; in these places with limited visibility, you can only keep your fingers crossed. We survived the morning and the car felt better on the second loop. In the afternoon, it was a bit more difficult. It was as if the car had three-wheel drive on the final run, which affected the braking and acceleration. The two cancelled stages gave us a chance to bring the car back to service and get it all checked out for tomorrow. We need to go out and fight for the win.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship Round 05,
Rally Italia Sardegna 2022, 2-5 June 2022
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 N Rally1, Action during Day 1 of WRC Rally Italia Sardegna 2022
Photographer: Romain Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (5th)

“We’ve had a good first ‘proper’ day and we are again in the podium fight. We lost a lot of time on the opening stages with the dust, which put us far from the lead, but we’ve come back a bit since. Without that, we’d be a lot closer for sure. I think overall we are performing better than in Portugal if you look at the times. I have completed more kilometres in the car, but I still need some time to adapt; the cars weigh more, it’s a different way of driving, braking points aren’t the same, that sort of thing. Overall, we are in promising shape, and we have a long day tomorrow. We’ll keep pushing for the podium.”

Thierry Neuville (9th)

“It was not a great day. We lost the rear drive at the end of the morning and had to do the stage with front wheel drive. The team needs to investigate what happened exactly. It’s sad because I had a better and better feeling from the car, and we were getting closer to the top places. It is what it is, we’re ninth but two minutes from the lead, which means our rally is effectively over. We did the two afternoon stages as best we could, but nothing really changed. Anything can happen, of course. It’s going to be a rough day tomorrow, and I wish my team-mates the best of luck in their fight for the win. The manufacturer points are just as important as the driver ones. From my side, I’ll see how things go; if I feel good in the car, I’ll try to push and have some fun.”

Summary

Well, what an incredible first day we have had. Lots of lead changes and yet another problem for Elfyn as well. He’ll restart tomorrow and target getting points in the powerstage on Sunday. Tomorrow sees 131km’s over eight stages, and no mid-day service. Getting to the end of the day will be very tricky.

Pop back at the end of tomorrow to check out my day two report.

Rally de Italia Sardegna 2022 Preview – Jumping in the Dust!

Just two weeks after the completion of Rally de Portugal, the teams move to the fifth round of this year’s championship on the island of Sardegna. Hyundai are hoping for a good result in this rally, having won with Dani Sordo in 2019 and 2020.

This year there are 307km’s over 21 stages. Shakedown and the first stage take place on Thursday. Saturday sees the crews face eight stages with no service break. This will make this year’s event very challenging.

The seaside rally returns to Alghero for 2022 and begins on Thursday with Shakedown, followed by a brand-new single super special stage in the evening. Friday will see crews tackle two passes of four stages, including the rally’s longest, totalling 133.56km in distance. Saturday’s itinerary is similar in length, covering a distance of 131.82km across eight stages. The event will wrap up on Sunday with four final stages, including the Power Stage, which offers additional points to those who finish in the top five.

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

“Sardinia will be another tough rally. The stages there have been tricky for me in the past but last year I had a better feeling even though we had some issues during the weekend. Hopefully this year we can enjoy the stages and be fast. If the conditions are hot and dry like normal, I think it could be more difficult for us to fight for the win from first on the road than in Portugal, but the target will be the same: to do the best job we can. We go there knowing that we have a good base with the car on gravel and although we need to focus on making it even better, we are already in a good place.”

Elfyn Evans

“It was good to get a strong result on the board in Portugal and although I wasn’t fully satisfied with the weekend, it gives us something to build on in Sardinia. As a team we showed that we have a great starting point with the car on gravel and I think we can still improve some things for the next event. It helps to have two rallies in succession that are relatively similar in character, although the roads in Sardinia tend to have a harder base than the typical stages in Portugal. The weather is likely to be even hotter, so it is going to be a challenging weekend for the cars and the drivers.”

Esapekka Lappi

“It was great to see the performance of the GR YARIS Rally1 on gravel in Portugal and this has certainly made me more excited for next week. Of course, I’ve not had as much time in the car on gravel as the others but the feeling has been good so far and it looks like the team has done a really good job. I’ve always liked going to Sardinia; the location and the weather is really nice and I had some good rallies there when I was last with the team. So, I’m really looking forward to it. Our starting position will be good for the Friday and I hope we can fight for the top four or even a podium.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Having claimed a couple of wins in Sardinia, it is always an event I enjoy. The Hyundai cars have been strong there in the past and hopefully this year we can repeat this form. You must expect anything and everything from this rally; it’s quite tough on the cars when it is hot, and there could be some rain occasionally, which might help us. It is a very demanding event with long days, where we will be waking up very early and finishing late, so it will be challenging. It is one of the most technical gravel rallies in the calendar: the roads are quite narrow and twisty. There is no room for mistakes, so you have to be really on it and keep the car on the clean line. The grip can be quite high, especially on the second pass, but also the road conditions can be rough.”

Ott Tänak

“Sardinia is another tough gravel event, but one I am looking forward to taking on. Overall, it is quite demanding, with high temperatures and rough roads. The heat also makes it very hot in the car, so this is something we need to get used to as well. We have shown that we can compete for the podium if we can avoid issues and have a clean rally, so we are targeting a smooth weekend fighting at the front. Last year at Rally Italia Sardegna, we were battling for the win for most of the event, and we would very much like to be doing the same this time. We hope to use our learnings from Rally de Portugal to help us improve and get a strong result.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Rally Italia Sardegna 2021 3-6 June 2021
Dani Sordo, Borja Rozada, WRC, Action during Day 2 of Rally Italia Sardegna 2021
Photographer: Romain Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo

“Rally Italia Sardegna is always a really nice event for me. I feel comfortable there; I like both the roads and the location. Last year we didn’t have a lot of luck, as I made a small mistake and we went off, but the previous year was strong and I hope this year will be the same. The rally has very narrow roads, and the outer line can also be slippery, so you have to be clever and careful to stay in the lines; if you go wide, you can hit some large stones. It’s also normal to adjust the set-up of the car between the first and second pass here because of the difference in grip – in the first it is low, in the second quite high. Having two rallies in quick succession is very demanding after my break in competition, but I am really motivated.”

Teemu Suninen (WRC2)

“Rally Italia Sardinia is one of the hardest gravel rallies on calendar. I would describe its nature as mid speed; the rhythm changes quite a lot as a result of a lot of junctions and we have to adapt to the different type of roads very quickly. Normally they are quite narrow and there is no room for any errors, as there is a lot of stones and trees just next to road. The gravel is quite abrasive and we have to manage tyre wear very well. The weather doesn’t make the challenge any easier – it can be really warm, sometimes above 35°C, which puts more stress on the car and the crews too.”

Fabrizio Zaldivar (WRC2)

“Having now completed my first WRC2 event, the goal for Sardinia is definitely to continue to improve. I learned a lot in Portugal with the Hyundai i20 N Rally2; the car can be very competitive and reliable, which will be decisive in Sardinia. This weekend we will have our pre-event test in Italy. I think the kilometres we have done, many of which were in extreme conditions, gave us good information. Sardinia can be incredibly tough at times, with a mix of challenging stages, high temperatures and long road sections. Our category is incredibly competitive, but our objective is always the same: to improve our performance and scoring a lot of points for the team.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen

“Really looking forward to Sardinia, it hasn’t been very long since the rally in Portugal but I’m happy with what we learned there, I think we’ve learned a lot during the weekend and it’s given us food for thought. I’m hoping that we can put that into practice already early on in Sardinia, we have a better road position starting on Friday, so let’s try to make the biggest advantage we can of that.

“It’s a rally I haven’t done for a few years, but the stages are a mix of old and new, but I like what I’ve seen from the onboards, and I think it’ll be a rally that’ll suit us. Let’s attack it as best we can, we obviously want to get ourselves back on track again and gain some good points, and start making some more inroads into our championship progress.”

Gus Greensmith

“It’s a very quick turnaround between Portugal and Sardinia, so it’s a nice feeling to get back on the road and get out to Sardinia. It’s a very similar rally to Portugal, probably more on the rougher side, but we’re expecting temperatures to be very high.

“All should be good, the cars are set up very well I think, we’re not doing a test, but it’s not the most critical of the year. I’m really looking forward to it, hoping to make the most of a good weekend and get a good result.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet

“I’m really happy to be going to Sardinia, it’s one of my favourite rallies and one of my favourite places and it’s very close to home. We hope to have the same pace we had in Portugal on the Friday, with a pace like this I think we can hope for a good result, and to continue to build the confidence for the rest of the season, and tackle it step-by-step.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“I’m very happy to be back in Sardinia, it will be my fourth time doing the rally, but the first time competing in a top-level WRC car. So, it’ll be quite a big challenge for me, but we’ve taken the experience from Portugal and the feeling with the car was good. We hope to get a better result and score some points on this rally, and of course enjoy our time on such a beautiful island.”

Jari Huttunen, (WRC2)

“I’m looking forward to getting out on the roads in Sardinia, I enjoy gravel events and we had a good result on the event last year, so hoping to do the same again. It is a challenging event, and my first gravel event this season with M-Sport, but I am happy to be back and hope we can score some good points for the championship.”

 

Summary

Well, what a challenging rally we are set for. Saturday with it’s 131km over eight stages and no mid-day service will be key to the event, and the likely podium finishers will be the crews that make it through that day with the least problems. Now, who can take the win? Well, it’s hard to look past the crews that are in the lower half of the championship standings. They will have a road advantage that will allow them to set the pace.

Rally de Portugal 2022, Day Three Report – Kalle and Jonne take Victory!

The final day then with 49km over five stages, could Elfyn move past Kalle again and would Taka hold off Dani for third overall? The startlist looked like this – Ogier, Greensmith, Fourmaux, Tänak, Loubet, Breen, Neuville, Sordo, Katsuta, Evans, Rovanperä.

Well, first up was SS17 Felgueiras 1 – 8.91 km and after Elfyn had set the best time from early pacesetter Ott, Kalle came through to take the stage win and increase his lead over his Welsh teammate to 8.4 seconds. Elfyn admitted that he wasn’t on it as much as last year. In the battle between Taka and Dani for third, the Spaniard reduced the gap to just 1.2 seconds. The top Puma driver was Gus in this one setting the seventh best time.

Into SS18 Montim – 8.69 km then, a single run stage for the final day and in his bid to close the gap to Craig, Ott was fastest from Thierry and Kalle. The Estonian’s pace meant that he not only moved past Pierre-Louis but also reduced the gap to his former Hyundai teammate, Craig, to just 25.4 seconds. Thierry arrived at the stage end with some damage to the front corner of his i20 Rally1.

To the first run then of SS19 Fafe 1 – 11.18 km and our overall leader, Kalle, was only seventh fastest, whilst the top three were Ott, Thierry and Elfyn. The Welshman was able to close a little to Kalle, bringing the gap down to 6.6 seconds. Craig’s gap to Ott came down a further 4.9 seconds as the Estonian continued to push out there.

Okay then, the second run of SS20 Felgueiras 2 – 8.91 km and our top two overall were the top two in the stage. Elfyn again beat early pacesetter Ott, before Kalle came through and went 2.4 faster than Elfyn and now the lead was 9 seconds! Now there was drama for Craig and Paul who were suffering with a brake problem and were late into the stage, gaining penalties and they dropped to eighth overall, with both Ott and Pierre-Louis moving ahead into sixth and seventh respectively.

Well, the final stage then, SS21 Fafe 2 [Power Stage] – 11.18 km and early pacesetter Seb Ogier was finally beaten by Thierry before Dani came through and beat their time and at the same time securing third overall as Taka was 2.1 seconds slower than Dani when he finished the stage. Next to finish was Elfyn and he was certainly pushing out there, but unfortunately, he was slower than all the cars that finished in front of him apart from Taka. Kalle had taken victory over his Welsh teammate, and Elfyn had taken his first podium of the season.

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

Final Overall Classification – Rally de Portugal

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 3:44:19.2
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +15.2
3 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +2:17.3
4 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:19.4
5 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +2:37.8
6 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +4:45.7
7 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Ford Puma Rally1 +5:52.1
8 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +7:03.4
9 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Puma Rally1 +8:09.6
10 Y. Rossel V. Sarreaud Citroën C3 Rally2 +13:48.9

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“This victory was definitely a bit unexpected. Starting first on the road on Friday, I didn’t think we could fight for the win like this. But we managed to stay close to the guys in front and build it from there. We had a good pace all the time and a problem-free rally and to get the maximum points was really nice. Big thanks to the team, because we saw a lot of issues this weekend in really tough conditions but our car was perfect as always, so everybody in the team can be really proud of this result.”

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)

“Hats off to Kalle for the victory, he has done a great job. We had a good start to the rally but he has been very fast towards the end of the weekend. I was not quite as happy with the feeling today; I wasn’t able to fully relax and deliver as I would like. So there are naturally still some areas for us to work on with the car, but the performance in general has been very strong for the first event on gravel. Although I’m disappointed with the outcome today, it’s nice to be back on the podium and we should be able to build from here.”

Sébastien Ogier (51st)

“Congratulations to the team for this fantastic one-two result. For myself it was a difficult weekend after the bad luck that we had on Friday, just as we were moving closer to the lead battle. But the positive thing from this weekend is the experience that I have gained with the car, discovering and learning about it on gravel. The kilometres we did get have been very valuable and I’m definitely ending the rally with a better feeling than I started it with. We can see from the result that it is a strong car on gravel and I’m looking forward to my next event with the team.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (3rd)

“I am really pleased to finish this rally on the podium. It has not been easy in our first event competing with the new Hyundai i20 N Rally1 car. I have given my best all weekend, but I’ve needed to learn the car stage by stage and adapt my driving to suit its characteristics. We finished third and we know we have to work even harder to close the gap. Cándido has done a great job and I am pleased for the team that we can take a top-three result away from a challenging rally. I am sorry for Taka; he had an amazing rally and would have equally deserved the podium.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04, Rally de Portugal
19-22 May 2022
Dani Sordo, Candido Carrera, Hyundai i20 N Rally1, Action during Day 3 of WRC Rally de Portugal 2022
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (5th)

“We have given it everything this weekend, and we pushed quite hard in the Power Stage to take as many points as possible from this weekend, which wasn’t the greatest for us. We brought the car home with 13 points and we’re still second in the championship, although with an extended gap to the front. We have some positives with our car, I feel quite comfortable, and we have shown that the speed is there but there is definitely more work we need to do. We know we can push for the win, but if we are slowed by issues, then it’s not great. I’d like to say congratulations to the rally organisers; it’s been an incredible job, and with the old stars and cars back this weekend it’s been a top show for the fans.”

Ott Tänak (6th)

“There is no other way to describe our weekend than frustrating. We completed all the stages, we have tried to learn a few different things, and hopefully we can take something away from this rally that makes us a little bit better for the next one. We are quite far, there are plenty of jobs to do, and many things quite open. It has generally been difficult to get the confidence we need but there’s no other option than hard work to try and turn things around.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Pierre-Louis Loubet (7th)

“We can be really happy about our weekend for the first time in the car on gravel. The pace was there when everything was working in a good way, so we have learnt a lot ahead of Sardinia and if we make the right choices, we will have the same sort of pace there as we had on Friday in Portugal.”

Craig Breen (8th)

“Obviously, we didn’t have the best of weekends here in Portugal. Our good start on Friday unfortunately was hampered by our puncture on the same afternoon. We made some progress with the car during the weekend and I was gaining more confidence, but unfortunately a brake problem put us out of the fight for any power stage points today. We now focus on Sardinia, where we will try to do the best job possible to get our championship back on track.”

Adrien Fourmaux (9th)

“It’s been a good rally for us to get the confidence back, we can be happy to get to the end and take some points for the championship, and for the manufacturer’s championship also. It was great to be back on the gravel with this new generation of cars, and we’re now looking forward to Sardinia.”

Gus Greensmith (19th)

“Friday started off really well, at the end of Friday we were fighting for the podium which is where we wanted to be this weekend. Unfortunately, a bad tyre choice and also a puncture on Saturday morning took us out of the fight for the podium, and then it was just about clawing back some positions after dropping from fifth to eighth.

“Unfortunately, in the afternoon on Saturday, I went to use a sandbank to straighten the car up, to carry a bit more speed, but hidden in there was a large rock and it tore apart the rear suspension. Sunday was just about driving around, so not the best results for sure, not very happy. But there are plenty of positives to take away in terms of our performance on Friday.”

Sebastien Loeb (Retired)

“For sure I can’t be too happy about my weekend, it was already finished on Saturday morning so it wasn’t what we expected. Yesterday I made a mistake, on Saturday we broke the turbo, so it’s not great. But on the other side, we saw at the beginning of the rally that the car is good, and it’s fast, we were leading the rally after four stages, so that was a very good start. So that is the positive thing we will try to remember, we’ll try to get experience from that and I hope there will be another chance to try this car later this year.”

 

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’

After Round Four

1 K. Rovanperä 106
2 T. Neuville 60
3 T. Katsuta 38
4 O. Tänak 37
5 E. Evans 36
6 C. Breen 34
7 S. Loeb 27
8 G. Greensmith 20
9 S. Ogier 19
10 D. Sordo 19

 

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’

After Round Four

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 175
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 116
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 94
4 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team NG 42
2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 04 / Rally Portugal 2022 / 19-22 May, 2022 / 21-24 April 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Summary

Well, what a drive again from Kalle and Jonne. Winning this rally has been an amazing result for the crew that opened the road on Friday. They have really stamped their authority on this championship with another victory, their third just this season, bringing them onto five for their careers so far. They hold a huge 46-point lead over Thierry which is the kind of performance that you’d expect from Seb Loeb or Seb Ogier.

What about Elfyn and Scott then? They led at the end of Friday’s stages and were looking really strong in their lead, especially after their drive last year to their first win in Portugal. They took six stage wins along their way to their first podium of the year, and they as well as their Finnish teammates completely dominated the top of the timesheets throughout the rally. They will want to go one better at the next rally, and hope that they can close the gap to the championship leaders.

The final podium finishers, Dani and Cándido, had a really good first rally of the year. Quick when they needed to be, it was their experience that took them to the third step. Well, that and their amazing performance in the Porto Street stage at the end of Saturday. Taking 8.4 seconds out of Taka and Aaron was certainly helpful to their challenge.

Well, the next rally is Rally Italia Sardegna from the 2nd to the 5th of June, yes just two weeks from now! Who will conquer the dust on the Island?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day Two

 

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

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

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

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

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

Sébastien Ogier (55th)

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (4th)

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

Thierry Neuville (5th)

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

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

Ott Tänak (8th)

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

Sunday

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Classification after Day One

 

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

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

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

Kalle Rovanperä (2nd)

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

Sébastien Ogier (45th)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (3rd)

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

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

Thierry Neuville (7th)

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

Ott Tänak (10th)

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

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

Tomorrow

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

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

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

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

Let’s take a look then at the stages.

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

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

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

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

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

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

Elfyn Evans

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

Sébastien Ogier

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

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

Ott Tänak

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

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

Dani Sordo

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

Oliver Solberg

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

Photo credit Oliver Solberg

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sebastien Loeb

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

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

Craig Breen

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

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

Gus Greensmith

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

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

Adrien Fourmaux

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

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

Pierre-Louis Loubet

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

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

 

Summary

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

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

Rally Croatia 2022 – Day Three Report – Kalle and Jonne Take Victory!

The final day then and with 54km over four stages. The startlist looked like this – Lappi, Greensmith, Loubet, Katsuta, Evans, Neuville, Breen, Tänak, Rovanperä. The character of these stages were quite different compared to the first two days, with wide roads and a new stage to start the final day.

That first stage then, SS17 Trakošćan – Vrbno 1 – 13.15 km, and once again due to opening the road, Esapekka was fastest, with Kalle second and Thierry third. The Belgian and Irishman, Craig were battling over the final spot on the podium, with the Puma driver keeping the time loss to just four tenths. Kalle opened up his lead to 31.1 seconds after Ott could only manage the ninth best time, a full 12 seconds slower than the leader.

Into SS18 Zagorska Sela – Kumrovec 1 – 14.09 km, the first look at the power stage and the top three was Thierry, Ott and Gus. With Thierry going fastest and Craig with the sixth best time saw him emerge behind Thierry in fourth place.

There was huge drama though in SS19 Trakošćan – Vrbno 2 – 13.15 km as the rain came down around 30 minutes before the stage start and continued to pour down! Some of the crews tackled the stage with their hybrid systems turned off, just to make the cars more controllable, particularly if running harder tyres that take time to warm up. Well, Ott was fastest from two WRC2 drivers, Emil Lindholm and Chris Ingram who had both run full wets in the stage and giving them a grip advantage. Thierry had set the early pace before being knocked down to fourth.  The huge news for the leaderboard was that with Kalle only eighth fastest that there was a lead change for the first time and now Ott led by 1.4 seconds over erstwhile leader Kalle.

The final stage then, SS20 Zagorska Sela – Kumrovec 2 [Power Stage] – 14.09 km, run around two hours after the end of the previous stage. The startlist was changed – Rossel, Kajetanowicz, Lindholm, Gryazin, Lappi, Loubet, Greensmith, Katsuta, Evans, Breen, Neuville, Rovanperä, Tänak. Emil Lindholm set the early pace on this one, which was amazing as three Rally1 cars came through and didn’t eclipse the time set by the Finn in his Skoda Fabia Rally2. Then Elfyn came through and was fastest. What followed that was that Craig came through next and was slower than Elfyn but faster than Emil. Thierry was next and what unfolded for him was incredible. He slid wide on a left-hander and the car went into a ditch on the outside of the corner, followed by the front corner digging into the ditch and the rear pitching into the air. The car near rolled, but thankfully landed back onto it wheels, albeit facing the wrong way! Once he’d turned the car around, there was a further problem as now it appeared that the intercom had failed, so now Martijn needed to use hand signals for the rest of the stage. The Belgian finished the stage with damage and a puncture, but somehow managed to hold on to his third place. Just two cars left then, Kalle and Ott. The Finn came through and was really fast, setting the best time. What would Ott do then? Would he hold onto the lead? Well, he came through the splits and was slower than Kalle in each one and then ended up 5.7 seconds slower than Kalle, the Finn ultimately taking victory by 4.3 seconds. The top five in the stage was Kalle, Ott, Elfyn, Craig and Emil, and they all took power stage points.

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

Final Overall Classification –Croatia Rally

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 2:48:21.5
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +4.3
3 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +2:21.0
4 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +3:07.3
5 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +3:46.0
6 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +8:08.5
7 Y. Rossel V. Sarreaud Citroën C3 Rally2 +10:01.0
8 K. Kajetanowicz M. Szczepaniak Škoda Fabia Evo +11:01.2
9 E. Lindholm R. Hämäläinen Škoda Fabia Evo +11:11.9
10 N. Gryazin K. Aleksandrov Škoda Fabia Evo +11:48.5

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“This feels like the best win for me so far. It was such a tough weekend; the conditions were incredibly difficult and I think everyone had some issues or moments at some point. Today was really tough again. It looked like it was going to be too difficult for us to win with the way that the weather turned out. We lost a lot of time in the rain and we didn’t think the tyre choice would be too good for the final stage either with how much mud there was. But we just decided to go for it and push hard and the time was great. There will be some more difficult rallies to come opening the road on gravel which will be a new experience for me, but for now I’m happy of course: The pace is really good and everything is going well.”

Elfyn Evans (5th)

“It was a pretty difficult final day. A lot of rain that we weren’t expecting and with four hard tyres that was very tough. But I was happy to secure the fifth place, which is better than nothing, and at least we managed to top it up with a few points from the Power Stage – which was pretty much as good as we could expect with the tyre choice we had in those conditions. Overall, it’s been a really difficult weekend again for us. When we had a start like we had on Friday and were effectively last already, it’s difficult to fight back. But we try to look positively to Portugal and hope for better. Congratulations to Kalle: He did an incredible job all weekend and clearly deserved to win.”

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

Esapekka Lappi (49th)

“Today started well but then the conditions were not on our side with the tyre choice, which was a bit optimistic. Then the confidence just went away and I didn’t want to any stupid mistake so the speed dropped. But otherwise, I’m very satisfied with our speed this weekend. After Friday I think we did what we could. I wasn’t expecting that we could win so many stages in these conditions, and I need to take that with me for the future. It feels like we have a great car on asphalt: For me it’s better than the Yaris WRC was in 2018. Well done to Kalle: He did an amazing job, especially on the last stage.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“Compared to where we were on Friday evening, where we ended up today was not so bad. In fact, it was more promising than we could have expected at that moment. We were lacking the kind of pace to really compete directly with the other guys, but we were really clever with our tyre choices, which definitely played out well. We were always on the right tyres at the right time, even compared to others. In the end, Kalle had the performance that we were missing, and that’s the area on which we need to focus. Let’s see what the next rallies bring us. We go onto gravel next which will be another completely new topic again.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03, Rally Croatia
21-24 March 2022
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (3nd)

“We always try to take the positives away, and we can certainly be happy with third place. It was far from a trouble-free weekend, which included two minutes of time penalties. On the sporting side, it was a challenging event however, on the driving side, it was enjoyable. The car felt good, the roads were beautiful and it was fun. Despite the issues, we never gave up. We fought hard and at the end the team has been rewarded with a 2-3 result, and strong points for the manufacturers’ championship. We have improved our pace; the car is much nicer to drive and we have made another step forward. I am sure there is more to come, so we need to keep improving to get ourselves in a better position for future events.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen (4th)

“Obviously the weather made it an incredibly difficult weekend, but we made it through. For sure Paul and I learnt a lot, plus we managed to get some points in the power stage, and points for coming fourth. Unfortunately, a little mistake on the tyre choice on Sunday morning maybe ruled us out of a podium place, but apart from that we have to be satisfied.”

Gus Greensmith (15th)

“The weekend started out well and we were fifth after Friday morning. Going into the afternoon, if we look at the splits and times for the rest of the weekend, I think that was a realistic position for us to have held. But unfortunately, we had a lot of punctures – five in total – which took us out of the running completely. We had some good speed, but it is disappointing to walk away from the weekend with no points.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet (47th)

“We can be happy with the pace for this first rally with the team. To be able to fight with the guys felt good and in some stages I think we were close to doing our first fastest stage time. We need to continue in this way and this has been a great start to build our confidence.”

Adrien Fourmaux (DNF)

“It was at the start of the rally where I lost control of the car due to some aquaplaning. It was a really unfortunate mistake and not the way I planned to start the rally, the approach was to get points for the team and get through what was going to be a tricky rally. “I’m really sorry to the team and partners, and to all the fans who came out to watch.”

Jari Huttunen, WRC2 (28th)

“It has been a difficult weekend, but I enjoyed my first event in Croatia and I think I have learnt a lot about Tarmac rallying. I am pleased we got a stage win on Saturday morning, and we had some okay speed in other places too. It was a shame to retire on Friday, but I think I will learn from my mistake and we can do more next time.”

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

1 K. Rovanperä 76
2 T. Neuville 47
3 C. Breen 30
4 S. Loeb 27
5 O. Tänak 27
6 T. Katsuta 26
7 G. Greensmith 20
8 S. Ogier 19
9 E. Evans 17
10 E. Lappi 15
11 A. Mikkelsen 12
12 O. Solberg 8

 

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

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 126
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 84
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 80
4 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team NG 30

Summary

Well, what an incredible third round of this years’ world championship. Stay tuned for my driver report in the next few days. The next round is not so far away, with just three weeks to Rallye Portugal over the weekend 19th to 22nd of May.

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