Rallye Monte Carlo – Sunday’s Report, Seb Loeb and Isabelle Galmiche win!

The final day then and 67km’s over four stages were ahead of the crews. The startlist looked like this – Katsuta, Solberg, Evans, Neuville, Greensmith, Rovanperä, Breen, Loeb, Ogier. Once again, there wasn’t a midday service, just a regroup and tyre changing zone.

First up was SS14 La Penne / Collongues 1 – 19.37 km and Loeb trimmed 1.1 seconds from Ogier’s’ lead, the two former Citroen teammates setting the pace out front, whilst Craig was just 9 tenths back with the third fastest time. Kalle continued his excellent pace with the fourth best time. It would be the last time we’d see Oliver and Elliott though, as the Hyundai crew withdrew at the end of the stage, still feeling the aftereffects of the fumes that had been coming into the cabin of their i20 Rally1.

SS15 Briançonnet / Entrevaux 1 – 14.26 km was next up and the top three was Thierry, Ogier and Takamoto. Loeb was fifth in the stage, losing some more time to Ogier in their battle for victory, the gap now 24.6 seconds! Elfyn stopped in the stage to change a tyre after getting a puncture, but it was better to have the car in good shape for the final stages.

The penultimate stage then, SS16 La Penne / Collongues 2 – 19.37 km and there was drama! The top three were Loeb, Gus and Takamoto, but a big problem for Ogier, as his left-hand front tyre suffered a puncture and he was 34.1 seconds slower than Loeb. The M-Sport driver was back in the lead, 9.5 seconds ahead of Ogier. Takamoto’s time was good enough to lift him up into ninth overall.

The final stage then, SS17 Briançonnet / Entrevaux 2 [Power Stage] – 14.26 km, and the startlist was changed again – Mikkelsen (WRC2), Cais (WRC2), Gryazin (WRC2), Johnston (WRC2), Munster (WRC2), Evans, Katsuta, Neuville, Greensmith, Rovanperä, Breen, Ogier, Loeb. Elfyn set the early benchmark, which Takamoto, Thierry and Gus could not get close to. Then came Kalle who was almost a second faster than his teammate, setting the fastest time. After Craig finished the stage, only eighth fastest, it was time to see who’s take the win. The early splits showed that Ogier was setting a faster pace than Kalle, but then we found out that he’d jumped the start and would get a 10 second penalty. All Loeb had to do was finish the stage and he’d win the rally. Loeb and Isabelle were the winners of Rallye Monte Carlo 2022 for M-Sport Ford! It was the first time a female co-driver had stood on the top step of the podium since 1997 when Piero Liatti and Fabrizia Pons took the win for Subaru and Prodrive. Just amazing and about time!

Final Overall Classification –Rallye Monte-Carlo

1 S. Loeb I. Galmiche Ford Puma Rally1 3:00:32.8
2 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +10.5
3 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +1:39.8
4 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:16.2
5 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +6:33.4
6 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +7:42.6
7 A. Mikkelsen T. Eriksen Škoda Fabia Evo +11:33.8
8 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +12:24.7
9 E. Cais P. Tesínský Ford Fiesta Mk II +12:29.2
10 N. Gryazin K. Aleksandrov Škoda Fabia Evo +13:41.3

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

M-Sport Ford WRT

Seb Loeb (1st)

“I feel really happy! I didn’t expect so much when I came here, but it was a great fight. Ogier was really fast and I struggled a bit yesterday and even this morning.”

Craig Breen (3rd)

“It feels amazing. This is the result of 18 months of incredibly hard work by a group of people all the way through Covid, and it’s all worth it because this is an absolutely amazing machine.”

Gus Greensmith (5th)

It’s been a good weekend in terms of performance and I want to congratulate everyone at M-Sport and Ford Performance because this thing is a weapon and it’s going to get better all through the year.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“It has been a huge joy to compete in this special rally again and to be in this incredible fight. This weekend we don’t come out as the winner but we can definitely keep our head up. Together with Benjamin and the team we did the job. We have done a great performance over the weekend and there were no issues on the car, which is a fantastic achievement. Fate decided differently today but I’m still smiling and I still enjoyed this fight very much. Honestly, I feel there was nothing I could do about what happened on the penultimate stage. It was a cut I avoided on the first pass but on the second pass it was impossible to avoid, it was very dirty and I had to follow the line of the others. But well done to Sébastien and Isabelle for the victory, they have done a remarkable performance and it was a very tough fight. It’s been a good weekend for the sport.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 01 / Rallye Monte Carlo 2022 / 20-23 January 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (4th)

“I am really happy to see the progress we made during the rally. I didn’t really know what was happening at the beginning but we believed in ourselves, pushed hard and found a good pace in the car. We did everything we could and finally got the setup much better and I could start to learn the car myself. I have to say big thanks to my engineer for pushing with me and doing big changes to the car. So, it was a really positive weekend in the end and we could do a good run in the Power Stage also. It’s important to get all the points we can so it’s nice to be in this position, even if it means we will be cleaning the road in Sweden. That’s going to be a bit tricky but we will do our best to be ready for that.”

Elfyn Evans (21st)

“It’s been an encouraging weekend in some ways but it’s massively frustrating to make the error that was so costly yesterday. I had a good feeling in the car but that doesn’t count for much because we finish the rally with very few points, which is a disappointment. I had a pretty good run in the Power Stage but maybe towards the end I didn’t make the most of the hybrid system in the tricky conditions. Overall, the team has done a really good job. We didn’t have a lot of testing but I found a much happier place with the car during the event. I think it performed really well without any issues, so a big thank you to the team.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“At the end of this rally, we are left with feelings of disappointment and frustration. We had a tough weekend. I drove for my life in the Power Stage, I gave it absolutely everything, so I was disappointed with the time. There has been a huge amount of work behind the scenes to prepare for this event, from me and Martijn, as well as the team, so to come away without any reward is hard to accept. We won’t give up. We are trying to keep everyone motivated and we will continue pushing. The will is definitely there and that’s important. There are different areas we are going to work on but most important is the reliability. We need to be much stronger for the upcoming events.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship Round 01,
Rallye Monte-Carlo 2022, 20-23 January 2022
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 N Rally1, Action during Day 3 of WRC Rallye Monte-Carlo 2022
Photographer: Romain Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Oliver Solberg (DNF)

“We started the day with some hope. Our plan was to gain more mileage today – for the car, the team and ourselves – we just wanted to drive and have fun. We were seventh through SS14 but after the stage we agreed with the team to retire the car as we were not feeling well after what we’d experienced over the past couple of days. It’s been a long, tough weekend but I am happy with what I’ve done. Even if it’s been tricky, we’ve set some good splits and stage times. There are always positives to take away. Big thanks to the team too, it’s been long days and the dedication is fantastic. Together as a team we’ll keep pushing and working to improve for next time!”

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

1 S. Loeb 27
2 S. Ogier 19
3 K. Rovanperä 17
4 C. Breen 15
5 T. Neuville 11
6 G. Greensmith 10
7 A. Mikkelsen 6
8 T. Katsuta 4
9 E. Evans 4
10 E. Cais 2
11 M. Gryazin 1

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 1

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 40
2 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 39
3 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 13
4 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team NG 8

Summary

Well, that was amazing! Just an incredible first round of this season’s championship. Look out for my roundup of the driver and co-driver performances this coming week.

Rallye Monte Carlo 2022 – Saturday’s Report, Seb Ogier and Ben Veillas move into the lead

With five stages and 96km of action, we were set for another really intense day of competition. The startlist looked like this, now running in reverse order – Solberg, Rovanperä, Katsuta, Greensmith, Breen, Tänak, Neuville, Evans, Ogier, Loeb.

Into the first stage then, SS9 Le Fugeret / Thorame-Haute – 16.80 km and Elfyn was fastest from Kalle and Ogier. It was Loeb’s turn to have a slow one, only setting the seventh best time and losing time to Ogier, the gap now just 6.5 seconds. There was drama again for Ott though, getting a puncture and losing three spots to Craig, Gus and Takamoto. The Estonian duo were now in eighth place. Of course, Elfyn’s great time meant that he’d closed the gap to Loeb to just 8.2 seconds.

Next stage then, into SS10 Saint-Jeannet / Malijai 1 – 17.04 km and Ogier was fastest from Elfyn and Kalle. The young Finn was definitely having a better day after his troubles on Friday and getting into a groove for sure. Ogier’s pace meant that he and Loeb now shared the lead after ten stages. There were contrasting fortunes for Craig and Gus. Gus suffered a mechanical problem and then a puncture in the stage, whilst Craig passed Thierry into fourth place.

The next one, SS11 Saint-Geniez / Thoard 1 – 20.79 km and it was smooth drive for Ogier who emerged from this one with a 5.4 second lead over Loeb. It was a disaster for Elfyn though who’s been setting some great splits throughout the stage. The Welshman slid off the road near the finish and the GR Yaris was stuck. His decision to go with studded tyres so nearly paid off with the lead. The stage was red flagged and this would mean that once the remaining cars had proceeded through, the car was moved and Elfyn could continue on and complete the rest of the day’s stages. Kalle continued to go well, setting the second fastest time, whilst Craig was third fastest and moved into third overall after the problem with Elfyn.

It got even better for Kalle SS12 Saint-Jeannet / Malijai 2 – 17.04 km as the Finn took the stage win from Loeb and Ogier. There were problems for Thierry, who was suffering with a damper problem and dropped back two places to sixth with Kalle and Takamoto both moving ahead into fourth and fifth place respectively.

So, to the final stage then, SS13 Saint-Geniez / Thoard 2 – 20.79 km and Kalle put his studded tyres to good work and set the fastest time, whilst Ogier and Oliver were second and third. Gus moved ahead of Thierry into fifth place as the Belgian battled through the stage with the returning problem with his front suspension as it attempted to break through the bonnet.

 

Classification after Day Three

1 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 2:19:43.1
2 S. Loeb I. Galmiche Ford Puma Rally1 +21.1
3 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +1:26.0
4 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:03.8
5 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +6:33.8
6 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +7:44.1

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It has been a good day for us and a positive step forward compared to yesterday. Generally, I felt better in the car today. In the first stage this morning I struggled to use the hybrid system in the way I wanted, but it’s something new for everyone and I try to adapt my driving style to make it work. We managed to make a bit of a gap tonight with a slightly crazy tyre choice in the last stage. It has been such a close battle all weekend with Sébastien [Loeb] and knowing him after all these years, I guessed he would try something. I wanted to have a straight fight with the same tyres and see who was faster, even though it was not the best choice for the conditions. It was a bit challenging in the snow but it felt really good on the dry roads and I had a really good stage. But tomorrow is still long and still with the potential for tricky conditions.”

Kalle Rovanperä (4th)

“We changed the car quite a lot from yesterday and the balance is much better for my driving style, it’s much easier to drive. We have done a bit of everything on the setup, a lot of small steps which are finally paying off. It felt really nice to win two stages, and the last stage was particularly good for us. At the beginning of the rally, it was hard to look at the stage times, but now it’s nice to start enjoying the driving. I am happy to have made such a big step and now we’ll try to see what more we can do. It always helps when you finally get a positive feeling in the car because it gives you the confidence to drive a bit better and everything gets easier.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 01 / Rallye Monte Carlo 2022 / 20-23 January 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (26th)

“It is obviously frustrating what happened today. It was going pretty well up until then with a good morning overall and it was going well in SS11 as well. I’d made it out of the difficult part of the stage but then I just got caught out on a tricky right-hander. I had some information in my pace-notes but it seemed to spring out of nowhere and I just braked too late. The car was in a difficult position so thanks to the fans for all their help, they were really good. We got it back on the stage and got going again but we had lost so much time. After that it felt like a bit of a long afternoon. We didn’t want to do anything to jeopardise the Power Stage tomorrow when we will try to get some points.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Seb Loeb (2nd)

I lost some time with my super softs, I had two crossed super softs and I didn’t really understand why, then in Sisteron, Seb was really fast in both runs, so nothing really major. The gap to the front is large, so we’ll see tomorrow.

Craig Breen (3rd)

It’s been a rally of attrition more than others in recent years, and I’ve been quite happy with the pace today, honestly, we’ve definitely increased it up since yesterday, I feel that if we had the same settings as we run yesterday as today, we’d be a level up. That was just a consequence of not having all the seat time in the test, my own fault entirely, but it’s good and I’ve been happy with that. We have a good tyre package for tomorrow as we used old tyres this afternoon, and this means that we have new sets available tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the new stages tomorrow.

Gus Greensmith (5th)

Yeah, from as good as things were yesterday to as bad as things were today. Nothing more could have gone wrong, engine issues, puncture, everything. Not a good day, but not much I could have done about it, I’m proud of my bodge, it’s got us to the end of the day and at least we can go again tomorrow.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“I don’t know what to say, really. We have made it through the day somehow after experiencing an ongoing issue with the front-right damper. At the start of the middle morning stage (SS10), the car suddenly felt like it was pulling to one side, but it was only at the end we realised that the top-mount fixation of the damper was gone. We kept fighting, although it was a bit of a struggle without lunchtime service. We had to carry out some repairs ourselves in between the two loops, but a few kilometres into SS12 the damper came through the bonnet. We then did some fixes on the road section before the final stage, but it gave up again in the final kilometres. It’s been a day of survival.”

Oliver Solberg (49th)

“We had the same issue with fuel fumes coming into the car as we have had on the previous days. In SS10, we lost concentration in the middle of the stage and went off the road at a medium speed right-hander. Miraculously, we got the car out and could continue the rally. I really didn’t think we would manage it – we had about 25 people pushing, pulling, and dragging the car out. Thankfully it was just cosmetic damage. We used the afternoon as another valuable learning experience. Setting the joint third-fastest time through a snowy SS13, equalling my best-ever stage result, was a nice way to end to a really difficult day.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo
20-23 January 2022
Oliver Solberg, Elliott Edmondson, Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (DNF)

“The car felt OK today, there was no real drama. The puncture on the first stage was one of those things that happen. We continued but with no spare tyre left we had to keep things as tidy as possible. Unfortunately, in the final stage on the icy conditions, we made a very small, but ultimately costly mistake. We picked up some damage and that was it. We were leaking coolant and the engine was overheating so we had to stop the car on the road section. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to continue tomorrow but we are committed to learning from this challenging weekend to build for the rest of the season.”

Sunday

Well, we are set for 67km’s over four stages and no service again either. Who will emerge on top? Can Loeb fight back for M-Sport Ford, or will Ogier triumph again? We shall find out tomorrow!

Rallye Monte Carlo 2022 Preview – The Hybrid Era starts!

Time for the fiftieth world rally championship season to start with the new rules and new cars that were launched on Saturday evening. The driver movements are well documented as well, so let’s get on and review this incredibly iconic rally. With four days of competition ahead, lets take a look at the stages.

The 90th running of this event this year is based in Monaco instead of Gap and with 296km over 17 stages the challenge of this rally remains as tricky as ever. We may not see any snow, but there will almost certainly be ice on the stages making it a big challenge to stay on the road.

Shakedown takes place on Thursday the 20th of January with a short 2.29km stage that starts at 9:31 local French time.

Later the same day the opening ceremony takes place in Monaco followed by two stages run in the dark: Luceram / Lantosque (15.20km) and La Bollène-Vésubie / Moulinet (23.25km)

Friday’s itinerary consists of two attempts of Roure / Bevil (18.33km), Guillaumes / Péone / Valberg (13.49km) and Val-de-Chalvagne / Entrevaux (17.11km) with just a tyre fitting zone between the morning and afternoon loops

Saturday begins with Le Fugeret / Thorame-Haute (16.80km), before presenting the challenge of two passes of Saint-Jeannet / Malijai (17.04km) and Saint-Geniez / Thoard (20.79km)

Sunday features two loops of La Penne / Collongues (19.37km) and Briançonnet / Entrevaux (14.26km). The second pass of the latter will be the rally’s Power Stage.

The usual crews will be challenging for the podium spots I suspect.

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Team Toyota poses for a photograph during the WRC launch at the Hangar 7 in Salzburg, Austria on January 15, 2022.

Sébastien Ogier

“I’m at the beginning of a different stage in my career, and as I’m not taking part in the full championship the feeling is a little bit different to usual for me at this time of the year. But being part of this programme with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is still exciting and going to Rallye Monte-Carlo is always special for me. I’m still a competitor and I still want to win, so I will be giving my best to perform. I know the team has been working very hard to be ready with this new generation of car and big steps have been made in every test. I’ve had the chance to do three days of testing in the GR YARIS Rally1 in December and another day last week, all to prepare for this event. It’s quite a big change and it’s an exciting challenge to try and adapt to that. But I think going to Monte Carlo will be a huge challenge for everybody: There’s more uncertainty than ever going into this rally.”

Elfyn Evans

“This is an exciting time in our sport and I’m looking forward to the challenge of these new cars. Since I first tested the GR YARIS Rally1 we’ve made some good progress, but it’s impossible to know where we stand relative to the competition until we get to Monte Carlo. So much has changed and it’s a clean sheet of paper. It’s not been easy to jump from a car that was so well-developed, where everything was coming quite easily, and into something that is a lot more unknown. The additional power from the hybrid system makes a huge difference and how you manage it could be worth quite a lot in certain cases. We’ve already learned a lot in testing and I’m sure we’re going to continue learning a lot during the year, starting in Monte Carlo. It’s a rally that’s always a bit of a lottery with the weather anyway, and now the base has moved south there’s a lot of new stages and different terrain to get to grips with.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“My feeling with the new car is good and we have some good preparation behind us. With any new car there are always many things to work on and to improve, but I feel we have been making good progress all the time. It’s been especially interesting to get used to the boost from the hybrid. It gives you much more power, and that’s usually a good thing, but it can also be a bit tricky in certain points if you’re not ready to use it. As a driver you need to think about how to use it and if you can do that better than the others it could make quite a big difference. Rallye Monte-Carlo is going to be quite special this year. It’s always a tricky rally but this year we are going to have a lot of new stages as well as a totally new car. Friday and Saturday are going to be long days without mid-day service and if you can get through those days without issues that will already be quite good.”

Hyundai Motorsport

2022 FIA World Rally Championship, WRC Launch 2022,
15 January 2022
X
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville

“Our main target in Monte-Carlo is to finish and gain experience in the car. I don’t think we are going to have a completely dry event but I don’t think it will be full of snow either; as usual, we are expecting a mix of conditions. Because of this, it’s very hard to have the perfect tyre choice for all the stages, so it’s all about compromise next weekend – the driver who does it best is going to be the most competitive. Choosing the tyres is not so easy because you have to collect a lot of information, trust yourself and commit. It will be a challenge, but I like driving in these conditions, so it is going to be exciting.”

Ott Tänak

“I think there is some uncertainty heading to Monte-Carlo, so it is important that we get through the rally without any major issues and keep the car running so we gain as much experience as possible – that will be the priority. Rallye Monte-Carlo is not as much about pure performance; it is about the reliability and the small decisions you make. Of course, we want to finish well and score many points for the championship this weekend. The very first stage in the dark with the new car will certainly be an adventure.”

Oliver Solberg

“Starting my first WRC campaign in Monte-Carlo is going to be very exciting. I think we have realistic expectations for the event – the most important part for us is just finishing and helping the team as much as possible. Rallye Monte-Carlo is an event where everything can happen; a stage can start with snow and end with tarmac, so it’s a very interesting and unpredictable way to begin the season with the new cars, but it’s also very exciting. I know I will take some time to find my feet but I have the best guys in the team to learn from.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sebastien Loeb

“It’s a radical change of scenery after spending three weeks on the Dakar Rally but it’s still very exciting to be at the start of the Monte Carlo Rally, especially with the WRC’s new hybrid era.

“I’m also proud of this collaboration with Malcolm’s team, working with them has been talked about throughout my career but never quite managed to happen, so thank you all, M-Sport, Ford Performance and Red Bull for finally making this happen on such an amazing event.

“For this rally, I will certainly be less prepared than the other drivers but the feeling with the Puma Hybrid Rally1 was immediately very good and everything just came together. I am looking forward to having fun this weekend with Isabelle, my new co-driver, and the whole M-Sport team.”

Craig Breen

“It is always something very special competing on Rallye Monte Carlo, but to be doing it for the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team, is a dream come true! The team has done an unbelievable job building and developing the Puma Hybrid Rally1 and it really shows. It is by far the best rally car I have ever driven and with the addition of the hybrid unit, it is going to add another dimension to the rally. Paul and I are relishing the challenge and are really looking forward to the year ahead with M-Sport and Ford.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“For Rallye Monte-Carlo, we will try to do our best, feel the car and understand its level of performance compared to the others. It will be the first time here in the top category of the WRC, I have been here previously in the Fiesta Rally2, my first appearance was already a top ten overall finish! I love these roads; I have performed quite well in the past so I have good hopes. By the way it’s a new era for everyone so we’ll need the perfect match between the car’s reliability and driving skill to perform well until the end of the rally. We hope to deliver the best result as we can, everything is possible!”

Gus Greensmith

“I’m excited to be a part of the 2022 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team as we head into the most significant rule change in WRC history. The team has done a great job developing the new car, and I feel really comfortable driving it. We’re all confident the car should be a lot more competitive than recent years, which will hopefully give us more opportunities to fight near the front. I was happy with my improvements last season, and I want to build on that going into 2022. I was within a second of my first stage win last year, and I feel that with the new package, this is definitely an achievable goal, and we also want to try to push for our first podium as well. Monte Carlo has always been a tricky opener for the championship, but I have done the rally a few times now, and with the new car feeling so good, I am really looking forward to the challenge. It will be essential to build the speed throughout the weekend, especially with this being Jonas and I’s second rally together. Thanks again to all the team for all the hard work they have put into the Puma Hybrid Rally1, and I hope we can repay them with a good result in Monte.”

Summary

Well, we are set for another gripping season of top-level rallying. Which team have done the best job with the new regulations and who will take victory this weekend? Make sure that you are following the action online and pop back at the end of each day for my daily reports.

WRC 2022 is Go!

Check out the new cars from Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT, M-Sport Ford WRT and Hyundai Motorsport!

Hyundai Motorsport were first to launch their new i20 Rally 1. The driver line up was announced some time ago. Here is a reminder though. Thierry and Ott will complete the whole season with Dani and Oliver sharing a third car.

2022 FIA World Rally Championship, WRC Launch 2022,
15 January 2022
X
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT will have three drivers doing the full season, Elfyn, Kalle and Takamoto, plus Seb and Esapekka sharing a car throughout the year.

 

Finally, M-Sport Ford WRT are bringing the Puma Rally 1, ending the long run of top-level Fiesta’s being built by the team. In terms of their line up, we have Craig, Gus and Adrien doing the full season and Seb Loeb also competing in Rallye Monte Carlo.

What do you all think? For me the Puma has the best livery and is just simply fantastic to look at.

The Hyundai and Toyota look pretty much as you’d expect them to look, given their last few cars, but they do have to have a certain look about them given the manufacturers have invested in the cars and development.

Let’s be glad that they are in the championship.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s take a look at the final standings.

Final Overall Classification –Rally Monza

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

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

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

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

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

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

Kalle Rovanperä (9th)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (3rd)

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

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

Thierry Neuville (4th)

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

Teemu Suninen (6th)

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

Hyundai 2C Competition

Oliver Solberg (5th)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day Two

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

 

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

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

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

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

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

Kalle Rovanperä (9th)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (3rd)

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

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

Thierry Neuville (4th)

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

Teemu Suninen (7th)

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

 

Sunday

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

Rally Monza – Day One Report.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day One

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

 

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Elfyn Evans (1st)

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

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

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

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

Kalle Rovanperä (9th)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

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

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

Dani Sordo (4th)

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

Teemu Suninen (8th)

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

Saturday

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

Rally Monza 2021 Preview – Championship Show Down

It’s time for the finale of this seasons World Rally Championship, with teammates Seb Ogier and Elfyn Evans both looking to win this season’s championship. Seventeen points separate them at the top of the table and assuming both drivers finish the rally, it is likely that the championship will be decided on the final stage.

Of course, there are a few driver and co-driver changes our there. First of all, Ott and Martin will not be competing at all. This means that Teemu and Mikko will be competing in the i20WRC. They were going to be in the i20 Rally2 of course, but have now been moved into the full WRC model. The other change is also within the Hyundai team, with Oliver Solberg taking a new co-driver. Elliott Edmondson, who was Gus Greensmith’s co-driver at the start of the season, will step into the seat along-side the young Swede.

Gus Greensmith also gets a new co-driver after the retirement of Chris Patterson. Jonas Andersson will step into the Fiesta. Ironically, he is Swedish as well, so we have a Swede with a British co-driver and a Brit with a Swedish co-driver!

Jonas Andersson (SWE) – Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Shakedown, 2013 Rally Sweden

Let’s take a look at the stages facing the crews.

Rally Monza opens with a shakedown on the evening of Thursday 18 November.

Friday features two passes each of Gerosa (11.09km), Costa Valle Imagna (22.17km) and Junior (14.97km) followed by an evening run of Grand Prix (10.21km) in darkness.

Saturday is the longest day of the rally, with two passes of San Fermo (14.45km) and Selvino (25.06km) in the morning proceeding back-to-back afternoon runs of Roggia (14.85km).

Sunday’s three stages only cover a competitive distance of 39.07km, as two passes of Serraglio (14.43km) follows a single run of Grand Prix. The second pass of Serraglio will be the rally’s Power Stage.

 

ACI Rally Monza itinerary:
Friday November 19
SS1 Gerosa 1 11.09km (6.89 miles) 0731
SS2 Costa Valle Imagna 1 22.17km (13.77 miles) 0816
SS3 Gerosa 2 11.09km (6.89 miles) 1016
SS4 Costa Valle Imagna 2 22.17km (13.77 miles) 1101
Service 1225
SS5 Junior 1 14.97km (9.30 miles) 1338
SS6 Junior 2 14.97km (9.30 miles) 1548
SS7 Grand Prix 1 10.21km (6.34 miles) 1820
Service 1840

Saturday November 20
SS8 San Fermo 1 14.45km (8.97 miles) 0715
SS9 Selvino 1 25.06km (15.57 miles) 0815
SS10 San Fermo 2 14.45km (8.97 miles) 1045
SS11 Selvino 2 25.06km (15.57 miles) 1145
Service 1338
SS12 Roggia 1 14.85km (9.22 miles) 1451
SS13 Roggia 2 14.85km (9.22 miles) 1701
Service 1726

Sunday November 21
SS14 Grand Prix 2 10.21km (6.34 miles) 0748
SS15 Serraglio 1 14.43km (8.96 miles) 1008
SS16 Serraglio 2 14.43km (8.96 miles) 1218
Service 1245

Friday and Saturday see stages away from the Monza race track and then the final stages will be run on parts of the Grand Prix track just like last year.

Let’s hear from the drivers –

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“While it’s true that this rally will be the end of a sporting chapter for myself and especially for Julien, this is not something I am thinking too much about for now: I think this is the best way to approach it, so that I can give my best as always and focus on our target of winning both titles. Of course, the situation going to Monza is much more favourable than one year ago, as this time I have some points in hand in the drivers’ standings. But it is not done yet and we need to stay focused. We had a good test in Italy last week, and I hope we can start the rally with the right rhythm, perform well and fight for a top result as well as keeping the championship in mind.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 07 / ACI Rally Monza / 3-6 November, 2020 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Elfyn Evans

“It’s good to be going into the final round still with a chance of taking the drivers’ title. It’s an outside chance but Scott and I will give it our best shot: The approach will be just to aim for the best result possible and see what happens. After a difficult mid-season, the last couple of rounds have been better for us, but Monza will be a completely different challenge again. The stages in the mountains have a really nice character, but the stages at the circuit are very mixed and not so flowing. It’s impossible to capture all of that in a pre-event test, but after last year we have a pretty good idea of what to expect.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“It’s going to be interesting to go back to Monza. Last year it was quite a special event with the extreme weather that we had, and I’m sure it will be another difficult rally in any case. This time we will have more stages on the proper mountain roads, which will be nice. At the circuit, you can have a bit of everything in one stage, and if it rains it will be very muddy and tricky. The plan is to fight for the best position but also to have a clean rally: With our team-mates fighting for the championship, it will be important for us to be there to secure the points for the manufacturers’ title if needed.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“I have participated a couple of times at Rally Monza in previous years, both as a WRC event and as Monza Rally Show, so I know the roads quite well. The stages are unique with lots of chicanes and cones, which is not the traditional rally style, but this year’s there looks to be more typical Italian mountain stages. It is also a great experience to compete on the Monza circuit. As it is the last event of the season, our aim is to push hard and fight at the front.”

Dani Sordo

“Monza is always a very nice rally to drive, and of course is a special place for the team as we won the manufacturers’ championship here in 2020. I really like the format of the event, with some stages on the circuit and others in the mountains. Last year was very fun, especially with the tricky weather conditions, so I think crews and spectators both really love this rally. I will of course try my best to get the best result possible this year.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07 Rally Monza 03-07 December 2020
Action, Day 2, Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Teemu Suninen

“Being part of the Hyundai Motorsport WRC line-up for Rally Monza is a great opportunity for us. I will follow the goals set by the team and show our speed within those limits. The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC is a new car for me and for sure I will need some time to get used to it. After I drove it for the first time at the pre-event test, there is no doubt that it is a winning car. Monza, as an event, has a lot of variations in grip and rhythm. There is also quite a difference between the stages up in the mountains and circuit sections. What a wonderful way to end the season!”

Oliver Solberg

“I was 15 when this current generation of cars started competing in 2017. I remember the incredible excitement around that time: what would they be like? How fast would they be? And what about the downforce? How would that feel?

“To be driving one of these cars at the other end of this generation is something incredible for me. Honestly, if you had told me I would be a Hyundai Motorsport driver in an i20 Coupe WRC when this chapter closed, I would have thought you were a little bit crazy. Of course, it was always my dream, but this is something really special.

“It will be quite emotional to say goodbye to these cars. I know I didn’t drive this amazing Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC so many times like the other guys, but it’s a real privilege to be part of a group of drivers who have competed in the world’s fastest ever rally cars. And an even bigger privilege to do it with this team.

“Next year’s going to be incredible with new technology and quite the same speed and potential, but the ‘WRC Plus’ cars will always be special.

“For Monza, I can’t wait! Last year was a really cool rally. The conditions were a little bit – actually, completely – crazy with all the snow and rain. I hope it’s nicer this time. I know we have fans coming back to this great event, so it would be really nice for them to watch in the sunshine.

“It’s also exciting for me to compete with Elliott for the first time. We did a lot of practise together already and I’m sure we’re going to work well.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Gus Greensmith

“Monza is a rally of two halves, you have the stages on the circuit which also incorporate quite a lot of gravel and grass which is something we don’t see during the year on Tarmac. Also, the actual Tarmac part of the track is very different as well, it’s more of a single venue format which is very different to what we see all year. Then we go to the stages up in the mountains, three of which are the same as last year which I know from personal experience are very tricky but we also had some very good times there last year. It’s somewhere I think we can excel at this weekend.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“I’m really excited to be going back to Monza after doing the rally last year in a Fiesta Rally2, I was happy about my pace so hopefully we have some good pace on this rally. It’s always interesting to do some stages inside a circuit and also in the really nice mountains. There are some beautiful mountain stages here too, last year was a big challenge with the weather so let’s see and hopefully the conditions will be a bit nicer. We’re happy to see the spectators back in the circuit area and we are looking forward to seeing them there! Thanks to M-Sport and all my partners for an amazing season.”

Jari Huttunen

“For me it’s really exciting to be joining M-Sport for Rally Monza in WRC2. It’s a new car and team to get to know, which will be a steep learning curve, but one I am looking forward to.

“I know that the Fiesta Rally2 is very competitive on Tarmac so I am looking forward to seeing what we can do together. Ok, Rally Monza has extra challenges that come with the circuit stages, but I still cannot wait to line up on the start line of the event with a prestigious team like M-Sport. I would like to thank M-Sport for making this happen at short notice.”

Summary

It could be a really special weekend Elfyn, Scott and their fans. It could just as equally be a special weekend for Seb and Adrien, given that this will be their last rally together before they end their partnership. One of these crews will be victorious and whoever is will completely deserve their success. Hopefully it will a good straight fight between them to the end of the rally with no reliability problems.

Anyone could stand on the podium come the end of the rally. Dani Sordo took third place behind his teammate Ott last year. Could he go one better? Of course, Seb took victory, but Elfyn was thereabouts with his pace before sliding off the road in stage eleven. The weather reports look much more stable in terms of no snow forecast, but we’ll have to see how things go on each day.

Enjoy! The action starts with shakedown on Thursday evening.

Rally Spain 2021 – My Thoughts

We saw another incredible rally in Spain. Let’s take a look and the performances of the crews.

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

We have to start with the drive from Thierry and Martijn. Once they took the lead from Elfyn and Scott, they didn’t look back. Nine stage wins gave him a good lead and a repeat win as well after winning in 2019. It was a typically strong drive from the Belgian duo, and the kind that you’d expect from Thierry.

Elfyn and Scott, competing for the first time in Spain in the Toyota Yaris surprised everyone with their pace on the first stage and I’m not sure why. The Welshman has always shown very good pace on tarmac over the years, and with him getting the car to his liking, it was just a matter of time when he’d be quick. He still had some struggles as the roads got messy with the gravel being pulled out and the car not giving him the feeling that he wanted, but their performance was good enough to net second place, and also with the good finish to the power stage they closed the championship lead down a bit more to just seventeen points.

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

Dani and Candido had a great event, driving to their first podium together. They passed Seb on the final day for third place, taking four stage wins, including the power stage as well. It was a really good drive and has kept Hyundai’s hopes of retaining their manufacturers title just a bit longer.

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

Looking beyond the podium Seb and Julien were the only other crew to take some stage wins, with two on Saturday. It wasn’t enough though to help them hold onto the podium position though and means that they go to Rally Monza with a useful but not big lead over their teammates. It is likely that the championship will be decided on the final stage, should both crews still be running on the final day.

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

Kalle and Jonne had a good rally, with consistent times in the stages. They’d not competed in the Yaris on these roads before, and showed good pace out there. When we return next year, we can expect some good pace from the young Finn’s.

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

At M-Sport we saw good drives from both crews. Adrien and new co-driver Alex did pretty well and set some good times including a second fastest time. There was a mistake that cost them time, but that does not detract from a very good drive from the French duo.

For Gus and Chris, it was a really good drive to sixth place. Chris Patterson’s final ever co-drive in a World Rally Car brought them both a good result, the kind that we have got used to since the change for Gus earlier this year.

 

Oliver and Craig drove to an excellent seventh overall, gaining good experience for the future. Learning the stages that they will return to, including the unique nature of the way to drive these cars in the road conditions that face them.

Finally, Ott and Martin had a rally to forget. After struggling with understeer throughout Friday morning, they went off the road, colliding with some trees causing too much damage to his i20 and leading to retirement from the event. A big shame for the crew who won their world title on this rally in 2019. They will return next year with a new car and hope for a better result. Who knows, they may even be fighting for another world championship.

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

Well, we now head to Rally Monza which will see the championship decided for the second year in a row. Look out for my preview just before.

Rally Spain, Day Three Report – Thierry and Martijn win Rally Spain!

Well, just 50km’s over four stages remained, including the power stage of course. The start list looked like this – Katsuta, Fourmaux, Solans, Solberg, Greensmith, Rovanperä, Sordo, Ogier, Evans, Neuville.

SS14 Santa Marina 1 – 9.10 km was first up and run before sunrise as well, bringing an added dimension and difficulty to the stage. Dani set the best time, from Thierry and Elfyn. The Spaniards pace meant that he’s passed Seb for third place as well. Elfyn lost a further 1.4 seconds to Thierry whose lead was now 17.1 seconds. Adrien continued to show good pace as well, setting the early pace, and ultimately being fifth fastest.

Well, into SS15 Riudecanyes 1 – 16.35 km and the dress rehearsal for the power stage. Dani was fastest again from Thierry and Seb. Adrien and Takamoto both set the same time jointly sixth fastest in the stage.

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

After a short break the run of SS16 Santa Marina 2 – 9.10 km saw Dani take yet another stage win, seven tenths faster than Seb and the Spaniard was now 2.3 seconds ahead of the world champion, and not looking unfazed at all in their battle. Adrien continued good form in this one, with the fourth best time, equal with Thierry. Elfyn cruised through, three seconds of the front runners’ pace, likely looking ahead to the power stage.

Finally, to SS17 Riudecanyes 2 [Power Stage] – 16.35 km, and there was some drama for Thierry and Martijn as well. A video emerged of Martijn push starting their i20 and then flames and smoke coming out of the exhaust suddenly! They were having problems with the starter motor on their car and getting the car started because of this. Never-the-less, they did make it to the stage on time. Then there was further drama, with rain falling in the stage as well. The startlist was changed once again – Gryazin, Camilli, Katsuta, Fourmaux, Solans, Solberg, Greensmith, Rovanperä, Ogier, Sordo, Evans, Neuville. Nikolay was first to come across the rain at around 13.5km into the stage. As each crew completed, we had a new fastest time. The rain then eased off, but of course the road was still wet and greasy at the end. Dani set the fastest time, taking the maximum points with Thierry second and Elfyn third. It was a good time from the Welshman, eclipsing his title rivals time by three tenths of a second, and nicking another point out of Seb’s lead.

Final Overall Classification –Rally de España

1 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2:34:11.8
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +24.1
3 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +35.3
4 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +42.1
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +1:31.8
6 G. Greensmith C. Patterson Ford Fiesta WRC +4:17.3
7 O. Solberg C. Drew Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +4:26.7
8 N. Solans M. Martí Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +4:34.9
9 E. Camilli M. Vilmot Citroën C2 Rally2 +9:49.4
10 N. Gryazin K. Aleksandrov Škoda Fabia Evo +10:05.9
2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de Espana
14-17 October 2021
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Let’s here from the drivers then!

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“I am relieved to get to the end of this rally, to be honest. It has been a tough weekend, and not without its challenges. We have fought incredibly hard across all stages, taking a lot of fastest times, and gradually extending our advantage. The result itself probably doesn’t show how much we’ve had to work. We had a good clean run until the final stage; everything was working perfectly up to that point. Unfortunately, we had a lot of stress before the Power Stage with an engine starter motor issue. That was the only disappointing aspect of an otherwise positive rally. Thanks to Martijn for another good job, and our second win together, as well as to Dani and Cándido for their podium result.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de Espana
14-17 October 2021
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, WRC, Action during Day 3 of Rally de Espana 2021
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (3rd)

“Honestly you can’t imagine how happy I am, not only for myself but also for Cándido, as it’s our first podium working together. He has been working really hard to get us to this level. We couldn’t have done any more, we have pushed in every stage. Thanks to all my family and the supporters, who have been cheering us on this weekend. We have been involved in a fantastic battle with Sébastien and it has been a pleasure to drive here. Thanks to the team for giving me such a competitive car that has allowed us to fight, and for supporting me always. I am so happy.”

Oliver Solberg (7th)

“I knew what I had to do this week. I had to come here and drive really sensibly to make the finish, make the miles and to keep Andrea happy.

“I have to say, the conditions were, in places, tougher than I expected. You can watch the onboards and see the cars sliding on some of the gravel and mud pulled to the stage by the cars ahead, but until you are in that car and feeling it slide beneath you in sixth gear, you don’t have the experience.

“Sometimes I have been really surprised by how much the cars are off the road and cutting, but this is why I was here – I had to learn and see this for myself. Now I understand much better this rally and what it takes to make everything work here.

“We had one small problem with the clutch in the Salou stage on Saturday night. I knew I couldn’t stall the car and that was probably the worst stage to drive like that – it was so tight, so narrow and so twisty. Fortunately, it was very short and we could make it through.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“Second place is a positive result but it’s not so easy to be happy when we made such a good start to the weekend. Unfortunately, it faded away a little bit and I didn’t feel completely at one with everything. There was perhaps a little bit more to gain from this weekend. The good thing from the weekend is that we managed to close the points gap and that the championship is still open. Realistically it’s a big gap to close in one round, but as we experienced last year, anything can still happen and we’ll try our best once again at Monza.”

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

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“Coming here I was targeting more than fourth position, but it is still good points towards the championship. It was a close fight today and we definitely tried in the first three stages; then the rain on the last one did not help with my strategy of not taking risks, and I was definitely on the safe side there. But overall, we have to remember that this weekend is another positive step for the championship and that’s what matters the most. It’s not over yet though, so we’ll have to be good at Monza and try to repeat the success we had there last year.”

Kalle Rovanperä (5th)

“Overall, it has been quite a good weekend for us. There was a lot of learning, especially on Friday, but it got better with the setup and with my driving as the weekend went on. Today we were aiming for the Power Stage but the conditions were tricky and it was drying for the guys behind us on the road, so we didn’t have the chance to fight for more. We didn’t quite find the perfect feeling and not the pace that we wanted, but we tried our best and it was a solid weekend.”

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

1 S. Ogier 204
2 E. Evans 187
3 T. Neuville 159
4 K. Rovanperä 140
5 O. Tänak 128
6 C. Breen 76
7 T. Katsuta 68
8 D. Sordo 63
9 G. Greensmith 60
10 A. Fourmaux 42

 

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

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 474
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 427
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 187
4 Hyundai 2C Competition 52

Well, we head now to the final round in Rally Monza from the 19th to 21st of November and a battle for both championships as well. Stay turned for my thoughts on the crews’ performances in the next few days.