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

Rally Croatia – Day Two Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day Two

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

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

Elfyn Evans (5th)

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

Esapekka Lappi (53rd)

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

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (2nd)

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

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

Thierry Neuville (4th)

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

Oliver Solberg (DNF)

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

Summary

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

Rally Croatia – Day One Report – Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day One

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

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

Elfyn Evans (6th)

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

Esapekka Lappi (57th) Super Rally

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

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

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

Ott Tänak (3rd)

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

Oliver Solberg (5th)

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

Saturday

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

Rally Croatia Preview 2022 – Round Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä

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

Esapekka Lappi

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

Elfyn Evans

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

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

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

Ott Tänak

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

Oliver Solberg

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

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen

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

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

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

Gus Greensmith

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

Adrien Fourmaux

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

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

Pierre-Louis Loubet

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

Jari Huttunen, WRC2 Driver

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

Summary

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

 

Enjoy the rally!

Rally Sweden 2022 Preview – Round Two

Time for the championship to return to Sweden for the first time since 2020! Elfyn and Scott picked up victory for the Toyota team the last time this rally was run and of course this rally was cancelled last year because of the covid situation faced by Sweden last year and we had a replacement event in Finland instead.

Well, back to this year and we have a very interesting situation that the top two crews from M-Sport Ford and Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT that finished first and second are not competing. This means that Kalle and Jonne will be opening the road throughout Friday’s stages in their GR Yaris Rally1.

 

Let’s take a look at the stages

Rally Sweden begins with its longest day, with Friday’s running consisting of two loops of Kroksjö (14.98km), Kamsjön (27.81km) and Sävar (17.28km) plus a single pass of Umeå Sprint (5.53km), totalling 125.72km

Saturday’s itinerary contains six stages and sees the crews twice tackle Brattby (10.49km), Långed (19.49km) and Umeå (11.17km)

Sunday features two tests each of Vindeln (14.19km) and Sarsjöliden (14.23km). The second pass of the latter will be the rally’s Power Stage.

 

Now with a number of fast crews further down the championship standings following Rallye Monte Carlo we should be looking to Ott, Elfyn and Thierry to challenge for the podium given their starting positions. Returning to the top cars we see Esapekka Lappi, and if he can get a good start and set some top times, then the Finn can hope to challenge near the top as well.

Craig Breen will also be quick in the Puma Rally1, whilst teammates Gus and Adrien will look to have good pace and see if they can both set some top times and maybe even some stage wins out there!

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans

“We didn’t start the year how we wanted to on the first rally, but the one small benefit is that our road position should be a bit better for Sweden. We want to capitalise on that as best as we can and, like always, do as well as possible. With everything being so new there have been a lot of different things to try during our testing on snow and ice, but overall, I’m feeling comfortable – although it is always hard to tell exactly how fast you are on this surface because things like traction vary depending on the conditions. We’ve also been looking through the videos of the stages provided by the organiser, and they look very fast in places but also with some very narrow and technical sections.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“Overall, I was really happy with our weekend in Monte Carlo. We started out in a difficult place but we did a lot of work together with the team to improve my feeling in the car. Of course, taking the extra points in the Power Stage means we start first on the road in Sweden and will have some road cleaning to do there on the first day. But we will do our best to take as many points as we can at the end of the weekend and hopefully, we can still have a really good rally. In testing we were starting from zero with the snow setup for the new car and it felt a bit tricky to drive in the beginning, but together with our team-mates I think we have made some good steps in the right direction during the two tests.”

Esapekka Lappi

“I am very excited about this moment. To be competing at the highest level once more is something I have been looking forward to for a long time. It has felt very natural to be working with the team again over the last few weeks and through testing. My feeling in the GR YARIS Rally1 was already quite good from the beginning and it’s been getting better step by step. I think the events I did with a Rally2 car last year are helping me a lot to understand how best to drive these cars. Rally Sweden is an event I have always enjoyed and I have always been competitive there. We need to remember that it’s been five months since my last rally, but I believe we can be on the pace and I want to fight for the podium – that’s my minimum target. It won’t be easy but I feel it’s possible.”

Hyundai Motorsport

2021 FIA World Rally Championship, Rally1 Test, November 2021
Action during Rally1 Test 2021
Photographer: Romain Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville

“With the all-new itinerary, it’s very difficult to know what is waiting for us at Rally Sweden, but it will definitely be interesting. While we don’t have a lot of experience with the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 in these conditions – it is a proper full-snow rally –I think our driving style will be pretty similar to the previous cars we’ve competed with at Rally Sweden. Rallying is always a bit more spectacular on snow with the studded tyres. Usually, the stages are quite fast, you have to lean into the snowbanks and drive sideways a bit more. You have to be slightly more brutal to get the studs to grip into the ground. Everybody has worked so hard over the last couple of months and we hope that we will see a good return for that effort next weekend.”

Ott Tänak

“Rally Sweden will be an all-new event as we are moving more north than we have in previous years. I really don’t know what to expect but snow is always something I’ve really enjoyed competing on. Sweden was the location of our first podium with Hyundai Motorsport, and it would mean a lot to be able to replicate that result next weekend. We have the inner drive to come back fighting from our difficult first round of the season; we want to turn that into positive momentum that will carry us throughout the year ahead. Last season we were victorious in the snow in Arctic Rally Finland, so we know we are fast and competitive on this surface. The target will be to hit the ground running and find a good rhythm with the Hyundai i20 N Rally1.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, Rally Sweden
24-27 February 2022
Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Oliver Solberg

“First of all, it is going to be very emotional to compete in my first home event as a factory driver. It is something I have dreamed about my whole life. I think the new location is an important step, as it is what the rally needs to secure fantastic conditions, even if it is sad to move away from my hometown. Snow and ice is also my favourite surface as well so it will be a very special rally. You have to be quite aggressive with your driving style, keeping the front of the car in the lines but pushing the rear. It will be new for everybody, so preparations are more equal and gives me a good opportunity to have a strong weekend. Rally Sweden will be a mix of everything: fast and twisty roads, wintry conditions, lots of snow banks – and maybe some reindeers.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen

“I’m really excited to discover a new rally in Umea. I’ve done the rally many times before in Torsby, but it’ll be completely new this time, and I’m looking forward to having some great conditions. This is the first rally on loose surfaces with the new cars and the Puma hybrid, so hopefully it’ll be good.

“Obviously, we start near the front of the road on the first stage, so that will be something new for me to discover. Being second car on the road will be not the best conditions but honestly, it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to. It comes with having a good championship position, so at the end of the day it’s good for that reason.

“I’m hoping for a good event, trying to build more confidence with the car like we did in Monte Carlo, and to see if we can get another strong result; the most important thing is to keep the championship position strong heading into Croatia, so let’s see how it goes.”

Gus Greensmith

“We’re looking forward to Rally Sweden, especially now it’s based up in Umea. From what we’ve seen the stages look really, really fast, some of the fastest I’ve ever seen, so that’s going to be really exciting. Generally, the conditions sound great so we’re looking forward to having big snowbanks to lean on. From my previous experience of testing the Puma last year on loose surfaces, the balance of the car and everything feels great, so we’re excited for this one.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“I’m really happy to come back to Sweden after two years, and it looks like we’ll have nice road conditions for this famous rally. The atmosphere is so special with this being the only event with 100 per cent snow, so it’s always something I look forward to as I enjoy driving on snow. For sure, I want a good result but first of all I want to enjoy it and get some experience on this surface. It’ll be the first time for me on snow in a WRC car, so it will be quite a big step, but I’m really looking forward to it.”

Jari Huttunen, WRC2 driver

“I’m very excited to start Rally Sweden, it’s nice to be back with M-Sport for my first rally this year. This is a very unique event with some challenging conditions, but it’s a great opportunity to add to my experience in WRC2.

“We’ve got a new location and some new roads, and it’s also my first time on snow with M-Sport Ford – so let’s see what we can do.”

Mattias Adielsson, WRC2 driver

“It will be a fantastic opportunity and proud moment for me to start our home rally in WRC with M-Sport Ford World Rally Team. I feel very well prepared for the upcoming challenge, and I know I have the material to be at our best in a Fiesta Rally2!

“But I’m also humble and I know the guys in WRC2 are much more experienced drivers then I am; luckily it is our home surface and I think we can put down some really good pace during the rally once we start feeling comfortable.”

Summary

We are set then for a great rally! Enjoy it. It’s going to be special and we’ll have a new championship leader at the end.

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.

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.

©2017 The Pitcrewonline