VM kalendern 2022
20-13 jan Monte Carlo    
24-27 febr Rally Sweden    
21-27 april Kroatien    
19-22 maj Portugal    
2-5 juni Italien    
23-26 juni Kenya    
14-17 juli Estland    
4-7 aug Finland    
18-21 aug Ypres Rally Belgium    
8-11 sept Grekland    
29-2 okt Nya Zeeland *    
20-23 ijt Spanien    
10-13 nov Japan    
* Subject to contract
VM kalendern 2023
Monte-Carlo: 19 – 22 January
Sweden: 9 – 12 February
Mexico: 16 – 19 March
Croatia: 20 – 23 April
Portugal: 11 – 14 May
Italy: 1 – 4 June
Kenya: 22 – 25 June
Estonia: 20 – 23 July
Finland: 3 – 6 August
Greece: 7 – 10 September
Chile: 28 September – 1 October
Central Europe (AUT, CZE, GER): 26 – 29 October
Japan: 16 – 19 November

22-12-15 Nya möjligheter för Oliver Solberg i rally-VM
Rallyföraren Oliver Solberg siktar på att slåss om WRC2-titeln nästa säsong.

21-åringen skrev nyligen på ett avtal med det tyska Toksport-teamet för 2023. Där får han möjlighet att slåss om VM-titeln i den näst högsta klassen i rally.
– Jag är väldigt glad och tacksam över att få köra rally igen. Nu kan vi fortsätta vår resa mot toppen. Toksport-teamet är väldigt starkt och siktar högt, säger Oliver Solberg.

Senast 2021 vann teamet förartiteln i WRC2 med norrmannen Andreas Mikkelsen. Året innan tog Toksport teammästerskapet i klassen.

Bilen Solberg ska köra är en ny generation Skoda Fabia RS Rally2. Första tävlingen med hans nya team blir Rally Monte-Carlo 19-22 januari. VM-programmet i WRC2-klassen startar sedan med Rally Sweden (Umeå) den 9-12 februari.
– Det kommer att bli viktigt att komma igång tidigt, och jag ser väldigt mycket fram emot att köra årets första tävling i legendariska
Monte-Carlo. Det ska också bli väldigt speciellt att inleda kampen om VM-titeln hemma i Sverige.

Tidigare i veckan testade 21-åringen bilen. Säsongen 2020 körde Solberg tre VM- och ett EM-lopp med motsvarande bilmodell.
– Testet gav en väldigt bra känsla. Bilen har en bra bas, och jag trivdes väldigt bra med att köra den, säger Oliver Solberg.
22-11-26 WRC powers into 2023 with exciting new-look calendar
All-new three-country concept and return to North and South America are major highlights of the 13-round calendar.
An all-new three-country concept and the return to North and South America are major highlights of the 13-round 2023 FIA World Rally Championship calendar.

In an exciting innovation, the WRC will feature a round which takes place across three countries when Austria, Czech Republic and Germany host the Central European Rally from 26 - 29 October. The asphalt rally will be based out of the south-east German city of Passau.

Running from January to November, the 2023 calendar features a number of regular stops, along with the return of Mexico and Chile for the first time since Covid-19.

“We were absolutely determined to get the WRC calendar back to where it was pre-Covid, with a good spread of events inside and outside Europe," expressed WRC Promoter Senior Director of Events, Simon Larkin.

He continued: "There was very high demand for the limited number of slots on the calendar, but we’re pleased with the range and variety of events we have.

"They will provide a great sporting challenge for the competitors, as well as providing the highest-profile events in each country.”

His thoughts were echoed by WRC Promoter Managing Director Jona Siebel.

“We are incredibly happy to be returning to North and South America,” enthused Siebel. “We have maintained a dialogue with the Mexican and Chilean organisers throughout the Covid pandemic and we are confident this is now the right time for our return.

“Additionally, with an exciting new concept added to the mix, the WRC is well-placed to reach more fans than ever before.”

Beginning with the traditional season opener in Monte-Carlo from 19 - 22 January, the snow and ice of Sweden (9 - 12 February) await drivers for the second stop as the championship returns to Umeå following a successful debut of the new-look winter rally in 2022.

The first long-haul journey of the year takes the championship to Rally Guanajuato México from 16 - 19 March before a return to Europe for the first all-asphalt event of the year, Croatia Rally, from 20 - 23 April. The Croatian fixture now enters its third edition and will once again be based out of the country’s capital Zagreb.

The middle of the year reflects the 2022 calendar with Vodafone Rally de Portugal (11 - 14 May), Rally Italia Sardegna (1 - 4 June), Safari Rally Kenya (22 – 25 June), Rally Estonia (20 - 23 July), Secto Rally Finland (3 - 6 August) and EKO Acropolis Rally Greece (7 - 10 September) returning with a similar look and feel.

As the season begins to build towards its climax, South America awaits as the WRC goes back to Concepción, Chile for the first time since it debuted in 2019. The gravel event will run from 28 September - 1 October.

At the end of October, Austria, Czech Republic and Germany play host to Central Europe Rally ahead of FORUM8 Rally Japan - which is back hosting the season finale from 16 - 19 November.

The full calendar is:
Monte-Carlo: 19 – 22 January
Sweden: 9 – 12 February
Mexico: 16 – 19 March
Croatia: 20 – 23 April
Portugal: 11 – 14 May
Italy: 1 – 4 June
Kenya: 22 – 25 June
Estonia: 20 – 23 July
Finland: 3 – 6 August
Greece: 7 – 10 September
Chile: 28 September – 1 October
Central Europe (AUT, CZE, GER): 26 – 29 October
Japan: 16 – 19 November
22-11-13 Neuville prevails to clinch dramatic Japan win
Belgian blasts to glory as Evans falters at 2022 season finale.

Persistence paid dividends for Thierry Neuville in the FIA World Rally Championship finale as he grabbed the FORUM8 Rally Japan victory from under the nose of Elfyn Evans.

Hyundai i20 N driver Neuville headed Toyota GR Yaris rival Evans by just four seconds heading into Sunday’s five-stage finale having traded blows with the Welshman since the very first stage on Friday morning.

The stage was set for a thrilling final day of the 2022 WRC season and, as the cars roared into morning service for the last time this year, tyres were the talk of the town. Meteorologists from both camps had their work cut out and there were contrasting opinions on whether rain would fall in the early afternoon.

Neuville believed it would and took an even spread of hard compound, soft compound and wet weather Pirelli rubber. Evans, on the other hand, wasn’t convinced and opted for a 50:50 split of hard and soft compound tyres.

It appeared the latter had made the correct choice when he moved to within six-tenths of Neuville after blitzing the Belgian through Asahi Kougen. The excitement was short-lived, however, as disaster struck on the very next test.

A miscommunication between Evans and co-driver Scott Martin saw the duo run wide on a right-hand bend, nudging a kerb with the Toyota’s rear left wheel. The resultant puncture took more than 1min 30sec to change - stopping the victory scrap dead in its tracks as he plummeted down the order.

While rain did arrive for the final two tests, it was no worry for Neuville. He cruised to the finish 1min 11.3sec clear of departing team-mate Ott Tänak, who benefited from Evans’ heartbreak to secure an important 1-2 for Hyundai on the home soil of archrivals Toyota Gazoo Racing

"It feels great," Neuville exclaimed. "It wasn't an easy weekend or an easy year, but to end with a victory after showing a good speed all weekend is a great way to end the season. Our weather guys did an incredible job this weekend, so thanks to them and thanks to everybody."

Takamoto Katsuta also moved up the order at team-mate Evans’ expense to secure his second podium of the season on local roads. The 29-year-old trailed Tänak by a minute at close of play with Yaris colleague Sébastien Ogier a mere 12.3sec behind.

Ogier leapfrogged Evans - who eventually finished fifth, with a plucky run through the penultimate test. Ending only 2min 23.6sec down on victor Neuville, the Frenchman was left to rue what could have been as he lost almost three minutes with a puncture on Friday morning. Sixth place went to M-Sport Ford’s Gus Greensmith.

Final result:
1. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N 2hr 43min 52.3sec
2. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N +1min 11.1sec
3. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +2min 11.3sec
4. S Ogier / V Landais FRA Toyota GR Yaris +2min 23.6sec
5. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +4min 5.1sec
6. G Greensmith / J Andersson GBR Ford Puma +4min 7.4sec

2022 FIA World Rally Championship (final driver positions):
1. K Rovanperä 255pts
2. O Tänak 205pts
3. T Neuville 193pts

The official Home of World Rallying:

22-11-12 Saturday charge rewards Neuville with Japan lead
Belgian dethrones Elfyn Evans to set up final day thriller with duelling duo split by just 4.0sec.

Thierry Neuville seized the lead of FORUM8 Rally Japan, toppling long-time polesitter Elfyn Evans with a gutsy Saturday drive.

The penultimate leg of this season finale was a game of two halves. Kicking off the day with a three-second lead over his Hyundai i20 N foe, Evans took time from his rival on two of the morning’s three asphalt speed tests - building his advantage to 5.9sec by the mid-leg service.

But the Toyota GR Yaris driver fell out of his rhythm after the halfway halt and Neuville saw his chance. The Belgian pulled back 2.6sec through the second run of Nukata Forest, but it was at Lake Mikawako - the next stage - where he really made his mark.

The lead changed hands for the first time since Friday morning when Neuville, despite complaining of differential slip, outpaced his rival by 5.9sec. He was in no mood to compromise either, and edged the Welshman through the closing Okazaki City super special to end the day 4.0sec in front.

“The day has been good for us, but it has been a challenging one,” Neuville reflected. “We have been struggling a bit with the balance throughout the day but we got it better for the afternoon. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”

Evans was left a little dumbfounded by the sudden change in tempo and claimed that, despite no set-up changes being made between the morning and afternoon loops, he’d lost the feeling with the front end of his car.

With a hefty 35.9sec gap between Evans and third-placed Ott Tänak heading into Sunday’s finale, it’s looking likely to be a thrilling two-way fight for glory.

Estonia’s Tänak moved into the leading trio early on when Kalle Rovanperä punctured. He, too, struggled to find a good balance aboard his i20 N and made constant alterations throughout the day with varied success.

He may have been out of touch with the frontrunning pair, but Tänak did manage to stretch his buffer over the fourth-placed Toyota of Takamoto Katsuta. The local ace felt unable to push to the maximum and ended 24.6sec in arrears.

The drive of the day undoubtedly went to eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier, partnered by new co-driver Vincent Landais. A Friday puncture means the Yaris man is out of contention for victory but he climbed from 10th to fifth after collecting three stage wins, leapfrogging Gus Greensmith in the process.

Greensmith’s M-Sport Ford Puma also hit trouble on Friday and his tricky run continued as an intermittent power steering fault reared its head in the afternoon. With five stages remaining the Briton sits 3min 25.4sec back from leader Neuville.

WRC2 cars filled the rest of the top 10 - headed by Škoda Fabia star Emil Lindholm. A comfortable 47.6sec lead in the category means the Finn is on target to clinch the title come Sunday. Sami Pajari, Grégoire Munster and Teemu Suninen completed the leaderboard while Rovanperä languished in 11th overall.

Although the SS8 puncture was to blame for Rovanperä’s initial drop down the order, he tumbled even further back when an impact in the next stage buckled his only spare wheel.

The Finn bolted the deflated tyre back onto the car for the morning’s finale to prevent further damage, protecting the bent rim in readiness for the 50 kilometre jaunt back to service. He picked up 40sec in penalties for lateness and, with nothing more to fight for, spent the afternoon trialling different set-ups.

Leading positions after Saturday:
1. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N 1hr 51min 28.3sec
2. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +4.0sec
3. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N +39.9sec
4. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +1min 4.5sec
5. S Ogier / V Landais FRA Toyota GR Yaris +2min 46.7sec
6. G Greensmith / J Andersson GBR Ford Puma +3min 25.4sec
22-11-11 Eager Evans shades Neuville on Friday in Japan
Welshman leads by 3.0sec with team-mate Rovanperä a close third.

Elfyn Evans headed Thierry Neuville by the narrowest of margins as Friday’s brutal opening leg cut holes through the field at FORUM8 Rally Japan.

Just 3.0sec split the pair after the first full day of action on technical mountain roads around Aichi, with Evans’ GR Yaris holding strong on the home soil of his Toyota Gazoo Racing squad.

Japan is back on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar for the first time since 2010 and the all-new asphalt event has already claimed the scalps of multiple frontline drivers. Dani Sordo’s Hyundai i20 N was the first to go - his car reduced to a sorry-looking shell after catching fire in the opener.

Sordo’s drama resulted in a shortened morning loop, with the first pass of Inabu Dam cancelled due to delays. After two stages Evans and Neuville were level pegging as they returned to mid-leg service in the Toyota Stadium.

The second run through Shitara Town (SS7) was also culled owing to the barrier damage Craig Breen’s Ford Puma caused when he understeered into retirement. But Evans had found his rhythm and used the remaining two stretches to his advantage.

A benchmark time at Isegami’s Tunnel moved the Welshman 1.1sec clear of his Hyundai rival and he repeated that feat in the closing test to consolidate his position. Still, Evans - who is yet to win a rally this year - felt there was room for improvement.

"It's been tough and quite short," he reflected. “We're only four stages down but it's still not been easy.

"The stages are very demanding and there's a different feeling in all of them - you're always wanting something different from the car. Tomorrow is more of the same and it's going to be changeable," he added.

Kalle Rovanperä briefly led despite being alarmed by smoke entering his car’s cockpit in the opener, but the Finn’s pace began to dwindle as he wrestled with understeer which overheated the front tyres. Still, he made it two Toyota cars in the top three, trailing Neuville by just 2.1sec.

It was a mediocre first day for Ott Tänak on his final rally with Hyundai Motorsport. A differential niggle slowed the Estonian early in the day but the issue was cured at service, enabling him to end 8.8sec back from the podium in fourth.

Hometown hero Takamoto Katsuta was another man struggling with understeer although his confidence did start to blossom with each stage that passed. Laying 20.6sec back from the lead, a strong result is still within reach for the Toyota driver.

More than a minute back was Gus Greensmith in the only remaining Ford. His day was far from drama-free and the Briton nursed a broken driveshaft throughout the morning. Thursday night leader Sébastien Ogier was also in trouble and languished 2min 49.8sec off the pace after stopping to change a wheel in SS2.

Support category cars dominated the latter half of the leaderboard with WRC2 rookie Sami Pajari heading up WRC2 in seventh overall ahead of Teemu Suninen. Emil Lindholm holds ninth overall and is on course to clinch the championship crown after his main title rival Kajetan Kajetanowicz crashed, while Ogier capped off the top ten.

Saturday boasts eight more gruelling stages. Nukata Forest (20.56km) and Lake Mikawako (14.74km) are driven morning and afternoon while a single run through Shinshiro City (7.08km) rounds off the morning loop. Double runs of the fan-favourite Okazaki City SSS (1.40km) bring the day to a close.

Leading positions after Friday:
1. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris 57min 18.8sec
2. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +3.0sec
3. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +5.1sec
4. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N +13.9sec
5. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +20.6sec
6. G Greensmith / J Andersson GBR Ford Puma +2min 0.4sec

The official Home of World Rallying:
22-11-09 Japanese fixture returns to WRC after 12-year absence
FORUM8 Rally Japan back on the calendar for the first time since 2010. Twelve years after it last appeared in the fixture list, FORUM8 Rally Japan (10 - 13 November) forms the finale of the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship - marking the land of the rising sun’s return to the WRC for the first time since 2010.

There will be challenges aplenty as, unlike previous editions which were held on the northern island of Hokkaido, this week’s all-new asphalt event is based in Toyota City, on the country’s main island of Honshu.

Crews face 19 demanding special stages in the mountain regions of Aichi and Gifu, boasting a population of approximately nine million people and about three hours’ drive from capital city Tokyo.

For Toyota Gazoo Racing, it’s a dream come true.

The Japanese marque’s global headquarters sit just a stone’s throw away from the service park. With the drivers’, co-drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles already in the bag, the team is hoping to celebrate its global success with a strong showing in front of local crowds.

Taking the spotlight will no doubt be Takamoto Katsuta, who drives for Toyota’s Next Generation squad. The 29-year-old was born and raised in Nagoya and starts this 13th round in search of his maiden WRC victory.

“Of course I know this will be a big rally,” Katsuta said. “There will be a lot of interest from the people, from the fans and for the team.

“I know it will be quite a different rally with different kinds of roads from what we have seen. But I will do my best and, of course, I’m going to enjoy Japanese stages!”

Joining Katsuta in a trio of identical GR Yaris cars are drivers’ champion Kalle Rovanperä along with Elfyn Evans and Sébastien Ogier, who has new co-driver Vincent Landais alongside.

Ott Tänak marks his final start for Hyundai Motorsport after confirming his departure from the i20 N team at the end of the season.

A solid result would ensure the Estonian driver bows out with second in the championship, although team-mate Thierry Neuville - third in the points - will be doing all he can to try and overturn the 21-point deficit. Part-time pilot Dani Sordo drives the team’s third car on what will be his fifth outing of the season.

M-Sport Ford field a two-strong Puma line-up headed by Irishman Craig Breen. He debuts alongside new co-driver James Fulton, while Gus Greensmith steers a similar car.

It’s also a big week in WRC2, the sport’s premier support category. Emil Lindholm, Kajetan Kajetanowicz and the absent Andreas Mikkelsen each stand a chance of being crowned champion depending on how the action unfolds.

The rally starts on Thursday evening with a super special stage in Kuragaike Park and finishes on Sunday afternoon after 19 tests totalling 283.27km.

The official Home of World Rallying:
22-11-04 WRC50: Celebrating the greatest moments in the history of the FIA World Rally Championship
2022 marks the 50th season of the FIA World Rally Championship and to commemorate this momentous occasion, is revealing the 50 greatest moments in the history of the championship, as selected by an internal expert panel.

Beginning with Jean-Claude Andruet’s victory at Rallye Monte-Carlo back in January 1973 right through to Kalle Rovanperä’s record-shattering maiden title last month at Repco Rally New Zealand, will throughout November and December celebrate each and every moment that made it into the chosen 50.

Coming up with just 50 moments was no easy task, with the final list whittled down from more than a hundred. The list represents some of the greatest achievements by teams, drivers and mechanics - from record-breaking seasons to co-drivers taking the wheel and the closest finishes in the history of the championship.

The moments will also be celebrated across WRC’s social media channels while members of the public are invited to have their say with the chance to select their five most memorable moments from the final 50.

Additionally, a guest panel of rallying journalists from around the globe will be invited to select their five moments, which will be revealed in the coming weeks in guest columns.
22-10-27 Tillbaka till rötterna för Oliver Solberg
Drygt tre år efter sin VM-debut, återvänder Oliver Solberg (21) till Wales för att köra Cambrian Rally på några av de vägarna som var med på VM-tävlingen 2019.

21-åringen gjorde sig ett namn i Llandudno senast världsmästerskapet i rally kom till Storbritannien 2019. Cambrian Rally är den säsongsavslutande tävlingen i British Rally Championship.
– Vägarna är några av de häftigaste, oavsett vad man jämför dem med i resten av rallyvärlden. Det är så sjukt kul att köra dem. När möjligheten dök upp igen var det något jag verkligen ville göra, säger Oliver Solberg.

VM-debuten slutade med en bruten tävling, men 2019 är säsongen då Oliver Solberg vann sju av 13 rallyn i Lettland, Estland och USA.

Tyvärr måste Oliver klara sig utan sin vanliga kartläsare i Wales, britten Elliott Edmondson.
– Elliott välte under träningen på sin mountainbike. Vi tränar hårt och tänjer på gränserna, och det engagemanget är en av de saker jag verkligen gillar och beundrar med Elliott. Jag är verkligen ledsen att han går miste om denna helgen.

Craig Drew kommer att ersätta Edmondson i den walesiska tävlingen. Två gånger tidigare har 39-årige Drew varit Oliver Solbergs kartläsare.
– Jag känner Craig väldigt väl bra sedan tidigare. Vi tävlade tillsammans i Finland och Spanien förra året, och vi var teamkamrater i Subaru Motorsports USA några år innan dess. Han är en trevlig kille och jag är övertygad om att han kommer att göra ett bra jobb. Ett stort tack till honom för att han ställde upp med kort varsel, säger Solberg.

Cambrian Rally startar på fredag ??kväll med två asfaltssträckor. På lördag fortsätter de ut i skogen med två slingor av fyra specialsträckor i känd terräng från VM-tävlingen 2019.

Oliver ska köra en privatägd Volkswagen Polo R5 i Wales.
22-10-23 Double delight in Spain for Ogier and Toyota
Frenchman victorious as Toyota clinches manufacturers' championship crown.
Sébastien Ogier stormed to his first victory of the FIA World Rally Championship’s hybrid era - triumphing at RallyRACC - Rally de España while helping secure the manufacturers’ title for Toyota Gazoo Racing.

The Frenchman has been contesting a part-time campaign for Toyota this season and took control of this penultimate round when he posted a trio of fastest times across the middle of the three-day asphalt rally.

Driving a GR Yaris, Ogier carried a 20.7sec lead into Sunday’s final leg and could afford to negotiate the final four speed tests without taking excessive risks.

He did exactly that, clinching victory by 16.4sec from Hyundai i20 N star Thierry Neuville to mark his first triumph of the WRC’s hybrid era and win number one for co-driver Benjamin Veillas.

Kalle Rovanperä, who won the drivers’ championship earlier this month, confirmed a double podium for Toyota. His result secured the Japanese marque its second-successive manufacturers’ crown.

With one round to spare, the Jyväskylä-based squad holds an unassailable 93-point lead over Hyundai Motorsport and can no longer be caught.

"It's Benji's first win so I am very happy for him," beamed Ogier. "It's fantastic to get this win because it was an important weekend for the team.

"It's not always easy to achieve such results and this season has been very dominant, so congratulations to Toyota Gazoo Racing."

Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Jari-Matti Latvala added: "It's great to secure the title here. The last rally in Japan is the home round for Toyota so now we can be much more relaxed going there. If we can win there, we can have even bigger celebrations!"

Neuville stole the runner-up spot from Rovanperä late on Saturday afternoon and was poised for a tight scrap with the young Finn. That battle never materialised, however, as Rovanperä punctured a front left tyre when he drove over a drainage hole in the second stage. At the final control, 18.1sec split the pair.

Hyundai cars locked out the remainder of the top-five with Ott Tänak finishing 44.0sec back from the lead in fourth overall. The Estonian driver never quite found the sweet spot in terms of his car’s set-up and trailed Rovanperä by 9.5sec.

A disappointed Dani Sordo was 32.5sec further back after a mixed weekend on his home roads. He lacked pace for the first day-and-a-half until set-up tweaks at Saturday’s midpoint unlocked a sudden turn of speed.

Unfortunately those tweaks came too little too late and, despite winning a couple of the smooth Tarmac speed tests, Sordo was left to rue what could have been.

Also feeling dejected was sixth-placed Elfyn Evans. The Welshman felt he was lacking performance throughout the rally and a puncture in the same place as team-mate Rovanperä at Riudecanyes compounded his woes.

Takamoto Katsuta and Adrien Fourmaux were seventh and eighth. Both drivers gained a position at the expense of Fourmaux’s M-Sport Ford Puma colleague Craig Breen, who also had tyre dramas after hitting a hole in the morning.

Breen eventually finished ninth overall as co-driver Paul Nagle bowed into retirement from the sport’s top level on his 102nd WRC start. Pierre-Louis Loubet - also driving a Puma - completed the leaderboard.

Teemu Suninen wrapped-up a comfortable victory in WRC2 while Finnish youngster Lauri Joona was crowned WRC3 champion after edging Jan Cerny in the all-Ford Fiesta Rally3 category.

The championship reaches its finale next month with an all-new asphalt event. FORUM8 Rally Japan takes place from 10 - 13 November.

Overall classification:
1. S Ogier / B Veillas FRA Toyota GR Yaris 2hr 44min 43.9sec
2. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +16.4sec
3. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +34.5sec
4. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N +44.0sec
5. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 N +1min 16.5sec
6. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +1min 51.1sec
22-10-22 Ogier outclasses rivals on Saturday in Spain
Frenchman pulls clear as Toyota poised to take manufacturers' crown.
A dominant drive moved Sébastien Ogier clear of the RallyRACC - Rally de España field as his Toyota Gazoo Racing squad put one hand on the manufacturers’ crown on Saturday.

The eight-time WRC champion is on course to claim his maiden victory of the FIA World Rally Championship’s hybrid era on only his fifth start aboard a Rally1-specification GR Yaris.

Ogier was virtually untouchable and won four out of seven flowing asphalt speed tests in the Costa Daurada hills to turn a slender 4.8sec overnight lead into a 20.7sec advantage over Thierry Neuville with one day remaining of this penultimate round.

Barring any major dramas, Ogier’s Toyota Gazoo Racing squad is almost guaranteed to seal the manufacturers’ championship title on Sunday.

"It's been a very enjoyable day for us," said Ogier. "We had good fun in the car and the times were following. That's always what you dream for when you come to a rally.

"Honestly, I have been happy with my season so far but of course it would be nice to clinch a win. Now we are in a good position but there is still a long way to go."

Neuville moved into the runner-up spot at the final hour - pinching the position from 2022 champion Kalle Rovanperä, who dropped a chunk of time when he selected the wrong engine map on the start line of El Montmell. At close of play just 1.4sec separated the pair.

It was a generally frustrating day for Neuville, however, as he fought to optimise the set-up of his i20 N. Despite continuously making tweaks to the car he could not find the perfect balance between understeer and the rear-end breaking free.

His Estonian team-mate Ott Tänak ended 15.9sec behind. Tänak’s day was relatively drama-free and he headed fifth-placed Dani Sordo - also driving an i20 N - by 36.6sec.

Sordo’s Saturday was one of two halves. The morning was filled with frustration as he repeatedly dropped time to the leading crews. Mid-leg set-up tweaks rejuvenated the Spaniard and he even grabbed a stage win late in the afternoon.

Elfyn Evans remained a lacklustre sixth overall, 14.4sec down on Sordo. His Toyota ran without problems but, like Sordo, something was missing for the 33-year-old and he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was.

Tyre management was the major talking point for Craig Breen, who held seventh overall in an M-Sport Ford Puma. The Irishman couldn’t gel with the set-up of the car which resulted in him overheating the front tyres on several occasions. He languished 1min 39.7sec back from the lead but pulled clear of Yaris hotshot Takamoto Katsuta.

Puma duo Adrien Fourmaux and Pierre-Louis Loubet completed the leaderboard. The latter broke into the top 10 at the expense of team-mate Gus Greensmith, who retired when he collided with an armco barrier on a right-hand bend in the final stage of the morning loop.

Teemu Suninen sits 11th overall and also holds a commanding lead over Yohan Rossel in the WRC2 category. The WRC3 title will be decided on Sunday and just seconds separate Ford Fiesta rivals Jan Cerný and Lauri Joona.

Leading positions after Saturday:
1. S Ogier / B Veillas FRA Toyota GR Yaris 2hr 10min 18.5sec
2. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +20.7sec
3. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +22.1sec
4. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N +36.6sec
5. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 N +1min 13.2sec
6. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +1min 27.6sec
22-10-19 Neuville on rescue mission to secure Spain hat-trick
Plucky Belgian targets third-consecutive Rally de España win to keep Hyundai’s hopes alive.
The battle for the manufacturers’ crown in the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship reaches a potentially decisive point in Spain this week as just two teams remain in contention for the crown ahead of RallyRACC – Rally de España (20 – 23 October).

Toyota Gazoo Racing can seal its second title in as many years at this penultimate round. The only squad able to prevent that from happening is Hyundai Motorsport, which trails the former by 81 points.

With such an advantage, a trouble-free outing for Toyota should be sufficient to get the job done. But Hyundai has a trick up its sleeve: Thierry Neuville.

For two editions on the bounce, the Belgian has been the man to beat on the smooth asphalt roads in the hills behind the Costa Daurada, south of Barcelona. Going three in a row would be a big boost for his Korean manufacturer squad.

“It would be nice to take a third win in a row in Spain,” he said. “We’ll certainly be aiming to fight at the front and finish the event on the podium again.

“Being quick here is all about getting a good set-up and finding a nice flow with the car – then pushing as hard as you can. We’ll try our best to secure a good result for the team.”

Neuville is joined by i20 N colleagues Ott Tänak and home hero Dani Sordo, who has finished on the podium at the last six rallies he has contested.

Toyota’s charge is led by Kalle Rovanperä, who became the youngest WRC champion in history at Repco Rally New Zealand earlier this month.

The Finn and team-mates Sébastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans are the men charged with keeping Hyundai at bay, while Takamoto Katsuta drives a fourth GR Yaris under Toyota’s Next Generation banner.

M-Sport Ford fields a five-pronged Puma line-up. Craig Breen will be looking to give co-driver Paul Nagle a strong send-off on his final WRC rally, while Gus Greensmith, Adrien Fourmaux and Pierre-Louis Loubet also feature. Greek privateer Jourdan Serderidis drives the fifth car.

After Thursday evening’s start ceremony in Salou, the action begins on Friday morning. Competitors face 19 stages covering 293.77km before Sunday afternoon’s finish in the holiday resort.
22-10-13 Oliver Solberg får sponsorhjelp til å kjøre britisk rally
Oliver Solberg stiller til start i Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally i Wales senere denne måneden.
Han skal delta med en familieeid Volkswagen Polo R5. 21-åringen kjørte sist på walisiske skogsveier da han debuterte i rally-VM for snart tre år siden.

Nylig fikk han beskjed om at Hyundai Motorsport ikke ønsker å forlenge kontrakten når den utløper ved årsskiftet.
-Ting har åpenbart endret seg. Jeg vil ikke fokusere på det som skjedde, men heller se framover. Etter å ha pratet med sponsorene mine om situasjonen, ble vi enige om at det beste for meg er å kjøre løp igjen. Jeg er veldig heldig som har en bil tilgjengelig og muligheten til å kjøre, sier Oliver Solberg.

Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally er basert i Llandudno; samme by som var vertskap for Storbritannias siste runde av rally-VM i 2019.

Fartsprøver som Brenig, Alwen, Clocaenog og Penmachno er kjent for rallyfans verden over. I VM-debuten for tre år siden vant han Alwen- og Brenig-prøvene. Oliver slo lagkameraten og faren Petter Solberg, som avsluttet sin VM-karriere i en tilsvarende Volkswagen Polo R5.

Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally starter med to fartsprøver på asfalt fredag 28. oktober. Dagen derpå skal bilene kjøre de berømte grusveiene.
22-10-06 Oliver Solberg måste lämna Hyundai-teamet
Rallyföraren Oliver Solberg (21) får inget nytt kontrakt med Hyundai Motorsport kommande säsong.

Det tvååriga kontraktet med fabriksteamet går ut i slutet av året och kommer inte att förnyas.
– Jag är så klart besviken över situationen, men jag måste respektera teamets beslut och deras nya plan att gå vidare med tre bilar och bara rutinerade förare, säger Oliver Solberg.

Beslutet om splittringen togs av det tyskledda teamet. Solberg har startat i åtta deltävlingar i Rally-VM:s värstingklass den här säsongen. Bästa placering är en fjärde plats från asfaltstävlingen Rally Belgium i augusti.

Senast körde han till sig en femteplats i Rally New Zealand. Samtidigt säkrade 21-åringen karriärens första Power Stage-poäng. Den tävlingen var Oliver Solbergs sista i VM som Hyundai-förare.

De goda resultaten kom i slutet av en säsong som har varit präglad av massa lärdom för den unge rallyföraren och hans brittiska kartläsare, Elliott Edmondson.
– Jag vet att det inte var ett lätt beslut för dem att ta eftersom ursprungsplanen har ändrats. Oavsett är jag otroligt tacksam för möjligheten jag fick av Hyundai Motorsport att få delta i rally-VM tillsammans med dem. Vi visste att den här säsongen skulle bli en lärorik period, och den har utan tvekan gett massa erfarenhet inför nästa fas i min karriär, säger Solberg.

Oliver Solberg kommer att förbli en del av fabriksteamet fram till slutet av året. Han ska göra rekognoseringen i Rally Japan, men han kommer inte köra någon mer tävling denna säsongen.

22-10-03 Kalle Rovanperä's WRC-winning season
Making history: Kalle Rovanperä's WRC-winning season
How a 22-year-old Finn rewrote rallying's record books.

Sitting at the stop line on the Col de Turini on Thursday evening at this year’s Rallye Monte-Carlo, Kalle Rovanperä looked anything but comfortable.

It was the debut of the long-awaited hybrid-powered Rally1 cars. New cars, new technology and, with Sébastien Ogier only committing to a part-time schedule, a guaranteed new champion at the end of the season.

“I think the balance of the car is really tricky for me to drive,” Rovanperä said of his GR Yaris after dropping 42.8sec across 23.25 kilometres on the second stage of the WRC’s 50th anniversary season. “It's quite difficult for me."

Things soon began to look up for the young Finn. Having ended the opening pair of stages way down in 12th overall, he climbed to ninth on Friday and by Saturday was setting stage-winning times.

Ending Rallye Monte-Carlo in fourth place, perhaps Rovanperä hadn’t made such a bad start after all.

It was one month later in Umeå when Rovanperä really established himself as a serious title contender. Opening the roads on the snow and ice of Rally Sweden, he managed his studded Pirelli tyres to perfection to end Friday’s opening leg just behind Thierry Neuville.

When Saturday came, he pounced - taking the lead on the very first stage and holding off charging team-mate Elfyn Evans to remain at the fore.

A nighttime attack made all the difference when, under darkness, Rovanperä threw caution to the wind, extending his advantage over the Welshman from 1.2sec to 8.3sec heading into a short final day.

When Evans slammed into a snowbank, it was game, set and match. Rovanperä emulated the actions of his father Harri from 21 years prior to take career victory number three.

Now he was on a roll. April’s Croatia Rally - the first asphalt fixture of the hybrid era - produced some of the most thrilling scenes the WRC had seen in a long time.

Rovanperä led from the start only for a storm in the penultimate speed test wiping out his hard-earned advantage.

A resurgent Ott Tänak, whose gamble on softer Pirelli tyres gave his Hyundai i20 N a performance edge on the streaming asphalt, grabbed a 1.4sec lead before the Wolf Power Stage - but the Yaris driver threw caution to the wind and remarkably overturned that deficit to win by 4.3sec, extending his points lead to 29 after just three rounds.

The hat-trick was completed just weeks later at Vodafone Rally de Portugal. After trailing Evans for the opening two days, Rovanperä relegated his team-mate late in the penultimate leg.

He extended his advantage further on Sunday - winning the rally and taking five bonus points on the Wolf Power Stage to leave Porto 46 points ahead.

Rally Italia Sardegna was a tricky one. With one eye on the championship, Rovanperä had the dubious task of opening the road on Friday and he struggled for traction on the loose gravel stages.

An improved road position later in the rally enabled the Finn to climb the order but he was never really in the podium battle and eventually settled for fifth overall - still the highest-placed Toyota on a disappointing weekend for the team.

Despite that, he did extend his championship advantage by nine points after Evans stopped with suspension trouble.

Rovanperä, co-driven by long-term partner Jonne Halttunen, was soon back to winning ways at Safari Rally Kenya.

Undeterred by feeling unwell, he seized the top spot from team-mate Ogier on Friday afternoon and was unchallenged from then on - heading a historic 1-2-3-4 for Toyota Gazoo Racing.

“Of course, this win is a bit more special than the other ones," he said after the rally. "To also be the winning car in a result like this - it’s just fantastic."

Rally Estonia was equally successful. Returning to the site of his maiden FIA World Rally Championship victory 12 months prior, Rovanperä grabbed the lead on Friday afternoon before reeling off seven-consecutive fastest times in inclement weather on Saturday.

Arriving at the finish more than a minute clear of closest challenger Evans, and with another Wolf Power Stage victory to boot, Rovanperä's championship lead now stood at 83 points just seven rounds in.

With a five-year drought since a local driver had won Secto Rally Finland, the pressure was on for Rovanperä’s home WRC round. But the Finnish celebrations were put on hold as he finished second overall to Ott Tänak, who enjoyed a fresh turn of speed with his Hyundai.

Ypres Rally Belgium presented the first mathematical opportunity for Rovanperä to seal the title but, for the first time all season, the youngster showed he might be human after all. Overcooking a left-hander on Friday’s opener, his Yaris slid into an infamous ditch and rolled spectacularly.

A monumental effort by Toyota’s mechanics enabled Rovanperä to rejoin and salvage maximum Wolf Power Stage points, although his points advantage over Tänak - who won the rally - was cut to 72.

It was a similar story at EKO Acropolis Rally Greece. Languishing down in ninth overall after a poor opening day, Rovanperä’s car sustained heavy rear-end damage when he sideswiped a tree. He crawled back to service and the team repaired the car, but the damage was done and he finished a lowly 15th.

When the WRC returned to Repco Rally New Zealand following a 10-year hiatus, there were question marks over whether Rovanperä would be able to end his bad run of form and do enough to take the title down under.

On paper, he needed to outscore Tänak by eight points to get the job done. By winning the rally, however, he would require just seven more than his rival at the 11th round.

Tänak started strongly and led after day one, but a 15sec penalty for two hybrid rule breaches for the Estonian provided an unexpected birthday gift for the now-22 year old Rovanperä. He pulled clear from the chasing pack to carry a comfortable buffer into Sunday’s four-stage finale.

Victory was never really in doubt - but the job wasn’t done yet. With Rovanperä the only driver yet to complete, Tänak held the benchmark time for the Jack's Ridge Power Stage. To secure the crown, Rovanperä needed at least two bonus points, which would mean being at least fourth-fastest through the stage.

His response? Full send.

Rovanperä’s time for the 6.77km test was six-tenths of a second quicker than Tänak’s - making him the youngest WRC champion in the sport’s history aged 22 years and one day.

We’ve witnessed the Séb era - could this be the start of the Kalle era? Only time will tell. One thing, however, is certain - he’s got age on his side.
22-10-02 Femteplats och Power Stage-poäng för Solberg
Rallyföraren Oliver Solberg säkrade säsongens näst bästa VM-placering när 21-åringen körde in på en total femteplats i Rally New Zealand.

Hyundai-föraren har därmed fixat två topp 5-placeringar i rad i rally-VM:s värstingklass. Förra månaden slutade han på karriärens bästa placering då han korsade mållinjen som fjärde bil i Rally Belgium.

Ytterligare en milstolpe nåddes när 21-åringen fick extra VM-poäng för första gången efter fjärde bästa tid i tävlingens sista specialsträcka; så kallad Power Stage.
– Att uppnå det för första gången i Rally New Zealand är extra häftigt och minnesvärt för mig. Målet med tävlingen var att fullfölja och få värdefull erfarenhet av de speciella vägarna i Nya Zeeland. Det är väldigt viktigt för framtiden att förstå hur bilen fungerar på de här vägarna, sa Oliver Solberg.

Ett tekniskt problem på lördagen gjorde att tävlingen inte blev helt perfekt, men en fjärdeplats på två av tävlingens specialsträckor visade att Hyundai-föraren har speeden som krävs.

Solberg kom i mål 3.55,3 minuter efter totalvinnaren Kalle Rovanperä, som dagen efter sin 22-årsdag blev den yngsta världsmästaren i rally genom tiderna. Finländaren vann sin sjätte seger för säsongen på elva tävlingar.

Två VM-tävlingar återstår av säsongen. Näst på tur står Spanien som körs 20-23 oktober. VM avslutas i Japan 10-13 november.
22-10-02 King Kalle secures record-breaking WRC title down under
Finnish star makes history by becoming the youngest-ever WRC champion. Finnish wunderkind Kalle Rovanperä obliterated the FIA World Rally Championship record books after sealing a historic title with victory at Repco Rally New Zealand.*

At 22 years and one day old, the Toyota Gazoo Racing driver becomes the youngest driver in the history of the sport to lift the crown - sweeping aside the record previously held by Colin McRae, who won in 1995 aged 27 years and 89 days.

Rovanperä, who is co-driven by Jonne Halttunen, required seven more points than Hyundai i20 N rival Ott Tänak to seal the deal at this Auckland-based 11th round.

With a hefty lead already earned on Saturday, he remained unchallenged over Sunday’s final four gravel tests and emerged from the rally-ending Wolf Power Stage having done more than enough - heading a GR Yaris 1-2 by 34.6sec ahead of eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier as a frustrated Tänak settled for third almost 50sec behind.

This season - only Rovanperä’s third in the sport’s top-flight - proved to be nothing short of extraordinary. After a shaky start at the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo, the Finn romped to a hat-trick of successive wins in Sweden, Croatia and Portugal.

Road-opening duties at Rally Italia Sardegna left Rovanperä down in fifth but he was soon back to winning ways, triumphing in Kenya and Estonia before further extending his advantage with second overall on home soil.

The youngster’s form then took a brief downturn when he spectacularly rolled on the opening day of Ypres Rally Belgium. He also finished a lowly 15th in Greece due to another off-road excursion.

Victory in New Zealand on just his 30th start at the WRC’s elite level leaves Rovanperä with an unassailable 64-point lead over Tänak with two rounds to spare.

"It's quite a big relief after such a good season and finally we are here," beamed the newly-crowned champion.

"It was a small wait after a few difficult rallies, but the biggest thanks goes to the team - they made this rocket this year. Even after all the difficult rallies they were believing in us and giving us all the support."

An emotional Jari-Matti Latvala - team principal of Toyota Gazoo Racing - stressed the importance of having a Finnish champion after a 20-year drought since Marcus Grönholm took the title in 2002.

“In a way I would like to cry, but I can't cry here,” he said. “It's really important what Kalle has done. First of all, it’s amazing for a 22-year-old to be breaking all the records and taking the championship title.

“At the same time, it is so important for Finland because it has been 20 years and that’s a very long time. I am so grateful that Kalle did it - he is a superhero.”

Fourth place in the rally went to Hyundai pilot Thierry Neuville, whose issues included a faulty gearbox on Saturday. He trailed Tänak by 1min 10.3sec but led Oliver Solberg, also driving an i20, by a hefty margin after the young Swede dropped time with a Saturday misfire.

New Zealand’s technical stages took no prisoners with Yaris pairing Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta plus M-Sport Ford Puma youngster Gus Greensmith all failing to restart on Sunday due to accident damage.

The drama enabled home hero Hayden Paddon to finish sixth overall as well as taking his Rally2-specification Hyundai to WRC2 glory. Puma privateer Lorenzo Bertelli finished seventh while Kajetan Kajetanowicz, Shane Vangisbergen and Harry Bates completed the leaderboard.

The WRC returns to asphalt for the penultimate round at RallyRACC - Rally de España on 20 - 23 October. The fixture is based in Salou.

*Subject to FIA confirmation

Overall classification:
1. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris 2hr 48min 1.4sec
2. S Ogier / B Veillas FRA Toyota GR Yaris +34.6sec
3. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N +48.5sec
4. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +1min 58.8sec
5. O Solberg / E Edmondson SWE Ford Puma +3min 55.3sec
6. H Paddon / J Kennard NZL Hyundai i20 N Rally2 +10min 3.7sec

Drivers' championship standings (after round 11 of 13):
1. K Rovanperä 237pts
2. O Tänak 173pts
3. T Neuville 144pts

22-10-01 Birthday boy Rovanperä puts one hand on WRC crown
Finn storms into New Zealand lead on super Saturday, edging closer to historic title. Kalle Rovanperä is closing in on his maiden FIA World Rally Championship title after taking the Repco Rally New Zealand field by storm on Saturday.

A 29.0sec lead heading into Sunday’s final leg was the best 22nd birthday present the Toyota Gazoo racing star could have asked for after six technical stages on gravel roads north of Auckland.

The icing on the cake was a 46.4sec buffer over his main title challenger Ott Tänak, who finished the day in third after being lumbered with 15 seconds worth of time penalties.

Rovanperä himself was handed a five-second penalty before the day had even started for his own hybrid rule breach, but the Finn carved through the pack on muddy roads to seize the top spot by mid-leg service before taking a brace of stage wins in the afternoon.

Tänak initially stayed within touching distance of his rival despite being unhappy with the feeling aboard his Hyundai i20 N but slipped out of touch when he received an additional 10sec sanction for a second hybrid breach.

Event stewards ruled the energy released from Tänak’s car during hybrid boosts on SS7 exceeded the maximum value allowed for that stage, with Hyundai team manager Pablo Marcus explaining the mistake was simply due to an error made by engineers when setting the hybrid unit’s parameters.

If the top-three positions remain as they are, fourth-fastest on Sunday afternoon’s bonus points-paying Wolf Power Stage will be enough to crown Rovanperä as the youngest-ever WRC champion.

“A great day,” smiled Rovanperä. “I can be really happy with what we did in these extremely difficult conditions. We pushed really hard and I am happy.”

Ogier’s afternoon didn’t go without drama. He incurred a 10sec penalty for arriving late to SS12 and was keen to stay in line for a solid manufacturers’ points haul after team-mate Elfyn Evans retired with roll cage damage sustained during an off on the first pass of Puhoi.

Almost one minute back from the podium was Thierry Neuville who, along with i20 partner Oliver Solberg, also picked up time penalties for hybrid rule breaches. The Belgian driver lost third gear during the morning loop but arrived back to service 1min 53.5sec clear of fifth-placed Solberg.

Solberg’s top-five position came at the expense of Toyota youngster Takamoto Katsuta, who slid off the road on a tight left-hander in the penultimate stage. Twenty-one-year-old Solberg was relieved not to be joining Katsuta on the retirements list, having limped through three stages with a misfire.

Ford Puma driver Gus Greensmith had been running fifth but was left out of contention with a spectacular roll on SS10. After assessing the damage, Greensmith’s M-Sport Ford squad confirmed he will not restart on Sunday.

Such was the rate of attrition that WRC2 leader Hayden Paddon rounded off the top-six in a Rally2-specification Hyundai. The Kiwi had 27.3sec in hand over Puma privateer Lorenzo Bertelli, while Kajetan Kajetanowicz, Shane Vangisbergen and Harry Bates completed the top 10.

Sunday’s finale comprises a new stage at Whitford Forest Te Maraunga Waiho (8.82km) and the purpose-built Jack’s Ridge (6.77km). Both are driven twice, with the second run of Jack’s Ridge forming the bonus points-paying Wolf Power Stage.

Leading positions after Saturday:
1. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris 2hr 28min 26.3sec
2. S Ogier / B Veillas FRA Toyota GR Yaris +29.0sec
3. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N +46.4sec
4. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +1min 41.4sec
5. O Solberg / E Edmondson SWE Hyundai i20 N +3min 34.9sec
6. H Paddon / J Kennard NZL Hyundai i20 N Rally2 +8min 51.0sec
22-09-30 Tänak topples struggling Ogier on Friday in New Zealand
Estonian battles through torrential downpours to lead after monster opening leg. Ott Tänak reclaimed the top spot at Repco Rally New Zealand as Sébastien Ogier struggled through Friday’s final test with a damaged rear spoiler.

Just 7.2sec blanketed the leading four drivers after 158.56km of frantic action on the longest leg of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship so far.

Tänak was initially dominant in his Hyundai i20 N and opened up a slender advantage as heavy downpours plagued the morning’s stages on gravel roads in the Waikato Region.

When the rain clouds briefly parted ahead of the second pass of Whaanga Coast, however, the Estonian driver was hampered by an early road position and struggled for traction as the surface dried and became loose.

He was passed by Toyota Gazoo Racing star Elfyn Evans as well as the Welshman’s part-time colleague Ogier who, aided by a lower starting position, climbed from fifth to first overall after outpacing the entire field by 8.2sec while managing his soft compound Pirelli rubber to perfection.

Wet weather returned for the closing two speed tests and Ogier soon came unstuck - brushing a tree branch with the rear end of his Yaris which ripped the upper half of the spoiler from the car.

That enabled Tänak to crank up the pressure and he stormed back in front with a stage win on the final test as Ogier struggled with reduced rear aero, ending 6.7sec adrift of the lead. Evans’ consistency was rewarded and he swooped into the runner-up spot - trailing the leader by just two-tenths of a second.

Road-opening duties actually played to Kalle Rovanperä’s advantage as the Toyota hotshot avoided the worst of a heavy shower on SS6. The Finn finished the day just 0.5sec behind Ogier in fourth overall but, unless he can overhaul Tänak within the next two days, will not be able to seal the drivers’ title this week.

M-Sport Ford’s pair of Pumas were initially dominant as Craig Breen and Gus Greensmith locked out the top-two after the opener. Things quickly turned sour, however, when Breen retired after sliding down a banking on the same corner which caught out Colin McRae in 2002.

Greensmith was left flying the flag for the British squad and he coped admirably to end the day 36.6sec back from Rovanperä in fifth.

Thierry Neuville’s morning was plagued by two costly spins but his luck improved as the day wore on. A softer suspension set-up heralded more confidence in his i20 and by close of play the EKO Acropolis Rally Greece winner had moved to within 1.8sec of Greensmith.

Competitors journey north of rally base Auckland on Saturday for double runs through Kaipara Hills (15.83km), Puhoi (22.50km) and Komokoriki (5.81km). A return to Auckland for service separates the loops, which add up to 88.28km.

Leading positions after Friday:
1. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N 1hr 36min 48.6sec
2. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +0.2sec
3. S Ogier / B Veillas FRA Toyota GR Yaris +6.7sec
4. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +7.2sec
5. G Greensmith / J Andersson GBR Ford Puma +43.8sec
6. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +45.6sec

22-09-29 Oliver Solberg i sin fars framgångsspår
18 och ett halvt år efter att pappa Petter vunnit karriärens sjätte (av 13) VM-tävlingar i rally, gör sonen Oliver Solberg (21) sin debut i Rally New Zealand.

Triumfen 2004 var den första Solberg senior säkrade som regerande världsmästare – och den kom efter han vunnit sju specialsträckor och han ledde sedan tävling i stort sett ända in i mål. 2000 till 2012 körde Petter Solberg elva VM-tävlingar i öriket.

Nu är det arvtagarens tur. Oliver Solberg fyllde 21 förra veckan och kör karriärens tolfte VM-lopp i WRC-klassen.
– Både jag och mamma var här 2012 – senast tävlingen kördes. Jag minns den legendariska Whaanga Coast-etappen bäst, och jag kan inte vänta med att få köra den. Vägarna i Nya Zeeland är väldigt speciella och skiljer sig från vad vi ser i andra tävlingar. Det är mycket löst grus på toppen och har enorma lutningar både in och utöver, säger Oliver Solberg.

Mer än fem veckor har gått sedan Hyundai-föraren senast satt bakom ratten i sin i20 N Rally1-bil. I Rally Belgium gjorde den unge föraren ett stort intryck med sin fjärdeplacering, som är karriärens bästa hittills.

Rally New Zealand är säsongens tredje sista VM-tävling. Tävlingen består av 17 specialsträckor, där den första går på kvällen redan på torsdag.

Tävlingen avslutas natten mot måndag svensk tid.

22-09-28 New Zealand returns to the WRC as title scrap hits fever pitch
Title favourite Rovanperä excited to debut down under. The FIA World Rally Championship goes down under this week as Repco Rally New Zealand (29 September - 2 October) returns to the series for the first time in a decade.

Fast-flowing gravel roads with cambered corners await the crews at this 11th round as the rally winds it way through forests and along the picture postcard coastline of the North Island.

Few of the WRC’s frontline stars have previously contested the Auckland-based fixture, which brings a unique challenge to the 13-round championship. Among those making their New Zealand debuts is Toyota Gazoo Racing wunderkind Kalle Rovanperä.

Poor results in recent rallies have seen Rovanperä’s title-leading deficit reduced to 53 points over Ott Tänak. The Finn celebrates his 22nd birthday this Saturday (1 October) and remains firmly on course to becoming the WRC’s youngest-ever champion.

A birthday isn’t the only thing Rovanperä might be celebrating this weekend, either. He could seal the drivers’ championship crown on Sunday should he outscore Tänak by eight points, or just seven if he wins the rally.

“It will be really interesting to go to Rally New Zealand,” said Rovanperä. “I have only heard good things about the country and the rally and how nice the roads are.

“Recent rallies have not been ideal for us but we know what we need to improve and we are working hard to have more pace and be more comfortable. Hopefully we can have good speed, enjoy the event and finish with a good result.”

Rovanperä is joined in GR Yaris Rally1 cars by Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta as well as eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier, who resumes his part-time campaign with the Japanese manufacturer on his first outing since Kenya in June.

With top-three results at the past four rallies, Hyundai Motorsport’s Tänak is hoping for more of the same. Teamed up with Thierry Neuville and Oliver Solberg in a trio of hybrid-powered i20 N cars, the Estonian admits that New Zealand’s fabled stages are a dream to drive on.

"The roads seem as if they were made for rallying," he smiled. "Hopefully we can get 100 per cent from the car and achieve a strong result."

Craig Breen and Gus Greensmith lead M-Sport Ford's charge, with Italian privateer Lorenzo Bertelli also fielding a Puma. Adrien Fourmaux was also due to drive for the British squad but withdrew his entry last week.

The four-day counter begins with a super special stage on Thursday evening and features 17 speed tests totalling 276.44km.
22-09-11 Neuville triumphs as Hyundai makes history in Greece
Belgian heads up maiden 1-2-3 finish for Korean manufacturer squad. Thierry Neuville secured victory at EKO Acropolis Rally Greece on Sunday afternoon - fronting a historic Hyundai i20 N 1-2-3 finish.

The Belgian driver seized the top spot early on Saturday after nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb retired with alternator failure. From that moment onwards he never looked back.

Neuville’s Hyundai squad emerged from the penultimate day unscathed while several frontrunners hit trouble. He carried an advantage of almost half a minute over team-mate Ott Tänak into Sunday’s three-stage finale with Dani Sordo completing the podium lockout in third.

Tänak brought back 2.9sec on the first pass through Elefthori, but any hopes of the Estonian putting more pressure on his colleague were quashed as team orders came into play.

Fourth-placed Elfyn Evans - driving a Toyota GR Yaris - was sidelined by turbo problems on the road section before the opener, leaving the frontrunning trio more than three minutes clear of the field.

Under instructions to bring the cars home, all three Hyundai drivers went into safety mode. Their positions remained unchanged and Neuville took the spoils by 15.0sec - marking his first victory of the WRC’s hybrid era as well as a maiden podium lockout for the Korean manufacturer squad.

“It has been a tough season so far and to get the victory after a very difficult weekend in Belgium is a relief,” Neuville said.

“The most important thing is that we have a 1-2-3 for the team. After all these years we finally got it and it's a historical moment for the brand and the team. Everybody has worked hard for this and it's a nice reward."

Tänak’s score moved him to within 53 points of championship leader Kalle Rovanperä, who finished more than 17 minutes off the pace.

The 21-year-old Finn hit a tree on Saturday and haemorrhaged time nursing his Yaris to the finish. He did, however, salvage four points from the Wolf Power Stage and could seal the crown at the next round should he outscore Tänak by eight points.

Pierre-Louis Loubet fought back to equal his career-best result by finishing fourth overall aboard an M-Sport Ford Puma. He briefly led and took two stage wins on Friday but tumbled down the standings with a front left puncture the following day, eventually ending 1min 52.5sec down on Sordo.

Loubet’s team-mate Craig Breen had similar issues on Friday but, aided by problems for those ahead, climbed to sixth overall. The Irishman trailed Loubet by 26.8sec with Toyota youngster Takamoto Katsuta 2min 12.1sec behind.

The WRC heads down under later this month as Repco Rally New Zealand hosts round 11 of 13. The gravel fixture returns to the calendar for the first time since 2012 and takes place from 29 September - 2 October.

Rally classification:
1. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N 3hr 34min 52.0sec
2. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N +15.0sec
3. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 N +1min 49.7sec
4. P-L Loubet / V Landais FRA Ford Puma +3min 42.2sec
5. C Breen / P Nagle IRL Ford Puma +4min 9.0sec
6. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +6min 21.1sec

Drivers' championship points (after round 10 of 13):
1. K Rovanperä 207pts
2. O Tänak 154pts
3. T Neuville 131 pts
22-09-10 Neuville heads Hyundai lockout on bruising Saturday in Greece
Belgian driver's team excels as brutal gravel roads pierce through the field. Thierry Neuville charged to a lead of almost half a minute as Saturday’s gruelling leg pierced the Rally1 field at EKO Acropolis Rally Greece.

One-third of the top-tier crews failed to complete the brutal 147.98km route on rugged gravel stages near Lamia - but Neuville’s Hyundai Motorsport squad was impenetrable and is poised for what could be the manufacturer’s first-ever 1-2-3.

After trailing Friday leader Sébastien Loeb by 16.0sec overnight, the Belgian driver was surprised to find himself at the top of the standings just one stage into the penultimate leg when Loeb’s M-Sport Ford Puma threw an alternator belt after the finish.

Neuville was unchallenged from that moment onwards and he maintained an impressive pace throughout the day, romping to three fastest times as his rivals hit trouble. A dashboard warning alarm for low battery voltage provided a brief scare but did not appear to have any effect on the car’s performance.

He carries a hefty 27.9sec advantage over Ott Tänak into Sunday’s three-stage finale and, as it stands, remains on-course to claim his first-ever victory of the WRC’s hybrid era.

"It has been a great day for us,” reflected Neuville. “A bit of a hard one this afternoon with some trouble with the car, but we survived and we are here now. We had a warning for battery voltage, but it seems okay.

“My tyres weren't so good for the last few stages and I was just trying to drive cleanly through to avoid punctures," he added.

Although Tänak started strongly with a stage win at Pygros, he was unable to make any major gains on his leading partner since moving into the top-three when Pierre-Louis Loubet’s Puma punctured on SS9.

Tänak complained of differential niggles during the morning loop but things seemed to improve after service and he headed colleague Dani Sordo by 25.0sec at close of play.

Sordo swooped onto the podium late in the day at the expense of Toyota man Esapekka Lappi, whose Yaris developed a fuel-related problem in the penultimate stage. The engine kept cutting out and he was eventually forced to retire on the road section.

Toyota’s hopes then rested on the shoulders of Elfyn Evans, who brought his Yaris home in fourth overall. The Welshman struggled to find a rhythm, especially in loose conditions on the morning pass, but pressured Sordo in the closing stages to end only 7.1sec behind.

Loubet recovered to round off the top-five, albeit more than two minutes back from the lead. His Puma colleague Craig Breen followed, with Toyota youngster Takamoto Katsuta behind in seventh after a scrappy day which included two spins.

Kalle Rovanperä’s hopes of sealing the drivers’ title this week were dashed when he swiped a tree on the first pass through Perivoli. Although he was able to continue, the Toyota wunderkind dropped over 11 minutes as he limped back to service with body damage and brake issues.

M-Sport’s woes were compounded by the retirements of Gus Greensmith and Jourdan Serderidis. Greensmith had been running in the top-six but stopped with a mechanical failure on SS11, while Serderidis’ Puma hit electrical trouble after leaving the lunchtime service.

Sunday’s finale takes place north of the rally base. Eleftherochori (16.90km) runs twice and sandwiches a single run of Elatia-Rengini (11.26km).

Leading positions after Saturday:
1. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N 3hr 6min 34.4sec
2. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N +27.9sec
3. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 N +52.9sec
4. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +1min 0.0sec
5. P-L Loubet / V Landais FRA Ford Puma +2min 40.1sec
6. C Breen / P Nagle IRL Ford Puma +3min 47.2
22-09-09 Legend Loeb robs Greece lead from apprentice Loubet on Friday
Experience comes to the fore as nine-time champion heads French 1-2 with late charge. Sébastien Loeb snatched the EKO Acropolis Rally Greece lead from team-mate Pierre-Louis Loubet late on Friday evening as their M-Sport Ford team dominated proceedings.

It was a dream day for the British squad with its Ford Puma cars topping the timesheets on every single speed test as the rally threaded its way north following Thursday’s spectacular start in Athens.

Loeb was initially dominant on the rugged gravel roads and opened up an early advantage on his fourth WRC start of the season. However, as temperatures soared, the nine-time world champion lost momentum.

An overshoot on a hairpin bend in Dafni was enough to break Loeb’s stride and he gave way to Puma team-mate and fellow Frenchman Loubet, who seized the top spot whilst also grabbing his first stage win in the WRC’s top-flight.

Loubet looked likely to lead overnight after notching up another fastest time at Livadia but Loeb’s superior experience came to the fore.

Armed with previous knowledge of the stage from his last Acropolis outing in 2012, the 40-year-old shaded his apprentice by 10 seconds in Bauxites to go back in front.

Just 1.7sec separated the Puma duo as Toyota GR Yaris driver Esapekka Lappi filled the final podium spot 8.7sec further back.

“I decided to try really hard in this last one because I was losing too much time in the previous stage and I didn't feel too confident,” Loeb said of his late push.

“I just said: 'Okay, I need to finish on a good rhythm'. There was a stone in the ground which I hit sideways and it lifted the car onto two wheels, but it was no problem."

Loubet remained upbeat despite relinquishing the position and explained how minor mechanical niggles were costing time.

"We can be happy with what we have done,” he said. “We had an issue with the brakes at the beginning of the stage and something with the power steering at the end.

“I didn't want to take any risks and I just brought the car home. It's still amazing - it's like a dream to be fighting with Loeb."

Leading Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville was a further 7.3sec behind Lappi - an admirable effort considering his starting position of fourth.

Lingering dust hampered the Belgian early in the day and an imbalanced set-up left him fighting with understeer. Nevertheless, he headed i20 N colleague Dani Sordo, who lacked confidence in his pace notes, by 22.2sec.

Ott Tänak completed most of the leg with a faulty hybrid unit which left his Hyundai short on power. Behind him were Gus Greensmith (Ford) and Elfyn Evans (Toyota) with just 3.4sec separating the trio.

Championship leader Kalle Rovanperä settled for ninth after opening the road. The Toyota youngster faced extremely loose conditions and his hopes of sealing the drivers’ title this weekend currently look slim.

Saturday is the longest and toughest leg and covers 147.98 competitive kilometres west of Lamia. Double passes through Pyrgos and Tarzan will be especially hard.

Leading positions after Friday:
1. S Loeb / I Galmiche FRA Ford Puma 1hr 12min 11.9sec
2. P-L Loubet / V Landais FRA Ford Puma +1.7sec
3. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota GR Yaris +8.7sec
4. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +16.0sec
5. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 N +31.1sec
6. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N +33.9sec
22-09-07 Title-chasing Rovanperä bids for Acropolis double
Finnish wunderkind hunts down WRC crown at gruelling Greek classic. Kalle Rovanperä is on a quest to secure back-to-back EKO Acropolis Rally Greece (8 - 11 September) victories as he bids to clinch the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship title.

This week’s Lamia-based fixture presents the Toyota Gazoo Racing driver with his second opportunity to become the youngest-ever WRC champion. On paper, he could have sealed the deal at last month’s Ypres Rally Belgium - but a Friday morning roll put paid to any celebration hopes.

When the Acropolis returned to the calendar last year following a 13-year sabbatical, Rovanperä put on a dominant display to win by over 40 seconds.

He carries a 72-point lead over Hyundai Motorsport rival Ott Tänak into this 10th round and, to stand any chance of taking the title on Sunday, must outscore Tänak by at least 18 points. But that won’t be easy.

Punishing gravel tracks in the mountains north of Athens have earned the Acropolis its reputation as the ‘Rally of Gods’ and the event demands as much respect today as it did when it first featured in 1973.

To be successful here, drivers must measure their pace accordingly - pushing when safe to do so whilst also taking care of their machinery on the rocky terrain.

“Belgium was a difficult weekend for us, so in Greece we just need to get back at the level where we should be and try to have a good rally," Rovanperä said.

"The championship is never over until it’s over, so we can’t think about it too much. We’re just trying to get good points from each event and control what we can."

Rovanperä is joined in GR Yaris Rally1 cars by Elfyn Evans and Esapekka Lappi. Although Evans remains mathematically in contention for the drivers’ title, his sights will be set on helping the Japanese marque extend its 88-point lead in the manufacturers’ series.

Tänak is targeting his third consecutive win and teams up with Hyundai i20 N colleagues Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo. Neuville can only keep himself in the title hunt if he outscores Rovanperä by at least eight points, while Sordo’s outing marks the Spaniard’s first since Italy in June.

"We are feeling positive after our win in Ypres," Tänak explained. "Going from Tarmac to gravel is a big change, but we know we can be strong on this surface after our wins in Italy and Finland."

Craig Breen spearheads M-Sport Ford’s attack. The British squad fields five Puma cars, with Breen joined by returning nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb, Gus Greensmith, Pierre-Louis Loubet and Greek privateer Jourdan Serderidis.

Adrien Fourmaux was due to drive a sixth Puma but withdrew his entry due to the damage his car sustained during a crash in Belgium.

The rally starts in Athens on Thursday evening when, for the first time since 2006, the capital’s Olympic Stadium hosts a super special stage. Three more days of competition around Loutraki and Lamia follow before Sunday afternoon’s finish after 16 stages covering 303.30km.
22-08-21 Karriärens bästa för Oliver Solberg i Rally Belgien
När Oliver Solberg (20) behövde en framgång som mest slog rallyföraren till med en fjärdeplats och karriärens bästa placering i VM-tävlingen Rally Belgium i helgen.
– Det är helt fantastiskt att komma tillbaka på det här sättet och uppnå mitt bästa resultat hittills. Dessutom bidrog vi med bra med VM-poäng till teamet. Jag är otroligt lättad och glad, sa Oliver Solberg.

För två veckor sedan kraschade Hyundai-föraren ur Rally Finland redan på det andra specialsträckan. 20-åringen var mycket bedrövad efter olyckan.
– Det här var en tuff helg på svåra vägar. Min förra asfaltstävling i Kroatien var inte speciellt bra, och efter olyckan i Finland har det varit ett par tuffa veckor. Därför känns det extra bra att nå ett resultat igen.
– Målet för helgen var att köra säkert och riskfritt genom det ena sträckan efter det andra – och slutligen komma säkert i mål. Vi tänkte bara på oss själva och vårt eget race. Det ger självförtroende att kontrollera en sån tävling.

Solberg kom i mål 3.28,5 minuter efter tamkamraten Ott Tänak, som vann säsongens tredje VM-tävling. 1.46,9 minuter blev avståndet till en pallplats.

Inför helgen var femteplatsen i Rally Monza i november förra året hans bästa resultat i WRC-klassen.

Nästa VM-tävling är Acropolis Rally Grekland som startar den 8 september. Fyra tävlingar återstår av säsongen.
22-08-21 Confident Tänak triumphs in Belgium
Estonian keeps Elfyn Evans at bay to secure second-consecutive WRC win.
Ott Tänak stormed to Ypres Rally Belgium victory on Sunday afternoon to seal back-to-back FIA World Rally Championship wins.

The Estonian driver inherited the top spot late on the penultimate day when Hyundai i20 N team-mate and long-time leader Thierry Neuville understeered off the road and into a ditch, shattering the Belgian’s hopes of a repeat home win.

Tänak - winner of Secto Rally Finland earlier this month - carried an 8.2sec buffer over Elfyn Evans into Sunday’s final leg, which comprised four short and sharp asphalt speed tests in the Flanders region.

Toyota GR Yaris star Evans was not willing to give up without a fight. He flew to fastest times on the two opening stages but was still unable to make any major gains on the leader.

It was a similar story in the afternoon and, despite outpacing his rival by 2.2sec in the finale, the Welshman was unable to overhaul Tänak, who took the spoils by 5.0sec.

Tänak’s success means he now trails championship leader Kalle Rovanperä - who rolled his Yaris out of contention on Friday morning - by 72 points. The 21-year-old Finn salvaged five Wolf Power Stage bonus points and remains on track to become the youngest WRC champion in history with four rounds to go.

The manufacturers’ championship situation remains unchanged, with Tänak’s Hyundai Motorsport squad still 88 points adrift of leaders Toyota Gazoo Racing.

"To win here is a big surprise for us - more or less the same as it was in Finland,” said Tänak. “We didn't expect it from anywhere basically, but somehow we were able to pull it together during the rally.

"It's great to see that some results are coming, but there is so much we can improve and we could still be a lot stronger, so there is still some work to do," he added.

For Evans, it was a case of what could have been. He gave away valuable seconds on Friday when a slow puncture forced him to run a wet weather tyre in dry conditions. He was also lumbered with a 10sec time penalty for arriving late to SS8. Without that, the outcome could have been different.

Esapekka Lappi made it two GR Yaris cars on the podium - securing a lonely third at the end of a trouble-free weekend where a poor tyre choice on Friday was the only real bump in the road.

He trailed Evans by 1min 36.6sec but held a massive 1min 46.9sec advantage over fourth-placed Hyundai youngster Oliver Solberg, who netted a career-best result to banish all memories of his early retirement last time out.

Solberg was initially locked into a tight scrap with M-Sport Ford’s Adrien Fourmaux. However, the Puma driver crashed out in the penultimate stage, enabling those behind to gain a position.

Over two minutes back was Takamoto Katsuta, who continued his consistent run of form to take fifth overall in another Yaris car. Although transmission and hybrid unit faults plagued the Japanese driver, he has now finished inside the top six at every round since Sweden in February.

The rest of the leaderboard comprised Rally2 cars, with WRC2 victor Stéphane Lefebvre leading the charge ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen, Yohan Rossel and Chris Ingram.

Drivers are back on gravel next month for the legendary EKO Acropolis Rally Greece. The event will be based in Lamia and takes place from 8 - 11 September.

Leading positions:
1. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N 2hr 25min 38.9sec
2. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +5.0sec
3. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota GR Yaris +1min 41.6sec
4. O Solberg / E Edmondson SWE Hyundai i20 N +3min 28.5sec
5. T Katsuta / A Johnston JAP Toyota GR Yaris +6min 6.1sec
6. S Lefebvre / A Malfoy (FRA) Citroën C3 Rally2 +9min 45.7sec
22-08-20 Neuville crash hands Tänak shock Belgium lead
Estonian driver set for back-to-back WRC wins as Neuville's home dreams are shattered.

Ott Tänak inherited a surprise lead at Ypres Rally Belgium when team-mate and long-time leader Thierry Neuville crashed into retirement on Saturday afternoon.

The Hyundai i20 N driver will carry an 8.2sec advantage over Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Elfyn Evans into Sunday’s final leg after team-mate Thierry Neuville’s rally unravelled in the penultimate stage of the day.

Tänak, driving a Hyundai i20 N, briefly took charge after the opening Reninge test but was quickly swept aside by team-mate Neuville as a rear differential issue hampered his progress during the morning.

After pulling 17.2sec clear of his colleague, Neuville looked all but set for a repeat victory at his home WRC round - but the rally was turned on its head 6.4km into the Wijtschate stage when the Belgian understeered into a deep ditch on the outside of a left-hand corner.

Spectators were quickly on scene to extract the car but Neuville pulled over just 1.1km down the road with terminal damage.

His demise means Tänak is on course for his second-consecutive victory, having triumphed just a few weeks ago at Secto Rally Finland.

“Obviously in the morning we were struggling with the transmission, but at lunchtime we were able to change it and in the afternoon it was working,” Tänak said. “It was just a different setting and it took me some time to adapt to it, but in the end I got used to it and started to trust it more.

“Tomorrow will be far from easy - I think it will be a big push in the morning. Elfyn is doing a good job and it will not be easy for him, but let's see. It's still a relatively long day tomorrow,” he added.

Back at service, Neuville explained he was simply caught out by a patch of loose gravel which had been pulled onto the road after his route note crew had driven through.

"It was basically full of dirt from the cars in front," he said. "We had nothing in the pace notes and we weren't aware it would be so slippery, so we got caught by surprise and understeered into the ditch."

Evans was able to close in on Tänak during the morning loop but lost ground later in the day once his rival had made changes at the mid-leg service. He ended more than one minute clear of GR Yaris team-mate Esapekka Lappi, who filled the final podium spot after a drama-free day.

Almost two minutes further back in fourth overall was Hyundai pilot Oliver Solberg. The young Swede was locked into a dicing duel with M-Sport Ford Puma hotshot Adrien Fourmaux, who ended 14.3sec behind after being lumbered with a 20sec time penalty for arriving late to the start of SS15.

Both drivers moved up the order early in the day when Craig Breen, who had been running fifth, rolled his Puma into retirement after overcooking a left-hander at Dikkebus.

After plummeting down the order with a transmission fault on Friday, Takamoto Katsuta fought back to take sixth overall. It wasn’t an easy day for the 29-year-old as a hybrid unit issue left his Yaris intermittently lacking extra boost.

Sunday's closing leg features four special stages and takes place entirely within the Flanders region.

Leading positions after Saturday:
1. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N 1hr 58min 55.2sec
2. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +8.2sec
3. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota GR Yaris +1min 9.8sec
4. O Solberg / E Edmondson SWE Hyundai i20 N +2min 51.6sec
5. A Fourmaux / A Coria FRA Ford Puma +3min 5.9sec
6. T Katsuta / A Johnston JAP Toyota GR Yaris +5min 39.3sec
22-08-25 Gritty Neuville surges to Friday lead in Belgium
Home hero produces plucky comeback drive as championship leader Rovanperä rolls out. Thierry Neuville produced a plucky comeback drive to head up a Hyundai Motorsport 1-2 on Friday afternoon at Ypres Rally Belgium.

Just 2.5sec separated Neuville and team-mate Ott Tänak at the end of a frenetic opening leg on treacherous asphalt lanes in the Flanders region of northern Belgium.

Neuville’s day got off to a wobbly start when he dropped more than 10 seconds with a costly overshoot in the first stage and the situation showed signs of worsening as he fought with car set-up throughout the morning.

The Belgian driver complained the differential settings on his i20 N were causing the brakes to lock up under braking, and he trailed Elfyn Evans by 8.8sec in third overall at the mid-leg halt.

After making several set-up tweaks, Neuville emerged from service a brand-new man. With newfound confidence in the car, he and co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe stormed to fastest times on all four of the afternoon’s speed tests - leapfrogging Tänak and Evans in the process.

"It's been a whole different afternoon in terms of the handling with the car,” Neuville explained. “I am so much happier now.

“I feel like I have seen some areas where we can improve and find a bit more speed, but overall we can be very happy with our afternoon.

“Our weather team has done an amazing job with some very precise information and I have felt confident to trust their predictions. That's very important on a day like this," he added.

Aside from a few set-up niggles of his own, Tänak’s day went without drama. He never strayed outside the top three stage times all day and held the runner-up spot from the second test onwards.

The same couldn’t be said for Toyota star Evans, who led for most of the leg after team-mate and championship leader Kalle Rovanperä rolled into retirement on SS2.

He was forced to bolt a single wet weather tyre onto his Yaris after damaging one of his slicks on SS6. Reduced performance on the dry roads allowed Neuville into the lead and a 10sec time penalty for a late check-in compounded his frustrations.

“We lost one of our slick tyres and had to use a rain tyre, which was obviously not ideal in these conditions,” he explained. “The penalty was no big issue - just a minor error - but one in four years is not bad.”

Tyre choice was a key talking point for the second loop. Dark clouds threatened downpours - but heavy rain never arrived.

While the leading trio carried packages more suited to dry conditions, the rest of the field dropped time with combinations taken in the hope of wet weather.

Espekka Lappi joked he was “leading the class for the wrong tyres” and brought his Yaris home 23.6sec back from the podium. He had 18.8sec in hand over M-Sport Ford man Craig Breen, who held fifth overall despite an overshoot early in the day.

Breen’s Puma colleague Gus Greensmith ended more than half a minute back in sixth ahead of Oliver Solberg, who battled gearbox niggles on his Hyundai.

Saturday's leg is extremely compact and squeezes eight more treacherous tests covering 135.83km into a 269.05km route.

Leading positions after Friday:
1. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N 49min 50.1sec
2. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N +2.5sec
3. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +13.7sec
4. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota GR Yaris +37.3sec
5. C Breen / P Nagle IRL Ford Puma +56.1sec
6. G Greensmith / J Andersson GBR Ford Puma +1min 34.5sec

22-08-18 Nya möjligheter för Oliver Solberg i Rally Belgium
Oliver Solberg startar sin sjunde tävling i WRC-klassen i rally-VM när Ypres Rally Belgium är på gång i helgen.

Tävlingen går i Västflandern och innehåller 20 specialsträckor över totalt 281,58 kilometer på smala och slingrande gårdsvägar på asfalt.

Den 20-årige fabriksföraren fick överge Rally Finland för två veckor sedan efter en spin-out. Han har en femteplats i Rally Monza förra året som bästa resultat i WRC-klassen.
– Jag är väldigt motiverad att komma tillbaka starkare efter missödet i Finland. Förarna med tidigare erfarenhet av Rally Belgium har en stor fördel i denna tävlingen. Man måste veta var och hur mycket man ska gena i kurvorna. Dessutom ändras greppet ofta på vägarna, säger Oliver Solberg.

Hyundai-föraren ledde, men fick avbryta fjolårets tävling då i WRC 2-klassen på grund av ett elproblem med bilen sista dagen.
– Precisionen blir viktig då det finns många djupa diken vid sidan av vägen. Dessutom är vägarna ibland riktigt leriga och hala.

Tävlingen blir hans andra på asfalt med en Hyundai i20 N Rally1-bil. Rally Belgium är säsongens nionde VM-tävlingen av 13.

Rally Belgium startar med åtta specialsträckor på fredag och avslutas på söndag eftermiddag.
20-08-17 Desperate Neuville targets return to winning ways in Belgium
Belgian driver bids to defend home crown in search of his first victory of the season. Thierry Neuville is targeting his first-ever win of the FIA World Rally Championship’s hybrid era as the series returns to asphalt on his home roads at Ypres Rally Belgium (18 - 21 August).

Twelve months ago the Hyundai Motorsport driver sealed an emotional win after leading since the opening day on Belgium’s WRC debut. In contrast, Neuville’s 2022 season has been marred by disappointment, with two podiums early in the year his best results to date.

The 34-year-old trails championship leader Kalle Rovanperä by 95 points in third place heading into this ninth round. If there was ever a place for him to try and close that gap, it’s here.

Neuville has started the event seven times and holds the most Ypres experience out of all the top-level drivers. He knows exactly what it takes to be quick on Flanders’ narrow farm lanes which make up the three-day fixture.

The stages are littered with tight bends and lined by drainage ditches and telegraph poles. Big cuts in corners mean mud and debris will be dragged onto the asphalt, making conditions progressively dirty.

“This is probably the event that we’re looking forward to the most this season,” Neuville admitted. “I’ve got good memories here and I can’t wait to be back.

“We’re finally heading to Tarmac again after a run of tricky gravel rallies and we hope to return to winning ways. There is only one goal: to repeat our victory from last year.”

Neuville is joined in Hyundai’s i20 N squad by Secto Rally Finland winner Ott Tänak and Swedish youngster Oliver Solberg - the trio keen to slice away at Toyota Gazoo Racing’s 88-point manufacturers’ championship lead.

Rovanperä is supported by GR Yaris colleagues Elfyn Evans and Esapekka Lappi. With five wins from eight starts, the Finn is well on track to becoming the youngest WRC champion in history.

He could seal the title this week, but it’s unlikely. Even if Rovanperä wins the rally and the Wolf Power Stage, he will be reliant on both Tänak and Neuville scoring next to nothing.

“I’m feeling good about going to Belgium," said the 21-year-old. "If it’s dry then we saw last year that it can be a bit dusty for the first cars, but if it’s wet then it should be perfect for us to be the first on the road."

Former Ypres winner Craig Breen leads M-Sport Ford’s charge alongside Gus Greensmith and Adrien Fourmaux. The three will drive hybrid-powered Puma cars.

The action starts on Friday morning and competitors tackle 20 stages covering 281.58km before the finish on Sunday afternoon.
22-08-07 Tänak prevails in Finland
Estonian produces gritty drive to give Hyundai Motorsport its first Finnish win. Ott Tänak secured Secto Rally Finland victory on Sunday afternoon to give Hyundai Motorsport its first ever triumph in Jyväskylä with a precision-perfect drive.

The Estonian driver led from the second stage of the rally to finish the four-day gravel road fixture 6.8sec clear of Toyota GR Yaris rival Kalle Rovanperä - clinching his third Finland success in the process.

Tänak found it difficult to be comfortable in his Hyundai i20 N from the get-go, but was still able to produce top times throughout thanks to hard grit and determination.

As Friday’s road-opener, Rovanperä was slow out of the blocks but reeled off five stage wins on Saturday to climb from fourth to second overall. He ended the penultimate day just 8.4sec in arrears after slicing the deficit in unpredictable conditions.

Dry conditions ensured further fast-paced action in Sunday’s closing leg, but Tänak was in no mood to compromise. He gave just 1.8sec away to his rival over the four speed tests and stood atop the podium for the first time since Rally Italia Sardegna in June.

"The Toyota guys gave me some help on Friday at the beginning and since then we saw a chance - some light at the end of the tunnel - and we were pushing from there," Tänak said.

"All I want to say in these difficult times is that it's really all down to my wife. She has been supporting me so much and I am really proud of her. I love you so much," he added, facing the TV cameras.

Rovanperä virtually resigned himself from a maiden home victory after Sunday morning’s first pass of Ruuhimäki, where he and Tänak posted identical times. With a solid haul of points in the bag, the 21-year was unwilling to take any unnecessary risks.

He stretched his championship points lead to 94 after eight of 13 rounds, while his Toyota Gazoo Racing squad ended 88 points clear in the manufacturers’ standings with three Yaris cars in the top four.

Home hero Esapekka Lappi completed the podium 1min 13.9sec down, but was lucky to even see the finish after rolling on SS21. He used epoxy resin to patch a crack in his Toyota’s radiator ahead of the last stage and powered through with no front windscreen.

Elfyn Evans was 16.9sec behind and conceded time on Saturday afternoon. Like his team-mate, the Welshman also had to pick up the spanners, bodging together damaged rear suspension using ratchet straps and jubilee clips.

It wasn’t Thierry Neuville’s weekend. Set-up frustrations plagued the Hyundai driver and he was never in a position to fight with the leading quartet. He trailed Evans by 40.4sec in fifth overall and slipped to third in the championship behind Tänak.

Yaris hotshot Takamoto Katsuta ended 51.0sec further back to head Gus Greensmith, who was M-Sport Ford’s leading Puma driver in seventh overall.

Greensmith scrapped with colleague Pierre-Louis Loubet for most of the event but the Frenchman retired with mechanical woes before the final stage.

The championship returns to asphalt in less than two weeks when Belgium makes its second WRC appearance. Ypres Rally Belgium takes place on August 18 - 21.

Final positions:
1. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N 2hr 24min 4.6sec
2. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +6.8sec
3. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota GR Yaris +1min 20.7sec
4. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +1min 37.6sec
5. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +2min 18.0sec
6. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +3min 9.0sec

FIA World Rally Championship (after round 8 of 13):
1. K Rovanperä 198pts
2. O Tänak 104pts
3. T Neuville 103pts
22-08-06 Tänak resists Rovanperä's Saturday charge
Estonian star remains on course for Finnish treble. Ott Tänak is closing in on his third Secto Rally Finland victory after keeping a charging Kalle Rovanperä at bay during Saturday’s penultimate leg.

The Estonian driver pushed his Hyundai i20 N to its limits on superfast gravel stages clustered around the Jämsä region, maintaining his position at the head of the field with just four stages remaining.

Wet conditions early in the day weren’t quite to Tänak’s liking, although he arrived back to the mid-leg service in a slightly more comfortable position than when he had left first thing in the morning.

He was more confident on the drier, grippier second pass and set a similar pace with championship leader Kalle Rovanperä, who surged through the field to end the day just 8.6sec in arrears.

The competition in Finland is traditionally very tight and, with Sunday’s itinerary adding up to just 43.92km, Rovanperä would need to be on another level to realistically overturn the leader. That said, he’s carried out similar feats already this year…

"It's still a bit of a surprise to be where we are at the moment, but definitely it's been a good day considering the conditions that we had,” reflected Tänak. “We really thought we would lose a lot more time and actually we are doing good."

Rovanperä was the driver of the day, taking out five stage wins in his GR Yaris machine.

He was hampered by loose road-opening conditions on Friday which left him down in fourth overall, but the Finn blitzed Toyota team-mates Elfyn Evans and Esapekka Lappi to climb the order.

“We lost quite a lot of time yesterday, but today we have been trying our best to catch it,” he said. “It's not easy because the gaps are so small, but we have good points coming and tomorrow we just need to finish the job."

Lappi was feeling frustrated after his car scooped up a stray rock on SS16 which cracked the windscreen, drastically reducing visibility. He had to err on the side of caution over countless blind crests and trailed Rovanperä by 26.8sec to fill the final podium spot.

Evans, too, was in trouble. His Yaris took a heavy compression on the penultimate stage which damaged the rear left upright and suspension strut.

Frantic repairs were made using ratchet straps and cable ties and the Welshman nursed the car through Vekkula 2, dropping almost one minute while amazingly still holding his position in fourth overall.

Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai squad fitted new differentials to the car overnight and he enjoyed a drama-free day. The Belgian was a lonely fifth overall - 45.8sec behind Evans but with 42.0sec in hand over Toyota youngster Takamoto Katsuta, who threw away time with a series of spins.

Craig Breen was the day’s only frontrunning casualty and retired from fifth overall in the second stage. The Irishman misjudged his line over a high-speed jump, colliding with a rock which ripped a rear wheel from his Puma.

Leading positions after Saturday:
1. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N 2hr 2min 44.0sec
2. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +8.4sec
3. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota GR Yaris +35.2sec
4. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +1min 19.7sec
5. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +2min 5.5sec
6. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris 2min +47.5sec

22-08-05 Tänak clings onto slender Friday lead as Lappi ups Finland tempo
Ott Tänak kept his cool under increasing pressure from Esapekka Lappi to lead after Friday’s fast-paced opening leg at Secto Rally Finland.

The Estonian - twice a winner of this classic gravel fixture - snatched the top spot from early leader and Hyundai colleague Thierry Neuville on the very first stage and clung onto the position all day long.

Set-up frustrations threatened to rattle Tänak’s confidence, especially during the first half of the leg on stages to the north of host city Jyväskylä.

However, aided by some seat-of-the-pants driving, the i20 N star maintained his pace to head Toyota GR Yaris rival Esapekka Lappi by 6.2sec at the day’s midpoint.

Lappi - also a former Finland winner - responded by cranking up the pressure in the afternoon. He stormed to three stage wins in the final loop to whittle down the deficit but was still unable to overturn the charging leader.

At close of play, Tänak held the upper hand by a slender 3.8sec.

"It's definitely a lot better than we expected," said Tänak. "We definitely did not expect to be in the fight, so to end the day in this position is really positive.

"The other boys were quite slow to wake up, but it seems the Toyotas are slowly getting to where they should be.

"Let's see tomorrow. The weather will probably change a bit as well, but I would say I was on the limit from the first corner of the first stage," he added.

Elfyn Evans was slow out of the blocks but held onto third overall. He arrived back to service 12.2sec down on Lappi and was embroiled in a tight scrap with Yaris team-mate Kalle Rovanperä, who finished just 1.7sec behind.

As championship leader, Rovanperä opened the road and struggled to find traction in some of the loose gravel sections which resulted in some hairy moments. The 21-year-old will start Saturday with a more favourable road position and promised a big push on his home stages.

Craig Breen ended over half a minute back from the lead as M-Sport Ford’s frontrunning driver in fifth overall. An intercom problem in the opening stage was a minor cause for frustration and the Puma driver was at a loss as to why he didn’t have the pace to challenge for stage wins. Takamoto Katsuta was just 3.9sec further back in another Toyota.

A frustrated Thierry Neuville brought his Hyundai home in seventh overall. Like Tänak, he was unhappy with his set-up and struggled to keep the rear end of the car under control.

Oliver Solberg was Friday's big casualty, rolling his Hyundai on the very first corner of the day's first stage. Roll cage damage means he will not restart tomorrow.

Saturday is clustered around Jämsä and, with 150.30km of relentless action, comprises almost half the rally’s competitive distance.

Leading positions after Friday:
1. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N 50min 41.2sec
2. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota GR Yaris +3.8sec
3. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +19.3sec
4. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +21.0sec
5. C Breen / P Nagle IRL Ford Puma +32.5sec
6. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +35.5sec
22-08-05 Oliver Solberg krashade i Rally Finland
Bara några hundra meter in på tävlingens andra specialsträcka kraschade Oliver Solberg i Rally Finland på fredagsmorgonen. Bilen fick så omfattande skador att det inte går att köra vidare i tävlingen.
– Jag vet inte vad jag ska säga. Tidigt på SS2 "tappade" vi bakvagnen på bilen i en kurva. Det blev väldigt fel, och vi rullade, sa Oliver Solberg.
– Just nu är det svårt och tufft. Väldigt tufft. Jag försöker mitt bästa att få det här att fungera, det göra bara så ont, konstaterade Hyundai-föraren.

Nästa rally för 20-åringen blir VM-tävlingen Ypres Rally Belgien den 18-21 augusti.
22-08-04 Championship leader searching for success on his home event
With a factory drive and a huge FIA World Rally Championship lead, Kalle Rovanperä is the man who seemingly has it all. But there is something missing: a victory on home soil.

It’s no surprise that Rovanperä is the hottest property in the sport right now. He’s achieved more during three years in rallying’s top-flight than many drivers do in their entire careers - and he’s only 21 years of age.

The Toyota Gazoo Racing driver is on fine form and, with five wins already this season, arrives at Secto Rally Finland (4 - 7 August) with a massive 83-point advantage. The truth is, he doesn’t need to score big this week - but he’d certainly like to.

Esapekka Lappi was the last Finn to win on home soil in 2017 but, since then, local celebrations have proved elusive.

Rovanperä would like nothing better than to end that dry spell on Sunday - especially as he crashed out of contention in 2021.

“It’s always really exciting to come to Finland,” he admitted. “For the Finnish drivers, it’s the best event of the season - and an important one.

“I don’t think it brings more pressure. It’s more of an excitement boost with high hopes and high feelings before the rally and you know the atmosphere will be great, so you can always enjoy that.”

Cars frequently top 200kph on rollercoaster roads amid the forests and lakes of central Finland. Stomach-churning jumps and blind crests mean pace notes must be perfect and delivered with pinpoint accuracy by hard-working co-drivers.

With rain predicted to fall at this eighth round, damp tracks and low grip on slippery gravel are just some of the hazards drivers may face.

“It looks like it can rain at some point,” Rovanperä explained. “Being the first car on the road on Friday, I wouldn’t mind a bit of a damp road – it could be good for us.”

The Toyota team is based just outside Jyväskylä and remains undefeated at the rally since the Japanese manufacturer returned to the sport in 2017. Last year’s winner Elfyn Evans will also drive a GR Yaris car alongside Lappi and Takamoto Katsuta.

Hyundai Motorsport trails Toyota by 87 points in its hunt for the manufacturers’ title and needs strong performances from its hybrid-powered i20 N trio of Thierry Neuville, Ott Tänak and Oliver Solberg.

Craig Breen - twice a podium finisher in Finland - leads M-Sport Ford’s attack. He is joined by Adrien Fourmaux, Gus Greensmith and Pierre-Louis Loubet, while home hero Jari Huttunen completes the five-car Puma line-up on his top tier debut.

The rally starts in Jyväskylä on Thursday evening and returns for the finish on Sunday afternoon after 22 speed tests covering 322.61km.
22-08-04 Finsk hoppvecka för Oliver Solberg
Finsk hoppning är av bästa kvalitet. Även inom motorsporten. Rallyföraren Oliver Solberg (20) tar sig an världseliten på Rally Finlands hoppiga och supersnabba grusvägar i helgen.

Rally-VM fortsätter med säsongens åttonde tävling av 13. Rally Finland är inte bara den snabbaste VM-tävlingen; den kännetecknas också av mest flygtid.
– I Finland handlar mycket om att bilar ska kunna flyga. Känslan inne i bilen när allt fungerar, kartläsaren Elliott ropar att jag ska gå ”flat out" över ett hopp, är väldigt speciell. Även med trepunktsbältet åtdragna supertight runt överkroppen höjer man sig ändå lite i sätet över hoppen. Plötsligt upphör allt ljud från hjulen och marken och det blir nästan tyst i några ögonblick. Sedan landar du, och all action börjar igen. Jag älskar det, säger Oliver Solberg.

För första gången startar 20-åringen i värstingklassen i den finska sommartävlingen. Hyundais-fabriksförare har en femteplats från Rally Monza i november som sitt bästa resultat i WRC-klassen.
– Rally Finland kommer att bli helt rått. Att ha mer än 500 hästkrafter att dra oss mellan hoppen kommer att kännas helt otroligt. Det finns mer kraft än jag någonsin haft i Jyväskylä tidigare. Att vara rallyförare på heltid är ett privilegium. Det pirrar i kroppen och du ser fram emot varje tävling enormt mycket. Vissa tävlingar lite mer än andra. Rally Finland är en sådan tävling.

VM-tävlingen inleds med tio specialsträckor på fredag, ytterligare åtta på lördag och avslutas med fyra snabba tidigt på söndag.

Världsrekordet för det snabbaste VM-rallyt genom tiderna innehas av britten Kris Meeke med 126,62 km/h i Rally Finland 2016.
22-07-18 Dazzling Rovanperä triumphs at Rally Estonia to stretch WRC lead
Finn scorches to fifth win in six rounds. Kalle Rovanperä clinched back-to-back Rally Estonia wins on Sunday afternoon with a masterclass drive to secure his fifth FIA World Rally Championship win in six rounds.

Twelve months ago he became the WRC’s youngest rally winner with victory in Estonia. Today’s virtuoso success moved him a step closer to becoming the youngest champion in the series’ 50-year history.

The 21-year-old Finn finished the four-day gravel road fixture 1min 00.9sec clear of Toyota GR Yaris team-mate Elfyn Evans to stretch his points lead to 83 after seven of 13 rounds.

Evans dominated initially but Rovanperä grabbed the lead in Friday’s final rain-soaked speed test. After fine-tuning his car’s set-up on Saturday morning, he reeled off seven consecutive fastest times to distance the Welshman and more than double his advantage.

Rain again ensured slippery conditions in Sunday’s closing leg but Rovanperä was in no mood to compromise. He won the final Wolf Power Stage by an astounding 22.4sec to gain maximum bonus points. Such was his dominance that he won 14 of the rally’s 24 tests.

“It was great again and thanks to Jonne [co-driver Halttunen] because it was a difficult weekend but we drove really well,” said an elated Rovanperä. “We enjoy every rally and although we need to push hard because the pressure is always high, we’re managing it well.”

Evans virtually conceded defeat on Saturday night and any lingering hopes he retained of catching his team-mate were extinguished in Sunday’s second stage when he spun and dropped almost 10sec.

The 1-2 extended reigning champion Toyota Gazoo Racing’s manufacturers’ points lead to 87.

Home hero Ott Tänak completed the podium a further 54.8sec adrift in a Hyundai i20. He never looked like threatening those ahead as he wrestled handling problems but the four-time Estonia winner was more than good enough to finish best of the rest.

Team-mate Thierry Neuville endured similar issues but kept a cool head to finish almost two minutes further back in fourth, despite a Sunday brush with some bushes and a spin.

Fifth was Takamoto Katsuta’s reward after recovering from a roll in Thursday morning’s warm-up which required frantic bodywork repairs from his Toyota team. The Japanese driver ended 20.1sec behind Neuville and 35.7sec clear of Esapekka Lappi’s GR Yaris.

Lappi’s hopes of a top four finish ended when he had to change a puncture following a heavy landing on Saturday. The Finn plunged to seventh but won two tests on the final day and eased ahead of Adrian Fourmaux’s Ford Puma in the last one.

It was a disappointing final day for M-Sport Ford. Pierre-Louis Loubet retired after hitting a rock in the opening stage and breaking his Puma’s front left suspension while Gus Greensmith exited after the next test with a transmission problem.

The WRC remains in northern Europe for another fast gravel road fixture at Secto Rally Finland next month. Round eight of the season is based in Jyväskylä on 4 - 7 August.
22-07-18 Oliver Solberg en tiondel från första milstolpen i VM
En tiondels sekund skilde Oliver Solberg från karriärens första sträckseger i rally-VM:s värstingklass i Rally Estland.

Endast fransmannen Adrien Fourmaux var snabbare än Hyundai-föraren på tävlingens 18:e specialsträcka. Han har aldrig varit närmre en sträckseger i rally-VM. Vid näst sista sträckan på söndagen kopierade unge Solberg sin personbästa placering med ännu en andraplats, men då med en marginal på sju sekunder till Esapekka Lappi som vann sträckan.

Även från Rally Sweden i slutet av februari fick han en näst bästa tid, då 2,4 sekunder efter Ott Tänak. 13:e plats totalt var ännu en besvikelse för Oliver Solberg i rally-VM.

Punktering, trasig servostyrning och tidsstraff skickade ner 20-åringen i resultatlistorna.
– Alla vet att jag inte är nöjd med det här resultatet i mitt favoritgrusrally. Man kan lugnt säga att Rally Estonia var svårt. Förhållandena var mycket utmanande med mycket regn och varierande grepp. När man kommer till en sån här tävling för att köra en Rally1-bil för första gången på grus så önskar man sig lite jämnare förhållanden, sa Oliver Solberg.

Finlands Kalle Rovanperä vann tävlingen, hans femte seger den här säsongen. Tvåa blev Elfyn Evans och trea Hyundai-föraren Ott Tänak.

Nästa VM-tävling är Rally Finland första veckan i augusti.
22-06-26 Rovanperä tightens title hold with skilled Safari win
Finn makes major championship gain on punishing African roads. Kalle Rovanperä boosted his FIA World Rally Championship title hopes with a dominant victory at Safari Rally Kenya on Sunday afternoon.

The 21-year-old continued his run of irresistible form to chalk up win number four of the season as his Toyota Gazoo Racing squad locked out the top four places for the first time in 29 years.

Rovanperä never expected to win this rally. He arrived in Kenya with a commanding points lead and played down his glory hopes, instead starting with the mindset that any points from the championship’s roughest encounter would be a bonus.

But the Finn’s ‘bring it home’ approach soon went out of the window on Friday afternoon when he seized top spot from GR Yaris team-mate Sébastien Ogier, who stopped to change a wheel in the final test.

Despite feeling unwell, Rovanperä strengthened his position on Saturday and thrived in waterlogged conditions as downpours derailed many of his rivals’ hopes.

The sizeable 40.3sec margin he carried into Sunday’s finale was extended with another two fastest times and the youngster ended the bruising four-day fixture 52.8sec clear of Elfyn Evans.

He leads the championship by 65 points with seven rounds remaining, while Toyota extended its manufacturers’ series lead by 62 points.

"It feels great,” beamed Rovanperä. “I have to say, this was the hardest rally I have ever done and if I am honest we just have to thank the team.

"To have four cars like this with no issues means it is clearly the strongest and fastest car. The team did a fantastic job."

Welshman Evans combated his troubled result last time out in Sardinia with a relatively drama-free drive. He finished 49.9sec ahead of Takamoto Katsuta, who sealed back-to-back Safari podiums. The Japanese driver kept a keen eye on his mirrors with Ogier behind and ended 27.6sec ahead of the eight-time world champion.

Ogier - winner last year - had mixed emotions. Friday’s tyre trouble put him out of contention and he conceded more time when the car’s engine ingested some famous fesh-fesh sand.

The hotly-anticipated battle with compatriot Sébastien Loeb never materialised either, as the nine-time world champion retired his M-Sport Ford Puma with engine woes on Friday.

Hyundai Motorsport’s Thierry Neuville was over 10 minutes behind in fifth overall despite incurring a 10min penalty when he crashed his i20 N into a tree and failed to finish Saturday’s Sleeping Warrior finale. He retained second in the championship and collected five bonus points for winning the Wolf Power Stage.

Craig Breen was M-Sport Ford’s leading driver in sixth despite nursing suspension problems in his Puma. He gained the position when Oliver Solberg stopped in the middle of the road with an air filter full of dust, causing the cancellation of Sunday’s opener.

The championship returns to Europe when Rally Estonia (14 - 17 July) kicks-off the second half of the season.

Final positions:
1. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris 3hr 40min 20.4sec
2. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +52.8sec
3. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +1min 42.7sec
4. S Ogier / B Veillas FRA Toyota GR Yaris +2min 10.3sec
5. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +10min 40.9sec
6. C Breen / P Nagle IRL Ford Puma +23min 27.9sec

FIA World Rally Championship (after round 6 of 13):
1. K Rovanperä 145pts
2. T Neuville 80pts
3. O Tänak 62pts
22-06-26 Sand i maskineriet för Oliver Solberg
Kenyansk pudersand - så kallad "fesh fesh" - skapade problem för Oliver Solberg i fabriksförarens första möte med det klassiska Safarirallyt i värstingklassen i rally-VM.

Ett antal gånger fick 20-åringen stanna med mekaniska problem orsakade av ökensanden.
- Mitt första grusrally i värstingklassen kommer jag knappast att glömma. Absolut allt som kunde gå fel, gick fel, konstaterade Solberg efter att han slutat på en10:e plats totalt i tävlingen.

Bästa specialsträckan blev en femteplats på SS13. Förutom tiotals minuter förlorade på sträckorna till följd av problemen, rök Hyundai-föraren dessutom på nästan fyra minuter i tidsstraff.
- En liten tröst är att det gick mycket bättre än förra året. Vi har mycket att göra i framtiden, men det var en framgång att komma i mål. Det är faktiskt en prestation i sig efter allt vi fick gå igenom. Det är tack vare mekanikerna och teamet. Utan dem är ingenting möjligt i denna sport. Nu ser jag fram emot nya mål i nästa tävling, sa Oliver Solberg.

Han låg på sjätte plats totalt som bäst, men tappade fyra placeringar mot slut efter upprepade mekaniska problem.

Förra året fick Oliver bryta redan på tredje specialsträckan med stora skador på bilen.

Finske Kalle Rovanperä vann säsongens fjärde seger i rally-VM och han har nu en rejäl ledning i totalen. Toyota-förarna tog de fyra första platserna i resultatlistan i tävlingen.

Nästa VM-tävling går av stapeln i Estland den 14-17 juli. Även där kommer Solberg köra WRC-klassen.
22-06-25 Rovanperä bolsters Safari victory bid with Saturday masterclass
Finn extends Kenya lead in muddy conditions. Kalle Rovanperä stretched his Safari Rally Kenya lead to more than half a minute on Saturday afternoon as wet weather conditions spiced up the penultimate leg.

On a day which troubled more of the FIA World Rally Championship’s leading drivers, Rovanperä overcame sickness worries to increase his advantage and headed a Toyota GR Yaris quartet in front of Elfyn Evans.

Championship leader Rovanperä seized the lead of this sixth round late on Friday when team-mate and early polesitter Sébastien Ogier stopped to change a wheel. He measured his pace over the morning and was happy to keep a watchful eye on those behind.

The afternoon loop was a completely different story. Downpours in the final pair of stages caused chaos as the dry and dusty roads turned to mud, with grip levels comparable to ice.

Rovanperä fared well in the extreme conditions despite feeling under the weather himself. He outpaced the entire the field by 11.2sec at Elmenteita 2 before adding another 13.2sec to his lead in the Sleeping Warrior finale.

The 21-year-old will start Sunday’s final leg a hefty 40.3sec clear at the top.

“It was quite a big job just to stay on the road today,” said Rovanperä. “There is no grip in the mud here and sometimes there is so much water that it's hard to get through.

“I just realised straight away it was slippery and I tried to be a bit more clever in places where I saw other drivers' lines going wide or something. Basically, I just tried to keep it clean.

"I have not been feeling too good today. It's not with the stomach, but I feel I am quite tired. Hopefully tomorrow is better,” he added.

Evans punctured on SS10 and was also lucky to survive a close call with a tree on the last stage. The Welshman put the mishap down to poor visibility - the result of a broken windscreen washer motor - but ended 35.3sec clear of Takamoto Katsuta.

Katsuta was slow out of the blocks and dropped out of the runners-up spot on the first stage at Soysambu. Two deflated tyres and a late overshoot were the only real bumps in the road for the Japanese driver and he remains on target to claim a second consecutive Kenya podium.

Katsuta’s place in the leading trio was made possible by Thierry Neuville’s demise on SS13. The Hyundai driver grabbed a brace of early stage wins, but lost time when his i20 N was slow to restart following a stall. His day ended just 1km later following a shunt with a tree.

Neuville’s retirement added insult to injury for his Hyundai Motorsport squad, with Estonian driver Ott Tänak also sidelined by propshaft failure earlier in the day. Such was the rate of attrition, Neuville will start Sunday in fifth overall despite incurring a 10min penalty for failing to finish the final stage.

Eight-time world champion Ogier was aided by the drama unfolding ahead and brought his Yaris home 1min 22.7sec adrift of the podium in fourth overall, while Oliver Solberg completed the top six. The Hyundai youngster incurred 1min 30sec in time penalties after making roadside repairs to his car’s suspension and trailed the leaders by over 12 minutes at close of play.

Craig Breen nursed a rear suspension issue but remained M-Sport Ford’s leading driver in seventh overall. His Puma team was left depleted by retirements, with Gus Greensmith halted by accident damage caused by a roll and Adrien Fourmaux succumbing to broken suspension.

Sunday’s finale features three stages - each run twice - located on the southern side of Lake Naivasha. The leg totals 87.20km.

Leading positions after Saturday:
1. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris 2hr 52min 39.7sec
2. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +40.3sec
3. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +1min 25.6sec
4. S Ogier / B Veillas FRA Toyota GR Yaris +2min 38.3sec
5. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +10min 59.3sec
6. O Solberg / E Edmondson SWE Hyundai i20 N +12min 19.1sec

22-06-24 Rovanperä seizes Safari lead on gruelling Friday
Finn pounces as team-mate Ogier hits trouble. Kalle Rovanperä capitalised on team-mate Sébastien Ogier’s late misfortune to lead after Safari Rally Kenya’s vicious opening leg on Friday.

Championship leader Rovanperä languished in 11th overall on Thursday evening after puncturing a tyre on the curtain-raising super special stage, but was immediately into the podium fight on Friday's sandy speed tests on the shores of the Great Rift Valley’s Lake Naivasha.

Car-breaking roads and thick fesh-fesh sand punished crews as more than half of the FIA World Rally Championship field suffered some form of drama during the day, but Toyota Gazoo Racing’s GR Yaris cars performed well under the pressure.

Defending Kenya winner Ogier picked up where he had left off on Thursday and led for the majority of the six stages. He was briefly overtaken by team-mate Elfyn Evans in the morning, but moved back in front in the afternoon’s opener when the Welshman suffered a soft rear tyre.

Rovanperä lingered inside the leading trio and managed to bag three stage wins before seizing the top spot late in the day when his colleague stopped to change a wheel during the Kedong finale.

The Finn was pleased to be carrying a 22.4sec buffer into Saturday’s monster leg despite having to sweep dust from the surface as the first car on the road.

“I think we did a good job,” reflected Rovanperä. “The plan was to be fast and safe and we are in a good position now, but tomorrow will be very challenging.

“I’ve never really experienced anything like this before. Last year we didn’t have this many soft sections of road, so that was something a bit new.

“Of course, it’s always challenging here. There was still some [road] cleaning on the second pass, but other than that we have enjoyed the stages - except the last one - I think we all felt relieved to finish that,” he added.

Evans remained Rovanperä’s nearest challenger, but he found it difficult to judge exactly how hard to push and what risks to take. He ended just 2.9sec clear of third-placed Ott Tänak, who denied Toyota an overnight podium lockout.

Tänak started on the back foot when the gear lever of his Hyundai i20 N snapped during the first stage. Thanks to some quick-thinking, the Estonian carried out a makeshift repair, using the car’s spare wheel brace as a temporary shifter before going on to claim a brace of top-three times.

Takamoto Katsuta was demoted from second to fourth overall in the final stage. The Toyota youngster slowed to pass a stricken Craig Breen - who retired his M-Sport Ford Puma with front right suspension damage - and eventually ended 1.3sec down on Tänak.

Second in the championship Thierry Neuville also had a troublesome day with his Hyundai. The car briefly lost power after scooping up a cloud of dust on SS4, with Neuville also complaining of traction and drivability issues. He trailed the frontrunners by almost one-minute, ahead of Ogier, who was 1min 10.7sec further back.

Last year, Ogier clawed back a similar deficit to take victory after breaking a suspension damper on Friday. Anything is still possible, although the Frenchman appeared to be visibly dejected back at the Naivasha service park.

“Being so far behind, I can’t really say we are in the fight,” he said. “Of course, a lot of things can still happen, but it’s not the same fight when you are this far behind. I am pretty sure things will happen tomorrow, but it’s still frustrating.”

Gus Greensmith was the only M-Sport Ford championship contender to finish the day, but he was almost 15 minutes off the pace after stopping to make stage-side repairs on Kedong 1.

Sébastien Loeb’s Puma stopped with engine troubles on the way back to midday service and Adrien Fourmaux’s similar car also bowed out with a transmission-related failure.

Roads further north around Lake Elmenteita host Saturday’s 150.88km route, the longest leg of the weekend.

The day begins with Soysambu (29.32km), which has been lengthened since last year. Next up is a blast over Elmenteita’s (15.08km) oft-used tracks in the Delamere Estate, followed by Sleeping Warrior (31.04km), set in the shadow of a hill that resembles a Masai warrior lying down. The trio are driven for a second time after service.

Leading positions after Friday:
1. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris 1hr 20min 58.1sec
2. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +22.4sec
3. O Tänak / M Järveoja ESP Hyundai i20 N +25.3sec
4. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +26.6sec
5. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +57.5sec
6. S Ogier / B Veillas FRA Toyota GR Yaris +2min 8.2sec

22-06-23 Afrikansk safari för Oliver Solberg
Två månader efter förra mötet med eliten i världen får Oliver Solberg en ny chans i rally-VM. Under midsommarhelgen ska 20-åringen tävla i ett av världens svåraste lopp; Safarirallyt i Kenya.

Tävlingen blir den första någonsin på grus med värstingbilen, Hyundai i20 N Rally1.

- Kenya är olik alla andra tävlingar i världsmästerskapet. Att köra i detta landskap bland giraffer, noshörningar och flodhästar är ganska unikt och speciellt. Vi kommer att köra några snabba specialsträckor vilket gör att värmen inte blir riktigt lika besvärande.

Solberg startade tävlingen förra året, men förstörde bilen och fick bryta redan på sträcka tre.
- Det var en otroligt lärorik upplevelse. Jag har aldrig sett något liknande till grova vägar och damm förut, och jag är så glad att jag vet vad som väntar den här gången. Jag kommer att börja försiktigt, men ändå pressa så mycket jag kan. Det blir en fin linje att balansera på, säger Oliver Solberg.

Tävlingen startar med en specialsträcka på torsdag och avslutas på söndag.

Tidigare den här säsongen har 20-åringen kört tävlingarna i Monte-Carlo, Sverige och Kroatien i värstingklassen. I Portugal förra månaden körde han i Rally2-klassen.

Efter Safarirallyt i helgen åker 20-åringen vidare till Rally Estonia i mitten av juli för ett nytt pass i WRC-klassen.
22-06-21 Superstar Sébs go head-to-head in Africa
WRC legends clash at toughest rally of the year. Pride of the plains Sébastien Ogier defends his Safari Rally Kenya (23 - 26 June) crown against old foe Sébastien Loeb as they battle for the first time on Africa’s unforgiving terrain.

The FIA World Rally Championship legends face off for the third time this year at the sixth and toughest round of the series in the picture-postcard Great Rift Valley. The route teems with exotic wildlife including lions, leopards, giraffes, zebras and hippos.

Both drivers are contesting partial programmes this season. Nine-time champion Loeb drew first blood when the 47-year-old became the oldest WRC event winner in history at Rallye Monte-Carlo in his M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1.

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Ogier, eight times a title winner, claimed the Safari crown in 2021 when the sub-Saharan classic returned to the series following a 19-year absence.

This will be their first Kenyan clash, with Loeb’s only previous start way back in 2002.

Long straight roads where speeds could top 200kph contrast with rocky rutted tracks that reduce cars to little more than walking pace. And, to add to the excitement, thunderstorms are predicted during the four-day encounter.

If the forecasters are correct, rain could transform the dry sections into treacherous mudbaths in minutes.
“Last year we had a really nice welcome and a great atmosphere,” said Ogier. “To win was the cherry on the cake and it will be great to try to repeat that this year with a bit of knowledge of what to expect from the stages.

“It’s definitely a rally where you have to never give up, and this year with the cars still being so new, we might have to be even more clever than before,” he added.

Ogier is joined in GR Yaris cars by championship leader Kalle Rövanperä as well as Elfyn Evans - who retired last year on the opening day - and 2021 runner-up Takamoto Katsuta.

Rovanperä has shown incredible form so far this season with three wins from five starts. He tops the standings by 55 points, but may be disadvantaged by opening the gravel roads. In similar circumstances, the Finn could only muster fifth at Rally Italia Sardegna earlier this month.

Loeb is part of a five-car M-Sport Ford entry. He is joined by Craig Breen, fourth in the points, Gus Greensmith, Adrien Fourmaux and gentleman driver Jourdan Serderidis.

Hyundai Motorsport's Thierry Neuville is hunting for redemption after his bid for 2021 Safari success turned sour. The Belgian led for most of the rally before rear suspension failure derailed his challenge.

Neuville will team up with Rally Italia Sardegna winner Ott Tänak as well as Oliver Solberg, who replaces Dani Sordo in the team’s third i20 N car.
“I feel comfortable on the stages and this year we are out for revenge,” explained Neuville. “It is a rough event and the weather can also play a big factor, but we are looking forward to it.”

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta will flag competitors away from the Nairobi start on Thursday lunchtime. Ahead lie 19 gruelling special stages around Lakes Naivasha and Elmenteita covering 363.44km before Sunday afternoon's finish in Naivasha.
22-06-14 WRC Rally Estonia is fusing all the best practices for a whole family rally party experience
• For the first time, the new generation of Rally1 hybrid cars can be seen on Estonian home soil.
• Competition’s start and finish podium has returned to the heart of Tartu.
• New added value has been preserved in watching the classic rally.
• The Wolf Power Stage podium will be in Leigo, a unique location in the middle of the lake.

The WRC Rally Estonia press conference was held on Tuesday, June 14th. The Organizers of the competition gave an overview of what to expect at the largest motorsport event in the Baltics, WRC Rally Estonia.

The WRC series is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and Rally Estonia is honoured to be on the World Rally Championship calendar for the third year in a row. After a two-year break, the Rally Estonia finish and start podium ceremonies are back on the unique Tartu Town Hall Square. For the third year in a row, the Estonian National Museum is hosting the world's best rally teams and the WRC Rally Estonia organizing team.

In four days, a total of 24 special stages and 313.84 competitive kilometres are waiting for the competitors. The opening stage will be a 1.66 km speed test on Thursday evening in Tartu. On Friday, the day will start in Central Estonia and move to the south. Technical and fast stages at the Lake Peipsi, in Mustvee, Raanitsa and Vastsemõisa will take place. Saturday will be a classic Rally Estonia competition day, which includes the legendary Alaküla jump, the Truuta spectator area and the Kulbilohu rallycross track. This year's Estonian World Rally Championship will end with Kambja's stage, which will grant Wolf Power stage points to the fastest five cars. The Power stage podium will be in Leigo where it is built on the island of the largest lake in Leigo. In addition to the WRC entries, this year's Rally Estonia will also feature competitors from the Estonian Rally Championship, who will pass seven stages, as part of the competition.

This year's WRC Rally Estonia offers spectators the opportunity to see the new generation of Rally1 hybrid cars driving on Estonian roads for the first time, one of which (Hyundai i20 N Rally1) will feature the 2019 World Rally Champions and three-time Rally Estonia winners Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja.

After two years of pandemic, rally fans can enjoy WRC Rally Estonia under normal conditions for the first time. The organizers have prepared over 70 different viewing areas, divided into three different categories: Arena, Area, and Spot. As there are many events in the summer that rally fans might want to attend, this year, in addition to the WRC Rally Estonia rally passes, day passes will also be on sale so that everyone can still take part at the big rally party.

WRC Rally Estonia rally passes and day tickets are on sale in the Rally Estonia e-store

For the first time the rally audience will be able to go to the service park at the Estonian National Museum to see how the world's best teams, their mechanics, engineers, and many others work. In the evenings of the rally days, the fans gathered in the service park will be able to see the TOP3 at the Meet the Crews session of the day, hosted by Rebecca “Becs” Williams, who is known to all rally fans from WRC All Live.

Worth noting is the magnificent opening ceremony of WRC Rally Estonia, where some of the best Estonian artists will perform. The start podium begins on Thursday evening, June 14th at 6.30 pm and for the first time in the history of Rally Estonia, all cars will drive over the start podium before the opening stage of the rally starts on the territory of Raadi manor park at 8.38 pm. For all those who do not want to go to Raadi, the opening stage can be watched on the large LED screen at the Tartu Town Hall Square. At 10.30 pm, the artists of 5 Miinust will take the stage with a unique an special one-and-a-half-hour program.

All necessary information for WRC Rally Estonia can be found on the website

At the end of June the WRC Rally Estonia rally magazine will be published, where in addition to the spectating areas and introductions of competitors, there will be many exciting articles to read.

Urmo Aava, Rally Director of WRC Rally Estonia:
"I am looking forward to the arrival of the Rally1 hybrid cars in Estonia. Compared to last year, it has changed that all manufacturers have won at least one Rally before our event. Rally Estonia will be even more exciting because all cars have the potential to win here. The experience of previous years has shown that Ott and Martin are the sharpest – they drive on the home roads here. But last year's winners Kalle Rovanperä / Jonne Halttunen and Craig Breen / Paul Nagle, who finished on the podium two times in Estonia, will probably be strong competition for Ott and Martin. In addition to the WRC class, the excitement is definitely shared in WRC2 and JWRC with Egon Kaur, Georg Linnamäe and Robert Virves. Kaur, Linnamäe and Virves have already shown decent speed in the World Championship series this year. All of them can fight for the rally win on their home roads.

In addition to the above, several other Estonian crews have registered for the domestic Rally Championship event, all of whom you can loudly cheer on by the tracks.”

Tarmo Hõbe, Commercial Director of WRC Rally Estonia:
"This year, for the third time on the WRC stage, we have combined all previous best practices into one, offering experiences that have been approved by competitors, teams and spectators. We have brought the start and finish podium back to Tartu Town Hall Square in the heart of the city, and this time the finish of the Power Stage will be by the picturesque lakes of Leigo. On an island of Leigo’s largest lake we will award the winners. We have prepared almost 80 different viewing areas for spectators, which are logically divided into different categories. Although the restrictions have disappeared, we have also preserved the new added value when watching the classic rally: the arenas have large LED screens, where you can watch live WRC All Live in addition to cars on the track. Ott’s and Martin's excellent performance in Sardinia has shown that Hyundai is back to former strength. They are clearly competitive and favourites to fight for victory on their home roads. The local rally fans can also cheer for domestic bests in the WRC2 and JWRC classes. Rally Estonia is honoured to be one of the few to organize the future of Rallying with the Juniors. Adding the round of the Estonian championship, the four-day family rally festival awaits!”

In addition to the organizers, Estonian top drivers – Ott Tänak, Georg Linnamäe, Robert Virves, Gregor Jeets and Jaspar Vaher also spoke at the WRC Rally Estonia press conference. Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Jari-Matti Latvala and M-Sport team driver Andrien Fourmaux joined virtually.

Adrien Fourmaux (M-Sport Ford WRT)
“Rally Estonian rally is the rally where I have most participation because I was already there when it was not in WRC (2019) Its nice event quite sandy in some places in the second pass but the speed you have to carry is quite nice. It will me my second fast rally with WRC car so big challenge, but let’s see what we can do.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT)
“Our target for the season is to try to reach the Drivers and Manufacturers Championship. Its been going really well in the first part of the season, but we know that Hyundai is getting stronger and stronger. If you want to be in the top of the game you need to work all the time, so you cant´just stop development process. Thank you for the very nice offer, but unfortunately, I can’t attend myself I need to be working, I already missed Sardinia from my work as a Team Principal. So, I can’t drive it with my Celica this time.

It’s really nice to have in rally also national class, because there are a lot of drivers who would like to participate in a World Rally Championship event, because the atmosphere is totally different than in national events.“

Ott Tänak (Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT)
„Before Rally Estonia we have to drive in Kenya what will be challenge. Estonia, Finland and most probably also New Zealand will be specific rallies. We are starting from Estonia where roads are fast and smooth. These rallies are always tricky and similar to with Sweden, where we have snow, but still fast. These rallies need totally new approach. Will see, we try to do as much possible, but tests are limited from FIA and we don’t have much possibility to try. Basically, we have to be spot on from the beginning and hope that we did better than the rest.”

Georg Linnamäe (ALM Motorsport)
„I think we can enter Rally Estonia with good feeling and pace because we have much experience from this event. This year we try to show our faster side. I predict that in WRC2 TOP3 will be me, Egon Kaur and Gregor Jeets.”

Robert Virves (FIA JWRC)
„As Rally Estonia is fast and my home rally then the target can’t be lower than top step of the podium. We try our best to achieve it.”

Gregor Jeets (Tehase Auto)
„I think if all preparation going well and luck is on our side then our WRC2 target is TOP5 if not even TOP3. I will predict the same TOP3 as Georg did. “

Jaspar Vaher (CKR Estonia)
„It’s nice to drive and be a part of such a big event as Rally Estonia. I would like to thank Estonian Autosport Union for this opportunity.“

Rally Estonia is a part of the FIA World Rally Championship for the third year in a row. WRC Rally Estonia 2022 will be run as the seventh round of the season on July 14th till July 17th on the roads of Tartu, Otepää, Elva, Kanepi, Kambja, Peipsiääre and Mustvee. The Rally Service Park and the Media Centre will be Tartu, in the Estonian National Museum (ERM) and the start and finish podium will be the heart of Tartu, on its Town Hall Square.
22-06-05 Tänak ceases victory drought with Italy win
Estonian secures dominant win. Ott Tänak ended his long search for another FIA World Rally Championship victory with a convincing win at Rally Italia Sardegna on Sunday afternoon.

The Hyundai Motorsport driver was on dominant form on the Mediterranean island’s punishing rock-strewn roads and brought his hybrid-powered i20 N Rally1 car home 1min 3.2sec clear of M-Sport Ford driver Craig Breen.

Tänak’s win at the championship’s fifth round was certainly long-awaited. The last time he stood on the top step of the podium was at Arctic Rally Finland powered by CapitalBox in 2021, which was 462 days ago. Since then, he has struggled to find rally-winning form, mainly due to mechanical troubles.

The Estonian was on the pace from the get-go and traded the lead with GR Yaris driver Esapekka Lappi on Friday’s shortened opening leg. A transmission issue on the final blast left him with only three-wheel drive and he trailed the Finn by 0.7sec overnight.

The stage was set for a thrilling battle over Saturday’s marathon leg, which took place in the Monte Acuto region with no midday service.

However, the fight was over just 10.4km into the opening Tempio Pausania test when Lappi’s car rebounded from a heavy compression and bounced into a rock which ripped off the rear left wheel and suspension components.

Lappi’s demise left Tänak clear at the top and he went on to win six of Saturday’s seven speed tests, carrying a hefty advantage into the final leg despite insisting that he wasn’t pushing. He was then able to ease through the final four stages and claim a 15th career win.

"It's been very challenging, especially since the beginning of this [hybrid] generation,” said Tänak.

“We are definitely very happy, especially for the mechanics - they put in an incredible effort all of last year and the beginning of this year. This rally was not easy and they made a good job to keep the car going.

"We have made some good steps. In Portugal, we were really struggling and actually we managed to improve. No doubt, if the confidence is there then we can do a good job. We just need to keep working," he added.

Breen was delighted to grab his best-ever result for M-Sport Ford. The Irishman ended Friday just inside the top-five following a spin and an overshoot, but moved into second soon afterwards when team-mate Pierre-Louis Loubet punctured a front left tyre.

He came under pressure from Dani Sordo before delivering a handful of top-three times on Saturday to bridge the gap to his Spanish rival.

Sordo, ever the safe pair of hands, eventually completed the podium 29.8sec behind. He struggled to find a comfortable set-up early in the rally, but gradual improvements unlocked more pace from his i20 N and a stall following a water splash on SS16 was his only real bump in the road.

Pierre-Louis Loubet brought his Puma 36.4sec further back to mark a career-best result of fourth overall. He took on a mature approach following the puncture, showing pace when needed but also comfortably managing the gap to Kalle Rovanperä, who ended 53.4sec behind.

Rovanperä was the best-finishing Toyota with fifth on what was a disappointing event for the team.

He had the dubious task of opening the road on Friday and initially languished in eighth after struggling for traction on the loose and dusty surface, but an improved road position on Saturday helped him climb the order.

The Finn was able to leapfrog Yaris colleague Takamoto Katsuta, who finished sixth, as well as Adrien Fourmaux, who crashed out on SS17, and he now leads the championship by a commanding 55 points.

Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville managed to salvage five points with the Wolf Power Stage win after rolling his i20 N out of contention on Saturday. Elfyn Evans also had a rally to forget after retiring on both Friday and Saturday.

The championship reaches its midpoint with a hotly-anticipated visit to Africa next month. The legendary Safari Rally Kenya is based in Naivasha on 23 - 26 June.

Final positions:
1. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N 3hr 10min 59.1sec
2. C Breen / P Nagle IRL Ford Puma +1min 3.2sec
3. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 N +1min 33.0sec
4. PL Loubet / V Landais FRA Ford Puma +2min 9.4sec
5. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +3min 2.8sec
6. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +4min 2.6sec

FIA World Rally Championship (after round 5 of 13):
1. K Rovanperä 120pts
2. T Neuville 65pts
3. O Tänak 62pts
22-06-04 Merciless Tänak leaves rivals floundering in Italy
Estonian driver dominates penultimate day. Ott Tänak is on course for a much-needed victory at Rally Italia Sardegna after leaving his rivals for dust on Saturday’s penultimate leg.

The Estonian driver will start Sunday’s final leg with a hefty 46.0sec advantage over M-Sport Ford’s Craig Breen after pulling clear on what was a disastrous day for Friday leader Esapekka Lappi.

The stage was set for a thrilling battle after Lappi led Tänak by 0.7sec overnight, but he retired on Saturday’s opening Tempio Pausania speed blast when a heavy compression sent his Yaris flying into a rock which ripped off the rear left wheel.

Lappi’s demise left Tänak all alone at the front and, despite insisting he wasn’t pushing, the stage times suggested otherwise as he won six of the day’s seven speed tests.

While his title hopes may be slim after a poor start to the season, victory here would mean a lot to Tänak. He hasn’t stood on the top step of the podium since Arctic Rally Finland powered by CapitalBox in 2021, which was 461 days ago.

“It’s been a good day,” reflected Tänak. “In the car we had quite a good feeling. The roads were holding up well in the afternoon and it was quite enjoyable.

“On the first stage this morning, when Esapekka was still in the fight, we gave it a good push. After that, I would say we were slowing down step by step, but the times were still coming. I guess, if you’re in the mood, that’s how it should be.

“We’ve been in this position before and we know how it is. It’s not over until the finish line is crossed, so let’s say it’s better not to think about that just yet,” he added.

Breen was the only other driver to win a stage on what was a hot and dusty day. The Irishman started third before snatching the runners-up spot when team-mate Pierre-Louis Loubet punctured on the opening test.

He was pressured by Hyundai’s Dani Sordo in the morning, but managed to build a comfortable buffer as Sordo struggled for pace later in the day. 20.8sec separated the pair at close of play.

Loubet delivered a mature drive to bring his Puma home fourth. He trailed Sordo by 25.0sec, but had 51.4sec in hand over fifth-placed Kalle Rovanperä, who started the day eighth after opening the road on Friday.

Rovanperä broke into the top five late in the day when Adrien Fourmaux crashed his Ford on the final Monte Lerno Di Pattada blast and the stage was subsequently red-flagged.

Takamoto Katsuta was almost four minutes down on the leaders. With no midday service, he was forced to drive carefully while nursing a weakened radiator which took a hit through the watersplash at Coiluna - Loelle.

Gus Greensmith was seventh, while the rest of the leaderboard comprised of support category cars. WRC2 leader Nikolay Gryazin headed Jan Solans and Chris Ingram, who completed the top ten.

Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville was eyeing a climb up the leaderboard after ending Friday ninth following transmission woes. However, the Belgian’s luck ran out on the third stage of the morning when a rollover put him out for the day.

After restarting following his Friday retirement, Elfyn Evans came unstuck once again when rear suspension failure sidelined his Yaris in the afternoon.

Crews will head north of Alghero along the coast on Sunday to tackle the Monte Baranta (14.51km) and Sassari-Argentiera (7.10km) tests. Both stages are run twice on the final day, with the latter being the venue for the bonus points-paying Wolf Power Stage, which gets underway at 1218 local time.

As has become tradition, whoever emerges from the finale on top will then dive - together with their whole team - into the Alghero harbour.

Leading positions after Friday:
1. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N 2hr 43min 35.6sec
2. C Breen / P Nagle IRL Ford Puma +46.0sec
3. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 N +1min 6.8sec
4. PL Loubet / V Landais FRA Ford Puma +1min 31.8sec
5. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +2min 23.2sec
6. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +3min 52.3sec
22-06-03 Lappi holds tiny lead after frantic opening day in Italy
Finn impresses on hybrid-powered gravel debut. Esapekka Lappi delivered a near-perfect drive to round out Friday’s punishing opening leg with a slender lead at Rally Italia Sardegna.

The Finn, making his gravel debut in a Toyota GR Yaris, won two of the six rock-strewn speed tests to open up a tiny 0.7sec advantage over Ott Tänak on a shortened opening day at round five of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Unfortunately, the final two stages were cancelled due to delays following an incident during the first passage of Osilu - Tergu.

Lappi started strongly and topped the timesheets after the second passage of Monti di Alà e Buddusò before being quickly overtaken by a charging Ott Tänak at the end of the morning loop.

Tänak was on fine form and looked likely to pull clear in the afternoon, however, a transmission issue hampered the Hyundai i20 N driver on the final stage and he dropped back to second after nursing the car through with three-wheel drive.

The cancellations of SS8 and SS9 held a silver lining for Tänak as he was able to return to the respite of Alghero service without dropping any further back.

Meanwhile, Lappi’s day was relatively drama-free, a front left puncture on SS5 being the biggest of his worries.

Pierre-Louis Loubet ended 14.4sec back from Tänak in third. The Frenchman traded seconds with his M-Sport Ford Puma colleague Craig Breen throughout the day and both drivers dropped time with small overshoots. At close of play, Breen was just 0.4sec in arrears.

Dani Sordo was only six tenths further behind in his Hyundai. He struggled to find the optimum set-up early on, but adjustments made throughout the day proved fruitful and he notched up a brace of stage wins.

Puma hotshot Adrien Fourmaux was a lonely sixth. He trailed Sordo by 14.7sec, but held a neat 34.7sec over Takamoto Katsuta, who struggled for traction in his Toyota.

Championship leader Kalle Rovanperä languished in eighth after sweeping the road all day followed by a dejected Thierry Neuville, who dropped two minutes with a transmission issue on SS5. WRC2 leader Andreas Mikkelsen completed the leaderboard in tenth overall.

It was a bad day for the British drivers. Elfyn Evans led briefly before retiring his Yaris with radiator damage following a compression on the third stage, while Gus Greensmith ended 2min 19.0sec off the pace after struggling to restart his Puma following an overshoot in the morning.

Saturday’s itinerary features eight more stages near Monte Acuto, with 131.82km of action broken into two loops of four tests. There will be no midday service halt.

Tempio Pausania (12.03 km) and Erula - Tula (15.27 km) are each repeated twice in the morning, while double runs of Coiluna - Loelle (21.60 km) and Monte Lerno (17.01 km) round off the day before the overnight halt in Alghero.

Leading positions after Friday:
1. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota GR Yaris 1hr 10min 41.9sec
2. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N +0.7sec
3. PL Loubet / V Landais FRA Ford Puma +15.1sec
4. C Breen / P Nagle IRL Ford Puma +15.5sec
5. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 N +16.1sec
6. A Fourmaux / A Coria FRA Ford Puma +30.8sec

22-06-01 Rovanperä bids to maintain untouchable form at Rally Italia Sardegna
Finn targets fourth consecutive win.
Kalle Rovanperä hunts for a fourth consecutive victory at this weekend’s Rally Italia Sardegna (2 - 5 June) as his Toyota Gazoo Racing squad bids for back-to-back wins on the tough Mediterranean event.

Rovanperä arrives at the championship’s fifth round in fine form. He recorded victory on snow, asphalt and gravel at the three previous three rounds and carries a hefty 46-point advantage as the championship approaches its halfway point.

While the Finn doesn’t have great memories of the Italian island due to retirements in the previous two years, his team-mate Sébastien Ogier - who is absent this weekend - won last season’s edition.

He will have to open the road on Friday, ploughing a line through loose gravel which will become progressively cleaner and grippier with the passage of each car.

“Sardinia will be another tough rally,” acknowledged Rovanperä. “The stages there have been tricky for me in the past, but last year I had a better feeling even though we had some issues during the weekend.

“If the conditions are hot and dry like normal, I think it could be more difficult for us to fight for the win from first on the road than in Portugal, but the target will be the same: to do the best job we can.

“We go there knowing that we have a good base with the car on gravel and although we need to focus on making it even better, we are already in a good place,” he added.

One man who won’t be worrying about sweeping the road is Hyundai Motorsport’s Dani Sordo. The Spaniard is sharing the team’s third i20 N Rally1 car with Oliver Solberg this season, and starts eighth in the running order.

Sordo has made his name as a Sardinia master and claimed back-to-back victories across 2019 and 2020. He joins second-placed title contender Thierry Neuville as well as Ott Tänak in the Korean manufacturer’s line-up.

Rovanperä’s GR Yaris colleague Elfyn Evans needs a strong result to continue getting his season back on track. The Welshman is down in fifth after going off the road in Monte-Carlo and Sweden, although he recovered to take second at Vodafone Rally de Portugal last month.

Esapekka Lappi replaces Sébastien Ogier to drive Toyota’s third car, while Takamoto Katsuta will pilot a similar machine less than a fortnight after Sordo denied him a podium result in Portugal.

M-Sport Ford fields a four-strong hybrid-powered Puma Rally1 entry led by Craig Breen who sits sixth in the drivers' standings. Young chargers Gus Greensmith, Adrien Fourmaux and Pierre-Louis Loubet will each bid for their maiden WRC podiums.

The rally base has switched back across the island to the west coast town of Alghero after spending 2021 in Olbia, although the fast and narrow roads - many lined with trees and bushes - will be familiar.

After Thursday night’s start, competitors face 21 speed tests covering 307.91km.
22-05-22 Solberg seger på ikoniskt specialsträcka
Tiotusentals rallyfans jublade när Oliver Solberg krossade allt motstånd i sin klass vid det legendariska Fafe-sträckan i Rally Portugal i söndags.

20-åringen hade ingen anledning att hålla igen på tävlingens sista specialsträcka – som också var en så kallat "power stage" (bonuspoängs-sträcka). Han slog klassvinnaren Yohan Rossel med hela 15,6 sekunder på den 11,18 kilometer långa sträckan.
- Fantastiskt att avsluta rallyt med sträckseger och en positiv upplevelse. Det var speciellt att vinna just den här sträckan och bli en del av Fafe-historien, sa Oliver Solberg efter mötet med den massiva publiken.

Hyundai-föraren vann totalt två sträckor i Rally2-klassen. Han var dock chanslös i totalen då en styrarm brast och såg till att Solberg fick dra sig ur andra halvan av lördagens körning.
- Jag är faktiskt inte riktigt säker på vad som hände. Jag träffade ingenting, men plötsligt brast styrarmen i fronten. Vägarna i den här tävlingen var tuffare än någon hade sett dem tidigare. Vi jobbade hårt och fixade problemet inför eftermiddagens sträckor, men problemet kom tillbaka redan på andra sträckan och vi tvingades bryta.
- Lyckligtvis körde vi igenom alla sträckorna. Vi är trots allt här för att skaffa oss erfarenhet och förstå vägarna, sa 20-åringen. Teamet reparerade bilen och gjorde den startklar på söndagen.

Oliver Solberg borde egentligen ha stått över Rally Portugal, men sponsorerna Monster Energy, HTB Racing och Schaktmiljö gick samman och hyrde en Hyundai i20 N Rally2-bil så att han ändå kunde köra VM-tävlingen.
22-05-22 Hat-trick hero Rovanperä supreme in Rally de Portugal
Toyota scores 1-2 finish on gruelling gravel roads. Kalle Rovanperä claimed his third FIA World Rally Championship victory in as many events in Portugal on Sunday afternoon to open a commanding lead in the points standings.

The Finn trailed long-time leader and Toyota GR Yaris team-mate Elfyn Evans for the first two days at Vodafone Rally de Portugal before relegating the Welshman on Saturday evening. He extended a slender advantage on the short final leg to win by 15.2sec.

Rovanperä’s triumph on the first gravel fixture of the season followed success on Sweden’s snow and ice and Croatia’s asphalt. He holds a 46-point championship advantage after four of 13 rounds.

Victory looked near-impossible for Rovanperä who started Friday’s opening leg first in the order. He cleaned the sandy roads to leave more grip for those following, but the 21-year-old avoided trouble on the punishing rock-strewn roads before pouncing on Evans.

Maximum bonus points for winning the final Wolf Power Stage over the legendary Fafe speed test was the icing on the cake.

“At the moment it seems we are on a really good drive,” he smiled. “Starting first here and to fight for the win like this, it was really nice. We saw a lot of issues and tough conditions this weekend and our car was perfect as always so everybody can be really happy.”

Second was the best result of the season for Evans, who won six of the 21 speed tests compared to Rovanperä’s eight. It marked a return to form for the man who has finished championship runner-up for the last two seasons after a torrid start to the year.

“We definitely needed a result, that’s for sure,” he admitted. “Of course, we’re disappointed with the outcome of today, but I take my hat off to Kalle. From my side it’s nice to be back on the podium and we should be able to build from here.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing was on course to lockout the podium with Takamoto Katsuta holding third ahead of the final stage. But a fast-closing Dani Sordo, making his first appearance of the season in a Hyundai i20 N, moved ahead in the final kilometres by 2.1sec.

Thierry Neuville fell away from the victory fight on Friday when a front wheel fell off his i20 N on a liaison section. He drove the final two stages with just two-wheel drive and plunged from second to seventh. He recovered to take fifth, 18.4sec behind Katsuta.

Brake problems cost Craig Breen sixth. The Irishman conceded two places on the final day in his Ford Puma, allowing Ott Tänak into sixth in an i20. The Estonian steadily gained ground after two Friday punctures ended his challenge.

Competitors face more hot weather and rough roads as the WRC moves to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia next month. Rally Italia Sardegna is based in Alghero on 2 - 5 June.

Final positions:
1. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris 3hr 44min 19.2sec
2. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +15.2sec
3. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 +2min 17.3sec
4. T Katsuta / A Johnston GBR Toyota GR Yaris +2min 19.4sec
5. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 +2min 37.8sec
6. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 +4min 45.7sec

FIA World Rally Championship (after round 4 of 13)
1. K Rovanperä 106pts
2. T Neuville 60pts
3. T Katsuta 38pts

22-05-21 Rovanperä steals Saturday Rally de Portugal lead from Evans
Finn carries 5.7sec lead into final day. Kalle Rovanperä snatched the Vodafone Rally de Portugal lead from team-mate Elfyn Evans on Saturday night to set up a thrilling finale.

The Finn trailed Evans by almost 20sec midway through the longest leg of the event before crushing the Welshman this afternoon. He will carry a 5.7sec advantage into Sunday’s closing day in pursuit of his third straight rally win.

Evans had led this fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship for virtually the entire distance in his Toyota GR Yaris, but Rovanperä won this afternoon’s opening two tests to trim the deficit to 9.9sec.

Then rain in the second pass of the long Amarante stage handed Rovanperä a vital advantage. It became increasingly heavy and with Evans starting four minutes after his colleague, he conceded almost 14sec and the lead.

“I’m sure we could have done a bit more in places,” reflected Evans later. “The rain did not help us in the long one, but Kalle has driven well. We have to keep the pressure on tomorrow and see what is possible.”

Earlier Evans had the best of a morning which was heavily influenced by tyre choice. Both

favoured Pirelli’s soft compound Scorpion rubber which offered more grip on the powdery Cabreira Mountain roads than the harder option chosen by others.

Takamoto Katsuta ensured a Toyota Gazoo Racing lockout of the top three after overhauling Dani Sordo for third this morning. Katsuta defeated the Hyundai i20 N pilot on all but one stage to carry a 5.7sec advantage into the overnight halt, almost two minutes off the lead.

Both must keep an eye on a charging Thierry Neuville. The Belgian climbed two places to fifth this morning but was almost a minute behind team-mate Sordo at the midpoint. A blistering drive in Amarante before the rain took hold enabled him to close to within 30.1sec.

Ford Puma team-mates Pierre-Louis Loubet and Craig Breen lost time on hard tyres this morning. Loubet’s choice was compounded by a spin and he fell behind the Irishman when jammed windscreen wipers hindered his visibility in the rain.

Set-up improvements to the dampers and chassis at the mid-leg service encouraged Breen who demoted Loubet by 14.3sec in sixth. He ended more than 90sec behind Neuville.

Sunday’s finale is all about the extraordinary Fafe, its big jump before the finish and its crowds. Five tests clustered around the town total 48.87km, with the rally-closing Wolf Power Stage in Fafe offering vital bonus points.

Leading positions:
1. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris 3hr 13min 46.7sec
2. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +5.7sec
3. T Katsuta / A Johnston GBR Toyota GR Yaris +1min 50.1sec
4. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 +1min 55.8sec
5. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 +2min 25.9sec
6. C Breen / P Nagle IRL Ford Puma +4min 00.4sec
22-05-20 Evans ahead after vicious Friday at Rally de Portugal
Loeb and Ogier sidelined by gruelling conditions. Elfyn Evans mastered a brutal opening leg at Vodafone Rally de Portugal to lead Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mate Kalle Rovanperä on Friday night.

A furious fight in the morning became a matter of survival this afternoon as heat, dust and punishing rock-strewn roads took a heavy toll in this first gravel fixture of the FIA World Rally Championship season.

Evans won four of the eight special stages in his GR Yaris to head his Finnish colleague, who twice topped the timesheets, by 13.6sec after almost 125km of action.

The Welshman’s low start position meant he enjoyed the benefit of better grip on roads swept clean by the early starters. In contrast, championship leader Rovanperä endured the worst conditions from first in the running order.

Evans demoted Thierry Neuville, who led after Thursday night’s short speed test in Coimbra’s streets, with an opening stage victory. He won the next, too, but was powerless to halt a charging Sébastien Loeb who snatched a 0.5sec advantage.

When Loeb slammed his Ford Puma into retirement against a wall just metres into the next stage, Evans was back ahead and avoided multiple hazards on the deteriorating roads.

“They were quite extreme conditions,” he said. “Everybody was trying to pick a way through and to a point it was a lottery but, of course, you have to try to drive as quick as you can as well. You can always say you could have gone faster, but would you still be here or not?”

Second was beyond Rovanperä’s hopes. “We were scooping a lot of dust into the car. Sometimes I couldn’t really breathe or see anything” he smiled.

Season debutant Dani Sordo was third in a Hyundai i20, half a minute behind. The Spaniard had 5.2sec in hand over Takamoto Katsuta in another GR Yaris, the Japanese driver handing that time away with a spin.

Sébastien Ogier was on course to make it a great day for Toyota Gazoo Racing as he steered his GR Yaris into third. Two afternoon punctures stranded the Frenchman roadside with no more spare wheels onboard.

Twice Gus Greensmith had a tyre come off the rim on his Ford Puma. His progress was further stifled when dust filled the cockpit but the Briton persevered to hold fifth, a minute off the lead.

M-Sport Ford team-mate Pierre-Louis Loubet was sixth, the Frenchman’s hopes of a top three ending when he overshot a penultimate stage junction.

If Friday was tough, Saturday is even more daunting. Almost half the rally’s competitive distance is packed into two loops of three speed tests in the Cabreira Mountains. Crews have the respite of mid-leg service and a coastal street stage in Porto ends the day after almost 165km of action.

Leading positions:
1. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris 1hr 25min 43.3sec
2. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +13.6sec
3. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 +44.4sec
4. T Katsuta / A Johnston GBR Toyota GR Yaris +49.6sec
5. G Greensmith / J Andersson GBR Ford Puma +1min 00.7sec
6. P-L Loubet / V Landais FRA Ford Puma +1min 15.6sec
22-05-19 WRC rally legends toast championship’s 50 golden years
World champions spanning six decades kicked off the FIA World Rally Championship’s 50th season celebrations in style on Wednesday at a star-studded gala in Portugal.

Title-winning drivers, co-drivers and team managers created the biggest ever gathering of WRC champions in Matosinhos. The event launched five days of celebrations at Vodafone Rally de Portugal (19 - 22 May) during the first gravel fixture of the sport’s innovative hybrid era.

Nine-time champion Sébastien Loeb (FRA) and eight-time winner Sébastien Ogier (FRA) took a break from preparations for round four of the 2022 series to attend the gala, which recalled some of the most memorable moments across 50 years.

They were joined by Walter Röhrl (DEU), Marcus Grönholm and Ari Vatanen (both FIN), Miki Biasion (ITA), Carlos Sainz (ESP), Petter Solberg (NOR) and Ott Tänak (EST). Between them they have amassed 28 titles.

Robert Reid, Derek Ringer and David Richards (all GBR), Luis Moya (ESP), Christian Geistdörfer (DEU), Tiziano Siviero (ITA), Timo Rautiainen (FIN) and Martin Järveoja (EST) represented the champion co-drivers.

Michèle Mouton (FRA) and Fabrizia Pons (ITA), the only female pairing to win a WRC event outright, were present, along with WRC Ladies’ Cup winners Louise-Aitken-Walker (GBR) and Isolde Holderied (DEU), their co-driver Tina Thörner (SWE), and Christine Driano (FRA).

The gala, attended by 250 guests, was held in the rally’s Exponor headquarters. Portugal was a host country in 1973’s inaugural WRC season and this year’s event marks the championship’s 619th round.

The celebrations continue over the weekend with almost 30 classic cars charting the WRC’s history on display. They include an Alpine A110, the model which won the first WRC round at Rallye Monte-Carlo. They will also take part in demonstration runs at special stages.

The gala was organised by championship commercial rights holder WRC Promoter and motorsport’s governing body, the FIA.

“It was a truly special occasion,” said WRC Promoter managing director Jona Siebel. “We were honoured by the presence of title winners from all six decades of the WRC’s history for an evening of celebration, joyous memories and good old-fashioned fun.

“The festivities continue for the next four days and it will be pure nostalgia to watch some amazing title-winning cars driving special stages ahead of today’s superstars fighting for tenths of a second.”

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem was an enthusiastic guest. “There are so many memories and it is such a special moment to be here among your own family,” he said.

“It is an immense pleasure to be present at Rally de Portugal and celebrate the champions, alongside WRC Promoter and all the partners and friends of the sport. I would like to extend my gratitude to Automóvel Club de Portugal’s president, Carlos Barbosa, for hosting the festivities as part of the rally event.”
22-05-19 Solbergs sponsorer fixade Portugal-start
Planen var att Oliver Solberg skulle stå över Rally Portugal. Istället gick 20-åringens sponsorer in och såg till att Oliver står på startlinjen i helgens VM-tävling.

Inför säsongen fick Oliver besked om att "dela" en bil med spanjoren Daniel Sordo i värstingklassen. Efter att ha kört säsongens tre första VM-tävlingarna i Monaco, Sverige och Kroatien, är det nu Sordos tur på portugisiskt grus.

För att Oliver inte ska missa mycket viktig erfarenhet genom att stå över en VM-tävling, gick sponsorerna Monster Energy, HTB Racing och Schaktmiljö samman och hyrde en Hyundai i20 N Rally2-bil till det unga stjärnskottet.
- Jag är evigt tacksam mot mina sponsorer som ger mig den här chansen. I rally betyder erfarenhet av de olika tävlingarna så mycket, och nu ser de till att jag inte missar den här möjligheten i Portugal, säger Oliver Solberg.

Han kommer att tävla i den näst högsta klassen tillsammans med bland andra Andreas Mikkelsen, Teemu Suninen och ett rekordstort startfält som innehåller många förare i världsklass.
- Jag kan inte säga annat än att det var lite tråkigt att lämna över "nycklarna" till värstingbilen i20 N Rally1 till Dani Sordo. Samtidigt är det enligt plan och som det ska vara i år. Rally2 skiljer sig mycket
från Rally1-bilen. Men det är bra för mig att få erfarenhet av olika bilar i så många tävlingar som möjligt.

Rally Portugal är säsongens första grusrally.
- Det är alltid svårt att veta vad det är för grepp vi kan förvänta oss. Eftersom vi är nära Atlantkusten kan vädret förändras både snabbt och drastiskt. Dessutom kommer vi att tävla på en mängd olika vägytor med damm, lera och stenar. Vi vet att detta är ett ganska tekniskt rally, och både däckval och noter kommer att vara viktiga.

Solbergs mål är att skaffa erfarenhet och genomföra tävlingen. Samtidigt vill han slåss om topplaceringar både på specialsträckorna samt totalt i Rally2-klassen. Tävlingen är det första den här säsongen där Oliver Solberg kan dra nytta av sina egna noter från fjolåret (5:e plats).
– Det råder ingen tvekan om att vi hade bra erfarenhet förra året. Nu måste vi bygga vidare på det, säger Solberg.

Rally Portugal drar igång med en kort sträcka på torsdagskvällen och avslutas efter 21 specialsträckor på söndag eftermiddag.
22-05-18 Legends Loeb and Ogier renew rivalry at Rally de Portugal
French duo back in action at opening gravel fixture. Rallying superstars Sébastiens Loeb and Ogier face-off for the second course of their FIA World Rally Championship season rivalry at Vodafone Rally de Portugal (19 - 22 May).

The sport’s two most successful drivers are reunited in battle after serving up a tasty dish at January’s season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo. Loeb became the oldest event winner in history at 47 after snatching victory in an epic tussle.

Three rounds further down the road, they return from competing in other disciplines to add extra spice to the opening gravel fixture of both the season and the WRC’s hybrid era.

Loeb has the harder task. The nine-time champion is an early starter in Friday’s opening leg and with conditions set to remain dry, grip will be low for those at the front on roads coated in slippery sand.

“I am fourth on the road and road cleaning is always a challenge in this kind of rally if it’s dry,” said the M-Sport Ford Puma driver.

“I don’t really know what to expect there so we need to do a good first day, and for the rest we will see where we are. Only one day of testing isn’t a lot when it’s the first time you are driving a car on gravel, but at the end I was happy with the feeling I had.”

Eight-time champion Ogier is chasing a record sixth victory in the country where he scored his first WRC win 12 years ago. He is helped by a start position four places behind his fellow Frenchman.

“Portugal is a special place for me,” admitted the Toyota Gazoo Racing driver. “It will be something different for me to not be starting near the front and hopefully that can be a bit of an advantage if it doesn’t rain.

“The biggest challenge will be getting back in the rhythm straightaway after only one test day on gravel. But at the same time, these cars are new for everyone on gravel.”

Ogier is joined in GR Yaris cars by championship leader Kalle Rövanperä, 2021 Portugal winner Elfyn Evans, who starts one place behind Ogier, and Takamoto Katsuta.

Rovanperä has won two of the opening three rounds, including a thrilling last-gasp success last time out in Croatia. He tops the standings by 29 points but is disadvantaged by opening the roads on dirt for the first time.

Loeb is part of a five-car M-Sport Ford entry, the biggest from a team in the hybrid generation. He is joined by Craig Breen, third in the points, Adrien Fourmaux, Gus Greensmith and Pierre-Louis Loubet.

Dani Sordo replaces Oliver Solberg at Hyundai Motorsport for his 2022 debut. The Spaniard is joined in i20 N cars by Ott Tänak and Thierry Neuville, podium finishers in Croatia.

The rally is based in the coastal city of Matosinhos. After Thursday night’s start in Coimbra, competitors face 21 speed tests covering 338.34km in north and central Portugal. It finishes on Sunday afternoon after a finale over the iconic roads of Fafe.

The rally marks the centrepiece of the WRC’s 50th season celebrations. The biggest ever gathering of champion drivers and co-drivers will attend and almost 30 classic cars will parade through several stages.
22-05-10 WRC rally greats celebrate 50 golden championship years
· FIA World Rally Championship salutes glorious half century
· Vodafone Rally de Portugal to host 50th season festivities
· Legendary names to attend largest ever gathering of WRC champions
· Historic cars to parade through famous special stages

The biggest ever gathering of FIA World Rally champions will celebrate the series’ half-century at a star-studded festival in Portugal next week.

Title-winning drivers, co-drivers and team managers will honour the WRC’s 50th season in Matosinhos during five days of celebrations at Vodafone Rally de Portugal (19 - 22 May), this year’s fourth round.

A host of historic cars will be displayed in the Exponor service park and fans will have a rare chance to see many in demonstration runs through special stages on all four rally days.

Champion drivers due to attend are Sébastien Loeb, Sébastien Ogier, Walter Röhrl, Ari Vatanen, Miki Biasion, Carlos Sainz, Marcus Grönholm, Petter Solberg and Ott Tänak. Between them they have amassed 28 titles.

FIA deputy president for sport Robert Reid, Luis Moya, Christian Geistdörfer, Tiziano Siviero, Timo Rautiainen, Derek Ringer, David Richards and Martin Järveoja are among the co-drivers due to appear.

The list is boosted by WRC Ladies’ Cup winners Louise-Aitken-Walker and Isolde Holderied, their co-driver Tina Thörner, and Christine Driano. Michèle Mouton and Fabrizia Pons, the only female pairing to win a WRC event outright, will also be present.

Other guests include FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, WRC Promoter managing director Jona Siebel and Carlos Barbosa, president of rally organiser Automóvel Club de Portugal.

Nearly 30 classic cars will chart the WRC’s history. They include an Alpine A110, the model which won the first WRC round at Rallye Monte-Carlo in the hands of Jean-Claude Andruet.

Also participating are fire-breathing Group B monsters including Audi Quattro S1, A1 and A2 models and a Lancia Delta S4. Other favourites include a Lancia Stratos, Ford Escort RS1800 and Opel Ascona 400, alongside the more recent Toyota Corolla and Hyundai i20.

Many are provided by the Slowly Sideways group, the organisation headed by WRC photographer Reinhard Klein.

The WRC was launched in 1973 and 35 countries have staged rounds since. Portugal was a host in the inaugural season and this year’s event marks the championship’s 619th round.

The celebrations kick off with a gala dinner in the service park on Wednesday 18 May. More than 200 WRC luminaries will attend.

On Thursday afternoon, historic cars will be displayed in the start city of Coimbra. Demonstration runs will take place through the evening’s super special stage. Further displays and parades will take place at Lousada on Friday evening and Saturday night’s Porto-Foz street stage.

Röhrl will head a group of cars driven through Sunday’s fabled Fafe stage between the two competitive passes. Fafe graced Portugal’s fixture in 1973 and the Pedra Sentada jump is among the championship’s most popular spectacles.

The celebration is organised by championship commercial rights holder WRC Promoter and motorsport’s governing body, the FIA.

“Everyone has their own memories of the thrills, spills and excitement from the WRC and this is a marvellous one-off opportunity for those who have helped make the championship so special,” said WRC Promoter managing director Jona Siebel.

“The list of WRC greats coming to Portugal, both human and mechanical, is mouth-watering and a reminder of what a wonderful sport we have the great fortune to be involved in.

“But this is also for the fans. The sights and sounds of great cars from yesteryear being driven through the stages will evoke spine-tingling memories from those watching roadside.”

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem said: “Since its inaugural season in 1973, the FIA World Rally Championship has delivered spectacular action for global audiences. It has featured the most iconic cars, historic locations and legendary drivers and co-drivers who have secured a special place in the annals of motorsport.

“The FIA has continuously driven evolution in a sporting and technical sense: this year is no exception as the WRC ushers in hybrid technology, sustainable fuel and advanced safety measures.

“As the championship enters its 50th year, it’s time to reflect on those remarkable accomplishments, celebrate past and present champions and look ahead to a bright future. I look forward to the upcoming festivities at Rally de Portugal, where the legends will be reunited.”

22-04-24 Kalle Rovanperä grabs last-gasp Croatia Rally victory
Finnish championship leader snatches victory from Ott Tänak on the final stage. Kalle Rovanperä snatched an extraordinary Croatia Rally victory on Sunday afternoon as a downpour turned the event on its head in the final kilometres.

The Finn led from the start of the three-day rally in the hills around Zagreb in his Toyota GR Yaris, only for a storm in the penultimate speed test to wipe out his hard-earned advantage.

A resurgent Ott Tänak, whose gamble on softer Pirelli tyres gave his Hyundai i20 N a performance edge on the streaming asphalt, grabbed a 1.4sec lead.

The pendulum swung back towards Rovanperä as drier roads in the closing Wolf Power Stage offered hope, but the odds remained firmly in Tänak's favour as mud and dirt littered the final 14.09km.

Rovanperä threw caution to the wind and remarkably overturned the deficit to claim back-to-back FIA World Rally Championship wins by 4.3sec. Victory extended his points lead to 29 after three rounds of the 13-event season.

He had dominated the early stages of the event and was almost 90sec clear until falling into Tänak's clutches following a puncture on Saturday morning. He then rebuilt his lead to half a minute until the deluge set up a breathtaking finale.

"I was sure we could not be so fast with these tyres, but it's amazing," smiled Rovanperä. "We pushed really hard and I think we deserve it this weekend. For sure, it was the toughest win of my career."

It was a disappointing outcome for Tänak, whose victory drought dates back to February 2021. "I didn't take any risks, but Kalle obviously did a good drive," he said. "We were fighting for the win, but only because of clever decisions and tyre choices."

The Estonian finished 2min 16.7sec clear of team-mate Thierry Neuville. The Belgian overhauled Craig Breen on the final morning to claim a podium despite a torrid weekend that would have forced many to give up.

He and co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe were on the point of collapse after pushing their car for 800 metres into service on Friday, after stopping with alternator problems.

Time penalties and speeding fines knocked them further back and they almost gave up a podium in sight of the finish after hitting a bank and almost rolling.

Breen survived an overshoot and a spin to take fourth in a Ford Puma. The Irishman fended off a closing Elfyn Evans, whose fifth place marked a first points finish of the year for the GR Yaris driver. Japan's Takamoto Katsuta was a distant sixth in another Yaris.

The series switches to gravel for the first time in 2022 at Vodafone Rally de Portugal. The fourth round is based at Matosinhos on May 19–22.

Final positions after Sunday
1. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris 2h 48m 21.5s
2. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 +4.3sec
3. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 +2min 21.0sec
4. C Breen / P Nagle IRL Ford Puma +3min 7.3sec
5. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +3min 46.0sec
22-04-24 Oliver Solberg bröt Kroatien-debuten
Efter att ha kämpat bland de fem bästa och imponerat första dagen av sin debut i Rally Kroatien fick Oliver Solberg bryta tävlingen på toppnivå. Brännskador baktill på bilen kunde inte repareras i tid för körning på söndagen.

20-åringen fick sladd på lördagens första (nionde av tävlingens) specialsträckor och körde av vägen. Situationen blev allvarligare när det extremt heta avgassystemet satte eld på växtligheten i vägkanten och skadade bilen så mycket att det var färdigkört.
– Dagen gick definitivt inte enligt planerna. Jag "tappade" bakändan på bilen och körde av vägen. De heta avgassystemet orsakade en brand bak i bilen. Därmed fick vi stoppa för dagen, sa Oliver Solberg. Skadorna visade sig vara så omfattande att det inte gick att reparera bilen i tid för mer körning.
– Det här var inte vad vi ville ha från vårt första besök i Kroatien. Visst är det en del av sporten, men ändå är jag väldigt ledsen för teamet, för mig själv och Elliott efter en bra första dag. Men vi har lärt oss mycket, och vi kommer tillbaka starkare, sa 20-åringen.

Nästa VM-tävling i rally kommer att äga rum i Portugal 19-22 maj.
22-04-23 Croatia Rally leader Rovanperä under pressure from Tänak
Estonian puts on a charge to reduce the Finn's lead to under 20 seconds. Kalle Rovanperä’s commanding Croatia Rally lead came under threat from Ott Tänak during Saturday's absorbing second leg.

FIA World Rally Championship leader Rovanperä began the second day of three in the hills near Zagreb with a seemingly impregnable lead of almost 90sec over the Estonian in his Toyota GR Yaris.

He ended with that advantage slashed to just 19.9sec after a puncture and Tänak's persistence set up an exciting Sunday finale.

Tänak had already trimmed Rovanperä’s lead when the Finn punctured his front left tyre on the morning's penultimate speed test amid heavy rain and thick fog at the Platak ski resort above the Adriatic coast.

The pair were the only frontrunners who had the advantage of Pirelli's wet weather tyres on all four corners of their cars. While Tänak pushed on through the gloom to win the stage in his Hyundai i20 N, Rovanperä conceded nearly 55sec.

Tänak sniffed the opportunity of a first victory for more than a year and nibbled back more time, despite an afternoon gearchange problem. But Rovanperä sent a clear message in the final test, setting fastest time to regain 5.1sec.

"This is my reply," said a defiant Rovanperä. "It was a good stage, full speed, but we still have a difficult day to come tomorrow."

Tänak admitted the Platak test was an eye opener: "In these conditions you don't care about the time, you’re just happy to make it through. It was like a different place in the world. This afternoon I didn’t have a good feeling to really push to the limits."

While conditions on the other stages were drier than yesterday, the weather deteriorated in Platak and the afternoon's repeat pass was cancelled.

Craig Breen and Thierry Neuville were blanketed by 4.9sec for the final podium place, almost a minute behind Tänak. Breen overshot a hairpin in his Ford Puma, while Neuville's torrid weekend took yet more twists.

He received a one-minute penalty overnight for speeding on Friday, which relegated him from second to fourth. His i20 N had to be pushed into service this morning and another 10sec penalty came for leaving a minute late.

Neuville clawed back almost 40sec from Breen to end hot on the Irishman’s heels and 49.9sec clear of Elfyn Evans. The Welshman won the opening test in a GR Yaris, but was reluctant to take risks when on course for his first points finish of the year.

Takamoto Katsuta rounded off the top six. The Japanese pilot dropped time with a puncture and an overshoot and was almost 3m 40s adrift of Evans.

Oliver Solberg crashed his i20 N out of fifth in the opening stage, which was cancelled as rescue vehicles attended a fire at the rear of the car.

Sunday's finale journeys north of Zagreb and features two technical stages that are driven twice for a total of 54.48km. The closing test forms the live TV Wolf Power Stage, with bonus points on offer to the fastest crews.

Leading positions after Saturday
1. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris 2hr 14min 54.5sec
2. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 +19.9sec
3. C Breen / P Nagle IRL Ford Puma +1min 13.4sec
4. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 +1min 18.3sec
5. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +2min 06.2sec
6. T Katsuta / A Johnston GBR Toyota GR Yaris +5min 47.7sec

The official Home of World Rallying:
22-04-23 Masterful Kalle Rovanperä untouchable on Friday in Croatia
Kalle Rovanperä demolished his opponents in Friday's treacherous opening day of the Croatia Rally to build a convincing lead of more than a minute.

Despite rain, mud and mist in the hills west of capital Zagreb, he won six of the eight asphalt speed tests in a Toyota GR Yaris to head a resilient Thierry Neuville by 1m 4s.

FIA World Rally Championship leader Rovanperä thrived in the tricky conditions. He won three of the morning's four special stages to lead by 47.5sec and stretched it during an equally dominant afternoon.

Having missed valuable experience when he crashed in the opening kilometres of Croatia's WRC debut 12 months ago, the Finn expected to be at a disadvantage. But first in the start order helped, as conditions progressively worsened as each car dragged mud onto the road.

"It was probably one of my best days in a rally car," Rovanperä enthused. "It's always nice to have a lead, but it's also difficult to have a big lead like this. Tomorrow is a long day, so I still need to drive fast to keep concentrated."

Neuville endured a topsy-turvy day. The Belgian completed the opening quartet of tests 12.5sec adrift, but a broken alternator belt in his Hyundai i20 N's engine twice stopped the car en route to service.

Neuville and co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe pushed the car the final 800m. The exhausted pair fell to the floor as they arrived four minutes late and a 40sec penalty demoted them to fourth.

A spirited afternoon, including fastest time in the final stage, propelled them back to second.

They had 19.3sec in hand over team-mate Ott Tänak. The Estonian's low start position hindered him, along with a penultimate stage puncture, but he was content with third.

Despite overshooting a corner and narrowly missing a water hydrant, Craig Breen was fourth on his first time aboard a Ford Puma in the wet. The Irishman overnighted 11.9sec back.

Oliver Solberg was delayed by a spin and was fortunate to survive an impact in a water-filled corner en route to fifth in his i20 N. He was more than a minute adrift of Breen and 10.6sec clear of Elfyn Evans, who denied Rovanperä a clean sweep of morning stage wins.

That was the Welshman's only joy, as two punctures on his GR Yaris cost valuable time.

In worse trouble was Esapekka Lappi, who retired his GR Yaris in the first stage after clipping a boulder and wrecking the front right corner.

Aside from Breen's efforts, it was a disappointing day for M-Sport Ford. Adrien Fourmaux went out after sliding his Puma through a hedge into a roadside garden, while both Pierre-Louis Loubet and Gus Greensmith exited when three punctures left them with no more usuable tyres onboard.

Saturday's second leg follows a similar format. Four stages are driven morning and afternoon in the same territory, except for the penultimate test of each loop, which heads further west towards the Adriatic coast city of Rijeka. The eight stages cover 116.98km.

Leading positions after Friday
1. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris 1hr 15min 35.5sec
2. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 +1min 4.0sec
3. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 +1min 23.3sec
4. C Breen / P Nagle IRL Ford Puma +1min 35.2sec
5. O Solberg / E Edmondson SWE Hyundai i20 +2min 38.5sec
6. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +2min 49.1sec
22-04-21 Första mötet med Kroatien för Oliver Solberg
Oliver Solberg får sitt första möte med Kroatien bakom ratten i Hyundaifabrikens tredje bil i rally-VM i helgen. Därmed fortsätter fabriksföraräventyret för 20-åringen. Efter imponerande körning i både Monte-Carlo och svenska Umeå tidigare i år, är unge Solberg fortfarande med i sportens toppnivå i säsongens tredje VM-tävling.

I Monaco fick han bryta sista dagen på grund av avgasförgiftning, men Oliver Solberg gjorde det väldigt bra med en sjätteplats hemma i Sverige för drygt 50 dagar sedan.

Rallyt på kroatisk asfalt blir unge Solbergs sjunde någonsin på toppnivå i VM. Bästa resultat är femteplatsen från Rally Monza i Italien i november.
– I den här tävlingen blir mitt jobb att köra stabilt och komma i mål. Vägarna är mycket svåra, och shakedown (testvägen innan tävlingen) är den tuffaste jag har sett. Tävlingen bjuder på olika typer av asfalt, hopp och smala partier med många kurvor som ska skäras. Tillsammans gör det rallyt väldigt svårt, säger Oliver Solberg.

Den enda tillåtna testdagen innan tävlingen var inte helt optimal då regn och snö ledde till dåliga vägar. Men 20-åringen ger sig ut i sitt första race på asfalt i en Rally1-bil utan press från teamet.
– Jag är väldigt spänd, men jag ser mest av allt fram emot att komma igång. Målet är att följa den plan och strategi som teamet har för mig. De jobbar "flat out" för att förbättra bilen, säger han.

Rally Kroatien har funnits sedan 1974, men kördes först som en VM-tävling förra året - då med Sebastien Ogier som vinnare när han var på väg mot sin åttonde världsmästartitel. Han deltar inte i år. VM-ledaren efter två tävlingar är finske Kalle Rovanperä, som har en ledning på 14 poäng mot Hyundai-föraren Thierry Neuville.

Rallyt startar på fredag morgon och avslutas efter 20 specialsträckor (292 kilometer) på söndag eftermiddag. SVT sänder delar av tävlingen (SS12, SS16, SS18 och SS20).

22-04-20 Tough fight awaits WRC leader Rovanperä in Croatia
Toyota driver looking to banish memories of 2021 crash at all-asphalt round. Kalle Rovanperä starts on the back foot this weekend as he defends an early-season FIA World Rally Championship lead in Croatia at the event that marked his low point of 2021.

The Toyota Gazoo Racing driver holds a 14-point advantage ahead of the Zagreb-based Croatia Rally (21 - 24 April), round three of the year and the first pure asphalt fixture of the new hybrid-powered era.

Twelve months ago the 21-year-old Finn was in a similar position at Croatia’s maiden WRC appearance, but the youngest driver ever to lead the series crashed out after just a handful of kilometres.

Rovanperä admits his lack of knowledge of the complex low-grip speed tests in the hills around the capital puts him at a disadvantage. But he is up for the fight.

“Everybody has now one more year of experience there so I think it’s going to be a bit difficult for us,” he explained. “But we have been in that situation also before and we just try to manage that the best way possible.

“It’s going to be more tricky for me this year. [Last year] it was a new event for everybody and it seems that it was quite a tricky one. Everybody said the stages were quite difficult with the grip. Watching the videos, it seems the grip was changing all the time.”

This second edition has a lot to live up to. Last year was a thriller with Sébastien Ogier snatching victory from Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans when the Welshman slid onto the grass at the final corner. The 0.6s winning margin was the third-closest WRC finish ever.

Evans and Esapekka Lappi join Rovanperä in GR Yaris cars, with Takamoto Katsuta driving a fourth version for the Japanese manufacturer’s second team.

Gus Greensmith is M-Sport Ford’s frontrunner in a Puma. The Briton, who lies fourth in the standings, is joined by Craig Breen and Adrien Fourmaux, who scored an impressive fifth place last year at his top-level debut.

A fourth Puma will be in the hands of 2019 WRC2 champion Pierre-Louis Loubet for the first time.

Hyundai Motorsport fields the same line-up for the third consecutive rally. Thierry Neuville is Rovanperä’s closest challenger in the points after finishing second on the previous round in Sweden.

The Belgian is joined in i20 N Rally1 cars by Oliver Solberg and Ott Tänak, who is hoping for a big upturn after a disappointing start to the season.

The rally starts in Zagreb on Thursday evening ahead of three days of competition on asphalt which varies from smooth to badly broken and features many tricky crests and jumps. The 20 stages cover 291.84km.
22-04-19 Sébastien Loeb returns to M-Sport for Rally de Portugal
French all-time great set to pilot Ford Puma Hybrid again in May. Nine-time World Rally Champion, Sébastien Loeb, will once again compete behind the wheel of a M-Sport Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 at Rally de Portugal in May.

Here is all you need to know:
- After a stunning debut with the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team at Rallye Monte Carlo in January, M-Sport have announced that Loeb and co-driver Isabelle Galmiche will re-join the team to complete a five-car Puma Hybrid Rally1 line-up in Portugal.

- Loeb returned to the FIA World Rally Championship in January and claimed a total of six stage wins throughout the event as he battled against eight-time champion Sébastien Ogier, before taking overall victory at the 2022 season’s opening event.

- After securing further success in multiple disciplines around the globe since his first win of 2022, Loeb will take to the famous Porto gravel stages assisted by Galmiche, the first woman to record an overall event victory in WRC since 1997.

- With nine WRC championships and 80 rally wins, Loeb is considered to be the discipline’s Greatest of All Time, and one of the best drivers in motorsport history, period – and at 48, he shows no signs of slowing down. Already in 2022, he leads the FIA World Rally Raid Championship having finished runner-up at the Dakar Rally at the wheel of the BRX Hunter T1+. In all, Loeb’s race programme for 2022 includes driving in the WRC, Dakar, the FIA World Rally Raid Championship, Extreme E and DTM.
- Rallye de Portugal marks a landmark occasion for the M-Sport Ford World Rally team, which will become the first manufacturer to ever field five Rally1 cars at the same event.
- Loeb’s return coincides with the 50th anniversary celebrations of the FIA World Rally Championship. A variety of activities are planned throughout the rally weekend as rallying celebrates 50 years of epic action on the most challenging stages and surfaces in the world.
- The Frenchman’s history with the event started back in 2007, where he claimed a victory on his debut in Portugal after winning 11 of 18 stages. He went on to win the event again in 2009, then collecting a further two podium finishes and a grand total of 32 stage wins to add to his record-breaking tally.

- Loeb said: "Driving the Puma is one of my favourite rally memories; winning Monte Carlo after such a long time was incredible. The team worked really well, with a quick fix to the difficulties we faced at shakedown, allowing us to claim our 80th rally win. From my first test with this car, I immediately had a very good feeling and I enjoy driving with so much power with the hybrid system. It’s a great car, a great team and we celebrated an incredible moment together.
- “Portugal was an empty space in my calendar and it’s a gravel rally, I have competed on this version of the rally in 2019 so I have a base of pacenotes from some of the stages. That was one of the reasons for choosing Portugal, the other was I wanted to do a gravel rally; I like driving on gravel so it was a very straightforward choice.”

- Rich Millener, M-Sport Team Principal, said: “The memories of Monte Carlo still live strong in my mind, and I am sure this is the same for all the team. Personally, to have another chance to work with Seb and Isabelle is a dream come true. The fact that they want to come and drive with us again is something incredibly special for the team and reflects all of the hard work being put in by everybody back home.
- "It is also really important to give special thanks to Ford and Red Bull who have been pivotal in securing the pairing for this event – another example of how our partners are working together to give us the strongest line-up possible for the events in the WRC this season. I am genuinely excited to see what happens on the legendary Portugal stages, and I know the fans will be very excited to see this news and I look forward to seeing their support over the event weekend!”
- Malcolm Wilson, Managing Director of M-Sport, said: “This has been made possible by our great partners at Ford and Red Bull, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how Seb and the Puma Hybrid Rally1 perform on the first real gravel event of the year. It’s great to have such a strong line-up of drivers and I’m very proud that our team is going to be the first to run five top-level cars at a WRC event. If anything, this shows just how appealing these rally1 cars, and Puma in particular, are to drivers and we hope to continue to push the limits of the sport. I am also hoping this popularity of the rally1 cars will lead us to seeing more customers cars competing on events around the world.”
22-02-18 Belgium added to 2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Ypres Rally Belgium makes second WRC appearance after 2021 debut
· Asphalt fixture scheduled for 18 - 21 August
· Four-day encounter fills outstanding TBC date in calendar

Ypres Rally Belgium will host an FIA World Rally Championship round for a second consecutive season after being added to the 2022 calendar today (Friday).

Last year Belgium became the 35th nation to stage a WRC round since the series started in 1973. It will return when Ypres, in the north-western Flanders region, hosts round nine of the 13-rally series on 18 - 21 August.

The challenging asphalt event fills the date left outstanding when the 2022 fixture list was announced last October.

Ypres was first held in 1965 and is known as one of Europe’s toughest rallies. Narrow farm roads, littered with tight junctions and lined by drainage ditches, ensure there is no room for error.

Home hero Thierry Neuville won last year’s encounter after leading for virtually the entire distance.

The rally will feature three days of competition with an atmospheric service park in Ypres’ historic Grote Markt.

A Thursday afternoon start ceremony there will precede the shakedown – the final opportunity for drivers to fine-tune their cars. Full days of competition on Friday and Saturday will lead into Sunday’s finale, culminating with the lunchtime Wolf Power Stage.

Jona Siebel, managing director of WRC Promoter, which owns the WRC’s commercial rights, was delighted to welcome back Ypres Rally Belgium.

“Belgium brought something quite different to last year’s WRC due to its tricky special stages and fast-paced format, which meant there was little time for anyone to pause for breath,” he said.

“The Ypres region whole-heartedly throws itself into rally week. There’s a great buzz out on the stages and we’re sure that will be replicated in the town itself this time round when fans will be allowed in the beautiful Grote Markt service park.”

The final slot in the calendar came down to a choice between Ypres Rally Belgium and Barum Czech Rally Zlin, which was hoping to bring the WRC to the Czech Republic for the first time.

“We were hugely impressed with the professionalism and plans from the organising team in Zlin,” Siebel added. “The rally remains a key event in the FIA European Rally Championship and the door remains open to their WRC ambitions. We look forward to continue working with them.”

FIA WRC category manager Andrew Wheatley said: “Ypres Rally Belgium stepped in last season in exceptional circumstances and managed to deliver a strong and innovative event, which showcased the DNA of Belgian rally.

“The Royal Automobile Club Belgium, together with local organiser Club Superstage, demonstrated commitment and professionalism to put on a top-class WRC round and I’m glad the event will return to the calendar in August. In a rally nation like Belgium, this will be positive news for teams, competitors and fans.”

Alain Penasse, president of rally organiser Club Superstage, added: “We are very happy to be able to bring the FIA ??World Rally Championship to Ypres again. It is a reward for the efforts that the whole club, all volunteers, our partners and local authorities put in last year to make that first edition a success.”

The rally will feature a strong co-operation between official WRC lubricant partner Wolf Lubricants and event sponsor Ardeca Lubricants. Both companies are centred in Belgium.

Yves Decat, global marketing director of Wolf Lubricants said: “As a Belgian-based exclusive lubricant partner of the FIA World Rally Championship, we are continuously looking for additional ways to increase the presence and reach of this breathtaking sport.

“We are excited to support the return of Ypres Rally Belgium in the calendar for 2022 by joining forces with the rally’s main partner, Ardeca Lubricants.”
22-01-23 Record-breaking Loeb snatches dramatic Rallye Monte-Carlo win
Frenchman edges out Ogier with schoolteacher co-driver Galmiche. Sébastien Loeb became the oldest winner of an FIA World Rally Championship round after grabbing a remarkable Rallye Monte-Carlo victory from the under the nose of old foe Sébastien Ogier on Sunday.

The 47-year-old Frenchman trailed Ogier by almost half a minute heading into the penultimate speed test of the four-day event in the French Alps.

But when Ogier limped to the finish with a front left puncture, Loeb reclaimed a lead he had conceded to his compatriot on Saturday. He stayed calm through the final test to seal his eighth Monte-Carlo success in a Ford Puma by 10.5sec.

Loeb, starting his first WRC event for more than a year, was competing for the British M-Sport Ford squad in a one-off appearance. He joins Ogier at the top of the Monte-Carlo roll of honour with eight wins.

His victory means he has topped the WRC podium in three different decades. Co-driver Isabelle Galmiche, a 50-year-old schoolteacher who was making her first top-tier start, became the first female winner of a WRC fixture since 1997.

"I didn't expect so much when I came here," Loeb admitted. "It was a great fight, Ogier was really fast and I struggled a bit yesterday and even this morning."

The duel between the most successful drivers in the sport's history proved a fitting start to the new hybrid-powered era in the championship's 50th season.

Ogier led initially after Thursday's short opening night in his Toyota GR Yaris, but a run of four consecutive fastest times on Friday put Loeb ahead. He failed to find the same pace on Saturday and Ogier moved back in front before Sunday's breathtaking finale.

Craig Breen finished almost 90sec further back in third in another Puma, giving the British-based M-Sport Ford squad an early lead in the manufacturers' championship.

Kalle Rovanperä languished outside the top 10 after the opening night, but after set-up changes improved the balance of his GR Yaris, he soared up the order to secure fourth.

Despite losing time with engine issues on Saturday, Gus Greensmith claimed fifth in another Puma after winning his first special stage at WRC level. Thierry Neuville was sixth in a Hyundai i20 N after a lacklustre weekend for the Korean manufacturer.

The Belgian fought problems all rally, including a broken damper which punched through his bonnet on Saturday. Team-mates Ott Tänak and Oliver Solberg both retired.

Elfyn Evans, championship runner-up in 2021, was on the edge of the fight for victory until he beached his GR Yaris on a bank and remained stranded there for 20 minutes. The Welshman ended 21st.

The championship switches to Scandinavia next month for the only pure winter round of the season. Rally Sweden takes place in Umeå on February 24-27

Final positions
1. S Loeb / I Galmiche FRA Ford Puma 3hr 00min 32.8sec
2. S Ogier / B Veillas FRA Toyota GR Yaris +10.5sec
3. C Breen / P Nagle IRL Ford Puma +1min 39.8sec
4. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +2min 16.2sec
5. G Greensmith / J Andersson GBR Ford Puma +6min 33.4sec
6. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 +7min 42.6sec

FIA World Rally Drivers' Championship (after round 1 of 13)
1. S Loeb 27pts
2. S Ogier 19
3. K Rovanperä 17

Manufacturers' Championship
1. M-Sport Ford 42pts
2. Toyota Gazoo 39
3. Hyundai Shell Mobis 13

The official Home of World Rallying:
22-01-23 Toppfart innan Solberg drog sig ur
Oliver Solberg visade toppfart innan han i samråd med sitt Hyundai-team valde att dra sig ur Rally Monte-Carlo på söndagen på grund av ett avgasläckage tidigare under tävlingen.

På tävlingens 13:e specialsträcka satte Oliver tredje bästa tid, endast slagen av Kalle Rovanperä och Sebastien Ogier. Men han var snabbare än den bästa rallyföraren genom tiderna, Sebastien Loeb, som vann säsongsinledningen i Monte-Carlo före Sebastien Ogier och Craig Breen.
- Vi hade litet hopp om att kunna genomföra tävlingen när sista dagen startade. Vi låg så långt efter i tid att det enda målet var att få så mycket erfarenhet som möjligt för bilen, teamet och oss själva. Vi hade den sjunde bästa tiden på den 14:e specialsträckan, men efter den sträckan kom vi överens med teamet om att dra oss ur resten av tävlingen. Formen var inte riktigt bra efter de senaste dagarnas händelser, sa Oliver Solberg.

Det första världsmästerskapet i rally med hybridbilar någonsin startade något dämpat för Solberg, som vid de första specialsträckorna som kördes i mörker på torsdagskvällen inte hörde sin kartläsare Elliott Edmondson på grund av problem med det interna kommunikationssystemet.

Lördagen började inte mycket bättre då ett läckage på avgassystemet fyllde kupén med avgaser, vilket skulle visa sig vara avgörande för hela tävlingen. En avkörning på tävlingens 10:e sträcka ledde till att Solberg tappade över en halvtimme och på söndagen valde duon i samråd med teamet att dra sig ur tävlingen när tre specialsträckor återstod.
- Helgen var lång och jobbig, men jag är väldigt nöjd med det jobb vi
har gjort. Även om det har varit svårt fick vi några bra etapp- och mellantider. Vi tar med oss ??det positiva från det. Stort tack till teamet för långa dagar och många timmar och stor insats. Tillsammans ska vi jobba för att förbättra oss inför nästa tävling, sa Oliver Solberg.

Nästa VM-tävling körs i Umeå om en månad.

22-01-22 Sharp-eyed Ogier wins Loeb mind games
Frenchman on verge of record-breaking ninth Rallye Monte-Carlo victory. Sébastien Ogier sits on the cusp of a record-breaking ninth Rallye Monte-Carlo victory after outwitting Sébastien Loeb in the snow and ice of the French Alps on Saturday.

Ogier headed to the closing speed test over the Col de Fontbelle with 5.0sec in hand over his fellow Frenchman after reclaiming the lead earlier in the penultimate leg.

With 5km of wintry roads at the top of the pass, Loeb laid out his cards by bravely fitting his Ford Puma with Pirelli's soft compound asphalt rubber. He hoped to benefit on the dry sections before minimising the time loss on the ice.

Ogier had already decided to mix two soft tyres and two snow tyres on his Toyota GR Yaris, but on seeing Loeb's selection, he made a last-gasp switch to the same combination. He then outpaced Loeb by 16.1sec to reach the final overnight halt with a 21.1sec lead.

"I was planning to go with the snow tyres because that was the safest option but I saw that Séb was going for slicks so I swapped at the last minute before the start," Ogier explained. "It was tricky to drive in places."

Loeb could not reproduce the pace that carried him to four fastest times yesterday.

"Now the gap is a bit far," he admitted. "We tried but Ogier saw it and changed at the last minute. It was really tricky with the slicks and very easy to make a mistake but we're here."

After a day of breathless drama, Craig Breen was third in another Puma. The Irishman was 64.9sec adrift of Loeb, but a clean run enabled him to climb from sixth.

After a dismal opening two days, Kalle Rovanperä found a more balanced set-up for his GR Yaris and soared from ninth to fourth. He ended 37.8sec behind Breen after winning the final two stages.

Gus Greensmith was fifth despite a puncture and an engine problem which cost time in the stages as well as a three-minute penalty as he replaced his Puma's spark plugs. Having slipped to ninth, he recovered well as his rivals fell by the wayside.

Thierry Neuville fought against a broken front damper in his Hyundai i20 N, which punched through the bonnet at one point. He dropped several minutes and ended almost eight minutes off the lead in sixth.

Elfyn Evans was third until he slid off the road, leaving his GR Yaris perched on the edge of a steep drop. He conceded 20 minutes.

Ott Tänak retired his i20 N in the first climb up the Col de Fontbelle after nosing into a bank and damaging his car's radiator, while team-mate Oliver Solberg dropped 35 minutes after locking his brakes and sliding down a bank.

Takamoto Katsuta's fifth place disappeared when he found a ditch on the col and dropped off the leaderboard.

Sunday's finale comprises two tests in the Alpes-Maritimes region driven twice without service before the finish in Monaco's Casino Square. The last stage forms the Wolf Power Stage with bonus points available for the fastest drivers. The four tests add up to 67.26km.

Leading positions after Saturday
1. S Ogier / B Veillas FRA Toyota GR Yaris 2hr 19min 43.1sec
2. S Loeb / I Galmiche FRA Ford Puma +21.1sec
3. C Breen / P Nagle IRL Ford Puma +1min 26.0sec
4. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +2min 03.8sec
5. G Greensmith / J Andersson GBR Ford Puma +6min 33.8sec
6. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 +7min 44.1sec

The official Home of World Rallying:
22-01-21 Veteran Loeb Turns Back Clock to Lead Rallye Monte-Carlo on Friday
Frenchman returns from Dakar Rally quest to lead old rival Ogier and Evans. Sébastien Loeb became the oldest driver to lead an FIA World Rally Championship round after a sensational return to dominate Rallye Monte-Carlo on Friday.

As he approaches his 48th birthday, the Frenchman won four of the six French Alps speed tests to lead the first rally of the WRC's innovative new hybrid era by 9.9sec in M-Sport's Ford Puma.

The Monaco-based event is Loeb's first WRC outing for more than a year and, currently, a one-off appearance with the British squad.

Loeb was second after Thursday night's short opening leg behind old foe Sébastien Ogier. He charged by his fellow countryman in the last of the morning's three special stages and preserved his advantage in the afternoon, despite a small technical issue.

"The first four stages were really great, then we had a little hybrid problem," he explained. "In the last stage I made a good drive, but maybe it was freezing a bit more. We had some little ice coming out at the end of the stage, so it was a bit tricky.

"I was really surprised when I was doing the best time in yesterday's shakedown in the first pass. Usually in shakedown I'm not great, but with this car I was immediately in the rhythm. It's not a big gap, but I'm happy to be leading after the first full day."

Ogier dropped to third behind Toyota GR Yaris team-mate Elfyn Evans after a cautious approach on frosty roads in this morning's final stage, but fastest time on the afternoon repeat promoted him back to second.

A wary run in the same test cost Evans valuable seconds. The Welshman ended 12.1sec adrift of his colleague after a frustrating day learning the intricacies of driving with the hybrid system for the first time in competition.

Thierry Neuville topped an intense battle for fourth in a Hyundai i20 N. His day improved after an eye-opening first stage in which he described the balance as 'a nightmare'. "I've never been so scared while driving," he said.

The Belgian stiffened his car's settings and ended 8.9sec clear of team-mate Ott Tänak, with Craig Breen dropping 2.5sec behind the Estonian in the final stage in another Puma.

Team-mate Gus Greensmith celebrated his first WRC stage win en route to seventh. But for a minor problem with the hybrid system, the Briton would have been snapping on Neuville's heels.

Adrien Fourmaux was fourth overnight, but the Frenchman crashed his Puma down a ravine in the opening test. He and co-driver Alex Coria escaped injury, a testament to the new enhanced safety cell chassis introduced this year.

Saturday's action switches west for five stages near Digne-les-Bains. Three morning tests precede a tyre change in the town before the latter two are repeated. The day features two climbs of the mythical Col de Fontbelle, likely to feature several kilometres of snow and ice at the summit.

Leading positions after Friday
1. S Loeb / I Galmiche FRA Ford Puma 1hr 22min 49.0sec
2. S Ogier / B Veillas FRA Toyota GR Yaris +9.9sec
3. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +22.0sec
4. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 +47.8sec
5. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 +56.7sec
6. C Breen / P Nagle IRL Ford Puma +59.2sec

The official Home of World Rallying:
22-01-21 Ogier and Loeb in battle royale
Sébastien Ogier outgunned arch-rival Sébastien Loeb as the two Rallye Monte-Carlo masters went head-to-head in a spectacular opening night of the FIA World Rally Championship season on Thursday.

Ogier, an eight-time winner in the French Alps, opened the series’ pioneering new hybrid-powered era by winning both speed tests in his Toyota GR Yaris to build a 6.7sec lead.

Snapping on his heels was seven-time Monte winner Loeb. In his first WRC drive for more than a year, the French master finished second in both stages in M-Sport Ford’s Puma.

It was hard to imagine a more daunting opening to the sport’s new generation. Two stages on winding roads in darkness, including the crossing of the iconic Col de Turini, with frost settling on the asphalt and drivers yet to learn the mix of electric and combustion engine power in competition.

“It didn’t feel so great in the first stage, there was a lot of humidity and frost in places,” explained Ogier. “It was a little better in the second one. We are just trying little things in the car and we are happy to be through.”

Loeb was the first of three pouncing Pumas in the top five and his performance turned the clock back to memories of his last Monte victory in 2013.

“We had a good start in the first one, but it was very tricky on the top with some white parts and ice,” he smiled. “I didn’t want to make a mistake on the ice so I was a bit too careful. The second one was hard on the tyres. I overheated them before the middle of the stage and struggled to keep the car in the right position.”

Elfyn Evans, championship runner-up in 2021, was third in another GR Yaris, the Welshman struggling to acclimatise to the additional hybrid power. He was third in both stages and returned to the overnight halt in Monaco 11.2sec off the lead.

Puma pilots Adrien Fourmaux and Gus Greensmith were fourth and fifth and separated by 4.0sec after rousing opening night drives. Just 6.6sec back was Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai i20 N. The Belgian gambled on tyre choice but struggled with overheating rubber and brake issues.

Craig Breen in seventh headed a downbeat Ott Tänak, whose ‘long list’ of woes included engine and hydraulic troubles in his i20 N.

Takamoto Katsuta was ninth in another GR Yaris, with Oliver Solberg completing the leaderboard despite a spin at the top of the Turini. He also endured intercom problems meaning he could not hear co-driver Elliott Edmondson’s pace notes.

Friday heads further north for two loops of three stages in the Mercantour National Park covering 97.86km. As if the challenge of the Alps was not enough for the first full day of hybrid action, there is no service from leaving Monaco in the morning until returning at night. Drivers must make do with a tyre change only in Puget-Théniers between loops.

Leading positions:
1. S Ogier / B Veillas FRA Toyota GR Yaris 25min 48.4sec
2. S Loeb / I Galmiche FRA Ford Puma +6.7sec
3. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +11.2sec
4. A Fourmaux / A Coria FRA Ford Puma +17.9sec
5. G Greensmith / J Andersson GBR Ford Puma +21.9sec
6. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 +28.5sec

The official Home of World Rallying:
22-01-19 WRC’s pioneering hybrid era breaks cover at Rallye Monte-Carlo
It's a fresh start for the WRC stars as new season begins in Monaco. The curtain is raised on a ground-breaking new FIA World Rally Championship era at this week’s Rallye Monte-Carlo as hybrid-powered cars launch the series into an exciting future.

Innovative new Rally1 cars blend a 100kW electric motor with a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine as the WRC celebrates its 50th season with new regulations to drive the championship towards a more sustainable future.

Energy regeneration from the plug-in hybrid system, a 100 percent hydrocarbon fossil-free fuel and sustainable energy supplies are key to the WRC’s commitment to a greener outlook.

The new cars pack a punch. Peak performance will soar above 500hp on the mountain roads in the French Alps, while two Monte masters return to renew rivalries as the door opens on the new generation.

Sébastien Ogier, who clinched his eighth crown last year before stepping back to a part-programme, goes head-to-head with fellow Frenchman and arch-rival Sébastien Loeb, whose nine titles make him the sport’s most successful driver. Ogier has eight Monte victories compared to Loeb’s seven.

Ogier drives Toyota Gazoo Racing’s GR Yaris with new co-driver Benjamin Veillas.

“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 I’m still a competitor and I still want to win,” he said.

“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. It’s quite a big change and it’s an exciting challenge to try and adapt to that. There’s more uncertainty than ever going into this rally.”

Loeb hopes to pounce in his first WRC drive in more than a year in M-Sport Ford’s Puma. He starts less than a week after finishing second in Saudi Arabia’s desert at the Dakar Rally.

He is partnered by Isabelle Galmiche following the retirement of Daniel Elena, with whom Loeb has tackled every one of his previous 180 WRC starts.

“It’s a radical change of scenery after spending three weeks on the Dakar Rally!” quipped Loeb, who squeezed in a brief test at the start of the week.

“For this rally, I will certainly be less prepared than the other drivers, but the feeling with the Puma Rally1 was immediately very good and everything just came together,” he said.

Manufacturers’ champions Toyota also field 2021 drivers’ runner-up Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanperä. Takamoto Katsuta steers a fourth GR Yaris in Toyota’s second-string squad.

Loeb is joined by new signing Craig Breen and Adrien Fourmaux at M-Sport Ford. Gus Greensmith drives a fourth entry.

Hyundai Motorsport is fired up after a disappointing 2021 campaign. Former world champion Ott Tänak, Thierry Neuville and youngster Oliver Solberg pilot i20 N cars.

Unpredictable mountain weather means competitors can encounter snow, ice and dry asphalt within a handful of kilometres. Cunning tyre selection in such conditions is key and while the forecast suggests this might not be a true winter Monte, nobody will be lulled into a false sense of security.

The rally starts in Monaco’s refurbished Casino Square on Thursday evening. Crews will face 17 mountain stages covering 296.03km before Sunday afternoon’s finish there.

22-01-19 Säsongsstart i värstingklassen för Oliver Solberg
20-årige Oliver Solberg är med från start som fabriksförare för Hyundai Motorsport i WRC-klassen när årets Rally-VM går av stapeln i Monte-Carlo på torsdag.

Efter fyra VM-tävlingar som "lärling" i ett satellitteam 2021, står Oliver Solberg officiellt på första raden i den sydkoreanska bilfabriken tillsammans med teamkamraterna Thierry Neuville och Ott Tänak i den 90-åringe klassikern Rally Monte-Carlo.
-Det ska bli väldigt speciellt att köra den första tävlingen med officiella färger på kläder och bil. Det känns extra spännande att få vara med om allt från start och jag är helt klart väldigt förväntansfull. Det här är något jag har drömt om och arbetat för väldigt länge. Att få börja säsongen som en fullblodsfabriksförare är något helt fantastiskt, säger Oliver Solberg - den yngsta deltagaren i WRC-klassen (Rally1).

Planen är att unge Solberg ska dela teamets tredje Hyundai i20 N Rally1-bil med den spanske veteranen Daniel Sordo under hela säsongen.

I det 50:e världsmästerskapet i rally görs radikala tekniska förändringar. För första gången kommer hybridbilar att användas i VM-serien. Rally1-bilarna blandar en elmotor med 100 kilowatt prestanda och en tävlingstestad 1,6-liters turboladdad bensinmotor, som har drivit sportens toppbilar sedan 2011. Allt är uppbyggt kring ett uppgraderat säkerhetscells-chassi. Muskelpaketet når prestandanivåer till mer än 500 hästkrafter (tidigare cirka 350), samtidigt som de skadliga utsläppen minskar då alla Rally1-bilar kommer att köras med 100 procent hållbart bränsle.
-Jag tror att alla går runt och är exalterade över allt nytt. Man är ganska nervös över om man har förstått all teknik och hur den kan utnyttjas. Den första tävlingen kommer att ge svar på vem av förarna som har förstått det bäst av alla, säger Solberg.

Efter att ha slutat sjua i sin WRC-debut i Arctic Rally Finland förra säsongen, avslutade Oliver säsongen 2021 med en femteplats i ACI Rally Monza. Det var även första tävlingen med ny kartläsare Elliott Edmondson (27).

Rally Monte-Carlo innehåller totalt 17 specialsträckor fördelade på fyra dagar. De två första kör i mörker på torsdagskvällen. Säsongsöppningen avslutas tidigt på söndag eftermiddag.

Rally-VM 2022 består av 13 tävlingar fördelade på fyra kontinenter.

Efter säsongsinledningen i Monte-Carlo åker mästerskapet vidare till Umeå i Sverige om en månad. Säsongen avslutas enligt plan i Japan den 13 november.

22-01-15 FIA World Rally Championship’s new hybrid era hits top gear
Covers come off the all-new Rally1 cars during live Hangar-7 launch event. Star drivers and pioneering new hybrid cars delivered a high-voltage introduction to the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship in Austria on Saturday evening. The WRC’s ground-breaking new Rally1 cars from the three manufacturers gathered for the first time in Salzburg’s Hangar-7 as the 2022 season was launched five days before the opening round at Rallye Monte-Carlo (January 20-23). Here is all you need to know:
- In the presence of FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, reigning champions Toyota Gazoo Racing, Hyundai Motorsport and M-Sport Ford revealed their stunning all-new cars which will compete across 13 rounds on four continents.

- Among those attending were Toyota’s 2021 championship runner-up Elfyn Evans and team-mate Kalle Rovanperä, who became the youngest WRC rally winner in history last season.

- Also present were Hyundai’s lead drivers Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak. New M-Sport Ford signing Craig Breen appeared alongside the team’s hotly-tipped youngster, Adrien Fourmaux.

- In the championship’s 50th season, the WRC will undergo major environmental changes as new FIA technical regulations drive the series towards a more sustainable future.

- Plug-in hybrid-powered cars built around an upgraded safety cell chassis, 100 percent fossil-free fuel and sustainable energy supplies are key to the sport’s commitment to a greener future.

- The new hybrid cars blend a 100kW electric motor with a competition-proven 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which has powered the sport’s top-tier cars since 2011. The package raises peak performance levels to more than 500bhp whilst also reducing harmful emissions.

- President Ben Sulayem, a former WRC competitor himself, said: “Today’s launch of the new Rally1 era is a very proud and significant moment for the FIA, the entire rally family and I would like to congratulate WRC Promoter for delivering a great show at the start of the championship’s 50th anniversary season.
- “The enthusiasm for the FIA’s new technical regulations has been very much in evidence in recent months and the event further underlined the momentum coming from the teams and manufacturers, with Rallye Monte-Carlo just a few days away.
- “Beside the hybrid technology adding a new dynamic layer of performance combined with safety improvements, Rally1 cars will be using 100 percent sustainable fuel and work is also ongoing to achieve greater sustainability in the organisation of each round of the series. I look forward to an exciting season.”
- WRC Promoter managing director Jona Siebel welcomed the start of a ‘landmark period’ for the championship: “Tonight we’ve seen what the future of the WRC looks like. I applaud the manufacturers’ hard work and commitment in readying these amazing and innovative Rally1 cars for the WRC’s new era."

“This evening was a marvellous opportunity to showcase the WRC and exhibit the strong desire to create an environment where both fiercely competitive motorsport and the planet can thrive together.”