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

23-06-04 Otursförföljd helg för Oliver Solberg
Oliver Solberg hade speeden i VM-tävlingen Rally Italia Sardinien. Flera mekaniska problem och en punktering förstörde möjligheten till ett toppresultat.

21-åringen vann de två första specialsträckorna. Därefter radade motgångarna upp sig.
– Allt gick så smidigt och framförallt snabbt fram till en inbromsning efter en lång raksträcka. Fjädringen på den främre vänstra sidan kollapsade plötsligt. Vi slog inte i någonting, och jag vet inte vad som hände, sa Oliver Solberg.

Otroligt nog lyckades Solberg och kartläsaren Elliott Edmondson få tillbaka bilen i körbart skick, rullade igenom tävlingens längsta sträcka och in till service inom tidsgränsen.

Men tidsförlusten blev mer än en halvtimme, och kampen om topplaceringen var över.

Två sträckor ställdes in på fredagen, men duon avslutade dagen med snabbaste tid i WRC2-klassen då 50-kilometern Monte Lerno kördes för andra gången.

Följande dag fortsatte problemen efter att ha öppnat med ytterligare en sträckseger. En punktering och ytterligare en smäll mot bakhjulsupphängningen på grund av en sten, var bland utmaningarna som ledde till ytterligare tidsförlust.

Efter det sista sträckan under söndagen hade Solberg och Edmondson tillsammans förlorat över en timme mot klassvinnaren Andreas Mikkelsen och kartläsaren Torstein Eriksen.

Förhållandena var mycket svåra. Men vi tar med oss ??det positiva att farten var på topp så länge allt fungerade. Dessutom kämpade vi oss till mål och fick värdefull erfarenhet av tävlingen för framtiden, sa Solberg.

Nästa VM-tävling går av stapeln i Kenya den 22-25 juni.
23-06-04 Victorious Neuville reignites WRC title quest in Italy
Belgian climbs the standings as team-mate Lappi secures dream double podium for Hyundai.

Thierry Neuville vaulted from fifth to second in the FIA World Rally Championship standings on Sunday afternoon after clinching a long-awaited victory at Rally Italia Sardegna.

Belgian star Neuville headed i20 N partner Esapekka Lappi by 33.0sec in a dream 1-2 finish for Hyundai at round six of 13, scoring his 18th career success alongside co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe.

The result served as a maiden 2023 triumph for both Neuville and his team, helping the Korean marque to move within 23 points of championship-leading manufacturer Toyota Gazoo Racing.

The lead changed hands a whopping nine times during the fast and furious Mediterranean island fixture until Neuville seized the initiative when GR Yaris rival Sébastien Ogier went off the road in Saturday’s rain-hit penultimate test.

He surpassed Lappi, who celebrated his third-consecutive top-three finish, in the same stage and managed a comfortable advantage through Sunday’s four-stage finale.
“Obviously it was a challenging weekend,” said Neuville, who now trails series leader Kalle Rovanperä by 25 points. “We came here with the belief that we could fight for victory but the first day was challenging and we lost a bit of time. Yesterday we found ourselves in the lead and we had to manage it until the end.

“It's the first victory for the team this year, it's a 1-2, and the first win for our team principal [Cyril Abiteboul] as well. Craig Breen is in our memories also - we wanted the win in Croatia for him, but we got it now."

Rovanperä completed the podium in third overall, his best result out of five Rally Italia Sardegna attempts.

Although he trailed fellow Finn Lappi by 1min 22.3sec at the finish, the high rate of attrition saw him end a sizeable 3min 25.2sec clear of fourth-placed Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans. Evans struggled to get into a rhythm in his GR Yaris and dropped around three minutes on Saturday when the car’s radiator sustained damage in a water crossing.

Dani Sordo almost made it three Hyundais in the top five but retired after the day’s second stage due to exhaust failure. It brought an early end to what been a turbulent weekend for the Spaniard, having previously rolled his i20 N on Friday morning.

His demise paved the way for Andreas Mikkelsen to claim fifth overall as well as taking a surprise victory in WRC2. The Škoda

Fabia driver had trailed Adrien Fourmaux by more than half a minute before the Wolf Power Stage but the Frenchman slid off the road 1.4km into the finale.

The WRC season enters its second half with a hotly anticipated visit to Africa later this month. The legendary Safari Rally Kenya is based in Naivasha and takes place from 22 - 25 June.

Overall classification:
1. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N 3h 40m 1.4s
2. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Hyundai i20 N +33.0s
3. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +1m 55.3s
4. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +5m 20.5s
5. A Mikkelsen / T Eriksen NOR Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 +9m 33.3s
6. T Suninen / M Markkula FIN Hyundai i20 N Rally2 +11m 48.9s

Drivers' championship (after round 6 of 13):
1. K Rovanperä 118pts
2. T Neuville 93pts
3. S Ogier 85pts
23-06-03 Tenacious Neuville seizes Italy lead on chaotic penultimate day
Belgian driver heads Hyundai 1-2 as Sébastien Ogier goes off the road on breathless Saturday.
Thierry Neuville sits on the brink of his first triumph in 2023 having taken control of Rally Italia Sardegna on a thrilling Saturday which saw the downfall of eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier.

Neuville had trailed Ogier and Esapekka Lappi in third place since the start of this sixth round of the season - but a heavy downpour in the penultimate Erula - Tula test caused utter chaos and turned the rally on its head.

Ogier, hunting down a record fifth Italian win in a Toyota GR Yaris, entered the stage clinging onto a slender overall lead. However, in a stunning twist of fate, the Frenchman's fortunes took a dramatic downturn when he understeered off the road, veering down an embankment just 1.4km after the start.

Lappi reduced his attack upon seeing Ogier’s stricken car, inadvertently dropping over half a minute to i20 N team-mate Neuville, who was unaware of the drama unfolding behind him on the road. The Belgian climbed from third to first overall as a result of his charge and heads the Hyundai 1-2 by 36.4sec approaching Sunday’s four-stage finale.

“I am relieved to be at the finish,” admitted Neuville, who has not won a rally since Japan last year. “It was a tough day out there but the feeling was getting better and better with the car. We learned a lot, that's important, but it's still not always perfect yet and we can still improve.

“Tomorrow is a short but tricky day,” he added. “We need to have a clever drive through and try to bring home the 1-2 for the team.”

Championship leader Kalle Rovanperä was elevated to third after his team-mate’s retirement, although the Finn is unlikely to be able to trouble the frontrunning pair on outright pace alone. He trailed Lappi by 1min 14.3sec at close of play after being hampered by excessive tyre wear in the afternoon.

Perseverance paid off for Elfyn Evans, whose day was filled with setbacks. The Welshman’s Toyota sustained radiator damage in a water crossing on SS10 and he leaked almost three minutes limping back to service.

History threatened to repeat itself later in the day when Evans’ car momentarily lost power while negotiating another water splash. The misfire cleared itself shortly afterwards and he reached the finish almost four minutes behind Rovanperä in fourth overall.

Ott Tänak and Takamoto Katsuta were not as lucky and both suffered water-induced retirements. A faulty electrical sensor was to blame for M-Sport Ford man Tänak’s demise while Katsuta bowed out with radiator damage.

Their respective disappointments enabled Dani Sordo, recovering from a Friday morning roll, to climb to fifth overall. He headed WRC2 leader Adrien Fourmaux while Andreas Mikkelsen, Teemu Suninen, Emil Lindholm and Kajetan Kajetanowicz - all contesting WRC2 - completed the leaderboard.

Leading positions after Saturday:
1. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N 3h 10m 36.9s
2. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Hyundai i20 N +36.4s
3. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +1m 50.7s
4. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +5m 36.5s
5. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 N +6m 27.9s
6. A Fourmaux / A Coria FRA Ford Fiesta Rally2 +8m 11.7s
23-06-02 Lappi pips Ogier in thrilling Italy opener
Sparks fly on Friday at Rally Italia Sardegna as leading duo split by just 0.1s.
Sparks flew on Friday at Rally Italia Sardegna as Esapekka Lappi demoted Sébastien Ogier in a gripping conclusion to Friday's opening leg, claiming the tiniest of overnight leads.

After one of the most daunting days thus far in this year's FIA World Rally Championship, where crews braved over 140km of rough gravel stages in changeable weather conditions, the duelling duo found themselves separated by a mere one-tenth of a second.

Ogier, contesting his fourth rally this year aboard a Toyota GR Yaris, started on the front foot and led by a seemingly comfortable 16.3sec at the day’s halfway point having blitzed his Finnish rival through the first pass of Monte Lerno, a whopping 49.90km in length.

But the Frenchman's advantage began to erode as the same three speed tests were repeated after lunch and Lappi, charging hard in his Hyundai i20 N, delivered the perfect response in Monte Lerno 2 - ultimately claiming the lead in the day’s finale.

“There was no need to push harder, one tenth is enough!” Lappi giggled at the stop line. “I’m glad to be at the finish, that was quite a tricky stage and we got a slow left rear puncture as well, so that started to disturb a bit. But we are here, everything is okay and we are looking forward to tomorrow."

Despite grappling with an intermittently functioning handbrake, Thierry Neuville fought his way up the leaderboard to make it two Hyundais in the top three. The Belgian trailed Ogier by 18.5sec at close of play with championship leader Kalle Rovanperä another 27.5sec behind.

Rovanperä had entered the final stage down in seventh overall but the wet conditions played to the Toyota Gazoo Racing driver’s favour - and to his early starting position. He posted the benchmark time, climbing three positions in the process.

Just 1.3sec behind was Takamoto Katsuta, who suffered a fright in the morning loop when he hit a rock after running wide in a left-hand bend. The mishap cost around 20sec and kept his Toyota mechanics busy in service.

A front right puncture towards the end of Monte Lerno left Elfyn Evans 18.2sec adrift of his team-mate in sixth overall. He headed M-Sport Ford’s Ott Tänak, who overcame a failing water pump, by 4.2sec.

WRC2 runners Sami Pajari, Adrien Fourmaux and Emil Lindholm completed the top 10 while Dani Sordo languished in 12th overall. The Spaniard rolled his Hyundai in SS4, losing more than three minutes in the process.

Pierre-Louis Loubet was Friday’s only casualty. Initially running third overall, the Frenchman incurred a three-minute time penalty when he couldn’t engage any gears prior to the start of SS5. Although the issue was swiftly resolved, Loubet faced further frustrations later in the day when he beached his Puma in a Monte Lerno ditch.

Saturday’s leg boasts double runs of Coiluna - Loelle (16.28km), Su Filigosu (19.57 km), Erula - Tula (21.92km) and Tempio Pausania (9.04 km). The eight tests add up to 133.62km.

Leading positions after Friday:
1. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Hyundai i20 N +1h 31m 48.8s
2. S Ogier / V Landais FRA Toyota GR Yaris +0.1s
3. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +18.6s
4. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +46.1s
5. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +47.4s
6. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +1m 5.6s
23-06-01 Oliver Solberg kör för VM-ledning på Sardinien
En poäng skiljer Oliver Solberg (21) från ledningen i rally-VM. Målet är att visa sig värdig VM-titeln i WRC2-klassen i Rally Italia Sardinien i helgen.

Tävlingen på Sardinien har nominerats av 21-åringen till en av sju tävlingarna där han kör för poäng i kampen om VM-titeln.
– Alla de bästa förarna är anmälda till tävlingen. Därför valde vi att köra för poäng denna helgen. Samtidigt som målet är att bli världsmästare den här säsongen är det viktigt för oss att samla poäng i tävlingarna med tuffast konkurrens, säger Oliver Solberg.

Rally Italia är en av tävlingarna som varit med sedan mästerskapets start 1973, men då kördes det på blandade underlag runt Sanremo. 2004 flyttades rallyfesten till Medelhavsön Sardinien.

Vägarna är i princip täckta av sand och fint grus, men stenar, spår och andra faror lurar under ytan.
– Ändrade väderförhållanden har rapporterats under hela tävlingshelgen, men det kommer att vara lika för alla. Vi är förberedda på den utmaningen.

Tävlingens längsta specialsträcka är den ikoniska Monte Lerno, inklusive det berömda Micky-hoppet, på hela 49,92 kilometer.

Rally Italia Sardinia körs över 320,88 kilometer fördelat på 19 specialsträckor. Tävlingen avslutas tidigt på söndag eftermiddag.
23-05-31 Eager Neuville eyes redemption at Rally Italia Sardegna
Belgian driver bids to revive his FIA World Rally Championship title aspirations on Mediterranean island's gravel roads.
Thierry Neuville is determined to revive his FIA World Rally Championship title ambitions at Rally Italia Sardegna (1 - 4 June) as his Hyundai Motorsport team sets its sights on securing its first victory of the season.

Neuville began his campaign with an impressive string of podium finishes but currently finds himself fifth in the championship after disappointing results in the past two rallies. Rally Italia Sardegna - an event he has won on two occasions - presents an opportunity for him to turn his fortunes around.

Victory for team-mate Dani Sordo in 2019 and 2020, as well as former Hyundai man Ott Tänak in 2022, means the Korean manufacturer has won four of the last five Sardinia fixtures. Neuville is in high spirits, buoyed by a new approach to the set-up of his i20 N car since the previous round.

“Portugal was a tough event for us,” acknowledged Neuville, who is joined in the three-car team by Sordo and Esapekka Lappi. “I had a different set-up from Dani and Esapekka, which we think is one of the reasons why I was struggling with traction and car balance.

“Switching my car to similar settings to those of my team-mates should be beneficial in the quest for improved performance and I’m looking forward to putting this to the test.”

He is fifth in the start order for Friday's opening leg. In dry conditions, that offers a significant advantage over the early runners, who sweep gravel from the surface to leave a cleaner line and more grip for those coming behind.

That challenge is the biggest facing Toyota Gazoo Racing, for whom world champion Kalle Rovanperä and team part-timer Sébastien Ogier lie first and third in the championship in their GR Yaris cars. Victory would see Frenchman Ogier top the event’s roll of honour, taking his total to five.

“We are excited to see how we perform,” said team principal Jari-Matti Latvala. “Kalle could pay a big penalty for needing to open the road on this event, but we will have Sébastien and Elfyn [Evans] in better positions and hopefully they have the opportunity to challenge for victory.”

Elfyn Evans drives Toyota’s third car. He and team-mate Takamoto Katsuta, who will not score manufacturers’ championship points this week, must both bounce back from retirements in Portugal.

Ott Tänak’s confidence has been growing with every kilometre aboard his M-Sport Ford Puma and the Estonian will be eager to give the car its first gravel rally triumph. Winner here last year and currently second in the points, Tänak is joined in the team by young Frenchman Pierre-Louis Loubet.

Known for its demanding nature, Rally Italia Sardegna is based in the island's east coast town of Olbia and is regarded as one of the toughest events on the WRC calendar.

Tracks that become increasingly rocky and abrasive in the second pass of special stages make it a punishing encounter for cars and tyres while double runs of the famous Monte Lerno test, which measures a whopping 49.90km in length, add to the challenge on Friday.

After Thursday evening’s start, competitors face 19 stages totalling 320.88km before the finish on Sunday afternoon.
23-05-23 Battle of the Champions: Ott Tänak vs. Kalle Rovanperä brings an exciting showdown between two world champions and two neighboring countries to all fans
For the first time in history, it is possible to visit two WRC events with one RALLY PASS - WRC Rally Estonia July 20-23 and Secto Rally Finland August 3-6.
EST-FIN RALLY PASS will be available from May 26 at 10:00 a.m. on the Rally Estonia and Secto Rally Finland website
"Battle of the Champions: Ott Tänak vs Kalle Rovanperä" - which of the world champions will win in the legendary rally battle of this generation?

Today, May 23, a press conference was held in the T1 center Vision Venue studio, where Rally Estonia representative Tarmo Hõbe, WRC promoter representative Philipp Maenner and Secto Rally Finland representatives Tiina Lehmonen and Markus Häkkinen presented the unique cooperation between the two World Rally Championship events, which involves both countries top drivers currently leading the whole series, Ott Tänaku and Kalle Rovanperä.

20 years ago, history was made in the Estonian autosport: in the legendary battle between the two great rally drivers of that time, Markko Märtin and Marcus Grönholm, Estonia was able to defeat Finland. To the delight of all Estonian rally fans, Markko Märtin and Michael Park became the winners of the Jyväskylä World Rally Championship. In the meantime, 20 years have passed, but the friendly competition between the top drivers of the World Rally Championship is still very intense. And now, when Ott Tänak and Kalle Rovanperä keep the tension and adrenaline in the competition between Estonia and Finland, it's time to bring "Battle of the Champions: Ott Tänak vs. Kalle Rovanperä" to all rally fans - which of the world champions will win in the legendary battle of this generation?

As a result of cooperation between the two WRC event organizers in Estonia and Finland, a rally pass has been created for the first time in history, which allows access to two WRC events – WRC Rally Estonia in July and Secto Rally Finland in August. The EST-FIN RALLY PASS will be available from May 26 at 10:00 a.m. in the Rally Estonia website, Secto Rally Finland website and on Tallink channels.

Commercial Director of WRC Rally Estonia, Tarmo Hõbe: ’’At this exact moment in the whole WRC series is a very unique situatuon, where the two neighbouring countries have both a WRC round taking place and the Estonian and Finnish top drivers, Ott and Kalle compete relentlessly in order to win this year’s Championship title. Rallying is very popular in both countries, one can even say that the estonians and finns are a true rally nation. Extra excitement is added by the fact, that Ott has one win in Estonia whereas Kalle has two, but in the finnish event Ott has won three times, whilst Kalle is hoping to open his winning score in his home country soon. Midsummer nature is stunningly beautiful in both Tartu and Jyväskylä and it is a great opportunity to discover what the countries have to offer and enjoy the adrenaliine-filled competition. We would like to invite all Estonian and Finnish fans to come to the stages and bring your flags, let’s make it an unforgettable Battle of the Champions!’’

Chief Operating Officer of AKK Sports Ltd, Promoter of Secto Rally Finland, Markus Häkkinen:
The idea for this unique opportunity for the EST-FIN co-operation was born already during last year’s Secto Rally Finland, but really after Kalle’s World Championship win it became clear, that if this kind of joint rally pass will be introduced to spectators, then the right time for it was now. We are very pleased that our Estonian colleagues were super excited about the idea of this completely new kind of co-operation in the whole WRC series. Now, what we have in hand is a product that offers the loyal fans of both rallies – like we say in Secto Rally Finland “More Than a Rally”, but in this case more than doubled.

All rally fans have a very important role to help the hero of their country to a certain victory, that's why we are welcoming all fans to join us on the stages with their nation flags, to determine which flag colors dominate the battle between the fans.

WRC Rally Estonia will be held on July 20 to 23 in Tartu and on the roads of Tartu, Otepää, Elva, Kanepi, Kambja, Peipsiääre, Mustvee and Kastre parishes. Just two weeks later, the WRC carousel will head to Finland, where the Secto Rally Finland will be held on the August 3-6.
23-05-14 Bara nästan för Oliver Solberg i sekundstriden om segern
Endast 1,2 sekunder skiljde Oliver Solberg från säsongens andra VM-seger i Rally Portugal under söndagen.

Oliver vann sju av 19 specialsträckor i tävlingen. Andraplatsen totalt i WRC2-klassen förde Solberg betydligt närmare toppen i kampen om titeln – bara en poäng bakom VM-ledaren Yohan Rossel.

Britten Gus Greensmith och hans svenska kartläsare Jonas Andersson vann. Trea blev de norska ekipaget Andreas Mikkelsen och Torstein Eriksen.

Tillsammans med kartläsaren Elliott Edmondson ledde 21-åringen WRC2-klassen med över en halv minut på lördagen. Men under natten till söndag fick Solberg ett tidsstraff på en minut. Rallystjärnan ville visa upp sig för publiken med två donuts efter att ha avslutat dagens sista specialsträcka inne på rallycrossbanan i Lousada. Han bröt därmed mot tävlingens regler.
– Tyvärr glömde jag helt bort den regeln. Det enda jag tänkte på var att ge åskådarna lite extra show, sa Oliver Solberg.

Tidsstraffet skickade ner honom till en andra plats, 24,6 sekunder bakom Greensmith.

Solberg vann alla fyra specialsträckorna den avslutande dagen och slutade endast 1,2 sekunder bakom vinnaren till slut.
– Vi försökte allt vi kunde, men det gick inte. Det är bara att gratulera Greensmith och Andersson.

Oliver Solberg vann VM-tävlingen i Sverige och hade två raka tredjeplatser från Mexiko och Kroatien inför tävlingen i Portugal.

Nästa VM-tävling kommer att äga rum på Medelhavsön Sardinien första helgen i juni.
23-05-14 Rovanperä returns to the top with Rally de Portugal triumph
Finnish star seizes FIA World Rally Championship lead with dominant victory at round five.

Kalle Rovanperä vaulted to the top of the FIA World Rally Championship standings with a dominant Vodafone Rally de Portugal victory on Sunday afternoon, confirming his second consecutive triumph at the Matosinhos-based event.

The Finn, who had not stood atop the podium since his title-winning run in New Zealand last season, now boasts a 17-point advantage over Ott Tänak five events into this 13-round season.

Rovanperä seized control of the rally when Tänak suffered wheel damage on Friday afternoon, establishing a slender 10.7-second lead by the end of the opening leg.

Unstoppable on Saturday, the Toyota GR Yaris man unleashed a masterful display of five stage wins and widened the gap to a commanding 57.5sec before effortlessly negotiating Sunday’s four-stage finale 54.7sec clear of second-placed Dani Sordo.

"It has been too long coming, but finally we are back," Rovanperä said. "I have to say a big thank you to Jonne (Halttunen, co-driver) and the team. They have been pushing all the time and going forward."

Esapekka Lappi made it two i20 N cars inside the top three, scoring his second podium finish in as many rallies. His result helped Hyundai to stay within 32 points of championship-leading manufacturer Toyota Gazoo Racing.

Thierry Neuville began the day in third but a broken turbocharger left his Hyundai severely down on power. Time poured away as he limped through the closing stages, allowing M-Sport Ford Puma man Ott Tänak to claim fourth overall while he frustratingly settled for fifth.

There was an exhilarating conclusion to the WRC2 battle as Gus Greensmith claimed the spoils by just 1.2sec from Škoda Fabia rival Oliver Solberg. The latter had led by 35.4sec overnight before being lumbered with a one-minute time penalty.

Andreas Mikkelsen, Yohan Rossel and Teemu Suninen - also contesting WRC2 - completed the leaderboard.

The 56th edition of Portugal’s biggest sporting event attracted 400,000 spectators, helping to secure its place on the WRC calendar in 2024. WRC Promoter Managing Director Jona Siebel and Automóvel Club de Portugal (ACP) President Carlos Barbosa agreed a return in 2024 with an option for 2025.

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 Olbia on 1 - 4 June.

Overall classification
1. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris 3h 35m 11.7s
2. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 N +54.7s
3. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Hyundai i20 N +1min 20.3s
4. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Ford Puma +2m 4.1s
5. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +8m 22.5s
6. G Greensmith / J Andersson GBR Škoda Fabia +9m 43.4s

Drivers' championship (after round 5 of 13):
1. K Rovanperä 98pts
2. O Tänak 81pts
3. S Ogier 69pts
23-05-13 Dialled-in Rovanperä powers towards Rally de Portugal crown
Finn places iron grip on rally lead with dominant drive on Saturday.
Just four stages stand between Kalle Rovanperä and his first triumph of 2023 after the Finn obliterated his rivals on Saturday at Vodafone Rally de Portugal.

Unyielding and unstoppable, the Toyota GR Yaris star unleashed an onslaught of raw speed as he romped to fastest times on five of the seven gruelling gravel speed tests. What started as a modest lead of 10.7sec overnight was transformed into a mighty advantage of almost one minute by close of play on the penultimate day.

Rovanperä launched his attack from the outset, more than quadrupling his lead before the mid-leg halt. He delivered further blows when the classic roads of Vieira do Minho and Amarante were repeated after service, widening the gap further in rough and dusty conditions reminiscent of Safari Rally Kenya.

The 22-year-old, who is yet to win a rally so far this season, enters Sunday’s finale 57.5sec ahead of Hyundai Motorsport’s Dani Sordo.

Sordo, starting his third round of the season, quickly diverted his attention to the chasing i20 N cars of team-mates Esapekka Lappi and Thierry Neuville.

Lappi closed in on the Spaniard early in the day, climbing from fifth to third overall on the first pass of Vieira do Minho. But the Finn’s pace faded in the afternoon and he was passed by Neuville, who finished a mere 2.3sec ahead of him and 11.1sec adrift of Sordo.

Pierre-Louis Loubet retired close to the finish of Amarante 1 when a heavy impact damaged his Ford Puma’s steering, allowing M-Sport Ford team-mate Ott Tänak to profit by seizing fifth overall. The Estonian dropped time with wheel damage on Friday and languishes 2min 21.8sec back from the lead after an off-pace day.

WRC2 cars filled the remainder of the leaderboard, headed by leader Oliver Solberg in a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2. Gus Greensmith, Yohan Rossel, Andreas Mikkelsen and Teemu Suninen completed the top 10.

Sunday’s finale is all about the extraordinary Fafe, its big jump before the finish and its crowds. Four tests clustered around the town total 55.42km, with the rally-closing Wolf Power Stage in Fafe offering vital bonus points.

Leading positions after Saturday:
1. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris 2h 59m 48.6s
2. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 N +57.5s
3. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +1m 8.6s
4. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Hyundai i20 N +1m 10.9s
5. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Ford Puma +2m 21.8s
6. O Solberg / E Edmondson SWE Škoda Fabia +8m 8.3s

The official Home of World Rallying:
23-05-12 Kalle Rovanperä ahead after brutal Friday at Rally de Portugal
Finnish driver heads Dani Sordo by 10.7s after vicious opening day.
Kalle Rovanperä mastered a brutal opening leg at Vodafone Rally de Portugal to head Hyundai Motorsport rival Dani Sordo overnight.

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

While several of his rivals faltered, Rovanperä won three of the eight special stages in a Toyota GR Yaris to head Sordo by 10.7sec after more than 120km of action during which three different drivers led.

Rovanperä was plagued by excessive understeer in the opening two stages but set-up adjustments later in the morning transformed his car.

The Finn surpassed Sordo, who inherited the top spot when Ott Tänak’s Ford Puma sustained wheel damage in Lousã 2, and extended his advantage further when the Spaniard overshot a junction in the penultimate stage.

"It has been a really good day," said Rovanperä. "Lots of cleaning, but still we did a steady day. We were fast but we also took care of the car and the tyres."

Sordo’s i20 N team-mate Thierry Neuville was third, 15.2sec behind. The Belgian reclaimed the final podium spot in the Figueira da Foz super special, leapfrogging colleague Esapekka Lappi and M-Sport Ford youngster Pierre-Louis Loubet in the process. Just 1.3sec blanketed the three drivers at close of play, with Loubet edging Lappi in the finale to take fourth overall by 0.3sec.

Fourth was well-deserved for Loubet. After winning the opener, the Frenchman then verged on retirement when his car caught fire on the stop line of Arganil 1. He and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul were able to continue after extinguishing the flames, later tracing the cause to their Puma’s exhaust.

“The car started to have fire, one kilometre before the end of the stage,” Loubet said. “We don’t have luck this year, it’s crazy.”

Tänak recovered to end the day sixth overall, while the remaining positions on the leaderboard were dominated by WRC2 cars. Oliver Solberg led Gus Greensmith, with Yohan Rossel and Andreas Mikkelsen rounding out the top 10.

Championship leader Elfyn Evans retired after crashing his Toyota in Mortágua. His team-mate Takamoto Katsuta bowed out earlier in the day with alternator failure.

If Friday was tough, Saturday is just as daunting. Almost 150km is packed into two loops of three speed tests. Crews have the respite of mid-leg service and a super special stage at Lousada rounds out the day’s action.

Leading positions after Friday:
1. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris 1h 22m 27.7s
2. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 N +10.7s
3. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +26.0s
4. P Loubet / N Gilsoul FRA Ford Puma +26.9s
5. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Hyundai i20 N +27.3s
6. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Ford Puma +1m 4.7s

23-05-11 Tuff kamp om VM-poäng för Oliver Solberg
Oliver Solberg (21) kommer att ha ett väldigt starkt startfält att fightas emot i VM-tävlingen Rally Portugal i helgen.

De flesta av de bästa rallyförarna i världen är där. Kampen om VM-poängen i Rally2-klassen kommer att bli mycket tuff. Solberg ligger trea totalt i kampen om VM-titeln när den femte av totalt 13 VM-tävlingar drar igång på fredagsmorgonen.
– Specialsträckorna, fansen och stämningen i Rally Portugal är väldigt speciell. Vägarna är krävande; mycket fina i början av rallyt, men de kommer att bli tuffare och mer utmanande ju mer de körs. Jag ser i alla fall verkligen fram emot att få starta tävlingen, säger Oliver Solberg.

21-åringen och kartläsaren Elliott Edmondson var snabbast i Rally2-klassen vid shakedown på torsdagsmorgonen.

Oliver har kört Rally Portugal två gånger tidigare. Bästa placering är en femteplats 2021.

Tävlingen är hans 80:e i karriären – varav 20 har slutat med seger. Den förra triumfen kom i Rally Sweden för exakt tre månader sedan.

VM-tävlingen i Portugal är en av de äldsta (1967) och populäraste inom rallycirkusen. Vägarna i områdena runt nordöstra och söder om Porto är snabba och tekniska.

Loppet startar på fredag ??morgon och avslutas efter 19 körda specialsträckor tidigt på söndagseftermiddagen.
23-05-10 Red-hot battle for WRC supremacy rages on in Portugal
Thrilling WRC season continues at legendary gravel fixture.
The FIA World Rally Championship is in the thick of one of its most intense seasons in recent memory as Vodafone Rally de Portugal (11 - 14 May) looms ahead.

With a mere 11 points separating the leading five drivers, this fifth round could set the tone for the remainder of the season. Portugal, a legendary founding event of the WRC, kickstarts a series of gruelling gravel challenges, seven in a row.

Toyota Gazoo Racing star Elfyn Evans seized the joint championship lead with a classy victory in Croatia last month. Pressure on the Welshman has been well and truly cranked up this time out, especially with his table-topping team-mate Sébastien Ogier absent from competition.

Opening the road in Friday’s first leg, Evans will face the challenge of low grip on slippery sand-coated roads as he sweeps away loose dirt to leave a cleaner line for those behind.

“We’re into a busy period now with rallies coming thick and fast, and Portugal is the start of a string of gravel events,” he said. “We will just have to try and maximise our performance in the loose conditions we will face on Friday and see what’s possible.”

Defending champion Kalle Rovanperä knows exactly what it takes to win from the front and did exactly that 12 months ago. The Finn, who joins Evans and Takamoto Katsuta in a three-strong Toyota entry, is still searching for his first triumph of 2023 and sits second in the points.

Esapekka Lappi will be eager to build on the podium result he achieved last time out, his first in Hyundai colours. Thierry Neuville drives a similar i20 N car along with Dani Sordo, a six-time podium finisher in Portugal.

Ott Tänak, fourth in the points, headlines M-Sport Ford’s Puma attack. The Estonian, victorious in Portugal back in 2019, partners with French driver Pierre-Louis Loubet to challenge for top honours.

The rally is based in the coastal city of Matosinhos. After Thursday night’s start in Coimbra, competitors face 19 speed tests covering 329.06km in north and central Portugal. It finishes on Sunday afternoon after a finale over the iconic roads of Fafe.

The official Home of World Rallying:
23-04-23 Tredje plats för Oliver Solberg i Rally Kroatien
I kampen om tiondelarna lyckades Oliver Solberg avancera till en tredje plats totalt i WRC2-klassen på den allra sista specialsträckan i Rally Kroatien under söndagen.

Inför det sista sträckan låg 21-åringen 7/10 sekund bakom finnen Emil Lindholm. Den regerande WRC2-världsmästaren lyckades inte hålla Solberg bakom sig. 2,1 sekunder skilde slutligen duon åt i kampen om tredjeplatsen.

Fransmannen Yohan Rossel vann 16,1 sekunder före ryssen Nikolay Gryazin. 1.25,4 minut skiljde vinnaren och Oliver Solberg åt efter målgång.

Oliver tog totalt tre sträcksegrar i tävlingen.
– Det var fantastiskt att kunna knipa de nödvändiga sekunderna och ta sig upp på pallen på den sista sträckan. Vi missade lite på bilens set-up i början av tävlingen så vi hängde inte riktigt med under fredagseftermiddagen. Det tog oss några sträckor innan vi hittade en passade set-up, sa Oliver Solberg.

Han var inte nominerad för att ta VM-poäng i tävlingen. Detta gjorde att 21-åringen fick friare tyglar för att få mer erfarenhet av bilen och de kroatiska asfaltvägarna för framtida tävlingar. Rossel leder VM totalt med tio poäng efter att han även vunnit Rally Monte-Carlo i början av säsongen. Lindholm ligger tvåa, en poäng före Solberg, men med en mer tävling körd.

Solberg vann VM-tävlingen i WRC2-klassen på hemmaplan i Sverige för drygt två månader sedan.

Nästa tävling, den femte för säsongen, går av stapeln i Portugal den 11-14 maj.
23-04-23 Evans powers to dominant Croatia Rally win
Welsh driver soars to the top of the championship standings with long-awaited triumph.

Elfyn Evans stormed to victory at Croatia Rally on Sunday afternoon, soaring to the top of the FIA World Rally Championship standings in the process.

An error from Thierry Neuville on Saturday morning propelled the Welshman to first overall, and he distanced himself from M-Sport Ford Puma driver Ott Tänak across the rest of the rally to win by 27.0sec in a Toyota GR Yaris.

The triumph, his first since Secto Rally Finland in 2021 and the first of his career on asphalt, elevated Evans from fifth to equal-first in the drivers’ championship standings. He is tied on points with Sébastien Ogier after round four of 13, with Kalle Rovanperä just a single point behind and Tänak three more in arrears.

“Obviously we’ve been working towards this for a long time, but it all feels so insignificant at the moment – that’s the bottom line,” said Evans, referencing the passing of friend and driver Craig Breen.

“After the focus of the weekend, we’re all back to missing our friend now. Straightaway after coming across the finish line, that’s all we can think about. We promised Craig’s family we would enjoy the weekend, and we’ve done that. We’re all thinking of them right now.”

His Toyota Gazoo Racing team preserved its unbeaten Croatia Rally record whilst also increasing its manufacturers’ championship lead over Hyundai Motorsport to 29 points.

The season’s first pure asphalt fixture delivered tremendous action, and Tänak looked set to become a real threat to Evans as he set a furious pace early on Saturday afternoon. However, a transmission issue later on the penultimate day obstructed the Estonian’s charge and he cruised to the finish 31.6sec clear of Esapekka Lappi.

Lappi lacked confidence on some of the dirtier sections of road, but consistency rewarded him with his first Hyundai i20 N podium – a welcome boost after crashing out from the lead in the previous round.

Behind him were a trio of Toyotas headed by defending champion Rovanperä, 19.7sec in arrears. The Finn had languished outside of the top ten after changing a wheel in SS2 on Friday, but hauled himself back up the leaderboard with an impressive recovery drive. He surpassed Sébastien Ogier on the final morning to claim fourth overall, edging his team-mate by just 9.7sec.

Ogier, who solely led the championship before this rally, was left to rue what could have been. Although he trailed victor Evans by 1min28.0sec at the finish, he also stopped to change a wheel whilst leading on Friday and received further blows in the form of time penalties. In total, the time loss amounted to roughly two-and-a-half minutes.

Takamoto Katsuta made it four Toyotas in the top six ahead of Pierre-Louis Loubet, who nursed his Puma to the finish with bent steering. WRC2 winner Yohan Rossel, Nikolay Gryazin and Oliver Solberg completed the leaderboard.

The series returns to gravel next month for Vodafone Rally de Portugal. The fifth round is based at Matosinhos on 11 - 14 May.

Final positions:
1. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris 2hr 50min 54.3sec
2. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Ford Puma +27.0sec
3. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Hyundai i20 N +58.6sec
4. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +1min 18.3sec
5. S Ogier / V Landais FRA Toyota GR Yaris +1min 28.0sec
6. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +2min 22.5sec

The official Home of World Rallying:
23-04-22 Resurgent Evans takes command on Saturday in Croatia
Welshman leaves struggling Ott Tänak trailing while Thierry Neuville retires on penultimate day.

Elfyn Evans is verging on a long-elusive FIA World Rally Championship victory after seizing the Croatia Rally lead in Saturday’s penultimate leg.

The Toyota Gazoo Racing driver assumed control of the gruelling asphalt event early in the day when Thierry Neuville, who had led by 5.7sec on Friday evening, crashed into retirement on the second stage.

Neuville’s Hyundai i20 N stepped out of line and collided with a concrete block which caused severe damage to the wheel and suspension components. His exit handed Evans a healthy lead of 22.6sec at the day’s halfway point.

The dynamic changed when Ott Tänak cranked up the heat after service in Croatian capital Zagreb, slashing Evans’ buffer by almost half with two stages remaining. However, the Estonian was impeded by a technical fault which cost valuable time late in the day and ended 25.4sec back from the lead.

A victory for Evans, should he succeed in keeping Tänak at bay, would be his first since the 2021 Secto Rally Finland over 18 months ago.

“If Ott had problems, I wouldn’t wish that on him,” the Welshman said. “It’s not nice to exploit a gap like that, but okay, there’s still a long way to go.”

Esapekka Lappi brought his Hyundai home a distant third overall despite lacking confidence in some of the gravel-polluted sections. A half spin in SS13 did not help matters although the Finn pressed harder in the afternoon and trailed Tänak by half a minute at close of play.

Sébastien Ogier started on the back foot having been handed a one-minute time penalty for a safety breach on Friday evening. He was then lumbered with a further 10-second sanction after a technical issue on the road section caused him to check in late to the first stage.

But the Yaris man, winner here in 2021, climbed from seventh to fourth overall after romping to three fastest stage times. Behind him were team-mates Kalle Rovanperä and Takamoto Katsuta, both of whom leapfrogged Pierre-Louis Loubet as he struggled to find traction on hard compound tyres.

Yohan Rossel remained in the lead of the WRC2 category and held eighth overall ahead of Nikolay Gryazin and Emil Lindholm, who completed the leaderboard.

Sunday’s finale north of Zagreb features the widest roads of the weekend. The opening Trakošcan - Vrbno (13.15km) starts close to a 13th century lakeside castle amid stunning scenery and is followed by Zagorska Sela - Kumrovec (14.09km). Both are driven twice, taking the day’s total to 54.48km.

Leading positions after Saturday:
1. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris 2hr 20min 5.7sec
2. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Ford Puma +25.4sec
3. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Hyundai i20 N +55.4sec
4. S Ogier / V Landais FRA Toyota GR Yaris +1min 49.4sec
5. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +1min 51.4sec
6. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +2min 25.9sec
23-04-21 Neuville heads Evans on action-packed Friday in Croatia
Frontrunning pair split by just 5.7s as championship leader Ogier hits trouble on day one.
Thierry Neuville led throughout Friday’s treacherous opening leg despite only winning one stage of Croatia Rally.

It was the Hyundai i20 N driver’s consistency which ultimately came to the fore as asphalt roads in the hills west of capital city Zagreb tested the mettle of the FIA World Rally Championship’s leading crews. He ended the gruelling day just 5.7sec clear of second-placed challenger Elfyn Evans.

Neuville was unhappy with his car’s morning set-up but swooped into the lead after SS2 when championship leader Sébastien Ogier, winner of the day’s opener, dropped over one and a half minutes carrying out a mid-stage wheel change on his Toyota GR Yaris.

The Belgian remained at the helm throughout the afternoon although Evans, driving another Toyota, sliced his advantage by more than half as scattered rain clouds loomed over the stages. Both drivers stuck with a mixed combination of hard and soft compound Pirelli tyres, which proved to be the best choice.

"We have done a decent job, but it hasn't been easy at all," Neuville admitted. "It was a bit better at the end of the day and I am really happy that we had a bit more fun in the car this afternoon. Hopefully we can finish in first place at the end - that would be a great achievement for the team and for us."

One driver for whom tyre gambles did not pay off was Ott Tänak. The Estonian bolted wet weather rubber onto his M-Sport Ford Puma for Stojdraga - Hartje 2, however, conditions remained mostly dry and he fell behind Esapekka Lappi after dropping 17.0sec.

Tänak responded in the penultimate stage by ousting the Hyundai man to reclaim third overall, reaching the overnight halt 3.4sec clear of his rival and 24.3sec adrift of Evans. Ogier, meanwhile, valiantly fought his way back up to fifth, another 50.3sec in arrears.

Takamoto Katsuta overtook Pierre-Louis Loubet in the final stage to grab sixth, while Kalle Rovanperä languished in eighth overall. The Yaris youngster won last year’s fixture but currently trails the frontrunners by over two minutes after he too stopped to change a wheel at the same location as team-mate Ogier.

WRC2 leader Yohan Rossel was ninth and held a sizeable 29.9sec advantage over Nikolay Gryazin, second in the category.

Saturday’s second leg follows a similar format with four stages, driven morning and afternoon, totalling 116.60km.

Leading positions after Friday:
1. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N 1hr 16min 2.4sec
2. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +5.7sec
3. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Ford Puma +30.0sec
4. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Hyundai i20 N +33.4sec
5. S Ogier / V Landais FRA Toyota GR Yaris +1min 23.7sec
6. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +1min 52.1sec

23-04-20 VM-tävling utan poängpress för Oliver Solberg
Oliver Solberg kör VM-tävlingen Rally Kroatien i helgen utan press att samla VM-poäng.

Oliver är inte nominerad att ta VM-poäng i tävlingen. Därmed kan 21-åringen få friare tyglar för att få mer erfarenhet av bilen och de kroatiska asfaltvägarna inför framtida tävlingar.

Solberg vann VM-tävlingen i WRC2-klassen på hemmaplan i Sverige för drygt två månader sedan. Han leder mästerskapet totalt efter en vinst och en tredjeplats (Mexiko) i de två senaste tävlingarna.
– En månad utan tävling känns som en lång tid, men vi har utnyttjat tiden väl. Inledningen av säsongen har varit mycket lovande med bra prestationer och många sträcksegrar på tävlingarna, säger Oliver Solberg.

Det har blivit 28 sträcksegrar på 55 försök hittills under säsongen – inklusive Rally Monte-Carlo, där han inte heller var nominerad för att ta VM-poäng.

I Rally Kroatien förväntas stora förändringar i väderförhållandena och därmed även i underlaget. Asfalttävlingen är tekniskt utmanande och däckstrategin förväntas spela en avgörande roll.

Rally Kroatien startar på fredag morgon och avslutas efter 20 specialsträckor tidigt på söndag eftermiddag.
23-04-19 Sébastien Ogier aims for Toyota hat-trick at Croatia Rally
Frenchman bids to maintain Toyota's stronghold at first pure asphalt fixture of the 2023 season.

As an eight-time FIA World Rally Champion, Sébastien Ogier is no stranger to starting on the front foot. And that’s exactly where he finds himself ahead of this week’s Croatia Rally (20 - 23 April), the first pure asphalt fixture of the year.

Frenchman Ogier arrives in Croatia with a three-point lead over Thierry Neuville. Neuville and Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Esapekka Lappi’s i20 N cars will carry a special livery in memory of beloved colleague and WRC family member Craig Breen, who tragically lost his life last week.

But defending his early-season advantage is not the primary objective for Ogier, who only competes on a part-time basis. Instead, the ultimate prize would be to complete a Croatian treble for his Toyota Gazoo Racing squad.

Ogier clinched victory at the inaugural Croatia Rally in 2021 but sat out last year's event, which was won by his GR Yaris team-mate Kalle Rovanperä.

“Even if the mindset is different without the [full] championship, I still have the same aim to perform at my best and score some wins and good points for the team,” Ogier said.

“Croatia is a difficult one, but recently I have been pretty strong on Tarmac. It was kind of natural for the team and me to decide to go back to Croatia.”

Only Ogier and Rovanperä are nominated to score points for Toyota Gazoo Racing this week. Out of respect for Hyundai, which now fields only two cars, the Japanese marque has withdrawn Elfyn Evans from the manufacturers’ championship battle at this rally. The Welshman, however, remains eligible to score drivers’ championship points alongside Takamoto Katsuta, who drives a fourth Yaris.

Ott Tänak is M-Sport Ford’s frontrunner. The Estonian, who lies fourth in the standings, is joined by Pierre-Louis Loubet, and will be eager to make amends after being hampered by mechanical woes last time out.

The rally starts in capital city Zagreb on Thursday evening ahead of three days of competition on asphalt which varies from smooth to broken and features many tricky crests and jumps. The 20 stages cover 301.26km.

23-03-20 Oliver Solberg försvarade VM-ledningen i Mexiko
Endast en punktering under fredagen hindrade Oliver Solberg (21) från ytterligare en seger WRC2-klassen i rally-VM i helgen.

Trots det lyckades Solberg köra upp sig till tredje plats i Rally Mexico efter att ha vunnit tio av de 19 avklarade specialsträckorna. Oliver kom i mål 1.06,2 minuter efter teamkamraten Gus Greensmith från Storbritannien. Finnen Emil Lindholm – även han teamkamrat i Toksport WRT – kom tvåa, 33,3 sekunder före Solberg.

Han vann sin första poänggivande VM-tävling för säsongen på hemmaplan i Sverige förra månaden och leder nu WRC2-mästerskapet totalt.

Om inte Oliver hade tappat 1,40 minuter på den åttonde sträckan på grund av en punktering, skulle 21-åringen kunnat slåss om segern i WRC 2-klassen.
– En väldigt rolig tävlingshelg med bra bil och bra fart. Utan punkteringen i fredags vet vi att det kunde ha blivit ett ännu bättre resultat. Jag är otroligt nöjd med att vi lyckades slå tillbaka och komma på pallen, sa Oliver Solberg.

Fyra av tävlingens specialsträckor ställdes in på grund av olyckor som lyckligtvis slutade utan några personskador.

På det näst sista sträckan uppstod ett motorproblem för Solberg och kartläsaren Elliott Edmondson. Som ett resultat av det fick duon fullfölja tävlingen på tre cylindrar, men lyckades behålla sin pallplats.

Nästa VM-tävling äger rum i Kroatien helgen 20-23 april.
23-03-20 Seventh heaven for triumphant Ogier in Mexico
Frenchman tops Rally México roll of honour after claiming record seventh victory at gruelling gravel fixture.
Sébastien Ogier added another record to his already impressive tally with victory at Guanajuato Rally México on Sunday afternoon.

The Frenchman, starting the second rally of his part-time 2023 campaign, moved to top of the Mexico roll of honour with a record seventh victory at the North American event, an accolade he had previously shared with old foe Sébastien Loeb.

With a sizeable 35.8sec advantage going into the final leg, it was a relatively straightforward Sunday for the Toyota Gazoo Racing man.

He negotiated the remaining four speed tests with ultimate prowess and collected maximum bonus points from the Wolf Power Stage, finishing 27.5sec clear of Thierry Neuville at the event where he made his FIA World Rally Championship debut in 2008.

“The car was great this weekend and it was a faultless rally for us and the team,” said Ogier, who now leads the drivers’ championship by three points from Neuville.

“As I am doing the next rally, it's important to start first on the road there and it was important to get the points for the team as well,” he added, referencing the Croatia Rally.

Neuville's stubborn spirit behind the wheel of his Hyundai i20 N left fans on the edge of their seats as he battled relentlessly with Ogier's team-mate Elfyn Evans. Having started the day 5.3sec in arrears, Neuville closed in on the Welshman, who was impeded by a bent suspension arm.

The Belgian’s perseverance paid off as he overtook his rival in the finale, claiming second overall by just four-tenths of a second and providing an exhilarating end to the four-day fixture.

Kalle Rovanperä struggled to match the pace of the frontrunning trio and settled for a lonely fourth overall in his Toyota. The defending champion continued to pull further away from Hyundai’s Dani Sordo, who finished over one minute further back in fifth.

The rough gravel terrain took its toll on several of the leading Rally1 crews, enabling Gus Greensmith to finish a mighty sixth overall in his WRC2-specification Škoda Fabia RS Rally2. Behind him were fellow support category challengers Emil Lindholm and Oliver Solberg.

Ninth overall was the best Ott Tänak could manage after turbocharger failure cost the M-Sport Ford Puma driver more than 14 minutes on Friday morning, while WRC2 star Kajetan Kajetanowicz completed the top 10.

The WRC is back on asphalt for next month's Croatia Rally, which takes place from 20 - 23 April. The event is based in capital city Zagreb.

Overall classification:
1. S Ogier / V Landais FRA Toyota GR Yaris 3hr 16min 9.4sec
2. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +27.5sec
3. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +27.9sec
4. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +1min 55.3sec
5. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 N +2min 58.8sec
6: G Greensmith / J Andersson GBR Škoda Fabia +12min 31.5sec

Drivers' Championship points (after round 3 of 13):
1. S Ogier 56pts
2. T Neuville 53pts
3. K Rovanperä 52pts

The official Home of World Rallying:
23-03-19 Saturday shake-up puts Ogier on track for Mexico triumph
Frenchman builds commanding lead as rival Esapekka Lappi crashes on penultimate day.
Sébastien Ogier is on the verge of a record-breaking seventh Guanajuato Rally México victory after establishing a commanding lead on Saturday.

The eight-time world champion, who drives part-time for Toyota Gazoo Racing, moved into the lead of the gruelling gravel event when Esapekka Lappi - whom he trailed by 5.3sec after Friday - crashed into an electricity pole in the opening stage. From that moment on, Ogier never looked back.

Armed with an advantage of almost half a minute over GR Yaris team-mate Elfyn Evans at the day’s midpoint, the 39-year-old was in no mood to compromise.

He managed his speed - and his hard compound Pirelli tyres - flawlessly over the afternoon’s scorching speed tests, taking a dominant stage win at El Mosquito 2 to end the day 35.8sec clear of the field.

Victory at this third round would be particularly special for the Frenchman, as it was here in Mexico where he made his FIA World Rally Championship debut back in 2008.

"I think this lead is good,” Ogier said. “It’s been another strong day for me. We had a little bit of a different approach after Esapekka went off in the first stage this morning.

“We didn't need to go for too much risk, but still we managed to set some good times and increase our lead. Tomorrow is still long which means we cannot afford to relax."

Evans’ position in second overall was much less secure, as he had a charging Thierry Neuville breathing down his neck. The Hyundai driver reeled in his rival, grabbing four fastest times to trail the Welshman by just 4.3sec heading into Sunday’s four-stage finale.

Kalle Rovanperä found himself sitting almost one-minute adrift of Neuville in fourth overall. A stall in Derramadero 2 cost the Toyota youngster a handful of seconds but, with a hefty 47.2sec gap to Dani Sordo behind, he had no reason to be alarmed.

Sordo, a lonely fifth, was unwilling to take any unnecessary risks. The Spaniard focused instead on trialling new set-ups throughout the day, although he found it difficult to keep the rear end of his Hyundai under control in the loose conditions.

Such was the high rate of the attrition that WRC2 cars comprised the remainder of the top 10. Gus Greensmith continued to lead the category ahead of his former M-Sport Ford team-mate Adrien Fourmaux, while Emil Lindholm, Oliver Solberg and Kajetan Kajetanowicz completed the leaderboard.

Championship leader Ott Tänak recovered from Friday morning’s turbo failure to haul his Ford Puma back up to 11th overall. Pierre-Louis Loubet, driving a similar car, retired for the second time in as many days with damaged rear suspension in SS17.

Sunday may be shorter, but it’s no less challenging. It opens with another blast through Las Dunas, which is followed by Otates - the longest stage of the rally at a daunting 35.63km. San Diego is up next before the event ends with the Wolf Power Stage in El Brinco.

Leading positions after Saturday:
1. S Ogier / V Landais FRA Toyota GR Yaris 2hr 35min 37.6sec
2. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +35.8sec
3. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +40.1sec
4. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +1min 34.0sec
5. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 N +2min 21.2sec
6: G Greensmith / J Andersson GBR Škoda Fabia +10min 33.4sec

The official Home of World Rallying:
23-03-18 Lappi heads Ogier in Mexico thriller
Former team-mates trade blows in gripping opening leg, ending Friday just 5.3 seconds apart.
Esapekka Lappi kept a cool head in the scorching heat of Guanajuato Rally México to fend off six-time winner Sébastien Ogier during Friday’s dramatic opening leg.

Despite several of the FIA World Rally Championship's leading crews running into trouble on the gruelling gravel stages in the mountains around León, Lappi steered clear of drama to head Ogier at the first gravel round of the season.

The Hyundai i20 N star led from the outset after grabbing the top spot in the morning’s opener. But Ogier, who ironically alternated drives with Lappi at Toyota Gazoo Racing last season, stayed right on his heels, with the duo exchanging times for much of the day.

It was, however, Lappi's impressive performance in the latter half of the afternoon which made all the difference. Back-to-back stage wins in Las Minas and Las Dunas gave the Finn some much-needed breathing space and, while Ogier clawed back some time in the Distrito Leon super special, 5.3sec split the pair at close of play.

"I am a bit surprised, but I take it as it is,” Lappi beamed. “This was probably one of the best days of my career.

“I always hoped that I could fight at the top, but to be leading and fighting against Séb was never in my mind. I didn't really think about how this day would go, but I was just confident that our pace would be good."

Elfyn Evans filled the final podium spot, finishing 24.8sec behind his Toyota GR Yaris team-mate Ogier. With temperatures nearing 30°C and altitudes of over 2750 metres, it was a trying day for crews and cars alike, but the Welshman’s struggles were limited to a lack of traction on some of the stages.

Thierry Neuville was hampered by hybrid unit failure in the morning, followed by a seized rear-right damper and damaged driveshaft boot in the afternoon. He pressed on regardless, reaching the overnight halt 9.7sec adrift of the podium in his Hyundai.

Starting second on the road, defending champion Kalle Rovanperä was severely affected by the loose conditions. As a result, the Yaris driver lost time in almost every test, ending the day a 19.9sec down on Neuville.

Meanwhile, Dani Sordo leaked around a minute when he limped through SS7 with rear-left tyre damage on his Hyundai, dropping from fourth to sixth overall.

Championship leader Ott Tänak languishes more than 14 minutes back from the lead after crawling through the morning loop with turbocharger failure. It was a disastrous day for the Estonian’s M-Sport Ford team as both Pierre-Louis Loubet and Jourdan Serderidis retired their Pumas in the opening stage.

Also in trouble was birthday boy Takamoto Katsuta, who lost control of his Yaris in a high-speed section on SS5 and rolled down a steep embankment.

Saturday’s leg is the longest of the event and features nine more challenging stages totalling 126.52km.

Leading positions after Friday:
1. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Hyundai i20 N 1hr 25min 12.0sec
2. S Ogier / V Landais FRA Toyota GR Yaris +5.3sec
3. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +30.1sec
4. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +39.8sec
5. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +59.7sec
6. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 N +1min 27.2sec

The official Home of World Rallying:
23-03-15 Tänak faces tough gravel challenge at Guanajuato Rally México
Championship leader opens the road on the WRC's return to North America.
It’s hot, it’s dusty, it’s the highest round of the season and it’s the first time we get to view the WRC’s class of 2023 in action on pure gravel roads.

We’re leaving behind the European winter for the sizzling heat of Guanajuato Rally México (16 - 19 March), back on the calendar for the first time since 2020 and home to the FIA World Rally Championship’s third round.

M-Sport Ford’s table-topping star Ott Tänak, who grabbed the championship lead with victory in Sweden last time out, knows his standing will come at a cost at this week’s fixture, the season’s first outside of Europe.

The Puma driver must pay his dues in the mountains around León when he opens the road for Friday’s opening leg on stages coated in dry and slippery gravel. Those tracks become cleaner and faster with each car that passes as the loose dirt is swept aside.

While the two-time Mexico runner-up is praying for rain to bind the loose gravel together, his wish may be in vain as the event is forecasted to have sunny skies with temperatures nudging 30°C.

“I'm not sure I’m that good a [rain] dancer to get the rain in a place where it almost never rains!” joked Tänak, who is joined in the team by Pierre-Louis Loubet and privateer Jourdan Serderidis.

“During testing it was my very first time on gravel in the Puma Rally1 and it was very important to discover as much as possible. The team is working hard to keep improving, but to really understand where we are now, we need to do a gravel rally first,” he added.

Neither Kalle Rovanperä nor Thierry Neuville will benefit that much from second and third in the order. But one man who does is Rovanperä’s Toyota GR Yaris team-mate Sébastien Ogier, a six-time Mexico winner, who starts fifth.

The eight-time champion drives part-time for the Japanese marque and returns to action for the first time since his Monte-Carlo win in January.

“When I knew that Mexico was coming back, I had to mark it in my calendar as an event that would be nice to do again. It’s where everything started for me in the WRC, as it’s actually where I made my debut in 2008," said the Frenchman.

Dani Sordo joins Neuville and Esapekka Lappi in a three-strong Hyundai i20 N line-up and will be the last of the frontrunners onto the road. He will be keen to make the most of the extra grip to put himself in a strong position for the last two legs, when competitors start in reverse order of classification.

"If we get it right, we believe we can be in the battle for victory, but we want to be on the podium as a minimum," said Sordo, who alternates drives with Craig Breen.

Elfyn Evans, fourth in the standings, also drives a GR Yaris, as does Takamoto Katsuta - although the Japanese driver will not score manufacturers’ championship points with Ogier in attendance this week.

The route climbs to more than 2,700 metres above sea level, where engines traditionally struggle to 'breathe' in the thinner air and lose 20 per cent of their power. However, the Rally1 cars’ hybrid specification brings a battery-powered boost less impacted by the thinner air, which could make this one of the fastest editions Guanajuato Rally México has ever seen.

The rally starts on Thursday night with two iconic street tests through Guanajuato's former mining tunnels. Three more days of action follow in the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains before Sunday afternoon's finish in León after 23 stages covering 320.23km.

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23-02-18 FIA European Rally Championship 2022 Stop 5 - Liepaja, Latvia
Epic adventure in store as WRC gears up to take on uncharted terrain in 2024.
• Tet Rally Latvia set to join the WRC in 2024
• Long-time ERC success leads to WRC promotion
• Strategic move highlights the importance of Baltic regions for WRC

The FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) is set to visit a new country in 2024 when Tet Rally Latvia, formerly known as Tet Rally Liepaja, joins the calendar.

The decision comes after Latvia’s long-time success within the FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) and reflects WRC Promoter’s commitment to keep at least one slot in the WRC calendar available for such events. As the commercial rights holder for both WRC and ERC, WRC Promoter is uniquely positioned to identify and support events which have the potential to grow and become part of the WRC family.

Tet Rally Latvia takes place on gravel roads and has a reputation for being one of the most challenging rallies in Europe, utilising blisteringly fast roads which require inch-perfect skill and precision from drivers and co-drivers.

“It has always been our goal to keep at least one slot in the WRC calendar available to enable an event to rotate from the ERC to the WRC,” explained Peter Thul, Senior Director of Sport for WRC Promoter.

“Tet Rally Latvia becoming the first to be granted this slot is a clear recognition of its sporting and promotional excellence, and the commitment of the Latvian Government to rallying.

“This decision highlights the strategic importance of the Baltic regions for WRC. We have a longstanding relationship with broadcast partner TV3 and look forward to expanded collaboration with them for the 2024 event. This, as well as our ever-increasing network of over 50 broadcasters in more than 150 countries, makes WRC one of the most widely viewed motorsport championships on the planet,” Thul added.

Event organisers have been working closely with the FIA and WRC Promoter to ensure the event meets the high standards required for a WRC round. The rally will reach a widespread area of Latvia, stretching from the cities of Riga and Liepaja to the regions of Talsi, Tukums, Kuldiga, Dienvidkurzeme.

“This is a dream come true moment. Our work that started many years ago, has finally concluded with a clear pathway for Latvia to host a WRC event in 2024," said Tet Rally Latvia director Raimonds Strokšs.

"For RA Events as an event organiser, this is a tremendous milestone that carries huge responsibility with it. But we have such reliable partners in the Latvian Government, our rally city Liepaja, our capital city Riga, and our general sponsor Tet - plus many more. Behind them there is an even broader team of enthusiastic people, with whom we can pull this off and are ready to tackle all the challenges that lay ahead of us."

The exact dates for Tet Rally Latvia 2024 will be confirmed in due course.

Subject to approval by the World Motor Sport Council
23-01-23 Record-breaking Ogier claims ninth Monte-Carlo victory
Frenchman triumphs at 2023 season opener, heading home Kalle Rovanperä in 1-2 finish for Toyota.
Sébastien Ogier celebrated a record ninth triumph at Rallye Monte-Carlo, confirming a lights-to-flag victory at the opening round of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship on Sunday afternoon.

Ogier is undertaking selected drives for Toyota Gazoo Racing this year and kicked off his part-time campaign with a stellar performance in the French Alps, mastering twisty asphalt roads to head GR Yaris team-mate Kalle Rovanperä by 18.8sec in a dominant 1-2 for the Japanese squad.

His nine victories span three decades and have been achieved with five different manufacturers. Topping off Ogier’s perfect weekend was the fact that co-driver Vincent Landais celebrated his maiden win at world level.

The Frenchman led the season opener from start to finish after charging to a lead of over 30 seconds during Friday’s first full day of action in the mountains above Monaco.

Rovanperä reduced that deficit to just 16.0sec heading into Sunday’s finale, but Ogier, who was denied glory by a late puncture 12 months ago, kept his cool to maintain the buffer throughout the final four speed tests.

"It's huge," Ogier beamed. "I love this rally. It's the one which gave me the dream right at the beginning and I am so happy for Vincent. For me it's nice, but for him it's a dream to take his first win.

"We still need to enjoy these moments and that's why we are still here [in the WRC], to catch some victories like this. To win a famous one like Monte has no price."

Rovanperä finished on a high by winning the Wolf Power Stage to add five bonus points to his tally. As the highest-placed full-time driver, the young Finn’s title defence is off to a solid start.

"It was a good one," he agreed. "I think we can be quite happy with second place."

Heavy tyre wear prevented Hyundai i20 N driver Thierry Neuville from making any gains on Rovanperä. After 18 stages, the Belgian was forced to settle for third overall, 27.8sec ahead of Elfyn Evans.

For Evans, there were thoughts of what could have been. Were it not for a rear puncture which cost the Welshman over 40 seconds on Friday, a 1-2-3 finish for Toyota could well have been on the cards.

Ott Tänak went easy on his soft compound tyres in preparation for an all-out attack on the bonus points-paying Wolf Power Stage, but he missed out on the benchmark time by just half a second. Ending his M-Sport Ford Puma debut with a top-five result, Tänak felt like he’d made positive steps.

“It's a long season ahead but this is a positive start,” the Estonian remarked. “At least we have scored some points already - unlike the previous three years!"

Takamoto Katsuta was lucky to finish the event after limping through the finale with damaged rear suspension. The Yaris youngster held onto sixth overall by 14.9sec from Dani Sordo, whose Hyundai was plagued by a hybrid unit fault all day.

The championship switches to Scandinavia next month for the only pure winter round of the season. Rally Sweden takes place in Umeå on 9 - 12 February.

Overall classification:
1. S Ogier / V Landais FRA Toyota GR Yaris 3hr 12min 2.0sec
2. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +18.8sec
3. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +44.6sec
4. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +1min 12.4sec
5. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Ford Puma +2min 34.9sec
6. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +3min 32.6sec

Drivers' championship points (after round 1 of 13):
1. S Ogier 26pts
2. K Rovanperä 23pts
3. T Neuville 17 pts

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23-01-22 Oliver Solberg visade topp-speed i Rally Monte-Carlo
Tio av 18 sträcksegrar gav ett övertygande generaltest i Rally Monte-Carlo för Oliver Solberg (21) i jakten på karriärens första VM-titel.

Oliver avslutade tävlingen med att sätta den snabbaste tiden av alla WRC2-bilar på Col de Turini Powerstage.

Vinnare av tävlingens näst största klass blev teamkamraten Nikolay Gryazin i Toksport-teamet. Solberg slutade så småningom på en sjätte plats, 2.15,2 minuter efter ryssen.

En punktering i torsdagskvällen kostade totalt runt två minuter. På lördagen försvann ytterligare några sekunder på grund av en skadad hjulupphängning.
– Men vi hade inga VM-poäng att tävla om, så totalresultatet var inte så viktigt i den här tävlingen. Tio sträcksegrar av 18 möjliga är ganska tillfredsställande för mig. Syftet var att lära känna den nya bilen och ta reda på vilken speed vi kunde hålla. Vi lyckades bra på båda punkterna, sa Oliver Solberg.

Nästa race för Oliver Solberg blir VM-tävlingen på hemmaplan i Sverige den 9-12 februari. Där börjar också den officiella VM-säsongen i WRC2-klassen.
23-01-21 Vigilant Ogier puts one hand on Monte-Carlo crown
Sébastien Ogier sits on the brink of a record-breaking ninth Rallye Monte-Carlo victory after producing another faultless drive in the French Alps on Saturday.

Having built up a sizeable advantage of over half a minute on Friday, Ogier’s attentions switched to lead preservation as the Monaco-based fixture headed into the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence for six asphalt speed tests totalling 111.78km.

With today’s running order based on reverse rally classification, Ogier had to contend with the most polluted road conditions as gravel, rocks and mud were swept onto the stages by those running higher up the field.

Ogier, who drives part-time for Toyota Gazoo Racing, took a vigilant approach. He was in no mood for risk-taking and desperate not to repeat last year’s disappointment, where a sharp rock caused a late puncture which put the brakes on his victory bid.

But, as a result of his caution, the 39-year-old saw his buffer more than halved by charging GR Yaris colleague Kalle Rovanperä. He heads into Sunday’s finale 16.0sec clear at the top.

Ogier is confident he has enough time in hand but, with four treacherous stages still remaining, anything could happen. Victory here would put him top of the Rallye Monte-Carlo roll of honour, beating the record he currently shares with old foe Sébastien Loeb.

"I think it should be enough,” he said. “The last one was the most dangerous one for punctures so I took it easy and I am happy that stage is over now."

Reigning champion Rovanperä started strongly and won two of the morning’s three stages to put some distance between himself and Hyundai i20 N star Thierry Neuville.

Neuville responded by claiming two benchmark times himself, but a big push from the former under the darkness of Ubraye – Entrevaux left Neuville 16.0sec adrift of his rival in third.

Elfyn Evans made it three Toyotas in the top four with a solid comeback drive following his Friday puncture. The Welshman leapfrogged Ott Tänak in the day’s second stage and never strayed outside the top-three times for each test, ending 24.5sec off the heels of Neuville.

For M-Sport Ford returnee Tänak there were feelings of both relief and disappointment after a technical fault left his Puma with heavier steering than normal.

Although it left him unable to put up a fight against Evans, the flipside of Tänak’s issue was that the power steering did not fail completely – something he would have been dreading as there was no mid-leg service in the schedule.

Yaris youngster Takamoto Katsuta climbed to sixth overall after leapfrogging Dani Sordo on the first run from Le Fugeret to Thorame-Haute. Sordo, who now holds seventh, continued to feel puzzled by the lack of competitiveness in his stage times.

Sunday’s finale returns to the Alpes-Maritimes. The familiar Luceram / Lantosque opens proceedings and is followed by a re-run of La Bollène-Vésubie / Col de Turini, which crews have already driven in anger on Thursday evening. Both stages are repeated once again with the latter forming the Wolf Power Stage where bonus points are available.

Leading positions after Saturday:
1. S Ogier / V Landais FRA Toyota GR Yaris 2hr 27min 11.5sec
2. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +16.0sec
3. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +32.0sec
4. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +56.5sec
5. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Ford Puma +1min 37.3sec
6. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +2min 15.7sec

The official Home of World Rallying:

23-01-20 Ogier sweeps up with Monte-Carlo masterclass
Frenchman holds commanding lead over team-mate Kalle Rovanperä after dominating Friday's stages.
Sébastien Ogier outclassed his FIA World Rally Championship peers to end Friday at Rallye Monte-Carlo with a commanding lead.

Driving a GR Yaris for Toyota Gazoo Racing, the eight-time world champion won four of the six French Alps speed tests to lead the opening round by 36.0sec from colleague Kalle Rovanperä after 145km of competition.

The Monaco-based fixture holds fond memories for Ogier, who was born and raised in the Hautes-Alpes. He is chasing down a record-breaking ninth victory this week.

Ogier set the tempo on Thursday night’s short opening leg and continued to assert the same dominance in the morning, stretching his advantage into double figures over team-mate Elfyn Evans despite nursing a hybrid unit fault.

When Evans dropped back after leaking 40sec with a rear-right puncture on SS5, Ogier was afforded room to breathe. He took less risks in the afternoon, even carrying an additional spare tyre, but still extended his buffer regardless.

"I am very satisfied,” Ogier reflected. “Obviously, the risk of punctures [in the last stage] was higher so I took things a bit more easy. I'm just happy to bring the car home tonight."

Rovanperä topped an intense battle with Hyundai i20 N driver Thierry Neuville. The pair were rarely split by more than a few tenths of a second, but Rovanperä found a slight edge in the afternoon to end 1.9sec clear.

Fourth overall went to Ott Tänak after challenging day spent learning the intricacies of driving M-Sport’s Ford Puma in competition for the first time. In the Estonian’s own words, his new steed did not feel “racey” enough, although he did admit to being comfortable in the car.

Tänak sits 16.3sec adrift of the podium heading into Saturday’s penultimate leg and faces increasing pressure from Evans, who put in an impressive recovery drive after his puncture to end 8.1sec behind.

Another 27.9sec in arrears and rounding out the top six is Dani Sordo, driving another Hyundai. The Spaniard appeared frustrated and felt that his times did not match up with the risks he was taking out on the stages.

Takamoto Katsuta was hampered by a handbrake issue on Thursday evening but enjoyed a trouble-free run aboard his GR Yaris. A series of top-four stage times promoted the 29-year-old to seventh overall ahead of Esapekka Lappi, who shared similar frustrations to Sordo in his i20 N.

The action switches west to the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence on Saturday for another 111.78km of competition. Le Fugeret / Thorame-Haute, Malijai / Puimichel and Ubraye / Entrevaux each run twice either side of another tyre fitting zone in Puget-Théniers. Again, there is no mid-leg service.

Leading positions after Friday:
1. S Ogier / V Landais FRA Toyota GR Yaris 1hr 26min 39.4sec
2. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +36.0sec
3. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +37.9sec
4. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Ford Puma +54.2sec
5. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +1min 2.3sec
6. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 N +1min 30.2sec

The official Home of World Rallying:
23-01-19 Masterful Ogier builds early Monte-Carlo lead
Frenchman makes his intentions clear as 2023 season gets underway on Thursday evening.
Sébastien Ogier threw caution to the wind on Thursday evening’s opening leg at Rallye Monte-Carlo to end a spectacular opening night of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship season with a useful advantage.

Ogier, an eight-time winner in the French Alps, was in a league of his own as he blasted his Toyota GR Yaris to a brace of fastest times, heading team-mate Elfyn Evans by 6.0sec after 40.02km of competition.

An uncharacteristically dry start to this iconic event heightened the importance of tyre management, with several drivers overheating their rubber on the winding mountain passes around the Col de Turini.

Ogier, however, remained unphased and – for once – was delighted not to be opening the road. His late starting position played to his favour as he could pick out any tricky sections by spotting the tracks of his peers.
"It's never easy to start this rally at night, but at least the conditions were not so inconsistent," Ogier reflected. "There was only one really tricky corner and for once I was not starting first on the road, so I could benefit from seeing the lines from the others. That helped.
"I think it's been a good start for us and we are happy with that, but obviously there is a very long way to go.

Ott Tänak rounds out the leading trio 9.4sec adrift of second-placed Evans. It was a troublesome night for the Estonian as he kicked off his debut aboard one of M-Sport’s Ford Pumas.

An electrical issue on the liaison section prior to SS1 did nothing to calm Tänak’s nerves, and those tensions were raised further as he completed both stages without fifth gear.

Just one-tenth of a second behind is Hyundai star Thierry Neuville, who dropped around eight seconds by stalling his i20 N after sliding wide on a patch of black ice. Puma privateer Jourdan Serderidis fell foul to the very same corner but fared much worse, losing over a minute as spectators extracted his car from a ditch.

Reigning champion Kalle Rovanperä had to tweak his driving style to keep the soft compound tyres on the front of his Toyota from overheating. The Finn is currently sandwiched by Hyundai cars in sixth overall, 1.6sec adrift Neuville with Dani Sordo 15.0sec behind him.

Seventh-placed Pierre-Louis Loubet adopted a cautious approach to his first day as a full-time M-Sport Ford driver. The same could be said for Hyundai debutant Esapekka Lappi, a mere 1.1sec in arrears.

Fourth-fastest through La Bollène-Vésubie – Col de Turini was a promising start for Takamoto Katsuta, but things quickly turned sour when his Yaris developed a handbrake issue on the next test. The Japanese driver haemorrhaged time through the series of tight hairpin bends and languishes 57.0sec back from the lead in ninth overall.

Friday heads further north for two loops of three stages covering 105.34km. Morning and afternoon runs through Roure / Roubion / Beuil (18.33km), Puget-Théniers / Saint-Antonin (19.79km) and Briançonnet / Entrevaux (14.55km) are on the schedule.

Leading positions after Thursday:
1. S Ogier / V Landais FRA Toyota GR Yaris 26min 33.7sec
2. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +6.0sec
3. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Ford Puma +15.4sec
4. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +15.5sec
5. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris +17.1sec
6. D Sordo / C Carrera ESP Hyundai i20 N +32.1sec

The official Home of World Rallying:
23-01-17 Rallye Monte-Carlo takes centre stage as 2023 WRC roars into action
All you need to know as the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship gets underway
 · 2023 WRC season begins this weekend in Monte-Carlo (19 - 22 January)
· World champion Kalle Rovanperä heads field
· Multiple off-season driver changes add intrigue to season-opener

The wait will soon be over. On Thursday evening, the opening stage of Rallye Monte-Carlo (19 – 22 January) gets underway – signalling the start of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) season.

Based out of the Principality of Monaco, Rallye Monte-Carlo is the jewel in the WRC's crown and the oldest event on the calendar. Treacherous and icy mountain passes in the French Alps provide a fitting backdrop for the opening round.

And what a season it’s going to be. With 13 gruelling rallies spanning five continents, global manufacturers battling for glory plus a host of exciting changes to the driver market, 2023 has all the ingredients for another thrilling campaign.

Setting out to defend its manufacturers’ crown, Toyota Gazoo Racing has retained the services of Kalle Rovanperä, who, at the age of 22, broke records last year by becoming the youngest WRC champion in history. As world champion, Rovanperä had the option to carry the number 1 on his car this year, but will stick with 69.

Joining the young Finn in the GR Yaris Rally1 line-up are Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta, with eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier also set to contest selected rounds. Although Katsuta starts every rally, he will only score manufacturers’ championship points on events where Ogier is not present.

Hyundai Motorsport has put its trust in a combination of new and familiar faces to field its flurry of i20 N Rally1 cars.

Team long-termer Thierry Neuville will be desperate to secure his maiden world title, while newcomer Esapekka Lappi is delighted to be in a full-time seat after car-sharing with Ogier at Toyota Gazoo Racing last season. Craig Breen returns to the team having spent the past year with rivals M-Sport Ford. He will alternate drives with seasoned Spaniard Dani Sordo in the third car.

Another driver returning to their former home is 2019 world champion Ott Tänak, who joins British-based M-Sport Ford from Hyundai. M-Sport shaped Tänak’s early career and it was team owner Malcolm Wilson who gave him his first factory drive back in 2012.

M-Sport’s second Ford Puma will be campaigned by young Frenchman Pierre-Louis Loubet, whose impressive performances during a seven-round campaign last year have resulted in a full-time contract.

"This is a time of the year that always comes with great anticipation,” enthused WRC Promoter Managing Director Jona Siebel. “There have been a number of changes to driver line-ups since FORUM8 Rally Japan which only adds to the intrigue of what is about to unfold.

“The changes also extend to WRC2 which has arguably its strongest-ever entry list with no clear favourite and we will be endeavouring to give this category more coverage than ever before.

“I want to avoid using the word ‘off-season’ as we know the 2023 campaigns already started with testing some weeks ago and all teams, drivers, organisers, the FIA and the Promoter have been working around the clock to be ready for Col de Turini on Thursday night.”

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