Rovanperä - Remarkable Rally Poland victory

Kalle Rovanperä, who is undertaking a selected programme of 2024 events, never actually planned to start Rally Poland but was called by his Toyota GAZOO Racing team to replace Sébastien Ogier after the Frenchman was involved in an accident during Tuesday recce, leaving reigning champion Rovanperä and co-driver Jonne Halttunen less than 48 hours to prepare. But that urgent call didn't affect the Finn too much as he scored his 13th career victory behind the wheel of a GR Yaris Rally1, beating team-mate Elfyn Evans by 28.3sec in a Toyota 1-2 after Hyundai rival Andreas Mikkelsen plummeted down the order on Sunday.

Rovanperä began the final leg 9.4sec in front of Mikkelsen, but the Hyundai driver's bid for a second Rally Poland victory was foiled when he crawled to the end of the opening stage with a tyre off the rim. He tumbled to sixth by the finish as M-Sport Ford man Adrien Fourmaux completed the podium 14.4sec behind Evans: "It's been quite an amazing week! Definitely I have to say we have been working quite hard and we are really tired now. I think the best thing is we came here, and it was not a bad idea to come. We helped the team a lot and took a lot of points for the manufacturers' championship, so we didn't waste our time."

Mikkelsen was chasing his first victory since 2016 and led through Friday before slipping behind Rovanperä in the penultimate leg. Flailing rubber from a puncture ripped his i20 N car's rear wheel arch apart and the Norwegian chose to cruise through the closing stages:
"It was sad what happened today, we were really unlucky. The right thing to do [after that] was to bring the car back for the team".

Disappointingly, the four-day rally - reinstated this year on the WRC calendar - was blighted once again by unruly numbers of spectators while also experiencing hot weather throughout. In the event, the rally provided edge-of-the-seat drama as drivers traded tenths of a second on ultra fast roads. Ignoring a tyre delamination on Saturday and slow puncture in the finale, Evans fared well compared to his main title rivals and overtook Ott Tänak to reclaim second in the drivers' championship and cut Neuville's lead to 15 points with six rounds remaining.

Accident damage caused Tänak's Friday morning retirement but he restarted on the following days to salvage 11 points from Super Sunday. In the meantime, Hyundai colleague Neuville won the Wolf Power Stage and finished fourth after sweeping the road clear on Friday. M-Sport Puma star Fourmaux, who scored his third podium of the season, ended the rally 28.1sec clear of Neuville while Latvia's Martins Sesks produced a mighty fifth-place finish on his WRC debut, and even ran as high as second early in the event driving a non-hybrid Puma, to be upgraded to a full-spec Rally1 car for his home round next month!

Mikkelsen limped home over two minutes back from Rovanperä in sixth ahead of Grégoire Munster and Takamoto Katsuta. Ninth place went to Sami Pajari, winner of the WRC2 category, while Oliver Solberg sneaked into the top 10 again. The WRC resumes at Tet Rally Latvia, a brand-new round for the championship, which based in Liepaja 18 - 21 July.

30th June, 2024

Tänak steals Italian victory from Ogier!

The Hyundai i20 driving Estonian claimed a shock victory at Rally Italia Sardegna from long-time leader Sébastien Ogier when Tänak sealed his maiden win of the season for the Korean manufacturer after a damaged tyre in the final rough road speed test put paid to part-timer Ogier's third consecutive FIA World Rally Championship victory.

Having traded times with Tänak early in the rally, Ogier had led since Saturday afternoon in his Toyota GR Yaris and started the final Wolf Power Stage with a 6.2sec advantage but ended 0.2sec behind after drama unfolded in the closing kilometres which provided the joint-closest finish in WRC history - matching the result of Rally Jordan in 2011. On that occasion, Ogier was on the winning side and held off his now team boss Jari-Matti Latvala.

Tänak, who scored his previous victory in Chile last year, was characteristically humble in victory after experiencing similar heartbreak on the very same stage in 2019 when a power steering malady cost him a guaranteed win: "For the emotion it's good, but obviously I am very sorry for Séb. To lose a win like this is cruel and I've been in exactly the same position myself a couple of years ago."

Dani Sordo made it two Hyundai cars in the top three, helping the marque to remain the lead of the manufacturers' championship by eight points over Toyota. The 41-year-old was initially out of sorts but profited as drivers ahead of him suffered heartbreak. One of those drivers being his team-mate Thierry Neuville, whose podium bid went awry when he slid off the road on SS8. Nevertheless, there was some consolation for the Belgian when he claimed the full 12 points from Super Sunday to retain the driver's series lead over Elfyn Evans who was not optimistic for the rough gravel roads but, while he ended almost three minutes back from the lead in fourth, the Welshman succeeded in reducing Neuville's championship lead from 24 to 16 points - but Ott Tänak has now joined the Welshman in joint second place also on 104 points. Hyundai now lead the WRC manufacturers championship by a slender 13 points from Toyota.

Fifth was M-Sport Puma youngster Grégoire Munster and his Ford team-mate Adrien Fourmaux, who had run as high as third early on, retired in Friday's final test with an electrical fault. Such was the high level of attrition, WRC2 machinery filled the remaining top 10 positions, with Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 driver Sami Pajari claiming the WRC2 win and sixth overall, while behind him were Yohan Rossel, Jan Solans, Martin Prokop and Kajetan Kajetanowicz.

WRC drivers will experience high-speed action at ORLEN 80th Rally Poland later in June, based at Mikolajki. The gravel event returns to the championship for the first time since 2017 and takes place from 27 - 30 June.

Drivers Championship
1. Thierry Neuville (Belgium) Hyundai, 122 points.
2. Ott Tanak (Estonia) Hyundai, 104 points.
3. Elfyn Evans (Great Britain) Toyota, 104 points.
4. Sebastien Ogier (France) Toyota, 92 points.
5. Adrien Fourmaux (France) Ford, 74 points.

Manufacturers Championship
1. Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 269
2. oyota Gazoo Racing WRT 256
3. M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 131

2nd June, 2024

Cronin wins BRC Jim Clark Rally

Keith Cronin finally steered his bid for a fifth Probite British Rally Championship title back on track after a dismal start to this year's campaign. Cronin, and co-driver Mikie Galvin took their Pirelli shod Ford Fiesta Rally2 to their first win of the season at the Beatson's Building Supplies Jim Clark Rally 24-25 May. In doing so they fended off the advances of 2019 Junior BRC champions William Creighton and Liam Regan who claimed second spot, with local hero Garry Pearson and co-driver Daniel Barritt rounding out the podium spots, ensuring a Fiesta Rally2 podium lock-out.

An action-packed weekend on the grueling closed roads around the host town of Duns guaranteed this year's event to be tougher than ever with an extended Friday night format providing the perfect battleground for the BRC elite. Add in the return of the iconic Langton watersplash test and all the signs were pointing to a classic.

The Jim Clark Rally did not fail to deliver the drama. After significant rainfall through the build-up, conditions were unpredictable, however, it was a familiar name at the top of the standings on Friday. Chris Ingram reveled in the wet conditions of the North West Stages in March, and once again showed his hand in the Castrol MEM Rally Team Volkswagen Polo GTi. The Michelin-backed machine flew through the opening three tests, winning each with relative ease to enjoy a 20-second lead after the first loop. Cronin was yet to play his ace card though, Abbey St Bathans in the dark. A sensational time: over 14 seconds quicker than Ingram helped to close that gap to just 8.6 seconds heading into day two.

But Ingram's hard work would come undone on Saturday morning when his Polo left the road on the first pass of Edrom, taking out the front left suspension and putting him out of the rally lead and into retirement. That played perfectly into the hands of Cronin who was desperate for a good result to ensure he remained in contention for another BRC title. A managed drive over the final loop was all that was needed to finally stand on the top step of the BRC podium in 2024.

A delighted Keith Cronin: "It's been a long time coming. The first two rounds didn't go our way, unfortunately, but Championships are long. This win gives us a fighting chance again, but it's still a long championship."

For Creighton, it was a case of being the bridesmaid for the third time this season, but the Irishman didn't mind. That second overall is enough to launch him firmly into the lead of the championship, the only driver to have claimed a podium on every round so far. His consistency is a testament to his hard work in the World Rally Championship and Creighton heads into the summer break with a 15-point advantage. No one in the 140-strong entry list was more eager for a positive result than Duns driver Garry Pearson. After ending his 2023 attempt at the Jim Clark off the road, a positive result in front of a home crowd was important and he duly delivered.

Pearson would head home team-mate Max McRae who secured his best BRC result in fourth spot. He and Cammy Fair built confidence as the rally progressed, with McRae still acclimatizing to Rally2 machinery and securing his first finish of the season in the process.

Rounding out the top five was Kyle White, who secured an impressive result in his Hyundai i20 with Emily Easton Page on the notes. It?s his first year in Rally2 machinery and despite a few moments along the way, scooped his best BRC result in BRC1, upholding honours for the JKS Rally Team Northern Ireland and holding off Neil Roskell and Dai Roberts in their Fiesta.

The Scottish Borders roads provided arguably the toughest challenge of the BRC roster so far, claiming a myriad of top-flight contenders. An incorrect tyre choice for round two winners Osian Pryce and Rhodri Evans was the least of their concerns after drowning their Fiesta Rally2 in the Langton ford on Friday night: into instant retirement. Meirion Evans was forced to park his Yaris GR Rally2 up with steering issues, as did James Williams in his Hyundai. Suffering at the same ford as Pryce, Elliot Payne would hermitage time on all three passes of the stage, before engine issues forced him out for good on Saturday morning.

It was a familiar name at the top of the National Rally Title podium as round one winner Darren Atkinson with new co-driver Harry Stubs made it two starts and two wins. They also enjoyed the Ford Escort MK2 bragging rights from second-placed Matthew Dance/Jason Davies, and it was Nathan Bolton/Phil Kenny who took third in their Mitsubishi Evo.

The British Rally Championship now has a two-month sabbatical and August's Voyonic Grampian Rally sees a return to the gravel for round four of the series in Banchory near Aberdeen. In the meantime, the Jim Clark Rally will be broadcast on ITV4 and ITVX on Wednesday 5th June at 20:00 and repeated at 07:55 on Sunday 9th June.

Driver's Championship
1. William Creighton 57
2. Chris Ingram 43J
3. Keith Cronin 36
4. Garry Person 30
5. Osian Pryce 28

27th May, 2024

Ogier - Rally de Portugal Victory!

Sébastien Ogier became the most successful driver in the 56-year history of the Rally de Portugal - a founding round of the FIA World Rally Championship way back in 1973 - after powering to a 7.9sec victory over his Hyundai Motorsport rival Ott Tänak. During the 3-day event, five different drivers led the grueling gravel fixture, which utilized roads near the northern Portuguese cities of Porto and Matosinhos and drew attendance from tens of thousands of passionate fans.

Ogier seized the top spot during a fast and furious Saturday, during which his young Toyota GR Yaris team-mate Kalle Rovanperä rolled out of the lead and Takamoto Katsuta retired his similar car with shattered rear suspension. Ogier then headed the i20 N car of Tänak by 11.9sec arriving at Sunday's four-stage finale and stayed cool to keep the Estonian at bay, even soaring high over the legendary Fafe jump to round out this fifth round of the season in style.

Second place marked Tänak's best result since re-joining Hyundai at the beginning of the year and the additional seven points he earned for topping the Super Sunday classification helped move him ahead of Adrien Fourmaux to third in the championship standings. It was also a strong Championship weekend for Thierry Neuville, who filled the final podium step 1min 1.9sec behind his Hyundai colleague. Belgian star Neuville extended his drivers' series lead to 24 points over Elfyn Evans after the Welshman endured a torrid week, finishing down in sixth having overcome a coolant leakage through the final day.

Fourmaux climbed from fifth to fourth, passing the Hyundai of Dani Sordo on SS19 and pulling more than a minute clear of the Spaniard by the end. The M-Sport Ford youngster has finished all five rallies so far this year, gracing the top five on all but one occasion. Evans' coolant leak forced him to crawl out of SS21 in EV mode and exacerbated what had already been a challenging outing for the GR Yaris driver. On Friday his co-driver Scott Martin resorted to reading pace notes from a mobile phone after misplacing his physical book, and the crew failed to post a single top-three stage time.

Citroën C3 Rally2 driver Nikolay Gryazin took seventh overall ahead of Jan Solans, who was the best-placed WRC2-registered driver in eighth. Solans edged Josh McErlean by just 3.2sec while Lauri Joona completed the top 10. Next round of the 2024 championship is Sardinia where Competitors face hot weather and rough roads on the sunny Mediterranean island. Rally Italia Sardegna is based in Alghero from 30 May - 2 June.

12th May, 2024

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