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

Wily Ogier Claims Croatian Victory!

Within a few miles, Sébastien Ogier jumped from third to first overall on a dramatic Sunday at Croatia Rally, to score a surprise win as Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans faltered. After three days of neck and neck competition on spectator-packed asphalt roads around capital city Zagreb, victory looked set to be between Neuville, driving a Hyundai i20 N, and Welshman Evans in a Toyota GR Yaris. However, as they headed into the second stage of this final day separated by just 2.6sec, the tables suddenly turned.

A late pace note meant overnight leader Neuville arrived too fast into a left-hander and slid wide before riding up a bank and into a tree. The impact destroyed his Hyundai's rear aerodynamics package but, more importantly, cost him almost 25sec. Unaware of the problem affecting his rival, Evans misjudged a tightening right-hand bend in the very same stage and spun, dropping 20sec as he tried to get his car pointing in the right direction. It meant that Ogier, who had been lurking ominously in third place since the opening stage on Friday morning, suddenly gained a 9.1sec lead with two stages remaining.

Typically, Ogier made no such mistakes and kept Toyota team-mate Evans at bay to celebrate his second Croatia Rally triumph by 9.7sec and a milestone 100th WRC podium: "It's been a tough weekend," admitted Ogier, who was co-driven by Vincent Landais. "We knew coming here that our start position would be an issue, but we never gave up and kept the pressure on for the whole weekend. I don't think I've ever had so many moments in one rally, but it's nice to get the win for the team."

Toyota's 1-2 result extended the Japanese marque's lead in the manufacturers' championship to seven points over Hyundai. But all was not lost for Neuville, who nursed his battered car to the end 36.1sec behind Evans in third. The 18 points Neuville earned by leading on Saturday evening helped to retain his drivers' series lead, and he still heads Evans by six points after round four of 13.

"It is what it is," Neuville reflected. "We had a great few day, but unfortunately today didn't go so well. At the end we're taking important points so it's not so bad. We would have liked to push harder in the Power Stage but these cars without a rear wing are undriveable."

Ott Tänak had a high-speed scare in SS18 when his Hyundai mounted a grass embankment, but the Estonian recovered quickly to secure a fourth-place finish. He initially faced pressure from M-Sport Ford hotshot Adrien Fourmaux before the Frenchman plummeted down the order after damaging his Puma's steering, hitting an anti-cut marker on the same test that caught out Neuville and Evans.

Takamoto Katsuta claimed the maximum seven points available for being the fastest driver across Super Sunday, climbing to fifth in his Toyota after Fourmaux's troubles. Andreas Mikkelsen and Grégoire Munster were sixth and seventh, while Rally2 runners Nikolay Gryazin, Yohan Rossel and Sami Pajari completed the top 10.

Strategically, perhaps Toyota team principle Jari-Matti Latvala should have ensured that it was Evans' victory over 'part-time' Ogier, in order to keep the 2024 driver's championship safely within Toyota? Next month the WRC hits the gravel for Vodafone Rally de Portugal. Round five of the season is based in Matosinhos 9 - 12 May.

23rd April, 2024

BRC Round 2 goes to Pryce & Evans

Osian Pryce scored a sensational win at the second round of the season, the Rallynuts Severn Valley Stages 13 April. Pryce, Co-driven by best friend Rhodri Evans - his first overall rally win - delivered a storming drive in their Michelin-shod Ford Fiesta Rally2, overhauling early rally leader Chris Ingram to win by 20 seconds from William Creighton's similar machine. Ingram rounded out the podium in his Volkswagen Polo GTi, providing two different victors in as many rounds.

Once again, the BRC attracted a star-studded and sell-out entry list as over 62 miles of world-class stages offered up the perfect battleground for some of the best drivers in the business. With iconic tests such as Myherin and Hafren Sweet Lamb in store, the longer afternoon stages, rain and thick mist re-created a sense of Wales Rally GB fever for the thousands of fans who crowded into the stages.

First blood went to Ingram and co-driver Alex Kihurani, stopping the clocks just over three seconds faster than Pryce but from there on in, it was Pryce who took complete control, winning each of the remaining morning stages to head into service with almost 12 seconds in hand over Ingram.

Set-up changes to Ingram's Polo in service saw the North West Stages winner fall back from the front runners, into the clutches of Creighton and Liam Regan who were on a mission over the afternoon loop in their Pirelli-supported Fiesta Rally2. Two fastest times out of the block after service saw the Irishmen close in on Pryce, but it wasn't enough. Exerting his authority on his home Welsh stages, Pryce set the scratch time on the seventh and final stage of the event, to take his first BRC victory since Rally Yorkshire in 2022.

"It's a big relief, I'm so happy to get the win today. We had a dodgy couple of stages at the end, and to be honest, it was so slippery, but I drove at a pace where I was comfortable, said Pryce. I did lose some time, which in the end wasn't too bad, but we certainly had some hairy moments just trying to keep it on the road. Credit to everyone who's got me here. Top job from Rhodri today too, that's his first-ever win! I'm pleased we bounced back from our North West disappointment and now we move forward to the Jim Clark which is an event I really enjoy."

Creighton was a very pleased second place on his gravel debut in the Fiesta. Having spent much of his season so far acclimatising to his new machine for the 2024 season, Creighton underlined his adaptability by keeping Pryce honest and taking his second BRC runner-up spot in as many events, ensuring he remains in the mix to potentially add a further title to his 2021 Junior BRC crown.

Ingram didn't quite get to grips with his Polo on gravel and as the rain descended in the forests during the afternoon, Ingram felt his pace ebb away. However, third spot means he still leads the championship and the hope of getting behind the wheel of a Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 for the next round, offers some consolation for the Castrol MEM Rally Team frontrunner.

Outside of the podium places, James Williams is beginning to get to grips with his Hyundai i20 N Rally2, securing fourth place with Ross Whittock on the notes. All the signs are there for progression this season as top three times came during the day, and he was in a prime position to grab a podium if the front-runners faltered. Garry Pearson and Daniel Barritt made up for a tricky start to their BRC campaign in Lancashire, by sealing fifth overall in their Fiesta Rally2 whilst Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson gave the Yaris Rally2 its UK debut on the gravel to take sixth.

Elliot Payne was far more at home on the gravel and would be as high as sixth despite electing not to take advantage of recce. The Fiesta Rally driver took seventh with Patrick Walsh alongside. Making his British rallying debut and embarking on his first gravel outing, Dutchman Jos Verstappen came to Wales to sample the BRC in his Skoda Fabia R2 Rally2. With co-driver Renaud Jamoul alongside, the father of F1 superstar Max enjoyed his outing, despite the difficult conditions: "We previously tested on gravel, or actually on sand, in the south of France. We really liked it, so started to look for a nice place for a rally on gravel, which is why we did the Rallynuts Severn Valley Stages. It was really difficult, but I enjoyed it. It was incredibly foggy during the first stages. Fortunately, the notes we had were good, but we had to build it up because we had never driven here before. It was a completely new challenge, totally different than what I am used to. But we went for it, and it was great."

Kyle White secured ninth overall in his Hyundai i20, going some way to rectify the opening stage crash in Lancashire and the first real points for the JKS Team Northern Ireland, with Neil Roskell rounding out the top ten in his Fiesta. Four-time champion Keith Cronin cited that Wales had never been kind to him in the past; that wasn't about to change. Stating that a 'podium would be a good result,' Cronin would be fighting for that honour for most of the morning, before a spin and then a puncture in the longest stage of the rally ruled him out of contention in the Fiesta.

Callum Black would endure a testing morning, with a failed fuel pump before the rally even got underway. The team would rectify the issue, and he would run as high as seventh before a sheared bolt on the unit ended his day early. Other retirements came from Ollie Mellors in the Proton Iriz and Dutch driver Roger Hodenius in the Fabia. Alan Carmichael failed to make the opening stage after water pump failure on the road section.

A report of Rallynuts will be broadcast on ITV4 and ITVX on Wednesday 24th April at 20:00 and repeated at 08:00 on Sunday 28th April. Round three of the 2024 championship takes crews into the Scottish Borders for the Beatson?s Building Supplies Jim Clark Rally at the end of May.

18th April, 2024

Rallynuts Severn Valley Stages - BRC Round 2

Following on from a blistering start to the 2024 season, the Probite Motorsport UK British Rally Championship [BRC] now heads for the gravel on 13 April] for the Rallynuts Severn Valley Stages which offers the perfect battleground for round two. Over 62 miles of world-class stages lie ahead, in the form of Myherin, Hafren and Sweet Lamb during a non-stop day of action. Over past years those classic forest tests have hosted the best drivers in the world, with Wales Rally GB famously visiting the region for many years, witnessing World Rally champions crowned and hopes dashed in the daunting tree-lined route.

Much like the first round in Lancashire, the entry list is bulging with talent and the 50th running of the event has attracted a staggering entry of 180 cars, with Britain's premier rally series joining the Llandrindod Wells-based rally for the first time. The Rallynuts Severn Valley Stages kicks off with a ceremonial start in Llandrindod Wells from 18:30 on Friday 12th April, before the action gets underway the following day in the nearby forests. The rally will be broadcast on ITV4 and ITVX Tuesday 24th April at 20:00, and repeated at 08:00 on Sunday 28th April.

10th April, 2024

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