Rovanpera becomes youngest WRC winner

20-year-old Kalle Rovanpera scored a record-breaking win at Rally Estonia after a remarkable drive on Saturday's opening stage, described as the one of the performances of the season, when the Finnish youngster was 10s faster than his nearest rival on stage Ott Tanak.
The young Toyota driver produced a measured drive on Sunday to complete the 24-stage gravel rally 59.9s ahead of Hyundai's Craig Breen, who equaled his best WRC result on his first top-flight drive on gravel since last year's Rally Estonia.
Rovanpera and co-driver Jonne Halttunen emerged as the crew to beat on Friday after a series of fastest stage times earned him an 8.5s lead over Breen. However, a stunning performance in Saturday's opening stage more than doubled his advantage to set up the win, but a mature drive followed which completed the victory.
The victory has seen the son of former WRC rally winner Harri Rovanpera, take over the mantle of youngest-ever WRC winner from his Toyota team boss Jari-Matti Latvala, who triumphed in Sweden for Ford in 2008, aged 22.
Hyundai's Thierry Neuville boosted his title bid by claiming the final podium position ahead of championship leader Sebastien Ogier, while fellow title contender Elfyn Evans was fifth. Ogier leads Evans by 37 points in the championship standings. M-Sport's Teemu Suninen survived a couple of wild moments on Sunday to claim sixth with Hyundai's Pierre-Louis Loubet in seventh.
Pre-event rally favourite Ott Tanak was forced to restart on Saturday after retiring with a double puncture on Friday however, the Estonian showed his pace by claiming the most stage wins with 11 in the books, including the points-paying Power Stage.
Tanak started the final loop of stages by returning to the top of the timesheets as he edged Neuville by 0.2s on the stage he shared the fastest time with the Belgian earlier in the morning.
Ogier was third fastest ahead of the measured Rovanpera, while Suninen was lucky to save a wild tank slapper that threatened to end his rally two stages from the end.
Neuville won the penultimate stage by 0.1s from Ogier, but it wasn't without drama after the former checked into the stage one minute late, resulting in a 10s penalty and the sanction reduced the gap back to Ogier in fourth overall to just 10.7s with the final stage remaining.
Unlike all the previous stages, the final test was a mix of gravel and concrete sections to provide a final twist in the tale. Greensmith put down the first benchmark in the Power Stage but that was quickly obliterated by Tanak to the tune of 10.5s. Suninen was next onto the stage, but a half-spin ended his hopes of Power Stage points. Evans and Ogier both struggled and failed to topple Tanak and Neuville also fell short of his teammate.
In the end, Tanak took the full points from Neuville, Ogier, Evans and Rovanpera. In WRC2, Andreas Mikkelsen (Skoda) took the victory by 15.2s from Citroen's Mads Ostberg, who had to battle a brake problem, while Marco Bulacia was third.
The championship heads to Belgium for Rally Ypres from 13-15 August.

19th July, 2021

Edwards takes Nicky Grist Stages

Matt Edwards scored a hard-fought victory at the second round of the series, the Nicky Grist Stages and in doing so, got his third Motorsport UK British Rally Championship title chase back on track.

Edwards and co-driver Darren Garrod took their Pirelli-shod Volkswagen Polo GTi to a five-second victory over fellow Welshman Tom Cave after a thrilling eight-stage battle. Cave, guided by Dale Furniss, adapted quickly to their new Ford Fiesta Rally2 to finish seven seconds ahead of Osian Pryce and Noel O'Sullivan in their Michelin rubbered Volkswagen Polo GTi.

World-class stages greeted a stellar BRC entry for the Welsh gravel encounter, and the Epynt Military ranges provided the ultimate battle for supremacy on the first gravel round of the season. Despite stopping the clocks of the opening stage down in fourth spot, two-time British champion Edwards wasted no time in stamping his authority on the top of the timesheets, recording five fastest stage times during the remainder of the day.

Osian Pryce and Tom Cave would also enjoy a spell at the top of the leaderboard but it was Edwards who would take the initiative in Crychan to emerge ahead of the chasing pack heading into the mid-point service halt. But despite a late charge from Pryce on the final test, Edwards was never going to be overhauled, as he secured his first victory of the season and the first for the Volkswagen Polo Gti in the British Rally Championship - ending a 21-year drought for the German marque. Edwards now heads the BRC standings after fourth place at the season opener.

Rhys Yates/James Morgan were the leading M-Sport crew home in fourth. Having set the third fastest time on the opener, Yates' Fiesta Rally2 could never quite live with the leaders as a warning light issue hampered progress.

Making a welcome return to the BRC, M-Sport's Matthew Wilson contested his first championship round since 2016 and with Stuart Loudon in the co-drivers seat, enjoyed a solid run to fifth in a Fiesta Rally2. Adding to a star-studded entry list, four-time BRC champion Keith Cronin made a strong start to his latest campaign in sixth driving his Hankook-backed Fiesta Rally2. Cronin and co-driver Mikie Galvin built their pace gradually throughout the day to bag a confidence-boosting run on Cronin's first event behind the wheel since 2018.

The Moffett brothers enjoyed a close-cut battle for seventh, with Josh taking the family rivalry honours as he and co-driver Andy Hayes grabbed seventh in their Hyundai i20. Winning the opening round at Oulton Park, Sam Moffett and Keith Moriarty secured eighth in their Fiesta Rally2.

The National Rally Title fight was dominated by Elliot Payne and Cameron Fair in their Ford Fiesta. With scintillating stage times throughout the day, their pace would be good enough for sixth overall in the BRC top-flight and the category win by 23 seconds from second-placed Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson in their Fiesta WRC. Garry Pearson/Niall Burns manhandled their Mitsubishi Evo IX to third and the final podium spot.

With the competition as close as ever, the Junior BRC contingent were eager to maintain their opening round momentum, however round one winners William Creighton and Liam Regan couldn't quite make it two from two. Battling with fellow Ford Fiesta Rally4 crew Ruairi Bell/Gareth Parry, Creighton ended his rally in the Welsh shrubbery, allowing Bell to storm to his maiden Junior BRC victory. Finlay Retson/Rhys Stoneman enjoyed their first podium of the season to take second, with Kyle White/Sean Topping taking yet another sensational result in their Peugeot 208 to round out the podium spots.

Continuing in the forests, round three will see the British Rally Championship head to Scotland for the Grampian Forest Rally near Aberdeen in August.

Motorsport UK British Rally Championship - Overall After Round 2
1st Matt Edwards 37
2nd Rhys Yates 34
3rd Sam Moffett 31
4th Osian Pryce 30
5th Tom Cave 18
6th Josh Moffett 14
=7th Matthew Wilson 10
=7th Seb Perez 10
=7th D.Henry 10
10th Mellors 4

1st Darren Garrod 37
2nd Keith Moriarty 31
=3rd James Morgan 30
=3rd O'Sullivan 30
5th Dale Furniss 28
6th Stuart Loudon 10
7th Gary McElhinney 9
8th Andy Hayes 8
9th Mikie Galvin 4
10th Rory Kennedy 2

13th July, 2021

Ogier's Sardinian Victory with Toyota

Reigning WRC champion Sébastien Ogier headed a Toyota 1-2 finish on Rally Italia Sardegna. The Mediterranean island's treacherous rock-strewn gravel roads provided the Frenchman's third win of the season - his 52nd career win - some 46.0sec clear of Elfyn Evans, thus extending his championship lead to 11 points after five of the 12 events.
As championship leader, it was reckoned that Ogier could not win this fifth round as he started first on Friday's opening leg, ploughing a line through loose gravel, which became progressively cleaner and offered more grip with the passage of each car. Against all predictions, the Frenchman ended the day just over half a minute adrift of Ott Tänak and Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Dani Sordo.
On Saturday in improved conditions, Ogier recorded a series of fastest times and when Tänak ripped a rear wheel from his i20 World Rally Car after hitting a rock, and Sordo rolled, Ogier eased through Sunday's finale.
Evans initially trailed by more than a minute after the first leg but set-up changes improved the Welshman's feeling with his car and a handful of stage wins propelled him up the order to increase Toyota's manufacturers' series lead over Hyundai to 49 points. There was a late scare however when his car spluttered to a halt after the same water splash that troubled Ogier and he was stationery for almost 20 nail-biting seconds before the engine restarted.
Third place for Thierry Neuville, a further 19.2sec behind, was poor consolation for Hyundai. The Belgian spent all weekend fine-tuning his i20's set-up but none of the changes delivered the pace to match the Toyota twins ahead. Such was the level of attrition that fourth-placed Takamoto Katsuta was the only other top-level driver to avoid retirement. The Japanese pilot matched his career-best finish from the previous round in Portugal.
Fifth went to WRC2 winner Jari Huttunen. The Finn relegated Mads Østberg when the Norwegian punctured on Sunday's second stage and held off a determined charge through the final two tests to end 7.5sec ahead.
WRC3 winner Yohan Rossel finished seventh with Pepe López and Jan Solans next up. Marco Bulacia completed the leaderboard despite a final day roll.
The championship reaches its midpoint with a return to Africa for the first time since 2002. The Safari Rally Kenya is based in Naivasha on 24 - 27 June.

6th June, 2021

BRC 2021 - Round One To Moffett

After an enforced 18-month break, the 2021 British Rally Championship restarted with a bang in Cheshire when Irishman Sam Moffett won the opening round on Bank Holiday Monday 31 May, at the Neil Howard Stages. Throughout the day Moffett and co-driver Keith Moriarty had steadily moved their Ford Fiesta Rally2 up the leader board to secure their maiden BRC victory by a slender one-second margin over Rhys Yates/James Morgan, who equaled their best BRC result. All day the leaders were hounded by a gaggle of rapid British Championship crews with Osian Pryce/Noel O'Sullivan taking their Volkswagen Polo to the final podium spot.

Despite being in fifth place on the opening stage and having no competitive experience in the Pirelli-shod Fiesta Rally2, Moffett's pace increased across the event's eight stages to secure second after the sixth timed run. A solid run on the seventh stage saw him take the lead, holding off Yates' fastest final stage charge to secure the win by just one second.

The final result was not clear-cut however, as the lead changed hands several times over the course of the 56-mile event. Second place man Yates would lead after SS6, only to lose it on the seventh to eventually take runner-up spot on his BRC return in the Michelin-backed Fiesta. Volkswagen Polo debutant Pryce had a strong start to his day in second, before dropping out of the podium positions mid-point through but making it back into third. Series newcomers, Frank Bird/Jack Morton, had set a blistering pace to lead much of the event, before being excluded on a technical infringement.

The rally saw almost 45 British Rally Championship contenders take the start and the competition was first-class throughout the leaderboard and a sizeable crowd witnessed the action around Oulton Park's imaginative rally layout over the course of the day. Twice BRC champion Matt Edwards featuring strongly throughout but a ten-second penalty saw the Volkswagen Polo ace eventually finish fourth with Darren Garrod in the co-driver's seat.

Desi Henry/Dale Furniss opened their BRC account with an impressive fifth place in their Hyundai i20 as Seb Perez/Gary McElhinney pulled themselves back from outside the top ten, to take sixth in their M-Sport Fiesta Rally2. The Junior BRC battle was a little more straightforward but still provided plenty of action for the fans to enjoy. Hunting down the impressive FIA World Rally Championship prize drive opportunity for the series victor was Junior WRC contenders William Creighton/Liam Regan.

The National Rally Champion title-fight fielded another impressive entry, with Garry Jennings/Rory Kennedy making a BRC return on fine form in a right-hand-drive Ford Fiesta, leading the way until a puncture on SS6 put paid to a perfect season start. Victory went to Thomas Preston/Carl Williamson in the fire-breathing Ford Fiesta WRC, with Charles Payne/Aled Edwards and Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson taking second and third respectively in similar machines.

Next, the series switches to gravel and the daunting Welsh forest stages for the Nicky Grist Stages in July and it looks like an open and competitive 2021 championship with at least 6 crews capable of taking the title - speed and consistency will be the key.
Motorsport UK British Rally Championship Points After Round 1
1st. Sam Moffett 25 / Keith Moriarty 25
2nd. Rhys Yates 22J / James Morgan 18
3rd. Osian Pryce 15 / Noel O'Sullivan 15
4th. Matt Edwards 12 / Darren Garrod 12
5th. Desi Henry 10 / Dale Furniss 10
6th. Seb Perez 9J / Gary McElhinney 8
7th. Josh Moffett 6 / Andy Hayes 6
8th. Oliver Mellors 4 / Max Freeman 4
9th. Joseph McGonigle 2 / Ciaran Geaney 2
10th. James Wilson 1 / Arthur Kierans 1

5th June, 2021

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