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Victory in Lapland for Hyundai & Tanak

On then to round two of the world rally championship and the new for 2021 Lapland-based Artic Rally where Hyundai's Ott Tanak claimed a dominant victory to kickstart his 2021 World Rally Championship campaign, beating second placed Toyota sensation Kalle Rovanpera, who is now the youngest-ever leader by 4 points of what currently looks like an incredibly open world rally championship!

Third was Hyundai's Thierry Neuville, almost 20 seconds adrift with returning teammate Craig Breen a further 32 seconds behind in fourth, frustrated in his first WRC outing since last year's Rally Estonia, after being forced to replace his gearbox in order to cure an overnight oil leak. Elfyn Evans was fifth and Toyota Teammate Takamoto Katsuta sixth.

Points leader coming into the rally was Sebastien Ogier, who had battled an unfavorable road position throughout the event and crashed out at the flying finish of Saturday's final stage. Seb, finished way outside the top-ten - with nil poi!

Having failed to score in Monte Carlo, the 27 points that Tanak took away from the Arctic Rally boost him into fifth in the drivers' championship standings and helped halve Hyundai's deficit to Toyota in the manufacturers' points.

Poignantly, a minute silence was held before the prizegiving, in memory of 1983 Finnish world champion Hannu Mikkola who died Friday. The tribute was led by Hannu?s former co-driver, FIA president Jean Todt, joined by his former Audi team-mate, FIA Women in Motorsport president Michele Mouton. An F-18 Hornet from the Finnish Air Force flew past in an added tribute.

WRC Arctic Rally result
1 Ott Tanak/M.Jarveoja Hyundai 2h03m49.6s
2 Kalle Rovanpera/J.Halttunen Toyota 17.5s
3 Thierry Neuville/M.Wydaeghe Hyundai 19.8s
4 Craig Breen/P.Nagle Hyundai 52.6s
5 Elfyn Evans/S.Martin Toyota 1m01.5s
6 Takamoto Katsuta/D.Barritt Toyota 1m37.8s
7 Oliver Solberg/S.Marshall Hyundai 1m39.0s
8 Teemu Suninen/M.Markkula Ford 2m09.0s
9 Gus Greensmith/E.Edmondson Ford 3m39.4s
10 Esapekka Lappi/J.Ferm Volkswagen 6m07.0s

Drivers Championship after 2 rounds
1. Kalle Rovanpera 39
2. Thierry Neuville 35
3. Sebastien Ogier 31
4. Elfyn Evans 31
5. Ott Tanak 27
6. Craig Breen 16
7. Takamoto Katsuta 16
8. Dani Sordo 11
Manufacturers
1. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT - 88
2. Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT - 77
3. M-Sport Ford - 24

1st March, 2021

Hannu Mikkola 1942 - 2021

Finnish rallying legend Hannu Mikkola, who died on Friday 26th February aged 78, was one of the most successful and versatile international rally drivers during a 31-year career that saw him compete in a variety of motor genre, from Volvo PV 544 to state-of-the-art Group B Audi S1 and a few others in between.

Born 24th May 1942 at Joensuu, Finland, like many Scandinavian drivers of his period, Hannu started competing in a Volvo PV544 but by the 1970s became associated with Ford, clinching the 1972 East African Safari Rally, not yet a WRC event, in an Escort RS. In 1974 he won his first championship rally, the daunting 1000 Lakes, again in an Escort. In 1975 he triumphed in Morocco, co-driven by current FIA president Jean Todt, in a Peugeot 504, before winning another 1000 Lakes, this time at the wheel of his Toyota Corolla.

In 1977 Hannu hooked-up with Swedish co-driver Arne Hertz and the duo was immediately successful in a partnership that would endure for 13 years, initially with his own team using Toyotas and Peugeots, and then in 1978 as a Ford works crew, winning the British Rally Championship in an Escort. In 1979 he made a serious challenge for the World Rally Championship title, ultimately finishing runner-up, just one point behind Ford team-mate Björn Waldegård and in 1980 was runner-up with Ford again to Röhrl's Fiat. For the 1981 season Hannu then switched to Audi's new factory team.

At Audi, armed with the Quattro 4-WD, the Mikkola/Audi alliance was immediately successful and the combo led the 1981 Monte Carlo Rally, Audi's first event, until an accident put Hannu out. He then won the Swedish Rally, but the early Quattro was blighted by poor reliability and despite winning the RAC Rally, he managed only third in the championship. The following year he won the 1000 Lakes and RAC rallies but did not improve on third position, behind Opel's Walter Röhrl and his own Audi teammate Michèle Mouton.

It all came together in 1983 with four wins and three second places enabling Hannu and Arne to finally take the World Championship title. In doing so, Hannu became to this day the oldest driver to win the world championship. In 1984 he was second in the championship behind teammate Stig Blomqvist and 1985 saw him compete in only four world rallies, scoring one fourth place and 3 retirements to finish 22nd in the final championship standings after the Audi team was overwhelmed by Peugeot and Lancia's Group B blitzkrieg. Hannu remained at Audi until 1987 where his final championship triumph came in that year's Safari Rally in the unlikely shape of an Audi 200 Quattro.

Hannu switched to Mazda 1988 - 1991, driving the 323 4-WD and in 1993 he competed in just the Swedish and Finnish championship rallies for Toyota and Subaru respectively before retiring from motorsport. His 123 world championship starts yielded enviable statistics including 18 wins and 44 podiums, including seven 1000 Lakes Rally victories in his native Finland and four on the RAC Rally of Great Britain. Hannu's 18 victories keep him in the Top 10 of most successful rally drivers in history.

He was also adept at nursing a car on endurance type events and won the grueling Safari rally twice. But perhaps his most high-profile career victory came in the arduous 16,000-mile 1970 London to Mexico City World Cup Rally driving a 1600 Ford Escort with Gunner Palm, and this victory in what was considered to be the toughest rally ever run would spawn Ford's iconic Escort Mexico model.

Since retiring, Hannu continued to make appearances as Rallying Royalty, including the Goodwood Festival of Speed where he also designed its famous rally stage. He was re-united with Gunnar Palm in 1995 for the 25th anniversary run of the 1970 London to Mexico World Cup Rally, which he won for the second time, and in 2000 he competed in the London-Sydney Marathon Rally in his 1968 1000 Lakes Rally winning Escort RS1600, co-driven by his oldest son, Juha Mikkola.

It is impossible to do justice to the many achievements of such a remarkable competitor and driver in this brief appreciation and we offer our condolence to Hannu's family and his many friends.

28th February, 2021

M-Sport Ford ready for Artic Rally Finland

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team venture to the frozen north this week as the FIA World Rally Championship makes its Arctic Circle debut at the newly-formed Arctic Rally Finland. Contesting the only full-snow event of the year, the team will field two EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs for Teemu Suninen and Gus Greensmith, as well as an EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2 for Adrien Fourmaux in the WRC 2 Championship.

Two additional Ford Fiesta WRCs have also been entered for Lorenzo Bertelli and Janne Tuohino, and Martin Prokop will join Fourmaux for a WRC 2 campaign with the Fiesta Rally2. Rallying is known for pushing boundaries and extremes, and this week will see the team subject to temperatures as low as -30 degrees C. Limited hours of daylight in the Finnish forests will also see some stages run under the cover of darkness ? making the challenge as tough as it will be spectacular!

As man and machine combat the intense conditions, the Fiestas will reach incredible speeds with Pirelli's Sottozero Ice tyres biting through the snow to capture incredible grip on the hard ice below.
The crews can also use the snowbanks to their advantage - guiding their Fiestas through the corners to bolster their speed. But misjudge the art by leaning too hard, and they risk being dragged into the bank with nothing but a snow shovel to dig themselves free!

Arctic Rally Finland has all the making of a true classic, and the team are in the midst of a pre-event test - each driver enjoying a full day at the wheel as they get to grips with the ultimate winter playground and the art of arctic rallying.

24th February, 2021

M-Sport's Mixed Monte Carlo Rally Feelings

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team's Gus Greensmith and Elliott Edmondson overcame tricky conditions at the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo to bring their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC home in eighth place overall. The team had the pace to challenge for the top results this weekend, Teemu Suninen the fastest man before his untimely exit, and coming off the back of a confidence-building test, Greensmith was hoping to use that speed to his advantage.

But come the rally this promise didn't translate, and the young Brit struggled to find a comfortable rhythm behind the wheel, missing some self-assuredness at an event where even the most experienced drivers must feel comfortable behind the wheel. Not allowing his frustration to impact the opportunity, he maintained a cool head. Learning for the future, the youngster improved to secure a fifth fastest time, some positive splits and a haul of points on the first event of the year.

Elsewhere in the WRC 2 category, Adrien Fourmaux and Renaud Jamoul showcased the pace and performance of the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta Rally2, second only to experienced rally-winner Andreas Mikkelsen. Adopting a clever strategy, the Franco-Belgian pairing displayed a near-perfect blend of speed and consistency producing stage-winning performances complimented with a risk-free strategy through the trickier sections.

24th January, 2021

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