The Hyundai Motorsport team scored another WRC victory at the Ypres Rally Belgium as Ott Tanak took his Hyundai i20N Rally1 to win with a 5-second margin. The Estonian driver, co-driven by compatriot Martin Jarveoja, inherited the top spot late on the penultimate day when his team-mate and long-time leader Thierry Neuville understeered off the road and into a ditch, shattering the Belgian’s hopes of a repeat home win.
Tanak, who had also won the last round in Finland earlier this month, carried an 8.2-second buffer over Elfyn Evans (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1) into Sunday’s final leg, which comprised 4 short and sharp asphalt stages in the Flanders region. Although Evans did not make things easy for the leader, with two fastest time times on the opening stages, he was still unable to close the gap.
Tanak’s success reduces the gap with championship leader Kalle Rovanpera. The Toyota GAZOO Racing driver got nothing from this rally as he rolled his hybrid rallycar out of contention on Friday morning. The 21-year-old Finn was, however, able to collect 5 Wolf Power Stage bonus points and, with 72 points, remains on track to become the youngest WRC champion in history.
The two Hyundai wins have not managed to take the team any higher and the Manufacturers’ championship situation remains unchanged. The Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team remains behind Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT with an 88-point gap. In third is the M-SPORT Ford World Rally Team, 191 points behind the leader.
“To win here is a big surprise for us – more or less the same as it was in Finland,” said Tanak. “We didn’t expect it from anywhere basically, but somehow we were able to pull it together during the rally. It’s great to see that some WRC results are coming, but there is so much we can improve and we could still be a lot stronger, so there is still some work to do.”
For Evans, it was a case of what could have been. He gave away valuable seconds on Friday when a slow puncture forced him to run a wet weather tyre in dry conditions. He was also lumbered with a 10-second time penalty for arriving late to SS8. Without that, the outcome could have been different.
Rally2 & Rally3
WRC Rally2 cars also finished within the top 10, with FIA WRC2 victor Stephane Lefebvre leading the charge in a DG Sport Citroen C3 Rally2 ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen (Toksport WRT Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo, Yohan Rossel (PH Sport Citroen) and Chris Ingram (Toksport Skoda), who won the WRC2 Junior division. Armin Kremer took WRC2 Masters glory, while Jan Cerny topped WRC3 in a Ford Fiesta Rally3.
Public debut of hydrogen-fuelled Yaris
The public debut of the Toyota GR Yaris H2 concept took place on the stages in Belgium, and was completed by Toyota rally legend Juha Kankkunen driving the Power Stage ahead of the competitive field in the hydrogen-fuelled car.
The rally was the first time for Toyota to drive an under-development hydrogen-engine vehicle on public roads outside Japan. The GR Yaris H2 served as a testcar and ran ahead of a Safety Car that confirms safe conditions before the start. After driving the GR Yaris H2 himself on Saturday, Team Founder Akio Toyoda had the chance to ride alongside Kankkunen.