World Rally Championship

Kalle Rovanpera, 22 years old, has become the youngest ever winner of a World Rally Championship  (WRC) title after winning Rally New Zealand. Driving for the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team with co-driver Jonne Halttunen, Rovanpera is only in his third season of rallying at the top tier of the sport.

The Finnish driver, who father also took part in the WRC before, is more than 5 years younger than the previous record-holder, Colin McRae, when he won the championship in 1995.


The Hyundai Motorsport team scored another victory in the World Rally Championship (WRC) with Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe leading the team to a 1-2-3 finish at the 2022 EKO Acropolis Rally Greece.

The Belgians seized top spot early in the rally after 9-time world champion Sebastien Loeb had to drop out when his pace-setting M-Sport Ford Puma had alternator failure. From that moment onwards, the Hyundai duo never looked back, followed by team-mates Ott Tanak and Dani Sordo.


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.

Toyota has dominated the World Rally Championship (WRC) news this year with victory after victory, so it was refreshing to have a different brand celebrating its win on the podium. Ott Tanak secured Secto Rally Finland victory to give Hyundai Motorsport its first ever triumph in the event with a perfect drive.

The Estonian driver led from the second stage of the rally to finish the 4-day gravel road fixture 6.8 seconds ahead of Toyota GR Yaris rival, Kalle Rovanpera. Though enjoying a lead, Tanak did not have it easy in his Hyundai i20 N but was still able to produce top times throughout, thanks to hard grit and determination.

Hyundai WRC

At the opening stage of the Rally Finland, Rovanpera had been slow to move forward but then went on to win 5 stages the next day, climbing from fourth to second overall. He ended the penultimate day just 8.4 seconds behind after managing to narrow the gap despite the unpredictable conditions.

Dry conditions ensured further fast-paced action for closing leg, but Tanak was clearly not willing to lose his leading position. He gave just 1.8 second away to his rival over the 4 speed tests, and Rovanpera virtually resigned himself from a maiden home WRC victory.

With a strong collection of points in the bag, the 21-year was unwilling to take any unnecessary risks. Even without winning this round, he has extended his championship lead to 94 points after 8 rounds (with another 5 to go). Meanwhile, the Toyota GAZOO Racing team has a gap of 88 points in the lead in the Manufacturers’ standings with all three Yaris hybrid rallycars in the top four.

Finishing eighth overall, Teemu Suninen finished the event with what was to be his first WRC2 victory of the season. However, it was not to be as he was disqualified due to this i20 N Rally2 car being underweight.

In post-event scrutineering, the weight of the front bumper was recorded as 3,931 gms – below the minimum allowed weight of 4,510 gms required to comply with homologation.

The team did not dispute the finding and explained that the front bumper was not an original part produced by Hyundai Motorsport but a copy. It has been used as a replacement for the original bumper during testing and was fitted to Suninen’s car wrongly.

Suninen’s disqualification meant that Skoda Fabia Rally2 driver Emil Lindholm, who finished 7.7 seconds behind in the rally in a Fabia Evo, received the maximum points as category winner.

In the WRC3 category, Lauri Joona outran his rivals to secure a convincing victory in his home round. The FIA Junior WRC regular won all but 1 stage across the weekend in the all-Ford Fiesta Rally 3 category despite experiencing steering issues on both Friday and Saturday.

Already having a comfortable lead over second-placed Jan Cerny into Sunday, Joona did not let up his relentless push and took a clean sweep on all 4 of the final leg’s speed tests. His win moved him within a single point of championship leader Sami Pajari, who was contesting the WRC2 category.

After Rally Finland, the WRC returns to asphalt in less than 2 weeks when Belgium is again a WRC host country with Ypres Rally Belgium to take place on August 18 – 21.

While Skoda does not compete in the top class of the World Rally Championship, it has been very successful in other segments of the Rally Pyramid, notably in the WRC2 category. Its FABIA is among the most successful rallycars in the world with the rally versions – FABIA Rally2 and FABIA Rally2 evo – having dominated the category from 2015 to 2022. The more than 450 units built by Skoda Motorsport collected 1,710 victories by April 2022, including 4 victories in the legendary Monte Carlo Rally.

Newly developed engine
When it was time to move on to a new generation, the development team at Skoda Motorsport has much experience to draw upon. With the new FABIA RS Rally2, customer teams will have a much more competitive car with a new engine, improved handling, better electronics and enhanced safety features. The new engine is a 1.6-litre turbocharged unit based on the 2.0 TSI from the Volkswagen Group EA888 engine family (used in the RS models).

The output of 289 bhp/430 Nm goes to all four wheels via a sequential 5-speed transmission. Although there is a mechanical clutch, it is only used for starting, parking or when driving slowly. For optimum acceleration on tight, winding rally stages, the FABIA RS Rally2 has a relatively short gear ratio, offering a top speed of around 200 km/h.

Skoda Motorsport Fabia Rally2

To prepare the new FABIA RS Rally2 for action on the rally track, test-drivers subjected prototypes to extensive tests on asphalt, gravel and snow for almost a year. This included trials in the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Croatia, Germany, Belgium and Spain, as well as under extreme winter conditions in northern Finland since mid-2021.

The gruelling test programme validated the special braking system and precisely balanced chassis. In addition, the electronics and controls were also tested to meet the demanding conditions during a rally. Also tested was the special 82.5-litre fuel tank and shock-resistant rubber which meets the FIA’s regulations. Additional protection is provided by a carbon/kevlar composite cover and an absorbent layer on the underside.

Skoda Motorsport Fabia Rally2

Sustainable fuel requirement
Throughout the 2022 season, 100% sustainable petrol will be used by competing cars in the WRC. This is based on modern raw materials and high-purity renewable components. The bio-fuels are derived from biological waste and synthetic e fuels. These are produced using renewable energies that enable electrolysis from ‘green’ hydrogen as well as CO2, which is extracted from the air and industrial processes. The 100% renewable petrol is then mixed in a laboratory without any fossil-fuel components.

Some of the components used in rally vehicles differ significantly from their counterparts in production vehicles. Instead of having up to nine airbags and numerous electronic assistance systems like those found in the production FABIA, the new FABIA RS Rally2 relies purely on mechanics in many aspects. It also features specialised components, such as a roll cage and specially protected fuel tank.

Also unlike the production version sold to the public, the rally version only uses sensors for engine management and displaying the brake pressure, steering wheel position and fuel. The sensors merely provide information; with the production model, they perform any control functions. Only the engine control unit uses sensor data to ensure that it functions optimally in all driving modes and various weather conditions.

Skoda Motorsport Fabia Rally2

In a rallycar, the brake system can save valuable tenths of a second in the fight against the clock. The stronger the deceleration, the later the drivers can brake into a bend. In hard braking manoeuvres, the brake discs easily reach temperatures of more than 700 degrees C. To ensure efficient cooling at all times, the FABIA RS Rally2’s brake discs are internally ventilated, and an optimised brake cooling system is also available for gravel and asphalt stages.

Protecting the crew
Skoda Motorsport engineers have developed a roll-cage which has a total of 35.8 metres of high-strength chrome-molybdenum steel tubing and is welded to the chassis during body construction. The side panels and roof are then mounted over it. This procedure allows for even greater manufacturing precision, as well as a better fit and connection to the body.

The chassis is also engineered to meet the extreme demands of rallying. Compared to the previous model, the suspension stroke of the dampers is now longer and the MacPherson struts are stiffer. In addition, friction in the dampers is reduced. The longer wheelbase also prompted the development of new suspension kinematics.

More downforce generated
Paying attention to detail, the designers managed to almost double the downforce compared to its predecessor – an enormous advantage on the track, as greater downforce facilitates higher cornering speeds. For regulatory reasons, there are no active aerodynamic parts such as the radiator louvre from the production FABIA.

Skoda Motorsport Fabia Rally2

The same air curtains as in the front bumpers of the production car guide the airstream closely and aerodynamically over the body and wheels. They increase the downforce in combination with new side skirts, which prevent air from flowing underneath from the side. Incorporating a front splitter across the entire lower edge of the front bumper, they ensure optimum aerodynamic efficiency at the front.

Several aerodynamic components have been specially developed for the FABIA RS Rally2. In addition to the wider front and rear fenders, the newly developed rear wing increases the downforce. A small spoiler lip, the so-called Gurney flap, serves as a tear-off edge and also improves the downforce. The airflow over the roof is optimised thanks to a centrally positioned air scoop, which simultaneously supplies fresh air to the cockpit.

Support for customer teams
Skoda Motorsport has been supporting numerous customer teams in international rallying since 2020. The teams receive support that includes a comprehensive supply of spare parts and technical support, even at events. Additionally, Skoda Motorsports offers revision work on engines, transmissions and chassis components. Teams taking part in the WRC can also using Skoda Motorsport’s support truck equipped with an array of spare parts. It is available at selected WRC rounds and certain events in the European Rally Championship.

Fully electric Skoda RE-X1 Kreisel rallycar homologated for Austrian Rally Championship

A year ago, the Toyota GAZOO RACING team won the Safari Rally Kenya, the Japanese carmaker’s  first on the gruelling African event since Yoshio Fujimoto/Arne Hertz won the 43rd Safari in 1995 in a Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD.

This year, doing even better than the 1-2 finish in the 2021 event, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing made a remarkable clean sweep of the top 4 positions with the GR YARIS Rally1 car. Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta joined winner Kalle Rovanpera on the podium, with Sebastien Ogier (last year‘s winner) in fourth. The next best-placed car finished 8½ minutes behind the Toyota quartet.

It was also a landmark 10th victory for Toyota on the famous African event, and the first time it has achieved a 1-2-3-4 finish in the WRC since the very same rally in 1993. Only once has any other manufacturer achieved the same feat in the championship in nearly three decades since.

In its second running since returning to the WRC calendar last year, the Safari delivered even tougher conditions, including deep ‘fesh-fesh’ sand on Friday and wet and muddy surfaces on Saturday in addition to the ever-present rocks and stones. It was by far the hardest challenge yet for the new generation of hybrid-powered Rally1 cars.

Rovanpera had an early scare when he ran wide on the very first corner on Thursday’s opening super special in Nairobi and knocked a tyre off its rim. But he and co-driver Jonne Halttunen ran faultlessly thereafter on the way to their fourth victory in 6 rounds, increasing their championship lead to 65 points.

Rovanpera actually never expected to win this rally. He arrived in Kenya with a commanding points lead and played down his glory hopes, instead starting with the mindset that any points from the championship’s roughest encounter would be a bonus. And despite feeling unwell, he strengthened his position on Saturday and thrived in waterlogged conditions as downpours derailed many of his rivals’ hopes. The sizeable 40.3-second margin he carried into Sunday’s finale was extended further by another 2 fastest times and the youngster ended the tough 4-day event in the lead of the Yaris quartet.

Evans and his co-driver Scott Martin also performed superbly and ran their team-mates close for the victory, remaining within 20 seconds of the lead until the rain hit on Saturday afternoon. They finished up 52.8 seconds away as they scored their second podium of the season.

Ogier, the 2021 event winner, led for most of Friday in the defence of his crown until he had to stop and change a tyre on the day’s final stage, losing over 2 minutes. He and co-driver Benjamin Veillas fought back to fourth overall and, with their team-mates focused on reaching their finish, set the third-fastest time in the rally-ending Power Stage to add to the team’s points haul from the weekend. Its Manufacturers’ championship lead has increased to 62 points.

The hotly-anticipated battle with compatriot Sebastien Loeb never materialised either, as the 9-time world champion retired his M-Sport Ford Puma with engine problems on Friday. Nevertheless, Ogier was able to bring home more solid points for Toyota during his part-time campaign.

Hyundai Motorsport’s Thierry Neuville was over 10 minutes behind in fifth overall, despite incurring a 10-minute penalty when he crashed into a tree and failed to finish Saturday’s Sleeping Warrior finale. It was a weekend to forget for the Korean manufacturer, with Estonian Ott Tanak’s i20 N also sidelined by a broken propshaft on the penultimate leg and retiring for a second time with power steering failure on Sunday.

Craig Breen restarted after his early bath on Friday and ended as M-Sport Ford’s leading driver in sixth overall despite nursing suspension problems. Breen gained a position when Oliver Solberg stopped in the middle of the road with an air filter full of dust, causing the cancellation of Sunday’s opener. The young Swede eventually got going again but was plagued by a mechanical issue in the closing speed tests and dropped to 10th.

Competing in Africa for the first time, and having led from start to finish in a Skoda Fabia Rally2, Kajetan Kajetanowicz won the WRC2 class by the massive margin and topped off a perfect weekend by scoring maximum bonus points in the rally-closing Wolf Power Stage. He leapt from fifth in the standings to lead by 5 points after six of 13 rounds.

1. Kalle Rovanpera/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1) 3:40:24.9 secs
2. Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1) +52.8 secs
3. Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1) +1 min 42.7 secs
4. Sebastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1) +2 mins 10.3 secs
5. Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1) +10 mins 40.9 secs
6. Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Ford Puma Rally1) +23 mins 27.9 secs
7. Jourdan Serderidis/Frederic Miclotte (Ford Puma Rally1) +30 mins 16.5 secs
8. Sebastien Loeb/Isabelle Galmiche (Ford Puma Rally1) +32 mins 12.6 secs
9. Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +35 mins 37.6 secs
10. Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai i20 N Rally1) +37 mins 36.6 secs

The story behind TOYOTA GAZOO Racing and why it was created

The Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 car, running a hybrid powertrain, scored its first win in Rally Sweden, the second round of 2022 World Rally Championship with Kalle Rovanpera at the wheel. It was the Finn’s third victory and added another WRC win to the Rovanpera family as his father had won the event 21 years ago in a Peugeot.

Rally Sweden is the WRC’s only snow event (and one of the fastest) and in the early stages, at least 5 drivers were in contention to win. For most of the rally, all three of the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT’s drivers were in close fight for victory on the unfamiliar, high-speed, snow-covered roads (because of the new location nearer the Arctic Circle).

Rovanpera was disadvantaged to be first off the line as the highest-placed driver in the championship, and Ott Tanak of the Hyundai Motorsport team was able to take the opening stage win and build up a lead. However, the Toyota driver regained the initiative early on the second leg and then won the first of Sunday’s 4 stages to extend his lead which he held till the finish.

Hybrid powertrains have issues
Rovanpera’s team mate Elfan Evans was penalised 10 seconds overnight after an incident at the end of Saturday’s final stage, but his hopes of victory were ended in Sunday’s opener. Having started with the centrally-supplied hybrid system deactivated due to an issue, Evans then had a spin in the stage and damaged the front of the car. After stopping to make repairs he reached the end of the stage but, with the hybrid unit not showing the green light as required, was forced to retire in accordance with FIA safety procedures.

Rovanpera’s car also had hybrid issues as did Tanak’s Hyundai i20 N Rally1 car. While disappointing, this was not unexpected (especially in the extremely cold conditions) and Akio Toyoda, the boss of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, expressed a positive view. He said that they ‘gained precious data on how to improve the hybrid system in the harsh cold environment which he hopes can be used not only to win next year but also to provide data to suppliers in the quest to make ever better cars.

Rovanpera’s fellow Finnish driver Esapekka Lappi finished third to complete a double podium finish for the team on his first start for TGR since 2018. Lappi was in a close fight for second position throughout Sunday, ultimately finishing just 8.6 seconds away as he completed a fantastic comeback during the final day.

Solid drive by Ford’s Greensmith
M Sport Ford’s Gus Greensmith with co-driver Jonas Andersson would see their confident and solid drive rewarded with a second consecutive fifth overall finish. The weekend had proven a challenge for the team, with Craig Breen retiring on Friday after getting stuck in a snowbank in the second half of SS2. Once free from the snow, the car was driven back to service where it was repaired for the Saturday stages.

The second day of competition would see Breen claim his first stage win as an M-Sport driver and simultaneously a first stage win for the Puma Rally1 Hybrid on snow and ice. However, further bad luck would see the car suffer an electrical issue, cutting power after a small bump. The crew would utilise the new hybrid technology to allow them to drive some of the stage in full Electric mode before pulling over to make bigger repairs.

Although they were able to find and fix the fault, they would be over their allotted time limit and forced to retire for the day. The final day would see Breen drive through the stages preserving his tyres for the all-important Power Stage where he would take a vital point to go towards his championship tally.

Hyundai team unsatisfied despite podium finish
The podium finish by Thierry Neuville was consolation for the Hyundai Motorsport team but they were far from satisfied with how things went. “There are not really many positives for us to take away,” said Tanak, who was forced to retire due to hybrid problems. “Overall, it has been a frustrating and disappointing weekend. On the plus side, we showed that we had the pace to be competitive.

“We know there is still work to be done, and improvements we need to make on the car, but we have shown we’re getting there. This is an important result, but we hope it’s just the start of our return to the top,” added the team’s deputy director, Julien Moncet.

Rovanpera leads in the Drivers Championship with 46 points, 14 points ahead of Neuville and 19 points ahead of Sebastien Loeb. The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team has collected a total of 83 points after two rounds, with M-Sport Ford 24 points behind, followed by the Hyundai Shell Mobis team 36 points behind the leader.

Round 3 of the WRC moves to Croatia on April 21 and hopefully, the conflict in Ukraine will have ended by then.

World Rally Championship organisers warn spectators of high-voltage dangers with hybrid rallycars

As reported earlier, the FIA aims to make motorsport more sustainable and more environment-friendly. The pursuit of these objectives cover various forms of motorsport, including the World Rally Championship (WRC) which, this year, sees the introduction of hybrid technology mandatory for what are known as Rally1 cars. The plug-in hybrid unit, including all necessary components and software, will be common, with the potential for more freedom of development in 2024.

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, Hyundai Motorsport and M-Sport Ford have fully committed to the WRC from 2022 to 2024 and will run Rally1 cars. They will use a plug-in hybrid powertrain with an existing 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, and must also run on 100% fossil-free fuel to reduce CO2 emissions.

The system’s output is more than 500 ps, with 100 kW contributed by the electric motor which draws its energy from a 3.9 kWh battery pack. Hybrid Electric Vehicle Zones created close to service parks and ceremonial start areas during all rounds of the WRC will require Rally1 crews to demonstrate that they can run in full electric mode over a specified route highlighted in the roadbook.

New safety issues
The introduction of high-voltage hybrid powertrains brings new safety issues for the crew as well as spectators and the FIA has issued new requirements specifically for Rally1 cars. Firstly, there must be two pairs of Class-0 gloves carried in each car capable of withstanding 1,000 volts. These must be easily accessible for the driver and co-driver in the event of an emergency when they are getting out of their car.

Warnings on exterior of Rally1 cars
On the outside, the Rally1 cars are identifiable by an ‘HY’ graphic on the side door panels. Spectators are being warned to look out for this graphic so that they will take care. In rallies, it is not unusual for spectators to rush to a car that has crashed or gone off the road to assist and if a Rally1 car is damaged in certain areas, electric current could leak onto the bodywork.

The organisers therefore want to ensure that there are no incidents of people being electrocuted, and each car has safety lights on the windscreen and both side pillars. These lights will be green when the car is safe to touch. A flashing red light with an audible warning means a car is unsafe to touch.

Second round underway
The 2022 WRC is currently running its second round in Sweden after the opening round in Monte Carlo last month which was won by M-Sport Ford. TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s Kalle Rovanpera got off to a strong start during the speed test in his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1. He gets to start first today though that is not necessarily an advantage in a winter rally.

With Sweden not part of Sebastien Ogier’s programme of selected rallies this season, Esapekka Lappi will make his first start with the team’ since 2018. Rovanpera will open the road as the highest-placed driver in the standings after finishing fourth and winning the Power Stage on Rallye Monte-Carlo.

Elfyn Evans was part of the lead battle on Round 1 before a small but costly mistake ended his chances of a strong result. He will hope for a repeat of the championship’s last visit to Sweden in 2020 when he scored his first victory for Toyota. As on every round this season, Takamoto Katsuta will drive an additional GR YARIS Rally1.

M-Sport Ford’s Craig Breen has a strong track record on snow to date. The Irishman is keen to show his ability on the high-speed snow tests in search of a second consecutive podium result. Off the back of his first ever WRC stage win, Gus Greensmith completed a small Norwegian National event in a Ford Fiesta Rally2 to help acclimatise to the specialist conditions and driving style. The young Englishman is aiming to build on his Monte Carlo result and looking for his first loose surface stage win.

The Hyundai Motorsport team, which had a bad first outing  of the season, has a previous winner of Rally Sweden –  Thierry Neuville who won in 2018. “Rallying is always a bit more spectacular on snow with the studded tyres,” he said . “Usually, as the stages are quite fast, you have to lean into the snowbanks and drive sideways a bit more. You have to be slightly more brutal to get the studs to grip into the ground.”

Closer to Arctic Circle this year
Conditions are extreme, though not unusual for Rally Sweden which is on ice and snow, with temperatures well below 0°C. There is also likely to be rain during the event which is run in the remote forests of north-eastern Sweden, closer to the Arctic Circle. There are 17 stages over 265 kms.

The various stages of Rally Sweden this year.

The stages will all be brand-new to the WRC but the characteristics that make it one of the most popular and spectacular rallies on the calendar will remain. Special studded tyres bite into the surface to provide grip on roads that are lined with snow banks, which drivers lean on to carry more speed through the corners.

Hybrid power for new era of World Rally Championship starts this year

It’s been a while since Ford had a victory in the World Rally Championship (the last one was in the Rally Great Britain in 2018) and Sebastien Loeb’s win in the 2022 Monte Carlo Rally was all the more significant as it was the first one in the new hybrid era of rallying.

Loeb won using the new Ford Puma Rally1 with the British M-Sport Ford team run by Malcolm Wilson, a former rally driver as well. Aged 47, Loeb, from France, was also the oldest winner of an FIA World Rally Championship round. Loeb’s win in Monte Carlo makes it 8 for him, putting him alongside Sebastian Ogier as far as wins on the classic event are concerned.

Loeb had beaten his Ogier, who was using a Toyota GAZOO Racing Yaris Rally1, on the final day when Ogier, driving a, was given a 10-second penalty for a jump-start earlier. To make things worse, a puncture on a front tyre slowed him although he made it to the finish but by then, Loeb had ended with a 10.5-second lead. Incidentally, Ogier will only enter selected events this year after stepping away from full-time competition.

Loeb, accompanied by co-driver Isabelle Galmiche (a 50-year-old teacher), had been running behind Ogier initially but then clocked 4 fastest times consecutively to move into the lead. The Toyota driver’s puncture on the penultimate stage of the rally had lost him his lead of 24.6 seconds but he fought hard and, even with the penalty, cut the deficit down to 10.5 seconds.

Another Ford Puma, driven by Craig Breen, finished in third and added to the team’s points to gain an early lead in the Manufacturers’ championship. Fourth was an impressive result for young Kalle Rovanpera and his co-driver Jonne Halttunen, who made huge strides forward in pace and confidence in their new GR Yaris Rally1.

For the Hyundai Motorsport’s Ott Tanak, the opening round of the 2022 World Rally Championship was one to forget. Tanak, champion in 2019, and his team mates experienced troubles during the second last day and had only 2 of the new Hyundai i20 cars to finish the rally.

“We had a tough weekend,” said Thierry Neuville. “There has been a huge amount of work behind the scenes to prepare for this event, from me and Martijn, as well as the team, so to come away without any reward is hard to accept. We won’t give up. There are different areas we are going to work on but most important is the reliability.”

The WRC2 category was also fiercely contested, with Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen working hard to keep their titles again this year. Signs are good that they can, with victory in their Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo ahead of Erik Cais who was in a Ford Fiesta, and Mikkelsen’s team mate in Toksport, Nikolay Gryazin.

Sami Pajari marked the start of the new-look FIA WRC3 category, which is now for Rally3 cars, beating Jan Cerny to the class win with a margin of just 7.6 seconds. Enrico Brazzoli rounded out the top three with all drivers competing in Ford Fiesta Rally3s.

The new era of WRC, which starts its 50th season this year, focusses on hybrid powertrains for the Rally1 cars, with 100 kW electric motors coupled to 1.6-litre turbocharged engines that generate at least 500 bhp. The new regulations are aimed at moving the championship towards a more sustainable future and include use of 100% hydrocarbon fossil-free fuel.

1. Sebastien Loeb/Isabelle Galmiche | Ford Puma Rally1
2. Sebastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas | Toyota GR YARIS Rally1
3. Craig Breen/Paul Nagle | Ford Puma Rally1
4. Kalle Rovanpera/Jonne Halttunen | Toyota GR YARIS Rally1
5. Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson | Ford Puma Rally1
6.Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe | Hyundai i20 N Rally1
7. Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen | Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo
8. Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston | Toyota GR YARIS Rally1
9. Erik Cais/Petr Tesínsky | Ford Fiesta Rally2
10. Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov | Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo

Hybrid power for new era of World Rally Championship starts this year

A rare Subaru Prodrive 555 Group A Impreza GC8 47D is currently being auctioned in Australia by Lloyds Auctions. The car was used by Colin McRae as well as Carlos Sainz in the World Rally Championship (WRC) is unrestored and in untouched condition from when it was retired in 1996.

This rallycar, developed in 1993, is a significant model in WRC history and was the first car to use the famous L555REP numberplates, celebrating Repsol’s sponsorship with Carlos Sainz and Subaru. It won 3rd place in the 1994 Monte Carlo Rally with Sainz at the wheel.

1994 Subaru Impreza WRC

1994 Subaru Impreza WRC

1994 Subaru Impreza WRC

1994 Subaru Impreza WRC

The Subaru is authenticated original by ICAAARS and Possum Bourne Motor Sport (PBMS) and has been in storage with only 3 owners since it was raced. It still has the original Prodrive 2-litre turbocharged boxer engine and 6-speed manual gearbox.

The Subaru rallycar in action during the 1995 World Rally Championship.

“When we originally saw this car, it was a barn find with an estimated value of A$15,000 – $20,000 (about RM45,600 – RM61,000). Today it’s had a wash and a check of its history, and it may well be worth more than A$1 million (about RM3.041 million),” said Lee Hames, Chief Operating Officer for Lloyds Auctions. The current bid for the car is A$255,000 (about RM775,600).

1994 Subaru Impreza WRC

1994 Subaru Impreza WRC

1994 Subaru Impreza WRC

1994 Subaru Impreza WRC

1994 Subaru Impreza WRC

2022 Subaru WRX starts fifth generation of rally-bred icon


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