Driver Analysis: Rally Sweden

Highlight of the Rally: Marcus Gronholm

Oui oui oui, Marcus Gronholm was back! Oh how we missed the tall heights of this legend & his raw honest stage end comments. It really was a true joy to see him back. Shame it was for the very last time. Thankfully nothing went “up into the ass of Timo!”

Save of the rally: Esapekka Lappi

There were a few contenders for this. Neuville’s 360 spin on Saturday, where he showed his dancing on ice skills while seemingly, losing no time at all was very impressive. But this award goes to Esapekka lappi. Coming in hot and bouncing off a frozen snow bank & nearly rolling the car. Luckily it landed back on all fours and continued on as if nothing happened to a 2nd place finish.

Wooden Spoon: Sebastien Ogier

He reached the highest of highs on the first round of the season in Monte. That didn’t continue into round two when he ditched it into a snow bank and left it there. He is now 3rd in the drivers standings, but with how hot the battle is with Tanak & Neuville. It could be tough to get them points back. On the plus side, a large wooden spoon makes for a good snow shovel.

Driver of the Rally: Teemu Suninen.

Can I pick two for this one? No?

Ok, well then It will have to be Teemu Suninen. (Tanak has won enough times) The young inexperienced driver made it look easy on Friday, beating the best more experienced drivers in the world to lead the way. His pace was truly impressive all weekend. Giving M-Sport the hope they needed for a good result and potential of a possible win this season. Looked handy for a win here on Friday, if it wasn’t for them pesky car sucking snow banks. (The tree & a broken rollcage didn’t help) But give it time. The man to watch in Finland.

And the winner is…..

Ott Tanak. Once again in another world of his own which is far out of reach to others. That Yaris is looking pretty solid too.

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Rally Sweden Review

The 2019 edition of WRC Rally Sweden was a special one. As every surviving World Rally Champion since 1996, descended on the frozen Varmland’s of Sweden. Along with the best drivers of the modern era and they didn’t disappoint.

There was lots of excitement about the two times WRC champ, Marcus Gronholm returning. Surely increasing ticket sales to his favourite event. Entering as a late 50th Birthday present to himself (He actually turned 51 before the event, but Toyota didn’t have enough cars for him last year) He was in it for the fun & didn’t fail to entertain. Coming to the end of the first stage and giving us his “Oui, oui, oui” and honest comments that we have sorely missed along with his brilliant character. Igniting the memories of his battles against 9 times champ, Sebastien Loeb. Especially racing together on the opening, head to head super special – Gronholm won that particular head to head battle.

Petter Solberg was also there for a family day out. With his wife, also celebrating her birthday by sitting in the co-drivers seat of Petter’s Ex-Codriver, Phil Mills Viking motorsport built Ford Escort RS1800. The Solberg pair, taking the win by a minute in the historic class.

But the happiest WRC champ in Sweden, was the four times champion Tommi Mäkinen. Watching on with huge grinning smiles and air jumping claps, as he watched his Toyota Yaris get driven to the top step of the podium by the, once again seemingly unstoppable Ott Tanak. With a car that seems to just work anywhere. The WRC’s most experienced driver, Jari Matti Latvala was hoping to add another win to his 197 WRC starts. Unfortunately too many trips into the snow banks put an end to that hope.

It was Citroen’s Esapekka Lappi who took the 2nd step on the podium. Possibly helped by his retro-cool new shades to help contrast the snow for better visibility. The Finn kept mostly out of trouble, with the exception of a near roll and spin early on in the rally.

Sébastien Ogier’s title challenge took a blow, when he too ended the rally stuck in a snow bank. Flying away from Rally Sweden with just 2 points towards his championship from the powerstage. His biggest rival in Hyundai, Thierry Neuville gave a big push and had a few lucky escapes. Or was it the drivers skill? Sometimes you make your own luck in this game. A few pinball snow bank moments and an incredible 360 recovery on Saturday, dancing on ice. In the end he could only manage 3rd place. However he bags important championship points over Ogier to be ahead of him in the points table. But both of them need to worry about the unstoppable pace of Ott Tanak and his Toyota Yaris. If the end of last year is anything to go by, then the 2019 drivers title could be Tänak’s to loose. He currently leads the drivers title standings by 7 points over Neuville.

Down in WRC2 Pro. Mads Ostberg did the job he was asked to do & won his category for Manufacturer run R5 cars. Although he stated that there is a lot of work that needs to be done to his Citroen C3 R5 car. The ‘private’ WRC2 class podium was dominated by Volkswagens (Did we expect anything less?) With Ole Christian Veiby taking the win in the new Polo R5 and even finishing ahead of WRC2 Pro winner Ostberg. 2nd was Emil Lindholm. With Veiby’s team mate & two times World Rallycross Champion Johan Kristoffersson dropping to 3rd on the final day. Swedish driver Tom Kristensson took the win in the JWRC.

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Rally Sweden Results

1. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:47:30.0
2. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferme (Citroen C3 WRC) +53.7
3. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +56.7
4. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:05.4
5. Elfyn Evans / Scott Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:08.2
6. Kris Meeke / Sebastian Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:38.8
7. Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:49.7
8. Pontus Tidemand / Ola Fløene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:37.7

Words & Photos By Daniel Darrall

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Autosport International Show 2019

The full photo gallery from the annual Autosport International show at Birmingham’s NEC arena. Featuring the WRC, BTCC, F1 along with much, much more. Here are the shows highlights – In pictures.

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WRC 2019 Launches In Birmingham

The World Rally Championships came to town. The official launch and unveiling of the 2019 WRC car’s and team’s line-ups took place at Birmingham’s NEC arena during the Autosport International Show, in front of huge crowds of media and fans for what was known as ‘Super Saturday’.

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The Unveiling
All four teams unveiled their new cars for the 2019 season. All with various updates and developments which will continue throughout the year, as the battle for the manufactures and drivers title intensifies even more for the coming WRC season. M-Sport, Citroen and Hyundai also had new liveries to show off. The launch was brilliantly hosted by WRC All Live commentator Becs Williams which was then followed up with Colin Clark interviewing all the drivers and team bosses over on the Autosport stage. Giving fans plenty of entertainment as the WRC’s best, took over the Autosport Show.

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The Teams

Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team

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Toyota have a super team of experienced, strong-minded drivers. Capable of winning on any rally. The hardest part for the team bosses could be trying to control or give team orders to their drivers, as they only know one thing. To drive flat-out for the win, with what is possibly, the fastest car in the service park.
The lineup includes Last year’s title contender, Ott Tanak & Co-Driver Martin Järveoja. Jari Matti Latvala & Miikka Anttila. Also joining the team will be Kris Meeke with a new man alongside him, Hayden Paddon’s ex Co-Driver Seb Marshall.

Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team

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Hyundai have been working hard to improve their car, with the new 2019 engine already in place, plus some diff and transmission work. Lead driver and last years biggest title rival Thierry Neuville & Co-Driver Nicolas Gilsoul will need everything to try to beat Ogier to the title once again after coming very close last season. One thing he needed last year, was good support from his team mates. This means Hyundai have gone all out with a serious aim to win a title this year. Joining them for 6 rounds of the 2019 & 2020 season’s will be 9 times champion, Sebastien Loeb & Daniel Elena. They will be sharing the car with Dani Sordo & Carlos Del Barrio. Andreas Mikkelsen & Anders Jaeger will be under a lot of pressure in their full season for the team after a disappointing performance last season.

Citroen Racing

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Citroen have struggled since their return to the WRC. This year they have completely changed their line up in the hope of better results. Leading the team, and making a return to where he started his career, will be the current World Champion, Sebastien Ogier and Julian Ingrassia. Hoping to be the 2nd driver in history to win titles for three different manufacture teams. Joining him will be Finn Esapekka Lappi & Janne Ferm.

M-Sport World rally Team

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After having taken the Drivers & Manufactures title in 2017. Then taking the Drivers title once again last year, with Ogier. The championship winning private team from Cumbria, very nearly didn’t make it into the 2019 season. Still with questions over funding, they are going ahead with the 2019 season with some updates from Ford. Piloting their updated Ford Fiesta WRC car will once again be Teemu Suninen and Marko Salminen and Elfyn Evans, who will be joined by a new Co-driver Scott Martin who makes his return to the M-Sport team. Joining them for the first two rallies, will be Pontus Tidemand and Ola Floena. Also Gus Greensmith will be joining the team for Rally Portugal.

Thanks to a great weekend here in Birmingham, we are now set for another brilliant WRC season. Expect lots of drama and close fights out on the stages, as more and more drivers are capable of winning Rallies. The 2019 title fight is wide open.

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Full WRC Launch Photo gallery below.

 

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