WRC Belgium: The Good, The Bad and a resilient Tanak

After five consecutive rounds on gravel, the World Rally Championship returned to asphalt for what proved to be an attritional Ypres Rally Belgium. Autosport reviews the highs, lows, turning points, close calls and heartbreak from an event finally conquered by Hyundai’s Ott Tanak

WRC Belgium: The Good, The Bad and a resilient Tanak

Top Performer - Ott Tanak and Martin Jarveoja

For the second consecutive rally, Hyundai’s Ott Tanak and co-driver Martin Jarveoja deserve the Top Performer Award after coming through a particularly challenging Ypres Rally Belgium to claim their third victory of 2022.

Ypres’ tricky narrow tarmac roads can catch out the best of drivers, as championship leader Kalle Rovanpera and 2021 winner Thierry Neuville proved by crashing out of the lead during the event. While Tanak may have inherited the rally lead, he showed blistering pace at times on a surface that isn’t perhaps his favourite, and displayed resilience to avoid Ypres' pitfalls.

Tanak managed to stay in touch with team-mate Neuville through Saturday despite a transmission issue that left the 2019 world champion with an inconsistent four-wheel-drive system on his i20 N, which again proved a difficult car to handle. The Estonian also successfully fended off a late charge from Toyota’s Elfyn Evans to seal an unlikely win by five seconds over the Welshman.

This was Tanak’s second consecutive win, after his against-the-odds triumph in Finland, and his third of the season after winning in Sardinia in June. Once again, the win came as a surprise to Tanak, who hinted that the success was more down to him than the progress Hyundai has made with the i20 N.

When asked if he could have imagined a win before the weekend, he said: “No, not really, because our pre-event test was not really great so we didn't have a great confidence before the rally. But during the rally, we were able to pull it together.

“A lot of things were happening around us with other people and we kept it together. It was not coming by pure performance you know, it was quite a job.”

While the title appears out of reach now, it’s pertinent to note that if the season had started in Sardinia, Rovanpera’s lead over Tanak would be only three points. The Tanak of old appears to be back and delivering his very best.

Tanak won his second rally on the trot, his third of the year, to consolidate second in the standings

Tanak won his second rally on the trot, his third of the year, to consolidate second in the standings

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Honourable mentions: Oliver Solberg, Takamoto Katsuta, Chris Ingram, Jos Verstappen

Oliver Solberg’s previous WRC outing in Finland ended with the Swede rolling his i20 N at the first corner of Stage 2, ending his rally before it had barely begun.

The accident left the 20-year-old in tears as the mental tolls of a difficult rookie season took hold. To bounce back from that by delivering a faultless drive to secure fourth, a career-best WRC finish, was exactly the turnaround Solberg needed. He drove smartly where others faulted to bring home a decent haul of points and a morale-lifting result.

Takamoto Katsuta’s 2021 Ypres Rally ended in a huge accident that forced officials to throw the red flags. On his return to treacherous tarmac roads, the Japanese driver produced an impressive display to finish fifth.He could have finished higher had his Toyota GR Yaris avoided a gearbox problem that cost him several minutes on Friday morning. But, after Rovanpera’s crash, Katsuta is now the only Rally1 driver to finish every round in the points.

Elsewhere, former Formula 1 driver Jos Verstappen turned heads on his WRC debut in what was the fifth rally of his fledgling career. The 50-year-old, who clocked up 106 F1 starts between 1994 and 2003, ran as high as 25th overall and led the Masters Cup class from 11-time record Ypres winner Freddy Loix before running off the road during Stage 13. The Dutchman finished the rally in 60th overall and earned praise from WRC team bosses for his performance.

Read Also:

WRC2 driver Chris Ingram also produced a noteworthy drive to finish the rally just off the class podium in ninth overall, equalling the Briton's best ever WRC result. 

Verstappen made a good impression in his Rally2 Citroen C3 despite falling off the road on Saturday, going on to finish 60th in the overall classification

Verstappen made a good impression in his Rally2 Citroen C3 despite falling off the road on Saturday, going on to finish 60th in the overall classification

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Team of the Week: Toyota Gazoo Racing

All three WRC Rally1 teams encountered problems during the rally, in the form of reliability issues or driver errors.

Hyundai clearly showed that, in the right hands, its i20 N clearly has the pace to worry to Toyota but again Ott Tanak again had to overcome a transmission issue to win the event.

M-Sport Ford’s rally unraveled following a series of costly driver errors, while Toyota also suffered a mechanical issue for Takamoto Katsuta.

However, there was one moment of inspirational teamwork that earns Toyota the Team of the Week Award. After Rovanpera’s surprise exit, courtesy of a huge crash in Stage 2, the Japanese squad faced a huge task to repair the GR Yaris to allow its championship leader to return on Saturday.

Under the regulations, the team were given four hours to repair the car and somehow pulled it off working late into Friday night. The chassis, fuel tank and engine were the only areas of the car untouched. Rovanpera went on to win Saturday morning’s first stage before going on to salvage five bonus points after clinching the rally-ending powerstage.

Rovanpera’s recovery came on top of Toyota managing to get three cars to finish inside the top five. Evans finished second ahead of Esapekka Lappi in third, with Katsuta in fifth.

 

Moment(s) of Heartbreak

Local hero Thierry Neuville appeared on course to deliver his expectant home crowd a second WRC win on home soil when drama struck on Saturday’s penultimate stage.

The Hyundai driver had built up a 17.2s lead over Tanak, but was caught out by a slow and dusty left-hander that caused him to understeer into one of Ypres’ famous ditches. Spectators managed to pull the car out, but damage to the front-right corner forced Neuville into an agonising retirement.

 

M-Sport’s Craig Breen returned to a happy hunting ground that has yielded a win and a second-place finish in the last two editions of the rally.

However, the event proved to be another one to forget as the Irishman suffered a frightening roll during Stage 10, while holding fifth position. Fortunately, Breen and co-driver Paul Nagle emerged unscathed. The pair had been ahead on the splits during the stage before the costly error.

 

M-Sport’s disappointing weekend was compounded by Adrien Fourmaux’s wild crash on the rally’s penultimate stage. The Frenchman was sitting a comfortable fifth and was set to deliver a glimmer of hope for the British squad after its difficult rally when he ran into a ditch and almost flipped his Ford Puma. It marked Fourmaux’s fifth retirement of the season.

 

Lucky Escapes

Championship leaders Kalle Rovanpera and Jonne Halttunen were lucky to emerge from a heavy crash without injury on Stage 2. The pair were held up at the start by a timing error that left both driver and co-driver agitated.

While Rovanpera says the issue didn’t affect his concentration, the unflappable Finn made the first costly error of his so far faultless championship campaign when he ran wide into a ditch, which catapulted his GR Yaris into a series of barrel rolls.

Read Also:
Kalle Rovanpera, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 after the crash

Kalle Rovanpera, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 after the crash

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Top Tweets

WRC drivers paid tribute to the fallen from World War 1 at Ypres' Menin Gate memorial before the start of the rally. It produced one of the most powerful images from the event.

 

Ypres also provided arguably the most picturesque service park of the season.

 

Drone cameras once again highlighted the challenges WRC drivers faced while navigating the narrow tarmac roads.

 

Hot Shots

Adrien Fourmaux, Alexandre Coria, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Adrien Fourmaux, Alexandre Coria, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Photo by: M-Sport

Kalle Rovanpera, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Kalle Rovanpera, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Romain Thuillier / Hyundai Motorsport

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Adrien Fourmaux, Alexandre Coria, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Adrien Fourmaux, Alexandre Coria, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Top Video

shares
comments

Related video

Jos Verstappen keen to test WRC Rally1 car after Ypres outing
Previous article

Jos Verstappen keen to test WRC Rally1 car after Ypres outing

Next article

Solberg offers rally car outing to McLaren F1 star Norris

Solberg offers rally car outing to McLaren F1 star Norris
Autosport gets to grips as a WRC co-driver Plus

Autosport gets to grips as a WRC co-driver

The majority of headlines may focus on the exploits of drivers in the World Rally Championship, but the challenges facing their co-drivers are no less demanding. Autosport got in the passenger seat with Toyota Gazoo Racing to find out just what it takes to succeed

WRC
18 h
How Rally New Zealand encapsulated record-breaking Rovanpera’s WRC title charge Plus

How Rally New Zealand encapsulated record-breaking Rovanpera’s WRC title charge

Kalle Rovanpera’s coronation as the new World Rally Championship king had been a long time coming, only to be postponed by hiccups in Belgium and Greece. But at Rally New Zealand the “Full Send” Finn demonstrated exactly how he's been able to rewrite the rallying record book as he stormed to victory to become the youngest ever world champion

WRC
Oct 3, 2022
How a Toyota lifeline reignited Lappi's WRC career Plus

How a Toyota lifeline reignited Lappi's WRC career

Motorsport can be brutal at times. One moment a driver can be the next big thing, but it can spiral in the other direction so quickly. Thankfully, sometimes drivers receive second chances. And Esapekka Lappi has taken his World Rally Championship lifeline in both hands

WRC
Sep 28, 2022
How team orders could make Hyundai's historic Acropolis Rally a Greek tragedy Plus

How team orders could make Hyundai's historic Acropolis Rally a Greek tragedy

Thierry Neuville led a maiden Hyundai 1-2-3 in the World Rally Championship, as the previously soft i20 N became a battle-hardened Greek warrior at the Acropolis Rally. But with team orders in play between the winner and Hyundai’s title protagonist Ott Tanak, could the result come back to haunt the team?

WRC
Sep 12, 2022
How Tanak triumphed amid a series of Belgium WRC blunders Plus

How Tanak triumphed amid a series of Belgium WRC blunders

After runaway World Rally Championship leader Kalle Rovanpera made his first major mistake of the season, the chance to take advantage was wide open for the chasing pack. Several of his rivals faltered to grasp the opportunity, but Ott Tanak made no such mistake and demonstrated his class with a third win of the campaign

WRC
Aug 22, 2022
Inside Toyota’s new WRC dream factory where rally conquerers come to life Plus

Inside Toyota’s new WRC dream factory where rally conquerers come to life

Toyota locked out the top four places in the World Rally Championship's recent Safari Rally Kenya in a clear indication of its GR Yaris Rally1 hybrid's pace and durability. Autosport was recently given a tour of the new factory where its cars are designed, tested and built, and it reveals much about the commitment of the Japanese marque to continued WRC success

WRC
Aug 19, 2022
How Rovanpera has reignited Finland's rallying obsession Plus

How Rovanpera has reignited Finland's rallying obsession

Finland may have a small population, but it has long enjoyed rallying success. Now that the nation has a new star to cheer in the form of Kalle Rovanpera, interest in the discipline is surging once again

WRC
Aug 10, 2022
How Tanak spoiled Rovanpera’s Finnish homecoming Plus

How Tanak spoiled Rovanpera’s Finnish homecoming

Kalle Rovanpera and Toyota went into Rally Finland as overwhelming favourites but came away as runners-up to a resurgent Ott Tanak and Hyundai. While it may have dampened the homecoming party, it still moved the Finn closer to the ultimate World Rally Championship prize

WRC
Aug 8, 2022