WRC New Zealand: Everything you need to know

New Zealand makes its long awaited return to the World Rally Championship this weekend with a history making feat in the offing as Kalle Rovanpera closes in on the title.

WRC New Zealand: Everything you need to know

The picturesque fast and flowing gravel roads will present a new challenge to drivers as the event makes it return to the WRC calendar for the first time since 2012. Only three of the current drivers in Sebastien Ogier, Thierry Neuville and Ott Tanak have competed in New Zealand before.

All eyes will be on the battle for the WRC crown which could be sewn up Down Under as 21-year-old championship leader Rovanpera only needs to extend his 53-point title lead by eight points to become the youngest ever world rally champion.

Rovanpera heads to New Zealand out of form, however, after two uncharacteristic crashes in Belgium, and the Acropolis Rally last time out. The Finn faces his best shot yet at wrapping up the title that would see him eclipse the record set by Colin McRae, who became the youngest ever world champion in 1995, then aged 27.

Hyundai is likely to offer a stern challenge to Rovanpera following a blistering second half of the season that has seen the South Korean marque win the last three events, thanks to victories for Tanak in Finland and Belgium, while Neuville headed a historic Hyundai 1-2-3 in Greece.

However, Toyota is likely to front a much improved showing in New Zealand with the roads likely to suit the GR Yaris. Elfyn Evans and the returning eight-time world champion Ogier are likely to be found challenging the top of the timesheets.

M-Sport will field a reduced three-car line up following the withdrawal of Adrien Fourmaux. The trio will be headed by Craig Breen, who showed strong pace to claim fifth in Greece, and regular Gus Greensmith.

The team will also field a privateer entry for Italian Lorenzo Bertelli, who will make his first WRC appearance since last year’s Safari Rally Kenya.

 

What is Rally New Zealand?

Rally New Zealand boasts arguably the best fast and flowing gravel stages in the world which have long proved a hit with drivers since the event joined the WRC calendar in 1977. In 2001 the event was voted as ‘Rally of the Year’ such is the acclaim the roads are held within the teams.

The event dates back to 1969 when it was held in Taupo before relocating to the North Island in 1971. From 2006 to 2008 it moved to Hamilton, but returned to Auckland in 2010.

Rally New Zealand last hosted a round of the WRC in 2012 and was due to return to the calendar in 2020 and 2021, before it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Auckland will again act as rally headquarters for the rally that will feature fast, flowing gravel roads with cambered corners that wind their way through forests and along the picture postcard New Zealand coastline.

Rally New Zealand holds the record for the second-closest WRC finish in history. In 2007 - after more than 350 kilometres of action - Marcus Gronholm edged Sebastien Loeb by three-tenths of a second. It was only beaten by Rally Jordan in 2011 when Ogier won by two-tenths of a second over Jari-Matti Latvala.

Marcus Gronholm, Timo Rautiainen, Ford Focus WRC

Marcus Gronholm, Timo Rautiainen, Ford Focus WRC

Rally New Zealand winners

A total of 20 drivers have stood on the top step of the podium at Rally Zealand since the inaugural WRC edition was held back in 1977.

Two-time world champion Marcus Gronholm remains the undisputed King of Rally New Zealand,
having scored five wins in a period of eight years. His first arrived in 2000 driving for Peugeot, before piloting an M-Sport Ford to his last in 2007.

Carlos Sainz is one victory behind Gronholm after triumphs in 1990-1992 and 1998, while 1995 world champion and three-time winner Colin McRae also scored a three-peat for Subaru from 1993-1995.

Sebastien Loeb, who was victorious when New Zealand was last part of the WRC in 2012, is also a three-time winner alongside New Zealander and former Hyundai WRC factory driver Hayden Paddon, although his wins have arrived in editions that have feature outside of the WRC.

Subaru is the most successful manufacturer at the event having chalked up six wins.

Marcus Gronholm, Timo Rautiainen, Ford Focus WRC

Marcus Gronholm, Timo Rautiainen, Ford Focus WRC

Rally New Zealand itinerary

This year’s edition will be contested over 17 stages, comprising 276.44km across four days of competitive action.

Thursday 29 September

Shakedown - begins 0900 local

Stage 1 - begins 0608 BST - 1808 local

Friday 30 September (6 stages - 157.98km)

Stage 2 - Stage 7 - begins 2033 BST - 0833 local

Saturday 1 October (6 stages - 88.12km)

Stage 8 - Stage 13 - begins 2008 BST - 0808 local

Sunday 2 October (4 stages - 30.34km)

Stage 14 - Stage 17 - Final stage begins 0318 BST - 1518 local

Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Elena, Citroën DS3 WRC, Citroën Total World Rally Team

Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Elena, Citroën DS3 WRC, Citroën Total World Rally Team

Photo by: Sutton Images

Rally New Zealand Entry List (Rally1) - Road order

Rally New Zealand will feature 28 entries headlined by 10 Rally1 cars.

#69 Kalle Rovanpera/Jonne Halttunen - Toyota Gazoo Racing - GR Yaris Rally1
#8 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja - Hyundai Motorsport - i20 N Rally1
#11 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe - Hyundai Motorsport - i20 N Rally1
#33 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin - Toyota Gazoo Racing - GR Yaris Rally1
#18 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston - Toyota Gazoo Racing - GR Yaris Rally1
#42 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle - M-Sport Ford World Rally Team - Puma
#44 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson - M-Sport Ford World Rally Team - Puma Rally1
#1 Sebastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas - Toyota Gazoo Racing - GR Yaris Rally1
#2 Oliver Solberg/ Elliott Edmondson - Hyundai Motorsport - i20 N Rally1
#37 Lorenzo Bertelli/Simone Scattolin- M-Sport Ford World Rally Team - Puma Rally1

What’s new for WRC in 2022?

This year represents the introduction of new Rally1 regulations designed to move the WRC into a much more sustainable future and to attract new manufacturers. They have resulted in Hyundai, Toyota and M-Sport Ford designing and building all-new cars around a new safer, steel spaceframe chassis.

The biggest change to the cars is the introduction of a mandatory 100kW hybrid unit coupled to the 1.6-litre turbocharged internal combustion engine, the only key component carried over from the previous generation of cars. In tandem, this will allow the powertrain to develop 500bhp to be used in short bursts across every stage.

Cars will be up 70kg heavier than their predecessors, this is mainly due to the addition of the hybrid system. In total, Rally1 machines will weigh in at approximately 1260kg.

The new regulations have effectively abolished extra aerodynamic devices such as wings and flicks being added to the bodywork outside of the front splitter and rear wing. The overall downforce created and its effect on the car has been reduced by approximately 15% compared to the previous generation of vehicle.

Trick centre differentials used to fine tune handling are now banned in favour of a simpler front and rear mechanical limited-slip differentials offering a fixed 50:50 toque split between the front and rear wheels. Suspension travel has been reduced to 270mm.

Dani Sordo, Carlos del Barrio, Mini JCW WRC

Dani Sordo, Carlos del Barrio, Mini JCW WRC

Photo by: Sutton Images

How does the Rally1 hybrid system work?

Drivers will have the use hybrid power during every stage, with power boosts activated by the throttle pedal, while further boosts will be unlocked through energy regeneration under braking during stages.

Pilots will be required to regenerate 30 kilojoules of energy before another boost is granted that will be used the next time they touch the throttle pedal.

The extra 130 horsepower is delivered through the use of three bespoke homologated engine maps selected by teams, depending on the type of stage and conditions.

Determined by the FIA and event organisers, drivers will be required to navigate parts of road sections and around event service parks in full electric mode.

In full electric mode the car has a range of 20km, while its 3.9KWH battery, operating up to 750 volts, can be plugged in and recharged in the service park within 30 minutes. The hybrid unit can withstand an impact of 70G.

The cars are powered by a 100% sustainable fuel.

How can I follow Rally New Zealand

Autosport will be providing reports, interviews and reaction.

Motorsport.tv will also have regular highlights both during and after each WRC round in 2022.

Pay television

WRC Plus All Live will provide live coverage from every stage.

BT Sport will live action and provide daily highlights shows from every event this season.

Free to air television UK

ITV4 will broadcast highlights on Tuesday 4 October.

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