After a perfect victory in the 10th round of Rally Greece, Hyundai Motorsport GmbH prepared for the 11th round in New Zealand in the Southern Hemisphere. Repco Rally New Zealand, held after ten years, is an event that has been loved by many for its stunning coastal roads and beautiful stages. In Rally New Zealand, which started in 1969 and became part of the WRC in 1977, various races have taken place. Among them, the highlight was the 2007 game, when Marcus Grönholm won the title after a short 0.3‒second difference from his title competitor, Sébastien Loeb. It was the second most intense win in WRC history; The first was Rally Jordan in 2011, with a gap of 0.25 seconds.
Rally New Zealand was halted in 2012 but was revived as a regional event in 2017 and was scheduled to return to the WRC in 2020. However, there were disruptions, such as a global pandemic, and it was not until this year that it returned to the WRC. Rally New Zealand boasts such a beautiful landscape and environment that it was named Rally of the Year by the racing team in 2001; Its moist soil and gravel pavement have a good grip. There are many banked corners like the oval course so that race cars can run at high speed. The key point of this rally is the unpredictable weather. Many drivers will experience New Zealand for the first time this year, but since there is a rain forecast, it will be challenging to write pace notes, adapt to the course, and set up a rally car. This year, the race will be held on seventeen 279.8km‒long stages, with the race cars running a total of 1,379.97km.
Hyundai called Ott Tänak, Thierry Neuville, and Oliver Solberg. Tanak and Neuville, currently chasing Toyota’s Kalle Rovanperä, who led in the Drivers’ Championship, have experience in New Zealand in 2012; At that time, Neuville was with Citroën (Qatar World Rally Team), and Tanak was with M‒Sport Ford. Neuville finished fifth overall back then, and Tanak retired early on.
This time, winning the double podium is more important than ever to keep Rovanpera from winning the title early in the season. In particular, Tanak, who stayed in second place in Greece as directed by the team, is aiming for four wins in the season. “I have good memories of the event, so I’m looking forward to going back. I have been watching videos to refresh myself and the roads look fantastic; they have a lot of positive camber and seem as if they were made for rallying. As it is in a far corner of the world, we have not been able to test on similar roads, meaning getting the right set‒up will be difficult,” said Tanak before the race.
This is his first New Zealand rally for Solberg, who finished fourth in his personal best in Belgium after early retirement in Finland. He got valuable advice from his father, Petter Solberg, who finished third in 2012.
Toyota prepared four GR Yaris for Kalle Rovanpera, Elfyn Evans, Sébastien Ogier, and Takamoto Katsuta. Rovanpera has struggled in Greece, but is still closest to the Drivers’ Championship; He could secure the championship title if he scores seven more points than Tanak in Rally New Zealand. Among Toyota drivers, only Ogier has New Zealand experience.
The M‒Sportsford called out Craig Breen, Gus Greensmith and Lorenzo Bertelli. Adrien Fourmaux, who was originally scheduled to compete, gave up on Greece and this rally, and Bertelli only competes as an individual, so only Breen and Greensmith can earn championship points. Fourmaux, who missed Rally Greece after the Belgian accident, will be reunited with the crowd at Rally Spain. For reference, Bertelli, the eldest son of the Prada family, has been challenging the WRC every year since his debut in 2011.
Because New Zealand is an island, the subclasses are mostly occupied by local drivers. The most notable driver is New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon, who worked for Hyundai from 2014 to 2018. This year, he is participating in the Hyundai i20 N Rally 2 for the third time in WRC2 after Rally Estonia and Finland. In addition, Rally Australian Champion Harry Bates, New Zealand Rally Champion Ben Hunt, and New Zealand Supercar Champion Shane Van Gisbergen joined.
Rally New Zealand was held in Auckland on the North Island. Auckland, the former capital and beautiful port city, has a larger population than the current capital, Wellington. A service park was set up in the redevelopment of the Wynyard Quarter, next to the yacht‒filled Viaduct harbor, and on Thursday evening, the opening ceremony was held at the National War Memorial in the southeast of the city. Racers started the race at the nearby 1.78km‒long SS1 Pukekawa Auckland Domain. The special stage layout made using the park road around the National War Memorial has changed a lot since 2012. The road surface, which was slippery due to rain just before the start of the game, dried quickly as the clouds cleared. Tanak took the overall lead by conquering the opening race, Breen second by a 0.9‒second gap, and Neuville third by 1.6 seconds.
On Friday, September 30th, drivers will have to go through 6 stages from SS2 to SS7, a long 158.56km‒long trip without service. The drivers, who moved south early in the morning, started their day on the 29.27km‒long Whaanga Coast. This beautiful and challenging stage is the symbol of Rally New Zealand. Greensmith won the opening stage, but Breen took the overall lead. At SS3 Te Akau South, Evans took the top position. While Neuville lost about 15 seconds with a spin at the end of the stage, Tanak rose to second overall and chased leading Breen with a gap of 3.3 seconds.
At the 18.53km‒long SS4, Te Akau North, Tanak returned to the lead with the second top position of the race. It is the second departure sequence following Rovanpera, but the moist weather relieved the burden of road cleaning. Neuville, who had suspension problems, lost time with the spin again, resulting in a time difference of more than 40 seconds with Tanak.
In the afternoon, Ogier showed incredible pace and took the overall lead on the Whaanga Coast. Breen, on the other hand, lost 18 minutes in a ditch while turning a corner too fast. Although he finished the course, he could not continue the race after he broke the clutch. In SS6, Rovanpera marked the top position and Tanak finished second, closing the gap with Ogier. Since it rained a lot on the way, the players who started early had a bit of an advantage. Ogier’s car got caught in a tree branch and the rear spoiler shattered, wasting precious time saved.
Tanak returned to the overall lead with a 0.2‒second lead over Evans with a win in Friday’s closing SS7. But the night before Saturday, in SS1, Rovanpera, Tanak, and Neuville were penalized for exceeding the hybrid boost standard. The rules did not allow the racecars to exceed 240kJ, but their racecars were overboosted because they didn’t check the numbers right before the race ‒ Rovanpera 240.16kJ, Tanak 241.03kJ, and Neuville 242.04kJ. With the three players penalized for 5 seconds each, Evans took the lead, Tanak pushed to 2nd, Ogier in 3rd, and Rovanpera in 4th; Together, these four have a gap of only 7.2 seconds. Greensmith, Neuville, Solberg, and Katsuta are behind them, while Paddon finished ninth, the highest overall in WRC2.
On Saturday, October 1, the racers made their way through the 88.28km‒long SS8 to SS13, starting at Kaipara Hills and repeating Puhoi and Komokoriki. Breen, who succeeded in fixing the car, conquered the opening stage, Kaipara Hills. At the next SS9 Puhoi, Rovanpera, who celebrated his 22nd birthday that day, recorded a top position and took the overall lead. Tanak maintained second place by 4.6 seconds, Ogier was third overall, and Evans spun to fourth.
Evans’ car was badly damaged, and he couldn’t pace well in the SS10. But the most unlucky one in SS10 was Greensmith. He became M‒Sports Ford’s last hope after his teammate Breen retired the day before, but fell into a gutter at high speed on the S10 Komokoriki. As a result of this accident, Ogier, Tanak, Neuville, and Rovanpera marked the same record.
Misfortune also came to Hyundai. Further hearings took place against Hyundai after it was revealed that they had exceeded the hybrid boost limit at SS7, the last stage on Friday, and the team was given a 10‒second penalty. Hyundai explained that they recognized the problem immediately after SS1 and tried to fix it during the evening service, but due to lack of time, they only fixed the parameters for SS4 and missed the one for SS7. And since this was a repeated violation, the entire team was penalized for 10 seconds each. As a result, Tanak moved from 2nd to 3rd overall, and Solberg moved down to 6th place behind Katsuta. Neuville, who placed 4th place, had a lot of time difference from Katsuta, so his ranking did not change.
Rovanpera finished Saturday with an overall lead by winning SS11 and SS12 in a row in the afternoon, and Ogier also secured his position by maintaining a distance from Tanak. At the end of Saturday, Tanak finished third overall, 46.4 seconds behind the lead. Neuville, who couldn’t put gear three all morning, replaced the gearbox. Solberg suffered from engine trouble but climbed to fifth place thanks to Katsuta slipping on the SS12. Hayden Paddon of Hyundai marked 6th overall.
On Sunday, October 2nd, it was SS14‒SS17 repeating the 8.82km‒long Whitford Forest Te Maraunga Waiho in Whitford Forest and a new special stage, Jack’s Ridge Haunui. With most players sparing their tires, Rovanpera continued the lead from the previous day in the opening.
SS15 was held at Whitford’s 6.77km‒long special stage. The hilly and technical course was developed by former New Zealand Rally Champion Andrew Hawkeswood. On this stage, before the final power stage, Tanak beat Rovanpera to take the top position.
In SS16, the same as the opening stage, the competition was fierce as Ogier took first place, and the top 3 drivers each marked the top position once. In the next final power stage, Rovanpera once again marked the top position and secured the driver’s championship title of the season with a perfect win. On the power stage, Tanak, Ogier, Solberg and Neuville took the extra points as they finished 2nd to 5th.
Rovanpera won the 2022 Drivers’ Championship title as he won Rally New Zealand. Celebrating his 22nd birthday on Saturday, Rovanpera became the new youngest champion in history. The previous record was 27 years, 109 days, Colin McRae, who won the 1995 season. Ogier, who came back after a long time since Safari Rally, took second place, and Tanak took third place. All four ‘Hyundai i20 N Rally Car Family’ ‒ 4th place Neuville, 5th place Solberg, and 6th place Paddon ‒ proved their ability by entering the scoring zone. However, they couldn’t stop Toyota from finishing in the top two, leaving the team points wide by 81 points. This year’s WRC season will end with the 12th Rally Spain held in Catalonia on October 20‒23 and the final round in Nagoya, Japan, on November 10‒13.
By Sujin Lee, automobile critic
Excited about the 1991 establishment of the first domestic auto mania magazine
HMG Journal Operation Teamgroup@hyundai.com
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