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Tänak Prevails in Finland!

Ott Tänak gave Hyundai Motorsport its first ever triumph in Jyväskylä with a precision-perfect drive on Secto Rally Finland victory on Sunday 7th August. The Estonian driver led from the second stage of the rally to finish the four-day gravel road fixture 6.8sec clear of Toyota GR Yaris rival Kalle Rovanperä - clinching his third Finland success in the process.

Tänak found it difficult to be comfortable in his Hyundai i20 N from the get-go, but was still able to produce top times throughout thanks to hard grit and determination. As Friday's road-opener, Rovanperä was slow out of the blocks but reeled off five stage wins on Saturday to climb from fourth to second overall. He ended the penultimate day just 8.4sec in arrears after slicing the deficit in unpredictable conditions.

Dry conditions ensured further fast-paced action in Sunday's closing leg, but Tänak was in no mood to compromise. He gave just 1.8sec away to his rival over the four speed tests and stood atop the podium for the first time since Rally Italia Sardegna in June. Rovanperä virtually resigned himself from a maiden home victory after Sunday morning's first pass of Ruuhimäki, where he and Tänak posted identical times. With a solid haul of points in the bag, the 21-year was unwilling to take any unnecessary risks, stretching his championship lead to 94 after eight of 13 rounds, while his Toyota Gazoo Racing squad ended 88 points clear in the manufacturers' standings with three Yaris cars in the top four.

Home hero Esapekka Lappi completed the podium 1min 13.9sec down, but was lucky to even see the finish after rolling on SS21. He used epoxy resin to patch a crack in his Toyota's radiator ahead of the last stage and powered through with no front windscreen. Elfyn Evans was 16.9sec behind and conceded time on Saturday afternoon. Like his team-mate, the Welshman also had to pick up the spanners, bodging together damaged rear suspension using ratchet straps and jubilee clips.

It wasn't Thierry Neuville's weekend. Set-up frustrations plagued the Hyundai driver and he was never in a position to fight with the leading quartet. He trailed Evans by 40.4sec in fifth overall and slipped to third in the championship behind Tänak. Yaris hotshot Takamoto Katsuta ended 51.0sec further back to head Gus Greensmith, who was M-Sport Ford's leading Puma driverin seventh overall after scrapping with colleague Pierre-Louis Loubet for most of the event but the Frenchman retired with mechanical woes before the final stage.

The championship returns to asphalt in less than two weeks when Belgium makes its second WRC appearance. Ypres Rally Belgium takes place on August 18 - 21.

9th August, 2022

Ott Tanak leads Rally Finland

Ott Tanak leads Rally Finland from Toyota's Esapekka Lappi after a hotly contested Friday morning at the World Rally Championship gravel classic. The 2019 world champion produced a faultless display, while fighting his i20 N, to win two of the four completed stages and open up a slender 6.2 lead over Lappi who, aided by a more favourable road position, took the fight to Tanak from the outset leading Toyota's charge. The Finn won Stage 3 but lost 0.9s to his rival on the morning's final test.

Last year's winner Elfyn Evans returned to service in third, 11.1s adrift, ahead of Craig Breen, who led M-Sport Ford's charge in fourth, 2.4s further back. Although disadvantaged by starting first on the road, championship leader Kalle Rovanpera only dropped 15.3s to hold fifth in front of Toyota's Takamoto Katsuta and overnight leader Thierry Neuville (Hyundai). M-Sport trio Pierre-Louis Loubet, Rally1 debutant Jari Huttunen and Gus Greensmith rounded out the top 10.

Despite not being completely happy with the handling of his car, Tanak pushed hard to win the event's first forest stage and move into the rally lead. Lappi emerged as his nearest rival ending the stage 2.7s adrift, while M-Sport's Breen posted the third fastest time ahead of Toyota's Evans and Adrien Fourmaux (M-Sport).

Rally favourite Rovanpera dropped 6.3s to Tanak during the stage after revealing there was more cleaning than he expected being first on the road. Rovanpera's Toyota teammate Katsuta lost ground to a 360 degree spin, while Loubet was lucky to finish after touching a rock on the apex of a corner.

However, there was a more serious drama for Oliver Solberg after his i20 N snapped doing a left hander resulting in a heavy crash that damaged the car's roll cage. An emotional Solberg explained he had no chance in saving the car, which has now been retired from the event. Lappi once again outlined his strong start to the day by edging Tanak by 0.3s to win Stage 3. Breen was third fastest to maintain fourth overall behind Evans, who was 0.2s slower than Rovanpera as the Finn ended the opening two stages 10.8s adrift of leader Tanak in fifth overall.

There was also drama for M-Sport's Fourmaux when the Frenchman clipped a rock in a ditch with his Ford Puma's front right, which forced the 27-year-old to stop seven kilometres into the stage.
Fourmaux and co-driver Alexandre Coria were able to compete a repair using cable ties to allow them to slowly complete the stage, but lost almost 17 minutes in the process. The pair had been sitting seventh before the incident.

Tanak's impressive charge in an uncomfortable i20 N continued on Stage 4 as the Estonian responded to Lappi by taking a second stage win to extend his lead to 5.4s. This time only 0.4s separated the duo on the test.

Evans produced a clean run to log the third best time but the Welshman wasn't completely comfortable. Breen also maintained his strong start to keep pace with Evans to remain in the battle at the front, while Rovanpera was only 2.5s adrift. Further back, Loubet lost time to stall at the start of the stage while team-mate Fourmaux suffered more misfortune when a power steering leak on his Puma cost him even more time.

Luckily Fourmaux avoided losing more time when organisers cancelled Stage 5 due to safety concerns over the amount of spectators lining the roads. The final stage of the loop, a second pass through Thursday night's super special, was won by Katsuta, who managed to pip Neuville and Tanak by 0.1s. Rookie Huttunen impressed to set the fourth quickest time, while Rovanpera lost 2.1s on the short 3.48km blast.

The WRC teams will contest four more stages to complete Friday's action.

5th August, 2022

Rallyday Alliances with Dirtfish

* DirtFish to sponsor Europe's biggest one-day rally festival
* Stars aligning for Castle Combe event on September 17th, 2022
* Show looking bigger and better for World Rally Car celebration

Seattle-based Rally School global media house DirtFish is to sponsor Rallyday at Castle Combe. The September 17 event, a highlight of the European rallying calendar for more than two decades, continues to evolve, innovate and grow and DirtFish will be very much part of that process this year.
DirtFish owner Steve Rimmer has supplied cars for Rallyday on numerous occasions down the years, but this season he's delighted to take his commitment up a level.

Steve said: "Rallyday is an event that's very close to the hearts of rally fans from across Britain and around Europe. As a British rally fan, myself - one who grew up chasing RAC Rallies around the country - I love Rallyday. It brings together some of the finest cars from down the decades, there's the driving element with the BGMSport Legends Stages and there's the opportunity to meet likeminded people and catch up with old friends. "It's a great pleasure for DirtFish to back Rallyday. As a Rally School, we're all about the sport and encouraging participation in rallying, this is another great opportunity to do that.

"At the same time, Rallyday holds a fairly special place in the development of DirtFish Media. It was at this event in 2019 that we pulled the deal together to start what's grown into arguably the world's biggest and best source of rally and off-road news.

"But mainly, DirtFish Rallyday is special because it's somewhere you can come, buy yourself a burger, stand on the bank and enjoy wonderful cars and magic memories. I know that's what I'll be doing on Saturday, September 17th!"

30th July, 2022

Patrick 'Paddy' Hopkirk MBE 1933 - 2022

The motorsport world is saddened to hear of the death of legendary rally and race driver Paddy Hopkirk, who passed away 21st July aged 89. Paddy first hit the headlines January 1964 when he and Henry Liddon won the glamorous Monte Carlo rally after starting in Minsk driving a red and white British Motor Corporation 1071 cc Mini Cooper S. Designated car #37, Paddy later made this number along with the Cooper's 33 EJB registration number well-known among his marketing logos.

Perspicaciously, Paddy capitalised on his Monte success together with the Mini's emergence as a 1960s winning race/rally steed by forming Paddy Hopkirk Motor Accessories, specialising in all things associated with the BMC Mini. He even wrote a weekly Sunday Mirror cartoon column, illustrated by Nick Faure, to help make people better drivers and on the launch of the 'new' MINI in 2000, he was appointed brand ambassador by its perceptive German manufacturers, BMW.

Born in Belfast April 1933, Paddy learnt car control at the age of nine, when a local clergyman left him a motorised invalid carriage in his will and Paddy drove it on a closed estate! Mercifully, this very primitive vehicle with just rear brakes was followed by a more stable motorcycle and sidecar and then the comparative luxury of an Austin 7 tourer. Paddy dropped out of Trinity College Dublin in the early sixties and worked for a VW dealership, hill-climbing, rallying and crossroads-auto testing a series of Beetles.

By 1955 Paddy was almost a professional driver employed by the Standard Motor Company driving TR2 and Standard Eight saloons. Results included third in the Tulip Rally, his first international before he moved to the Rootes team and scored third and class win on the Alpine Rally and several other podium places in a Sunbeam Rapier, including Circuit of Ireland wins 1961/2. Also successfully racing a Rapier in the British Saloon Car Championship support race at the British Grand Prix.

By 1962, the mechanical frailty of Rootes cars steered Paddy to BMC, initially driving an Austin Healey 3000 in which he scored a good second in the RAC Rally, despite driving with a tyre-shredding puncture. In 1963 he drove the Mini Cooper to sixth on the Monte, second on the Tulip, sixth the tough Sofia-Liege-Sofia and fourth on the RAC. Also displaying his great versatility, Paddy drove a Mini Cooper to third place on the multidiscipline Tour de France, race, rally, and hill climb event.

Then early 1964 came the victory in Monte Carlo that changed Paddy's life forever, making the Hopkirk name synonymous with the Mini. BMC's proactive PR man Tony Dawson helped this happen by flying the winning Mini Cooper and crew back from Monaco to appear that weekend on the most popular TV variety programme of the era, Sunday Night at the London Palladium to universal national acclaim.

Following the Monte victory, Paddy's successful BMC career continued including several appearances at Le Man, Sebring, and Daytona endurance races in Sprites and MGBs. Also, at Bathurst where he drove a Cooper at the 1965 Mount Panorama Armstrong 500 with Finnish rally driver Timo Makinen. Just to prove his virtuosity, Paddy also scored victory the Circuit of Ireland 1965/67, the 1966/67 Alpine and the grueling 1967 Acropolis Rally.

Famously on the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon, Paddy and co-driver Tony Nash eschewed any chance of victory in their BMC 1800 Landcrab by helping rescue badly injured Lucian Bianchi from his burning Citroen DS 19 after a violent road accident, finally finishing second overall to the Hillman Hunter of Andrew Cowan. In 1970, Paddy finished fourth the World Cup rally in a Triumph 2·5 PI, again with Tony Nash.

Paddy then moved away from full time driving to concentrate on his business interests but made several cameo appearances on events that captured his imagination, nevertheless driving competitively as ever! This included 3rd overall on the Singapore Airlines London to Sydney re-run in a Citroen CX 2400, winning the 1982 RAC Golden Fifty Rally in a Mini Cooper co-driven by Brian Culcheth and victory on the tough 1990 Pirelli Classic Marathon with fellow Irish racing and rally BMC teammate, Alec Poole in a Mini Cooper S, just to remind everyone that Hopkirk's in-period successes were no fluke!

In recognition of his international racing and rallying successes, Paddy was awarded an MBE in the 2016 New Year's Honours list, and he was elected a full member of the British Racing Drivers Club in 1967, rising to become a board member, Vice President, and then popular President of the prestigious Club 2017-19, during which time he helped renegotiate the British Grand Prix contract with F1 owners Liberty Media.

Unfailingly courteous, friendly, polite, and approachable, Paddy was a consummate communications professional. His real-life adventure story is scripted in detail in; 'The Paddy Hopkirk Story', his autobiography published by Haynes in 2005. For sure, news of his Monte Carlo Rally victory some 58 years ago inspired many schoolboys' interests in motorsport, your writer included! The IRDC offers condolences to Paddy's wife Jennifer, children Katie, Patrick, and William and his six grandchildren.

22nd July, 2022

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