Rally Sweden best wrc rallies

The Most Thrilling WRC Rallies Of Recent Years

Each WRC Rally round has a specific formula for success, or better to say, the chance to become one of the most exciting events on the calendar. That is what hosting countries battle for. This formula includes the challenging terrain, the difficult route, and the unpredictable weather. However, sometimes these three factors fold together in a fortunate way that, as a result, rally fans dream of turning back time and repeating the entire gamma of the rally emotions again. Therefore, we gathered the best WRC rallies of recent times to refresh the memory of the most thrilling races of the FIA World Rally Championship. 

Rally RAC Catalunya 2021: The Thrilling Battle Until The Last Second

The Rally RAC Catalunya – Costa Daurada in 2021 is one of the best WRC rallies in recent memory because everything from the start to the finish went out of plan. The speedy test on asphalt roads became a thriller as the battle between Hyundai and Toyota tensioned. 

Sébastien Ogier headed to Spain to finish the weekend as an eight-time world champion. His teammates Kalle Rovanperä, Elfyn Evans, and Takamoto Katsuta had to score points to Toyota win the manufacturers’ championship. On the other hand, Dani Sordo, Thierry Neuville, and Ott Tänak had driven for Hyundai, which already won the titles in 2019 and 2020. They wouldn’t give up easily.

Hyundai vs Toyota 

On Friday’s SS1, Toyota lost Katsuta on SS1 due to a mysterious issue. The racing crew had problems with the stenogram. In their turn, Hyundai lost Tänak on SS4 as he met a tree stump. It was far from the gift that Tänak dreamed of receiving on that day, as it was his birthday.

By a miracle, Elfin Evans avoids the crash, rallying through the mud, and stumbles. With an understanding of the impact of losing Tänak, Thierry Neuville entered the challenge to stamp the fastest time on SS5 and the next three stages on Saturday. 

In their turn, Toyota realized there was a need for a heavy argument against Hyundai, and Sébastien Ogier was that one. He started like a crouching tiger, waiting patiently for his moment of glory. Ogier had begun to fend off Spanish star Dani Sordo on the SS 10 and lead the standings on the SS 12.

There was nothing to lose, and Sordo rushed and set confident third. Winking to Sordo, Neuville had raced for two at once – for himself and for Ott Tänak. The battle was so electric that it was impossible to imagine how Rally Catalunya 2021 would finish.

Therefore, it was a very nerve-racking Sunday morning because Toyota’s plan “vini, vici, vidi” didn’t work. 

Neuville not only had driven fast as for two, but he was also lucky as for two. Therefore, the problems with the starter on I20 didn’t prevent him. The crew restarted and passed the test without further problems, but the incident rattled Neuville’s nerves. 

best wrc rallies recent time

Why Rally RAC Catalunya 2021 was so good?

It was a rare rally where all the drivers brought their own glory to up the team. It was a fierce battle between two leaders, while the racing spirit just being in the air all day and night.

All spectators expected everything would be decided on Sunday’s special stages, but it didn’t happen. The battle between the two teams had continued to the Power Stage. Neuville, Evans, Sordo, Ogier, nobody was willing to give up. Moreover, the drama was intensified by the rain on the final stage. Therefore, the roads became even more slippery. 

Ogier was unstoppable, but still, he hadn’t enough time to beat storming Sordo. The Spaniard won all four special stages and claimed the last podium spot, bringing joy to the local fans. Evans felt uncomfortable on dirty roads. He narrowed the gap to Ogier and finished second. Neuville won this rally Catalunya worthy.

So, against all predictions, Neuville and Sordo defended the honor of the Hyundai team with the 1: 2 Power Stage paid in the bonus points, while the fight for the manufacturer’s crown between Toyota and Hyundai had entered the last round in Monza.

Rally Monte Carlo 2022: The Start of the New Era 

In 2022, the season opener Rally Monte Carlo was more than just a Rally event. Instead, it was the beginning of a new era in the WRC. In the Hybrid era, when drivers switched to the new generation Rally1 cars, it became clear these vehicles were different from the WRC cars. 

Relying on intuition and experience, the WRC community expected to see just resigned part-time Toyota driver Sébastien Ogier as the leader and the winner. Homelands help, as they say. Hyundai Motorsport, which just lost the championship in 2021, will fight back the positions immediately with Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak on the board. But the one thing no one expected was that the less competitive M-Sport Ford outdid the rivalries so soon. 

Sébastien Ogier

Sébastien Ogier vs Sébastien Loeb

Sébastien Ogier did not hesitate and started the maximal attack. He led the shakedown and set the fastest time on SS1 and SS2. But there were M-Sport Ford Purple Pumas of Sébastien Loeb and Adrien Fourmaux to step on Ogier’s heels. Soon, after Fourmaux got into the horrific crash on SS3, it became clear that it started the battle of two Sébastien. 

Gas Greensmith, another M-Sport driver who won on SS7, made fans think Ford is finally back. Hyundai drivers Neuville, Oliver Solberg, and Ott Tänak didn’t have enough pace, as well as Toyota’s Elfyn Evans. Evans gained a small victory on SS9 but made a shameful mistake on SS11 and refused to fight for victory. Tänak and Solberg were overwhelmed. Ott suffered a puncture, and Solberg and Neuville felt technical problems with their hybrids.

Against all expectations, the battle began between nine-time champion Sébastien Loeb and eight-time champion Sébastien Ogier. Both driving brand-new hybrid cars: Puma M-Sport Ford Rally1 and Toyota Yaris Rally1. And both changed co-drivers. Isabelle Garmisch replaced Daniel Elena as co-driver for Loeb, while Benjamin Veillas replaced Julien Ingrassia’s seat alongside Ogier. 

On Sunday, Neville was angry and took victory on SS15 to back off, but had to settle for only 6th place at the finish. Tänak withdrew from the challenge after meeting the rock. Solberg retired on SS14 due to smoke in the cabin of his car. 

Why Rally Monte Carlo 2022 was so good?

The question was whether Ogier would win Monte Carlo for the ninth time in his career or Loeb for the eighth time in his career? This was the puzzle, almost as difficult as choosing a tire. The Rallye Monte Carlo 2022 has remained within the conditions of periodic change from asphalt to ice.

As they were equal, it became clear that a more unique trick was needed. So it came the tire game. And Saturday was the crucial moment that could change the battle. Loeb laid his cards on the table, hoping to capitalize on the dry sections to minimize the loss of time on the ice. He fitted his Ford Puma with Pirelli’s soft asphalt compound. Ogier had already mixed two soft and two snow tires on his Toyota GR Yaris. But he changed his mind last second and switched to the same compounds. He crossed the finish line 21.1 seconds ahead. But it was just the beginning. 

Until the last second, it was unclear which of the two would win. In the M-Sport Ford, they were afraid even to blink and stare when Loeb passed the power stage SS17 with an aggressive command by Isabelle Galmiche. But they made it. They won the Rally Monte Carlo 2022 ten seconds ahead of Ogier, who finished second. The 2022 Monte Carlo Rally is one of the most unpredictable rallies of recent times. 

Rally New Zealand 2022: Rovanperä Claimed the youngest-ever Champion

On the eve of his 22nd Birthday, Rovanperä was already set as the top rally driver, winning in Sweden, Croatia, Portugal, Kenya, and Estonia. But it was the tough New Zealand we saw how powerful young Finn was in practice. 

Until 2022 it was legendary Colin McRae who became the youngest champion. He won in 1995 aged 27 years and 89 days.

Rally New Zealand is challenging in its origins, but for 2022, the task became more difficult as heavy rain started the game. Despite the event being new for Rovanperä, he already set the fastest time on shakedown, while Gus Greensmith and Craig Breen at the wheel of M-Sport Purple Pumas completed the top. 

Friday started with Rovanperä’s teammate in Toyota, Elfyn Evans taking the lead, but lost the advantage after damaging his Yaris on SS9. The fastest Breen and Greensmith retired. Breen did flat out on tricky SS5. Greensmith managed to get out of the massive crash on Saturday.

One of the favorites of the 2022 Rally New Zealand, Sébastien Ogier, also damaged the car. Another Rovanperä teammate, Takamoto Katsuta, crashed the car on Saturday’s SS12. 

So, one by one, the main competitors had left the challenge, making tiny mistakes, while Rovanperä had kept the pace. As a result, he started the final Sunday, where only Hyundai Motorsport drivers were the final hurdle on his way to win. 

Why Rally New Zealand 2022 was so good?

There were only Ott Tänak, Thierry Neuville, and Oliver Solberg to stop Rovanperä from clinching the title. The atmosphere was electricity. Thus, Ott Tänak won Sardegna and Finland, while Neuville claimed victory in Greece. After a hat-trick on Rally Acropolis, the Hyundai team was forced to battle for each point. 

Thus, despite the five-second penalty Thierry Neuville got for the energy released from their cars during hybrid boosts on SS1 exceeding the maximum value allowed on Friday, he rushed to the time battle from second. 

His teammate Ott Tänak took the call from third, while Oliver Solberg started fourth. 

But it didn’t work. Sunday became the day Hyundai to forget as soon as possible. Rovanperä remained unchallenged during all gravel tests test and won the Wolf Power Stage. Ogier took second in 34.6sec behind, and frustrated Tänak settled for third almost 50 sec behind.

So with just his 30th start at the WRC, Rovanperä won the 2022 Rally New Zealand with an unassailable 64-point lead over Tänak with two rounds to spare. 

The 2022 Rally New Zealand was one of the best rallies of recent times because it was like a battle against the entire team with an incredible atmosphere. 

ypres rally best wrc rallies

Ypres Rally 2022: The Dangerous Turns

It was a simple event with a short route in Flanders, with many stages repeated, while the road surface was one that drivers got used to rallying: asphalt, warm, sharp turns. But the drama is what made the 2022 Ypres Rally Belgium so stunning.  

Thus, the devil was in the details, as even being the asphalt, the roads were narrow and fast-paced, which is what brought the tire’s choice a crucial key to winning. 

Rovanperä started Friday’s SS1 and set the fastest time, but the start of the following SS2 was delayed, while the tires on Kalle’s Toyota Yaris had got colder second by second. As a result, he flat out and rolled at high speed just ten kilometers after the start. The crew was good but retired on Friday. 

Ott Tänak vs Thierry Neuville

However, the Toyota engineers were forced to repair the Yaris or gather part by part like LEGO. And the competitors rushed to the battle. 

Elfyn Evans had been waiting for the top spot a very long but made a few tiny mistakes, but he was still 5 seconds behind the leader. M-Sport Ford driver Craig Breen was one of the possible winners of the Ypres Rally 2022 because he won the Rally Belgium in 2019. 

But Breen was involved in a terrific crash on SS10. The rally racing was red-flagged. Irish driver went flat out through the left turn and got rolling in his Puma rally1 car a few times. Being brand new, SS10 literally became the most dangerous leg of the entire route. One by one, Adrien Fourmax and Gus Greensmith damaged cars here. Breen finished the Ypres Rally 2022 fifth. 

Despite the poor tire choice on Friday, Esapekka Lappi topped third at the wheel of a Toyota Yaris. He trailed Evans by 1 min 36.6sec but held a massive 1 min 46.9sec advantage over fourth-placed Oliver Solberg at the wheel of the Hyundai I20. 

Unfortunately, Thierry Neuville left the battle on Saturday’s SS15. He went out to the cornfield but not to look for picturesque views. His I20 was already damaged. That was a shock. 

Why Ypres Rally 2022 was so good?

The 2022 Ypres Rally is one of the best rallies of recent times because the event became very emotional. Thus, being teammates in one Hyundai team, there was a high rivalry between Neuville and Tänak. To clinch the victory at home was something special for Thierry, and he made everything for that, but just a few legs before the finish, he was retiring. Ott Tänak was not fast nor last. He stepped up after the bad luck of Rovanperä, and since then, Neuville has been his closest rival. The battle continued until the final day when Tänak finished the 2022 Ypres Rally just 5 seconds ahead of Elfyn Evans.

Rally Sweden best wrc rallies

Rally Sweden 2023: The Unexpected Turn

“Difficult to describe” was how M-Sport boss Rich Milliner tried to explain Rally Sweden 2023, holding back tears of joy in his eyes. In fact, the event came as one of the most unpredictable rallies in recent times.

By the predictions, Toyota had to clinch the hat-trick after strength dominance in the 2022 season. So, on the eve of Rally Sweden, it was expected that Toyota’s drivers would leave the other teams without any chance of a win. But something happened wrong unexpectedly. Takamoto Katsuta touched the snowbanks and spun off the line on Friday. Another driver for Toyota, Elfyn Evans, set the fastest time but missed his apex on a tight left-hander on SS2, throwing his Yaris into a snowbank and losing the time. 

Withdrawing from the challenge

There were big hopes for the youngest rally champion, Kalle Rovanperä since he won in Umea in 2022. But, unfortunately, Rovanperä had been struggling with snowbanks and technical issues. The bad luck rushed him on Saturday. Rovanperä was spun, and despite setting a few stages with the fastest time, it became clear this was still not enough to battle for the victory on Rally Sweden.

Following Toyota, Hyundai drivers faced the conflict behind closed doors. Thierry Neuville missed the testing program due to a health issue. Although Neuville had been holding in the top three during the weekend, his teammate Craig Breen moved to the top of the leaderboard after Friday. But at this point, it came that the team ordered to stop competition between the two. Despite Breen being faster, he finished third after Neuville.  

Esapekka Lappi had a disastrous accident just a few steps before finishing SS13 on Saturday. Finn hit a snow bank at high speed, and his Hyundai i20 N landed in the wrong direction and was stuck for almost ten minutes until fans helped to extract the car.  

Why Rally Sweden 2023 was so good? 

Rally Sweden 2023 came to history for more than just picturesque views through the snow. It was like melodrama on the wheels. Despite their dominance, the Yaris Rally1 car had nothing against the snowbank and the weather conditions, while the powerful Hyundai spent more time fixing the strategy instead of focusing on the racing. That is how M-Sport Ford entered the game. 

With speed up through frantic snowbanks, M-Sport Ford driver Ott Tänak didn’t take the attention on Friday, but as early as Saturday morning, it became clear that he was hot on Breen’s heels. The Estonian rally driver set a night-time frenzy because he was on course to outpace Breen by ten seconds!  

Therefore, the last thing he needed to do was to secure the advantage on Sunday. And Tänak did. He won Rally Sweden 2023.

This victory had a significant meaning because it had to wait almost a year before the purple Puma of M-Sport Ford claimed the win. The last time the team was so proud was victory at the Rally Monte Carlo in 2022. Moreover, it was special because Tänak raced for Toyota four years ago and then switched to Hyundai. As for the team’s strategy, Tänak was also disappointed. He remembered Rally Acropolis 2022, where he had the chance to win but didn’t due to following the team’s order.

Moreover, Rally Sweden 2023 was set as one of the most challenging rally venues because of the very unfrined snowbanks. The mountains from the snow, the dangerous turns, and the technical issues highlighted the event as thrilling. 

Gus Greensmith Rally Finland 2022

Rally Finland 2022: Ott Tänak’s Back On The Top

Each rally provides unique experiences. However, winning a rally at home is a matter of honor, especially when thousands of fans are staring. That was what race fans had wished for their national star, Ott Tänak on the Estonian Rally 2022, but it didn’t work well. He finished second. What worked well was that Rovanperä outdid and won the event. So it came the time for Ott Tanak’s return the favor.

Thursday started cheerfully. Since the SS1, everything predicted it would be a simple task, but it was a trick. Thus, due to safety concerns, Friday’s SS5 has been canceled. Michelle Moton was Already ordered to prepare for the following stages, while fans were notified about safety. 

Being at just 300 meters after the start, Hyundai driver Oliver Solberg lost the car on the track and rolled over on the SS7. Solberg did not have much time to adapt, while the team waited for good results. So, each rally for Solberg was very costly, as his future was at stake. 

M-Sport Ford driver Adrien Fourmaux saw the drama with his eyes. ‘He was unlucky’ – commented Fourmaux. Solberg was broken as much as tears were already streaming from his eyes, talking with the press. 

 Meanwhile, Tänak immediately took the overall lead. With Rovanperä, they started hunting for the fastest time. Another Toyota driver, Elfyn Evans set in the top three for a long time, but Yaris’s suspension let him down, as it was damaged. 

Esapekka Lappi struggled

Esapekka Lappi was that one rally driver who managed to take the trouble. Already on Saturday, a frisky stone jumped out under the wheels of his car and shot him right through the windshield. Everything worked out well, and we slightly breathed in relief when the hard part was over, but it was premature joy.  

The following day, Lappi came out of the left turn a little wider than he should, got into a ditch, and overturned the car on SS21. However, he managed to reach the finish line, losing just 20.5 seconds, but the radiator was already damaged! 

Despite that, Lappi still retained the third position. His lag from Kalle Rovanperä was over a minute. To advance to the final Power Stage, Lappi had to put in a lot of effort. The windshield was covered with cracks and was ready to come off at the most inopportune moment. Therefore, Finn spat on everything and tore the windshield off of the way! The last 11 kilometers were unforgettable for the crew.

The dust, sand, and wind were blown into the cabin with such force that the pace notes book tried to fly out at every turn. The car drove out of the line at times, but they did it! Lappi finished third. ‘I don’t know where to begin..’ – reported Molly, breathing out at the finish, as Lappi did.  

Why Rally Finland 2022 was so good? 

Rally Finland 2022 was so good because it was an entire gamma of different emotions on the track. Moreover, the crucial feature of the event was the eye-to-eye battle between Kalle Rovanperä and Ott Tänak. Thus, when Tänak realized he would have no other chance, he began to make miracles. He managed to lead by a second gap during the weekend. Tänak was like a cold-blooded machine.

On the other hand, Rovanperä has always used the same racing strategy, as he never put all his cards on the table. He always has started without a rush, but as the rally nears its end, he becomes frantic. Thus, on Sunday, Rovanperä set the best time and started to reduce the gap from the Estonian, but that wasn’t enough. With the best time on the special stage, he finished the home rally in second place, reducing his gap to 6.8 seconds. 

Tänak finished the final stage without excessive heroism. He brought Hyundai its first victory in the 2022 season. 

Croatia Rally 2021

Rally Croatia 2021: The Unpredictable Ride Or Triple Rallying Battle

Despite it being the forty-fifth running of the event, Croatia debuted in the FIA WRC. No driver on the grid knew the route or had the experience. With high pace and lack of grip, looping asphalt roads of Rally Croatia became one of the most demanding issues, on which everyone had lost confidence. Therefore, ‘tricky’ became the most expressed word to describe the event. Looking ahead its debut met expectations enough to become the annual rally of the championship. 

At that time, 20-year-old Kalle Rovanperä was the youngest driver to lead the championship. Therefore, all eyes were on Kalle, expecting his unbelievable mastering, but on Friday, he raced wider and plunged off the road, down into the trees. The crew wasn’t hurt, the racing for them was finished due to the damage to the car. 

There were three possible winners: Thierry Neuville, Sébastien Ogier, and Elfyn Evans. Each one had struggled with the grip issue. Losing the car, from time to time, each one was in a moment from the full disaster. Friday became Neuville’s day. He led the standings. But on Saturday there was no clear understanding on who to be the winner. Evans rushed to set the fastest time. He became an overall leader to Saturday’s evening, while his teammate Sébastien Ogier had taken Evans and Neuville’s heels. 

Moreover, at the wheel of the M-Sport Ford Fiesta, Adrien Fourmaux debuted in the WRC as one of the most talented drivers. He had set the fastest times on the few legs, where the others couldn’t, and finished the Rally Croatia fifth. 

Why Rally Croatia 2021 was so good?

Rally Croatia 2021 is one of the best rallies of the WRC because the event became unpredictable in each sense of the word. Thus, we had three equal drivers who could win. 

The weekend for Ogier started badly. On Friday, he unpredictably got a puncture. He gained the penalty for unsafe driving on the public roads on Saturday. Ogier damaged his Yaris during the road crash, but he was full of commitment to back the lead. With maintaining the best performance, Ogier almost took the goal; however, he struggled with the puncture again! His pace on Sunday was like a magic flying, as other drivers had raised eyebrows.

So, when everything had come to Evan winning the Rally Croatia, he made a shameful mistake at the last meters of the final stage. That was a heartbreaking drama. Despite Ogier almost losing his car during the jump on Power Stage, this six-tenths of a second was enough for him to win Rally Croatia 2021. 

Rally Safari 2023: The Wild Old-School Event

Rally Safari is known for its wild nature, picturesque views, and tough route. But in 2023, the event became something above the edge because the rain made us see one of those old-school rallies, just like in the Group B era. 

On Friday, each driver felt how wild Rally Safari was. Thus, on SS2 the event turned out to be wild. The zebras rushed to run near M-Sport Ford driver Ott Tänak and forced him to stop a few times. Besides, we seen giraffes, antelopes, and many other animals from time to time taken to livestream. However, the real fun came on Saturday when it started raining.

The roads became so slippery that each driver made mistakes, confusing the route. Takamoto Katsuta, Thierry Neuville, Ott Tänak, and Pierre-Louis Loubet had spun many times. It was like cars dancing in the rain. ‘You would never understand how it is until you’re not in the car’ – reported Neuville after following the mistake. 

Drivers weren’t only confused with the route, but they couldn’t keep the line, racing out the front like Sébastien Ogier. 

Why Rally Safari 2023 was so good?

Sébastien Ogier became that lucky one or the most experienced driver who passed all the problems. On the final Power Stage, he got the stone in his Yaris windscreen but survived and claimed his 58th career and second victory in Kenya. 

Moreover, Toyota took the top four places, while there were just 6.7 seconds between Ogier and second Kalle Rovanperä, which is the tightest finish in the event’s history.

However, the Safari Rally 2023 is worthy of being one of the best rallies in WRC in recent memory because it had the hugest mix of problems to drivers pass. Moreover, all of these were natural. Alongside its atmosphere, it became the old-school challenge worthy of rewatching again. 

Concluding

Each rally of the WRC is unique and provides special features, including challenging terrain, unpredictable weather, and a colorful atmosphere. But sometimes, rallying becomes too unpredictable. And you already find yourself wanting to repeat the event again and again.  

In recent times, it was Rally Catalunya in 2021, where Hyundai and Toyota started the competition, where the drivers forgot about their want to win but rushed to score the championship standings for the team. Rally Monte Carlo in 2022 was another surprise, as Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier started the season in a fierce battle for victory in two different teams. On Rally New Zealand in 2022, Rally Kalle Rovanperä provided evidence of why he is worthy to be called a champion. 

The FIA WRC rallies can be so filled with feelings that they become one of good melodrama like it was on Rally Ypres in 2022 when the two former teammates Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak clashed in purpose to winning round in Greece. Another example of the melodrama happened at Rally Sweden in 2023 and Rally Finland in 2022. In both cases, rallying was about personal feelings and the importance of being committed.

However, rally sports can be more than a drama. Some rounds turn out to be action or even thrillers. The last thrilling event of the WRC was held in Kenya when driving a car was challenging, even for racers. Rally Croatia in 2021 was like the action movie, when the mission to win was the main thing to Sébastien Ogier. What is more, he did it. 

So, the FIA WRC rounds are very thrilling events. Sometimes, the best of these are like movies, as these are touching feelings. However, each one can find in the championship something of their own.