The first year of Rally1 cars is over and it’s time to look at stats and analyze the stages. We saw some record-breaking fast and slow moments, as well as interesting new events, but sadly also lots of cancelled stages.
Cover image by Richard Simpson / Flickr (C)
The season 2022 consisted of two countries with new rallies – Sweden in a new location in Umeå, and Japan with a new tarmac rally on the island of Honshu instead of the gravel roads of Hokkaido. Furthermore, New Zealand was back on the calendar after a decade of absence, making it also a new event for most drivers.
But that wasn’t enough – Monte Carlo relocated back to Southern France, meaning that only one stage had familiar bits from the 2021 route. Finally we can add that Croatia, Safari, Ypres and Acropolis were familiar to the current drivers only from the year before.
The fast ones
Average speed records were blown out the window in Sweden with the Sunday stage of Vindeln producing average speeds of 140.73 and 141.08 km/h. The last time this kind of speeds were used (on other rallies than old Safari with very long and straightforward stages) was Rally Argentina 1992! Also the second run of the stage was not cancelled like in 2017 when the Knon stage surprised everyone at 137 km/h.
Sweden actually took 1-2 in the year’s fastest stages list with Kamsjön as runner-up, and also four places of the top ten. However, Rally Finland still occupied half of the top ten with five stages whose average speeds ranged from 128.5 to 132.7 km/h.
Rally Catalunya’s new opening stage Els Omells – Malda was also included in the top ten with 128.82 km/h. It was likely the fastest tarmac stage of the modern WRC era. Just barely outside the top ten was also Ypres’s Langemark with almost 128 km/h of average speed.
In terms of whole rallies, Finland became the fourth-ever fastest WRC event with overall average speed of 125.32 km/h. Sweden was also a lot faster than the Värmland-based rally with average speed of 121.52 km/h, almost the same numbers as Arctic Rally Finland last year.
Out of tarmac rallies, Ypres’s average speed was 116 km/h with no designated super special at all. This means it’s the fastest tarmac rally ever in the history of WRC. The previous record was from 2014 Alsace with Jari-Matti Latvala clocking 115.07 km/h on the Polo R WRC.
The fourth rally to climb over 100 km/h was Estonia, with average speed as low as 107 km/h for a “fast” rally, although this time slowed down by the heavy rains.
The slow ones
If we omit super specials, the slowest stage of the season was Perivoli in Acropolis, with 70.09 km/h of average speed. Tempio Pausania in Italy was a good runner-up with 72 km/h.
The new tarmac stages in Japan were surprisingly slow, with Isegami’s Tunnel having average speed as low as 78.76 km/h. We have to go back in history as far back as Sanremo 1998 to find a tarmac stage as slow – and today’s cars would likely be a lot faster on it!
As for super specials, four stages were below the 60 km/h limit with Salou in Catalunya being once again the slowest, at 52 km/h.
The long ones
We know that long stages have disappeared some years ago, and literal marathon stages haven’t been run since 2019. In fact, only five stages this year were longer than 30 km, the longest one being the 37 km Amarante in Portugal.
In terms of whole rallies, Safari tried to be true to its past and extended its length to 360 km, a bit over the maximum of 350 km set in the rules these days.
The short ones
While long stages are disappearing, it seems they are taking the short ones along them. This is also related to the rule of having only four stages per loop at maximum, meaning that stages are usually 10-25 km in length, but still about a dozen non-super specials were shorter than 10 km.
Rally Japan had the fast and wide Shinshiro City stage at 7 km and the Asahi Kougen power stage at 7.5 km. On gravel, Estonia had Vastsemõisa, Neeruti and Tartu Vald all between 6.5 and 7.6 km. In contrast to their shortness, they were quite technical stages. Same story was for the returning Sardegna power stage Sassari – Argentiera at 7.1 km. New Zealand went even shorter with the 5.8 km Komokoriki stage, but also having the Sunday consist merely of four 6-8 km stages, 31 km in total. Less than 10 km stages also featured in Croatia, Portugal and Ypres.
Seven rallies – over a half of the season – were under 300 km in length. We can still see some effects from the short rallies in the Covid-19 era but likely any other financial risks were avoided in the current world situation. Also, some rallies had their itineraries affected by other force majeures, like New Zealand and Sweden who had to cut off long stages at the last minute.
With new rules limiting stages by default to four per loop, it’s very rare to see single run stages anymore. Mostly it’s just 2×3 or 2×4 all the way through Fridays and Saturdays and 2×2 or 2×3 for Sunday.
Japan included two single-run stages. First one was in the middle of Saturday while the second loop included instead a twice-run super special, but in turn there was only two proper double-run stages. The Sunday route had a five-stage setup with the middle stage run only once and the power stage being the first and the last of the loop. Monte Carlo had the traditional night time single runs on Thursday and another on Saturday, but it meant there was only five stages during the day. Also, Portugal had two single-runs – one on Friday while moving from Coimbra to Porto, and second one on the short Sunday loop.
Acropolis was also again unique in its Friday route which traveled from Corinth to Lamia through six stages, four of them single runs. Then there was yet another single run in the middle of Sunday.
Sardinia and Finland decided to use a structure where two stages are run twice on the morning, and two other stages repeated on Saturday. This makes it easy for a spectator to watch two repeats of the same stage and then move to the next one – but in turn there’s risks of canceling stages for delays or midday traffic jams when everyone is switching stage at the same time.
Thursday super specials were omitted in Sweden, Croatia, Ypres and Catalunya. This season we also saw three tarmac-setup super specials with Japan hosting two in addition to the usual Salou stage in Catalunya.
If 2022 is remembered for something else than the new Rally1 hybrid cars or Kalle Rovanperä’s first championship, it will be canceled stages.
It already started in Sweden with the Örträsk stage having to be cancelled for reindeers moving at the area and no time to come up with a replacement. Croatia had to cancel second run of the new Platak stage because of thick fog. Sardinia had to cancel two last Friday stages because an accident recovery slowed down the itinerary too much. Finland canceled the second run of Lankamaa because of spectator problems – the first canceled stage in Finland since 1996.
Japan also had to cancel three stages for different reasons. Inabu Dam 1 was cancelled because Dani Sordo’s car caught fire on the previous stage and later runners were blocked. Shitara Town 2 was meanwhile cancelled because Craig Breen went off on the first run of the stage, damaging a barrier. Finally, the first run of the Okazaki City super special was cancelled because safety divers weren’t in place in time.
In addition to these stages that never even started, quite many stages were red flagged because of accidents or other incidents. Especially in Sardinia and Japan the lower class drivers barely got to drive any stages on Fridays. For sure, it’s understandable to play it safe, and rally itineraries cannot be delayed infinitely. But at the same time there’s still much to learn from past mistakes, namely in the case of Japan, where fire trucks took too long to reach Sordo’s burning car or a civil car that was running on the stage in the opposite direction!