› Team Toksport WRT scores triple victory with Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 crews Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson, Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson and Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen
› During the FIA World Rally Championship’s fifth round, crews in Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 post fastest WRC2 times on 14 of the 19 stages
› Marco Bulacia/Diego Vallejo (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) win WRC2 Challenger classification, Alexander Villanueva/José Murado Gonzáles (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) finish first in WRC Masters Cup
Matosinhos (PRT), 14 May 2023 – That was close! Only 1.2 seconds separated Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (GBR/SWE) and Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (SWE/GBR) after 329 stage kilometres and nearly four hours of total driving time. With this small margin, Greensmith/Andersson won WRC2 at Rally de Portugal, fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Solberg/Edmondson finished second ahead of Toksport WRT team mates Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (NOR/NOR). Remarkably, the three Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 crews were classified sixth, seventh and eighth in the overall result.
Rally de Portugal lived up for its reputation of one of the toughest rounds of the world championship. Especially during the Friday leg, a great number of punctures shook up the classification after nearly each stage in the top class of Rally1 cars and also in WRC2. One of the victims was Andreas Mikkelsen. After a break from the world championship since Acropolis Rally Greece in September 2022, the former WRC2 Champion and co-driver Torstein Eriksen were back in WRC2. At the wheel of a Toksport WRT run Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, Mikkelsen was fighting for the lead right from the start. But a puncture and the necessary tire change cost the Norwegians roughly two minutes already in SS4.
When the dust settled after the first eight stages and 120 competitive kilometres on Friday evening, Oliver Solberg and co-driver Elliott Edmondson topped the WRC2 standings 50 seconds ahead of their Toksport WRT team mates Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson. Until the end of the Saturday leg, after 149 more kilometres against the clock, Solberg/Edmondson still had a lead of 35 seconds in hand.
But then the Stewards went into action. After the finish of Saturday’s last stage, a 3.36 kilometres sprint through the rallycross track of Lousada, Solberg had entertained the huge crowds with some donuts. Just as his father, former FIA World Rally Champion Petter Solberg aka “Hollywood”, would have done. Unfortunately, the WRC rules precisely outlaw such show elements. Consequently, Solberg/Edmondson were handed a one-minute penalty, relegating them to second place in WRC2. “This penalty is for the fans,” Solberg commented, who eventually started into the Sunday leg trailing Greensmith by 25 seconds.
By the start of the Power Stage on Sunday, the gap was down to 8.7 seconds. Solberg pulled out all the stops one more time and went fastest through the rally-ending stage – his seventh stage win of the weekend. But a full 7.5 seconds gain on Greensmith just wasn’t enough – Solberg/Edmondson lost the rally by 1.2 seconds. “We gave it everything, that’s for sure. Congrats to Gus and Jonas,” Solberg showed true sportsmanship. Small consolation for Solberg: With the Rally de Portugal result, he has closed the gap to WRC2 overall leader Yohan Rossel to one single point. For Greensmith/Andersson, the Portuguese success was the second WRC2 victory of the season. Greensmith advanced to third position in the WRC2 overall standings.
In the wake of the Greensmith vs. Solberg duel, Mikkelsen fought his way back into the WRC2 top three. Winning five stages on the way, Mikkelsen/Eriksen eventually completed a full Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 podium in WRC2. “I'm still struggling with the feeling for the Škoda Fabia RS Rally2. But we are getting there,” he said at the finish. The three Toksport WRT crews even managed to finish sixth, seventh and eighth in the overall standings, impressive proof of the reliability of the Škoda Fabia RS Rally2.
Proceedings in WRC Masters Cup, which is reserved for drivers over the age of 50, initially seemed to be in the hands of Armin Kremer at the wheel of a Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo of team Baumschlager Rallye&Racing. The former European Rally Champion and his Dakar Rally winning co-driver Timo Gottschalk led the category by more than 30 seconds, when broken wheel studs sidelined the two Germans. Category victory still went to a Škoda crew, Alexander Villanueva and co-driver José Murado Gonzáles from Spain. The category WRC2 Challenger, where only drivers are eligible for points, who have not yet won a WRC2 or WRC3 title as well as not previously been nominated to score manufacturer points, was dominated by Marco Bulacia/Diego Vallejo (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2). The Bolivian-Spanish crew of team Toksport WRT won by more than two minutes.
From the Atlantic coast of Portugal, the FIA World Rally Championship heads to the rough gravel and heat of a Mediterranean island: Rally Italia Sardegna is next from 1st to 4th June.
Rally de Portugal, 11-14 May 2023, Result WRC2
|1||Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (GBR/SWE), Škoda Fabia RS Rally2||3.44:55,1 hours|
|2||Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (SWE/GBR), Škoda Fabia RS Rally2||+1,2 seconds|
|3||Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (NOR/NOR), Škoda Fabia RS Rally2||+43,0 seconds|
|4||Yohan Rossel/Arnaud Dunand (FRA/FRA), Citroën C3 Rally2||+1:49,9 minutes|
|5||Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (FIN/FIN), Hyundai i20 N Rally2||+2:33,0 minutes|
|6||Marco Bulacia/Diego Vallejo (BOL/ESP), Škoda Fabia RS Rally2||+3:07,4 minutes|
Numbers of the rally: 6, 7, 8
While a number of the top level Rally1 car didn’t survive the extremely rough gravel stages of Rally de Portugal, the new Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 showed great reliability. Toksport WRT’s Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson, Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson and Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen finished 6th, 7th and 8th respectively in the overall classification.