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  Home > Seasons > Season 2021
End of an era
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Sebastien Ogier started the season with a bang as he scored his seventh WRC Monte Carlo win, equaling Loeb's record. From this win, Ogier started an irresistible march toward the title as he added three more victories in the next five rallies, building up a sizeable lead by midpoint of the season. For the latter part of the season he simply managed that lead, making sure to finish any rallies that were held in the uncertain Covid-conditions.

Similarly, it seemed that Toyota had upper hand on manufacturers' series. Their car was not necessarily the fastest everywhere, for example suffering a surprise defeat in Arctic rally where they were expected to be the fast. As is evident from stage win statistics, Hyundai scored more of those but Toyotas lasted to the end more often.

M-Sport was coldly left out of the race, their drivers almost routinely being the last of the priority 1 group. Team clearly put most of their few resources into development of the new hybrid Rally1 Ford Puma and to put it bluntly, only came to rallies for the sake of appearances. Teemu Suninen complained about the lack of testing and drew his conclusions by leaving the team before season was over.

For five years, new and exciting 2017 specification cars ruled the rally roads. They were introduced with the idea of getting the buzz back to the rallying as cars had more power, more spectacular aerodynamics, less controlling technology to induce slides rather than on-rails driving of earlier cars. But times were changing and concern for the climate change forced automobile industry towards cleaner alternatives.

For purely marketing perspective, manufacturers were under intense pressure to show environmentally friendly face and combustion engined rally cars did not suit that so even if 2017 specification was a success, it simply had to go. New regulations took surprisingly long time to arrive as they were finally finalized at the end of March, with all three manufacturers (Citroen, Hyundai and Ford) committing to a three year extension (previously commitment was on annual basis).

Cancellations continue
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COVID-19 pandemic that wreaked such a havoc in 2020 championship ebbed throughout the year, sometimes subsiding and at other times getting worse. This time, FIA was better prepared and had plenty of reserve events. And boy, were these needed as first cancellation became even before season started and more followed in early months of the year.

Rally Sweden was cancelled mid-December 2019 due to second wave of COVID-19. In January, Arctic Rally in Finland was hastily added to calendar to replace cancelled Sweden, despite not being one of the nominated reserve events.

Round in Great Britain, planned to be hosted in Northern Ireland, was cancelled on first week of January even though event was scheduled to take place only in August, eight months hence. Reserve event in Belgium stepped in as a replacement.

At the end of March, Chile was cancelled and Acropolis made a return as it stepped in as an replacement, to be held on same date. Rally Finland, originally planned to be held in it's usual early August date was postponed by two months to early October.

Rally Japan was scheduled to be final rally of the season but worsening Covid-situation led to it's cancellation in September and was quickly replaced with Monza, repeating season ending thriller of the previous season as Ogier and Evans again battled for the title on the race track.

Despite the cancellations and overall difficult pandemic situation, 2021 season saw return to a respectable number of events, 12 in total.

Changes
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As cars stayed much the same as before ahead of new Rally1-technology cars for 2022 season, it was drivers and co-drivers who stepped into make changes. It would be easier to list pairings that stayed stable, but let's see who did not.

Trend started with Thierry Neuville who parted with long time co-driver Gilsoul and joined with Martijn Wydaeghe just a week before season opening Rally Monte Carlo. Thus, he set himself at disadvantage, starting the most difficult rally of the season with new, relatively inexperienced co-driver with no time to familiarize. At the same event, Teemu Suninen reunited with his former co-driver Mikko Markkula as Jarmo Lehtinen joined Toyota's team management.

Gus Greensmith had no fewer than four different co-drivers. After second round of the season, he split with Elliot Edmondson and teamed up with Chris Patterson. Patterson was absent from Sardinia for personal reasons, so Gus drove there with Stuart Loudon. As Chris was lured back from retirement for this season only and he again retired before final event of the season, Gus had to find new co-driver for season ending Rally Monza where he paired with Jonas Andersson.

By Rally Portugal, Dani Sordo switched from Carlos del Barrio to Borja Rozada. Partnership lasted only for four events before Borja was replaced with Candido Carrera.

Hyundai's second-line driver Pierre-Louis Loubet parted ways with Vincent Landais, replacing him with Florian Haut Labourdette while M-Sport driver Adrien Fourmaux split with his co-driver Renaud Jamoul just shortly after Rally Acropolis.

Oliver Solberg too had four co-drivers during the season as his regular co-driver Aaron Johnston tested positive for Covid and was quarantined, forcing Oliver to contest Arctic with Sebastian Marshall. Johnston then resumed co-driving before they parted ways after Acropolis and Solberg paired with Craig Drew for two events before switching again for the final rally of the season, competing in Monza with Greensmith's former co-driver Elliot Edmondson.

Katsuta Takamoto's usual co-driver Daniel Barritt hurt his back in Rally Estonia and was temporarily sidelined, so Keaton Williams stepped in for a few rallies before Katsuta decided to drive with Solberg's former co-driver Aaron Johnston for the rest of the season.

Sebastien Ogier, who will continue with partial programme in 2022 season, does so with new co-driver Benjamin Veillas as Julien Ingrassia retired at the end of 2021 season.

Personnel changes were not limited to drivers - co-driver -pairings. Hyundai team principal Andrea Adamo called it a day and resigned from his post after season had ended. Earlier in the season, famed rally engineer Christian Loriaux was hired from M-Sport to help with new Rally1-car and a month later team manager Alain Penasse's contract was not renewed.

2021 FIA World Champions
(Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window)
2021 FIA World Champions: Sebastien Ogier and Julian Ingrassia Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window
Drivers scoring their
first win
  K. Rovanpera (Estonia)
first drivers' point
  P. Lopez (Sardinia)
  J. Solans Baldo (Sardinia)
  C. Tundo (Safari)
  K. Patel (Safari)
  O. Rai (Safari)
  A. Lukyanuk (Estonia)
  P. Cracco (Belgium)
  F. Kreim (Belgium)
  V. Verschueren (Belgium)
  E. Lindholm (Finland)
  N. Solans Baldo (Catalunya)
  A. Crugnola (Monza)
first stage win
  A. Fourmaux (Safari)
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