Dani/Cándido and Esapekka/Janne finish 2-3
A dramatic final day at Rally de Portugal, the fifth round of the 2023 WRC season, has culminated with a 2-3 finish for our team – matching our best result of the year. Once again, the i20 N Rally1 showed competitive form on the gruelling gravel roads.
Dani and Cándido had a fantastic weekend, scoring three stage wins enroute to second. Their team-mates Esapekka and Janne were behind them in third in what was another strong performance from the Finns across the 19 stages.
Unfortunately, a provisional podium finished was snatched away from Thierry and Martijn on the final morning in what was a bittersweet conclusion to the event.
“This is for you, Craig”
All weekend long, Dani had competed with a special helmet in honour of Craig, which was adorned with the colours of the Irish and Spanish flags. Moments after completing the final stage, Dani dedicated his podium to Craig and his family.
“Craig was with me all rally long and pushing me to the limits,” said an emotional Dani. “I want to give this podium to his mum and dad, because I promised them I would wear this helmet for him. I remember I called him after Sweden and told him he was so fast, and he said ‘now you have the pressure!’. Well Craig, I am back.”
Rally de Portugal was another strong outing from Esapekka and Janne, who collected two stage wins on Friday and were battling closely with Thierry and Martijn for third before the Belgians ran into trouble.
“Overall, we had a good weekend,” concluded Esapekka. “It was a strong, consistent drive with no other problems, and it is a good result for the team. We’ve scored important manufacturers’ points today.”
Thierry and Martijn’s podium hopes were dashed by a turbo issue on their car from the very first stage on Sunday. Down on power and unable to resolve the problem, the Belgian has to limp through the four stages to bring the car home in fifth.
“In short, this is what rallying is all about – full of ups and downs,” admitted a disappointed Thierry. “It is one of the most cruel motorsports, if not sports, in the world. We have to face situations like this sometimes, but it is never easy. A weekend to forget; let’s see what we can do in Sardinia.”
It was a difficult end to a weekend where our crews experienced minimal issues in the first two days compared to our competitors.
Our Team Principal, Cyril, said: “We are glad to finally make it to the end of this rally, which was certainly a tough one. For a large part of the weekend, we had three cars competing in the top five, which was good as we know something can always happen here. Unfortunately it did with Thierry, who lost precious points due to reliability issues, and that needs to be investigated further. On the other hand, it was an opportunity for Dani and Esapekka to shine – and they did not disappoint.”
The 2023 FIA World Rally Championship will continue on June 1-4 with Rally Italia Sardegna.