Wed 14 Dec 2022

Vote All Live Performance of the Year

Throughout 2022 there were some spectacular individual performances that stick in the back of mind. This is a celebration of those moments as we seek to find the All Live Performance of the year across all WRC categories.

Strapped for cash, multiple question marks hung over the head of 2021 FIA Junior WRC runner-up Jon Armstrong coming into Rally Sweden, the opening round on the 2022 junior calendar. Less than a fortnight out from the rally it was still not clear if the Ulsterman would make it to the snow and ice of Sweden, an event it is worth noting did not hold the best memories for Armstrong following a spectacular off in 2020.

Turning up without any testing in the Ford Fiesta Ford, with a new co-driver alongside him and on all-new stages, Armstrong understandably appeared off the pace through the opening stage in Kroksjö. However, he and Brian Hoy soon found their rhythm and with two stage wins under their belts, had fought back to end the opening day second overall, 7.7sec down on Lauri Joona.

The rivals spent the remainder of the weekend in a dogfight battle for the win. The lead changed hands on five occasions but it was Armstrong who showed remarkable poise, eventually holding on for an unexpected 2.7sec victory.

A new car, a new team, an inexperienced co-driver at WRC level, a shortened preparation period following on from the Dakar and more than two years since his previous victory. Add to that his advanced age of 47, it was easy to suggest that Sébastien Loeb was an outside chance at best of winning Rallye Monte-Carlo in 2022.

However, the man referred to in many circles as the G.O.A.T did not come across the moniker by sitting idle. The Frenchman was on the pace from the outset and recorded the second-quickest time on the first stage of the WRC's hybrid era. After that, he never moved out of the top two for the remainder of the weekend, setting up a classic seesaw battle with fellow French legend Sébastien Ogier.

Using every bit of his veteran know-how, Loeb gambled correctly on his Sunday tyre selection. In varying conditions, he secured M-Sport's first victory in more than two years and a maiden victory for co-driver Isabelle Galmiche - all whilst also rewriting the record books as the oldest-ever WRC rally winner, putting to rest any suggestions rallying is a young person's game.

To say that Andreas Mikkelsen's Acropolis experience got off to a horror start would be an understatement of epic proportions. Taking on a super-special stage in front of tens of thousands of fans in Athens Olympic Stadium, the Norwegian's WRC2 weekend was essentially over after two corners when he failed to navigate a sharp right after catching air on an overpass.

It resulted in his car arriving back to the Lamia service park on the back of a trailer, a 10min penalty incurred. With thoughts of victory put to bed, the Toksport driver threw caution to the wind, reeling off 11 stage wins over the remaining 15 tests - including a clean sweep of stage victories on Sunday.

Remarkably, Mikkelsen made up more than two minutes and climbed back from 33rd to 7th in WRC2, scooping vital points towards his championship hopes.

Arriving at the second edition of Croatia Rally, all eyes were firmly fixed on one man going into Friday's opening stage: Kalle Rovanperä. The young Finn found himself in the same position as a year earlier running as the first car on the road. That experience did not end well as the then 20-year-old crashed and ended his weekend after just three minutes.

But this year, 21-year-old Rovanperä was showing no signs of repeating his error of a year prior and posted the quickest time through the rally-opening Mali Lipovec - Grdanjci stage. It was a position he would then hold up until the penultimate stage on Sunday when he was caught out by unexpected rain, conceding the lead to Ott Tänak. 

Down 1.4sec to the seasoned Tänak, it would have been understandable for Rovanperä to navigate his Yaris home risk-free through the Wolf Power Stage, consolidating his overall lead in the championship. But that was never an option for the future world champion. Rovanperä blitzed Tänak and all other rivals on the Power Stage by 4.3sec across just 14.9km, taking maximum points from the weekend.

Ott Tänak was making no secret of the challenges he was dealing with in his Hyundai i20 N throughout the first half of 2022 as man and machine struggled to come to grips.

Toyota, particularly Rovanperä, had dominated the start of the season - but with Tänak claiming victory in Sardinia, there were some cracks beginning to appear in the Toyota camp. Regardless, on their home rally in Finland, this was going to be Toyota's weekend to silence any naysayers and put their season back on track.

Apparently, no one told a certain Estonian. Taking the lead on Friday's opening challenge, Tänak would not relinquish it for the remainder of the weekend despite the best efforts of the chasing pack of Yaris cars, led by Esapekka Lappi and Kalle Rovanperä.

Perhaps with memories of Croatia still in the back of his mind, Tänak was not about to be usurped at the final hurdle once again. He was fastest on Sunday's opening stage and matched the pace of Rovanperä on the next to hold a 10.3 sec lead that could not be overtaken on the remaining two tests.

Toyota cars took out the next three positions with Tänak's team-mate Thierry Neuville finishing in fifth, more than two minutes back from the lead.

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