The Rally2 formula has arguably been one of the most successful rulesets ever implemented by the FIA for rallying, with the cars competing – and winning – nationally and internationally since 2013.
In 2020, the cars competed across the globe as usual (even if it was less frequently thanks to COVID-19) and provided plenty of high moments for drivers at all different stages of their career.
Internationally, the majority of outside attention is focused on the stars of the World Rally Championship in the top-class Rally1 machines, but there are loads of strong talents plying their trade in Rally2 on the international scene – whether that be WRC2 or WRC3, the European Rally Championship or a top domestic series.
DirtFish has therefore decided to give these drivers their moment in the limelight, and has composed a top 10 list of the best Rally2 drivers of 2020.
There are several drivers that could consider themselves unlucky not to make the cut here, including WRC3 title contender Kajetan Kajetanowicz, ERC1 Junior star Efrén Llarena and French Tarmac champion Yoann Bonato, who finished second on two ERC rallies.
Even Craig Breen could have been considered given his ERC campaign with MRF and victory on Rally di Alba, but both Breen’s own attention and his attention-grabbing drives have more often been in a Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. And of course, Ken Block deserves a shoutout for his 100% winning record after his victory on Rally Barbados!
But without further ado, here are our picks. Disagree? Let us know in the comments.
10. Andrea Crugnola
Co-driver: Pietro Elia Ometto
Car: Citroën C3 R5
Season highlights: Italian Champion, four outright event wins
Winning four out of the seven rallies started is a solid record for any driver, but particularly so when you’re rallying on Italian asphalt up against Giandomenico Basso. Crugnola tried last year in a Volkswagen and a Škoda and couldn’t quite manage it. This year he bossed it in a Citroën after a thrilling season finale.
Crugnola probably isn’t a name that’s overly familiar with some rally fans, and at 31 he’s unlikely to suddenly be staking his claim for a pulsating career in the WRC. But for those that know, Crugnola is the real deal.
The biggest travesty is perhaps the missed opportunity of Rally di Roma. Last year he showed great pace so in 2020 he was expected to go well on the ERC’s season opener, which had more eyeballs on it than usual as it was the first international rally to run after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Unfortunately, Crugnola binned it. And to prove how agonizing it was, when he returned the next day he set six fastest stage times from nine tests against a field including WRC drivers. Another accident on the penultimate round of his season – Rally Due Valli – threatened to ruin a year of good work but he kept his head as Basso faltered on the finale to claim Italy’s national title.
The fact he had to edge out such a stiff opponent in Basso is why Crugnola features here over Yoann Bonato who had a similarly triumphant year in a C3 in France.
9. Pontus Tidemand
Co-driver: Patrik Barth
Car: Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo
Season highlights: 12th in WRC, WRC2 title fight, two victories
Tidemand’s career has gone sideways since he won the WRC2 title in 2017. Back for another stab at the same series the following year, he was beaten by Škoda team-mate Jan Kopecký but found refuge with M-Sport for select WRC rounds in 2019.
Regressing to WRC2 again this season, driving a Toksport-run Fabia, Tidemand has been solid if unspectacular. Not necessarily the fastest in class but most definitely one of the wisest, Tidemand used his experience and was always there to bank the points – and podiums, as he never finished lower than third.
But in a fight with a flying Mads Østberg for honors, podiums weren’t going to be enough. A driveshaft issue for Østberg in Italy gave Tidemand the break he needed and he took his second 2020 win after the first came in a superbly controlled drive on Rally México. Ultimately though he lost out to Østberg by four points.
There’s no denying this was a solid season for Tidemand, but if he wanted to prove he was capable of more in the WRC, he didn’t quite manage it.
8. Grégoire Munster
Co-driver: Louis Louka
Car: Hyundai i20 R5
Season highlights: ERC1 Junior title fight, third overall in ERC
Expectations were both high and low for Munster this season depending on your outlook. Selected as one of five Hyundai junior drivers (alongside Pierre-Louis Loubet, Ole Christian Veiby, Nikolay Gryazin and Callum Devine) the soon-to-be 22-year-old had a big opportunity on his first full season of Rally2 competition. But this was his first year in a car anywhere near as quick as this, and his previous form had occasionally been shaky.
However Munster rose to the occasion, fighting Oliver Solberg – a man with far more experience – all the way for the ERC1 Junior title; the highlight undoubtedly being a superb second overall and first in the category on Rally Hungary in early November.
His form in WRC3 has been slightly less convincing with 11th in Estonia and an embarrassing roll at Monza on the circuit stages, but he did bag fifth in Monte Carlo with a Škoda before he was snapped up by Hyundai.
Munster showed maturity beyond his years this season, and was without question the standout Hyundai junior pilot given his quality results and comparative lack of experience.
7. Marco Bulacia
Co-driver: Marcelo Der Ohannesian / Giovanni Bernacchini
Car: Citroën C3 R5 / Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo
Season highlights: WRC3 title fight, Italy Gravel Champion
Bulacia’s 2020 season has slipped under the radar, so hopefully his entry at number seven can do something small to change that! The Bolivian first appeared in the WRC aged just 18 in 2018 and showed strong improvements last year with two WRC3 podiums in Mxico and Turkey.
Switching to a Citroën C3 R5 for the WRC rounds, Bulacia immediately bettered that with a fantastic maiden class victory on Rally México that was topped up by a string of podium and top-four finishes. Like Tidemand, his drives weren’t always swashbuckling but he just quietly went about his business, scooping up the points that allowed him to square off against Jari Huttunen and Kajetanowicz for the WRC3 title in Monza. Unfortunately he would struggle to sixth, missing the title by five points.
But when he wasn’t threading a C3 R5 between the trees in the WRC, he was back in his more familiar Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo in the Italy Gravel series. A South American driver committing to a season in Italy is about as left-field as left-field moves come, but it absolutely paid dividends. Two victories and the title gave him more seat time, more experience and more credibility after defeating none other than Paolo Andreucci to the spoils.
We could see an even better Bulacia in 2021, and that’s a worrying thought for his rivals.
6. Alexey Lukyanuk
Co-driver: Dmitry Eremeev / Alexey Arnautov
Car: Citroën C3 R5
Season highlights: European Rally Champion
Lukyanuk continues to be an enigma, but there can be no disputing that 2020 was his finest season yet in a Rally2 car. The fact it wasn’t particularly Lukyanuk-esque is probably the biggest compliment we can pay him.
Think of Lukyanuk, and most rally fans will think of one of two things: a balls-out drive to a fantastic win or an upside-down car. In 2020, he did neither. Yes, he won two rallies (Rally di Roma and Rally Fafe Montelongo) but he didn’t risk it all to achieve those victories. In fact in Rome, he allowed Basso to eat into his first leg lead as he preferred to take it easily and reduce the risks so that he could get maximum points, no doubt wary that such moments had cost him last year’s ERC title to Chris Ingram who wasn’t as quick but far more consistent.
There were blips, but not through any fault of his own as it was his co-driver that checked him in early to a Rally Hungary time control and cost him a shot at victory. All in all, this was a surprisingly mature season from the man nicknamed the ‘Russian rocket’ that yielded a second ERC title.
Budget concerns remain an issue so the likelihood of him stepping up to the WRC appears unlikely for now, but wouldn’t it be fantastic to see?
5. Andreas Mikkelsen
Co-driver: Ola Fløene / Anders Jæger
Car: Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo
Season highlights: Comeback ERC and WRC victories
This is potentially quite a controversial entry given Mikkelsen only started three events all year, but the fact he won two of them means he simply has to qualify for the list, and qualify highly.
An ex-factory WRC driver and indeed WRC-winning pilot winning rallies in a Rally2 car might appear a foregone conclusion, but it’s important to understand how big a risk Mikkelsen took this year. Had he not succeeded, he would’ve all but buried his international rallying career.
His first rally back – Rally Hungary – followed plenty of testing miles with Pirelli but it was his first competitive appearance in 11 months. Mikkelsen dominated, and was up against the likes of Breen and Solberg who themselves have big WRC aspirations for the future. The Canary Islands Rally was wrecked by the wrong tire choice, so after that the Norwegian decided to take it steadily and rack up more miles ahead of his WRC return at Monza.
Lying third overall after three stages – behind just Esapekka Lappi and Dani Sordo’s WRC cars – was a clear statement of intent, as was his eventual WRC3 victory in sixth place on the leaderboard. Mikkelsen rolled the dice and has come out smelling of roses. His future looks a lot brighter than it did this time last year.
4. Oliver Solberg
Co-driver: Aaron Johnston
Car: Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 / Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo
Season highlights: ERC1 Junior champion, two rally wins
It’s easy to forget this was just Solberg’s second season in a Rally2 car, as his assurance behind the wheel completely belies his experience level. And it’s this context – and his ERC1 Junior title plus another Rally Liepaja victory in particular – that cement his place towards the top of DirtFish’s list.
This season was Solberg’s first proper commitment to the WRC and a full campaign was planned, alternating between a VW and a Škoda. But COVID-19 ensured this wouldn’t be happening. Instead, he did what was left of the WRC calendar – winning the WRC3 class in Estonia – but also ventured to the ERC for more asphalt experience.
The fact he nearly won the title after an 80% Tarmac season shows Solberg’s rapid rate of progression. A podium on Rally di Roma, his first ever dry asphalt rally, was a particular highlight behind just Lukyanuk and Basso, and ahead of Breen.
Various factors robbed Solberg of a true WRC3 title shot but his speed went unquestioned. Second in class and seventh overall on the Monza Rally, only 15.9 seconds shy of Mikkelsen, was a huge effort particularly considering that the deficit was as high as 53.7s before the mountain stages.
This season might not have propelled Solberg into the limelight in the same way his 2019 campaign did, but it was still an epic year. Another season in Rally2 beckons in 2021 now he’s signed to Hyundai Motorsport, but how long till the reigning WRC champion team decides it needs him in one of its Rally1 cars?
3. Mads Østberg
Co-driver: Torstein Eriksen
Car: Citroën C3 R5
Season highlights: WRC2 Champion
Østberg has achieved a lot in the world of rallying, but he’s never won a world championship before. This would still be true had we written this a month ago, but it finally all changed this year when he powered his PH Sport-run Citroën C3 R5 to the WRC2 crown, winning four rallies from five starts. In truth, he was the class of the field.
Of course, like Mikkelsen, Østberg might have been expected to dominate the class given his previous WRC exploits but he was up against a driver with similarly strong experience in Tidemand and never truly looked like being bested. Even a disagreement over the number of rallies competitors were able to start – ultimately leading to Østberg starting one fewer round and losing the opportunity to drop a score – couldn’t stop him.
Perhaps what’s more impressive was the positive attitude Østberg has maintained throughout the last couple of years. He’s not hidden the fact he wants to be back in the WRC, but he’s absolutely thrown himself at Citroën’s Rally2 project and his efforts have bore fruit. Last year, the C3 wasn’t a fancied machine but now it’s won both the WRC2 and the ERC titles as well as several national championships. Østberg has been instrumental in that.
Second place on a rare ERC appearance on Rally Liepaja capped off what has arguably been Østberg’s most impressive year behind the wheel of a rally car.
2. Adrien Fourmaux
Co-driver: Renaud Jamoul
Car: Ford Fiesta Rally2
Season highlights: Four outright rally wins, reputation overhaul
At the start of 2020, there were no doubt some that questioned Fourmaux’s presence in the M-Sport WRC2 team. Others may not have even heard of him. The same certainly can’t be said at the end of the year after what has been a transformational season in Fourmaux’s career.
The Frenchman only started rallying in 2017 but has quickly risen into a force to be reckoned with. This season, in M-Sport’s official car, he’s blasted to three outright rally wins (and one in a WRC car); his most impressive of these the Canary Islands Rally in the ERC.
His progression from the start of the year has been startling. Fourmaux was quick on the Monte but it didn’t click together, and after that he just wasn’t quite on the pace. A second stage accident on Rally di Roma the other side of the pandemic appeared to be rock bottom. But Fourmaux picked himself up and started punching in the big performances.
He was a genuine contender for WRC2 victory on Rally Italy – one of his first ever gravel rallies – and was miles quicker than the rest of the pack on the Monza Rally. Ultimately there, a collision with the scenery in the impossible wintry conditions put paid to his victory bid, but it confirmed that Fourmaux now starts every rally he enters as a threat and not just an interloper.
While several others on this list have achieved bigger successes than Fourmaux has in 2020, a lot of these were expected or unsurprising. Fourmaux certainly wasn’t tipped to be doing what he has done in recent months, making him fully deserving of number two on DirtFish. He is now a driver with an entirely different reputation after this season.
1. Jari Huttunen
Co-driver: Mikko Lukka
Car: Hyundai i20 R5
Season highlights: WRC3 Champion, Polish Champion
There can be little argument that Huttunen deserves the top spot here and has been the most impressive Rally2 driver of the year. The Finn has started 12 rallies this year in a Hyundai i20 R5, and he’s finished all of them on the class podium. That’s just ridiculous.
DirtFish has already dived deeper into Huttunen’s sensational season so for even more analysis, make sure you read that. Since we published that, Huttunen’s incredible year has still shown no signs of letting up. It’s been so impressive, he’s even worked his way back into Andrea Adamo’s Hyundai plans after a difficult couple of years recently had looked to crucify his career.
Winning the WRC3 title as the only man to score more than one victory is the obvious highlight, but there are arguably even better feats to be found elsewhere. His Polish championship title was a surprise given it was all on asphalt and this never used to be a surface Huttunen excelled on.
And then there was his drive on Rally di Alba. On a weekend where just about every single Hyundai-affiliated driver was in town, Huttunen slotted his i20 R5 into second overall, a mere 8.7s shy of Breen, after one hour of driving on tricky Italian asphalt beforehand. And who was behind him? None other than Dani Sordo.
His blinding speed, now married with immaculate consistency, makes Huttunen the clear standout driver in the Rally2 category this year. And the beautiful tale of redemption attached to it all just makes the story that bit sweeter.