The closest WRC2 finishes of all time

The second-tier of the World Rally Championship has produced some of the most exciting final-day shootouts

Yohan Rossel

The WRC2 battle went down to the wire on the Rally of Portugal earlier this month. And it wasn’t the only tight finish in the category this year.

How did it stack up among the top 10 closest finishes since WRC2’s inception in 2013?

Our friends at eWRC-results can help us find out.

Note, the WRC’s competition for Rally2 or R5 machinery was split in two for three years between 2019 and 2021. It’s worth remembering that there were some very close finishes in what was labeled WRC3 in 2020 and ’21.

But we’re sticking with ‘WRC2’ here so, for example, Andrea Crugnola’s 4.0-second success over Pietro Ometto on 2021’s Monza Rally doesn’t make our list.

10 Rally Italy 2021

WRC2 winning margin: 7.5s


Having won the WRC3 title in 2020, Hyundai junior Jari Huttunen was set to challenge for WRC2 honors in 2021. Engine failure on the very first stage of Arctic Rally Finland wasn’t the best way to start but he bounced back next time out in Sardinia.

Huttunen’s i20 R5 was running second to Mads Østberg’s Citroën C3 Rally2 for the first day-and-a-half but was thrust into a 16.8-second lead when Østberg was hit with a one-minute penalty for being late to a time control.

Østberg had had to make some emergency repairs after losing a wheel on the road section. The Norwegian then spent the rest of Saturday afternoon eating into his deficit, ending the day just 2.7s down.

Østberg hit the front on Sunday’s first stage, only to suffer a puncture on the next. But the exasperated Citroën driver hit back to cut Huttunen’s lead from 17.4 to just 2.1s heading into the powerstage.

It was the Finn who won the shootout, going fastest despite suffering engine problems, to claim a narrow victory. The defeated Østberg believed he’d had a leak in his brake system. “I have done all in my power to be fast,” he said. “I have been a mechanic and a driver and all sorts.”

9 Rally Italy 2015

WRC2 winning margin: 5.6s

Yuriy Poratsov - Action

Six years earlier, Sardinia had also been the scene of what was, at that time, the third closest finish in WRC2.

This was when the class featured a mix of R5, RRC, Super 2000 and Group N machinery. Ukrainian Yuriy Protasov was campaigning a Ford Fiesta RRC. After a slow start, he gradually worked his way up the order to fourth at the end of Friday, some two minutes down on Italian hero Paolo Andreucci’s Peugeot 208 T16.

But, after Andreucci hit trouble, Protasov’s deficit was down to 37s by Saturday’s midday service. After a catalogue of problems for the Italian in the afternoon, Protasov led by 7s going in to the final day.

It was Protasov’s turn to puncture on Sunday’s opener, and Andreucci was back in front by a similar margin.  The pair then traded the lead again and were separated by just 0.5s going in to the powerstage.

Protasov went fastest through the 7.3 miles of Cala Flumini to beat his rival by just 5.6s overall.

8 Rally Sweden 2018

WRC2 winning margin: 4.5s

Takamoto Katsuta

The 2018 edition of Rally Sweden will be long remembered as the event on which Takamoto Katsuta announced himself on the world stage.

In just his sixth WRC start, the Toyota protégé was run by WRC team principal Tommi Mäkinen’s own team in a Ford Fiesta R5. Running on Pirelli tires, Katsuta flew – leading WRC2 from the second stage and all through Friday.

But the Škodas of Pontus Tidemand and Ole Christian Veiby were just a handful of seconds behind. A mistake on Saturday morning dropped Katsuta to third but he hit straight back on the next stage to retake the lead.

And there he stayed, eking out a small margin over the Scandinavian contingent. Katsuta lost over 5s to Tidemand on the powerstage but had done just enough to clinch a famous victory.

7 Tour de Corse 2019

WRC2 winning margin: 3.9s

Fabio Andolfi

While the manufacturer-back entries ran in WRC2 Pro in 2019, the privateers provided close competition in WRC2.

The Tour de Corse featured a strong entry with plenty of local specialists including Eric Camilli. The Frenchman’s Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 led until midday on Saturday when he dropped more than a minute and then succumbed to a fire later in the day.

Camilli’s demise handed Fabio Andolfi’s Škoda Fabia R5 a 30s advantage over the similar car of Nikolay Gryazin.

Sensationally, Gryazin overturned that on Sunday’s opening 20-mile stage and, with just the powerstage remaining, the pair were separated by a scant 0.7s.

But, as Elfyn Evans suffered heartbreak in the event overall, so did Gryazin in WRC2. Andolfi fired in a time 4.6s faster than his rival to snatch the win, his first – and so far only – success in WRC2.

6 Rally Germany 2018

WRC2 winning margin: 3.8s


Škoda stalwart Jan Kopecký produced a stirring fightback to take WRC2 victory on the asphalt roads of Germany in 2018.

Kopecký led from the second stage, building up a 23.5s lead over Eric Camilli’s Ford Fiesta R5 until he suffered a puncture on the notorious Panzerplatte stage on Saturday morning. That left him down in ninth, over a minute off the pace and more than 40s behind young team-mate Kalle Rovanperä who was running fifth.

Five consecutive fastest times over the rest of the day brought Kopecký within 6s of new leader Rovanperä as Camilli succumbed to a timing-belt failure and Citroën’s Stephane Lefebvre also hit trouble.

Fastest on all three of the final day’s stages too, Kopecký overhauled 17-year-old Rovanperä on the penultimate test and went on to win by just 3.8s.

5 Ypres Rally 2022

WRC2 winning margin: 3.1s

Stéphane Lefebvre

Long-serving Citroën driver Stephane Lefebvre survived a scare with the stewards to be on the right end of a tight finish on the WRC’s second visit to Belgium last summer.

Lefebvre was in fine form on the asphalt roads around Ypres, taking his C3 Rally2 to a 15.5s lead over Andreas Mikkelsen’s Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo on the opening day.

Mikkelsen began to close in on day two as Lefebvre struggled to find a rhythm, but the margin opened again as Lefebvre responded.

Lefebvre held on to win by 18.1s but the big drama was still to come. Mikkelsen’s Toksport team noticed that Lefebvre had taken a very aggressive line through a right-hander on both passes of Saturday’s Wijtschate test.

A protest was submitted and the stewards decreed Lefebvre had deviated from the road book. A total of 15s of penalties wasn’t enough to change the result, however, as Lefebvre held on to win by 3.1s.

4 Rally Sweden 2014

WRC2 winning margin: 2.3s

Jari Ketomaa  - Action

In just its second season, WRC2 produced an extremely close finish between the Fiestas of Karl Kruuda and Jari Ketomaa on Rally Sweden.

Ketomaa’s R5 version led the way initially before being overhauled by the RRC-variant of Yazeed Al-Rajhi. The Saudi Arabian’s Michelin-shod car built a margin of more than a minute over Ketomaa, who was running on DMACK rubber, before losing most of that in a snowbank on Saturday morning.

Al-Rajhi then rebuilt his advantage only to hemorrhage time on the final day and drop to fourth.

Meantime, 21-year-old Estonian Kruuda had been gradually lifting his S2000 Fiesta up the leaderboard from eighth on Friday to third by the end of the next day. Still nearly a minute behind Ketomaa, a fastest time through Vargåsen brought him to within 40s of the experienced Finn.

He continued to chip away and was 18.7s down entering the final stage. Over 10 miles of the Värmullsåsen powerstage, Kruuda went an incredible 16.3s faster than anyone else in WRC2. Crucially, he was 21s quicker than Ketomaa to secure his first WRC2 win by what was then the closest margin in the category’s history.

3 Rally Germany 2014

WRC2 winning margin: 1.8s


Just six months later, that record was broken as Pontus Tidemand edged future world champion Ott Tänak in Germany.

Tidemand’s Fiesta R5 took the lead from Bernardo Sousa’s RRC model towards the end of the first day, only to immediately be overhauled by Julien Maurin in another R5 Fiesta, with Tänak a minute adrift of the lead battle.

Tidemand quickly returned to the head of the leaderboard but dropped nearly two minutes when forced to change a wheel in the 26-mile Panzerplatte Lang stage.

But new leader Maurin hit trouble on the final day, handing Tänak a 6s lead over Tidemand going into the final test. Fastest on every Sunday stage, Tidemand was on a mission and went 7.8s faster than Tänak through the powerstage.

It gave the Swede victory by just 1.8s, in what would remain WRC2’s narrowest winning margin for eight and a half years.

2 Rally Portugal 2023

WRC2 winning margin: 1.2s

Gus Greensmith , Oliver Solberg, Andreas Mikkelsen

The Rally of Portugal, less than a fortnight ago, was another case of the WRC2 pacesetter fighting back from adversity to create a nail-biting finish. But on this occasion, Oliver Solberg just missed out.

Solberg’s Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 took the lead in WRC2 when Adrien Fourmaux suffered a puncture on his Ford Fiesta Rally2 on Friday afternoon. From then on, the former Hyundai driver was in command.

He led Gus Greensmith’s similar car by more than 30s before being slapped with a one-minute penalty for his now infamous donuts after Saturday’s spectator stage.

Fastest on every Sunday stage, Solberg fell just 1.2s short of Greensmith after a fantastic effort to overcome his time loss.

1 Monte Carlo Rally 2023

WRC2 winning margin: 0.5s

Yohan Rossel

The closest finish in WRC2 history came earlier this year – and again, penalties were involved.

The Škoda of Nikolay Gryazin built up a healthy lead in January’s season-opener over most of the first two days but suffered a puncture on Saturday’s final test. That left him with an overnight advantage of 15s over Yohan Rossel’s Citroën C3 Rally 2.

Rossel snatched nearly 5s back on Sunday’s first stage and the pair traded tenths over the next two, leaving them separated by 10s heading in to the final test.

A fine run through the powerstage gained Rossel 5.6s but Gryazin had done enough for victory – or so he thought.

“The last stage was so difficult,” said Gryazin. “The front tires were completely dead, and I understeered a lot, but I just tried to keep it on the line.” Rossel had given it his all too. “I pushed to the limit all weekend,” he admitted.

In scenes reminiscent of Ypres the previous year, Rossel protested Gryazin for corner cutting. The stewards sided with the Frenchman, and slapped Gryazin with a 5s penalty for a cut too far on the Saturday night stage on which he’d punctured.

It was enough to overturn the result and give Rossel victory by just half a second after well over three hours of competitive action.

Words:Mark Paulson