Linnamäe joins the list of giant-killers

Georg Linnamäe won the #42 Brattby stage in Sweden last week. Which other Rally2 drivers have scored an outright fastest time?

Georg Linnamäe and James Morgan

For Elfyn Evans, it was undriveable. Takamoto Katsuta felt a bobsleigh would be preferable. Grégoire Munster had never seen anything like it. Thierry Neuville enjoyed the drive, but confessed to a ‘proper s***’ time. The time to beat through SS5 in Sweden last week? Step forward Georg Linnamäe.

The Estonian, making his WRC debut aboard a Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 last week, was on sensational form to land his maiden stage win at the sport’s highest level.

Yes, the conditions were improving, with the more celebrated Rally1 stars sweeping the road ahead of him, but there was still a high-calibre Rally2 field to be defeated through the second run at #42 Brattby. And with Welshman James Morgan calling his notes, Linnamäe did just that. The pair of them beat the best in the world.

A day later and Linnamäe’s KFC-coloured Yaris finished seventh overall and third in WRC2, but Sweden will long be remembered for the 25-year-old’s giant-killing effort on the opening day.

Georg Linnamäe

Georg Linnamäe made the most of what were some of the most complicated conditions on Rally Sweden's opening day

There’ve been several occasions where Rally2 drivers have put their cars where they don’t belong in the overall stage results. Emil Lindholm did so with a second-fastest time on the penultimate stage of Croatia Rally in 2022, Kalle Rovanperä twice came within a tenth of a stage win in 2018 (on German and Spanish street stages), while Petter Solberg was a sublime third at Oulton Park on Rally GB 2019.

But who else has joined Linnamäe in actually winning a WRC stage in a Rally2 (or, as they were once known, R5) car? With the help of the fantastic eWRC-results database, we have the answers.

Only drivers to clock a stage win during the WRC2 era qualify for this particular feature, so that means competitors to have taken a stage win in a second-class car since 2013 count.

As the Super 2000 era misses the cut, we’ll take this opportunity here to shout out Sébastien Ogier for that ridiculous performance in Sardinia 10 years ago, winning a full-length gravel stage by seven seconds in a Škoda Fabia S2000.

Rally Sweden 2017

Oliver Solberg's super-cool cousin Pontus Tidemand won his first WRC stage in 2015

Pontus Tidemand

Where: Rally Sweden 2015, SS1 Karlstad SS1

Although Pontus Tidemand would go on to drive a Fiesta WRC for M-Sport on four rounds of the 2019 season, his one and only stage win in the WRC was in the second-tier Fiesta RRC four years earlier.

An RRC, or Regional Rally Car to give it its full name, was essentially a detuned World Rally Car that was able to compete in WRC2, and Tidemand used his M-Sport machine to great effect on the Karlstad superspecial that kickstarted his home event in 2015.

Beating the fastest World Rally Car, Mads Østberg’s Citroën DS3 WRC, by 0.3 seconds put Tidemand into a shock overnight lead that, understandably, he wasn’t able to hold.

In fact, by the end of the event he’d slip to 17th overall, and fifth in WRC2 – over three minutes down on category winner Jari Ketomaa’s Ford Fiesta R5.


Jan Kopecký threaded the eye of the Saarbrucken needle brilliantly aboard his Fabia R5 

Jan Kopecký

Where: Rally Germany 2017, SS1 Saarbrucken

Jan Kopecký is no stranger to success behind the wheel of a rally car – his 2013 European Rally Championship, 2014 Asia Pacific, 2018 WRC2 eight Czech Republic titles are testament to that.

But even he wouldn’t have expected to lead a round of the WRC overnight in his Škoda Fabia R5. However, that’s what he did on Rally Germany 2017 after the Saarbrücken street stage.

It was a particularly big scalp given that in 2017, World Rally Cars received an extra 70bhp and gained several aerodynamic aids. But Kopecký threaded his less powerful Fabia R5 through the narrow streets perfectly to beat Ott Tänak’s Ford Fiesta WRC by 0.3s.

Kopecký had won three stages earlier in his career when driving a Fabia WRC, but this garnered by far the most attention. And he almost did it again on the very next round, stopping the clocks just 0.6s shy of the benchmark on the Salou stage in Spain.

He would ultimately go on to finish 11th in Germany, 48.1s down on WRC2 winner Eric Camilli.

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 Stop 2 - Sweden

Jari Huttunen was on lfying form aboard his private Škoda Fabia Rally2 in Sweden, 2019

Jari Huttunen

Where: Rally Sweden 2019, SS8 Torsby

On a day where his fellow Finn Teemu Suninen was grabbing all the headlines for leading a round of the WRC overnight for the first time in his career, Jari Huttunen achieved the impossible.

Rally Sweden’s Torsby test has some superspecial tendencies, but it cannot be described as an out-and-out superspecial given it runs on some natural forest roads. And yet it was Huttunen’s Škoda Fabia R5 that set the pace on the 5.5-mile test.

After a disappointing season in Hyundai colors the year before it was an important statement for Huttunen who edged Esapekka Lappi’s Citroën C3 WRC by 0.3s.

Østberg, Rovanperä, Johan Kristoffersson, Ole Christian Veiby and Nikolay Gryazin all got their R5 cars into the overall top 10 on that stage too, but Huttunen beat them all by at least 7.5s. Stunning.

Umberto Scandola

While the world watched the title slip through Elfyn Evans' fingers, Umberto Scandola stole his maiden WRC stage win

Umberto Scandola

Where: Monza Rally 2020, SS11 Gerosa

The 11th stage of the inaugural Monza Rally back in 2020 will forever be remembered for the moment Elfyn Evans’ title dreams (quite literally) slipped away from him.

But what’s always overlooked is the fact Italian driver Umberto Scandola won the stage and did so by a humongous 12.2s.

Monza hadn’t been going especially well for the Hyundai i20 R5 driver prior to Gerosa. He was running 75th overall, 47th in the RC2 class and 13th in WRC3 prior to the stage and would earn a road penalty after it for arriving to the next time control late, and then retired from the rally.

But his performance on Gerosa itself was top class. The extremely icy conditions were a total leveler for crews, and indeed several other competitors outwith the WRC’s top band starred – Ruairi Bell even setting a 14th-best time in a front-wheel-drive Ford Fiesta Rally4.

Nobody could match Scandola though. Rally and championship winner Ogier was the only one within 15s of him. No matter what happens in Scandola’s rallying career in the future, he’ll always have that on his CV.


Rally Portugal in 2022 was an event Irishman Josh McErlean will never forget

Josh McErlean

Where: Rally Portugal, 2022, SS16 Porto-Foz

After a solid start in Portugal, Irishman Josh McErlean’s rally looked to have gone south when he suffered steering problems at the Lousã stage, first thing Friday afternoon.

Out for the remainder of the opening day, the Hyundai i20 Rally2 driver started Saturday with the aim of taking more experience of the tricky western European gravel.

The day ended with him and co-driver James Fulton writing their names into the history books.

Heavy rain hit Saturday afternoon in Portugal, compromising conditions in the Porto-Foz seafront stage. McErlean made the most of the grip available across the horribly slick cobbles and sodden asphalt to stop the clock 7.5 seconds faster than the quickest Rally1 car. He took almost four seconds a mile out of the man who would go on to win that year’s world championship.