Wales Rally GB 2019 Review – Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja and Toyota win in Wales!

The short Oulton Park Stage (3,58 km) on Thursday evening got the rally underway, with Kris Meeke winning it from Thierry Neuville and incredibly Petter Solberg in his Polo R5 just 3.3 seconds from the lead in third! The Norwegian had started his last ever Wales Rally GB in spectacular style.

Friday

With 116km over nine stages, with the first stage at 7:18am, it would be a tough day. The startlist looked like this – Tänak, Ogier, Neuville, Mikkelsen, Meeke, Latvala, Suninen, Lappi, Evans, Tidemand, Breen.

Well, it was like they’d never been away, with Elfyn and Scott getting their bid for the podium off to a great start, with the M-Sport pairing winning SS 2 – Elsi 1 (11,65 km) and jumping up to sixth place. Further down, both Andreas and Esapekka dropped down the leaderboard to ninth and tenth. Still leading though was Kris, who had an almost seven second lead over Thierry. Incredibly, just five seconds covered fourth to tenth place.

Elfyn and Scott made a great return! Photo credit M-Sport WRT

Well, into the longer SS 3 – Penmachno 1 (16,19 km), and it unravelled for Elfyn and Scott in this one. They dropped half a minute, believing they had some suspension damage after cutting a fast right-hander. It was business as usual, with Ott picking up his first stage win of the weekend and jumping into third place overall. Impressive as usual from the Estonian crew.

The longer SS 4 – Dyfnant 1 (19,36 km), saw Ott at the top again, moving ahead of Seb in the process and into second place overall, with just Kris Meeke ahead now. Elfyn was quick too, just seven tenths from Ott with the fourth fastest time. Just such a shame that all that time was lost in the previous stage. Also, in the wars was Teemu, who lost 15 seconds after a crash and having to reverse.

SS 5 – Aberhirnant 1 (10,26 km) saw nine cars complete the stage, before it was stopped. The reason? Some spectators who had decided to ignore the marshals’ requests to move to a safe place. They weren’t only asked once I gather. The stage was later cancelled, and the crews drove through slowly. Elfyn and Jari-Matti shared the stage win. Thierry and Jari-Matti were now up to second and third place behind new leader Kris.

The next stage after lunchtime service SS 6 – Elsi 2 (11,65 km), saw Seb set the best time, and this moved him into third place ahead of Jari-Matti, who had fallen to fifth place. Sadly, the Frenchman’s teammate didn’t have such a good stage, sliding off the road and being unable to get back on.

The next stage, SS 7 – Penmachno 2 (16,19 km) was also won by the Frenchman. Unfortunately, the stage was stopped after Teemu finished. Jari-Matti had crashed in a big way sadly. Kris continued to lead, with Seb now his closest challenger at just two and half seconds behind. The rest of the crews in the top ten would need to be given notional times, given that they couldn’t complete the stage at speed.

The short SS 8 – Slate Mountain (1,60 km) followed, and Thierry won the stage, with his teammate Andreas just behind, whilst Seb, Elfyn and Craig were all third fastest. Kris’ lead was now just one and a half seconds over Seb.

On to SS 9 – Dyfnant 2 (19,36 km), and Ott took 6.3 seconds faster than Kris, moving him up from fourth to second place, and just six tenths from his teammate. Seb and Thierry were now in third and fourth.

The final stage of the day, SS 10 – Aberhirnant 2 (10,26 km) and with Ott winning the stage and Kris only fifth fastest and falling to third overall, with Seb moving into second overall again. Thierry remained the only other driver in the top ten close enough to challenge for victory.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY ONE

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:14:30.8
  2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +3.4
  3. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3.6
  4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +8.4
  5. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +25.7
  6. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) +33.5
  7. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +37.4
  8. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +51.8

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It has been a really demanding day. This morning, the grip was generally higher than I was expecting, but it was changing a lot and difficult to predict. This afternoon, the stages were a bit rougher and I struggled with the visibility with the mud on the screen. But in the last two stages in the dark I had a good feeling with the car and we could set some good times. I think that tomorrow’s stages should suit us but I’m sure that it will be another intense fight.”

Kris Meeke (3rd)

“It’s been a good day. We led for most of it and then Ott just got past us in the dark. It was very wet this morning, and then the rain stopped and the grip levels were a bit more consistent in the afternoon. I seemed to lose a little bit of time this afternoon but there’s only three seconds between three of us, so I’m happy. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s stages. Dyfi was my first ever stage in a rally car, and Myherin and Sweet Lamb Hafren are classics too.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (Retired)

“At first this morning, I wasn’t in the right rhythm with my driving but then in Dyfnant and Aberhirnant it was definitely going much better, even though the grip was changing a lot. In SS7, I came over a crest and the car went light, I lost the rear immediately, we hit the bank and rolled. I just had a little bit too much speed and jumped a bit too far. It’s very disappointing to be out of the rally: not only for myself but also for the team, as it was my job to try to bring some good points for the championship.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“Obviously, we have had a good day today, even though we lost a bit of ground on the last two stages. It was difficult to read the grip and I probably hesitated a bit too much whereas in the end, the level of grip wasn’t that bad. When you look at how small the gaps are at the front, everything is still up for grabs, so we’ll keep pushing flat out tomorrow. The roads on Saturday’s stages are expected to be quicker and wider, and they are very beautiful too, but they will undoubtedly still be very tricky in places, depending on the conditions.”

Esapekka Lappi (Retired/Rally2)

“The morning went well for us, since we had gradually upped our pace and our rhythm was pretty good. At the second corner on the afternoon’s opening stage, I overestimated the level of grip, ran wide and as it was pretty narrow at that point, I hit the bank and broke the suspension wishbone. And that was that. For tomorrow, we need to talk about it properly with the team but I’m going to do whatever I can to help, possibly testing stuff that may be useful for Seb, whilst trying to keep driving quickly on stages that are faster and more flowing than the ones we tackled today.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“It’s been an OK start to the rally, although I don’t feel we were always on the pace we wanted. We struggled with the balance of the car during the morning stages, and couldn’t really find the confidence we needed. We made it to lunchtime service in second place overall and it was clear the fight for the lead of this rally would be incredibly close. We tried to improve the feeling in the car during the afternoon but it wasn’t straightforward with some tricky conditions. We have to make the most of the situation and see what tomorrow brings.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

“We ended the day in a reasonable position, in fifth, but we struggled in the final night stage because I adjusted my lights and couldn’t see everything in the distance. Overall, we have experienced some very typical and demanding conditions in the Welsh forests today. We lost a bit of time in the morning but made some changes to the car that helped us find better performance. It’s been a while since I’ve driven on muddy conditions like we have faced today. It took time to adjust and learn to trust the grip, which was better than I thought. It’s so easy to make a mistake. There is still room for improvement.”

Craig Breen (6th)

“A day of two halves for us, really, including a few things that we were out of our hands. We had a decent morning and it felt great to get back in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. We made it to lunchtime service relatively unscathed. There was a pretty big moment in SS4 where we became at one with the trees, but we had a lucky escape. SS5 was stopped due to spectator issues so we received a nominal time that dropped us down to sixth. We suffered from our road position in the afternoon, and lost time on SS6 as the stage became rutted. We were then given our second nominal time in SS7 before getting back on the pace at Slate Mountain. The day ended with really tough twilight conditions, including foggy parts, in SS9, and a night run through Aberhirnant without the benefit of the earlier daytime stage.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 12, Wales Rally GB
03-06 October 2019
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (7th)

“It’s been a tough day out there with lots of mud and changes in grip. I think we had pretty good pace, but unfortunately, I made a small mistake in the morning and we lost some time. We were battling with the guys at the front, but the mistake happened when I was trying to gain back the time that we lost with a wrong tyre choice last night. We need to learn from this and remember that we can’t get all that time back in one or two stages – and tomorrow we just need to continue doing our best and staying on our limits.”

Elfyn Evans (8th)

“It’s nice to be back behind the wheel – and a pretty long day at it too! There were a few frustrating moments – losing all that time with a mistake and a puncture this morning, and then this afternoon having a stage cancelled and running into darkness in Dyfnant when the guys at the front went through in the daylight. It’s tough to do anything in those conditions, but that’s the way it is and I think we can still be happy with the day and with the pace we’ve had.”

Pontus Tidemand (9th)

“This morning was one of the toughest in my career, but we made some changes for the afternoon and I felt a lot better and a lot more comfortable in the car. We had a spin early on in the afternoon which wasn’t what we wanted, but the pace was better and I hope to show some more improvement tomorrow.”

Saturday

The longest day, with 151km over seven stages and no service at lunchtime, just a tyre fitting zone in Newtown. Finding the right balance of speed, but looking after the car would not be easy. The startlist looked like this – Lappi, Tidemand, Evans, Suninen, Breen, Mikkelsen, Neuville, Meeke, Ogier, Tänak.

Well, it was Elfyn and Scott who were fastest out of the blocks, winning SS 11 – Dyfi 1 (25,86 km) and taking thirteen seconds out of Teemu who held seventh place. At the front, Ott was starting to open up a gap to his closet challenger, Seb who could only manage fifth quickest.

The following stage, SS 12 – Myherin 1 (22,91 km) saw a number of interesting things happen. First of all, Elfyn won the stage and secondly, Andreas lost almost ten seconds and was now just eight ahead of Elfyn who had passed Teemu. Craig rolled his car on a fast-left hander, and completed the stage with bits hanging off his car.

Elfyn and Scott pass #Elfynscorner in Myherin

Elfyn made it three in a row, winning SS 13 – Sweet Lamb Hafren 1 (25,65 km) as well! He’d reduced Andreas advantage in their fight for fifth place to just five seconds. Seb had a slide and hit a bank, but he only lost about a second to Ott. Thierry gained time on Seb though, reducing the gap to just two seconds.

The re-run of SS 14 – Myherin 2 (22,91 km) was won by Thierry from Ott and Kris, whilst Elfyn was now just half a second behind Andreas. Ott’s lead was now seven seconds and increasing over Seb and Thierry’s pace was closing the gap to the French champion.

Onto the second run of SS 15 – Sweet Lamb Hafren 2 (25,65 km), and Andreas took an important stage win, and increased the gap to Elfyn by four seconds. In fact, it was a good stage for Thierry as well, as he moved ahead of Seb and into second place. Up at the front, Ott had increased his lead now to ten seconds.

SS 16 – Dyfi 2 (25,86 km) saw Thierry take a second stage win and Ott was only a few tenths behind, thus keeping the Belgian over ten seconds behind. Meanwhile the ebb and flow between Elfyn and Andreas continued, with the Welshman closing again in their battle over fifth place. The gap was increasing between Seb and Kris as well.

The final stage of the day SS 17 – Colwyn Bay (2,40 km) was won by Ott with Thierry and Seb both within a second of their championship rival. It’s well known that Elfyn doesn’t like these stages, and so Andreas increased the gap between him and the Welshman to almost five seconds.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY TWO

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:42:02.7
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +11.0
  3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +17.3
  4. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +26.5
  5. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +46.9
  6. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +51.4
  7. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:07.9
  8. Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:59.6
  9. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) +9:16.0

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It has been a tough and challenging day. The stages were long and the conditions were tricky. In the last stages we started to have some quite bad fog and the roads were rough. We also lost our rear bumper so we had a lot of noise in the car, making it hard to hear the pace-notes. It’s still a fairly small gap so we can’t definitely relax, but it’s the biggest margin anyone has had this weekend. It’s hard to have confidence in Wales, as there’s always surprises and you’re always on the edge, but it’s nice to have this margin to take into tomorrow.”

Kris Meeke (5th)

“I’m content to be here tonight in fourth place. We’re not so far from third, so, there’s still a bit to play for tomorrow. We just struggled a little bit today. I gave it everything, and we only lost a couple of seconds on every stage, but that was enough. There are three guys in front fighting for the drivers’ championship and today they’ve just stretched their legs a little bit. I still have my job to do for the manufacturers’ championship, that’s the main target.”

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“It was a tough day, with constant changes in grip, some fog too. We literally gave everything today. I’m glad we made it to the end, but I would love to have been faster. We consistently lost a little bit of time without being able to bounce back. There are still some tricky sections to tackle tomorrow and although Ott is quite far ahead now, none of us is immune to making a mistake in slippery conditions like these.”

Seb and Julien make a splash in Sweetlamb Hafren! Photo credit, Citroën Racing.

Esapekka Lappi (20th)

“We had a decent day and it was interesting for me to experience what it’s like to be first on the road in muddy conditions. Sometimes, it was an advantage in terms of grip. At other times, it was definitely a handicap, with quite a lot of puddles and standing water that I was the first to come across and clear, but it was nonetheless a good learning experience.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“We have given everything today, and we are still in with a chance of pushing for victory. I’m pleased with what we’ve achieved. We were able to move into third place during the morning, trying really hard to minimise mistakes. In these conditions, it’s usual to lose the odd second here or there, but overall, we’ve had a positive Saturday. Two stage wins this afternoon helped move us up into second, and we’re now determined to reduce the gap, if we can, on Sunday. 11 seconds is not a lot on stages like these, when just the smallest issue can change things around: it’s still game on!”

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

“It’s been a long day but we have given it as much of a push as we could in some very tricky conditions. In many respects, it’s been a classic Wales Rally GB Saturday with familiar, beautiful stages, some typical wet weather, and challenging conditions. The car has been pretty good throughout the day. We have made some small mistakes here and there, but we were able to show some strong pace, including a stage win in SS15. We’re in a close battle with Elfyn for fifth place. He’s been driving really well today, so we’ll have to dig deep on the final morning to keep our noses in front.”

Craig Breen

“A day to forget for us. Thankfully, we were able to get ourselves out of trouble in SS12 after a pretty big accident. We approached a fast-left-hand corner that tightened a bit more than I expected. I ran out of road and ended up going over through some soft, boggy ground. I got out of the car and quickly realised that everything was pointing in the right direction, so we drove up the bank and completed the stage. The windscreen had cracked so I couldn’t see properly. We had to survive like this throughout the afternoon loop, with rainy, muddy conditions making it impossible to see. I was glad to get back to service, where we will now reset for the final day.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“It’s been a great day for us, especially this morning when I could pick my own lines and it was really, really nice out there. This afternoon was a bit more difficult with some more defined lines and quite slippery conditions, but we got through it okay. We had a bit of an annoying overshoot in the last stage [SS17], but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. The support has been great all weekend, and we’ll push as much as we can tomorrow.”

Pontus Tidemand (7th)

“It’s been a tough day, but a good day for us. The stages have been fantastic and I’m happy that we are making progress with a good feeling in the car. The trickiest thing to get right is braking late enough and going flat-out in the really fast sections. But we’re getting there and will definitely try to make the most of tomorrow’s final five stages.”

Teemu Suninen (DNF)

“It’s disappointing that we won’t be back out tomorrow, but there are still a lot of positives that we can take away from this weekend. I was really pleased with my pace on Friday, and it was good to see that we could battle with the guys at the front. We made a couple of little mistakes – but I can learn from this and come back stronger next year with more experience.”

Sunday

With 38km over the last five stages, there was still some potential for some changes in the leaderboard. The startlist looked like this – Lappi, Breen, Tidemand, Evans, Mikkelsen, Meeke, Ogier, Neuville, Tänak.

Well, SS 18 – Alwen 1 (10,41 km) was won by Ott with Thierry and Elfyn just a few tenths behind. Andreas lost a second and a half to the Welshman as well and Kris also closed the gap a little too to Seb.

Elfyn passed Andreas in SS 19 – Brenig 1 (6,43 km) after winning the stage, moving into fifth place. He’d driven brilliantly and made up places on the leaderboard with his great pace. Seb was dropping back from the lead two, and was now 14 seconds behind Thierry.

Elfyn and Scott take another stage victory in Brenig. Photo credit, Chris Seaward (@csracingphotos)

With SS20 – Great Orme getting cancelled, the crews went back to service. It was cancelled due to the stormy seas, meaning that the safety lifeboats couldn’t be positioned along the coast. It was one less stage for anyone to challenge Ott for the win.

Into SS 21 – Alwen 2 (10,41 km) then and the top three was Elfyn, Thierry and Seb. The Welshman was making fifth place his, extending the gap between them by almost two seconds. Ott’s lead was not huge over Thierry who was just nine and a half seconds.

The final stage then, SS 22 – Brenig 2 Power Stage (6,43 km) and Ott took the stage and five points that went with it. Second to fifth were, Seb, Esapekka, Evans and Neuville. In the end Ott’s winning margin over Thierry was just 10.9 seconds, but it was enough to take his first Wales Rally GB victory.

Ott and Martin complete the powerstage! Photo credit, Chris Seaward (@csracingphotos)

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:00:58.0
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +10.9
  3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +23.8
  4. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +35.6
  5. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +48.6
  6. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +58.2
  7. Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +5:23.8
  8. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 9:25.0

The driver’s thoughts at the end of the event!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It’s an amazing feeling to win. There’s a lot of people working behind us and with the effort they put it, it’s great to be rewarded like this with maximum points. On the Power Stage, I had full confidence in the car and I had to take the opportunity, as every point can be crucial. Our team slogan is ‘pushing the limits for better’ and I always try to do my best. We have two more rallies to come this season and certainly nothing is decided yet, so we need to keep pushing and keep focused.”

FIA World Rally Championship / Round 12 / Wales Rally GB 2019 / Oct 3-6, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Kris Meeke (4th)

“After leading the rally for most of Friday, to finish fourth is a little bit disappointing, but to be honest, I’m happy. It was a weekend full of challenging conditions. We weren’t so far off, we just lacked a bit of pace on Saturday, but it’s still very strong points for the team. I’m delighted to see Ott take the victory and we close the gap in the manufacturers’ championship, so it’s been a strong weekend for us. We have two rallies to go, I hope we can be strong in Spain and fingers crossed we can have a good end to the year.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“We could not have given any more this weekend. From the very first stage, it was a tough fight in some tricky conditions – and incredibly close. We can be happy with our own performance but I’m disappointed about the final result. We should have finished ahead of Tänak this weekend, and we did everything we could, but we couldn’t achieve it. The championship now moves onto Spain, where we know we have to outscore him to keep our own title hopes alive. Everything can happen in rallying, so we never give up.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (6th)

“Overall, the important thing is that we have taken some points away for the manufacturers’ championship. Looking back at the rally as a whole, we lost a bit too much time on Friday. Things improved and we had a good Saturday, especially in the afternoon with a stage win. Our aim for today was to defend fifth place from Elfyn, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. We made the wrong tyre choice. I tried to fight back in SS21 but made a mistake at a junction and from there it was too risky to try and make up the lost time. Sixth place might not score as many points as we would have liked, but at this stage of the season they are all extremely valuable.”

Craig Breen (8th)

“I would like to extend my thanks to the team for getting our car fixed and ready for today’s final stages after yesterday’s crash. I had been getting into my stride in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC so it’s been good to end the rally in a trouble-free manner, and to be back on it. Saturday was really disappointing; without that mistake I think we could have been fighting at the front this weekend. It has been a pleasure to be part of this rally with the Hyundai Motorsport team, with a fantastic car and on the incredible Wales Rally GB stages. We might wonder what could have been possible results-wise, but whatever has happened it’s certainly given me a lot of motivation.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“The Power Stage sums up our weekend in many ways: we have been a couple of tenths back throughout the rally. We tried our best and gave it absolutely everything, but we were just a bit short of performance whilst Ott had a super weekend. It’s not a great result for us in terms of the championship with just two rounds to go, but we’re going to keep fighting tooth and nail for as long as it remains possible mathematically to win the title.”

Esapekka Lappi (27th)

“For sure, it’s a shame to find yourself out of contention on the Friday. But there are some positives because I learned a lot here. I was pleasantly surprised by the level of performance we managed to show in the C3 WRC despite having had totally dry conditions for our pre-event test.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (5th)

“It’s been a pretty good weekend for us. Obviously, it would have been nice to have finished a bit higher up the leader board, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes and there’s no room for ‘what ifs’ at this level – not with the competition as close as it is at the moment.

“Our pace has been really good all weekend and the support was absolutely incredible. There really is nothing quite like rallying on home soil, and when you’re posting fastest times in front of all those Welsh flags, it’s a pretty good feeling and definitely gives us some confidence ahead of the next events.”

Pontus Tidemand (7th)

“We’ve taken some big steps forward this weekend and improved every day. I had a lot to learn, but it was getting better and better and, this morning especially, I really felt as though I had broken the code for driving one of these world rally cars. I found a good set-up with the car and was able to focus more fully on my driving. We set some pretty good times today and were a lot closer to the leaders so I was really pleased with that.”

 

Summary

Well, what a great rally it was for a few drivers. Ott Tänak was on it all weekend, taking seven stage victories, including the powerstage win meaning that he’d take the maximum points again. Elfyn Evans returned with a bang after his enforced absence, winning six stages, and it was the incident in stage three that really, I believe stopped the Welshman from challenging for victory. It was close in the end between Thierry and Seb for the runner up spot, but with three stage wins for the Belgian and two for the current champion, it was Thierry that took that position. Kris Meeke had a good event, winning one stage leading and finishing in fourth place. For Andreas Mikkelsen, it was a pretty good event, with one stage win, but just lacking that final bit of pace to hold off Elfyn in their battle. Both Craig Breen and Jari-Matti Latvala suffered big accidents, with Craig at least managing to keep going. Jari-Matti’s accident was much bigger, and it was good to see him walk away from it.

Well, next up is the dual surface Rally de Espana from the 25th to the 27th of October.

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Ott Tänak – 240 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 212 points
  3. Thierry Neuville – 199 points
  4. Andreas Mikkelsen – 102 points
  5. Kris Meeke – 98 points
  6. Elfyn Evans – 90 points
  7. Jari-Matti Latvala – 84 points
  8. Esapekka Lappi – 83 points
  9. Teemu Suninen – 83 points
  10. Dani Sordo – 72 points
FIA World Rally Championship / Round 12 / Wales Rally GB 2019 / Oct 3-6, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 340 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 332 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 278 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 200 points

Wales Rally GB 2019 Preview- The title battle continues!

The World Rally Championship arrives in the Welsh forests at a pivotal moment. There are three drivers still with a chance of winning the world title. As you know Ott is in the lead, with Seb seventeen points behind and Thierry a further thirteen points behind in third. There are still ninety points available, making every round remaining very important in terms of scoring good points and for the Belgian, scoring more points than his rivals.

 

Possible winners?

Well, there are three maybe four drivers that could win in Wales. Both Ott and Seb can, as can Elfyn who makes a return to the WRC after missing the last three rounds. Jari-Matti also has a chance of winning, having won two years in a row in 2011 and 2012. Seb has won this event five times in the last six years, with Elfyn winning in 2017. Last year Ott lead, before damaging his sump on a jump and it was the Estonian who challenged Seb in 2016.

 

Who else could feature at the front?

Possible challengers for the podium are all of them, plus Kris, Thierry, Esapekka and Teemu. Last year the young Finn, then driving for Toyota took an excellent third place. Could he repeat that this year for Citroën who last won in Wales in 2010? The French team had a great run last time out in Turkey, but the roads in Wales are very different. However, they do have last year’s winner, and this will certainly help!

 

Stage information.

Now there are twenty-two timed stages covering a total of 309.76 km. Saturday sees 151.24 km of timed stages on with no service period. The double run of Myherin on Saturday will once again feature Elfynscorner. Do look out for this annual event and the banner that they have! The stages are a big challenge for the teams and the crews in the cars. Here’s the full stage listing. Decent stage notes will be key, especially for Saturday’s stages. Any damage on their cars could put crews out for the day, leading to rally2 restarts and opening the road on Sunday.

#ElfynsCorner Banner

THURSDAY 3 OCTOBER

08h00: Shakedown Gwydir (4,68 km)

12h30: Départ du parc d’assistance (Llandudno)

16h00: Cérémonie de départ (Liverpool)

19h08: ES 1 – The Dayinsure Oulton Park Stage (3,58 km)

21h17: Parc fermé (Llandudno)

 

FRIDAY 4 OCTOBER

06h10: Départ et assistance A (Llandudno – 17’)

07h18: ES 2 – Elsi 1 (11,65 km)

07h46: ES 3 – Penmachno 1 (16,19 km)

09h56: ES 4 – Dyfnant 1 (19,36 km)

10h53: ES 5 – Aberhirnant 1 (10,26 km)

13h07: Assistance B (Llandudno – 42’)

14h40: ES 6 – Elsi 2 (11,65 km)

15h08: ES 7 – Penmachno 2 (16,19 km)

15h57: ES 8 – Slate Moutain (1,60 km)

18h11: ES 9 – Dyfnant 2 (19,36 km)

19h08: ES 10 – Aberhirnant 2 (10,26 km)

21h11: Flexi assistance C (Llandudno – 47′)

 

SATURDAY 5 OCTOBER

05h40: Départ et assistance D (Llandudno – 17’)

08h06: ES 11 – Dyfi 1 (25,86 km)

10h08: ES 12 – Myherin 1 (22,91 km)

11h02: ES 13 – Sweet Lamb Hafren 1 (25,65 km)

12h18: Zone de changement de pneus (Newtown – 15′)

14h08: ES 14 – Myherin 2 (22,91 km)

15h02: ES 15 – Sweet Lamb Hafren 2 (25,65 km)

16h19: ES 16 – Dyfi 2 (25,86 km)

19h13: ES 17 – Colwyn Bay (2,40 km) 

19h49: Flexi assistance E (Llandudno – 47’)

 

SUNDAY 6 OCTOBER

06h00: Départ et assistance F (Llandudno – 17’)

07h28: ES 18 – Alwen 1 (10,41 km)

08h08: ES 19 – Brenig 1 (6,43 km)

09h26: ES 20 – Great Orme (4,74 km)

09h42: Assistance G (Llandudno – 17’)

11h10: ES 21 – Alwen 2 (10,41 km)

12h18: ES 22 – Brenig 2 Power Stage (6,43 km)

13h32: Arrivée (Llandudno)

 

Right, lets’s hear from the crews!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak

“Rally GB is always something special. It’s a rally I like, as the roads are fast and they have a nice flow, but the conditions make it difficult, especially because the grip levels are constantly changing at every corner. You need confidence in your car on every rally, but it’s in these kinds of conditions where it can really help to make a big difference. The gap in the championship is closer now, but we have three rallies to go and we know that we were fast on each of them last year. Now we just have to finish the job, starting in Wales.”

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Rally GB is special for me and I’ve always enjoyed it. The main challenge, of course, is always the weather: Over the years I’ve been competing there I’ve seen snow, ice, horrendous wind, and rain from nearly every angle! If it’s raining while you’re in the stage, it can actually wash away the mud and give you better grip, but when it’s drying out it can be very greasy and slippery. I’m looking forward to it and to picking up where I left off in Finland and Germany when I had a good rhythm with the driving. Hopefully we can achieve another good result to help the team in the championship.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 11 / Wales Rally GB 2018 / October 4-7, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Kris Meeke

“This is as close as it gets to a home rally for me: My first ever rally was in some of the same Welsh forests that I’m now fortunate enough to drive a World Rally Car through. For me, the mud and rain you get there is a big part of why I love rallying. In early October the weather can certainly still be wet, but it’s usually less extreme than when the rally used to be held in November. We know that the Yaris WRC can work quite well in these sorts of conditions, even if it gets really slippery. So, I’m optimistic that we will go there with a quick car and can be confident of a top result.”

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“The target at Wales GB will be to keep up the momentum from Turkey and continue to put as much pressure on Ott as possible. I’ve always done well as this rally. I’m determined to really go for it and have a say in the outcome, especially as the running order isn’t an issue for those starting at the front. It’s all about reading the changes in grip and dealing with the conditions, which are often tricky, especially the low-grip sections. Although it took me a while to work out how to manage this unusual event, it’s now a rally that I really enjoy.”

Photo credit, Citroën Racing

Esapekka Lappi

“This rally is an iconic test. You’ve got it all, stages in the dark, fog, rain and wind – it’s always a serious challenge. You need guts too, because the stages are pretty fast and flowing. One of the key things will undoubtedly be having a car that isn’t too sensitive to the changes in grip, because they are non-stop. We worked well in testing, even though the roads were dry. Given our position in the running order, rain would clearly be something of a disadvantage. Having said that, in Turkey I had a good feeling with my C3 WRC when it started raining on Friday’s long stage.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Wales Rally GB can be one of the wettest rallies on the calendar, so we have to be prepared for an eventful weekend. It’s typically a very slippery event but one I enjoy. I’ve been on the podium a couple of times and I’m hoping to replicate that this year. The stages are quite flowing, very fast and we have some dark-light conditions too, which adds to the atmosphere. The itinerary is demanding with long days but it’s what Wales is known for and I’m ready for the challenge.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Wales Rally GB
04-07 october 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Wales Rally GB is where I started my WRC career, so always holds a special place on the calendar for me. At this time of the year, as we tend to have more inclement late autumn weather, the conditions are usually very slippery – lots of rain and fog. It’s one of the trickiest gravel rallies we do all season as the stages are fast paced but also very muddy. Hopefully, we can continue our momentum from our podium finish in Turkey.”

Craig Breen

“It’s great to be back in the car again for Wales Rally GB. It’s a rally that I really love. It’s obviously the closest I’ll get to a home event for the moment. I have great memories from over the years. Finland exceeded my expectations and definitely gave me a lot more confidence going forward. I know it’s going to be difficult and we need to do everything we can to provide good manufacturers’ championship points for the team.”

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans

“I’m really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel – especially as it’s on home soil in Wales. This event is the highlight of my year, every year, and when you get it right in front of all those Welsh flags it’s an incredible feeling.

“We have some of the best stages in the world in Wales, and it’s a proper challenge for the crews – especially if the Welsh weather has anything to say about it which I think it probably will next week. In those tricky conditions the grip levels are constantly changing and you have to be able to read the road if you want to push for the top results.

“We might have been away for a few months, but my motivation is as high as it ever was. We’ve had a good test, and I feel like we’re well prepared for the challenges ahead. And the goal, as always, is to push for the top results.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Wales Rally GB (GB) – WRC 26/10/2017 to 29/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Teemu Suninen

“I really like this rally and have done well there in the past. I didn’t have a lot of experience of the stages last year, but I was really pleased with my performance – setting some good times and running in podium position before having to retire. So, the goal this year will be to continue that performance, and see if we can challenge for the top positions.

“We completed a full day of testing in Greystoke and, even though the base there is a bit harder than what we’ll see in Wales, I think we managed to find a good set-up and will be able to deliver a good performance on these challenging stages.

“Maybe the biggest challenge though is the lack of sleep. Probably we will only get about four or five hours a night – and the road sections to the first stage can be pretty long. It will be physically and mentally challenging to stay alert in those first stages, but that is all part of the challenge in Wales.”

Pontus Tidemand

“I like Wales a lot and it’s a rally that suits me and my driving style quite well. I’ve done well there in the past which gives me more confidence, but I will still be competing against the best drivers in the world and am still continuing my own development.

“At the end of Rally Turkey, I felt as though I’d found the right set-up for me and that I could drive how I wanted. We had a great test with the team earlier this week, and I’m feeling more and more at home with the car. And since Wales Rally GB will be my second gravel rally with the Ford Fiesta WRC, I hope we can show some improvements.

“The biggest challenge in Wales is always the unpredictable weather. We need to be prepared for everything – rain, fog, mud and constant grip changes. The roads might not be technically tricky, but the conditions are really unpredictable and that’s what makes it so challenging. The stages also change their character depending on what area we are in, and we need to be able to adjust to all of these different surface changes.”

Running in two Fiesta R5 Mk2’s will be Gus and Hayden

Gus Greensmith

“It’s always a nice feeling to be back on home soil, and there are some truly legendary stages at this event. It’s a rally with some really tough days for the crews, and the weather can be really challenging too – it’s not a matter of if the fog comes, but when, and it’s that challenge that I’ve always enjoyed.

“It was great to secure the first victory for the Ford Fiesta R5 Mk2 in Turkey – albeit in somewhat surreal and dramatic circumstances! I had a big feeling of pride after that win because everyone had worked really hard. We proved our potential and the potential of the car, and have already made some further steps since then.

“Our goal is always to fight for the top positions, but the competition is going to be really strong next weekend. It will be tough, but I feel we have a good package and that we have what it takes to deliver another strong result for M-Sport and Ford.”

Hayden Paddon

“I can’t wait to get back in the driving seat, and I really enjoy Wales Rally GB. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of home and we’ll be hoping for a good run as we take to the wheel of M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta R5 MkII for the first time.

“It will be important to show the potential of the car which I’m sure we’ll quickly adapt to, but it’s also important that we get the miles under our belt. We’ve lacked too many rallies this year, so this will be the perfect warm up for Rally Australia when we’ll be back behind the wheel of a world rally car with the top-specification Fiesta.

“Although Wales is an event I’ve always enjoyed, the top results seem to have eluded us in the past. I’m confident of putting that right this year, and with the team behind us I’m sure we can deliver a strong result on their home soil.”

Summary

Well, here we go! Right now, there are reports that Hurricane Lorenzo will arrive in the area around Thursday. Quite what this will mean in terms of Friday’s stages, is unknown. It is currently a category 5 storm. We shall see what happens. Enjoy!

Rally Turkey 2019 Review – Citroën One – Two brings Seb back into the Championship Fight

Here is my recap of a timely victory for Sébastien Ogier with just three rounds of this year’s championship left. He was joined by his young teammate Esapekka Lappi, whilst Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen completed the podium.

Friday

With almost 160km over six stages, it would be a challenging day indeed. The start list looked like this – Tänak, Neuville, Ogier, Meeke, Mikkelsen, Latvala, Suninen, Sordo, Lappi, Tidemand.

 

Well at the end of SS 2 – Içmeler 1 (24,85 km), we had a new leader, with Jari-Matti now leading for Toyota, whilst Andreas and Esapekka were within five seconds of the veteran Finn. Meantime, Seb Ogier suffered a puncture at around 18km. Championship leader, Ott was doing okay, holding fifth overall.

Into SS 3 – Çetibeli 1 (38,15 km), and it all changed! Jari-Matti dropped out of the lead, falling to fifth, whilst Esapekka took the lead. Andreas was the young Finns closest challenger, with Seb now in third and Teemu in fourth.

Jari-Matti hit back in SS 4 – Ula 1 (16,57 km), winning the stage and jumping into third. Also moving up the leaderboard was Thierry, whose pace lifted him ahead of Kris. Meanwhile, Ott held sixth place, now 21 seconds from the lead.

Well, sadly Jari-Matti dropped back SS 5 – Içmeler 2 (24,85 km) and was now in tenth and fifty seconds from the lead. Kris won the stage from Thierry and Seb. Meanwhile Ott was now up to fifth overall. Teemu continued to knock on the door of the podium as well. Things were going well for the young Finn.

Thierry won SS 6 – Çetibeli 2 (38,15 km) from Esapekka and Seb and this was now the top three, with the Finn leading Seb and Thierry in third. Andreas dropped back after a painful stage for the Norwegian, but eve he didn’t suffer as much as Ott who dropped one minute and 18 seconds, falling to seventh.

The final stage of the day, SS 7 – Ula 2 (16,57 km) was won by Dani, from Jari-Matti and Thierry. The Spaniard moved up into sixth place as well. Meantime, Esapekka and Seb held a one-two for Citroen at the end of day one.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY ONE

  1. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) 1:59:53.7
  2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +17.7
  3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +18.4
  4. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +44.4
  5. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:04.1
  6. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:25.2
  7. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:32.1
  8. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:37.4
  9. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:42.5
  10. Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:45.4

 

Here’s the driver thoughts!

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (1st)

“Obviously, it’s been a good day for us! We didn’t have any issues at all and I could do what I wanted in my C3 WRC. I think we adopted a smart approach and managed to find the right rhythm, trying to stay in the lines as much as possible. I’m not really a huge fan of slow, technical stages, so I’m pleased with my performance today. But there’s still a long way to go. We’ll just try to keep doing what we are doing and see how we get on.”

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“It was a really tricky day and I’m pleased to finish it in this position. I lost the splitter on the front bumper on the opening stage of the afternoon and that probably affected the car’s aerodynamics towards the end of the loop. Although conditions on tomorrow’s leg are expected to be a little less rough than today, there will still be some very tricky sections that we’ll need to get through without incident. I think we can expect it to be another big fight and you can count on us to be pushing hard!”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“The morning loop was certainly not the way we wanted to start our rally, especially after our joint stage win with Andreas on Thursday evening. It was just not a competitive loop for us. The car was not working as we needed it and in the cleaning conditions, starting second on the road, we lacked grip and traction. We tried hard but needed a change of fortune for the afternoon. We had a great time through SS5 but it was in the tricky conditions of SS6 where we made up some important time. We actually had a puncture before the stage so had to swap onto the softer tyres. We didn’t give it a thought, we pushed hard and the rain at the end helped us to set the fastest time to get us back in the game. This rally is far from over, but we head into Saturday in more positive spirits.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally Turkey
12 – 15 September 2019
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

“A great start to the rally turned unfortunately into an afternoon of frustration and disappointment. We were pleased to take the super special win on Thursday, and we had a competitive opening loop, clean stages and an awesome car. We were really in the fight and feeling good. It is an extremely complex rally, and you need to know when to attack and when you need to back off and take it easy. It’s so easy for something to happen. We struggled in the afternoon, especially in SS6. The conditions and tyre choice made the stage feel like ice, there was just no grip. The car was sliding and we lost a lot of time. We did our best with what we had.”

Dani Sordo (6th)

“We managed to end the day with the sort of competitive form that we knew we were capable of showing this weekend. Unfortunately, the puncture we picked up in the first stage got our rally off to the wrong start. It’s easy to get a puncture here but I didn’t even realise anything had gone wrong. We decided to try and complete the stage rather than lose the time to change tyres and that was the right call. We lost a lot of time but it could have been worse. I’m not the sort of person to hope for others to have bad luck but this a long and unpredictable rally so anything can still happen.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (4th)

“I think it’s been a pretty good day for us and the car is working well. It’s always difficult to find the right balance between being fast and being careful here, but I think we’re doing okay. There are so many loose stones out there that you have to keep a margin to try and avoid the punctures.

“I don’t want to set myself too high a target right now as I’m happy with the rhythm we have and think we have a good balance. But there is still a long way to go and of course anything can still happen.”

Pontus Tidemand (10th)

“It was really tricky for everyone today, but good for me to get the experience. We had a puncture on the first stage, but apart from that it was a really clean run.

“The pace at the front was really high and for sure the top guys are pushing a lot, but we can already see in some sections that we are getting closer – which is what we need to focus on.

“We’ll be first on the road tomorrow, but in a way that will be nice as it means we won’t have to experience the big ruts that we had today – and I’m looking forward to that.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Kris Meeke (7th)

“I had quite a decent loop this morning. The rhythm wasn’t so good on the last stage of the loop, but otherwise it wasn’t bad given my lack of experience here. When the rain came on the second stage of the afternoon, it was really difficult. We were saving two medium tyres for the last stage, when we expected the rain to be worst, and our hard tyres were really worn from the first stage, so when it rained heavily in the middle of the stage, it was like driving on ice. The other two stages were fine, we just lost a lot of time on this one stage. Our speed’s been OK and we’re still here: there’s a long way to go and anything can happen.”

Ott Tänak (8th)

“It was difficult to enjoy the conditions running first on the road, but I felt much better in the car this morning than I did here last year, so the improvements  that the team have made to the car have been good. We knew the afternoon would be demanding, as the stages are even rougher on the second pass, and the weather was making it extra tricky. Unfortunately, we had a puncture in the middle stage: it can be a bit of a lottery here and we were unlucky today. Certainly, it was not the day that we were hoping for, but there is still a long way to go so we just need to keep going and see what happens.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (9th)

“It started well this morning. The time on SS2 was surprisingly good, as I didn’t  push hard. Then I drove too carefully on the next one, but we were able to compensate a bit for that with a good time on SS4. The car was going well, although we knew the afternoon will be rougher. In SS5 we lost the rear bumper, it got very noisy in the car and I was struggling to concentrate on the pace-notes: I cut a right-hand corner and we had to drive the end of the stage with a flat tyre. We expected the rain to come more for the final stage than for SS6, and so we had the hard tyres on which was the wrong choice, and we lost a lot of time. But this is rallying, and sometimes these things don’t work out. Now we need to look forward as a lot of things can still happen in this rally.”

 

Saturday

Well, with 110km over six stages today, it would be a very interesting day. The start list looked like this – Tidemand, Latvala, Tänak, Meeke, Sordo, Mikkelsen, Suninen, Neuville, Ogier, Lappi.

 

It was a good start to the day for Seb, who won SS 8 – Yesilbelde 1 (33,00 km) by a huge almost 17 seconds over his younger teammate. Esapekka now had a one second lead over his world champion teammate. Just like last year, Thierry had a torrid start to his Saturday, losing almost four and a half minutes and dropping from third to ninth. Now Teemu Suninen was holding third place behind the two Citroen’s.

Into SS 9 – Datça 1 (8,75 km) and Andreas took a good stage win and moved ahead of the M-Sport Fiesta piloted by Teemu. The big drama came from Ott and the Toyota team. The Estonian dropped out of the running, after suffering an electrical problem with his car.

Another stage win for Lappi in SS 10 – Kizlan 1 (13,30 km) going faster than Thierry and Andreas and Seb, who was now ten seconds behind his younger teammate. Further back, Jari-Matti and Kris were battling over sixth and seventh, with the Finn now ahead of his teammate.

Seb hit back in SS 11 – Yesilbelde 2 (33,00 km), winning the stage and reducing the gap to just 2.2 seconds, whilst Andreas was opening up the gap to Teemu in their battle for the final podium spot.

With Thierry, Dani and Teemu setting the top three best times in SS 12 – Datça 2 (8,75 km), Seb was fourth, but crucially seven seconds faster than his teammate, the Frenchman moved into the lead. Kris and Jari-Matti once again changed places in their battle over sixth and seventh after the Finn lost almost seven seconds.

Now, Esapekka won SS 13 – Kizlan 2 (13,30 km), reducing the gap to Seb to just two tenths of a second for the lead after the champion who was third fastest, but four and a half seconds slower. Jari-Matti got back in front of Kris after the Brit lost twenty seconds.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY TWO

  1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:20:12.0
  2. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +0.2.
  3. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:17.1
  4. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:26.9
  5. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:24.7
  6. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3:14.4
  7. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3:29.5
  8. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +4:38.2
  9. Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +6:55.8

 

The thoughts of the drivers after day two.

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It was a very good leg for us, with a decent pace and no technical issues whatsoever on our C3 WRC. It wasn’t an easy day, however, but we made a bold call on tyre choice this morning and it paid off. This afternoon, we had to deal with incredibly hot and abrasive conditions for the tyres. I tried to be careful and not take too many risks to minimise any problems. Our goal now is to get to the finish line in this position and if we can add some points in the Power Stage then that would be a bonus.”

Esapekka Lappi (2nd)

“It doesn’t matter if we are leading or second this evening, the main thing is to bring home this result for the team. I’m very pleased with my own performance so far, despite my small mistake on SS12. We set some good times again today by adopting a sensible approach and with a C3 WRC that is clearly quick on this surface.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (3rd)

“We have had a good performance today and been properly on the pace, so there are plenty of positives to take away. I made just one small mistake in the opening loop, in SS8, due to the dust, but otherwise it’s been a pretty faultless day. The car has been working incredibly well which has given us the confidence we needed. Tyre management has again played a key role, and I had high tyre wear by the end of the afternoon loop, but all in all we are in good shape heading into the final day.”

Dani Sordo (5th)

“The objective for us today was to remain in front of our closest rivals in the manufacturers’ championship, and we have managed to do this. It has been another tough day but we have made no mistakes. Our overall strategy was good and we made the most of our tyre choice to maximise our performance across the loop. We now have to focus on the final stages of this rally, knowing that anything can happen, and maintain our advantage.”

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“There’s no hiding from the disappointment we are facing from today. We have put so much effort into these fights so it’s hard to take when it could have been easily avoided. It was a very simple thing, a slow right-hander and a tight left; I thought I saw the corner in the dust but it was a small ditch and we ended up on our side. We lost over four minutes of time getting the car back on its wheels. It is what it is, we just have to keep pushing and remain positive. We have seen many times that the situation can turn quickly when the title fight is so close.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (4th)

“I struggled to get into the rhythm this morning, but this afternoon was really good and we found good pace on all of the stages. My tyres were in pretty good condition and I was pleased with that because it’s something I’ve been working to improve. Unfortunately, we had some small damage on the car which meant we couldn’t take full advantage on the last stages – mainly because the driver kept knocking bits of aero off!

“I came here to do my best, and even though fourth place would be nice I think we have to go out there and see what we can do tomorrow – just go flat out and see if we can make it onto the podium.”

Teemu and Jarmo were knocking on the door of a podium by the end of Saturday. Photo credit, M-Sport

Pontus Tidemand (9th)

“I’ve really enjoyed the day and being first on the road meant that I could choose the line, but of course that also means that the times weren’t going to be great. I had to clean a line for the cars behind, and even on the second pass I needed to push through the ruts to open the line. But it’s good learning and in the last two stages I felt quite a good rhythm in the car – so let’s see if we can build on that tomorrow.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (6th)

“From the first stage this morning it was very slippery with a lot of loose gravel, running second on the road. It started to get better on the shorter stages, and the third one was really nice: a fast stage that suited me very well and the time was reasonably good. This afternoon, I tried to attack on the long stage to keep the pressure on, but I struggled after that because my tyres were so worn. Tomorrow our road position will be better and that will help us to see our real performance compared to the others. We’ll also try something with the car to help the tyre wear and to learn for the future.”

Kris Meeke (7th)

“It’s been a tough day. There was a lot of road cleaning and that was a factor, but we also have some work to do to improve our pace on this type of surface. We tried our best but those behind us on the road just kept coming through faster than us. Tomorrow, we just need to bring it home and score the points for the manufacturers’ championship. It’s close between myself and Jari-Matti, but whether I’m in front or he’s in front, it doesn’t matter.”

Ott Tänak (Retired/ Rally2)

“On the road section after the first stage this morning, the car wouldn’t fire up ready for the next stage. We worked a lot and we tried to find the reason but it seems it was something internal – an ECU failure – so there was nothing we could do. Of course, it’s frustrating, especially in a moment like this when we

are fighting for our first title. It definitely makes everything a lot harder, but that’s the way it is. It’s not going to come in an easy way, and we just need to accept that and fight on.”

 

Sunday

Well, into Sunday and could the Citroen team wrap up a 1-2? With 38km over four stages to complete the rally the start list looked like this – Tänak, Tidemand, Neuville, Meeke, Latvala, Sordo, Suninen, Mikkelsen, Lappi, Ogier.

The first stage, SS 14 – Marmaris 1 (7,05 km) would be run later as the power stage, and Ott showed that his was ready to take some good points, winning the stage from Andreas who was going well still and Jari-Matti third.

Into SS 15 – Gökçe (11,32 km) and with Seb taking it easy and looking after his tyres for the final stage, Jari-Matti won it from Andreas, was pulling away from Teemu, and Dani. In fact, the two Citroen drivers set exactly the same time, going fifth fastest.

A good stage win for Andreas in SS 16 – Çiçekli (13,20 km), beating Jari-Matti by just three tenths of a second meant that barring disaster in the final stage he’d be picking up a well deserved podium. The Citroen’s at the front were very much in control and taking it easy.

The final stage then, SS 17 – Marmaris 2 Power Stage (7,05 km) and Ott took maximum points after setting a time that both Seb and Thierry couldn’t beat. The top five in the stage was rounded out by Jari-Matti and Teemu.

Well, what a victory for Citroën! Their first 1-2 since 2015 when Kris Meeke and Mads Ostberg stood on the first two steps of the Rally Argentina podium – Yes, it has really been that long!

The Citroën team celebrate a great result. Photo credit, Citroën Racing

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:50:12.1
  2. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +34.7
  3. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:04.5
  4. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:35.1
  5. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:25.9
  6. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:59.1
  7. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3:53.3
  8. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +5:34.8
  9. Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +7:22.9

 

The thoughts then of the drivers.

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“We really needed this win if we were to have a chance of getting back into contention in the championship so I’m really happy to bring it home for the team this weekend. We knew that anything could happen at a rally like this where it is really rough but we managed to keep out of trouble by adopting a smart approach. It’s a good morale boost for everyone as we move into the end of the season! We all know that we have to keep working really hard. We’ll savour this win and then get down to work again tomorrow.”

Esapekka Lappi (2nd)

“It was a very demanding event, one which I didn’t really enjoy last year so I’m obviously pleased with my performance this weekend. We managed to have two very good first legs, displaying the same kind of pace as Seb and Julien, which is no easy feat. Today, the challenge for us was to get the car over the line and help them as much as possible. Our C3 WRC was perfect this weekend. We had no issues whatsoever and that was one of the keys to us securing this great result.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (3rd)

“It has been a good rally for us and I am delighted to be back on the podium. We have concentrated on staying away from drama, keeping out of trouble and maintaining a good pace, all of which we have managed well. We were particularly strong on the first pass of each loop, but less so on the second runs, which is something we have to look at. Overall, though, we can be happy with this third place. We’ve taken a decent haul of points for the team, which is most important.”

Dani Sordo (5th)

“Our target for today was to bring the car home and to secure our fifth place. With Andreas in third place, we have been able to take some important points for the manufacturers’ championship, which is good news. Without our puncture on Friday morning, we would have been able to put up an even stronger fight but these roads in Turkey can be extremely rough, so to make it to the end of the weekend in fifth place is not so bad.”

Thierry Neuville (8th)

“It has definitely been a disappointing and difficult weekend for us. In the dust on Saturday morning, my instincts told me to go too much to the right and we ended up in a ditch on our side. Four minutes of time loss later and we were in a very different rally. From there, our focus on was on scoring some points in the Power Stage. I gave it everything I could, and there was nothing more. That’s how it is. We have three rounds of the season left, so let’s move onto the next one and see what happens.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (4th)

“This has been a good weekend for us. I think we had the right balance between showing good pace and driving well through the stages without any mistakes or problems. And I think we made a really big step forward from where we were last year – with the pace but also with managing the tyres so that was really good to see. A big thanks to the mechanics also because they had a lot of work to do on the car this weekend.”

Pontus Tidemand (9th)

“This was my first gravel rally with the Fiesta WRC, and actually my first proper gravel rally this year, so I would say that it has been a good weekend for us. The car and the team were working really well and I would say like to say a big thanks to them and to everyone who has supported me so far this year.

“In the last two stages yesterday and also today I felt I had quite a good feeling with the car and was starting to understand a lot more. Okay there was a lot of cleaning and we had to open the road for much of the event, but we have the experience now and can work on looking where to improve for the next one.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (6th)

“I tried to keep a good rhythm today and enjoy the driving, and the stages were nice today, much better conditions and not so rocky and rough. We came here expecting that we would have more performance than last year, but it seems that all the teams have made some steps forward. We also did some work but we were struggling in the hard, rocky conditions and were using our tyres too much. This is something we have to learn for the future, but I know that the next rally in Wales will suit us a lot better.”

FIA World Rally Championship / Round 11 / Rally Turkey 2019 / Sep 12-15, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Kris Meeke (7th)

“Today was just about preserving our position and bringing home the points for the team. It’s been a tough weekend, since the long stage on Friday afternoon when we lost a lot of time in the rain, which put us into a bad road position for Saturday. We’ve struggled for a bit of speed here and it was about damage limitation in the end. But we’ll come back stronger in the last three rallies.”

Ott Tänak (16th)

“We had nothing to lose today and we gave it everything, and we’re happy that we were able to get these points from the Power Stage. I’m sure it gives an extra boost and motivation going forward. Of course, it is still disappointing what happened yesterday. We always want to fight back and fight back hard. I’m sure everyone in the team will keep pushing. There are now three rounds left so there is nothing else we can do, other than push to the maximum and do our best.”

 

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Ott Tänak – 210 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 193 points
  3. Thierry Neuville – 180 points
  4. Andreas Mikkelsen – 94 points
  5. Kris Meeke – 86 points
  6. Jari-Matti Latvala – 84 points
  7. Teemu Suninen – 83 points
  8. Esapekka Lappi – 80 points
  9. Elfyn Evans – 78 points
  10. Dani Sordo – 72 points

 

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 314 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 295 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 259 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 184 points

 

Summary

Well, this really is a strong result for Citroën, Seb and Esapekka. Closing the gap to Ott in the championship to seventeen points. Meanwhile, Andreas found some great form, gaining a well-deserved podium. Teemu Suninen also had a great event for M-Sport, setting some good times and scoring a brilliant fourth place. Thierry was thereabouts after at the end of Friday, but this event once again bit him hard on Saturday, when he was in a strong position. Whether he can challenge for the title now, is questionable, even if it is on mathematically. It wasn’t such a great event for Toyota, but Ott and the team remain in strong positions in both championships, and they will do well in the remaining events.

The next event is Wales Rally GB in 15 days, on the weekend of the third to the sixth of October. Elfyn Evans is set return, and he will be out testing this week. Look out for my preview in the days before.

Rally Turkey Preview 2019 – Can anyone stop Ott?

It was this event last year that I believe on balance ended Thierry Neuville’s championship push last year. Leading the rally on Saturday morning and pulling away, he suffered broken suspension. It is such a rough event, that to be honest, it’s not about how fast you are, more so looking after your car, and getting through the stages in the safest way. In fact, even being the first car into the stages could mean that you get the best stage conditions.

 

Ott Tanak went on to win and at the time and moved into second place in the championship ahead of Seb Ogier. This year, he heads into this event not only as championship leader, but also having won the last two events as well, placing him and Martin in a strong position with just four rounds to go.

 

Last time, Seb and his Finnish teammate had a tough event, finishing well down in Germany, and seeing the gap increase as he and Julien look to win a seventh world championship with a third different manufacturer.

 

Meantime, Thierry and Nicolas are still looking for their first championship, and I’d say that they need to win this weekend, to bring them back into the fight for this year’s title. We’ve seen them pull off special victories in the past. Can they do this in Turkey?

 

This year’s rally has 309km’s over 17 stages, and with six stages on both Friday and Saturday. Friday will be the longest day with almost 160km over the six stages, and then 110km on Saturday.

 

Here are the stage details.

 

THURSDAY 12 SEPTEMBER

10.00am: Shakedown (4,70 km)

6.00pm: Start from service park (Asparan)

6.30pm: Ceremonial start (Marmaris)

8.08pm: SS 1 – Super Special Stage (2,00 km)

8.33pm : Parc ferme (Asparan)

 

FRIDAY 13 SEPTEMBER

7.30am: Start & service A (Asparan – 15 mins)

8.08am: SS 2 – Içmeler 1 (24,85 km)

9.31am: SS 3 – Çetibeli 1 (38,15 km)

10.54am: SS 4 – Ula 1 (16,57 km)

1.14pm: Service B (Asparan – 40 mins)

2.17pm: SS 5 – Içmeler 2 (24,85 km)

3.40pm: SS 6 – Çetibeli 2 (38,15 km)

5.03pm: SS 7 – Ula 2 (16,57 km)

7.08pm: Flexi service C (Asparan – 45 mins)

 

SATURDAY 14 SEPTEMBER

7.57am: Start & service D (Asparan – 15 mins)

8.50am: SS 8 – Yesilbelde 1 (33,00 km)

10.08am: SS 9 – Datça 1 (8,75 km)

11.06am: SS 10 – Kizlan 1 (13,30 km)

12.32pm: Service E (Asparan – 40 mins)

1.50pm: SS 11 – Yesilbelde 2 (33,00 km)

3.08pm: SS 12 – Datça 2 (8,75 km)

4.06pm: SS 13 – Kizlan 2 (13,30 km)

5.27pm: Flexi service F (Asparan – 45 mins)

 

SUNDAY 15 SEPTEMBER

8.55am: Start & service G (Asparan – 15 mins)

9.38am: SS 14 – Marmaris 1 (7,05 km)

10.36am: SS 15 – Gökçe (11,32 km)

11.24am: SS 16 – Çiçekli (13,20 km)

1.18pm: SS 17 – Marmaris 2 Power Stage (7,05 km)

1.38pm: Finish (Asparan)

2.15pm: Podium

Here are the thoughts of the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Ott Tänak

“Our aim will be to try to win again in Turkey but we saw last year that it’s a very hard event. We were able to take the victory and finish one-two as a team, but it was more thanks to being smart as our speed there was not so strong. The stages can be very rough, so the approach is mainly about avoiding any problems. We would also like to have greater performance there this year though, and the team has been working hard for this. Certainly, the motivation is high in the team after our results in Finland and Germany, as it shows that our hard work is paying off.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 10 / Rally Turkey 2018 / September 13-16, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Rally Turkey is the roughest event of the year. In many ways it’s about survival: Last year many of our rivals hit problems, and although we were not the fastest, we drove sensibly and that brought us a great one-two result for the team. This year I expect the roads to be in a better condition, but it will still be necessary to take care and look after the car. Before Germany, we went to Greece to test in the sort of rough conditions we face in Turkey, and to try to keep improving the car on that kind of surface.”

Kris Meeke

“Rally Turkey will be a new experience for me. From what I could see watching from afar, and what the other drivers have said, the stages there were incredibly rough last year. I’ll have to wait and see how it looks during the recce to make my own conclusions. It’s maybe going to be a bit more difficult for me without that experience from last year, but it’s the way it is. I won’t be going in with any particular targets in terms of a result, but perhaps that approach could play into my hands by the end of the weekend.”

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“Last year’s stages were without question the roughest I have ever had to face in my entire career. The crew that won were clearly not the quickest, so perhaps we’ll need to adapt our approach this year, especially as we can no longer afford any mistakes in the championship. Testing went well, on roads that provided the kind of difficulties we’ll face this weekend. I hope the good feeling we had in testing will continue into the rally itself.”

Esapekka Lappi

“You need to use your head at this rally and understand when it’s possible to push and when it’s better to take your foot off the accelerator and look after the car. It’s not necessarily my favourite type of rallying, but if we can manage to combine endurance, reliability, a bit of speed and some luck in avoiding punctures, then we shouldn’t be too far away from securing a good result.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Rally Turkey is a tough event. Last year we saw plenty of cars retire, including ourselves while in the lead, but we should fight back this year. Our car has been very strong on these kinds of roads in the past so we can’t wait to be there. We know we need to push and be on the pace from the beginning, but we are confident we can be in the mix for victory.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 10, Rally Turkey
13-16 september 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Turkey is one of those events where you need to find the balance of speed and consistency, while not damaging the car. It’s very rough in both passes but especially the second run through. It’s very easy to push too hard, hit some rocks and destroy the car or the tyres. It’s a bit of a survival battle, but if you want to win here you have to drive fast and be committed.”

Dani Sordo

“This was a new rally for everyone last year and we were here to do the recce, so we are familiar with some of the stages. Last year I didn’t do Rally Italia Sardegna and I went on to win this season, so let’s see what happens! When conditions are hard on the cars is when our team is really strong. I hope it will be same in Turkey. We have an advantage with our road position, and we are certainly confident with the car on gravel.”

M-Sport

Teemu Suninen

“Rally Turkey is a very hot and very demanding event. Physically it’s a big test for the drivers as it gets very hot inside the car and we need to make sure we have the energy to maintain our focus. The heat is also a big test for the cars and the tyres so we need to keep that in mind with our driving – adopting a smooth approach so as to not overheat things.

“The stages are also extremely rough and there are a lot of rhythm changes which makes it difficult to judge the right speed. I finished fourth here last year which showed the strength of the Fiesta and we’ll be aiming for a similarly strong performance this year – combining a clever approach with the right speed for the right sections.”

Teemu Suninen during last seasons Rally Turkey when he and old co-driver Mikko Markkula finished in fourth. Photo credit M-Sport

Pontus Tidemand  

“It feels great to be back in a world rally car and the Ford Fiesta WRC is by far the most amazing car I have ever driven! We completed two days of rough gravel testing with the team last week, and I feel in a pretty good position ahead of this challenging event.

“The heat will definitely take its toll – on the engines, the tyres and the crews! The extremely rough roads are also the toughest of the season and I know from last year that big rocks in the middle of the road can be devastating!

“My main goal is to have a really solid rally. For me, that means being able to get the most out of this fantastic car while showing good progress and development throughout the event.”

Summary

This rally really is the modern-day Acropolis. The roads are full of rocks, both on the top and hidden under the surface. This makes the recce days absolutely crucial, with the preparation of the notes. Now, there will be punctures. The winner will be the crew that has the least amount of problems. It could be anyone’s rally.

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 10 / Rally Turkey 2018 / September 13-16, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Rally Germany Review 2019 – Ott Tanak leads a Toyota 1-2-3

Toyota locked out the podium as Ott and Martin took another step towards this year’s world championship. Here’s the story of their third win in a row on the unique German roads.

It all started with a short stage on Thursday evening. SS 1 – St. Wendeler Land (5,20 km) saw Ott win and open a small lead over Dani and Seb, giving us three different cars in the top three.

Friday

With six stages totaling 101km, this day would be key in getting a good position for Saturday. The start list looked like this – Tänak, Ogier, Neuville, Mikkelsen, Suninen, Meeke, Lappi, Latvala, Sordo, Greensmith, Katsuta.

It was battle on for the lead immediately between Ott and Thierry, with the Belgian winning SS 2 – Stein und Wein 1 (19,44 km) and moving into the lead. Seb was third, but struggling with understeer. The other two Toyota’s passed Dani, pushing the Spaniard down to sixth. M-Sport lost a crew, with Teemu dropping out after a problem with his car.

Into SS 3 – Mittelmosel 1 (22,00 km) and the swap between the title rivals happened again, with Ott moving back to the top and Thierry back into second. Ogier could only manage sixth fastest, after stalling his car in a junction. Dani Sordo gained one place, moving ahead of Jari-Matti into fifth place. Kris Meeke gained time on Seb, closing to within a second of the world champion.

It seemed that Ott was now hitting his stride, winning SS 4 – Wadern-Weiskirchen 1 (9,27 km) but Thierry wasn’t giving up by any means, with just one and a half seconds separating them though. Further back, Seb’s decent time meant that he gapped Kris, just as the Toyota driver was coming under pressure from Dani.

After service, the rerun of SS 5 – Stein und Wein 2 (19,44 km), saw Thierry half the gap between him and Ott, reducing the lead to just one and a half seconds. The changes that Seb had made in service had made his C3 WRC better to drive and as a result he maintained a good gap to Kris. There was a swap further down the field, with Andreas getting past Esapekka after the Finn spun.

Into SS 6 – Mittelmosel 2 (22,00 km) and Ott increased his lead over Thierry, but the action was happening further back after Dani passed Kris for fourth place. The remaining M-Sport car was bringing up the rear, with Gus now in ninth place, over a minute from the lead. The young brit was learning many things.

There was drama of all kinds in SS 7 – Wadern-Weiskirchen 2 (9,27 km), with Seb sliding off into a field, but was still able to set a time good enough for fifth fastest. The surprise came as Gus set the same time as the Frenchman some 4.2 seconds slower than Ott. The biggest drama was for Dani who lost a load of time, dropping to a minute and fifteen seconds behind Ott.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY ONE 

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 59:12.4
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2.8
  3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +22.1
  4. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +25.6
  5. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +27.8
  6. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +40.0
  7. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +52.9
  8. Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:05.5
  9. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:15.1

Let’s hear from the drivers after day one.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It has been a good day. Everything is very tight, just as we expected: Everyone was pushing hard and it’s hard to make big differences. But it’s nice to be in this kind of fight. This morning my rhythm was not perfect from the first corner, but I managed to improve with every kilometre and the driving was getting more clean and tidy. This afternoon I think we had a very clean loop: No crazy risks but still quite close to the limit and pushing quite hard. Tomorrow will be a tough day but we need to continue the same way as we were today and still give a big push.”

Kris Meeke (4th)

“I’ve enjoyed my day. I’m happy to be three seconds from a podium position tonight. I had a decent morning, just a little overshoot here and there, and this afternoon was good in the vineyard stages. Unfortunately, on the last stage of the loop I seemed to be missing something and we lost a lot of time on both runs. There’s a long way to go, today was just the starter. Tomorrow will be a big day, especially the afternoon and Panzerplatte, as it looked exceptionally rough on the recce. We just need to keep driving to our rhythm and see how it goes.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)

“Generally, I’m happy with my day. This morning the feeling was good but I needed to work more on the braking, as I was maybe braking too late sometimes and then struggling to get a good exit. The afternoon was good, we improved the car and it was turning better. I was really happy with the performance on the second time through the Mittelmosel stage. The confidence was growing and then on the last stage I was pushing too much. But I’m looking forward to tomorrow, we have some nice stages and Panzerplatte should be interesting in the opposite direction to the last 10 years.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“We have had a great opening day. I have felt very comfortable in the car, especially during the afternoon loop. It has been difficult to keep up the fight with Ott but we’ve done the maximum we could without taking any unnecessary risks. I tried to be fast and clean in all stages, and we’re not far off. We will have to see what more there is to come. Tomorrow will be a very challenging and long day with the mighty Panzerplatte. Anything can happen in this rally so it is important to keep calm and focused.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (6th)

“It has been an OK day considering it is our first tarmac WRC event of the season. I wish we had been able to fight further up the field but we aren’t too far off the guys in front, which gives us motivation. I have been struggling mainly with understeer at the entry of corners, so we have tried to adjust the car during the day to keep a higher entry speed. We’re not quite there but we will keep working on it. This is just the start of what will be a long rally and I am sure we have more performance to come.”

Dani Sordo (9th)

“What can I say? A hugely disappointing end to what had been a satisfactory performance up to that point. We showed at times that we had the speed to fight for the podium even if we struggled in some parts. The afternoon started out well, and we were on the verge of moving closer to the top-three, but in the final stage of the day we experienced a transmission problem that lost us a lot of time. All we can do is try to reclaim some time over the next two days but it’s going to be an uphill battle from here.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“Clearly, I’m not happy with first leg. We had quite a bit of understeer today.  I was driving over the limit but was still slower than our two rivals. Unfortunately, I also made some small mistakes which cost us time. There is still a very long way to go on this rally, with a very difficult leg ahead tomorrow. We’ll keep giving it everything and try to find some solutions.”

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

“It was a tough day, with understeer and a general lack of grip in the car. The afternoon wasn’t much better for me. We’re now going to try and understand what is causing our issues with the technical team.”

 

M-Sport

Gus Greensmith (8th)

“It’s been a really good day for us and the speed of this car on Tarmac is just awesome! The pace wasn’t great in the morning but that was to be expected and the plan was always to build into it. That’s what we did and we reduced the gap to the leaders by quite a big margin over the afternoon loop.

“To be just a few tenths of a kilometre off Ott [Tänak] on my first day in a world rally car on Tarmac is pretty good; but we’ve still got a lot to improve and that’s what we’ll work on tomorrow.”

Gus and Elliott at speed. Photo credit M-Sport

Teemu Suninen (DNF / Restart tomorrow)

“The first kilometres felt really good, but that’s as far as we got – picking up an electrical issue and having to stop. We found the problem, but didn’t have the parts to fix it in the stage and had to retire. The car is now fully repaired, and I’m looking forward to getting back out there and showing what we can do tomorrow.”

 

Saturday

With eight stages on this day totaling 157km, Saturday would be the toughest day. The start list looked like this – Suninen, Katsuta, Sordo, Greensmith, Lappi, Mikkelsen, Meeke, Latvala, Ogier, Neuville, Tänak.

Dani Sordo’s good start position, meant that he came out of the blocks really fast, winning SS 8 – Freisen 1 (14,78 km) and in fact the best time from the leading drivers was Thierry, who reduced the gap to Ott. The fight was on for the lead.

Into the shorter SS 9 – Römerstrasse 1 (12,28 km) and Ott struck back, flying through to go fastest by half a second from Esapekka, but a full 5.2 seconds faster than Thierry, the gap now 6.7 between the top two. Seb was fighting his car through this one, but doing enough to maintain third overall, ahead of Kris.

Thierry won SS 10 – Freisen 2 (14,78 km), but was only 2 tenths faster that Ott, meaning the gap remained at six and a half seconds. Kris narrowed the gap to Seb as well, but there was action further back, with Dani’s great second fastest time, plus Esapekka sliding into a ditch meant that the Spaniard moved ahead of the Finn into seventh.

Thierry continued to put together some good times, winning SS 11 – Römerstrasse 2 (12,28 km) and reducing Ott’s lead by 1.5 seconds. It was still nip and tuck between Seb and Kris in their battle over third place. Dani, meantime, was showing how he would have been near the top, closing the gap to his teammate Andreas.

The ebb and flow between Ott and Thierry continued with SS 12 – Arena Panzerplatte 1 (10,73 km), with the Estonian winning the stage from Thierry who was six tenths behind. Kris took a couple of seconds out of Seb, the gap now just 1.4 seconds between them.

Ott won SS 13 – Panzerplatte 1 (41,17 km), with Dani the closest challenger. In fact, it was a good stage for Toyota as both Kris and Jari-Matti moved past Seb into the podium places. Also, Thierry tumbled down the timesheets and was now behind Dani and Andreas.

It was another stage win for Toyota, except this time Jari-Matti set the best time in SS 14 – Arena Panzerplatte 2 (10,73 km). Ott’s lead over his teammates was a very big 43 seconds. Seb stalled his car as well – Saturday was not going well for him.

It would get worse for the world champion in SS 15 – Panzerplatte 2 (41,17 km) when he got a puncture and lost a huge one and a half minutes, tumbling down to eighth place. Kris won the stage, continuing Toyota’s domination. Dani was now up to fourth place, the highest placed Hyundai driver.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY TWO

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:27:21.9
  2. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +32.4
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +41.8
  4. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:10.8
  5. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:35.2
  6. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:37.3
  7. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:43.1
  8. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:09.7
  9. Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +6:02.6

 

Let’s hear from the driver’s after day two’s action.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“This morning I was really trying to be close to the limit, but the main thing was to avoid the mistakes and to be clean. In the afternoon, the Baumholder stages were really tricky this year, especially on the second loop when we just had to manage our position. It was so rough, with so many rocks, it was a big challenge to avoid everything. But I tried my best and, in the end, we managed, but it was a lot of pressure. As a team we have good control of things now, so I believe we just need to work together tomorrow and bring this result home.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 10 / Rallye Deutschland / 22-25 August, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Kris Meeke (2nd)

“I was a bit apprehensive this morning because I didn’t know those stages so well, so I was happy to be able to maintain the gap to third place at three seconds. Going to Panzerplatte I knew everything could change, and it was nice to have the pace there. The car felt fantastic this evening. We didn’t change the setup at all for the second loop but the road just cleaned up a bit and I was able to trust the grip a bit more. We still have work to do tomorrow. It’s sitting perfectly for the team but it’s a relatively long loop for a Sunday so we have to be on our game to hold position.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd)

“It was a very good day overall. The morning was a bit frustrating as I was thinking too much about the braking, but we had a very good phone call from Tommi after the second stage. He said ‘relax, take it easy, there is no panic, just drive and it will come’ and eventually it happened. Step by step we were improving, my engineer Taavi was giving me tips to get a bit more grip in the car, and in the afternoon, I had a really good feeling. The most important thing now is to focus on securing the maximum points for the team.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (4th)

“We have had a pretty good day, making up a lot of positions and setting some competitive times. It was important for us to put up a strong fight and keep pushing. I have done my best on all stages and the car has been working well. We wanted to keep the pressure on because you never know what can happen in Germany. We now have to continue in this way on the final morning, to do all we can to support the team for the championship.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 10, Rallye Deutschland
22-25 August 2019
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (5th)

“The rally is not yet over, and that is the most important thing for us to keep in mind. We have to remain motivated and keep our heads held high. We always know there is a risk of puncture in the Panzerplatte stages; it’s a complete lottery and unfortunately this time our numbers did not come up. It’s part of the game. We lost a lot of time – 1m24s – changing the left-rear tyre but before that drama we were just five seconds from the rally lead. Fortune changes quickly but we showed good performance today, including two more stage wins, so that’s what we will take away from today. Anything can still happen.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (6th)

“It has been another satisfactory day for us, although very tough with some long and exhausting stages. We have given it absolutely everything we could, even if the times were still not where we wanted them to be. In the morning loop, we went off a few times which really showed how much we were trying. It can always be better, but we were working hard to make up the time deficit. We made some changes to the car for the afternoon Baumholder stages in a bid to step things up a level. We’re not quite there yet but I’ve spent valuable time today focusing on my driving style so let’s see what tomorrow brings.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

“It was a long and hard day, but we managed to improve the car on this surface, even though we had trouble with the grip on Panzerplatte. It was nevertheless better on the second loop. It’s not enough just yet but we are going to keep moving in this direction.”

Sébastien Ogier (8th)

“Obviously, it’s been a frustrating day. We all knew that the Baumholder military base was something of a lottery and unfortunately, over the last couple of years, I haven’t picked the winning numbers. It’s even more of a shame because the car had improved and I was managing to get it to turn into the corners better.”

Esappeka Lappi drove well, working to make the car better. Photo credit, Citroen Racing.

M-Sport

Gus Greensmith (9th)

“I’m here, which is the main thing! It was a long day and I didn’t make it easy for myself with a mistake on the first stage. We damaged the steering but were able to make a repair on the road section and were back up to pace pretty quickly after that.

“But I wasn’t able to carry that same pace into the Panzerplatte stages. We didn’t have a test there and it was nothing like I remembered from the R5 – so it was a bit of a shock! The second pass was a lot better and we saw some good progress, but there’s still a lot to learn.”

Teemu Suninen (35th)

“We can be really happy with our performance today. We didn’t have anything to gain so we were just driving for fun and wanted to show what we could do. The first pass of Panzerplatte was quite dusty, but other than that it was all good and the car was working really well. I enjoyed the driving a lot today, and now I’m looking forward to tomorrow – after a good night’s sleep!”

Sunday

This would be a longer than usual final day with 79.5km over just four stages. The start list looked like this – Suninen, Katsuta, Greensmith, Ogier, Lappi, Mikkelsen, Neuville, Sordo, Latvala, Meeke, Tänak.

Thierry set the fastest time in SS 16 – Grafschaft 1 (28,06 km), with Dani and Kris second and third fastest. With the issues they’d experienced in the Citroen team, Seb just set about getting through the day, working to make it better. Esapekka in his C3 was finding some pace and passed Andreas who was in sixth place.

The first run of SS 17 – Dhrontal 1 (11,69 km), which would be run as the power stage, and the top three were Jari-Matti, Dani and Thierry. Further back, Andreas repassed Esapekka, moving back into sixth place.

Thierry won SS 18 – Grafschaft 2 (28,06 km), showing he and Nicolas certainly knew their way through this one, with Dani and Teemu second and third. Ott remained in the lead, with Kris and Jari-Matti still looking good to complete a podium lockout for the Toyota team. Esapekka retook sixth place from Andreas once again, as their battle continued!

Well, the final stage, SS 19 – Dhrontal 2 (11,69 km), was also won Thierry, giving him maximum points for the stage win, with Teemu, Jari-Matti, Kris and Seb rounding out the top five fastest times. The final stage saw Esapekka move further away from Andreas, a fine drive from the Finn to score good points for Citroen. Later though Esapekka took a penalty to drop behind Seb into eighth place, giving Andreas sixth place and letting the Citroen team leader some crucial championship points. Also moving aside for Thierry, was Dani, who also took a penalty and allowed the Belgian through into fourth.

 

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:15:29.8
  2. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +20.8
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +36.0
  4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +58.5
  5. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:16.6
  6. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:46.2
  7. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:56.3
  8. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:02.2
  9. Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +6:22.2

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It’s an amazing result for the team, so I’m sure there will be big celebrations tonight, and also when we go to visit the team at TMG here in Germany tomorrow. We still have four more rounds to go and we need to stay focused and give our maximum. The championship is still tight, and we’ve seen this weekend that nothing is coming easy. We were not always the fastest but we were more consistent, and in the end, we managed to get the victory. The main job was done yesterday and today we just had to bring home the 1-2-3.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 10 / Rallye Deutschland / 22-25 August, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Kris Meeke (2nd)

“I’m delighted. I could have had four or five, maybe six podiums already this year, and through different issues and my own mistakes, we never got there. To be on the podium and to bring a big haul of points to Toyota with a perfect score, a 1-2-3, it’s special to be part of this weekend. To take maximum points for the manufacturers’ championship is really important. I felt good in the Yaris all weekend, it gave me great confidence, and I definitely was able to drive at a good speed and be comfortable.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd)

“If you finish 1-2-3, you cannot ask for more. This is the most perfect of perfect results. We had a really nice weekend without any problems, and the car worked perfectly. And even though there were some stages that did not go so well for me, I was able to bounce back on the next one. I was slightly too cautious on the first stage this morning, but I realised that I needed to give a bit more attack and after that it was fine. After Finland, it’s a great feeling to be on the podium again.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“We have given absolutely everything possible this weekend. We have tried our hardest and I think we extracted the full performance from the car and ourselves. To be honest, we could have fought for the win this weekend but we were just unlucky with the puncture in Baumholder yesterday. It wasn’t just us to suffer with misfortune; it is part of the game and we have to accept it, however hard it is to take. I am happy to have completed the rally today. I had a good feeling in the car so I could give it a push in the Power Stage to add important points for our championship.”

Dani Sordo (5th)

“Unfortunately, our rally was affected by the mechanical issue that we had on Friday. We could do nothing about that, and the team is very disappointed, but we have to look at the positive aspects of this weekend. The most important thing is the improvements made to the car performance on tarmac; we are now competitive and this is thanks to the hard work of the team. We were able to set leading times, including all stages on the final morning, which should give us plenty of optimism for future rallies.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (6th)

“For our first tarmac event of the season, it was never going to be an easy one but we have made progress. We have worked a lot on improving our feeling with the car, the driving style and adapting to the varied tarmac stages that we face here in Germany. We have taken some steps over the course of this weekend but it’s still not perfect. On the Power Stage, we just took it at a comfortable pace, making no mistakes and just doing what we needed to keep Ogier behind us on the overall classification.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (7th)

“Obviously, it was not the weekend we were hoping for, but I gave it everything. I was flat out a lot of the time, but it wasn’t enough. The times just weren’t there and the punctures certainly didn’t help. We had hoped to buck the trend here, but unfortunately, our situation in the championship hasn’t improved. I’m still going to keep fighting, like I have always done.”

Esapekka Lappi (8th)

“It was a very difficult weekend for us. We had difficulty finding confidence in the car and the speed to fight with the leading crews. We managed to make some small steps during the weekend but it wasn’t enough. We need more. I have faith in our ability to find the right solutions together for the future.”

 

M-Sport

Gus Greensmith (9th)

“It’s been an awesome weekend, and I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly we were able to get on the pace. We were never right at the front, but we were mixing it with the likes of Mikkelsen and Lappi. They have a lot more experience, so for our first time on Tarmac I’d say that was pretty good.

“The time was there, but we still need to improve the consistency – and once we do that it will make our lives a lot easier. It was a really positive weekend and the only real negative was clipping a tree on Saturday – but that did give me some practice at changing a steering arm!”

Teemu Suninen (Restarted/ 29th)

“It’s not the result we wanted, but I’m still really pleased with our performance and my pace was even better than I had expected. My aim was to finish in the top-five, but actually it looks as though it could even have been enough to fight for the podium.

“The technical issue on Friday means we don’t take any strong points away from this weekend, but I think our second fastest time on the Power Stage says a lot about our pace. I was really pleased with that and really enjoyed my driving – so that’s a big positive for the future.”

 

Summary

The continued pace from Toyota has really put the team in a strong place, with Ott and Martin making a strong case for their first world championship crown. Two wins in a row has put them in a strong place. Now, Kris and Jari-Matti really drove well to achieve second and third, with Kris and Seb taking their first podium together, plus his Finnish teammates getting their second podium in a row.

The Hyundai team were lucky to pick up those higher points paying places, after the punctures that caused Citroen problems. Dani in particular drove well after his problems early on Friday. Thierry benefitted from Dani, but did show some good pace in some stages. Andreas showed some good pace at times, but not really where you’d expect him to finish.

Citroen didn’t really have the pace all weekend, and then Seb really suffered badly with his puncture on the long final stage at the end of Saturday. Esapekka had a good battle with and then at the end, moved over for his teammate.

At M-Sport, Teemu would have fought for the top places, but an electrical problem hobbled his car, and with it any hopes of a good result. Gus in the other car is still learning so much about how to drive these cars and driving these cars on tarmac will really give him a lot to learn.

 

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Ott Tänak – 205 points
  2. Thierry Neuville – 172 points
  3. Sébastien Ogier – 165 points
  4. Kris Meeke – 80 points
  5. Andreas Mikkelsen – 79 points
  6. Elfyn Evans – 78 points
  7. Jari-Matti Latvala – 74 points
  8. Teemu Suninen – 70 points
  9. Esapekka Lappi – 62 points
  10. Dani Sordo – 62 points
FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 10 / Rallye Deutschland / 22-25 August, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 289 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 281 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 216 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 168 points

 

Next round is in Turkey, from the twelfth to the fifteenth of September.

Rally Germany Preview 2019 – Back to Tarmac!

After a number of gravel events, we return to tarmac, with the completely unique Rally Germany. Each day has a completely different type of tarmac as well, making it exceptionally challenging, and that is before the rain arrives, and the mud and stones gets pulled on the road. Then it really is unpredictable.

Two years ago, Ott Tanak took his first ever WRC victory in this event. Now he and Martin head to this event as championship leaders, twenty-two points ahead of reigning champions Seb and Julien. The Estonians have to be considered as favourites for the win, but the champions in the Citroen will want to hit back and take a win.

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 09 / Rallye Deutschland 2018 / August 16-19, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Thierry and Nicolas in their Hyundai, who are third in the championship will also want to take a win to close up at the front, and their car does go well on tarmac. They picked up a win earlier this year on the island of Corsica, after Elfyn’s puncture on the final stage.

Of course, Elfyn and Scott sadly will be missing a second rally as the Welshman continues to recover from his back injury. Gus and Elliot will be making their debut on tarmac this weekend, and this will very much be a learning process for them. Teemu and Jarmo will be leading the team, and their car will be capable of getting them onto the podium.

These are the 19 stages and a total of 344km of competitive mileage facing the crews. Saturday is the longest day, with eight of the stages run just on that day. This event is often regarded as actually being three rallies in one. One part of the route features very narrow, technical stages lined with pavements that wind through steep hills of the Mosel vineyards. Another part takes the crews through the countryside of the former French department of the Sarre, with a series of tight hairpins, whilst Saturday’s leg is famous for the stages held in the Baumholder military base, where the bumpy, concrete roads are hard on both the tyres and the cars’ damper systems.

THURSDAY 22 AUGUST

10.00am: Shakedown St. Wendeler Land (5,20 km)

6.45pm: Start (Bostalsee)

7.08pm: SS 1 – St. Wendeler Land (5,20 km)

7.38pm: Parc ferme

 

FRIDAY 23 AUGUST

9.00am: Start & service A (Bostalsee – 15 mins)

10.14am: SS 2 – Stein und Wein 1 (19,44 km)

11.08am: SS 3 – Mittelmosel 1 (22,00 km)

12.43pm: SS 4 – Wadern-Weiskirchen 1 (9,27 km)

2.03pm: Service B (Bostalsee – 40 mins)

3.42pm: SS 5 – Stein und Wein 2 (19,44 km)

4.36pm: SS 6 – Mittelmosel 2 (22,00 km)

6.11pm: SS 7 – Wadern-Weiskirchen 2 (9,27 km)

7.11pm: Flexi service C (Bostalsee – 48 mins)

 

SATURDAY 24 AUGUST

7.15am: Start & service D (Bostalsee – 15 mins)

8.09am: SS 8 – Freisen 1 (14,78 km)

9.12am: SS 9 – Römerstrasse 1 (12,28 km)

11.09am: SS 10 – Freisen 2 (14,78 km)

12.12pm: SS 11 – Römerstrasse 2 (12,28 km)

1.31pm: Service E (Bostalsee – 40 mins)

3.08pm: SS 12 – Arena Panzerplatte 1 (10,73 km)

3.46pm: SS 13 – Panzerplatte 1 (41,17 km)

5.41pm: Service F (Bostalsee – 15 mins)

6.53pm: SS 14 – Arena Panzerplatte 2 (10,73 km)

7.31pm: SS 15 – Panzerplatte 2 (41,17 km)

9.06pm: Flexi service G (Bostalsee – 48 mins)

 

SUNDAY 25 AUGUST

6.20am: Start & service H (Bostalsee – 15 mins)

7.46am: SS 16 – Grafschaft 1 (28,06 km)

9.41am: SS 17 – Dhrontal 1 (11,69 km)

10.10am: SS 18 – Grafschaft 2 (28,06 km)

12.18pm: SS 19 – Dhrontal 2 (11,69 km)

1.23pm: Service I (Bostalsee – 10 mins)

2.00pm: Podium

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak 

“Germany is obviously a rally that I like a lot. Martin and I have won there two years in a row and our target this year is definitely to make it three. It’s certainly not an easy rally: I think last year was one of the most difficult wins in my career, as the competition was very strong and I had to push really hard from the beginning. It’s a big challenge for a driver to have so many different types of road in one rally, and to try to be fast on all of them and not make any mistakes. We know that the weather is often a big factor as well, and it can be very hard to predict.”

Jari-Matti Latvala

“It was really good to get the podium finish in Finland, and it means that I have a more relaxed feeling going to Germany. Last year we were up to second place when we had a problem on the final day and had to retire, so we know that we can be strong there. I’m really excited to see how we will do and I hope we can be fighting for the podium places again. The last asphalt rally in Corsica was difficult for me but we really worked on this in our test in Germany before Rally Finland: We were working on the braking and the turning, and I had a good feeling in the car.”

Kris Meeke

“After a run of gravel events, I’m really looking forward to competing on asphalt again. I’ve had a great feeling with the Yaris WRC so far on asphalt and I hope that we can find that again in Germany. It’s always a really demanding event because of the three different types of terrain and, on top of that, the weather is often changing from one stage to the next. But it’s a rally where I’ve been competitive in the past and I really hope that we can secure a good result for the team.”

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“My aim coming into this round in Germany, a rally where I have always performed very well, is to secure a good result and shift the momentum a little bit in the championship. We had several types of weather conditions during testing and that’s always positive. The fact that we will be tackling the military base stage in the opposite direction to normal might make it a decisive test again, even though in the last few years the need to manage the tyres has meant we’ve been unable to push really hard. It is still a tricky section, like a lot of the rally itself. The risk of picking up a puncture is higher than usual, with the many curbs on the roads in the vineyards and the small, sharp stones that end up on the road surface in Baumholder.”

Can Seb and Julien stop Ott and Martin from winning this rally for the third year in a row? Photo credit, Citroen

Esapekka Lappi

“My test in June was very successful. In addition to half a day in the military base, I had a full day on a good test base, with a little bit of everything we can expect road surface-wise during the race, and I felt comfortable in the C3 WRC. But it’s always difficult to know where you are compared to your rivals. In the meantime, I also spent the day at Satory, and that allowed me to get my bearings back on tarmac. So, I feel ready and I think that on this kind of tricky rally, as well as having good speed, you need to be consistent given the number of incidents that invariably occur. The podium I secured last year showed just that.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Germany is a very challenging event due to the fact that you have three different days with very different characteristics. You have the vineyards, the Saarland stages and the famous Baumholder stages. In addition to that, the weather plays a key role in the result of the rally and the past editions have always been surprisingly wet. That makes it hard to choose the right tyres. We will be pushing to fight at the front and challenge for victory.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship, Round 10, Rallye Deutschland 17 – 20 August 2017, Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, Photographer: RaceEMotion, Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rallye Deutschland is a beautiful rally, and it will represent our first time on tarmac for quite a while. The rally contains three contrasting days. The Mosel valley and the vineyards are very tricky stages, and then we have the military area, which needs a completely different type of driving before the countryside stages. All are very different, but enjoyable. It’s important to find consistency and score as many points as possible to help the team maintain the lead of the championship.”

Dani Sordo

“Germany is always a nice rally and really special because of the different road profiles. The Baumholder stages in particular are famous for their concrete roads that can wear the tyres, as well as the Hinkelsteins and hairpin turns. I have won here in the past and been on the podium many times. Normally I am on the pace every year, so I hope this year will be the same.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen

“Rallye Deutschland is a really demanding rally, but I feel ready for the challenge. We had a good run last time out on Tarmac, and I hope we can build on that next week.

“We’ve had a day and a half testing to find the best set-ups on the car, and the feeling is really good. Of course, it’s impossible to be on the limit all the time at an event like this, but if we stay focused, I think we can have a good rally.

“The route note crews will also be really important next week – and I think this is the most important event for them after Rallye Monte-Carlo. There is always a lot of cutting here which brings a lot of dirt onto the road. The conditions can change so much from one corner to the next, and that means a lot of changes in the notes.”

Teemu and former co-driver Marko scored a good fifth place last year. Photo credit, M-Sport

Gus Greensmith

“I’m really excited for this one – Tarmac is the surface I grew up on, so this is my kind of territory. I thought the Ford Fiesta WRC was quick on gravel – but it’s another level on Tarmac!

“I’ve had a day and a half testing in Germany to prepare, and everything has been really promising so far. I felt immediately more comfortable with the Fiesta WRC on Tarmac, and the feeling behind the wheel was truly special.

“Being a Tarmac event, the margins are smaller and everything feels that little more on the edge. But our focus is on gaining the full experience of the rally, and if I’m relaxed, I’m confident the times will come too.”

Summary

I held a poll on my twitter account, asking who was likely to win. Here’s the result.

Well, if Ott and Martin win this rally for the third year in a row, they will be in a commanding position in the fight for this year’s world championship. Now, who else could stand on the podium? Seb Ogier, Thierry Neuville, Dani Sordo all have the pace. Kris Meeke and Teemu Suninen and Jari-Matti Latvala could all also make it, depending on their consistency through the stages. Which drivers could make it into the points? Well, Gus Greensmith makes his third start of the year, and will hope to make it to the finish this time. It’s certainly going to be a spectacular event! Enjoy!

Rally Finland 2019 Review – Ott Tanak takes his second Rally Finland Victory in a row!

Ott Tanak and his co-driver Martin Jarveoja have taken their second victory on the incredible roads in Finland. Here’s the story of how it all came together for the young Estonian pairing.

Friday

With ten stages on day one and Ott Tänak opening the road, it would be interesting if his championship rivals could take advantage and get ahead of him on the leaderboard.  The start list looked like this – Tänak, Ogier, Neuville, Suninen, Meeke, Mikkelsen, Lappi, Latvala, Greensmith, Breen.

The first stage of the day, SS 2 – Oittila (19,34 km), and it was a stage victory for Jari-Matti, with Lappi and Meeke second and third fastest. Ott though was only nine tenths off his teammates pace and held the overall lead from his teammates. Ogier and Neuville held fifth and ninth at this point.

Into SS 3 – Moksi 1 (20,04 km) then and Kris set a great pace and, but you could argue Ott was even better with second fastest time, with Jari-Matti in third. In the Hyundai camp, Craig Breen, with Paul Nagle alongside him was going well and setting some great times and held sixth overall at the end of this stage, ahead of both Andreas and Thierry.

Jari-Matti won SS 4 – Urria 1 (12,28 km) from Craig, with Esapekka and Ott setting the same time to both go third fastest. Craig’s pace allowed him to pass Seb, taking fifth overall at this point. The M-Sport duo of Teemu and Gus were down in eighth and tenth, with Thierry between them. Incredibly, Ott still held the lead.

SS 5 – Ässämäki 1 (12,33 km) saw Ott take stage victory, 1.1 seconds ahead of Craig, who increased the gap to Seb. Esapekka and Andreas were equal third fastest. Kris was now 4.2 seconds from his teammate in second place. Further back, Thierry passed Teemu, moving into eighth position.

The final stage before the service break, SS 6 – Äänekoski 1 (7,80 km) and Jari-Matti took it by just a tenth of a second from Craig, who was clearly getting very comfortable in his Hyundai. Latvala’s pace lifted him above Kris, the Finn retaking second overall. It had been a good morning for Tommi’s team, winning every stage so far.

After lunchtime service, there was a change in the lead, after Jari-Matti won SS 7 – Moksi 2 (20,04 km) with Esapekka and Kris just one tenth of a second slower. Ott emerged in second overall, now just four tenths off the lead. The gap between Craig and Seb reduced a little in their battle over fifth position.

Andreas won SS 8 – Urria 2 (12,28 km), breaking the stranglehold that Toyota had held on stage victories, with Esapekka and Jari-Matti second and third fastest. The outcome of all of this was Jari-Matti held the lead by just six tenths of a second from Esapekka, Ott and Kris who were all on the same overall time. Andreas’ pace was enough to move him ahead of Seb and into sixth place. Incredibly, Craig was now just ten seconds from the lead, and feeling very comfortable.

Jari-Matti took SS 9 – Ässämäki 2 (12,33 km) from Esapekka, with Kris in third, and these were the top three as well. Craig lost a little time to Andreas, but still held fifth overall. Sadly, the two Fiesta’s were in ninth and tenth place, and it was a surprise to see Teemu so far off the pace.

It was an incredible SS 10 – Äänekoski 2 (7,80 km), with Jari-Matti and Kris sharing the fastest time, plus Seb and Andreas equal second fastest, and this had the result of Kris moving ahead of Esapekka, pushing the Finn down to third overall.

The final stage of the day then, SS 11 – Harju 2 (2,31 km) and it was a second stage victory for the Hyundai Motorsport team, with Thierry winning the stage from Seb and Kris, who set the same time. The top four were separated by just 2.6 seconds. Just incredibly close!

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

  1. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:04:01.1
  2. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1.2
  3. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +2.4
  4. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2.6
  5. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) +14.2
  6. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +14.6
  7. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +15.3
  8. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +30.9
  9. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +52.6
  10. Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:38.3

 

Here’s the thoughts of the drivers after day one.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (1st)

“It’s been a really good day. There were a couple of stages where the time was a little bit down, but generally I was able to have a strong performance. It has been so tight and the pressure has really been on, so it’s pleasing to be able to keep up the speed and not make mistakes when you’re trying to find the difference anywhere you can. Tomorrow I think the morning loop is going to be crucial because there are some new sections, and the profile of the road is generally a bit different: Wider with more crests and jumps.”

Kris Meeke (2nd)

“It’s been a good day I’ve really enjoyed it. In Finland it’s so important to make a good start and get away with the lead group, and we were able to do that this morning. The stages and the pace-notes were new to me on the first pass, so I could be a lot calmer this afternoon with that knowledge. I think there was a bit more road cleaning on the second pass but I think we made the most of our position. It’s so close between the top four, so it’s going to be exciting to see how it develops tomorrow.”

Ott Tänak (4th)

“Generally, I’m feeling pretty good at the end of the day. The conditions were challenging running first on the road, but in the morning, I had a good flow from the beginning, the car was working well and so I could focus on the driving. This afternoon the conditions were much tougher, and it was a bit frustrating as I was pushing hard and we lost a few places. But we are still very close, and tomorrow we should have a much better road position than we had today, so everything is to play for.”

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (3rd)

“It’s good to be back among the frontrunners and on the pace, especially at this rally, which means so much to us as Finns! My C3 WRC was perfect today and I really enjoyed driving on these stages. It’s crazy that the gaps are so small after such a long day. It looks like it will be a huge battle at the front tomorrow, but you can count on us to keep fighting!”

Esapekka Lappi on a charge. Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Sébastien Ogier (7th)

“I think we had a very good day. I was comfortable in the C3 WRC, but our position in the running order certainly didn’t make our lives any easier. I would’ve loved to end this first day in a better position so we could start further down the running order tomorrow, but I will at least have more cars ahead of me than today. It’s still very tight, so we have to keep pushing as hard as we can. We’re still in the fight to score some big points.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Craig Breen (5th)

“It has been an unbelievable day and it’s gone better than I could have ever imagined. I have missed the feeling of being back in the WRC so I’ve felt on top of the world. I won’t be completely happy until we’re banging in the quickest times but I have picked up confidence in the car as the day has gone on, and that is half the battle. I have not been getting carried away; my goal is to support the team as best I can, taking no risks. The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC is probably the finest car I’ve ever driven and to get the opportunity to drive on these Finnish roads is something very special. The times have been incredibly close; it’s really testament to the quality of the WRC that one second in a stage can make such a big difference on timesheets. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (6th)

“We’ve had a pretty good day and I’m happy with what we’ve achieved. The morning loop was clean and the times were incredibly close. I planned to ramp things up a bit in the afternoon, and we were able to take a stage win. The feeling inside the car has been really nice and it’s been highly enjoyable to drive. We’ve struggled on these high-speed gravel stages before so it’s nice to see our work taking steps in the right direction. I’d like to say thanks to everyone at Hyundai Motorsport who have worked so hard on the car for this event; there’s been no summer vacation there to get a perfect job done.”

Thierry Neuville (8th)

“We started the rally in a very positive frame of mind and with a stage win on Thursday evening. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to replicate that during Friday’s stages. The feeling with the car itself was not so bad and we kept pushing hard during the day but we should have been able to set faster stage times. We have tried a number of different things but something hasn’t quite clicked yet. The rally is still long so we’ll continue to give it everything we’ve got.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (9th)

“It’s really hard for a Finn when they’re not fast in Finland, and it’s been a really disappointing day for us. The driving feels good, but we are struggling to find the pace. In the past I have been beating Ogier and Tänak in the same car, so I know I can be fast here. But we are missing something this weekend, and need to do our homework and try to be faster.”

Gus Greensmith (10th)

“I can’t say today wasn’t enjoyable – it was amazing – but the learning curve was as big as the jumps – massive! Obviously, we started off quite cautiously in the morning and the times weren’t really where we wanted them to be. I managed to be there or thereabouts with my team-mate in the afternoon which was really good, but there seems to be a big gap to those further ahead. We’ll try a few different things tomorrow, and I’m sure the time will come to us.”

Saturday

Being the longest day, with eight stages totalling 133km. The startlist looked like this – Greensmith, Suninen, Neuville, Ogier, Mikkelsen, Breen, Tänak, Lappi, Meeke, Latvala. We found out that Seb had a bad night’s sleep as well, after he’d been sick throughout the night. It would make his day interesting indeed.

Ott took the first stage, SS 12 – Pihlajakoski 1 (14,42 km) and jumped straight into the lead. Esapekka was second fastest and Jari-Matti third. Andreas was also on the move, passing Craig for fifth position. Further down the field, Kalle Rovanpera was driving his Skoda Fabia R5 out of his skin, posting an almost four seconds faster time than Gus Greensmith.

Into SS 13 – Päijälä 1 (22,87 km) and it was a 1-2-3 for Toyota with Kris leading Jari-Matti and Ott. Ott fell to second overall, although just two tenths of a second from new leader and teammate Jari-Matti. Also, on the move was Craig, who repassed Andreas in their battle over fifth place.

Into SS 14 – Kakaristo 1 (18,70 km) and Ott retook the lead. It wasn’t a happy time though at Toyota, as Kris and Jari-Matti both damaged their cars. Kris was out for the day, after breaking his suspension, whilst Jari-Matti had a bit more luck only damaging a tyre. There were a few more changes on the leaderboard, with Esapekka, Andreas and Seb moving up ahead of Craig who was now in sixth place after the demise of Kris.

SS 15 – Leustu 1 (10,50 km) was won by Jari-Matti, beating Ott who continued to hold a strong 13 second lead over his remaining teammate. Esapekka had made third place his, and Seb closed a little on Andreas for fourth place.

Esapekka won SS 16 – Pihlajakoski 2 (14,42 km) and jumped ahead of Jari-Matti into second place. Seb backed up his younger teammate, going second fastest and passing Andreas as well and moving into fourth place. The gap between Andreas and Craig remained very small as well.

The status quo continued in SS 17 – Päijälä 2 (22,87 km), with Ott winning from Esapekka who increased the gap he had over Jari-Matti, whilst Craig edged closer to Andreas. Gus Greensmith was doing his best to learn the stages, but he was struggling out there, now over three and a half minutes off the lead.

SS 18 – Kakaristo 2 (18,70 km) saw Esapekka win, pipping Ott by just half a second, whilst Andreas moved ahead of Seb into fourth place, but only by four tenths of a second. Could Seb take back the position in the following stage? The two M-Sport Fiesta’s were two minutes and four minutes off the lead sadly, just down to the fact that they were opening the road.

The final stage of the day then, SS 19 – Leustu 2 (10,50 km) and it was a stage win for Andreas, thus increasing the gap between him and Seb, who had driven well given his lack of sleep, whilst Ott was only one tenth slower, thus maintaining a sixteen second lead over Esapekka.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:08:49.4
  2. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +16.4
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +28.8
  4. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +50.5
  5. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +53.1
  6. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) +59.1
  7. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:19.3
  8. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:05.3
  9. Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:09.7

 

Here’s the thoughts of the drivers then after day two.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It’s been a really good day. This morning it was really intense as everyone was pushing hard. It was good that we were able to build a bit of a gap to Esapekka [Lappi], as this afternoon he did a very good job, and we had to follow his pace. At the same time, I felt really comfortable in the car and it was working very well. In the very rough places, I was a bit more careful, but in the smooth and fast sections I really enjoyed it and we had a good rhythm. I think our advantage is good but there is still some way to go so there is still a lot of focus needed.”

Ott Tänak moved into the lead on Saturday. Photo credit, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd)

“We had a fantastic morning speed-wise, fighting for the lead with our team-mates, and I had a really good feeling with the car. But in Kakaristo I was too fast in a right-hander, ran wide into a ditch and hit a big rock. In the afternoon, I knew that I couldn’t afford to make any more mistakes so I tried to find a comfortable speed where I would be avoiding risks. At the same time Esapekka was able to raise his pace, so I couldn’t match that. I’m a bit disappointed that I couldn’t find the right rhythm, but to get the points is the most important thing: To be on the podium tomorrow would be a really important result for myself, but also for the team.”

Kris Meeke (Retired/Rally2)

“It had been an incredible fight from the beginning of the rally, and I was enjoying it again this morning: I was in a good rhythm and the car felt phenomenal. In Kakaristo, we came to a fast, fifth-gear right-hand corner, and I just dropped a wheel off the camber on the outside. Normally that wouldn’t be a big problem but there was a massive rock just sitting in the ditch, and I didn’t know it was there, so it was a big surprise. I’m gutted: When the battle is so close like that, and everyone’s trying to do their best for the team, it’s very disappointing to have to stop.”

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (2nd)

“Obviously, it’s been a very positive day for us! After what happened in the morning loop, I was expecting to suffer on the second runs on these wide and fast stages, but I really went for it and it has worked out pretty well for me so far. We found the right balance to push without overdriving the stages or drifting outside of the lines. I’m going to continue at the same pace tomorrow and am absolutely determined to secure the result.”

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“I’m pleased that it’s over because I was running really low on energy this afternoon. I can’t wait to get to bed, to be honest. I had to really push myself all day so I’m glad to have made it through the leg without making any mistakes because it was sometimes very difficult to keep up the concentration. Tomorrow will be another day and I hope that I will be able to recover sufficiently tonight so that I can do myself justice and fight all the way to the finish.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (4th)

“It has been an epic fight, with positions changing hands back and forth throughout the day. I’ve enjoyed it, competing with everything we have on some truly beautiful stages. It’s been really cool. The car has given me all the confidence I need on both loops. We made a few adjustments to our pace notes for the afternoon, specifically for the wider sections, and although it was rough at times we gave it our maximum. The second run through Kakaristo was just what we needed to keep hold of fourth place. Following that up with our second stage win of the weekend was perfect. A lot of fun!”

Craig Breen (6th)

“There were a few more struggles compared to yesterday, mainly on the narrower sections where I lacked confidence. I’ve never had such a stable car so it takes time to get used to committing fully. SS17 was a particular highlight today; there was not a millimetre left out on the stage and I think it was one of the best stages of my entire career. We didn’t end the day so positively, unfortunately. We lowered the ride height of the car for the last stage but the conditions were rougher than we expected so we lost a bit of time. We are still in a close battle and there are plenty of positives from today.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 09, Rally Finland
01-04 August 2019
Craig Breen, Paul Nagle, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (7th)

“A much better feeling and a more positive day overall. Of course, the road cleaning has made life far from perfect but we’re trying to enjoy ourselves and work within the confines of what is possible. We lost too much time yesterday but everyone is pushing really hard and we have to keep an eye on the championship, rather than a single stage result. I don’t think we could have done much more today. The only slight disappointment was picking up a bit of rear damage late in the afternoon loop. Even if we’re not in the position we would like to be, we have to accept where we can make a difference, and salvage what we can from the weekend.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (8th)

“We went a bit softer with the car this morning to try and find some more traction, but it makes the car quite unpredictable. We went back to the base set-up for the afternoon, and that felt better. Now we need to get the confidence to drive on the limits and get the most out of the car.”

Gus Greensmith (9th)

“It’s been pretty tricky for us out there today. We tried some big set-up changes this morning, but it didn’t work out. The car felt much better in the afternoon and I was really enjoying the driving, but we had to clear a line through the ruts left by the national crews. I know tomorrow’s stages pretty well, so I think I’ll give it bit of a push to see how good I am at cleaning the road – but not too much, because I promised Rich that I would bring the car back in one piece!”

Sunday

The final day beckoned, with four stages totalling 45km. The startlist looked like this – Meeke, Greensmith, Suninen, Neuville, Breen, Ogier, Mikkelsen, Latvala, Lappi, Tänak.

Ott picked up from where he left and won SS 20 – Laukaa 1 (11,75 km), with Seb, who was feeling much better, and Jari-Matti his closest challengers. Esapekka made it past through – last year this was the stage that saw him crash out. Kris restarted as well, setting the ninth fastest time. Ott now had a lead of twenty seconds over Esapekka.

Seb had problems in SS 21 – Ruuhimäki 1 (11,12 km), with something moving around in his footwell. Jari-Matti won the stage, going through seven tenths faster than Andreas who had really made fourth overall his own. Seb still managed to be third fastest in the stage, making us wonder how much faster he’d have been without his issues. Sadly, Gus retired from the rally on this stage.

Into SS 22 – Laukaa 2 (11,75 km), the penultimate stage, and Andreas was quickest, with Esapekka and Seb just a few tenths slower in second and third. The big news from this stage was that Craig had taken a twenty second penalty, thus allowing Thierry through into sixth place. Also, Kris broke his suspension, bringing his return to the action to a premature end.

The final stage then, SS 23 – Ruuhimäki 2 Power Stage (11,12 km) and you’d have forgiven the leader if he’d taken it easy. However, he flew through the stage and was almost seven tenths faster than Thierry, with Andreas, Seb and Jari-Matti finishing off the fastest five, and thus taking the powerstage points.

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:30.40.3
  2. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +25.6
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +33.2
  4. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +53.4
  5. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +56.1
  6. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:32.4
  7. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:38.2
  8. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:33.8

 

Let’s hear then from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It feels really good to get this victory. It was very important to get a good result here to help us in both championships. I would say that this is a perfect result to begin the second part of the season. I think it’s a great boost for the whole team and now we need to keep pushing. I focused on having a clean run through the first three stages today, and then on the Power Stage I pushed. I tried to have a fast and clean run with no mistakes, and we were able to get the maximum points. Now we need to continue in the same way, starting with Germany.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd)

“I’m really really Happy to be back on the podium here on Rally Finland. It has been almost nine months since I last had a podium, a really really long time. I think the opportunity was there to go for second place, but this time I think it was better not to take the risk. We really needed the points for the future, not just for myself but also for the team. Today I was more relaxed than yesterday afternoon and the performance was good. This result gives us more confidence to keep fighting for more podiums in the upcoming rallies.”

Kris Meeke (DNF)

“Restarting today, we didn’t have much to fight for with our road position, but I’m disappointed with myself for making a stupid error in the penultimate stage. On a long left-hander, I put car sideways and hesitated a little bit, and when I lifted off the throttle the car went more to the inside of the corner than I wanted it to. There was a big stone in the grass and we hit it. It’s really not been the weekend that I wanted, so we need to pick ourselves up before Germany.”

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (2nd)

“I’m very pleased for the team – they deserve this result for having been patient and supportive during the first part of the season, when things were difficult. We worked really hard – and well – together so that the C3 WRC suited my driving style more effectively, especially on the front diffs and I really felt full of confidence driving the car this weekend. I literally felt like I could do what I liked in it! From the first run in the shakedown, I knew that things were looking good. I now hope to keep up this level of performance for the rest of the season.”

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“It was a tough weekend for us. To be honest, I had higher expectations at the start. As always, I gave it absolutely everything. For sure, Saturday’s leg – when I was really low on energy – didn’t help matters, but even today, when I felt better, unfortunately I wasn’t able to do more.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (4th)

“Fourth place, even if it wasn’t quite a podium, means a huge amount to me. We have been involved in an incredibly close battle with Sébastien for much of the rally, and it has really come down every tenth of a second, fighting right to the very end. Thankfully, we had the speed and performance in the car, and the confidence in ourselves, to get the job done. It’s been a tough rally in the past, so it’s fantastic to have cracked the code this weekend. I have had a good feeling with the car all weekend and we’ve been able to set some competitive times. This is thanks to the efforts of the whole Hyundai Motorsport team over many months. We had some upgrades on the car for this rally, including some specifically to help my driving, which have worked wonders. I feel like my old self again!”

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“We gave it everything we had this weekend and it is important to focus on the positives. We were able to take away from really important points for both championships, including four from the Power Stage. We could not have done more. The car has shown an improvement in these fast gravel conditions, which is encouraging. We didn’t have the best of tests ahead of this rally, and I struggled to find the right feeling on Friday, which really dictated our weekend. We keep our heads high and look forward to the next one.

Craig Breen (7th)

“This has been an amazing rally I have to say. To have the opportunity to return to this level of rallying has been very special and I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has made it possible. I have enjoyed myself immensely as part of the Hyundai Motorsport team, and I was immediately comfortable in the car. We knew the job we had to do this weekend, and I think we’ve achieved that; it’s been a privilege to play our part in the team’s championship efforts.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (8th)

“It’s always fun driving in Finland, but it’s been frustrating to look at the times this weekend. We know that we have the pace, but this wasn’t our weekend. We weren’t able to challenge for the top positions, and have some homework to do before the next one”.

Teemu Suninen at speed. Photo credit, M-Sport WRT

Gus Greensmith (DNF)

“I thought I heard a pacenote that I knew I didn’t have in that stage [Ruuhimäki, SS21]. At that point I got distracted, tried to read the road, and then missed the braking for a sharp left. I tried to pull it round, but hit the tree and took the wheel off. It’s disappointing, but Elliott [Edmondson, co-driver] and myself are both okay which is obviously the most important thing.”

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Ott Tänak – 180 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 158 points
  3. Thierry Neuville – 155 points
  4. Elfyn Evans – 78 points
  5. Andreas Mikkelsen – 71 points
  6. Teemu Suninen – 66 points
  7. Kris Meeke – 60 points
  8. Esapekka Lappi – 58 points
  9. Jari-Matti Latvala – 56 points
  10. Dani Sordo – 50 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 262 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 236 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 198 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 158 points

Summary

An incredible drive then from Ott Tänak and co-driver Martin Jarveoja, who had kept his timeloss throughout Friday’s stages to a minimum, allowing him to get a great road position for the rest of the weekend. He didn’t panic as well, when his teammates started to challenge him at the top. Once they fell from the front, he made the event his own. Jari-Matti Latvala got away lucky I feel, after hitting the same rock as Kris Meeke, but only suffering a puncture and damage to the bodywork at the rear, rather than suspension damage. The Toyota team were looking at a 1-2-3 until that point.

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 09 / Rally Finland / 1-4 August, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Whether they’d have got that is a moot point, as Esapekka had his best event of the year, looking like he and the Citroen team had got the car to a point where he could show his considerable skills. The young Finns teammate and current world champion Seb suffered throughout Saturday, but came through to bag some important points for the defence of his world title.

Hyundai had an interesting event, with the regular drivers being overshadowed by Craig Breen throughout Friday, and the Irishman having to take a time penalty on Sunday to allow Thierry through into sixth place. Andreas drove really well to get up to fourth though, but if Seb and Kris had not had their problems, it’s fair to say would he have been behind them I suspect.

Finally, M-Sport didn’t have a great event. Teemu just couldn’t get on the pace, and after Hayden Paddon crashed during his test, they didn’t really have anyone to lead the team. Of course, they were missing Elfyn and Scott (who are the team leaders at the moment) as he recovers from the back injury sustained at last months Rally Estonia. Gus Greensmith did his best, given the circumstances – He’s still learning the way with the top spec WRC machine, plus had not competed in Finland before either – That’s a steep learning curve!

The next event is Rally Germany. It runs from the 22nd to the 25th of August. Look out for my preview in the days before.

Phil Hall’s Rally Italia Sardinia Diary

Written By Phil Hall

Rally Sardinia is probably one of the toughest rallies I’ve done, it’s right up there with Turkey and Mexico. Even the recce is extreme, getting around the stages in a recce car is a challenge in itself.

The event was very hot, very dusty, and in places extremely rough. It took grit and determination to succeed.

We didn’t make the right tyre choice for the first loop of stages on Friday, and that cost us some time, but we had a clean run which was positive and to the plan. The afternoon loop we made better tyre choices and saw the benefit – even though the temperatures in the car soared. Our fitness training was paying off.

Saturday was going well, but a puncture in the last stage of the loop on both passes (which had to be changed in the stage) saw us drop a fair bit of time. We’d practised tyre changing a lot though so we did our best to minimise the effect. Saturday was a very long day, an early 5am start and a late finish meant you really had to maintain focus. Preparation was key, maintaining hydration and energy levels, and working as a team to maximise efficiency.

Sunday was a tricky day, with only 4 relatively short stages. Unfortunately, we cracked the oil sump on the engine on the very last stage – even making it on to the final road section. We made temporary repairs by the side of the road and carried on, attempting to drag the car to the finish, but it wasn’t to be. Our repairs melted as the engine got hot, and we ran out of materials to keep fixing it, ultimately leading to us having to retire at the side of the road to the finish.

A disappointing end to the rally in some respects, but it did allow us to demonstrate our determination to succeed. As always, a huge thanks to our team at M-Sport Poland who were incredible all event.

Easter Stages and the Killarney Rally of the Lakes – Rounds 3 and 4 of the Irish Tarmac Championship

Reporting by David Harrigan

Summer has well and truly arrived in Ireland; lambs are skipping around the fields, birds are singing in the trees, hard slicks are the tyre of choice and the Irish Tarmac Championship is blasting its way through valleys and over mountain passes, shattering the tranquility.

The Easter Stages and the Killarney Rally of the lakes made up rounds 3 and 4 of the Championship and with the two rounds taking place only two weeks apart, there has been little time to catch breath.  Both rallies were contrasting in terrain, the Easter Stages took place in the fertile plains and rolling hills surrounding Lough Neagh in the Northeast of the island and the Rally of the Lakes which took place in the rugged mountains of Kerry in the Southwest.  There has been one constant element in the Irish Tarmac championship this season however and that is the Fiesta of Craig Breen and Paul Nagle.  So far this season the pair have been dominant.  The results so far are testament to the pair’s dominance, but from the roadside, there are times when Craig is having to drive the R5 close to the limit to stay ahead of the chasing pack.

Craig Breen and Paul Nagle.

On the Easter stages, Desi Henry and Liam Moynihan were at forefront of the chasing pack, pushing their Skoda Fabia hard for two days through the Ulster lanes to finish second, only 18 seconds behind Breen.  It was a rally where Henry finally had some well-deserved luck, having been on the pace all season only to run into bad luck on numerous occasions.  Merely stating Henry took second place on the rally doesn’t tell the entire story though, the battle for the podium behind Breen is one that will live long in the memory.

At the end of day one, after six stages, only 12.9 seconds separated Jonny Greer, Desi Henry, Sam Moffett and Callum Devine in the battle for second.  Over nine more stages on day two, the podium battle would rage with fractions of seconds being traded.  On stage eight, Callum Devine and Brian Hoy put in an astonishing time on the longest stage of the rally to take third place overall, but only 3.3 seconds separated second position and fourth position.  On stage nine, Henry responded to move back into third place, on stage eleven Devine responded to retake third …… and this tit for tat battle continued until stage thirteen when Devine dropped 10 seconds with a power steering issue.   There was no stopping Desi Henry and Liam Moynihan now though, with only one second gap to Jonny Greer and Kirsty Riddick in second place, the battle continued unabated.

Over the final two stages, both Jonny Greer and Desi Henry were visibly trying.  Not one inch was given and every available bit of tarmac, and sometimes beyond, was used in the search for fractions of seconds.  When the dust had settled, Desi Henry and Liam Moynihan emerged in second place, 3.5 seconds ahead of Jonny Greer and Kirsty Riddick.

Callum Devine will probably consider himself unlucky not to stand on the podium at the Easter Stages but deserves a special mention.  The podium battle was frantic, the commitment and speed carried by the drivers at the top of the timesheets was visible from the roadside.  A fourth-place finish on a rally of this standard in only his fifth rally in an R5 car is a serious achievement.

Of the other Championship contenders, after finishing second on both the opening rounds, Alastair Fisher and Gordon Noble had been Craig Breen’s closest competitors for the title.  Alistair had a slow start on the Easter Stages but recovered well on Saturday to overtake Sam Moffett to finish fourth.  In fifth, sixth and seventh places were Sam Moffett, Meirion Evans and Josh Moffett.

After a two-week break, the whole cavalcade travelled almost the entire length of Ireland to Killarney and the legendary stages in the Kingdom of Kerry.  Mention ‘The Gap’, ‘Healy Pass’, ‘Cod’s Head’ or ‘Ardgroom’ to an Irish Rally fan and they will have a story to tell.  The Rally of the Lakes is a place that has to be experienced to be believed.  Only 2 miles from Killarney town center is the start line for the one of the most famous stages in Irish rallying, Molls Gap, which winds its way around the lakes before rising up through the rock-strewn landscape to the famous Gap at the top.

As is tradition, this famous stage opened the rally and the fastest men up ‘The Gap’ for the first time were Craig Breen and Killarney native Paul Nagle.  Second over the stage was Alastair Fisher and Gordon Noble, retaking their position as the foremost crew pushing Breen this season.  Winner of the Easter Stages, Desi Henry, was in third and Callum Devine was in fourth, building on his stellar performance on the Easter Stages.  Day one of the Rally of the Lakes was a day of classic stages tackled in blazing springtime sunshine.  After everything had been settled (and the after sun applied), the rally leaders after the opening day was Craig Breen and Paul Nagle, with Alastair Fisher and Gordon Noble 24.9 seconds behind and Callum Devine and Brian Hoy only 6.6 seconds behind Fisher in third.

Again, day two opened with a high-speed roller-coaster ride up Molls Gap. Callum Devine gave credit to the ‘Coco-pops’ he had for breakfast but, whatever it was, he and co-driver Brian Hoy were the fastest out of the blocks. On both the first loop and the second loop, the former Billy Coleman Award winner was fastest up ‘The Gap’ and after stage eleven, the battle between the second and third placed drivers was only 0.7 of a second.   This battle between Fisher and Devine continued for the remainder of the day, with seconds traded here and there, different stages seemingly suiting each driver.

While the battle for second raged behind, Craig Breen portrayed a façade of calmness as he attempted to control a 20 second lead with the two youngsters snapping at his heels. The view from the hedges slightly belied the calm exterior, a moment on stage twelve on a 3 left over crest, followed by an encounter with a deer on the same stage, showed that the leaders were pushing hard to maintain their lead.  On the finish ramp, Craig admitted to feeling pressure to win the event for his local co-driver Paul Nagle and it was beginning to show ever so slightly.

Over the final two loops of the rally on Sunday afternoon, the battle for second began to sway in the direction of Fishers and Noble but the pair showed no sign of slowing their pace as they won stages 12, 13 14 and 16, pushing Breen to the wire.  Ultimately, Alastair Fisher and Gordon Noble crossed the ramp in Killarney in second place, only 14.9 seconds behind Breen to cement their place as the strongest challengers to the Breen And Nagle partnership this season.  It feels like it is only a matter of time before Alastair wins a round of the Irish Tarmac Championship, and on his performance to date this season, it would be thoroughly deserved.

Callum Devine had to settle for third place, an astonishing result for only his sixth rally in a R5 car.  There was a consolation prize awarded to Callum Devine and Brian Hoy for being fastest up Molls Gap (which they done twice) but to take third place in the Irish Tarmac Championship was probably the drive of the weekend.

 

The winners once again were Craig Breen and Paul Nagle, continuing their dominance of the Irish Tarmac Championship this season.  However, this was the closest margin of victory the pair have taken this season and it is clear that there is a very hungry pack behind, pushing and clambering to be the first to break the dominance of the man who was rallying with the elite in the WRC last season.

With four wins from four events, Craig Breen and Paul Nagle lead the Championship with 68 points, Alastair Fisher and Gordon Noble are in second place on 50 points and Desi Henry and Liam Moynihan are in third place on 32 points. Despite the dominance of Craig Breen, it is still all to play for in the final three rounds of the championship as just one non-finish could totally change the final outcome.

Next on the calendar for the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship is the jewel in the crown of Irish rallying, the Donegal International Rally. A three-day rallying extravaganza of fast, bumpy, shiny tarmac stages in the hills of the northwest.

Tour de Corse 2019 Review – Heartbreak for Elfyn, Joy for Thierry!

History will record that Thierry, Nicolas and Hyundai won this rally. Those that followed it, will know it should have been M-Sport duo Elfyn and Scott on the top step in Bastia.

We were treated to a fantastic fourth round of this year’s championship. Here’s the story of how it all unfolded.

Friday

With 86km’s of stages on Friday, including a double run of the long Valinco and just a tyre fitting zone as well in the middle of the day, just getting to the end of day one would be tough. The start list looked like this – Tänak, Ogier, Neuville, Meeke, Evans, Lappi, Loeb, Latvala, Sordo, Suninen.

 

SS 1 – Bavella 1 (17,60 km) saw Elfyn set a great time, with Thierry and Dani a few seconds behind. Ogier spun in a hairpin and was already 12.5 from the lead. Kris however had a terrible stage, getting a puncture and losing almost a minute.

 

SS 2 – Valinco 1 (25,94 km), saw Kris go fastest from Ott and Dani. Elfyn could only manage fifth fastest and so Ott was now in the lead, but only by six tenths of a second. Dani’s pace saw him pass Thierry into an early third place. Esapekka also moved past Teemu, for the battle to be the top Finn.

 

SS 3 – Alta-Rocca 1 (17,37 km) Ott also took the next stage with Kris and Elfyn less than a second behind him. Elfyn may have been passed by the Estonian, but he was keeping him in-sight, with just a little over a second between the top two. Thierry also moved past Dani who could only manage ninth fastest. Also moving up the leaderboard were Teemu and Jari-Matti, who both passed Esapekka Lappi who spun in a hairpin.

 

After the midday tyre change, we had the rerun of SS 4 – Bavella 2 (17,60 km). Once again, Elfyn struck back and took stage victory number two for the weekend, and deposed Ott once more from the lead after the Estonian was 2.7 seconds slower. Esapekka Lappi lost seventh place to his teammate, Seb. Thierry also increased the gap to Dani.

 

Elfyn’s great Friday continued in SS 5 – Valinco 2 (25,94 km), where he took another stage victory and increased his lead further over Ott. Jari-Matti had a problem and dropped right the way down from sixth and into tenth having lost three minutes. A big shame for the 2015 winner.

 

The final stage, SS 6 – Alta-Rocca 2 (17,37 km) and Ott Tanak forced himself back into the lead, with Thierry winning the stage and Ott just 1.3 seconds behind with Elfyn losing time after getting stuck behind Kris Meeke in the stage. Kris did let the young Welshman past, but he’d lost a lot of time and the lead at this point. The organisers did the right thing and gave Elfyn the same time as Ott, meaning he’d retain the lead.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

  1. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:09:39.6
  2. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4.5
  3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +9.8
  4. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +26.1
  5. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +30.9
  6. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +36.3
  7. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +46.3
  8. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:27.9
  9. Camilli / Buresi (VW Polo R5) +2:46.4
  10. Bonato / Boulloud (Citroën C3 R5) +3:06.4

 

An interesting first day then! Let’s hear from the drivers.

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“It’s been a positive day and the car has felt really good. This is the type of rally where you have to be smart and efficient, and I felt like we drove well. We were able to carry the speed through the corners, and keep a smoothness in the driving which seems to be doing the trick.

“There’s going to be a big battle tomorrow and our plan is to stay in this position. Ott [Tänak] and Thierry [Neuville] will both be pushing hard, but we know when everything is working that we can be faster. I’m really looking forward to the day. There’s quite a mix of stages with a bit of everything. It’s all about being adaptable.”

Elfyn and Scott at speed. Photo credit, M-Sport

Teemu Suninen (5th)

“It’s been a really good day for us and the pace has been good. I could go faster for sure, but I have this monkey on my shoulder holding me back. I have made some mistakes in the last rallies and I need to bring the car home this weekend. But the driving has still been on a good level so we can be happy with that.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“I am quite happy with my day. In the morning I was not actually in the best rhythm, as my notes were not perfect on these new stages. This afternoon it was definitely better in that sense, and we had a good feeling. We haven’t been pushing the limits yet, but the car is performing well and I quite enjoyed it. Our closest rivals have been setting good times, so it’s clear that we will need to push quite hard tomorrow if we want to beat them. The long stage will be the key stage of the rally: It’s very tricky so it won’t be easy, but I believe it will be possible for us to make a big difference there.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (13th)

“The middle stage of the loop was difficult for me today. In the morning my notes were not working well there and we lost a lot of time. We did a lot of work on that over lunch and I was really confident that we could make a good time in the afternoon pass. Two kilometres into the stage there were quite a lot of cuts where gravel had come onto the road, and I think a sharp stone went through the tread. Slowly caused the tyre to started to slowly going down – it was just one of those unfortunate things that can happen., We decided to try and carry on but eventually we had to stop and change it. The car has been feeling good, I’ve really enjoyed the driving. We will keep going and see where we are at the end of the rally.”

Kris Meeke (16th)

“It’s been a difficult day to be honest. On the first stage, in a long fast left-hander, I had ‘keep to the inside’ in my pace-notes, and we hit something that I obviously hadn’t seen in the recce. After that the pace was good and we were trying to make up some places. In the afternoon, there was a fast left with a cut, I caught some gravel and we touched the kerb on the outside and broke a suspension arm, which I had to carry through the last stage. I’m very happy that Elfyn has been given a fair time: In no way did we intend to hold him up. Today just hasn’t been good enough. We had a package capable of winning this rally: The Yaris has been incredible to drive. We will continue to enjoy driving the car and try and keep it clean for the rest of the weekend.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“I think we have had a pretty satisfactory day today, and we’ve done a good job with the car since shakedown. The feeling has not been 100% perfect, and our pace notes were a bit too slow on the first stage, but we’ve made some good progress. To be in contention for the lead of the rally at the end of this opening day is all we could have hoped for. We are perhaps missing some grip to go ever faster, but it’s a solid base from which we can build tomorrow.”

Dani Sordo (4th)

“It has not been a straightforward day, although we have had some positive moments. The first stages were really nice and I was able to set some encouraging and fast times. It was more difficult in the afternoon loop as the speed was not there. We have to look at the areas where we can find improvements for Saturday, which is an incredibly gruelling schedule. We have a big distance to cover tomorrow so it will be a crucial day for the rally result.”

Seb Loeb (8th)

“Things have got increasingly better as the day has progressed, and I ended the afternoon loop feeling quite confident in the car. We lost a lot of time at the beginning of the first stage this morning. I made a small mistake and on the exit of a corner and broke something on the suspension, which we had to fix. With no lunchtime service, we had to do what we could to keep going. We changed the settings during the day and found some good improvements, which we hope to carry over into Saturday.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (6th)

“It was a difficult day, where we struggled with understeer. We made a few minor adjustments mid-leg and that helped us to limit the time lost in the afternoon, but it wasn’t enough. We have a few ideas about how to change the set-up in order to resolve the issues, so I have high hopes that we can move in the right direction tomorrow. We’ll certainly be doing everything we can to move back up the standings.”

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

“I pushed hard on the wide, fast sections of today’s stages but I had the same issues on the corners as Seb. And we also had a spin, which didn’t help matters. I have faith in the team to put things right and obviously on my side, I’m going to give it everything.”

 

Saturday

It was a bright morning at the start of the longest day of this event. The start list looked like this – Meeke, Latvala, Loeb, Lappi, Ogier, Suninen, Sordo, Neuville, Tänak, Evans. 

First stage, SS 7 – Cap Corse 1 (25,62 km) went to Ott, closing the gap a little to Elfyn who was second fastest and Loeb getting into the groove at last. The changes that the Citroen team made to their C3 weren’t really making much of a difference other than making the car feel more comfortable to drive, just still no speed.

 

SS 8 – Désert des Agriates 1 (14,45 km) next up and Ott flew through, taking 3.7 seconds from Elfyn’s 3.9 second lead and further back, Kris passed Jari-Matti into ninth place. The fight was on between Ott and Elfyn.

 

SS 9 – Castagniccia 1 (47,18 km) saw a Hyundai driver finally win a stage, with Dani setting the fastest time from Ott and Ogier who found some pace as well and climbed into fifth. Elfyn was fourth fastest, but 3.3 seconds slower, which meant that he’d dropped behind Ott in their battle for the lead.

 

After the lunchtime service, SS 10 – Cap Corse 2 (25,62 km) was won by Kris Meeke, with Elfyn and Thierry second and third. It was Ott’s turn to be fourth, and now the gap between the top two was just 1.6 seconds. Ogier was now closing on Dani Sordo for fourth place.

 

SS 11 – Désert des Agriates 2 (14,45 km) saw Elfyn retake the lead, after Ott had a puncture which he stopped to change losing two minutes and dropping to seventh overall. Thierry won the stage and was now in second overall, 11.5 seconds behind Elfyn.

 

Another fastest time for Thierry in SS 12 – Castagniccia 2 (47,18 km) and the last stage of the day saw the Belgian go 16 seconds faster than Elfyn and would assume the lead over the Welshman. Ogier had a shock, nearly going off the road after his anti-lag system which had stopped working, suddenly started working again further into the stage! Despite all this, the Frenchman moved another place up the overall leaderboard and was now ahead of Dani in third place. Further back, Ott was moving up as well, now ahead of Esapekka into sixth place.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

  1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:56:50.0
  2. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 4.5
  3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +44.8
  4. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +49.9
  5. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:32.1
  6. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:54.5
  7. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:59.3
  8. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:21.4
  9. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3:55.9
  10. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +6:35.4

 

Well, what a great day Saturday was. Changes in the lead, drama with tyre failures and engine problems, and Thierry in the lead! Let’s hear from the drivers.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“We have had a really good day and I am delighted we can finish Saturday in the lead of the rally. Anything can happen when people are driving on the edge. This is a long and demanding rally so it’s important to stay focused. This morning, during the long stage particularly, we couldn’t really find the feeling we wanted, but things came good in the afternoon. When you have the right rhythm in the car, it’s possible to set fast times without taking risks. That’s exactly what we could do and we now need to defend our lead on Sunday. It won’t be easy but we’ll certainly give it our best shot!”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04 Rallye de France
28-31 March 2019
Rallye de France
Day 2, Action, Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (4th)

“We had a very strong opening loop this morning. My pace notes were very clear and we showed our potential with the fastest time in the long Castagniccia stage. I had a great feeling and the car was very nice to drive. We didn’t manage the same advantage in the repeat loop, as others seemed to make up more time, but we are pleased to enter the final morning in a close fight for the podium. Ogier made up a lot of time on us in the final stage today but we know we can also find some gains, so it promises to be a big battle tomorrow. We’ll try our best.”

Seb Loeb (8th)

“We are not in the same rally as everyone else after our issues on Friday, so we have used today to improve our feeling with the car. Things started well but on the long stage in the morning loop we had a tricky moment. I understeered in a left-hander, which tightened, and I couldn’t turn which then sent us into a ditch. We lost a lot of time getting going again. The afternoon followed the same strategy to make adjustments to the car. Things were not perfect all the time but for the majority of stages we had a good car and a nice feeling. We will continue in this way tomorrow and aim to finish on a positive note.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“It had been a good day for us and the pace was really strong, so it was a real shame about that last stage. Honestly it was a bit of a shock to lose that much. We didn’t feel that we had a bad stage – maybe not a perfect stage – but to lose that much time was disappointing.

“But we have to forget about it now. Four and a half seconds isn’t too much and we can fight for that tomorrow. We know that we have the pace to win this rally, and that’s what we’ll be focused on. We came here to challenge for the win, and that’s what we plan to do.”

Teemu Suninen (5th)

“I think we can be quite happy with the day. We didn’t make any mistakes, and the driving started to be on a good level through the clean stages. There is still some work to do in places where there is a lot of gravel on the road, but this is only my first time here with this car and I need the experience.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“It’s a shame that we lost a lot of engine power about ten kilometres from the end of the last test, because otherwise I think we would have claimed our first stage win this weekend. Fortunately, it only lasted for two or three kilometres and then normal power came back. I’m pleased to be back in the top three. I hope that the slightly better feeling we had this afternoon will be confirmed tomorrow and we can keep improving. Because it looks like we’re going to have to fight right to the end if we want to hold onto third place. We have been losing most time on the wider, circuit-like roads but tomorrow’s stages are less like that, so I hope that they are more suited to us.”

Seb Ogier and Julien Ingrassia tackle one of the many corners! Photo credit Citroen Total Racing

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

“Although we’re still not where we had hoped to be, the main thing is that we improved today. Our rhythm was better. Seb also set some good times, so that would suggest that we are moving in the right direction. We’re going to give it our all to finish the rally on a high tomorrow.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (6th)

“We were having a good day: The car was feeling good and we had a nice clean rhythm with no mistakes. It’s still difficult to understand what happened on SS11. It’s really disappointing. The team has done a great job, the car has been incredible this weekend and I did everything I could myself. I knew this is one of the hardest events for us, so I prepared really hard. After the work we’ve done it’s difficult to accept this. We still have some points to score tomorrow, and whatever happens, we can still take some positives away because we’ve been performing very well.”

Kris Meeke (9th)

“I enjoyed it today, particularly this afternoon. Being first on the road this morning was maybe not ideal – the surface felt quite slippery with no rubber having been laid down. We made a few adjustments in mid-day service and the car was working very well. To do a fastest time when the leaders are fighting hard shows the rhythm was pretty good. I’m still annoyed that I wasn’t able to translate the car we had this weekend into fighting at the front, but now we will focus on the Power Stage tomorrow and see what we can do there.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (10th)

“It has been a difficult day my driving has not been good enough. This morning I was missing some performance, while this afternoon I tried to push more, but we had to stop and change a flat tyre. That was down to my mistake: On a right-hand corner there was a hole on the edge of the road and I hit it. I will try to have a good drive tomorrow: That would give us a boost at the end of the rally.”

Sunday

Just two stages remained totalling a little over 50km’s. The start list looked like this – Latvala, Meeke, Loeb, Lappi, Tänak, Suninen, Sordo, Ogier, Evans, Neuville. With the gap so small between Thierry and Elfyn, we’d be treated to a really amazing battle.

 

That’s exactly what we got! Elfyn flew through SS 13 – Eaux de Zilia (31,85 km), a full 16 seconds faster than Thierry, and incredibly the same time difference that Thierry had been faster than Elfyn in the final stage on Saturday. He now had an 11.5 second lead over the Belgian with one stage left. It marked the fourth stage that the Welshman had won this weekend. Impressive stuff.

 

Just one stage left then, the SS 14 – Calvi Power Stage (19,34 km). Second into the stage, Kris Meeke set the fastest time as a gauntlet to the others… As rally leader now, Elfyn would be the last driver through. Loeb, Lappi and the others tried, but couldn’t get close to Meeke’s time. Finally, Elfyn came through and the first split looked okay, but then he lost time in the second split to Thierry, and quite a bit. What had happened? Well, he’d hit a loose rock with his right-front wheel, and it just fell apart! He lost so much time, that he fell to third place, over a minute from the winner, Thierry. Elfyn, Scott and M-Sport were gutted. The top five in the stage were, Meeke, Tanak, Suninen, Neuville and Ogier. 

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:22:59.0
  2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +40.3
  3. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:06.6
  4. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:18.4
  5. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:24.6
  6. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:40.0
  7. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:09.1
  8. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:39.2
  9. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +5:06.3
  10. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +6:44.6

 

What a drive then from Elfyn and Scott! They’d really shown the doubters out there, with a fantastic drive. Once more, Toyota confirmed what we all knew, that their car is great on all surfaces and the Hyundai team, when their car worked, it worked well, but that clearly it needs some improvements. Finally, Citroen didn’t show the kind of pace you’d expect here, with neither of their drivers winning a single stage. Here then are the thoughts of the drivers.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“What an incredible rally and a fantastic result! I would like to extend my thoughts to Elfyn and Scott; I am really disappointed for them. It had been a great battle and they were undoubtedly the quicker crew this weekend. We didn’t really know what had happened until we saw our mechanics at the end. I pushed hard in the Power Stage and the points we’ve scored this weekend are hugely important for the championship. It is testament to the hard work of everyone at Hyundai Motorsport. We may not have been the fastest in outright pace, but there has been a significant improvement in our tarmac performance and this victory is perfect thanks for all their efforts. We made a big difference on Saturday afternoon’s stages to put ourselves in contention, and that enabled this result to be possible. It’s never over until it’s over!”

Dani Sordo (4th)

“We came to Corsica with a target of taking a good amount of championship points for the team, and we have achieved that. We have shown some positive pace this weekend, most notably on Saturday’s long stage, but we’ve also struggled at times. We didn’t have the consistency we needed to fight for the podium but finishing fourth is not so bad. Congratulations to Thierry, Nicolas and the team for taking the victory. I am pleased to see us back on top of the manufacturers’ standings. I look forward to the next rally in Argentina.”

Seb Loeb (8th)

“A great result for the team today. Unfortunately, our own rally was effectively over after our issues in the opening stage on Friday. We lost so much time; we were on the back foot from then onwards.  The motivation is not quite the same when there’s nothing really to fight for. We tried instead to work on the car set-up, making adjustments that will benefit us for the future. Despite our challenges, it has still been an enjoyable rally, the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC has been nice to drive and I’ve had fun on the stages. Hopefully I can do better next time.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“In terms of points, it’s a good result, scoring nineteen points at a difficult round. On the other hand, we really suffered in terms of pure performance. We need to understand why, so that we don’t have the same problem again on this surface, on which the C3 WRC had performed well previously. In any case, I’m pleased to have managed to get the most out of the car I had and also that I don’t have to open the road on gravel in Argentina.”

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

“We all had high hopes coming into this round, so obviously we can’t be satisfied with this result. We were short on performance and suffered quite a lot of understeer throughout the weekend. We’re going to work hard to put things right for the next rounds on tarmac, in Germany and then in Spain. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to getting back on gravel in Argentina.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

“It’s disappointing right now, but overall it’s been a really positive weekend and we know that we had the speed to win. The first stage this morning felt really good, and we had a good rhythm going into the Power Stage. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but it felt like we were in the middle of the road and just unfortunate to hit a stone or something in the line. Straight away I knew it didn’t sound good, and sure enough a couple of hundred metres later we got the puncture alarm. We had 11 kilometres to go and I knew that if we stopped to change it we would lose a lot of positions. We decided to continue, and thankfully made it to the end to salvage a podium. “Perhaps it’s not the result we wanted, but the pace is there and I think we can all take confidence from that moving forward. We’ve had a pretty strong start to the season so far and I’ve been really happy with the Fiesta on all four of the opening rounds. The guys back at M-Sport are working exceptionally hard and making improvements all the time so I see no reason why we can’t continue this form into the coming events.”

Teemu Suninen (5th)

“This weekend was really good for us and I can be happy with the job we have done. Before the rally I thought that this would be the hardest on the calendar. It’s the only event I’ve not done in a world rally car and there were also a lot of slow corners where I have been struggling a bit. But on the clean sections like today I have been able to be really fast and set some top times. We still have some work to do in the dirty sections. But we finished the rally in a good position and with three points from the Power Stage. That was good.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tanak (6th)

“Generally, it has been a good event for us: We had a strong performance and I actually quite enjoyed this year’s Tour de Corse. Of course, the final result is disappointing, but this was a rally I didn’t enjoy at all a couple of years ago, and we are now right on the pace and driving with a good rhythm, so there is something for us to smile about. Today was just about collecting some points from the Power Stage, and we had a clean run with no risks. The fight continues.”

Kris Meeke (9th)

“We went for it in the Power Stage today and came away with the full five points. Of course, I don’t really like to have to do it like this, as I would rather be fighting for the rally win. But we had a luxury of a time gap, which allowed us to protect our tyres in the first stage this morning. That gave us good tyres for the Power Stage so we went for it, keeping in mind to bring the car home. The Yaris WRC has been incredible all weekend, I’ve really enjoyed driving it right from shakedown. I just have to keep the confidence and I’m sure a big result will come.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 04 / Tour de Corse, Rallye de France / 28th-31st March, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala (10th)

“We were closing to scoring one or two points on the Power Stage, which I would have been happy with because I didn’t have the confidence in myself to take any risks. I have been missing some speed all weekend, so it was important to just bring the car to the finish. I know that I have some things to think about to improve on asphalt, but that is for the future. For now, I will put this event behind us, and try to go to the next events in South America with some new energy.”

Here’s the points standings. Thierry takes over at the head of the championship, with pre event leader Ott falling to third. Elfyn’s podium lifts him into fourth overall, which ironically, he would have been in even if he’d won, but missing the extra ten points which would have put him closer to the top three.

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04 Rallye de France
28-31 March 2019
Rallye de France
Day 3, Podium, Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Seb Ogier, Julien Ingrassia, Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Next event, round five Rally Argentina runs from 25th to 28th of April. Pop back then for my preview.

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Thierry Neuville – 82 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 80 points
  3. Ott Tänak – 77 points
  4. Elfyn Evans – 43 points
  5. Kris Meeke – 42 points
  6. Esapekka Lappi – 26 points
  7. Sébastien Loeb – 22 points
  8. Dani Sordo – 16 points
  9. Jari-Matti Latvala – 15 points
  10. Teemu Suninen – 14 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 114 points
  2. Citroën Total WRT – 102 points
  3. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 98 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 70 points