Wales Rally GB Review- Elfyn breaks the drought for a British winner at home.

After coming so close earlier this year in Argentina, Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt took their maiden wrc victory driving a D-Mack shod Fiesta WRC. It had been 17 years since we had last had a British winner.

 

A record number of fans flocked to the event, numbering more than 100,000, after an amazing season of these new generation cars. What they witnessed was a supreme drive by the 28-year-old. Here’s the story of how it happened.

 

In shakedown, Elfyn set the pace leading Dani Sordo and Ott Tanak in third. This was looking good. The first stage of the rally was held that evening with Seb winning and continuing his amazing run. Elfyn was sixth, but only 1.1 seconds away.

The view over #ElfynsCorner in Myherin. Photo by Warren Nel

Friday morning dawned a sunny day with light winds. Stage two was the Myherin test. The cars would head onto the stage in championship order meaning that Seb would be first on the road all day. His time would be good enough for third quickest, but it was the home boys that would be top with Elfyn leading Kris in the stage and the welsh wizard moving into the lead as well. Thierry would go wide in this stage, gathering some grass in his wing!

 

Out on stage, the ElfynsCorner crew were pretty happy! Top three at this point was Elfyn, Seb and Ott- an M-Sport 1-2-3.

 

Stage three in Sweet Lamb would see Ott and Thierry separated by just a tenth of a second with Elfyn in sixth, the gap was reduced by a second to 2.2 seconds.

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

The next stage in Hafren was the longest of the whole event at 35.14 km. Elfyn would emerge quickest again, and increased his lead over Ott to 6.7 seconds. Seb fell from second to fourth, now 16.4 behind the leader. Further back, Craig suffered a puncture, but it wasn’t clear how it happened.

 

With no service, the cars headed for Newtown to change tyres and fit light-pods.

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

The second run started at half past two. It was getting quite warm out there, and the road had really dried a lot, so much so, that the cars were kicking up a dust trail as they came through! Evans won the stage from Ogier by 4.3 seconds. His closest challenger for the lead, Ott could only manage eighth fastest, and 8.4 slower, meaning that he was now 15.1 behind Elfyn. Seb also moved ahead of Kris, back into third overall.

 

Seb would win the second run of Sweet Lamb, and closed the gap to Ott as well. This was going well for Elfyn indeed as he was second fastest and his lead was 16.1 seconds with one stage to go, this was looking good!

 

The second run of Hafren, saw Thierry take his first stage win of the weekend and he would climb into fourth overall, moving ahead of Latvala and Meeke. Ott was slower again than Elfyn, meaning that the lead was now an incredible 24.6 seconds. Further back, Craig had made a mistake and slid off the road, but he managed to get going again and completed the stage.

 

It was the first time that Elfyn and Dan had led at home ever, and the first time we had a Briton pairing lead at home since 2001!

OVERALL CLASSIFICATION- Day One

  1. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:09:20.9
  2. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +24.6
  3. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +26.8
  4. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +37.1
  5. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +41.9
  6. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) +42.0
  7. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ander Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +52.0
  8. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:13.9
  9. Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:22.9
  10. Juho Hänninen / Kaj Lindstrom (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:43.5

 

Here then are the thoughts of all the drivers, starting with the leader.

 

Elfyn won three stages today, to become the first Briton to lead since Colin Mcrae in 2001 and the first Welshman since David Llewellin in 1989.

 

Elfyn Evans (1st) said:

“It feels pretty good to be in this position at the end of the day. We’ve had a solid run with no problems and no mistakes so, so far, so good.

“It’s definitely not been an easy day – especially this morning when the grip was changing so often through the stages.

“Finding the balance between pushing just enough and over-driving was pretty difficult as the grip was changing from corner to corner. We just tried to concentrate on using the traction we had as best we could, but it wasn’t easy for sure.

“Tomorrow’s stages really are fantastic and so enjoyable to drive. They’re real home territory for me so the plan is just to go out there and enjoy it.”

 

One stage win combined with good consistency in the other stages means that Ott was in a good position overall.

 

Ott Tänak (2nd) said:

“It’s not been a bad day for us and it’s been really nice out on the stages. The sun has been shining and I think it’s the first time I’ve actually seen the Myherin stage without the fog!

“It’s still a really close battle behind Elfyn so we’ll have to wait and see what we can do. Tomorrow’s stages are completely different but they’re also really enjoyable.

“I’m sure it’s going to be another exciting day, but it will be difficult to make any big-time differences. We’ll keep fighting and keep pushing as always.”

Rounding out the top three was Seb, only a couple of seconds behind Ott, meaning that M-Sport filled the top three positions. He’d taken two stage wins and set some very consistent times.

Ott Tanak, Wales Rally GB

Sébastien Ogier (3rd) said:

“I feel good at the end of the day. Some sections were quite tough and I struggled to read the grip through the first pass of Hafren. I was a bit disappointed at the end of that one, but other than that it has been a good day for us.

“I took my 500th stage win today, at exactly the same place where I took my very first stage win in 2008, so that is a nice story and it seems that I like Sweet Lamb! Actually, the profile of today’s whole loop is really nice – nice flowing stages and nice corners which are really enjoyable to drive.

“So long as you can read the grip, you can have a lot of fun out there and for sure Elfyn has had a lot of fun today. We knew he could do well here and, even though the tyres are working well for him, it was still a very strong performance. No matter what tyres you have, you still have to drive the car and he deserves to be where he is tonight.

“All three championship contenders are really close now and if I want to stay in the fight I have to push. That will be the plan for tomorrow – to enjoy, to push, and to see the fight continue.”

 

Thierry Neuville (4th) said:

“We have made improvements during the day and can be satisfied with where we are considering our time penalty from Thursday. The pace is there and we would have liked to be fighting at the top but that put us behind before we’d even really started. I struggled with the settings of the car on the first stage this morning, stalling the engine after running wide and losing some seconds. We changed the differential settings midway through the loop and found some improvements, which have allowed us to move up. Finishing the day with a stage win is encouraging and gives us the motivation we need to keep pushing on Saturday.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (7th) said:

“It is always a pleasure to come back to Wales. I started my career here and it’s fun to be driving this year with Hyundai Motorsport. Although the weather conditions have been fine today, the stages are still incredibly slippery and that has made things quite difficult. From our road position, there hasn’t been much more we could do today. We are still learning about the car in these gravel conditions, and doing all we can to adapt and learn. That is our objective also for the rest of the weekend, and we hope to make up a few more positions on the way, as well.”

 

Dani Sordo (8Th) said:

“The stages this morning were a lot more slippery than I anticipated which I wasn’t expecting. The grip in SS4 (Hafren) was better, so we hoped to push more in the repeat loop, after the remote tyre fitting zone. Unfortunately, the grip changed again in the afternoon, which prevented us from doing much more. The stages were really fast at times, and I remain hopeful that we can make up some ground over the next two days.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 12, Wales Rally GB
23-29 October 2017
Day 1
Action
Dani Sordo, Marc Martí, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Hayden Paddon (9th) said:

“Wales Rally GB is a great rally, but it has certain particularities that you need to deliver against in order to be quick. First, you need absolutely bags of confidence and to be completely comfortable in the car. We always seem to struggle with understeer on the opening day, so we were mentally prepared for that, but it held us back today. The conditions were tricky, as you’d expect in Wales, but I’d almost have preferred it to be raining. We changed the settings for the afternoon loop but the conditions changed as well, so it’s a bit of a moving target. Tomorrow is, of course, another day and I hope we can enjoy it a bit more.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th) said:

“The conditions have been difficult for everybody today. There was heavy rain overnight and then the roads started to dry, which actually made the situation worse as the moisture came to the top of the road and the surface became slippery. In the morning I was struggling with understeer and didn’t have the confidence to push, but we changed some things at the regroup and the car definitely felt better, even though were still struggling a bit with the traction. To be in fifth position is not so bad, but we have been discussing things that we can do to improve for tomorrow.”

 

Juho Hänninen (10th) said:

“It hasn’t been so easy today. I knew the conditions would be tricky but trying to estimate the grip this morning when it was changing on every other corner made it hard to find a rhythm. This afternoon the driving didn’t feel too bad but the times were not good at all. Now we are thinking carefully about how we can change the setup a bit and get some more confidence for tomorrow.”

 

Esapekka Lappi (11th) said:

“Today has been quite frustrating, as we have just been lacking grip. This morning I was missing some confidence, but it’s hard to build confidence when the pace isn’t there. I think we have something wrong in the setup because I was quite on the maximum in the last stage and we were still losing a lot of time. Now we have the opportunity to make changes in service to find some more grip and to learn for next year.”

 

Kris Meeke (6th) said:

“I’m very pleased with how today’s leg went. I managed to maintain a good rhythm throughout the stages. To be honest, I don’t think I could’ve done much more. I was expecting to have a hard time of it, given our position in the running order but the grip was actually pretty good this morning, when the mud cleaned a bit and you were left with the cobblestones. I think tomorrow should be even better, because the road conditions will be more even for all of us.”

 

Craig Breen (36th) said:

“I tried to keep it neat and tidy, but we started by losing a minute this morning, with a slow puncture. I hadn’t hit anything, so I was very disappointed to lose contact with the leaders so early in the rally. This afternoon, I spun the car and there was an enormous water hole. The front went in and we couldn’t get out. It was a very small, simple mistake but we didn’t get away with it. Thanks to the spectators for helping us!”

 

Khalid Al Qassimi (28th) said:

“It was a very tough day. I’m really not used to driving in conditions like these. Most of the time, it’s been like driving on ice. We are going to work with the engineers to see if it is possible to make it easier to drive the car.”

 

Mads Østberg (12th) really struggled through the first day. Setup issues and the challenging conditions left him outside the points. He said:

 

“We don`t really know what is wrong, except that the set-up on the car doesn`t work in these conditions. Regrettably we had technical issues during our test on Monday and managed only a few runs, and that meant we couldn`t test different set-ups. Today we have been guessing, but not found any answers. We tried a setup from Spain in the afternoon, but that made the car harder to drive. We shall analyse all data during the evening service and hopefully find a better solution for tomorrow”

 

Day two dawned cloudy and cooler. It was an earlier start as well for everyone with service at ten past six, a full hour earlier than Friday. Nine stages made this day the longest of the weekend, and with two held at night after service, it would really test the crews out.

 

Aberhirnant was first up, and Elfyn picked up where he had left off on Friday, taking the stage and increasing his lead over Ott to 30 seconds. Kris moved ahead of Latvala into fifth place. Andreas found some good pace as well, going third in the stage.

 

Stage nine, Dyfnant was next up and second placed Ott fell further behind Evans, but Seb was having a worse start after only setting the ninth fastest time. Thierry was closing on his rival for the championship. Elfyn was pulling away, the gap now 36 seconds.

 

Into stage ten, Gartheinog and Elfyn made it three from three, taking his lead to almost 40 seconds over Ott. Thierry also moved ahead of Seb into third. Latvala also closed a little on Kris. It was getting close behind our home leader!

 

Stage 11, Dyfi next and a lot happened in this one! Kris spun in the chicane losing time after a stall as well. The other news was that Thierry moved ahead of Ott and into second place. Further back, Dani Sordo was really struggling.

 

The rerun of Gartheiniog, stage 12 saw Elfyn extend his lead some more with his lead now 54 seconds over Thierry. The big news was that Kris lost part of his wing during the stage! I was stage-side, and he came past me with the top part missing! Andreas was also closing the gap to Jari-Matti in their fight for fifth place.

Kris Meeke, Citroen C3 WRC, Photo by Warren Nel

In stage 13, Dyfi, Thierry stopped Elfyn winning all the stages with a very good drive to take top spot, but Elfyn was still firmly in charge. The gap between Jari-Matti and Andreas was getting smaller and smaller, now just 1.6 seconds between them.

 

The short spectator stage at Cholmondeley Castle, stage 14, saw Juho Hanninen crash out of the event. His teammate, Jari-Matti also dropped behind Andreas in their battle over fifth place. With Thierry winning the stage from Dani and Ott, Elfyn kept it simple and set the ninth fastest time.

 

Now we just had two stages left, but they were run once the sun had gone down. The crews headed to the second run of Aberhirnant. It was going to be a much harder this time round though! The fog had descended, making everything much harder! Kris Meeke said, “It was completely crazy. You can’t see 10 metres off the start line. It was hellishly crazy.” Jari-Matti felt at home, setting the fastest time and moving back ahead of Andreas into fourth place overall. Ogier also moved back into second overall after Thierry only managed the ninth fastest time, a full 33.8 slower than Latvala.

 

The final stage of the day saw the crews return to Dyfnant and Elfyn returned to the top of the times with a very good time and extended his lead over Seb to 53 seconds. He had driven brilliantly all day, able to find the speed to pull away, and able to play it safe when it was needed.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

  1. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:32:39.2
  2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +53.1
  3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +53.6
  4. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +57.7
  5. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:03.6
  6. Tänak / Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:06.1
  7. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:27.6
  8. Paddon / Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:04.0
  9. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:41.0
  10. Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:35.8

 

Let’s catch up with the drivers after day two.

 

Six stage wins helped Elfyn pull away from his closest challengers, adding almost 30 seconds to his lead throughout the day.

 

Elfyn Evans (1st) said:

 

“It’s been a really good day for us and a really enjoyable one as well. I’ve always enjoyed these stages but I have to say that I was glad to get through the night stages!

 

“They really were tough. With the fog on Aberhirnant [SS15] you couldn’t even see the road in front of you so it was very, very challenging. But we made it through and actually managed to increase our lead.

 

“That’s given us a good cushion for tomorrow and there aren’t so many kilometres left, but they’re not easy. There are some very tricky stages coming up with a lot of big breaking areas into not a lot of run off and Gwydir [SS19] is massively technical and not been in use since 2013. There’s plenty in there tomorrow, so we need to keep focused and keep at it.”

 

Seb endured a puncture and then a failure on his brakes on the same wheel that he got a puncture, although it didn’t hold him back.

 

Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:

“It’s been a tricky day and we’ve been lacking some pace compared to yesterday. We need to understand why that was, but I’m just happy to be here after this evening’s night stages!

“When you drive in conditions as challenging as the ones we faced tonight, there is no way of making it risk free. Do that and you can easily lose a minute or more. The visibility really was terrible at times, but we just decided to go for it.

“It was so close between second and fifth that I had to try and it was working pretty well up until the last kilometre when I didn’t see an almost none existent corner. We hit the bank in the fog, damaged the front-left wheel, lost the brakes and honestly thought it would be difficult to finish the day.

“Without the brakes it would have been un-driveable but we managed to close the damaged system and carry on with only three brakes. Somehow, it was still possible to drive and we didn’t lose too much time.

“With only small gaps between a lot of drivers, and 40 kilometres left to complete, we’ll have to keep pushing if we want to stay on the podium.”

 

Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:

“Overall, it was a better day than Friday in terms of the driving, more consistent and we were able to make up a good chunk of time, although I am disappointed with the way our day has ended. We probably had the worst of the fog and honestly could not have gone any faster. We tried to push but it was impossible in those conditions. I expected poor conditions in the evening, but nothing like we experienced. I gave it all I had in the final stage but all our hard work was undone by the weather conditions.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala (4th)

“Things started a bit slowly in the first stage this morning but they just kept improving after that. We had much better traction than we did on Friday, and although we have still been struggling with understeer, we kept playing with the dampers during the day and this helped the car to feel better and better, and the stage times became quicker. Tonight, in the dark and the fog I was quite happy with the performance. Sometimes you have to attack when the conditions are trickiest. The grip was quite good and the feeling with the car was good. I’m looking forward to tomorrow now.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Toyota Yaris WRC

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th) said:

“On the whole, we have had a good day. The daylight stages were particularly positive. We benefitted from a better starting position today so we wanted to capitalise on that and regain some time. We were able to achieve that and were not far off the lead times. The car set-up was amazing. We knew the evening stages would be tough, with the fog, but we had nothing to lose so I drove as quick as I could. We set our light pods too high in the penultimate stage of the evening, and couldn’t see anything. We tried to modify those but with no fog in the final stage they were too low and visibility was worse. Still, there are a lot of good things to take from today’s running.”

 

Ott Tänak (6th) said:

“It has been a long, tricky day, but also a typical Wales Rally GB day. There was just one really foggy stage where we lost a lot of time. For sure it’s disappointing, but it’s done now and that’s how it is. The gaps behind Elfyn aren’t too big so let’s see what we can do tomorrow. Hopefully we can show more pace than today and be able to fight. It will be an interesting day for sure.”

 

Kris Meeke (7th) said:

“As we expected, it was a long day with a lot of time spent behind the wheel! I stayed in touch with the group fighting for the podium until I made a small mistake and stalled in a chicane: that cost me a good ten seconds or so. But I don’t think it made that much difference to our situation. Most of the time, we were able to match or get close to the performance level of our rivals and I enjoyed driving the Citroën C3 WRC today. Our position in the standings isn’t brilliant, but we’ll be ready to seize any opportunities if they come up tomorrow.”

 

Hayden Paddon (8th) said:

“There have been some positives and some problems today. On the positive side, the car has felt much better today and I have felt more confident. However, we have also encountered some trouble, which has set us back. We had a puncture at the start of the second stage and then hydraulic issues on the second run through Dyfi – the longest stage of the day. We had no gearbox or differentials for the entire stage, and it was an absolute handful if I’m honest. I was looking forward to the evening stages and felt that we got more out of ourselves. It’s the same conditions for everyone, but I am able to trust Seb implicitly on the pace notes, so we could push that bit more.”

 

Esapekka Lappi (9th) said:

“Today was certainly better than yesterday. It helped that we were the third car on the road. We made some big changes in service last night and the car started to feel good. I was still struggling for confidence but it has been a bit more enjoyable today. We made more changes in service before the night stages and I think these helped, as the grip felt better than on the previous stages.”

 

Dani Sordo (10th) said:

“There is nothing I can say. It has been a difficult day, and it ended with a poor stage where we lost a lot of time. The car has performed well, mostly, but we haven’t been able to make progress. I was struggling with the traction and grip this morning and the suspension was too soft for my preference. This rally is very special and unique, but so far, I haven’t been able to dial into it fully. I am definitely hoping to turn things around on the final day.”

 

Craig Breen (17th) said:

“On this rally, the handbrake really is the driver’s best friend. And today, I lost my best friend right at the start! The first runs on the stages were very difficult. It was a bit better on the second pass, because I could use the ruts to get the car to turn on the tight bends. It’s a shame we lost the handbrake, because the speed was definitely there today to set some very good times.”

 

Khalid Al Qassimi (23rd):

“It was one of the most difficult days in my WRC career! On the second pass, I was driving on a layer of mud just as slippery as ice. I wasn’t pushing at all, I was just trying to avoid going off the road. The night stages were also very tricky, with a lot of fog. I nonetheless enjoyed myself when there was a bit of grip.”

 

Mads Østberg had a troubling day. After four stages on Saturday, he retired his car. During stage eleven, the car stopped. He and his co-driver Emil got the car going again and they completed the stage.

 

 

Mads explains: “We had a couple of major high-speed “moments” that nearly sent us out among the trees. With no proper service during the day there was no other choice than to retire, and possibly have a chance to sort out the issues and restart on Sunday.”

“Something plays up with the centre differential and suddenly and without warning it stops functioning. We have also had the engine cut out completely at two different occasions on SS11.  Both issues are really something that you don`t want to happen flat in sixth gear.”

Mads Ostberg, Fiesta WRC

Juho Hänninen (Ret) said:

“Things were better this morning than they were yesterday. We made some changes with the car that helped us compensate for all the mud that we are collecting on stages, so the rear was not sitting down so much meaning we could have better traction at the front. Unfortunately, on the Cholmondeley stage I braked a bit too late and hit a hay bale, broke a front damper and had to retire. There is also some damage to the chassis so we won’t be able to restart tomorrow.”

 

Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny like Friday. The crews faced five stages to complete the event. Elfyn had a 53 second lead over his teammate Seb, who was on the verge of his fifth world championship. M-Sport were also looking at winning their first manufacturers championship.

 

Stage 17, Alwen, fell to Ott, but the big news was that Thierry went three seconds faster than Ogier and with that moved his Hyundai back into second overall.

 

Next stage, Brenig, which would later be the powerstage, was won by Andreas. Elfyn was on cruise mode, just getting around the stage and using his advantage to his benefit.

 

Stage 19, Gwydir saw Jari-Matti and Thierry set exactly the same time! Kris was third fastest, which was excellent news for him and Citroen.

 

Just two stages to go now and history being made. Could Elfyn deliver the win that we had been waiting for at home for 17 years and also become the first driver from Wales to win a World Championship event?

 

The re-run of Alwen went to Andreas and with the pace he found, he climbed back into fourth overall at the expense of Jari-Matti who could only manage ninth, five seconds slower than the Hyundai driver. Our leader Elfyn was pretty comfortable with this one, going fourth!

 

Time for the powerstage then and just 6.43km! The top five positions were taken by Thierry, Kris, Jari-Matti, Seb and Andreas.

Seb and M-Sport had done it. Together they’d won the drivers and Manufacturers Championships. However, the big news was that Elfyn had taken his maiden victory at his home event! What a result! Just fantastic!

 

Let’s hear then from the drivers starting with our seventh different winner this year.

 

Elfyn Evans (1st) said:

“I’m feeling pretty good, and just about managed to keep the tears away at the podium. It’s been a really long and difficult weekend, so this one feels good and it was made all the more special when you combine it with everything the team has achieved today.

“Already after Shakedown, we knew if the conditions played into our hands then the speed was there to challenge for the victory. As the weekend went on, I felt that it was always in my reach, but this is an event you can never predict. A clean run with no punctures, spins or mistakes is very difficult. It’s all about finding the right balance and I think that’s what we managed to achieve this weekend.

“I’m definitely hungry for more wins now, so let’s wait and see what next year has in store. Now that I have felt this feeling, it’s one that I would like to repeat!”

Elfyn Evans, Wales Rally GB 2017 winner

Thierry Neuville (2nd) said:

“Our congratulations to Sébastien on his fifth WRC title, and to M-Sport. We got the message just before the start of the Power Stage that he had done enough. It has been a really exciting battle this year and although we have had our moments of misfortune, we have enjoyed some great fights along the way. Everyone in the team has worked incredibly hard this year, so we can be pleased with our performances and for playing our part in the Championship fight. We could not have done any more this weekend. Elfyn was on incredible form, so to finish second to him is a great achievement. Our five Power Stage points shows our performance level this weekend, and I have enjoyed the rally, despite having to concede the Championship. We will now aim to finish the season well in Australia and to secure second place ahead of Ott.”

 

Sébastien Ogier (3rd) said:

“Emotion is something you cannot control. There is something beautiful about that and I have to say that this was the strongest feeling of emotion that I have ever experienced in my professional life. It’s hard to explain the feeling, but it is most definitely a good one.

“Twelve months ago, we decided to take what could have been considered a risk. We decided to team up with Malcolm and set ourselves a challenge. Today, we have succeeded in that challenge and know that we made the right choice.

“I felt immediately proud and very happy for the team. A drivers’ title is something that has never happened for them and it was so well deserved. What they are able to do is amazing. Really, a big thanks to all of them.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (4th) said:

“We have done our absolute best this weekend, trying to go as fast as we could. We wanted to show progress from Spain and we definitely did that. The battle for the podium was really close and I am pleased that we could finish so close to Séb. Fourth place in our second event with Hyundai Motorsport is pretty good. We took a few stage wins this morning, but also made a few mistakes as well, so there is still room for improvement. Overall, I am happy. As a team, we must now prepare to finish the season in the best way possible in Australia, and then aim to make another improvement in the Championship in 2018.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th) said:

“I couldn’t have gone any quicker than I did on the Power Stage: I gave it absolutely everything! This has not been a perfect rally for us, but we’re happy to score some points, we know what we can do to improve, and it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that the Toyota Yaris WRC is the best car that I’ve ever driven. Conditions between the rally and the test were not exactly the same and that was one of the problems we experienced: on the polished stages today, it was impossible to get the car to turn, so that was frustrating. But I’ve still enjoyed the rally: it was fantastic to see so many spectators out on the stages. Wales is always one of the most difficult events of the year, but after Finland it is definitely my second home rally: I’m always very happy to be competing here.”

 

Ott Tänak (6th) said:

“Our weekend might not have played out as we had been hoping, but crossing the line and securing the manufacturers’ championship for the team was something very special. Malcolm, and everyone in the team, have done such an incredible job this year and we’ve achieved huge success together. They really do deserve everything this weekend.”

 

Kris Meeke (7th) said:

“Normally, I wouldn’t be happy with seventh place. But to be honest, Elfyn Evans was in a different class this weekend, he produced an exceptional performance throughout the rally. The battle was mainly for second place and for a long time, we were only thirty seconds or so back, among a group of drivers that were quite tightly bunched together. I dropped back slightly when I made a little mistake yesterday, but I’m still pleased with my rally. I felt good all weekend – it’s been a while since I felt that comfortable on this type of surface, throughout an entire rally.”

 

Hayden Paddon (8th) said:

“We have been in a bit of a no man’s land today, so we have concentrated on keeping things nice and smooth. The result isn’t what we wanted, of course, but we have started to regain our confidence in the car, and just enjoy ourselves a bit more. It has been hard to read the stages this weekend, but it’s been fun to get behind the wheel and to be part of the team again. We can now reset and refocus our efforts on Rally Australia, where we have our sights set much higher!”

 

Esapekka Lappi (9th)

“For me the most important thing was to get to the finish, so I made sure that I concentrated on that above everything else, in order to improve my experience of these challenging conditions. Today we had a good run through the first loop of stages and set some promising times, but on the second run when the roads were cleaner, it was more difficult and I struggled to find the grip. We learned a lot on this rally, so even though it wasn’t the result that we wanted, it was very valuable experience that will help us for the future. I’m learning all the time and so is the team.”

 

Dani Sordo (10th) said:

“It has been a challenging rally for everyone, with slippery and often unpredictable conditions. Unfortunately, we haven’t had the confidence that we needed to mount a stronger attack this weekend. It’s nice to extend our run of rally finishes this season but it isn’t the result we know we are capable of. We have had some positive results this year. Although I am not competing in Australia, we will be hoping for a competitive event for the team as we prepare to come back stronger in 2018.”

 

Mads Østberg and co-driver Emil Axelsson finished the event in 39th place after the problems inflicted on Saturday. He said:

 

“It`s just a bit comical to finish inside the top forty, but this has been the most difficult and frustrating rally this year. The team worked hard to find the source of the electronic “glitches” yesterday, but we haven`t been able to cure the problems. So today has been about driving through the five stages to collect further data and possibly find a solution.”

Mads won’t be driving in Rally Australia and there are no confirmed details as to what is happening with him next year.

“Finishing the season with the problems we have had here in Wales is of course very frustrating, but all in all there are many positive points from 2017. We have been able to fight for the lead in several rallies and I know my speed is very competitive, especially on the “loose”. Spain became a highlight with leading the rally on gravel the first day and securing a solid and good result after two days on tarmac.”

 

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Sébastien Ogier – 215
  2. Thierry Neuville – 183
  3. Ott Tänak – 169
  4. Jari-Matti Latvala – 136
  5. Elfyn Evans – 118
  6. Dani Sordo – 95
  7. Juha Hänninen – 71
  8. Kris Meeke – 70
  9. Craig Breen – 64
  10. Hayden Paddon – 59

 

MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. M-Sport World Rally Team – 398
  2. Hyundai Motorsport – 305
  3. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC – 241
  4. Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team – 210
M-Sport celebrate winning the 2017 Manufacturers World Championship!

Well, what an amazing Wales Rally GB that was! A home winner and two world championships secured as well!

Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt hold the Peall Trophy.

I hope you enjoyed my recap of the event, and now it’s just a couple of weeks to the last round of the championship.

Let’s see what happens when the teams head down-under!

Quick 10 With…..Jody Fannin

 

He started his career in karting from 2006 to 2009, becoming the Midlands Minimax champion  and Bayford Meadows Winter Champion in 2008. In 2010 he finished 4th in the Ginetta Junior Championship with 2 wins, 4 podiums, 2 fastest laps and a pole. 

The following season he finished third in the Ginetta G50 Championship and then moved onto become the GT4 champion in the British GT Championship for 2012. He was selected as BRDC Rising Start in 2013 and raced in the Blancpain Endurance Series and various European GT events.

In 2014 he had a wind and a second place in the International GT Open at Silverstone with Darren Turner in an Aston Martin which was followed up in 2015 by being selected for the Aston Martin Racing Evolution Academy. He took two podiums that season in the British GT Championship

For 2016 he competed in the GT Open at Barcelona where he obtained a podium place and again competed in the British GT Championship.

This season he competed in and won The European Le Mans GTE class with Rob Smith for JMW Motorsport in a Ferrari 488 GTE. He took a win and four podiums.

His helmet design is based on the South African flag, where his father originates from and the Union Jack, for his mother. He also has his name on the side of his helmet, exactly the same as Jody Scheckter, the 1979 Formula One World Champion who he was named after.

These are his Quick 10 questions, the newly crowned 2017 ELMS GTE Champion and he is….. Jody Fannin.

What is your favourite racing circuit?

Spa-Francorchamps because of its massive elevation change and speed. If you are walking along the Kemmel Straight, there is a bit where you can look across at the Bus Stop Chicane. You realise then just how much elevation change there is on the track; it looks so far down! Also, through the middle sector of the lap especially, each corner leads into the next, so if you make a mistake through one, it will affect your run through the next, amplifying the error. It’s a real challenge… and obviously Eau Rouge is a proper corner in a GT car!

Who was your racing idol?

Allan McNish because of his undoubted speed and killer instinct through traffic.

Who would you regard as your toughest opponent?

Difficult to single anyone out, but competing in the European Le Mans Series against multiple factory drivers is as tough as it gets in GT racing!

Considering racers of all time, you are a team principal and money is no object. Which two racers would you have in your team?

Mario Andretti because of his versatility, being successful in so many different sorts of cars, and Ayrton Senna because of his prodigious speed.

 

If you could invite four famous people to dinner (past and present), who would you invite?

It would be fascinating to have people, each from a different era of motor racing, so I could learn about eras that I haven’t lived through and get first hand accounts of what life was like back then. Stirling Moss, Derek Warwick, James Hunt would have some very interesting stories I’m sure..!! Then probably Murray Walker because of his inside knowledge of all aspects of motor racing over many decades.

Your personal racing number? What is it and the reason behind it?

27 because it was Gilles Villeneuve’s number and I admire the way he drove and raced!

What is the best race you have been involved in?

At Monza this year, it was the swansong race for the Ferrari 458 Italia GTE after 7 years of service. No one expected us to have a chance against the newer cars, but we had a fairytale race and managed to win. I had to hold off the Aston Martin of TF Sport for the final stint and gave it absolutely everything. It was an amazing feeling to get the job done! And that chassis actually won its very first and last race, so it was a perfect end to the chapter for the car.

Is there a race or series you have not competed in that you would like to or had wanted to?

Le Mans is the ultimate race for me; I have been to watch the race 15 times, and everything about it is just magic. Racing through the night is an amazing experience, and to race there would be a privilege. To compete in the World Endurance Championship as a factory driver would be very cool.  The Bathurst 12 Hour is a race that I would really like to do as well. The track looks awesome and the race is growing in stature year on year.

How did you get interested in motor racing? What ignited that spark?

My Grandad and Dad were both into motorpsport (didn’t have any direct involvement though), so I grew up watching F1, Sportscars, MotoGP, just about anything, so I was surrounded by it from a very young age. I didn’t start karting until I was 11, but I haven’t looked back since! I have always wanted to be a racing driver for as long as I can remember, and being named after Jody Scheckter, guess I was always destined to have something to do with Motor Racing!

What is the best advice in racing you have been given?

Always be ready for the next step up in category/car (both mentally and physically), because if you suddenly get asked to test/race, you need to be immediately ready to go and do the job.

I want to thank Jody for taking the time out of his busy schedule to take part in the Quick 10 feature. Always ready for a quick chat and a very friendly person Also want to congratulate him, Rob Smith and JMW Motorsport on their ELMS GTE title win. The Pit Crew Online wish Jody even more success for 2018.

(c) all photographs courtesy of Jody Fannin

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

TCR Series One Off Event

(c) Photo Courtesy Of TCR Europe

Adria International Raceway, Italy – 28 / 29 October 2017

TCR drivers from all over Europe are bound for Adria

The 2017 TCR Europe Trophy will be awarded this weekend in a one-off event at the Adria International Raceway.

Drivers who have raced in the various TCR series and championships all over Europe are eligible to take part in the Italian race meeting and those who have entered have been allocated Pre-Qualifying points based on the number of TCR appearances they have made during the season.

The Adria International Raceway is located in the North-East of Italy, in the delta of the river Po, some 60 kilometres South of Venice. It was inaugurated in 2002 and has hosted a range of international races such as the FIA GT and ETCC and the DTM.

It was there that TCR Italy ran the opening event of the current season, when Eric Scalvini won both races at the wheel of a MM Motorsport Honda Civic.

The format of the TCR Europe Trophy will follow the same pattern as the TCR International Series, with two 30-minute Free Practice sessions on Saturday morning and the 30-minute Qualifying on Saturday afternoon that will be split into Q1 (20 minutes for all the competitors) and Q2 (10 minutes for the 12 fastest drivers in Q1). The two 60-kilometre races will be run on Sunday.

Drivers will also have the opportunity to take part in three test sessions on Friday.

TCR in Adria – The event at a glance

Lap distance: 2.70 km

Race distance: 23 laps

Start: Standing

Grids: Determined by the Qualifying results (Q1+Q2) with top 10 reversed for Race 2

Timetable

Saturday, 10:00/10:30 – Free Practice 1

Saturday, 12:00/12:30 – Free Practice 2

Saturday, 15:00/15:35 – Qualifying (Q1 + Q2)

Sunday, 12:35 – Race 1

Sunday, 14:35 – Race 2

all times: GMT +2 until Saturday; GMT +1 from Sunday

 

How Drivers’ and Team’s Trophies will be awarded

Two TCR Europe Trophies will be awarded at Adria; one for Drivers and one for Teams.

Drivers’ scoring system

– Pre-Qualifying: 1 point per event will be allocated to each Driver who took part in any   TCR event during the 2017 season, up to a maximum of 5 points

– Qualifying: points will be awarded to the first five drivers classified in the Qualifying session according to the following scale:

1st: 5 points; 2nd: 4 pts; 3rd: 3 pts; 4th: 2 pts; 5th: 1 pt

– Races: points will be awarded to the ten drivers classified in each Race according to the following scale:

1st: 25 points; 2nd: 18 pts; 3rd: 15 pts; 4th: 12 pts; 5th: 10 pts; 6th: 8 pts; 7th: 6 pts; 8th: 4 pts; 9th: 2 pts; 10th: 1 pt

Teams’ scoring system

– Races: points will be awarded to the best two cars of each team classified in each Race according to the following scale:

1st: 25 points; 2nd: 18 pts; 3rd: 15 pts; 4th: 12 pts; 5th: 10 pts; 6th: 8 pts; 7th: 6 pts; 8th: 4 pts; 9th: 2 pts; 10th: 1 pt

Eight brands to be represented at the TCR Europe Trophy

The Adria International Raceway will welcome drivers and teams coming from no less than nine different series.

Eight brands of car manufacturers will be represented: Alfa Romeo, Audi, Honda, Hyundai, Peugeot, SEAT, Subaru and Volkswagen.

Files and Altoè pair up at Target Competition

Target Competition fields the strong duo of Josh Files and Giacomo Altoè at the wheel of two Honda Civic cars.

Files is aiming for a third TCR title in the current season after winning both the Middle East and Germany crowns (the latter for the second consecutive year), while his 17-year old teammate Altoè has established himself as one of the most competitive young drivers with brilliant results in the International, Benelux and Italian series.

One Peugeot 308 for Aurélien Comte

Two weeks ago at Le Castellet, Peugeot Sport showed for the first time the new 308 TCR that will be racing from next year. However, even without the full TCR kit, the Peugeot 308 Racing Cup car has already won TCR races in the Benelux and 24H series.

The twisty circuit of Adria will suit the French cars that will be in the experienced hands of Aurélien Comte, who classified fifth in the TCR Benelux with three race victories.

Buri and Kangas come from the North

Fellow Finns Antti Buri (Audi RS3 LMS) and Olli Kangas (SEAT León) will race under the banner of LMS Racing.

Buri comes fresh from a successful campaign in TCR Germany that saw him claiming one race victory at the Nürburgring and finishing a brilliant eighth in the Drivers’ championship.

Far less experienced than his teammate, Kangas has competed in the maiden season of TCR Scandinavia.

Together, they have won the 12 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, final round of the 24H Touring Car Endurance series a few weeks ago.

A Russian duo for Innocenti-AMG Motorsport

TCR Russia competitors Lev Tolkachev and Denis Grigoriev will race in two SEAT León DSG cars run by the Innocenti-AMG Motorsport team.

Grigoriev was classified tenth in the Russian series, claiming his maiden TCR victory in Race 1 at the Smolensk Ring; his teammate Tolkachev ranked 13th in the final standings.

Engstler Motorsport enters the youngest team

The age of the two drivers entered by the Liqui Moly Team Engstler adds up to just 38 years. Luca Engstler (17) and Florian Thoma (21) form the youngest team that will compete for the TCR Europe Trophy.

And yet, they have already shown their potential. After winning his maiden touring car race at Dubai in the TCR Middle East series, Engstler was crowned Junior champion of TCR Germany. Also a rookie in touring cars, his Swiss teammate Thoma made a sensational debut in TCR Germany, winning the second race in the season’s opener at Oschersleben. Engstler and Thoma will race two Volkswagen Golf GTI cars.

An Alfa Romeo Giulietta for Luigi Ferrara

Italy’s V-Action Racing Team will run a Romeo Ferraris-built Alfa Romeo Giulietta for Luigi Ferrara.

The 35-year old from Bari is an experienced driver who has already had different occasions of sitting at the wheel of TCR cars. Ferrara has driven the V-Action Giulietta twice this year, in the German and the Italian series (at Hockenheim and Monza respectively), showing the potential of the Italian car.

TCR Ibérico champion joins with a Volkswagen

During the last weekend, Francisco Abreu was crowned the first champion in the TCR Ibérico series.

Winning two of the four races of the final event at Portimão in the Team Novadriver Volkswagen Golf GTI cars, Abreu was able to close the gap from the previous leader Francisco Mora to clinch the title. He also finished second in TCR Portugal behind Mora.

Team WRT with Maxime Potty’s VW Golf

While Team WRT is in the best position to win a second consecutive TCR International Series title in conjunction with Leopard Racing, the Belgian outfit is also one of the top seeds in the TCR Europe Trophy.

The young Belgian Maxime Potty will be at the wheel of the team’s single Volkswagen Golf GTI at Adria. Last weekend at Assen, Potty won the final race of TCR Benelux, securing third place in the championship standings.

Endurance specialists come from Spain

It has been a very successful season for Monlau Competición as the Spanish team has clinched the TCR class title in the 24H Touring Car Endurance Series with a SEAT León DSG car.

At Adria, Monlau Competición wants to prove they are also capable of shining in sprint races and have entered the León for their best driver, José Manuel Pérez-Aicart. Experienced and quick, the 35-year old from Castellón boasts an impressive record, including titles in the Spanish GT Championship and the SEAT Supercópa.

Bulgaria’s Plamen Kralev to race his Audi

Bulgarian Touring Car specialist Plamen Kralev will compete in the TCR Europe Trophy with his Kraf Racing Audi RS3 LMS car.

Kralev, who switched to touring car racing three years ago after several season in GT and Formula 2, has successfully taken part in both TCR Italy and the FIA European Touring Car Cup with his Audi, ranking fifth and ninth in the two series respectively.

Hyundai and Subaru cars will be ‘transparent’

Two cars have been accepted to take part in the TCR Europe Trophy under temporary homologation forms: the Hyundai i30 N and the Subaru WRX STI.

Therefore they will be ‘transparent’ as far as the race results are concerned.

BRC Racing Team will run the Hyundai that will be driven by Touring Car legend Gabriele Tarquini; only a few weeks ago the Italian racer gave the Korean car its first victory on its maiden appearance, in the TCR International Series at Zehjiang.

The Subaru entered by Top Run Motorsport is the latest development of the WRX STI TCR that was successfully raced by Stefano Comini in the TCR Italy events at Imola and Monza. As Comini is not eligible to race at Adria (being amongst the top ten in the International Series) the team has still to name his replacement.

Full live coverage from Adria International Raceway

Fans will be able to follow live on the Internet the whole action of the TCR Europe Trophy at Adria on www.europe.tcr-series.com and www.tcr-series.tv according to the following timetable.

Saturday, 09:55 – Free Practice 1, timing and streaming

Saturday, 11:55 – Free Practice 2, timing and streaming

Saturday, 14:55 – Qualifying, timing and streaming

Sunday, 12:20 – Race 1, timing and streaming

Sunday, 14:20 – Race 2, timing and streaming

(all times local)

 

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

Guerrieri Given WTCC Factory Drive

Photo (c) Alexandre Guillaumot / DPPI

Double race-winning privateer Esteban Guerrieri has been rewarded for his hugely promising maiden FIA World Touring Car Championship season with a factory drive at WTCC JVC/KENWOOD Race of Japan this weekend.

Argentine Guerrieri will stand in for Tiago Monteiro at Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team after Monteiro was advised by doctors to remain at home in his native Portugal to continue his recovery from the effects of a high-speed testing accident in Spain last month.

The 32-year-old is in his first full season in the WTCC in a Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 and has notched up wins in Morocco and China. After 14 rounds, he’s seventh in the overall standings and fourth in the WTCC Trophy for independent racers. Campos Racing has given the move its full support and has signed ETCC prize-winner and rising star Kris Richard as Guerrieri’s replacement for the Twin Ring Motegi weekend.

“We are very happy to be part of Esteban’s success and we are delighted he has got this opportunity with a factory team,” said Campos Racing’s Ruben Espin. “Although we were hoping he could continue his push for the WTCC Trophy with our team, one of our main goals was to help Esteban develop as a WTCC driver in the hope that one day a chance like this came along. Now it has, we are really pleased for him because it’s richly deserved after all his hard work and outstanding on-track performances. He will continue to be part of the Campos Racing family and we wish him all the best for WTCC Race of Japan this weekend. Our focus will now be on helping the next young talent to join our team, Kris Richard.”

Having excelled in single-seater racing in the past against current F1 stars Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel, Guerrieri was the fastest driver of all when he made his WTCC debut in his homeland in August 2016 and was chosen by a selection of WTCC journalists as their rookie of the year as a result.

“I was sorry to hear that Tiago would not be able to race this weekend, but I’m extremely excited to have been given the opportunity to join Honda for Motegi and to drive a factory car in the WTCC,” said Guerrieri. “I’d also like to thank Campos Racing for their positivity throughout this process and to everybody who has helped in making my move to Honda possible. Motegi is a new circuit for me and I’ve never even driven the Civic WTCC, so I’m aware that there’s a lot to learn, but I’m confident that I can do a strong job of helping Honda in the Manufacturers’ championship and supporting Norbi’s [Michelisz] Drivers’ title ambitions.”

Guerrieri will get his first taste of Honda Civic WTCC power during Free Practice 1 and Twin Ring Motegi on Saturday afternoon, when he will sample the track for the first time. He will also make his debut in the Manufacturers Against the Clock (WTCC MAC3) team time trial when he joins new team-mates Norbert Michelisz and Ryo Michigami in the Tour de France-inspired contest. Honda heads Volvo Polestar in the FIA World Touring Car Championship for Manufacturers by five points.

François Ribeiro, Head of Eurosport Events, the WTCC promoter, said: “We’re very pleased that Esteban’s talents have been rewarded with a factory drive in Japan. He will have a lot to adapt to in a short space of time but there is no doubting his ability.”

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

British GT – Format Confirmed, Entries Open

Photo Courtesy Of British GT (c)

2018 entry process opens early after British GT organisers confirm class format.

> 14 of 34 spaces reserved for GT3 cars

> Championship retains multi-class GT3/GT4 format

Entries are now being officially accepted for next season’s British GT Championship after series organiser, SRO Motorsports Group, confirmed its successful multi-class GT3/GT4 format would remain unchanged for 2018.

SRO considered splitting its grids into separate races, but that idea has now been dropped after consulting with teams, drivers and stakeholders. The idea of staging a standalone GT4 round at Thruxton has also been shelved for next season.

14 of the 34 full-season spaces have been initially reserved for GT3 cars, although SRO is happy to revise this number up or down depending on demand. Several of the class’ current teams have already committed, with driver announcements expected in due course.

GT4’s rise also looks likely to continue with new teams and manufacturers in the pipeline. Entries will be accepted on a first-come-first-served basis, as well as historical support and marque variety.

Indeed, the level of interest is such that SRO has moved the opening of its 2018 entry process forwards to the end of October rather than waiting until its usual mid-November date.

Meanwhile, Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps’ additional pit garages once again raise the possibility of seeing one-off or race-by-race entries competing in both classes.

Championship Manager Benjamin Franassovici had this to say in a statement:

“After a memorable and record-breaking 2017 campaign we’re hopeful that British GT will be bigger and better than ever before next season. Demand is already such that it makes sense for us to open the selection process earlier than usual so that teams have more time to plan once assured of their entry. That’s why I strongly suggest anyone interested should not delay registering their interest!

“We have initially reserved spaces for 14 GT3 cars, which I believe sends a strong message about our commitment to the class. British GT is still home to the strongest GT3 Pro/Am platform in Europe and ensures amateurs are able to win races and championships outright. However, Macmillan AMR’s excellent performances this year – they claimed four podiums and two pole positions – prove our Silver Cup class also represents an attractive option for aspiring professionals. The same goes for GT4 where both driver line-ups compete closely together.

“July’s announcement about the possibility of running separate GT3 and GT4 races resulted in much discussion in and outside of British GT’s paddock. There are pros and cons to both but after consultation with teams, and also taking into consideration the opinions of our fans, we believe a single multi-class championship remains the overwhelmingly best and strongest option for our championship in the foreseeable future.”

British GT’s nine-round 2018 campaign begins on its traditional Easter Bank Holiday Weekend at Oulton Park (March 31 – April 2).

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

Wales Rally GB Preview 2017- M-Sport look to take the championship.

It’s time for the UK round of this year’s championship. Twelve months ago, Ott Tanak took the fight to his future teammate Seb. It was one of the closest finishes for a long time.

 

M-Sport can wrap up the Manufacturers Title this weekend, which will be an amazing achievement for this privateer outfit run by Malcolm Wilson.

 

Here’s his thought’s ahead of the team’s home event.

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“It’s hard to find the words to describe just what a momentous achievement we are on the verge of securing this week.

“When we started developing the Ford Fiesta WRC, I knew we had the people to design a competitive, rally-winning car, and we always hoped to be in this sort of position. Now that it is a reality, it really is hard to find the words.

“But it’s not done yet and we cannot forget just what a challenging event Wales Rally GB can be. The changeable weather, unpredictable grip and long days make it one of the most demanding events of the year.

“All three of our drivers have proven what they are capable of in Wales, and I have no doubt that all three of them are capable of securing the best possible result. But anything can happen and we must remain at the top of our game to get the job done.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Poland (POL) – WRC 29/06/2017 to 02/07/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Reigning champion Sébastien Ogier heads to Wales looking to take the championship for an amazing fifth time in a row.

 

Here’s his thoughts.

“This event is steeped in motorsport history and I think it’s fair to say that Wales Rally GB is one of the most iconic events on the calendar. It’s one that everyone wants to win and we’ll certainly be hoping to be in the battle for victory.

“It’s one of the most challenging rallies of the year and there is a real art to judging the grip levels through the forests. It’s an event that takes a while to get to grips with – quite literally – but I have to say that I now feel at home on the Welsh stages.

“Clearly, this could be a very special event for the team and it also provides us with our first mathematical chance of securing the drivers’ championship. But we can’t think too much about that. We just need to focus on enjoying the rally and delivering the best performance we can.”

Seb Ogier, Fiesta WRC 2017

Now, here’s the full details on the all the stages! There are twenty-one stages with a total of 304.36km of competitive, twisting muddy welsh roads!

THURSDAY 26 OCTOBER

8.00am: Shakedown – Clocaenog (3.32km)

6.57pm: Start (Tir Prince Raceway)

7.00pm: SS1 – Visit Conwy Tir Prince (1.49km)

8.00pm: Parc ferme (Deeside)

 

FRIDAY 27 OCTOBER

7.15am: Service A (Deeside – 15 mins)

10.20am: SS2 – Myherin 1 (20.28km)

11:00am: SS3 – Sweet Lamb 1 (4.24km)

11:15am: SS4 – Hafren 1 (35.14km)

1.27pm: Tyre and headlamp pod-fitting zone (Newtown – 15 mins)

2.31pm: SS5 – Myherin 2 (20.28km)

3.11pm: SS6 – Sweet Lamb 2 (4.24km)

3.26pm: SS7 – Hafren 2 (35.14km)

8.01pm: Flexi Service B (Deeside – 45 mins)

 

SATURDAY 28 OCTOBER

6.10am: Service C (Deeside – 15 mins)

7.55am: SS8 – Aberhirnant 1 (13..91km)

8.47am: SS9 – Dyfnant 1 (17.91km)

9.59am: SS10 – Gartheiniog 1 (12.61km)

10.28am: SS11 – Dyfi 1 (25.86km)

12.08pm: SS12 – Gartheiniog 2 (12.61km)

12.37pm: SS13 – Dyfi 2 (25.86km)

3.48pm: SS14 – Cholmondeley Castle (1.80km)

4.55pm: Service D (Deeside – 30 mins)

6.55pm: SS15 – Aberhirnant 2 (13.91km)

7.47pm: SS16 – Dyfnant 2 (17.91km)

10.26pm: Flexi Service E (Deeside – 45 mins)

 

SUNDAY 29 OCTOBER

7.00am: Service F (Deeside – 15 mins)

8.34am: SS17 – Alwen 1 (10.41km)

9.08am: SS18 – Brenig 1 (6.43km)

10.06am: SS19 – Gwydir (7.49km)

11.09am: SS20 – Alwen 2 (10.41km)

12.18pm: SS21 – Brenig 2 Power Stage (6.43km)

1.35pm: Finish (Llandudno)

 

Friday will see the #ElfynsCorner in Myherin! Very big support for D-Mack WRT driver Elfyn Evans has built up since I broke the story back in September. Stickers have been made and sent! Money will be raised for the Welsh Air Ambulance as well.

Saturday sees a mammoth 17-hour day! A very long day! There’s two-night stages as well. These will be very tricky indeed.

 

Now then what chance a home winner? Could Rally Spain victor Kris Meeke, Craig Breen or Elfyn Evans take victory in the welsh forests this weekend? It would be very popular, that’s for sure!

Here’s the thought’s then of the home-grown talent.

 

Kris Meeke said:

“Wales Rally GB is obviously a very special event for me. I competed in my very first rally here, almost twenty years ago! So, it’s the event that I know the best and the surface that comes most naturally to me. Our win in Spain was a great morale boost for the whole team. Having said that, it doesn’t guarantee anything for this event. We’ll see what sort of performance level we have in the Welsh forests. Obviously, a lot will depend on the weather. Running ninth on the road on Friday will be a handicap if it rains. In any case, I’m very motivated and will be doing everything I can to secure another good result for Citroën.”

Citroen C3 WRC

Craig Breen said:

“Between my appearances in the British Rally Championship and the WRC, I feel like I know this event pretty well. I have a lot of good memories here, the highlight being when we won the Junior WRC title. That was in 2011 and it was all more special because my co-driver at the time, Gareth Roberts, was Welsh. After missing the last rally, I’m very happy to be back in the C3 WRC for the final two rounds of the season. As always, it’s pretty difficult to set a specific target, given how much the conditions can affect the standings. But after finishing fifth six times, I would certainly love to do a bit better!”

 

Elfyn Evans said:

“There’s nothing quite like rallying at home and we’re in for a classic Wales Rally GB this year. The iconic stages, the weather, the night stages, the long days – this year’s offering has it all and it’s that sort of challenge that I really enjoy. I’m looking forward to it and to playing my part in what could be a really historic event for the team.

“It’s always amazing to see the Welsh fans out on the stages, and it’s true that their enthusiasm gives you that little bit extra. We’ll have to wait and see how the conditions suit our package, but we’re hungry for a strong result before the end of the year and will be giving it our all this weekend.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Poland (POL) – WRC 29/06/2017 to 02/07/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Now then, what of the Belgian challenger Thierry Neuville?  He saw his challenge for the drivers crown really take a dive after a no score last time out in Spain.

 

He explains: “We were dealt something of a harsh blow in Spain, but we are ready to fight back in Wales. It is a unique event on the calendar, a rally where weather conditions can really dictate performance and confidence levels. If it’s raining, windy and muddy, the stages become incredibly slippery. It is without doubt a tough event, but one that I relish. I have finished on the podium a couple of times, and get a buzz from the fantastic atmosphere. Driving at high-speed through the forest stages, sometimes in the dark, is just incredible. I intend to keep pushing right to the end of the Championship.”

 

Last year’s runner up Ott Tanak in this rally, will be looking to cement his second position in the championship, with a strong run. Here’s what he had to say:

 

“Wales Rally GB is a classic in every sense of the word. The days are long and the conditions are unpredictable, but that is rallying and that’s what makes it one of the biggest challenges on the calendar. When you secure a strong result in Wales, you know that you have delivered.

“This will be my seventh time competing in Wales, and six of those were with the top-specification Fiesta. I’ve got good experience here, and the stages are fast and flowing which I really enjoy. They can get quite slippery and ‘polished’ over the second pass but, again, that just adds to the challenge that makes this rally so special.

“Obviously, this will be a very important weekend for the team. We’re on the verge of securing something really amazing and everyone will be working their hardest to secure that goal. If we could top the weekend off with a win, it would be even better!”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Poland (POL) – WRC 29/06/2017 to 02/07/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Hayden Paddon fans will be happy too. He returns to his i20 and after finishing 5th in 2015 and then 4th last year, perhaps he could stand on the podium this year? His thoughts for you.

“Wales Rally GB is an iconic rally with plenty of driving challenges. The event has always been run late in the season, so we can expect some rain and potentially foggy conditions. In many ways, it is like being back home in New Zealand. There are some very nice, fast stages, and it is a rally I enjoy. Hopefully we can put together a good result and build up to a positive conclusion to what has been a tough season.”

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 13 / Wales Rally GB / October 27 – 30, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Now, what of Mads and his Adapta Motorsport run Fiesta WRC? He will not be driving in Australia, and that means he’ll be looking to end his season on a high. He has scored well in this event, having got top results in previous years.

He has another co-driver alongside him. Emil Axelsson who was his co-driver in an Norwegian rally last month will be working very hard to guide Mads through the welsh forests.

 

Here’s the thoughts from him then.

“I can`t see why I shouldn`t be positive. I have two podiums from before in this rally and I like the often-changing conditions and grip in the Welsh forests. This autumn has also been very “uplifting” and positive, with a very good first day on gravel in Spain where I led the rally after four stages. In September we ran the Norwegian Championship finale as a competition test, and managed to find a very good set-up for the car on quite similar roads and conditions as we are expecting in Wales. I feel I have the necessary speed to be among the lead drivers, and Wales is the place to show it.”

 

Talking about the conditions on these classic stages, he continues:

“I won`t say that this is my absolutely preferred conditions for rallying, but I like the challenge and the special character of this rally. It`s a classic gravel rally on roads with proper ditches and trees in the forest. To imagine Wales Rally in sunshine and dry roads feels completely wrong. Wales is rain, fog and mud, and that in itself is a great challenge.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Poland (POL) – WRC 29/06/2017 to 02/07/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Finally, what of Toyota? It was recently announced that Ott Tanak will be with the team next year. Lead driver Jari-Matti has won this event twice in 2011 and 2012. It’s not been so kind lately though.

 

Here’s his thoughts then.

“Britain is a bit like my second home as it’s where I started my career and it was also my first world championship rally. There are some fantastic stages like Myherin and Dyfnant, which I’m looking forward to going back to. We obviously had a few technical issues in some of the recent rallies, but I feel confident that the team has got completely on top of those now and I just want to have two strong events to finish this incredible season. The first few rallies were challenging but maybe less demanding on the car than these events now at the end of the year, so we are learning more all the time as it is still only our first season as a team.”

Rumours abound that Juho Hanninen will not be driving in Australia as well, so this will be the last time I believe we’ll see him in the Yaris this year.

 

Here then are his thoughts.

“I’m happy with what we managed to do in Spain, so we go into Rally GB with a lot of confidence. This will be my last rally of the year, so most of all I just want to enjoy it. I’ve not actually competed there since 2014, but luckily most of the stages are still quite the same. Even though I don’t have a huge amount of experience in Wales I’ve always liked it, so I want to make sure that this rally is a nice one for us. We don’t have a particular plan: we just want to take it stage by stage and build on our pace. It’s a strategy that has worked well before.”

Juho Hanninen, Toyota Yaris WRC

Finally, Finland winner, Esapekka says:

“Our pre-event test was good but it was very strange weather: I brought my winter jacket and my hat, but when I stepped out of the hotel it was 22 degrees! Still, I think what we worked on can still be useful if it’s wet and muddy, which is normally what happens on Rally GB. I just hope that there’s not too much fog, as that can be really difficult. We changed some suspension settings and there are a few other lessons that we learned from Spain that I was able to improve on, so we made a lot of progress during the test. Normally I have a good feeling with Rally GB, so now I’m looking forward to getting out on the stages and hopefully we can have a good result at the end.”

 

Well, this looks to be an amazing event this year! In addition to that, I will be stage side throughout the rally, having secured a guest pass from the ever-helpful Wales Rally GB media team.

 

I’ll be joining the Elfyns Corner crew in Myherin on Friday and will journey around with them throughout the rest of the weekend. I can’t wait! Make sure you’re following both @PitCrew_Online and my own twitter account @Warren_S_Nel.

 

Enjoy the rally and if you’re coming to watch, come and find me!

 

Warren Nel

24th October 2017

Motorbase Performance Looking At TCR

Photo Courtesy Of Motorbase Performance

Motorbase Performance Team Principal David Bartrum has confirmed that his Wrotham-based squad has taken delivery of the latest Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR machine to arrive in the UK, and is now evaluating available options for an extended TCR campaign in 2018.

The multiple championship winning outfit has most recently run in-house built NGTC cars in the BTCC and has an illustrious track record in its 13 year history; winning titles in the British Touring Car Championship, British GT and Porsche Carrera Cup as well as taking multiple wins internationally whilst competing in the Blancpain Endurance Cup and Gulf 12 hours.

Team Boss David Bartrum believes that the move into TCR perfectly fits into Motorbase’s portfolio as the former-racer looks to expand his squad’s championship campaign for next season, replacing the highly successful GT programme that has run for the past 5 years.

“TCR has grown quite significantly over the last two seasons, and it’s impressive if you look at what its achieved in a short space of time;” commented Bartrum. “It’s not just about the UK series; globally the format seems to work well. When you look at the various domestic championships running and the 24 hour series, TCR is a very competitive and attractive package and as an international racing team we want to be a part of that as it grows.”

“It fits the bill perfectly for us since winding down our GT programme;” added Bartrum. “It opens up a lot more opportunities for us as a team as we now have a stable of cars that we can take all over the world, we’re no longer limited to just the UK market which is a downside of the BTCC. Motorbase has already proven itself to be competitive in Europe and the Middle East in the GT world and we’re keen to do the same again in Touring Cars.”

The squad’s newly acquired Golf GTI’s maiden shakedown takes place at Brands Hatch today (Wednesday, 18th October) with the team working through an initial test programme before opening up packages to potential drivers and partners for the 2018 season in the coming weeks.

“We’re open to look at all available options for next season;” Bartrum explained. “I’m excited to see which drivers are out there with the potential and budget to work with us whether in the UK, Europe or further afield. 2018 is looking like a very interesting season for TCR and I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes us.”

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

BTCC – Rule Changes & 60 Mile Race

Heading into the 2018 season TOCA and BTCC have made two announcements. One relates to the rule changes for the 2018 season and the other marks a special championship race to mark the 60 year anniversary.

Here are the announcements from BTCC:

Rule changes agreed for 2018 BTCC season

A number of rule changes have recently been ratified by TOCA that will take effect from the opening round of the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship:

Increase in driving standards penalties

– Fines will be increased, with a significant additional championship fine applied on top of any MSA fine.

– From next year a ‘strike’ will last for 12 months from the date applied, rather than just the same season (This then brings them into line with the 12 month penalty points system on MSA race licence).

– Strikes gained during a 12 month period will result in the following penalties;

3rd strike – back of the grid

4th strike – one race ban

5th strike – two race ban

6th strike – three race ban

7th strike – banned from the championship for the rest of that season

– A relatively minor but straightforward on-track incident, involving and affecting only two cars, that can be simply rectified by swapping their finishing positions post-race (or which has already been fully redressed within one lap by the offending driver) will not necessarily constitute a ‘strike’.

3rd race grid draw

The partial reverse-grid draw will now extend to 12 ……i.e. the reverse-grid draw will be from positions 6-12 (rather than 6-10).

Jack Sears Trophy

Eligible drivers will be those that have never scored an outright podium position.

Any driver subsequently scoring an outright podium during the season, will be ineligible for the JST from the next season.

Boost adjustments

If needed, these will take place once per season – at around the mid-season point – as was done in 2016.

Driver changes

A team is now permitted a maximum of two permanent driver changes per season (previously one).

Mandatory Driver and Team manager regulations tests

A driver or Team Manager cannot take part until they have successfully passed a mandatory regulations test.

60 mile BTCC showpiece to take place at Snetterton in 2018

A special ‘Diamond Double’ race has been announced as part of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship’s 60th anniversary diamond jubilee celebrations in 2018.

The third race at Snetterton on Sunday 29 July will be an extended 60-mile contest, with all cars competing without any success ballast and with double championship points on offer.

Furthermore, there will be a separate qualifying session on Saturday 28 July for this showpiece race, with all cars qualifying at their base weights.

The 2018 season will still comprise of 30 races across ten weekends, with all other races following the regular format as per recent seasons.

Snetterton – also well known for the BTCC Night Race in the 1990s and 2000s – has long been a staple of the summer calendar for race fans and this exciting addition is set to add yet further fever to the festival atmosphere.

Alan Gow, BTCC Series Director, said:

“We are delighted to confirm this special extended race as part of the BTCC’s diamond jubilee celebrations. As well, there will be a number of additional activities to celebrate our 60th anniversary throughout 2018 which will be revealed over the next few months. We believe this 60-mile race, roughly double the distance of a normal BTCC encounter, will add a further sporting twist to what will be a fantastic and memorable season. I am sure our loyal teams, drivers, venues, officials, sponsors, partners, marshals and of course our fans will share in this excitement, making the Snetterton race weekend an unmissable event in 2018.”

The 2018 season will begin on 7/8th April at Brand Hatch.

(c) photographs courtesy of BTCC

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

Rally Spain 2017 Review- Kris and Paul emerge victorious!

The foundations for Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle’s victory were laid on Friday’s gravel stages. After just two stages, Kris was in the lead and despite some mistakes in the afternoon, at the end of that first day’s action, he was just three seconds from the lead.

 

Overnight leader was Andreas Mikkelsen on his first outing for Hyundai. His fellow teammates, Dani and Championship challenger Thierry were in sixth and seventh position. The wrong tyre choices and hotter than expected conditions on the stages had meant that there was little that Thierry could do other than get through the day and see what he and Nicolas could do on the smooth wide tarmac on Saturday.

 

It was an impressive Friday for Seb Ogier that despite running at the front of the field on the loose gravel, he was just 1.4 seconds from the lead. Ott Tanak was also driving very well. Third on the road, he maintained top ten pace in each of the six stages and holding fourth overall.

 

Also setting a great pace in his Fiesta was Mads, although in the final stage of the day the heater in his car got stuck on! What with the high temperatures outside, plus the heater on, it quickly became unbearably hot inside the Fiesta WRC. The two Norwegians therefore did well to make in to the end of the stage, just five seconds from the lead.

 

The first retirement of the event was Jari-Matti in his Toyota. After a very solid start in the morning, he won the first stage of the afternoon, but later in stage five he noticed that the car was starting to lose oil. This was the result of a strong impact under the car which made the lubrication system fail. He would not start the final stage of the day, and the damage to the engine would prove to be too severe. The team would be looking to Juho and Esapekka to bring the team some good results.

 

Elfyn Evans, running on D-Mack tyres, would start well, but after struggling in the afternoon, it was a case of get around and see what he could do on Saturday.

 

Here’s the driver quotes for day one.

Andreas Mikkelsen said: (1st)

“We could not have asked for a better start to our Hyundai Motorsport career. It has been a good day and I have been pleased with our approach. We started this morning carefully, to understand the car’s behaviour and generally just finding our feet.”

“A few changes to the settings allowed us to gain some time through the first Terra Alta run. The car felt very stable and there were no surprises. In the afternoon, we became more and more confident in the car. The final stage wasn’t ideal; we thought we had a puncture so took it a bit easier. We made it to the end safely and it’s nice to be fighting at the very top. It’s really close but it has definitely been a positive start for Anders and myself.”

Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:

“I’m really happy with our day. It wasn’t easy, but our position this evening is really amazing. Being so close to the lead after a full day opening the road is not something we expected, but it’s a very nice surprise.

“The gaps are all so close so we’re all going to have to keep pushing tomorrow. For sure Andreas [Mikkelsen] and Kris [Meeke] will push hard, but I’ve always had a good feeling with the Fiesta on Tarmac so hopefully we can stay in the fight for the victory.

“But the most important thing for us was to stay ahead of Ott [Tänak] and Thierry [Neuville], which we have managed to do so far. Our target is clear, and we will keep our main focus on Ott, Thierry and the Championship fight.”

Seb Ogier, Friday, Rally Spain 2017

Kris Meeke (3rd) said:

“This morning, we didn’t make the right tyre choice. The soft tyres went off on Terra Alta, so I had to manage my pace a little and drop some time. It didn’t matter that much, because the gaps remained pretty small. On hard tyres, I was able to push almost from start to finish and I really enjoyed driving the C3 WRC. It’s a bit frustrating to have made a mistake on SS4; if it weren’t for that, I’d be leading. But in any case, I’m in a good position and am pleased with the day.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Catalunya (SPA) – WRC 05/10/2017 to 08/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Ott Tänak (4th) said:

“Overall I think the performance has been very good today. We expected to lose quite a lot with the loose gravel but actually the gaps are very small at the end of the day.

“It will definitely still be interesting tomorrow. It looks promising for the moment so let’s see how it goes in the morning and if we can find a good rhythm. These Tarmac roads are very unique but also very enjoyable, so we’ll try to find a good set-up with the car and see what we can do.”

Mads Østberg (5th) said:

“Really disappointing with the heater, and extremely hot and uncomfortable for us both with nearly 100 degrees Celsius inside the car. It`s hot enough inside these cars without hot air blowing into it, but we didn`t manage to turn it off.”

“As it was a very long stage we lost a bit of concentration and focus and of course we lost some time. Still I am happy with our performance this Friday, without the problems on the last stage we could have been in the lead. We also had some issues with dust coming into the, but that we could cope with.”

“In the preparation for the rally we have concentrated mainly on the tarmac set-up and driving. This will be the first time I drive the Fiesta “in anger” on tarmac, and we have much less experience with this than our competitors. A special challenge for me will be the much more advanced aerodynamics on the 2017-car than the car I have driven before. The aerodynamics plays a much bigger role on fast tarmac roads than on the loose.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Catalunya (SPA) – WRC 05/10/2017 to 08/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Dani Sordo (6th) said:

“It is great being back rallying at home, and I am so thrilled with the support of the fantastic spectators. We had a solid start today. The morning loop was tough for tyre selection, as the softs were a bit too soft, and the hard compounds were a bit too hard. However, we found a good compromise and it was a very close fight at the front. The grip levels were better in the opening afternoon stages, and I was pretty happy with the car. The repeat of Terra Alta was more slippery with not much traction, but we made it through the opening day in a respectable position – and with only ten seconds to the lead, I think it will be an exciting battle this weekend.”

Thierry Neuville (7th) said:

“We know what we need to do this weekend, and our sights are firmly set on achieving that. It wasn’t the easiest of starts after we opted for soft tyres on the opening loop. The temperatures were higher than we expected compared to our data from testing. We started to lose grip quite early in the long Terra Alta stage. It was a real pity because we had a good feeling in the car and we were pushing hard. In the afternoon, we were carrying six tyres, which slowed us a bit too much, particularly in the repeat of the long stage. It is very close on the timesheets, so although we are not in the position we would want to be, we are definitely in striking distance.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (ret) said:

“In the morning it was difficult and the car was oversteering a lot, but we made some changes and things were starting to get better. We won stage four. I made a couple of mistakes in stage five and then we noticed we were losing oil, and before we got to stage six the engine stopped and wouldn’t start again. At the time we didn’t know whether anything was damaged but sadly it will not be possible to restart tomorrow.”

Juho Hänninen (8th) said:

“Today was not as good as I had hoped; I lost too much time to the top guys. I wasn’t fully confident, I was hesitating in some places, and you can easily start to lose time with that. I was struggling a little with the rhythm when the grip was changing. Tomorrow we need to make it better. There are some really nice stages coming up so I’m looking forward to that.”

Esapekka Lappi (10th) said:

“This morning I was happy with the balance of the car but then on the last stage I overheated the brakes and lost them completely towards the end. In service we made some changes to the suspension and on the first stage this afternoon, which was really smooth, it helped us to set a good time. But I really struggled on the last one with the dampers in these settings. We were a bit unlucky today but at least we have done the stages twice, which is good experience, and tomorrow will be a new start for everybody on asphalt.”

Stéphane Lefebvre (9th) said:

“After a long break, it was difficult to come back and compete at event that is almost unknown to me. I took it easy in the trickier sections and pushed when I felt more confident. We didn’t make any mistakes and I managed to add to my experience. The two passes on Terra Alta showed that you really need time to understand this type of stage. We’ll have to reset in order to tackle tomorrow’s leg on tarmac in the best possible shape.”

Elfyn Evans (11th) said:

“The feeling in the first two stages was okay but it’s fair to say that we struggled after that. This just wasn’t our day, but we made it through and tomorrow is a completely new day with a completely new surface so let’s see what we can do.

Khalid Al Qassimi (19th) said:

“I had a good feeling this morning, although I felt the car lacked precision on occasions. I was cautious, especially on the tarmac section on Terra Alta. We made quite a lot of progress with the set-up during service and I was happy with the handling. I think the upgrades on the dampers are a definite improvement.”

 

Saturday morning dawned warm and sunny. The cars had been switched into tarmac spec and were ready for the day’s action.

Kris Meeke took the lead from overnight leader, Andreas, in the first stage of the day and then proceeded to pull away from his closest challengers.

 

The Hyundai’s all experienced problems throughout the day with Andreas and Dani both hitting rocks hidden at the edge of the road in stage 12. Thierry’s rally wasn’t going so well either, suffering hydraulics problems which affected his handling of the car. This lead to a spin before stage nine which resulted in damage to the rear of the car. The team did a good job to get the car fixed before the afternoon stages and this lead to a better afternoon for the Belgian driver.

 

M-Sport duo Seb and Ott were both driving well, with just minor issues holding them back through the morning, mainly being setup. With some tweaks, they Seb was able to push much harder and won all three afternoon stages. Ott heard a strange noise from the gearbox, so the team decided to change it during the midday service break.

 

The remaining Toyota drivers, Juho and Esapekka both enjoyed a very good day on the unique Spanish roads. Juho was third fastest on the opening stage before winning stage eight and nine. Lappi was focused on understanding the level of grip available, and with an imperfect setup on the car, struggled for confidence. However, after making a few changes in the service break, he felt more confident and this lead to a better afternoon.

 

Mads Østberg had a good day too. Despite hitting the same rock in stage twelve, that had put Andreas and Dani out, he got some luck and was able to finish. There were further technical issues with the car, but Mads made great progress throughout Saturday and completed the day in sixth.

 

Let’s hear from the drivers then.

Kris Meeke (1st) said:

“Today couldn’t have gone any better, to be honest. We’ve known about the potential of the C3 WRC on tarmac since the rounds in Corsica and Germany, but I was nonetheless a bit apprehensive because we hadn’t done any pre-event testing on this surface. The first stage looked like it would be tricky with the rain, but everything went well. The rest of day went much the same way, although it was pretty close with the other drivers. I’m very pleased to be leading and I obviously want to convert this first place into a win tomorrow. There are still six stages to go before we get there, the first of which will be contested in the dark. So, we won’t get ahead of ourselves: one step at a time!”

Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:

“The general picture is a positive one for us at the moment and, if we can secure this podium at the end of tomorrow, it will be another good step towards the championship.

“Of course, I always want to fight for the victory but, realistically, I think Kris [Meeke] is probably a bit too far ahead. We lost quite a lot of time to him this morning when I wasn’t super confident with the car. When you’re not perfectly committed you lose tenths everywhere and that can easily amount to ten seconds at the end of the stage.

“We worked hard on the set-up throughout the day and I had a much better feeling this afternoon. Hopefully we can start tomorrow morning with that same feeling as we will for sure still have to push.”

Ott Tänak (3rd) said:

“The podium is always the target, and we’re in a good position to secure that at the moment so it has been a good day. We weren’t so happy with the feeling in the car first thing [this morning], but we soon found a good balance and improved the times after that.

“The goal is to secure as many points as possible but, as we have already seen, everyone is pushing very hard and it’s difficult to make the difference. Even if you have the perfect stage, you can still miss out on the fastest time by a couple of tenths.

“Kris is very strong so it’s going to be hard to compete with him, but we’re still in a very competitive position and it will be important to get to the end and secure these points for the team and for ourselves. We’ll certainly keep the pressure on, so let’s keep it going and see what happens.”

Juho Hänninen (4th)

“It has been a really good day. I was a bit disappointed after yesterday but I knew that the asphalt would be better for me. Even still, I was a bit surprised with how good the stage times were this morning. I was really, really happy with the car and I didn’t need to change anything in service. I drove the afternoon the same as in the morning and it felt good. I haven’t really been looking at the overall classification and it could be difficult to catch the guys ahead, but I haven’t given up and I will push tomorrow for sure.”

Thierry Neuville (5th) said:

“I honestly think we deserved far better than we got today. We experienced hydraulic problems at the end of SS8, which we worked on at stage-end to keep the car going. Suddenly, the car wouldn’t start, and when we finally got going we had to move quickly to get to the next stage. Without hydraulics under braking we spun the car, which caused some rear damage. We checked into SS9 three minutes late, so we were given a time penalty. The team did an incredible job to get the car repaired at service in time for the repeat loop, where we were able to show good pace again. The rally is not over but it was another frustrating day and not representative of what we know we can achieve. We set some of the quickest times in the afternoon stages, and were much happier and confident with the car. It’s hard to keep up the fight when you lose so much time, but others can have problems, especially with a longer than usual Sunday with six stages. We won’t give up.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de Espa–a
05 – 08 October 2017
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Sarah Vessely
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Esapekka Lappi (6th) said:

“On the first stage this morning I was not confident enough, as the grip was much higher than in my test, but step-by-step during the morning I found the confidence. I wasn’t completely happy with the set-up but we managed to improve it during service and the car felt even better in the afternoon, especially on the penultimate stage: it was the best that the car has ever been on asphalt. So I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. We will try to carry on in the same way and maybe get some points on the Power Stage.”

Mads Østberg (7th) said:

“It really has been the best day at school ever! This is my first proper tarmac experience with the 2017 spec car, and I was very uncertain how we would manage and how fast we could expect to be. Yesterday we led the rally after four stages, but that was on gravel. Today we have lost some time to the leaders, but that was expected. I am learning on every stage and the progression from the start of the day, not to mention my understanding of the car, has been enormous. We started the day 1 second per km slower than the fastest guys, now we are down to 0.3 seconds”.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Catalunya (SPA) – WRC 05/10/2017 to 08/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Speaking about the rock that he hit…

“There was a massive rock right on the driving line in a corner where we were cutting. I hit it hard, but for once I had some luck. The steering and a wheel was damaged, but I could continue and finish the stage without much loss.”

In the final stage, Mads suffered an additional problem with the hydraulics.

“The car became nearly impossible in the very tight corners. It was frustrating, but as it was a short stage the time loss wasn`t extensive.”

Finally, he explained how much fun the car was to drive on these roads.

“I feel we are getting more and more competitive, which hasn`t really been the case for some time on tarmac. The split-times on several stages shows that I am closing in on the fastest tarmac guys. I am also enjoying every moment as the driving experience with the 2017 Fiesta on these roads really is awesome.”

Stéphane Lefebvre (8th) said:

“The switch from gravel to tarmac between the first and second day is not easy at all, especially as this is the first time I have experienced this situation. I feel like I made progress throughout the day, without making any mistakes. The handling of the C3 WRC helped to give me confidence. On SS10, for example, I pushed and my time was about 2/10ths per kilometre off the pace of the stage-winning driver. I’ll be able to build on this experience to try and finish on positive note tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans (9th) said:

“It’s been another pretty tough day for us. The pace isn’t there and we’ve just been struggling for grip. That’s the way it is and we need to focus on getting all the kilometres under our belts and collecting as much information as we can for the future.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (18th) said:

“This was my first competitive outing with the C3 WRC on tarmac. And I hadn’t driven on this surface for a year! I’m pleased with the day, I had a good feeling in the car. However, I opted to take it easier on the second pass, because the roads were very dirty. I preferred to stick to the lines.”

 

Sunday morning was much like Saturday- warm and sunny.

Could Kris take his and Citroen’s second victory of the year? Could Thierry score some points to stop Seb opening a big lead in the championship?

 

Six stages awaited the crews and no service break either. They all took spare tyres in their cars. One puncture could destroy all the hard work.

The first stage was held in darkness, but it didn’t trouble Kris. He took the first stage of the day and then added the other two, thus increasing his lead to almost 25 seconds over the M-Sport duo of Seb and Ott.

Stephane Lefebvre was also pushing hard through these stages, bringing him closer to Mads. Stage 16 would see Thierry retire from the event after hitting something out of sight and damaging his right front suspension. Esapekka would also retire after sliding on some slippery tarmac and hitting a barrier.

Setting some good times as usual were Seb and Ott, ultimately bringing their Fiesta’s to a double podium behind Spanish master Kris. Juho would also have a very Sunday morning, guiding his Yaris into fourth place overall- pretty impressive given that he’d not driven this event for six years!

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Catalunya (SPA) – WRC 05/10/2017 to 08/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Fifth place fell to privateer Mads in his Adapta Motorsport Fiesta. With Torstein Eriksen alongside him through the weekend, they found good consistency, even leading on Friday for a short while. The pre- event testing, they did on the tarmac clearly paid in off in spades.

 

Dani Sordo and Andreas Mikkelsen both had an up and down event, but Dani came through and won the power stage. Andreas would suffer a broken windscreen after his bonnet came loose and flipped up in front of him! It was all good learning for next year though, having never driven the i20 on these surfaces.

 

Elfyn Evans in his D-Mack shod Fiesta drove as best he could to seventh place, as his tyres couldn’t give him the consistent grip on the tarmac he needed. However, there were positives and it was the best result he’d scored in this event.

Rally Spain 2017 result

1 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) 3h01m21.1s

2 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +28.0s

3 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +33.0s

4 Juho Hänninen/Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +54.1s

5 Mads Ostberg/Torstein Eriksen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2m26.2s

6 Stephane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau (Citroen C3 WRC): +2m43.0s

7 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4m37.4s

8 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta R5) +8m22.7s

9 Jan Kopecky/Pavel Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +8m54.5s

10 Ole Christian Veiby/Stig Rune Skjaermoen (Skoda Fabia R5) +9m04.8s

Here’s what the drivers had to say.

Kris Meeke (1st) said:

“This completes an exceptional weekend for me. Since our win at Rally Mexico, we’ve had some tough moments, but we’ve picked ourselves up each time by working hard. We always knew this car was terrific on asphalt and I think that we have demonstrated that since yesterday! This win shows the quality of the work done by the entire team and it gives us all a huge confidence boost for the rest of the season.”

Kris and Paul take their fifth WRC victory.

Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:

“We’ve taken a really positive step towards the championship this weekend. I think we were on course to extend the lead anyway, but with Thierry’s mistake that changed the picture completely and we’ve been able to extend the gap even more.

“We were never really in a position where we had to take all the risks, but we still had to keep a good rhythm. There was no chance to fight with Kris [Meeke] as he was just on another level on the Tarmac, but we had a clean drive and it’s definitely been a positive weekend.

“It’s been good news for the team too as the manufacturers’ championship is now pretty much done and we can start to plan a bit of a party for their home event in a couple of weeks’ time.”

 

Ott Tänak (3rd) said:

“We feel good at the end of this one. This result was more or less the maximum we could do this weekend so a great result overall.

“I think our first day was particularly good. We were quite early in the running order and still managed to stay close to the lead. Then on Tarmac we had a couple of small issues but generally a good run and a good feeling with the car.

“For sure there will be a big fight for second place in the drivers’ championship now. Sébastien is pretty safe, but there is still something to fight for and two more exciting events ahead.”

 

Juho Hänninen (4th) said:

“I’m very happy with this result. Yesterday and today have been two of the most enjoyable days of rallying I’ve ever had. Yesterday was really good and today I tried to keep it quite steady because there was a big gap behind. On asphalt we have had a really, really good car. I have felt really confident with it and I haven’t had to take any big risks. It’s really important for me to see that I am able to fight for the leading positions even though I haven’t been here for a long time.”

Juho Hanninen, Rally Spain 2017

Mads Østberg (5th) said:

“The team performed brilliantly. Its five years since we did a WRC rally with our own Adapta Motorsport crew, but it`s like they haven`t been away at all. I would also like to thank Torstein Eriksen, who did only his second WRC-event and really did a professional and great job.”

“The tarmac experience from Spain will be put to good use later, but not until next season as the championship finishes with gravel events. Already in less than three weeks the stage is set for fog, mud and possibly sleet and snow in Wales.”

“It`s one of my favourite rallies where I have been very competitive before. The gravel stages here in Spain gave us the answer that we are right on the mark on the loose stuff. My goal for Wales is to fight for a possible victory.”

 

Stéphane Lefebvre (6th) said:

“We tried to push and managed to claw back some time on Mads Østberg in the first loop. After that, it became more difficult with some hydraulics problems and then we lost the intercom. From that point onwards, I was just making sure I held position. Sixth place is pretty good, considering my limited knowledge of this event. I would say this result was more or less comparable with my top-five finish in Poland. Little by little, as I gain more experience, I’m improving and I hope to be able to confirm my progress in the future. Congratulations to Kris and Paul on winning again – it’s a morale-boosting result for everyone in the team!”

 

Elfyn Evans (7th) said:

“Everyone knows that this was a tough weekend for us, but we kept our heads down and got the job done. It’s not been easy, but we managed to get a lot of information from all of the kilometres and now we can start to focus on Wales Rally GB.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Catalunya (SPA) – WRC 05/10/2017 to 08/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Teemu Suninen (Fiesta R5) (8th) said:

“This has been a really good weekend for us and I think we have made a big improvement on Tarmac. We’ve had good pace on both surfaces and I think I can be really happy with the rally and what we have done.”

 

Khalid Al Qassimi (17th) said:

“It was a very good day. As the day wore on, I enjoyed driving the car more and more and I’m very pleased with the progress made by the Citroën C3 WRC. But I’m most pleased of all about Kris Meeke winning the rally. He had a fantastic race this weekend, it’s a great moment for us all and I’m very proud to see Abu Dhabi promoted by these performances.”

 

Well, there you go…. Two rounds left and M-Sport have almost secured the manufacturers championship. Also, it’s looking very likely that Seb will win the drivers crown after Thierry failed to score any points in Spain.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Catalunya (SPA) – WRC 05/10/2017 to 08/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

A great drive from Kris and Paul in the number 7 C3 WRC for Citroen’s 98 WRC victory and his fifth as well, puts to bed any worries about his abilities behind the wheel.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Catalunya (SPA) – WRC 05/10/2017 to 08/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after round 11:

1 Sebastien Ogier 198

2 Ott Tanak 161

3 Thierry Neuville 160

4 Jari-Matti Latvala 123

5 Dani Sordo 94

6 Elfyn Evans 93

7 Juho Hänninen 71

8 Craig Breen 64

9 Kris Meeke 60

10 Hayden Paddon 55

11 Esapekka Lappi 49

 

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after round 11:

1 M-Sport World Rally Team 358

2 Hyundai Motorsport 275

3 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT 225

4 Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 198

A chat with Chris Wheeler- The comeback is on.

Last year during The Nicky Grist Stages, Chris Wheeler suffered a big accident. He very kindly agreed to have a chat with me about his recovery and the rebuild of himself and his DS3 R3.

Chris looks pretty happy!

Warren

Your accident was last year in June, if my memory serves me correctly?

Chris

My accident was in July last year on Epynt. This year have been a rebuild year, using just small events to get my confidence back while the DS3 has been rebuilt.

Warren

Yes, a good thing to do. Back in your Fiesta. Must have been a bit of a shock, after the high tech DS3?

Chris

The DS3 is a completely different world compared to the Fiesta, it has been enjoyable to drive but it has been a shock to the system. On the Stages it feels like the time is just bleeding away down the straight’s as it is under-powered compared to the DS3, but it has been the ideal way to get back into a rally car & get my pace built up again.

Warren

Yes, it was a good plan indeed. Tell me, did your dad co-drive you when you first started? He’s been alongside you through all the events this year.

Chris

When I first started, I did not have my dad co-drive for me, I had a family friend sit in with me first of all before Yan came along. This has been the first year that my dad has sat with me.

Warren

Ah, that must have been interesting!

Chris

It has been very interesting season, even though it’s been dad’s first season in the car with me he has done a great job getting me through the stages.

Warren

Would you say you’ve got closer because of it, or were you very close anyway?

Chris

We were close anyway before this season as we do work together on a daily basis but if anything it has made us closer together.

Warren

That’s good. Just thinking about the car rebuild then- What did you first think when you first saw the damage to it?

Chris

I first saw the damage when I got lifted out of the car soon after the accident, I got the doctors to turn me round so I could look back at the car, I was devastated once I saw it. My personal opinion was that it would never go again, but luckily, I am proved wrong.

Warren

I think I can imagine that. When did the work start to rebuild the car?

Chris

The work started just one week after the accident, & has been a long & hard journey since then to get the car running again.

Warren

Wow, yes. 15 months? Could you list what was done?

Chris

To list the full, rebuild but would take too long. Here’s a few ideas, Complete new feline end right up to the windscreen. Bumper, bonnet, windscreen, engine, radiator, gearbox, under guard, water pipes, scuttle, the roof had to be done to get them dents out & also the rear quarter of the car.

Warren

Yes, I realised when I asked that one that it might be a long list… Who did the work to get him stage ready?

Chris

All work was done by my dad to get this car ready again, every weekend putting in a lot of hours to get me back out there again.

Warren

Oh, wow. Just to ask, what is the feline end?

Chris

Opps sorry, autocorrect, meant to say front end.

Warren

Ah, hahaha!

Chris

Haha that’s phones for you.

Warren

Definitely! Just thinking back to the beginning, did your dad think the car could be rebuilt?

What a cool car. Ready for the night stages!

Chris

It was touch & go for a while, nothing was ever certain until our first test to see if the car would handle & steer straight. Once we got our testing, it all became worth while, the car is perfect & now ready to go!

Warren

Right, so until you actually drove him, you didn’t really know for definite if was going to be okay?

Chris

No, it was never certain until our first test, we were confident, but never certain.

Warren

Okay. Thinking then about the test, where did you go and did you have a list of things to kind of tick off?

Chris

We tested at Llandow Race Circuit in South Wales. This was just a small track but it was enough to test the car & to get myself confident with the car again. Once we started we could test the steering, brakes, suspension, performance & also the set-up of the car. We did everything possible & it all went to plan. We now will be testing for the build-up of 2018.

Warren

Of, course, it wasn’t just the car that needed rebuilding. You weren’t in a good way either after the accident.

Chris

At the time I had a broken knee, my left knee had a crack the whole way through the knee, also I had torn all my ligaments, had internal bleeding all in the same knee. I had internal bruising across my chest & in my middle to lower back. I was in a huge amount of pain. It took me six weeks to walk. My body took around three months to be semi normal again & I have also been using 2017 to get fit again & let my body rebuild over the course of the year.

Warren

That’s excellent news. Now, when do you plan to have your next test and what’s happening about co-drivers?

Chris

We will hopefully be testing again in November. Late this year/early next year we will be running a test with a few Co-Drivers to see who I get on with in & outside the car & also a test to see how well they do on the notes.

Warren

Good to hear. I guess that you won’t know which event you’ll enter yet, or have you got something in mind?

Chris

We have a few things in mind for 2018, we have a good idea of where we will be heading but we will have it confirmed this side of the Christmas break.

Warren

Ah, okay. Brilliant. Great stuff.

Chris

Should be a big year ahead.

Warren

Now, perhaps you could give a bit of detail as to how different the Fiesta and DS3 are to drive?

Chris

The Fiesta is far easier to drive compared to the DS3. First of all the Fiesta is a H Shift gearbox and the DS3 is paddle shift, with the Fiesta you do have to use to clutch to change gears, but the DS3 is six speed & you can change gears without using a clutch making the gear changes without any loss of time.

The DS3 has a turbo charger too, the power is far more advanced & to top it off has a few different modes on the car which controls which surface you’re on, how much anti lag you’d like & if you’re on a road section or stage.

The Fiesta on the other hand has none of this. It’s a simple get in & go. The other big difference with the DS3, is once the car is started which isn’t easy in itself as there is no key to turn (all done my switches & buttons) the DS has to warm up properly before moving, otherwise it does not like to select gear or even begin to work properly without being up to temperature. There are major differences between the two, even down to set up, tyre choices to use, compound of tyres & suspension set ups. It goes into a huge amount of detail.

Chris Wheeler with his rebuilt Citroen DS3 R3

 

Warren

Finally, is there anything you’d like to add?

Chris

I’d just like to add a thank you my dad for all his hard work rebuilding the car which we thought was gone for good & also for doing a good job all year on the pacenotes getting me through this Southern Championship.

 

Warren

Thanks for your time Chris. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

Here’s a video of Chris testing his rebuilt Citroen DS3

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFEnjWcAmiw&feature=youtu.be