Rally de Portugal Review 2019- Ott Tanak makes it two in a row!

It was a another very strong victory for Toyota and Estonian Ott Tanak this year. Here’s the story of how he won Rally de Portugal! He was joined on the podium by Thierry Neuville and Seb Ogier.

 

Friday

This was going to be an interesting day, as there was no afternoon service. It was also very hot as well, with temperatures set to get higher! The crews faced seven stages, which had been last run in 2001. The start list looked like this – Ogier, Tänak, Neuville, Meeke, Evans, Loeb, Lappi, Latvala, Suninen, Sordo, Greensmith.

 

SS 1 – Lousa 1 (12,35 km) was won by Dani Sordo in his Hyundai, showing that the later you ran the better your grip, although Ott setting the second fastest time showed how good he and the Yaris were getting on. Ogier, who was opening the road, was way down in ninth with Thierry one place ahead. Teemu went well, sitting third at this point.

 

The longer SS 2 – Gois 1 (18,78 km) saw a number of changes to the top ten. Ott went fastest from Jari-Matti, and leader Sordo setting the third fastest time. Teemu was slower than both Kris and Jari-Matti, which saw him drop places down to fifth overall. Elfyn also gained a place, passing Thierry overall and staying ahead of Ogier.

 

The last morning stage, SS 3 – Arganil 1 (14,44 km) saw Ott take the lead after problems for Dani, whilst Esapekka suffered a puncture losing over a minute and tumbling down to eighth place. The top three was now a Toyota 1-2-3, with Jari-Matti and Kris slotting into the podium positions. Also going well were Teemu and Elfyn, who were around twenty seconds from the lead. Thierry did a great job in the stage to close the gap to Ogier by five seconds to just half a second.

 

The re-run of SS 4 – Lousa 2 (12,35 km) saw a more difficult surface for the crews to contend with. Dani Sordo won the stage, whilst Finns, Jari-Matti and Teemu set the same time and were equal second fastest. Thierry moved ahead of Ogier on the overall leaderboard as well. Further down, Gus Greensmith, who was making his maiden challenge in a full WRC car was finding his feet, setting the ninth fastest time, only a few tenths down from Lappi.

 

SS 5 – Gois 2 (18,78 km) saw the end of Elfyn’s challenge near the front after a problem that caused the car to just stop. The Welshman would lose around four minutes finding the problem and fixing it. What a shame. In the other Fiesta WRC, Teemu would set a great time, winning the stage and jumping ahead of Kris into third overall. Ott continued to lead, whilst Ogier, after going second fastest, jumped ahead of Thierry into fifth place. However, this battle was certainly not over.

 

Thierry won SS 6 – Arganil 2 (14,44 km), his first stage victory of the weekend and jumped straight back ahead of Ogier, plus with Teemu suffering a problem it put him in a net fourth place overall. Kris was now back into third place. Elfyn showed that without the problem in the previous stage, he’d still be in the fight for the final podium place, with a time good enough for seventh, only a few tenths from Jari-Matti.

 

The final stage of the day, SS 7 – Lousada (3,36 km) was won by Thierry who had just managed to shade Ogier’s’ time and staying ahead of the Frenchman. At the top, we still had a Toyota 1-2-3, but now Thierry was looming in the mirrors of those Toyota’s! Ogier was also right there as well, looking to move into a podium position.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:03:26.7
  2. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +17.3
  3. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +22.8
  4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +24.2
  5. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +25.8
  6. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:15.7
  7. Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:22.1
  8. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:23.7
  9. Veiby / Andersson (VW Polo R5) +3:45.2
  10. Kopecky / Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +3:49.3

 

The thoughts then after day one from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It was a very challenging day. It’s been really hot and the stages have been quite demanding. But, in the end, we had a very clean day. I’ve had a great feeling and confidence with the car, so I’ve been able to push. We wanted to get a good road position for the rest of the rally and we managed to succeed in that. In that sense we did everything we could and we should be happy with that. As a team we’re in a great position, but we’ve only completed a small part of the event so far and there is still a long way to go. Tomorrow will be tough: We saw during the recce that the stages are quite rough, so we need to keep our focus.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (2nd)

“Generally, I’m happy about today. The car was going fantastically, it was really enjoyable to drive. I was pleased with my driving this morning, and the speed was good this afternoon as well. I was just struggling with the tyre wear a little in these temperatures: It has never been as hot as this when I’ve been doing this rally in northern Portugal. That together with an aggressive driving style is not a good combination. So that’s going to be our focus tonight, to try and make it a bit easier to manage tomorrow. We’re in a good position, and now we need to try and defend it.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 07 / Rally Portugal / 30th May – 2nd June, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Kris Meeke (3rd)

“It’s been a great day for the team. It was tough out there, especially with the high temperatures. We had a problem with the intercom during the morning, so Seb had to make hand signals for me on one stage as I couldn’t hear the pace-notes. In the afternoon we had to manage a few small issues, but we’re in third place overall and I’m quite content with that. We have a couple of quick guys breathing down our necks, but we’ll get the car back in shape in service tonight and we’ll give it our all again tomorrow.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“It has been a tough start, no question. We struggled on the opening stage this morning due to the standing dust and we had to take things a bit too carefully. In SS2, I stalled the car at a junction and lost some time. We were back on track in SS3 and set the second fastest time, so it was a mix of feelings at lunchtime. Things weren’t perfect in the afternoon loop. The most frustrating thing is that we have been missing a bit of speed all day and haven’t had the chance to find the rhythm. To finish the first day with two stage wins and inside the top-four – only 1.4 seconds from the podium – is not too bad but we know we have more in the tank.”

Seb Loeb (39th)

“A disappointing day and certainly not what we wanted coming to this rally. Things started out OK but then about 20 metres into the third stage of the morning loop we picked up a mechanical issue. We had to complete the stage at a very slow pace and lost between 15 and 16 minutes. It was the start of what we had hoped to be a positive rally but now we are far back with nothing to play for. We had just to enjoy the afternoon loop as much as we could, have a bit of fun because we will be one of the first on the road tomorrow so it will be a long, tough day.”

Dani Sordo (43rd)

“We started the day well with a stage win on the opening run and getting a good feeling with the car. We conserved tyres on SS2 to prepare for the end of the loop. At the start of the final stage of the morning, the car just lost power and we lost a massive amount of time getting to the end. I was frustrated, not just for myself but also for the team. As we could see from our pace on other stages, we had a great opportunity to fight for the victory this weekend, and that’s been taken away from us.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“I’m pleased with what we managed to do in the really tough conditions we had today in opening the road, especially on the first stage of the loop. If you’d offered me fifth position at the end of day one before the start, I’d have bitten your hand off! The gap to Ott is already pretty big, but the second-placed crew is not that far ahead. We’re now going to try our very best to catch them. Day two will be very long and probably very rough but we’ll give it everything.”

Esapekka Lappi (8th)

“We were unlucky with the puncture but I’m pleased to see that we are a lot more competitive here than at the previous rounds. We’re moving in the right direction, especially as I’m now starting to feel that we can do even better. That’s our aim for the rest of the rally: focus on our race, undoubtedly fight with Teemu, whilst trying to keep out of trouble.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (6th)

“We had some problems with the brakes this afternoon and lost close to a minute on a single stage – I can tell you that these fast cars are not easy to drive without brakes! Apart from that, we had a really good day. I was setting good times and fighting for second position. Just before the problem I set a fastest time, and I had a really good feeling with the car. Everything was working well so it’s a shame that we lost the podium position. But tomorrow is another challenging day and anything can happen so we have to keep going.”

Gus Greensmith (7th)

“It’s been a mega day out there and I’m pretty happy with how things have gone. The morning was fairly clean – maybe not pushing enough on the second stage and losing a bit of unnecessary time – but in the afternoon we took a good step forward. We lost some time when the car cut out at the start of SS5 – costing us about 10-15 seconds as we waited for it to restart. Then out of frustration I drove way too aggressively and cooked the tyres for the next one. But overall everything has been good and we’re beating some pretty big names! The plan is to improve again tomorrow – I know those stages pretty well, so it would be nice to have a bit of a push!”

Elfyn Evans (16th)

“It’s obviously been a disappointing day for us. It hadn’t been the perfect morning, but the feeling was good after lunch and we were starting to make some ground on the guys in front. Then unfortunately there was just a loose connection on the throttle pedal and it took a while to track down the issue. We lost a fair bit of time, and our road position won’t be ideal tomorrow, but I think we just need to go out there, enjoy ourselves, and see what happens.”

 

Saturday

We would see the longest day’s action, with over 160km of stages, including a double run through the Amarante stage, which was the longest of the day at 37km’s. The startlist looked like this – Sordo, Loeb, Evans, Lappi, Greensmith, Suninen, Ogier, Neuville, Meeke, Latvala, Tänak.

 

After SS 8 – Vieira do Minho 1 (20,53 km), there were comments from Ogier and Lappi to have a longer time gap between the cars, saying three minutes was not long enough to allow the dust to settle. Kris Meeke, third to last on the road won the stage and what with Latvala second fastest and Ott fifth, but nine seconds down on Kris, his lead was now just 11.3 over Jari-Matti. Lappi moved ahead of Gus in their battle over seventh.

 

Latvala won SS 9 – Cabeceiras de Basto 1 (22,22 km), and Ott pretty much matched his time, the Estonian just three tenths slower than his Finnish teammate. Ogier moved ahead of Thierry as well. A battle for sixth place between Lappi and Suninen was starting to develop as well.

 

A second stage victory for Latvala in SS 10 – Amarante 1 (37,60 km), plus Ott only third fastest, but 5.8 seconds slower, meant the Finn was just 5.1 seconds from the lead. There were also a couple position changes, with Thierry moving back ahead of Ogier, who was now fifth and Lappi passing Suninen who was now in seventh. Showing how hard it is to open the road, Elfyn was half a minute slower than the stage winner.

 

SS 11 – Vieira do Minho 2 (20,53 km) saw Ott hit back with a stage win, with Kris just one second slower, whilst Thierry continued to increase his gap over Ogier. Latvala was now almost fifteen seconds behind Ott and the Finn had a broken damper to deal with. Meeke was going well and staying well out of Thierry’s reach.

 

SS 12 – Cabeceiras de Basto 2 (22,22 km) would see disaster for Jari-Matti, as his broken suspension continued to cause him problems. He lost over 50 seconds and dropped out of the podium fight, into fifth. Gus Greensmith suffered a puncture, falling a further 30 seconds behind Suninen, but still in eighth overall.

 

The last stage of the day, SS 13 – Amarante 2 (37,60 km) was won by Thierry, with Kris just 1.8 seconds behind the Belgian. Ott’s lead was now just 4.3 after he lost almost a full thirteen seconds to his teammate. He’d suffered the same problem as Latvala with a broken damper, costing him time. There was a spin as well at roughly half distance, a result of the handling imbalance.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:47:23.1
  2. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4.3
  3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +9.2
  4. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +21.0
  5. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:37.5
  6. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:02.7
  7. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 6:10.4
  8. Rovanperä / Haltunen (Skoda Fabia R5) + 8:33.8

The driver’s thoughts then after Saturday.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It’s been a really tough day. Already early in the first stage we lost the brakes. We had to work quite hard on the road sections but we managed to make the car OK for the long stage and then the team could fix it completely in service. The afternoon loop was definitely the most challenging of the rally. It was really rough with lots of rocks everywhere, so it was very demanding for the cars. Unfortunately, we got an issue on the last stage, and we were lucky to continue. But we are still in the lead and it’s all to play for tomorrow. We know the car has the speed and performance to win. Sunday drives can sometimes be quite boring but this time we will need to push, and I’m looking forward to the fight.”

Kris Meeke (2nd)

“It’s been a good day for me, probably my best yet in this car. I’ve really enjoyed driving the car and I

was able to find a good rhythm this morning, much better than yesterday. I’ve struggled on the second passes up to now, but I could have good pace this afternoon which I’m happy about. We had to push hard to defend our position, and I gave it everything. I feel sorry for Jari-Matti as he was doing a really strong rally. But it’s been a tough rally, especially for the cars: With it being so hot and dry, the roads were really broken on the second pass – the worst conditions I’ve seen them in. Now it’s important that Ott and myself try to bring home a Toyota one-two. We’ll need to do our maximum tomorrow.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (Retired/Rally2)

“I had a really good morning. I went for two hard tyres and they were working really well, and I was able to push hard. I was really happy with the speed. The car was feeling really good and I was in a good rhythm and enjoying it. Then in the first stage in the afternoon, I had a strange feeling at the front and knew that something wasn’t right. We tried to make a fix in order to continue but the road was so rough and it finally broke. It’s frustrating because I thought we had the chance to get back on the podium. At least the speed is there: That keeps me motivated, and I know we will keep fighting. Tomorrow we will try to take some points from this rally.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“It has been a strong day for us and I’m pleased to reaffirm our potential here this weekend. It’s been a first-class team effort. We made a strategic call to take six soft tyres for the morning loop, which was perhaps a mistake because of the extra weight. It wasn’t too bad and we were able to keep Ogier behind us. We had five tyres in the afternoon and looked to build a gap, which we did, as well as move closer to the podium. It wasn’t easy on the second pass with some rocks on the line and a far from trouble-free final stage. However, the speed has definitely been there with another two stage wins. We now have Meeke and Tanak in our sights; it promises to be an exciting battle for the win on Sunday.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07 Rally de Portugal
30 may – 02 June 2019
Portrait, Day 2, Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (24th)

“There’s not much to say after the disappointment from Friday but we never give up, particularly when our main job is to support the team’s championship ambitions. We weren’t able to match the times set by the frontrunners today; they were just out of reach. We have done our best and also used the opportunity to prepare a bit for Sardinia. We had a good feeling for much of the day and our job now is to complete the rally smoothly, to soak up the atmosphere from the amazing fans and to enjoy these wonderful stages.”

Seb Loeb (27th)

“It’s never as much fun when you are not fighting for the leading positions, but we acknowledge we have a team role to play and we’ve done that today. My situation doesn’t change much in the circumstances because our chances for a strong finish were over on the opening day. We have simply been concentrated on each stage as it comes. We didn’t drive anywhere near the limit, playing it safely so we can bring home some important points for the team.”

 

Citroën Total WRT driver

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“I’m pleased with my fourth place this evening. The morning went better than the afternoon. We made a call on the tyres and changed the set-up, and perhaps that wasn’t the best decision for the second loop. I am still learning the C3 WRC. It is still a positive result so far, because I feared the worst given the very loose conditions we saw in recce.”

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“It was a very good day for us. I really enjoyed driving the C3 WRC! We have done some good work with the team and the car suits my driving style much better now. In fact, you can see this in the times we set, despite our position in the running order. The aim is now to keep up the momentum tomorrow.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (6th)

“It was a difficult day running early on the road. The driving was on an okay level, but we still lost some time to the other drivers so it wasn’t as good as yesterday!”

Elfyn Evans (7th)

“Being first on the road for the majority of the day made it pretty difficult for us. Obviously, there was quite a lot of cleaning today so it was just a case of making it through without any problems. Tomorrow we just need to do more of the same and if the feeling is good, we can have a look at some points in the Power Stage.”

Gus Greensmith (15th)

“We wanted to be closer to the pace today, and that’s what we did – trading times with Elfyn and Teemu on only my second day in a world rally car. I felt as though we were getting better with every kilometre, so it was a shame about that last stage. I just missed my braking, slid wide and hit a tree with the rear. It was a silly mistake, but I can’t be too upset because at the end of the day I was still driving a world rally car – and that’s awesome!”

 

Sunday

Just a few stages then to decide the winner! The startlist looked like this – Greensmith, Latvala, Sordo, Loeb, Evans, Suninen, Lappi, Ogier, Neuville, Meeke, Tänak.

 

First stage then, SS 16 – Montim 1 (8,76 km) and Kris won the stage, beating leader Ott and reducing the gap to him as well. There was some swapping going on as well, with the two Hyundai drivers (Loeb and Sordo) not starting at their allotted times and going in just before Neuville. Interesting tactics. Meanwhile Lappi spun, and had a low speed roll at a hairpin. The Finn lost half a minute.

 

Now it was time for the first run through the spectacular SS 17 – Fafe 1 (11,18 km), with its jump! Ott hit back with the fastest time from Kris, but there was more drama further back, as Esapekka slid wide, hitting a bank. His car was looking a bit second hand, with damage to his aero after the roll and now suspension after this stage. Sadly, he retired from the event, as the damage was too much to fix.

 

Ott then also won SS 18 – Luilhas (11,89 km) and increased his lead over Meeke who certainly wasn’t giving up on victory. Thierry now had a very good gap to Ogier as well, adding another ten seconds just in this stage. Elfyn had now made it up to sixth overall as well, after a well-judged drive through the field.

 

Stage SS 19 – Montim 2 (8,76 km) and it was nearly disaster for Kris Meeke, who spun at the same hairpin as Lappi earlier! He lost 17 seconds and second place to Thierry who won the stage.

 

The last stage then, SS 20 – Fafe 2 Power Stage (11,18 km) and the drama wasn’t over. First up, Loeb who ran wide, damaging his suspension and he limped to the end of the stage. Then Gus crashed after landing from the jump. His suspension was broken before he took off, meaning he was always going to lose control when he landed. Finally, Kris cut a corner too much and broke his steering, the result that he slid off the road and was out! The top five in the stage were Ogier, Neuville, Tanak, Suninen and Sordo. With Ogier taking third place, he would now lead the championship as well. Not what he wanted at all.

 

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3h20’22’’8
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +15’’9
  3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +57’’1
  4. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2’41’’5
  5. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 7’08’’3
  6. Rovanperä / Haltunen (Skoda Fabia R5) + 10’34’’2
  7. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 11’28’’2
  8. Kopecky / Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) + 11’41’’9

 

Let’s hear then from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It feels great to stand on the top step of the podium today. It’s been a long and very tough weekend, definitely the hardest win I’ve ever had. From Friday, our performance was really strong, especially considering our road position. On Saturday we had to fight really hard, but today everything was working well and the speed was there. In the first stage I was a bit careful, as there was a lot of tricky dust and it was difficult to see anything, but after this we could safely push a bit more and build a bigger gap. The championship is looking really tight but I think we are in a good position going to Sardinia.”

Ott Tänak leaps for joy in celebration! Photo credit, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (7th)

“It was good to restart this morning, and our target was to get back into the top 10 and score some points. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go for a fast time on the Power Stage: My run was red-flagged because another car blocked the stage in front of us. But in the end, we were able to get back up into seventh position overall and take some important points, especially for the team. Personally, I can’t be satisfied with the result, as we were going very strongly yesterday. But the speed is there, that is very important, and we know that the car is fast. I’m looking forward and believe we can have some very positive rallies coming up.”

Kris Meeke (Retired)

“Today started well. We were able to increase the gap to behind us, and then we were just trying to hold it. Unfortunately, we had a spin on the penultimate stage and it cost us some time trying get going again. Going into the Power Stage, I didn’t have so much to fight for, the bonus points were not such a big concern for me. But in a right-hand corner there was a tree stump in the grass on the inside, I didn’t have it in my notes and I caught it with the steering wheel open. It was completely my mistake. I’m gutted for the team because we’d had such a strong rally. Now we have to move on and take the positives from this weekend: It’s been my strongest yet in this car and we have to look forward.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“After the big crash we had in Chile, it was important to come back fighting. It’s not been an entirely smooth weekend but we have shown some strong pace including several stage wins. Overall, I think we can be pleased with second place. The time we lost on Friday’s opening stages is more or less the time we were missing at the end. We were lacking a bit of precision today to give it more of a push, but on the whole it’s a good result. The championship is nicely poised as we reach the halfway point. We know there is no room for error when things are this close, so we have to keep pushing together.”

Dani Sordo

“We have tried to put the disappointment and frustration from Friday behind us, and to enjoy these great Portuguese stages. It’s a special feeling when you are pushing hard and flying through Fafe with all the spectators. We have put in a full team effort this weekend so I think we all share in the podium result, even if it would have been nicer to be standing on the podium ourselves. We’ll have to try and rectify that in Sardinia!”

Seb Loeb

“I enjoyed driving this morning’s stages with some new discoveries for me. It wasn’t without incident but overall it was nice to get the experience. The routes were fast and narrow, and the feeling with the car was pretty good.  It was particularly nice to get the buzz from all the fans. We were able to set some competitive times, which shows what might have been possible this weekend. I am happy for the team to get a podium finish after what has been a tough event.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“I didn’t think we could score twenty points this weekend. Although we never had a chance of winning the rally with our position in the running order, we gave it absolutely everything, regardless of the situation. So, to that extent, this result is just rewards. In truth, I was hoping not to be first on the road in Sardinia, but every point counts at the end of the season. I’m pleased to see that we were competitive on the Power Stage, which was more or less the only stage of the weekend where we had the same grip conditions as our rivals. That means we have also progressed in terms of performance although it was difficult to show it, given the circumstances.”

Seb and Julien stayed in the championship lead. Photo credit Citroen Racing

Esapekka Lappi (Retired)

“After our roll, the car wasn’t too badly damaged, it was just missing the rear spoiler. I thought I had a good rhythm on the following stage but I was slightly too optimistic on a right hander over a crest and I hit a bank, which caused a puncture and then damaged the suspension. There were too many kilometres left to cover with our makeshift repairs. I’m really very sorry for the whole team, who deserved better.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (4th)

“I can be quite happy with this result. It’s a shame that we had a problem on Friday afternoon because that meant we didn’t have a good road position for the rest of the weekend. But our pace was really good on Friday morning, and we took some points in the Power Stage today which was also really good.”

Elfyn Evans (5th)

“We made a pretty good start to the weekend. It wasn’t perfect, but the pace was there. Obviously, it was a shame to lose as much time as we did with the issue on Friday, but these things happen. There wasn’t much more we could do after that, and in all fairness fifth place is a lot more than we could have hoped for on Friday evening.

Elfyn and Scott didn’t let their troubles on Friday get to them and drove a good event. Photo credit M-Sport WRT

Gus Greensmith (Retired)

“It’s been a really good weekend for us. For some reason everything just seemed to click quite nicely and, to be honest, the speed came pretty quickly. We were battling with Elfyn and Teemu throughout most of the weekend – and that wasn’t something I was expecting from my first time in a world rally car!

“It was a different challenge opening the road today, but generally a really good experience. It was just a shame that we had the issue over the jump. To have our rally come to an end just 200 metres from the finish was a bit gutting, but overall it’s been a more than positive weekend.”

 

Summary

Well, another victory for Ott and Toyota! The combination is proving pretty amazing and consistent! Once he took the lead, he was never headed. Both his teammates went very well, and it was a shame that it ended with Kris retiring. Jari-Matti was right there, and set for a well-deserved podium before the suspension problem.

Thierry came back and got his head down to the task at hand. It was a good battle between him and Seb Ogier, before the Belgian moved clear, the result being very good with second place and keeping him in touch with his two rivals. Dani Sordo also drove incredibly well, running at the front until car troubles hit. Hyundai will be happy that they continue to lead the manufacturers standings.

Seb Ogier drove his C3 to a very good podium, given that the team are working to make it better. Being in the top five by the end of Friday was key to the result, and he did have some good fortune with the two Toyota’s hitting trouble to get him up onto his sixth podium of the year.

In the M-Sport camp, Elfyn and Teemu drove really well, and could have had a double podium result, with both of them. Sadly, their challenge was held back with car troubles. Brakes on Teemu’s car and electrics on Elfyn’s. Still the Welshman got up into fifth place and was rewarded with moving ahead of Kris Meeke into fourth in the drivers’ standings. Teemu didn’t lose so much time, and kept the car on the road well, given the problems. Finally, Gus drove a great event, his first in a WRC car, setting some good times, only to be derailed on the final stage, not far from the finish. It won’t be long before we see him in a top car again.

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Sébastien Ogier – 142 points
  2. Ott Tänak – 140 points
  3. Thierry Neuville – 132 points
  4. Elfyn Evans – 65 points
  5. Kris Meeke – 56 points
  6. Teemu Suninen – 44 points
  7. Sébastien Loeb – 39 points
  8. Jari-Matti Latvala – 38 points
  9. Andreas Mikkelsen – 36 points
  10. Esapekka Lappi – 34 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 202 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 182 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 158 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 122 points

We don’t have long now to wait for the next round with the next round, Rally Italia Sardegna on the weekend of the 13th to 16th of June. It will be the final round before the summer break for the championship.

Rally de Portugal Preview 2019 – Back to European Gravel.

The championship arrives in Portugal with the top three, Seb Ogier (122), Ott Tanak (112) and Thierry Neuville (110) separated by just twelve points. Once again, road position will be key and this will mean that those further down in the championship will hope to take advantage of their position in the startlist.

Last season, Thierry and Nicolas took victory from Elfyn and then co-driver Dan, with Teemu and Mikko taking third. The Belgian duo will want to get back on the podium after their crash last time out, but Elfyn and new co-driver Scott will want to take one step higher on the podium with victory. In fact, any of the top five in the championship could win, even Ogier, although even that will be tricky for him and will depend on his road position going into Saturday’s stages.

Last years top three celebrate! Photo credit M-Sport
Last years top three celebrate! Photo credit M-Sport

There will also be interest in Gus Greensmith and Elliot Edmundson who will be making their debut in a full-blooded WRC Fiesta this weekend. When I spoke to him at this years Autosport International in January, he talked about how he’d bring his skills in looking after the tyres to this event.

Now, here are the details about the twenty stages that lie in wait for the finest rally drivers in the world. Covering 306km’s of competitive stages over the three days. Friday sees a different set of stages not used since 2001, with 94km in total, with no lunchtime service, and just a tyre fitting zone. Saturday sees a huge challenge with 160km’s and not much change from last year, while Sunday will see the double run of Fafe!

 

THURSDAY 30 MAY

8.00am: Shakedown Paredes (4,60 km)

7.00pm: Ceremonial start (Coimbra)

7.10pm: Parc ferme

 

FRIDAY 31 MAY

8.30am: Start (Coimbra)

8.35am: Tyre fitting zone (Coimbra – 15 mins)

9.48am: SS 1 – Lousa 1 (12,35 km)

10.32am: SS 2 – Gois 1 (18,78 km)

11.20am: SS 3 – Arganil 1 (14,44 km)

12.33pm: Tyre fitting zone (Arganil – 15mins)

1.51pm: SS 4 – Lousa 2 (12,35 km) 

2.35pm: SS 5 – Gois 2 (18,78 km)

3.23pm: SS 6 – Arganil 2 (14,44 km)

7.03pm: SS 7 – Lousada (3,36 km)

8.10pm: Flexi service A (Exponor – 49 mins)

 

SATURDAY 1ST JUNE

6.45am: Start & service B (Exponor – 19 mins)

8.38am: SS 8 – Vieira do Minho 1 (20,53 km)

9.31am: SS 9 – Cabeceiras de Basto 1 (22,22 km)

10.47am: SS 10 – Amarante 1 (37,60 km)

12.50pm: Service C (Exponor – 44 mins)

3.08pm: SS 11 – Vieira do Minho 2 (20,53 km)

4.01pm: SS 12 – Cabeceiras de Basto 2 (22,22 km)

5.17pm: SS 13 – Amarante 2 (37,60 km)

7.15pm: Flexi service D (Exponor – 49 mins)

 

SUNDAY 2 JUNE

6.50am: Service E (Exponor – 19 mins)

8.25am: SS 16 – Montim 1 (8,76 km)

9.08am: SS 17 – Fafe 1 (11,18 km)

9.48am: SS 18 – Luilhas (11,89 km)

10.35am: SS 19 – Montim 2 (8,76 km)

12.18pm: SS 20 – Fafe 2 Power Stage (11,18 km)

1.50pm: Service F (Exponor – 14 mins)

2.20pm: Finish (Matosinhos)

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“We had a good day of testing and now we need to take that into competitive conditions. In any case, Portugal is a rally that I have always liked. I’ve done well here in the past, so it’s really enjoyable to come back, even though I’m well aware that leading the championship again isn’t going to make life easier for us this year. If we are to have a chance of scoring heavily here, we’ll need to manage running first on the road as best we can on Friday’s new and fairly short opening leg, to end the day as high up the standings as possible. On gravel, it’s crucial in order for the rest of weekend to go well.”

Can Sébastien Ogier continue his run of podiums? Photo credit Citroen.

Esapekka Lappi

“Although the first leg is new, the rest of the rally is contested on roads that I like and know, where we can push. It’s also one of the rallies where I have more experience. Last year, we were pretty quick on both Saturday and Sunday. I hope that the weather will stay dry, so I can make the most of my seventh position in the running order. That way, we can build on the good feeling we had at the end of Rally Chile and gradually keep upping the pace.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak

“These next two events are rallies that I enjoy, and they both have some special meaning to me: Portugal was the first WRC round I ever competed in, and Sardinia is the place where I took my first podium and my first victory. They are quite fast rallies in places but they can also be very tough, as we experienced last year. But the team has been working really hard and I believe we are well-prepared. To win in Chile was really important: it has definitely put us back into the fight. Now we need to keep focused and try to take some good points from these next two rallies.”

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Portugal always reminds me in some ways of Argentina with the sandy roads, although it isn’t quite as rough. But this year on the Friday we’ll go to Arganil, which is a famous area from Rally Portugal in the 1980s and ’90s, and where the road is a bit more like bedrock and harder for the tyres. In Sardinia, the main differences are that the roads always have a hard base, they’re narrower and there are lots of big rocks at the sides that you need to avoid. I came away from my test last weekend really happy: I feel we’ve improved the car in rough conditions, so I’m looking forward to these rallies confident that we’ve got a strong and fast car. I hope we can be back on the podium.”

Jari-Matti and Miikka Antilla have won this event before in 2015. Photo credit, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kris Meeke

“I’m looking forward to Portugal. It’s a rally I know well and where I’ve always been quite strong – I won it in 2016 and I’ve led there in the two years since. As for Sardinia, I haven’t driven much there over recent seasons, although I still know the island fairly well from the past. The last few events have been frustrating for us. We have had the speed to be on the podium, so now we really need to focus on translating that into a strong result. I had a good test on Monday – we’re always trying to find some ways to improve the car – and I hope that we’re in good shape for the next couple of events.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“We have had some very strong results at Rally de Portugal in recent seasons. It’s a very demanding rally, with heavily rutted stages on the second pass. The conditions make it difficult, especially at the high speeds we reach, which make the car behaviour unpredictable at times. It’s part of the nature of this rally, and one that makes it an enjoyable challenge. We lost ground in the drivers’ championship after Chile, but Nicolas and I are fighting fit and ready to support the team to our full capability in the manufacturers’ title battle.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Rally de Portugal
18-21 May 2017
Thierry Neuville – Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: RaceEMotion
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo

“Rally de Portugal is a nice event, particularly for us with lots of fans travelling from Spain to support us. There is always a fantastic atmosphere, which makes it a pleasure to drive there. We have had a break since our last event in Argentina, so we are well prepared for this rally. My target is to fight for the victory and to bring home as many points for the manufacturers’ championship as possible.”

Seb Loeb

“Participating in this rally is an unexpected bonus, but I am looking forward to it greatly. I found a really nice feeling with the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in Chile, which allowed us to finish on the podium. Portugal will offer different challenges and new stages. If we can get quickly back into the same rhythm, I am hopeful we can feature strongly.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans

“Rally de Portugal is one of the classics. Most of the drivers have a lot of experience here, and everyone will be pushing for the top results – ourselves included. The Portuguese fans have a real passion for their motorsport, and everyone wants to do well in front of this crowd.

Elfyn and then co-Driver Dan scored a well deserved podium in Rally de Portugal last year. Photo credit M-Sport

“We’ve always had pretty good speed here, and the whole team have been working hard to ensure that continues. We completed a day and a half of testing last week, and everything feels good. The competition is so close at the moment, but if it all comes together, I see no reason why we can’t challenge for another strong result.”

Teemu Suninen

“I have done this rally four times before, which means that only Rally Finland is more familiar to me!  Having secured my first podium here last year, I hope that we can be in the fight for another strong result – and I feel quite optimistic that things could go well for us next week.

“Friday will be the toughest day with a lot of new stages that have a hard base, and will be more aggressive on the tyres. If there is a lot of cleaning, we will need the confidence to make the most of our advantage – because the fight is always very tight at the moment.”

Gus Greensmith

“I’ve spent the last ten years of my life preparing for this moment, and I can tell you that I feel ready to climb this mountain! But it’s not just about me – so many people have worked hard to get me to this point and it’s been a real collective effort. I’ll take the time to thank each and every one of them, but for now there is only one job I need to focus on.

“I don’t have any expectations other than to enjoy myself. I’m one of the very few to have been given an opportunity to drive one of these cars – so whatever happens, I will drive with a smile on my face, and hopefully we can make next weekend something positive for everyone involved.

Gus Greensmith at the wheel of an R5 Fiesta! FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 -WRC PORTUGAL (POR) – WRC 16/05/2018 to 20/05/2018 – PHOTO : @World

“It’s also quite special for me to be making my debut in Portugal. I really love this country and the area around Porto – it really does feel like home when I walk out of the airport. Of course, the stages are amazing to drive, but it’s the country and the Portuguese way of life that makes me feel so at ease.”

 

In addition to the front runners, there will also be a Fiesta R5 pedalled by young Polish crew of Łukasz Pieniążek and Jakub Gerber, competing in the WRC2 Pro category.

Łukasz Pieniążek is joined by Jakub Gerber in an R5 Fiesta. Photo credit, M-Sport

Łukasz Pieniążek

“Rally de Portugal is one of my favourite events, and last year I secured my career-best result there with second place in WRC 2. I can’t wait to get back in action and do the best I can. This will be my fourth start in Portugal and experience plays a big role in this sport – so I hope that will help me keep a good pace.

“Friday’s stages will be completely new and a big unknown for everyone which will require very good preparation during the recce. Saturday is a very long day and another tough challenge which demands clean driving and a good strategy.

“Portugal will also mark the start of another chapter for me as I’ll be joined by Jakub Gerber as my co‑driver. We worked together in 2015 – with good results both in the Polish Championship and the European Rally Championship – so I’d like to welcome him back to the team.”

Summary

Well, we are set for another round- Who will emerge on top by Sunday afternoon? We could see another change in the championship order as well! Enjoy!

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

Reporting by David Harrigan

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

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

Craig Breen and Paul Nagle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Rally of Chile 2019 Review – Ott Tanak takes the first win in Chile!

Here’s the story of how the first ever round of the WRC in Chile panned out.

Friday’s action would be the longest day. The start list looked like this- Neuville, Ogier, Tänak, Meeke, Evans, Mikkelsen, Latvala, Lappi, Loeb, Suninen.

 

First on the road would be a challenge for Thierry and Nicolas, but they were ready for it. First up, was SS 1 – El Pinar 1 (17,11 km). First stage was very foggy, and we saw that Kris and Jari-Matti shared the first stage win. Elfyn Evans was right there as well, showing that there are certain drivers that excel in such conditions! Esapekka Lappi went wide after the water splash and lost time having to reverse his car, so he could continue. Championship leader Thierry had a good stage, only losing 3.6 seconds to the fastest time, despite opening the road.

 

The second stage, SS 2 – El Puma 1 (30,72 km) was interrupted for safety reasons when Thierry was driving through. Once sorted, Ott Tanak powered through fastest, taking the lead as well. Ogier also moved up the leaderboard into second place. Our previous top three were now in third (Kris), fourth (Latvala) and fifth (Elfyn). Further back, Loeb was also on the move, passing Andreas for sixth.

 

More fog in SS 3 – Espigado 1 (22,26 km), the final stage of the morning loop saw Thierry take an impressive stage win, from Jari-Matti and Ott. The Estonian’s lead over Ogier increased as well to six seconds between them. Thierry’s great pace, plus the nominal time given to him after stage two, meant he was now in third place overall. Latvala also passed Meeke- the Finn was finding some good form.

 

After service, SS 4 – El Puma 2 (30,72 km) was once again won by Ott, who was now really in the groove. Loeb was his closest challenger, but was still nearly ten seconds slower! Thierry suffered in this one, seventeen seconds slower and fell behind Jari-Matti who moved into third overall.

 

SS 5 – Espigado 2 (22,26 km) saw some leaderboard changes, just not at the top, as Ott continued to dominate with another stage victory and increased his lead over Ogier by almost six seconds. Loeb on the other hand was finding some pace out there going second fastest and passing Elfyn for fifth place. Meanwhile, Teemu with co-driver Marko was making his moves as well, passing Andreas into eighth place.

 

Final stage of the day then, SS 6 – Concepcion – Bicentenario (2,20 km) and Loeb was fastest from Thierry and Kris. The only change in the leaderboard was Andreas getting back eighth place. Ott held a 22 second lead over Ogier.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:24:12.8
  2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +22.4
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +28.8
  4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +29.5
  5. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 46.5
  6. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +48.7
  7. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:01.4
  8. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:08.1
  9. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:09.1
  10. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:18.3

 

Here’s the drivers views after the day’s action.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It was very challenging this morning driving these stages for the first time, but we had a really good afternoon. The engineers did a good job over lunchtime: they managed to fine-tune the setup a bit and I got a good feeling back and I had the confidence again that I need. Everything on the car is just working. The roads here are demanding, but they’re really nice when you get to know them a bit. This afternoon my pace-notes were a lot better than in the morning and I could start to enjoy it. Tomorrow the roads look to be faster, and usually that’s quite good for our car.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 06 / Rally Chile / 9th-12th May, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd)

“I’ve really enjoyed the first day of Rally Chile. The morning started well, and then the second stage was really difficult: the wide roads were a bit like in Finland, but the grip was nothing like as good. In SS3 we got back into the rhythm, the feeling was good, and it was going really well this afternoon. I did have a spin towards the end of SS5, and I was very annoyed with myself for that. Tomorrow’s stages are more flowing and wider. I’m looking forward to them, and I’ll try and keep up the speed that we had this afternoon”

Kris Meeke (5th)

“We started well this morning with the fastest time on the first stage, but I struggled on the next two to get a rhythm and some confidence. Today’s stages were recced in the fog and maybe I just struggled a bit more than others with that – I just couldn’t trust the road. It was getting better and better in the afternoon though and I felt a bit more confident. I was still missing a bit of commitment, but we’ll continue to push. With the team in first, third and fifth we can see that the car is performing well here. Hopefully I can find a bit more of a rhythm in the morning.”

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“It was a tricky first leg, so I’m pleased to have completed it without making any significant mistakes and having given it everything I have. It was difficult to match Ott’s pace this afternoon, but we’ll be back fighting tomorrow. The stages will be quicker, so I hope that will suit us a bit more. In any case, I’m pleased with the improvements made to my C3 WRC in the short timeframe available after Argentina.”

Esapekka Lappi (10th)

“Obviously, I was hoping for more from today’s opening leg, but it was a really complicated day for many of us. My pace and my confidence in the car were better in the afternoon, though.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“It has been a tough and demanding first day here in Chile, as we discover brand new stages. The morning loop went quite well overall. Our pace notes were made when we had foggy conditions so it was difficult at times. It was fast with crests and blind corners. You have to push here because otherwise you lose a lot of time. Unfortunately, there was a lot of cleaning this afternoon. I really tried but I had a lot of wheel spin.”

Seb Loeb (6th)

“The stages here in Chile have been interesting, very technical and far from easy. They have been incredibly fast in some sections, and particularly the Espigado stage. It has been important to find a good rhythm, but the demands of the routes have made that a challenge. I was able to push harder this afternoon, as the conditions were more favourable. I felt more comfortable and had a good feeling with the car.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (8th)

“It has been a tricky day. The opening stage started well and we were on the pace. In SS2, we hit a big rock in the middle of the road. After that, I really struggled with the confidence. We made some changes at lunchtime service to address the lack of stability. Initially, in the afternoon, I felt that we were heading in the right direction but in SS5, I lost the rear of the car and almost rolled. We need a fresh start tomorrow.”

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (7th)

“We had a pretty good run through most of the stages, but it just didn’t quite click with the rhythm on the second one this afternoon [SS5]. We recced that stage in the fog so we were expecting to lose a bit, but it was obviously really disappointing to give away as much as we did. The stages are a bit wider and a bit more flowing tomorrow. We’re not going to have the best road position, but we’ll give it our all and see what we can do.”

Teemu Suninen (9th)

“It’s good to get all the kilometres and get the experience for the future, but I didn’t come here to fight for eighth place and it would have been nice to have had a bit more pace. We just need to do a good job tomorrow, try to improve, and try to be faster than those around us with a similar road position.”

Saturday

Onto day two then and with six stages totalling 121km, what would we see happen? The start list looked like this – Lappi, Mikkelsen, Suninen, Evans, Loeb, Meeke, Neuville, Latvala, Ogier, Tänak.

 

First stage then, SS 7 – Rio Lia 1 (20,90 km) and with a reasonable start position Thierry set the pace quite high, passing Latvala and moving into third overall. Kris Meeke rolled his car, but not so badly that he was out, with the worst of the damage being to the windscreen and he completed the stage but fell out of the top eleven. At the front, Ott once more increased his lead over Ogier, the gap now almost 28 seconds. The closest battle in the top ten was between Loeb and Evans, who lay in fifth and sixth places, with just a little under nine seconds separating them.

 

Next up, SS 8 – Maria Las Cruces 1 (23,09 km) and Kris removed his windscreen from his car in the control zone as it was starting to come away from the shell. There would be consequences for this at the end of the rally. Most of the top ten made it through fine, but Thierry rolled his car after hitting a bank, the car rolling around seven times before it came to rest on its side. It was a violent crash and the stage was red flagged at that point. Thierry and Nicolas escaped with bruises and scratches and both were taken to hospital to be checked over. Loeb won the stage from Latvala and Tanak, with Kris going well despite no windscreen!

Into SS 9 – Pelun 1 (16,59 km) then, and Ott just pipped Loeb for the stage win, just two tenths of a second between them! Top three overall was now Ott, Ogier and Latvala. Evans was now seeing the gap between him and Loeb grow. Kris was looking forward to service and getting a new windscreen as well as his car getting some good repairs.

 

SS 10 – Rio Lia 2 (20,90 km) after service saw Ogier close the gap to Ott, taking four and a half seconds out of the Estonians lead, but not enough to make him worry. Loeb was now closing on Latvala for third place though, with just eight seconds between them.

 

SS 11 – Maria Las Cruces 2 (23,09 km) saw some fog in places, but it didn’t hinder Ott who took yet another stage victory. Loeb took more time from Latvala as well, just three seconds now between them.

 

Last stage of the day then, SS 12 – Pelun 2 (16,59 km) saw yet more fog and as a result, Elfyn was second fastest in the stage. We also saw the demise of Latvala who had hit a rock in the stage, damaging the car. He would go no further. The fog was almost like heavy rain. Everyone moved up one place as a result.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:41:05.5
  2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +30.3
  3. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +35.4
  4. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:06.3
  5. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:03.0
  6. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +3:13.3
  7. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:43.4
  8. Rovanperä / Halttunen (Skoda Fabia R5) +6:33.2
  9. Østberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +7:09.3
  10. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 7:21.9

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It’s been a tough day and in these kinds of changing conditions it’s very difficult to control anything. We saw today that anything can happen. I tried to be in a good rhythm but the last stage was particularly tricky, with the rain, fog and hard tyres on. But we managed to make it through with no issues, and we have a good gap to the others going into tomorrow. We just need to focus on managing the first three stages well, and hopefully we could get a couple of points on the Power Stage too to help our championship situation.”

Kris Meeke (10th)

“Not far into the first stage this morning there was a junction right and then immediately a long slow left. My notes weren’t correct and I ran wide and touched the bank. It was a slow-speed incident but we finished on our roof, so we lost a lot of time getting back on four wheels. The car was driving fine but we had to remove the windscreen, so at speed it was difficult to hear the pace-notes and difficult to breathe too. Given that, the times weren’t so bad. The afternoon was OK; we’re just trying to score some points now for the team.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (13th)

“It was an eventful morning: in the first stage we had to drive behind Kris for a bit after his incident, but we were given the time back so it wasn’t a problem. Then in the third stage of the loop my tyres were already very worn, but we were still right in the fight for second place. In the afternoon, the stages didn’t seem to be suiting my setup so well: I didn’t have the same good feeling I had yesterday. On the final stage, I hit a rock in a ditch and damaged the front-left, and the driveshaft was broken so we couldn’t continue. It’s really disappointing after a strong weekend up to this point, but we won’t give up.”

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“I hoped for more this morning, but the second loop went better. This was mainly due to the substantial changes made during the mid-leg service, although the grip was also naturally better too. We were a bit unlucky on the final stage with the fog and rain, which cost us about ten seconds. Tomorrow’s stages look like being difficult as well, with the narrowest test of the weekend and lots of loose gravel on the Power Stage.”

Esapekka Lappi (6th)

“I’m pleased that my confidence behind the wheel improved as we completed more kilometres, and with the adjustments made to the set-up of my C3 WRC. The afternoon loop went better than the morning, and I’m beginning to enjoy it a bit more. I hope we can keep it up tomorrow, without taking any unnecessary risks. Keep it clean and tidy, and remain consistent.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Seb Loeb (3rd)

“We have had a very good day, I would say. The last stage was tricky because there was a lot of fog at the beginning. I had to stay concentrated. We have had a great feeling from the i20 Coupe WRC on the stages today, which has allowed us to get a good rhythm and to find the pace that we need to fight near the front. I feel that I’m starting to understand how to drive the car and to find the confidence to get the times we need. Our goal remains to get as many points as possible for the team.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Chile
9-12 May 2019
Sebastien Loeb
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen (7th)

“We started the morning loop just taking it very carefully as we were discovering the new routes and didn’t want to take any risks. We tried to maintain our concentration and stay safe at the same time. It was better this afternoon; I had a good feeling with the car and we stepped up the pace a little bit. I had good fun driving the car in the second pass.”

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (4th)

“It’s not been a bad day by all means and it’s good to be in fourth place at the end of the day. We’ve been pushing pretty hard, but there are still some areas where we’re struggling to find the ultimate confidence in the car; in the high-speed sections I just don’t have the stability that I’m used to. The stages are tighter and more twisty tomorrow, but the gaps are pretty big now and I don’t think we’ll have an opportunity to do anything on pace alone. But we’ll keep pushing and see what happens.”

Teemu Suninen (5th)

“It was a more enjoyable day today – we had better pace and were able to set some good times. We’re now in fifth place, but Esapekka [Lappi] will be keeping the pressure on tomorrow. I just need to focus on myself and my driving and do the best job I can.”

Sunday

With four stages remaining and a total of nearly sixty kilometres, what else would happen? Our start list looked like this – Latvala, Bertelli, Meeke, Mikkelsen, Lappi, Suninen, Evans, Loeb, Ogier, Tänak.

 

SS 13 – Bio Bio 1 (12,52 km) was won by Kris, with his teammate Jari-Matti just four tenths slower. The battle was now on for second place between Loeb and Ogier! The nine-time champion wanted second place from Ogier and after that stage, the gap was just one second!

 

SS 14 – Lircay (18,06 km) saw Ogier hit back, giving himself some breathing space over Loeb with the gap now increased to five seconds. Ott’s lead was now 24 seconds over the two Frenchman. Kris was making his way backup though, moving into ninth place.

 

SS 15 – San Nicolàs (15,28 km) saw Loeb win from Ogier as their battle continued, but the gap remained quite large after Ogier was only seven tenths slower.

 

The final stage then, SS 16 – Bio Bio 2 Power Stage (12,52 km) and Ott took the stage victory from Ogier, Latvala, Loeb and Meeke. Teemu and Elfyn were a little over one second slower than Kris sixth and seventh fastest, just missing out on powerstage points.

 

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:15:53.8
  2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +23.1
  3. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +30.2
  4. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:36.7
  5. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:15.6
  6. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +3:45.4
  7. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +4:39.0
  8. Rovanperä / Halttunen (Skoda Fabia R5) + 7:52.5
  9. Østberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +8:16.1
  10. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 7:33.4

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It’s great to take this victory here on the first time in Chile. It was a very demanding event and it required a lot of focus to not make any mistakes. Today wasn’t easy: With the two Sebastien’s pushing hard behind, the gap was not so big. We had to keep going and we collected maximum points from the Power Stage. We have had some disappointing setbacks in the last couple of events and to fight back like this with a perfect weekend is very positive. It was really important, especially for the team, to keep the motivation high and keep pushing, and these kinds of results definitely do that. Now we are looking forward: We are back in the fight.”

Kris Meeke (10th)

“Today was nice. We had to catch a couple of cars in front of us to take eighth place. In the Power Stage I think the road cleaned a bit for the guys running at the back but we did what we could. It was a struggle from the recce and through day one, and I made a mistake at the start of day two. Still, we took some points for the team and it’s great to see Ott take the victory. I’m just desperate to have a clean rally now, as we have the speed to fight for the podium on every event.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (11th)

“After the mistake last evening, we needed to look forward and see what we can take from the final day and the Power Stage. I had a good feeling on the first run over the stage and we were second quickest. After that we relaxed over the next two stages and saved our tyres for the Power Stage, where we had a very good run. I think it was cleaning and drying out a little bit behind us and in that sense I’m really happy to be third quickest. It’s been a hard event but the most important thing is that the car is performing really well and I was able to be on the pace.”

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“This podium further confirms our very good start to the season. We have been very consistent and the points are good for the championship. It wasn’t an easy weekend, however, even though things moved in the right direction after Saturday’s mid-leg service. We got the best out of the C3 WRC once again. We now need to develop the car even more so that we can be more competitive in low-grip situations.”

Esapekka Lappi (6th)

“We had a difficult start, but we managed to make progress bit by bit. We also managed to improve the set-up of the C3 WRC with the team and our pace started to be pretty decent today. I really hope that we can keep going forward like this in our forthcoming tests. In any case, it ended up being a positive weekend in terms of my confidence.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Seb Loeb (3rd)

“Rally Chile has been a difficult but enjoyable and productive event from my point of view. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so comfortable inside a car that I can be in the game. The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC has given me that feeling and it shows we are heading in the right direction. There was no chance to catch Ogier in the Power Stage; I was happy to be battling with him but the gap was too big today. We’ve scored some important points for the team, and I am pleased to be able to support their defence of the championship title.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (7th)

“This rally has been a real disappointment after the high that we had in Argentina. I am sure we can pinpoint the error back to the recce. We took very aggressive pace notes, and following a few small moments, I was never truly able to trust the notes as much as we need to. In the end we were in a bit of no man’s land, so we took a cautious approach and focused on making improvements for the future. We look forward to the next rally.”

M-Sport

Elfyn Evans (4th)

“It’s been a difficult rally and there were some places where we struggled for sure. But overall, it hasn’t been too bad. We managed to stay out of trouble and had some pretty good pace on Saturday. But we just weren’t 100 percent confident and couldn’t find the last little pieces we needed to fight for the podium. With some big gaps ahead and behind it was all about bringing the car safely home today, and fourth place is definitely a good end to a difficult rally.”

Elfyn and Scott drove to a very good fourth overall. Photo credit, M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (5th)

“It has been a difficult rally, but we have improved a lot. I was struggling a bit with the rhythm in the beginning and didn’t have the confidence to push the limits. But it got better and better as the weekend went on and we were able to set some really good times today. I think fifth place is a good result at the end of a difficult weekend.”

 

Summary

Ott had won the rally and powerstage to take maximum points, with Ogier and Loeb in second and third. A talking point which emerged today (Monday) was the decision to give Kris Meeke and Seb Marshall a penalty of a minute for removing their windscreen in the control area at the start of stage eight on Saturday morning. They were told they should have done it on the road section. Now, I can understand if they broke a rule, then that’s fair enough, but to give a large penalty like that, when there was already a large timeloss because of the roll and also having to complete the two morning stages as well without a windscreen seems harsh to me. Plus, we had to wait till after the event to find out about this anyway, for something that happened at the start of day two.

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 06 / Rally Chile / 9th-12th May, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

 

Anyway, let’s talk about Thierry and Nicolas’ accident. It was a big one, and it goes to show the level that these drivers are pushing. It was good to see the spectators not getting caught up in it as well, showing that the organiser had really done a good job with the positioning of the places to spectate and the marshals making sure that people where they should be.

 

Now this championship is shaping up to be a big rivalry between Ogier, Tanak and Neuville. Six podiums for Seb Ogier sees him at the top of the championship, with Ott Tanak moving into second place now and Thierry Neuville in third.

The next round of the championship is on the weekend of the 30th of May to the 2nd of June in Portugal.

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Sébastien Ogier – 122 points
  2. Ott Tänak – 112 points
  3. Thierry Neuville – 110 points
  4. Kris Meeke – 56 points
  5. Elfyn Evans – 55 points
  6. Sébastien Loeb – 39 points
  7. Andreas Mikkelsen – 36 points
  8. Esapekka Lappi – 34 points
  9. Jari-Matti Latvala – 32 points
  10. Teemu Suninen – 30 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 178 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 149 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 143 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 100 points

Phil’s 2019 Tour de Corse Diary

‘6 notes per line, 3 lines per page, 2 pages per kilometre… 347km. That is about twelve and a half thousand pieces of information delivered, to split second accuracy, over the Tour de Course – at a conservative guess.

It’s a hell of a challenge for a co-driver.

It is also one of the most rewarding challenges. Tour de Corse is my favourite event on the WRC calendar not just because of the epic roads and incredible views, but also because there is a huge amount of satisfaction to be gained in completing it.

Phil Hall. Photo credit, M-Sport

Recce itself is requires huge attention to detail, not just from the driver – noting every bend and hazard – but also the sheer logistics of it; we stayed in three different hotels on each of the three recce days as the stages are so spread out across the island. Food stops, petrol opportunities, and long days all had to be taken into account weeks before the rally started.

Likewise, the ceremonial start was held at the opposite end of the island, and so hotels had to be booked for that, as well as coordination of our team to meet there.

This all adds to the adventure and flavour of undertaking the Tour de Corse, it’s not like any other rally.

And when we reach the competition itself, you have to be totally focused on delivering the notes exactly on time – there are so many corners, all coming so quickly, that you cannot think about anything other than the task at hand. I find it quite a nice place to be, in the car on those stages. Obviously, you have to be focused on every stage of every rally… but Corsica is another level.

We had a great rally, we finished 5th in JWRC which puts us 6th overall in the Championship. All the time we are learning and building, and the JWRC is such a great place to be. I’m really enjoying everything about this championship and can’t wait for Sardinia in June.’

Tom Williams and Phil Hall. Photo credit, M-Sport.

Rally Chile Preview 2019- The WRC ventures to new territories!

This is going to be interesting! The first ever WRC round in Chile. Totally new notes need to be written during the even more important reece days. This makes everything a much more level playing field, and we may see an upset as a result.

Almost certainly at the top will be Seb Ogier, Ott Tanak, Kris Meeke, Elfyn Evans and Thierry Neuville. Looking to impress on the stages will be Teemu Suninen and Esapekka Lappi. Making another appearance this season are nine-time champions Seb Loeb and Daniel Elena.

Looking to get a good run of results will be Andreas Mikkelsen who scored his first podium for over a year last time out in Argentina. Can he repeat this in Chile? Kris Meeke also scored his best result of the season so far and will hope that he can go one better and get his first podium, whilst Elfyn Evans will want to put the accident behind him and bring home another podium for M-Sport and himself.

A total of sixteen stages lie ahead of the crews and a total of 304,81km of competitive stages over the three days will offer a interesting challenge. I suspect the second run of the stages that are run twice will see much faster run times, as the crews learn more about each stage on their first runs.

Friday is the longest day as it features the longest stage of the whole event at just over 30km. The stages are run four hours behind GMT, therefore five hours behind current BST. There are six stages run each day on Friday and Saturday, with four on Sunday. Having seen some photos of the area, there seems to be a lot of similarity to stages in Wales. One thing is for sure, discovering what it’s really like is going to be part of the fun!

Full stage schedule

THURSDAY 9 MAY

10.00am: Shakedown (6,45 km)

 

FRIDAY 10 MAY

6.30am: Start day 1

8.00am: SS 1 – El Pinar 1 (17,11 km)

9.33am: SS 2 – El Puma 1 (30,72 km)

10/36am: SS 3 – Espigado 1 (22,26 km)

12.51pm: Service A (Talcahuano – 40 mins)

3.24pm: SS 4 – El Puma 2 (30,72 km)

4.27pm: SS 5 – Espigado 2 (22,26 km)

6.40pm: SS 6 – Concepcion – Bicentenario (2,20 km)

7.15pm: Flexi service B (Talcahuano – 45 mins)

 

SATURDAY 11 MAY

6.30am: Start & service C (Talcahuano – 15 mins)

8.08am: SS 7 – Rio Lia 1 (20,90 km)

9.08am: SS 8 – Maria Las Cruces 1 (23,09 km)

10.20am: SS 9 – Pelun 1 (16,59 km)

12.05pm: Service D (Talcahuano – 40 mins)

2.08pm: SS 10 – Rio Lia 2 (20,90 km)

3.08pm: SS 11 – Maria Las Cruces 2 (23,09 km)

4.20pm: SS 12 – Pelun 2 (16,59 km)

5.45pm: Flexi service E (Talcahuano – 45 mins)

 

SUNDAY 12 MAY

7.00am: Start & service F (Talcahuano – 15 mins)

8.08am: SS 13 – Bio Bio 1 (12,52 km)

9.30am: SS 14 – Lircay (18,06 km)

10.20am: SS 15 – San Nicolàs (15,28 km)

12.18pm: SS 16 – Bio Bio 2 Power Stage (12,52 km)

1.15pm: Finish (Talcahuano)

Let’s hear from the crews.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“For everyone, Rally Chile will be a step into the unknown. It’s hard to set too many expectations when it promises to be a rally of surprise. We are only going to discover the stages for the first time during the recce but it will be a nice challenge, and it’s good to have a new event on the calendar. We are still in a positive frame of mind following our two recent victories, and an important period of progress for the team. Leading the championship means we will be first on the road; a lot of work awaits us but I am looking forward to it.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Argentina
25-28 April 2019
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“I was so pleased with our performance and our result in Argentina, I am ready for more of the same in Chile! It will be a fresh challenge for everyone but from what I have seen in videos it looks like we are in for some beautiful stages. We know what we can achieve with the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, as we showed at the last rally, so our target is to repeat that level of performance and build some momentum.”

Seb Loeb

“The fact that it’s a gravel event is one of the only things I really know about Rally Chile. Like the rest of the WRC community, I am looking forward to finding out more. Chile is not a country I have been too often, in fact only once to watch the Dakar. From what I have seen, the roads appear to be quite flowing, in the forest and on smooth gravel. There’s no question that it will be an interesting experience and a nice event to have on the calendar, but we’ll have to wait until we are out there to learn all about it.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“From what I can tell by watching the videos available, the roads do seem really quite different to those we had in Argentina. The stages seem to be fairly flowing and fast, somewhat reminiscent of the ones you get at Wales Rally GB with all these sections through the undergrowth. I hope we’ll have slightly better performance here. There is still a significant layer of fine gravel on the road surface, which may make life complicated for the early runners. We’ll have to see whether the rain that has fallen recently limits the extent to which the roads clean or not.”

Esapekka Lappi

“After a tough start to the season, I’m determined to get back on track in Chile and come away with a decent result, and regain confidence behind the wheel step by step. I hope that the weather will be kind to us on Friday. If it stays dry, the roads are likely to clean. That would enable us to make the most of being down the running order and get off to the ideal start. The stages look really nice and interesting. The road surfaces look good, or at least they did when they were filmed for the videos provided by the rally organisers.”

Photo courtesy of Citroen Racing

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans

“This is going to be a brand-new experience for everyone. It’s rare to have to write completely new pacenotes like what we’ll have to do next week, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

“Logistically, it’s also a massive challenge for the team – especially when someone damages the car on the previous event! A big thanks to the mechanics who have been working to repair the car – and hopefully we can repay them with a strong result next week.

“Looking at the video, the stages don’t look too dissimilar to Wales – medium width, flowing and technical. They look really nice to be fair, but we’ll be better placed to judge after the recce.

“Before then, we’re spending some time in Santiago with Pedro [Heller]. We’ve been up to the Andes and we’ve also been out on the bike. It’s a really beautiful landscape and I look forward to learning more about the country – hopefully Pedro can give us a few tips about the rally as well!”

Elfyn and Scott. Photo courtesy of M-Sport

Teemu Suninen

“Looking at the recce videos from the organisers, Rally Chile appears to be a very smooth event. We’ll have to wait for our own recce before we have a chance to see the stages in more detail, but to me it looks really interesting. I think I will like this event, but we will have to wait and see how things go.

“I think we can assume that the top three drivers will be fighting at the front, but after that the results can be very mixed. As we saw on Corsica, anything can change the game and make it more equal. So, I am really looking forward to next week where I want to continue to show my performance.”

 

Gus Greensmith (WRC2 Pro)

“I’ve heard a lot of different things about this new rally and only the Heller brothers have been able to give me a clear insight on what to expect. But it will still be a huge unknown for everyone.

“The organisers provided some onboard videos that I have spent a lot of time studying, but it’s hard to get an exact feel for how the stages will be – especially in terms of how wide or narrow they will be.

“They look quite fast and flowing which I believe will suit the Fiesta, but we won’t get a clear indication until we recce them for the very first time – and for sure it won’t be exactly how we thought.

“I just have to do my part as well as I can to try and bring home the first victory in Chile!”

Gus and Elliot continue their WRC2 Pro title bid. Photo courtesy of M-Sport

Summary

We are set for a great event. Who from our group of elite rally drivers will be standing on the top step? You can follow the event on the WRC app, with live timing. On Monday the 13th there are highlights on 5 Spike at seven in the evening.

Rally Argentina Review 2019- Thierry Neuville Takes Victory!

Thierry Neuville took a remarkable victory in Argentina with Andreas Mikkelsen and Seb Ogier completing the podium. Here’s the story of how it happened. In the days before the event, there had been a lot of rain and thunderstorms before and this would make things very interesting!

 

After the short SS 1 – Super Especial Villa Carlos Paz (1,90 km) on Thursday night the top ten was covered by just three and a half seconds, with Ott holding the lead and Teemu Suninen in tenth place.

 

Friday

With seven stages due to run, including a double run of SS 3 – Amboy – Yacanto 1 (29,85 km), the longest stage of the day, plus very different conditions since the reece, getting through the first full day would be a big challenge.

 

The start list looked like this, with the cars entering in championship order – Neuville, Ogier, Tänak, Evans, Meeke, Lappi, Sordo, Latvala, Suninen, Mikkelsen, Greensmith, Ostberg.

 

First up then was SS 2 – Las Bajadas – Villa Del Dique 1 (16,65 km), and it was Kris who set a great pace, winning and closing on his teammate for the lead. The big loser was Ogier, who could only manage eighth fastest and fell down to seventh overall. However, Thierry was doing really badly, now 14 seconds from early leader Ott.

 

Sadly SS 3 – Amboy – Yacanto 1 (29,85 km) was cancelled for safety reasons, so it was a long wait for the next one, SS 4 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 1 (23,44 km). It was a drama filled stage, with Thierry hitting back and winning the stage from Meeke and Ogier and Ott, who lost 10 seconds and fell to second overall. However, the worst happened to Esapekka Lappi, who had been in sixth, picked up a puncture and fell down to ninth! Elfyn was also on the move, going fifth fastest and climbing from eighth to sixth overall.

 

The short SS 5 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 1 (6,04 km) was won by Andreas, with Seb and Thierry setting identical times for equal second fastest. The Norwegians pace saw him move up into sixth overall. Thierry was now Kris’ closest challenger, just five seconds separating them at the top of the leaderboard.

 

After service, SS 6 – Las Bajadas – Villa Del Dique 2 (16,65 km) saw more changes. Ott won the stage from Dani Sordo, with Andreas third. Kris could only manage sixth in the stage and now his lead was just seven tenths of a second! Thierry had now dropped a place, but was still in podium contention.

 

SS 7 – Amboy – Yacanto 2 (29,85 km) next up and with conditions better than expected, Ott moved into the lead after Kris dropped 20 seconds, falling to fourth overall, now behind Thierry and Ogier.

 

The final stage of the first day then, SS 8 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 2 (23,44 km) and there was drama once more for Lappi who crashed after sustaining another puncture. It was a scary crash, as there were some spectators far too close to the road. The outcome could have been so different. Thierry won the stage and with Ott only sixth fastest the Belgian took the lead, whilst Ogier was now second, ahead of Ott, who was now third. Further back, Elfyn moved up to sixth overall after setting the third fastest time in the stage.

Well, the first day had produced lots of drama, and it’s fair to say that it was a surprise to see Belgian pairing Thierry and Nicolas in the lead. The standings looked like this.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

  1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:11:13.9
  2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +11.9
  3. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +13.4
  4. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 28.1
  5. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 29.4
  6. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 38.2
  7. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +41.1
  8. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:13.6
  9. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:59.2
  10. Østberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +6:11.1

 

Here’s the thoughts of the drivers at the end of day one.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“We didn’t really expect to be leading this rally at the end of the first day, especially considering our starting position as first on the road. It’s a pleasant surprise but it has been a complicated day with tricky conditions. We know things will be equally challenging as the weekend continues. Even with the wet weather, there were times when it was better to be earlier on the road and other stages when it was not. The car has performed well today and we are in the fight, so we will do what we can to defend our lead on Saturday.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

“We had a good morning loop and were able to set some encouraging times. The only issue was a puncture in SS4. Anders noticed we had a front-left issue after 5km into the stage so we took it carefully after that so we didn’t lose the tyre off the rim. We were lucky, and were able to remain in the fight. I was happy not to lose more time to be honest. It’s been a bit of an up and down day, and by the end of the afternoon loop I really felt that our starting position was hurting us. Saturday we will be more in the middle of the pack, so we will hopefully fare better.”

Dani Sordo (7th)

“The day had been going quite OK and we were having more fun on the stages than I thought we would be able to in these conditions. Some of the stages were so difficult to read; you didn’t really know what speed was possible. We tried to push a bit harder in the afternoon and the times were good until the final stage. We went into a ditch in a slow corner and had to reverse out, so we lost some time there. Not the greatest way to end but tomorrow’s another day.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“The opening leg at Rally Argentina is always very complicated and rough. I’m pleased to finish the day in this position. It was all the more difficult because we did recce on these stages before the rain fell. We fought as hard as possible, and although the car isn’t running perfectly as yet, we’re still in contention for victory and it’s still open at the front. The second leg looks like it will be very difficult again, probably with fog early on, as is often the case on these stages.”

Seb and Julien in flight! Photo credit, Citroën Racing

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (3rd)

“It has been a tough day with conditions that were very hard for the cars. With the engineers we were able to make some changes in service, and that improved things for the afternoon so that I could have a bit more confidence. I was quite enjoying it and some good stage times were coming. We had the issue with the driveshaft on the last stage, but we could make it back to service to get it fixed tonight. I believe we should have a good car for tomorrow’s stages, and we’ll push hard. There’s a long way to go so everything is still to play for.”

 

Kris Meeke (4th)

“It has been a challenging day for everyone in these conditions. I really enjoyed it this morning. It wasn’t about ultimate pace it was a case of reading the road and trying to work out where it would be really slippery. For most of the stage it would be fine with good grip, and then there were some really deep patches of mud that you had to try and anticipate before you hit them. The afternoon was tough. We had a couple of issues with the car that slowed us a little bit, but I simply didn’t have the pace anyway. Hopefully tomorrow will be better and we can still challenge for the podium.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala (8th)

“This morning was quite good, it was consistent and we were up there, not far from the leaders. This afternoon was much tougher. It started well but I was too fast in one corner in the ruts and pushed a tyre off the rim, so we had to finish the stage with a flat tyre. That made me a bit cautious on the next stage, and then on the final stage of the loop I had a spin and lost some more time there. We still have two days left and a lot can happen, especially in these conditions, so we will stay positive.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“Obviously it’s not where we wanted to be at the end of the day, but we’re not a million miles away and there is still a long way to go. I felt that we were driving quite well at points, but I didn’t always have the feeling to push that little bit more – just struggling with the balance here and there. The midfield battle is pretty close, so we have to keep fighting for the best possible position tomorrow.”

Teemu Suninen (9th)

“Today has been quite difficult. The conditions have changed a lot from the recce with a lot more mud and a lot of surprising places. This made it difficult to get into a good rhythm as I was always expecting some tricky conditions. But then on the second loop when I had a bit more knowledge, I was able to improve my times – except on the last stage where the engine took in some water and we lost some time.”

 

Saturday

With 146.52km of competitive stages, Saturday would be the longest day of this event. The start list looked like this- Suninen, Latvala, Sordo, Evans, Mikkelsen, Meeke, Tänak, Ogier, Neuville. The rally leader was in a good position to move further ahead of his competitors, but this event was certainly not decided.

 

SS 9 – Tanti – Mataderos 1 (13,92 km) first up, and Thierry won the stage from Ott, and with Ogier only fifth fastest as well, the Frenchman dropped to third. Elfyn also started well, going fourth quickest and closing on Andreas in their battle for fourth overall.

 

SS 10 – Mataderos – Cuchilla Nevada 1 (22,67 km), saw the battle between the Hyundai and Toyota drivers continue with Ott winning the stage, but Thierry keeping the timeloss down to just two and a half seconds. There was drama though for Elfyn and Scott. Approaching a quick right-hander, the Welshman lost the rear of the Fiesta, and all was well until the front hit a huge boulder, which had the effect of spinning the car around, which then caused the tyres to dig in and the car to roll off the road, coming to rest back on it wheels. They were out, bringing an end to a good start.

SS 11 – Cuchilla Nevada – Characato 1 (33,65 km) was won by Ott, and he took six seconds out of Thierry as well, thus reducing the gap to just five seconds between them. However, Ogier lost a huge amount of time- over half a minute after his powersteering failed- falling behind Kris as well into fourth place. Any hopes for victory had now almost evaporated as he was 46 seconds from the leader.

 

SS 12 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 2 (6,04 km) was won by Andreas from Dani and Jari-Matti, whilst Kris fell from third to fourth and Ogier lost more time due to his powersteering problem, falling to sixth overall, over a full minute from the lead.

 

After service, SS 13 – Tanti – Mataderos 2 (13,92 km) Ogier with his problem fixed flew through the stage, setting the fastest time. Andreas continued his good form, with the second quickest time, keeping himself ahead of Kris.

 

SS 14 – Mataderos – Cuchilla Nevada 2 (22,67 km) saw drama for two drivers. Ogier continued his scorching pace by winning this stage and passing Dani Sordo. This would have been good enough for fifth overall, but the Yaris piloted by Ott suffered a failure, making him retire for the day.

 

SS 15 – Cuchilla Nevada – Characato 2 (33,65 km), the final stage of the day saw Andreas set the fastest time, with Thierry and Seb second and third. The Norwegian had had one of his best days in his car. There would be drama away from the stages though. Seb talked about the road book, and about their being changes to the results later.

 

This statement from Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal sheds some light on it –

“”It wasn’t an easy day for Sébastien and Julien. They lost a lot of time this morning when the power steering broke, after they were confused by the gate left open, which should have been closed. We are therefore expecting the rally organisers to take the appropriate decisions for those crews that didn’t follow the route indicated in the roadbook.”

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2 

  1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:37.23.6
  2. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 45.7
  3. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:03.2
  4. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:06.0
  5. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:12.0
  6. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:28.3
  7. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:48.4
  8. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +12:04.5

 

Here’s the thoughts of the drivers.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“We are in a very strong position but we still can’t take anything for granted. It has been an excellent day. We have enjoyed a good feeling in the car on all stages. We knew it would be tough to defend but we were able to maintain our lead and then saw that increase when Ott unfortunately retired. Knowing we had a margin, we were able to take it easier on the last stage, avoiding rocks and punctures. Even then the confidence we had in the car allowed us to set a competitive time. We have three iconic stages tomorrow, but the aim is clear: we have to keep it clean.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (2nd)

“I am incredibly happy with how we have ended today’s stages. I wasn’t overly pleased with the morning loop, and I struggled in the opening two stages. I felt a lack of grip from the rear of the car and it was hard to push without sliding. However, we made some suspension changes at lunchtime service that improved my feeling and we could generate some excellent performance. We drove cleanly and precisely, finishing the day with a fantastic stage win. Bring on Sunday – and a push for the podium!”

Dani Sordo (5th)

“The battle for the podium is very close and it is pleasing to see all three of our cars featuring strongly on the classification. I lost some time on the first stage but we were able to bring ourselves back into contention. I enjoyed the stages a lot. There was a bit of cleaning in the morning but we were still able to make up ground. We find ourselves in a strong situation now with Thierry and Andreas 1-2, and what promises to be a fun and interesting fight for third place on Sunday.”

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Kris Meeke (3rd)

“I was enjoying the driving this morning: the rhythm was good and the speed was quite OK, we were taking some seconds from Ogier in the fight for the podium. On SS11 I had a brake problem after a watersplash, which caused me to slide wide in a later corner and I touched the rear which punctured two tyres, so we had to do the super special with one flat. This afternoon, our setup wasn’t perfect, with the stages having dried out quite a bit. Ogier took a little bit of time out of us, but we’re still in the battle and tomorrow is going to be an intense fight.”

Kris Meeke and Seb Marshall, Photo credit, Toyota Gazoo Racing

Jari-Matti Latvala (6th)

“I was satisfied with how the morning went. I hadn’t done this group of stages for two years and some sections were completely new, but I enjoyed them. I knew I could improve doing them for the second time, so I was really confident going into the afternoon. The first two stages went well. On the last one, the engine took on some water in a watersplash, but I managed to get it restarted. Then I did a mistake myself, so in all we lost five or six seconds in our fight for fifth place, but I want to keep fighting tomorrow and let’s see what we can do.”

 

Ott Tänak (Retired/Rally2)

“We had a good start this morning. The roads today were very different to what we had yesterday: really smooth and fast in places. There were still a few slippery places, so the grip was inconsistent. We were looking forward to having a big push in the afternoon, but we knew in the first stage that we had a problem, that the battery voltage was going down, and in the second stage we had to retire. Of course, it’s disappointing. With the performance we have I believe we are capable of winning any rally, but we still have some work to do. Tomorrow we’ll do what we can, and we’ll keep pushing: it’s a long season.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“We had an up and down day. After dropping a lot of time this morning, I had very little to lose this afternoon, so I pushed hard with the C3 WRC. There was also a bit more grip and that appeared to help us. I’m expecting to move up a position or two this evening, after the rally organisers look at what happened at the gate this morning. Tomorrow, the goal will be to keep out of trouble on these rough roads and score as many points as possible.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (7th)

“Today was a difficult day for us. We were first on the road where the conditions were a bit more slippery and we couldn’t match the times of the fastest drivers. Then in the afternoon the intercom was cutting and I couldn’t hear all of the notes from Marko. He had to give me the instructions by hand which took away some of the confidence.”

Elfyn Evans (DNF)

“I’ve used these notes for quite a few years and not had a problem before, but when I arrived at the corner, I felt I was carrying just a little bit too much speed. I threw it in, and we made the corner to be fair, but I couldn’t recover the oversteer. I planted the throttle but couldn’t get the car straight and we hit a fairly massive boulder that was lining the road.”

Sunday

Well, just three stages left, and the start list looked like this – Tänak, Suninen, Latvala, Sordo, Ogier, Meeke, Mikkelsen, Neuville. Also, the classification had changed, with Ogier now in third, ahead of Dani and Kris who had been given a time penalty.

 

Kris hit back with the best answer to this situation, winning SS 16 – Copina – El Condor (16,43 km) and moving into fourth place, just half a second from Seb who was struggling for traction. Thierry remained in the lead, now 36 seconds ahead of Andreas.

 

SS 17 – Mina Clavero – Giulio Cesare (20,30 km) was won by Thierry, but the big news was that Kris had passed Seb on the overall leaderboard and was now third. Also, on the move was Jari-Matti who passed Dani Sordo.

 

The final stage then, SS 18 – Power Stage El Condor (16,43 km) and Ogier flew through and won the stage, taking all five power stage points. His pace, plus a problem for Kris saw the Frenchman regain third overall. In the Toyota, Kris got a warning that his tyre pressures were low. It was enough to lose the third place that he had so convincingly gained. Still, it marked a great result, the best yet this year.

What a victory though for Thierry, Nicolas and Hyundai? Retained the championship lead in both the drivers, co-drivers and manufacturer tables. Impressive stuff.

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Argentina
25-28 April 2019
Hyundai Motorsport President Scott Noh
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Anders Jaeger, Andreas Mikkelsen
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:20:54.6
  2. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +48.4
  3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:04.8
  4. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:06.2
  5. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:21.1
  6. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:26.7
  7. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:57.3
  8. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +14:24.8
  9. Østberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +14:28.5

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“This is a really great feeling! The car has been absolutely perfect all weekend and I have felt comfortable, quick and in control throughout the event. We have taken some strong stage wins and shown the performance of our i20 Coupe WRC in some very challenging conditions. It has been an amazing team result, not only at the rally, but also everyone working tirelessly in Germany. I am so thankful to everyone for their hard work, dedication and professionalism. We have scored some important points for the championship and I am really proud of what we have achieved this weekend.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (2nd)

“It’s been a really tough really so I am overjoyed with this result. We have had to wait a long time for this, and we’ve certainly battled through some frustrating times. It might be second place but it really feels like a victory to me. We have been working so hard and I am incredibly thankful to the team for their support. We found great pace from the car this weekend and finally been able to show what we – and the car – are capable of. To finish 1-2 gives us such important points for the championship, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Dani Sordo (6th)

“I am really happy for the team, and pleased that our manufacturers’ position has been strengthened. I really wanted to push for third place today but I just didn’t have the pace that was needed. I have done my best all weekend but ultimately the 1-2 result for Thierry and Andreas gives the team maximum points, which is the most important thing. There are some things I can learn from this weekend personally, and I will aim to return stronger next time.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“It’s a pretty good result in terms of points, but we can’t be pleased with our out-and-out performance level. There are some conditions, like those we saw in Mexico or here on the second runs, where we are fairly competitive. But we have to improve when there is less grip or when the road is more technical. I’m pleased to see our persistence rewarded, because once again this weekend we pushed as hard as possible right to the end.”

Esapekka Lappi (DNF)

“Despite not knowing the roads here particularly well, I was obviously hoping for a better outcome from this round. But after we had picked up a puncture, I was caught out when the tyre suddenly came loose. This caused the car to understeer, we hit a bank at the side of the road and rolled the car. Obviously, I’m sorry for the team, but after a few days’ rest with my family, Janne and I will back raring to go and have the best Rally Chile possible, where we’ll all be on an equal footing in terms of experience.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kris Meeke (4th)

“The time penalty last night dropped us back to fifth, but everything was still there to fight for. The car was working really well this morning and I enjoyed it. The rhythm was good and we continued that into the Power Stage, but about six kilometres from the end, I got a warning light to say the tyre pressures were going down. I have no idea where it happened. I tried my best, and sometimes it’s like this. It’s a bit frustrating, because in the last three rallies we could have had a top result. I’m really enjoying driving this car, and I enjoyed today even though it didn’t quite work out. I have to keep doing what I’m doing, I know it’s going to come right.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)

“Honestly, I’m feeling happy at the end of the rally. The season has been difficult for me so far, and we had a bad start here on Friday. But step-by-step we started to come back on Saturday, and today I felt I was back on the level where I was at the end of last year. I’m really happy about that. I wanted to attack a lot on the Mina Clavero stage: it’s a stage where you can make big differences if you’re confident. This strategy worked out, which gave me an extra boost for the Power Stage, where we had a really good fight for the fastest time. Now I’m looking forward to Chile and the fast and flowing stages we’re expecting there.”

Ott Tänak (8th)

“It was pretty demanding for us today. We were early on the road so we really struggled to set any good times. The positive was that we just managed to catch and take eighth place. It’s been a very frustrating weekend with the issues we had. We had good performance but no big result, so there is a lot to improve. We will keep doing our best, so let’s see in Chile how we can fight back.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (7th)

“This has been a difficult rally for me and I’m sorry for the team that we didn’t perform as well as we wanted. We know that we have a good car and we want to be pushing for better results. But at least we finished the rally and got some good experience for the future. Now, I’m looking forward to Chile and to seeing what we can do there.”

Teemu and Marko, Photo credit M-Sport

M-Sport team principle, Richard Millener had this to say as well;

“Teemu has done a solid job this weekend. It’s only his second time here and he had to contend with some really challenging conditions. Anticipating those conditions when the rally is so different to the recce requires a certain level of experience, and he’s gained some good knowledge for the future whilst keeping our points scoring record intact.

“But overall it’s been a pretty frustrating rally for the team as we had the potential to secure another really strong result this weekend. But that’s the way it goes sometimes, and we’re already focused on the next event in Chile.

“The technicians started the re-prep on Elfyn’s car yesterday afternoon and it’s already starting to look like a proper rally car again! It’s been stripped and washed, the chassis has been repaired, and most of the rear has already been rebuilt.

“We’ll continue the re-prep on both cars over the next two and a half days, and then the technicians are going to have a couple of days holiday before flying to Chile on Saturday. We’ve actually got some mountain biking planned on El Condor which should be good fun!”

 

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Thierry Neuville – 110 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 100 points
  3. Ott Tänak – 82 points
  4. Kris Meeke – 54 points
  5. Elfyn Evans – 43 points
  6. Andreas Mikkelsen – 30 points
  7. Jari-Matti Latvala – 28 points
  8. Esapekka Lappi – 26 points
  9. Dani Sordo – 26 points
  10. Sébastien Loeb – 22 points

 

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 157 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 120 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 117 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 78 points

 

Summary

Well, what a great rally! Those Thierry Neuville fans out there will be very happy indeed! He has a small lead in the championship over Seb, with Ott right there too. Kris moved up another position into fourth, after Elfyn Evans’ non finish. Andreas Mikkelsen drove well, scoring his first podium since last year’s Rally Sweden, and he was pretty pleased with that. Dani also went well, helping the team retain a good lead over Toyota in their battle for the manufacturer crown.

Next up is the first ever Rally Chile, held from the 10th to 12th of May.

Rally Argentina 2019 Preview- Back to gravel!

This event marks the start of five straight events on gravel before a return to tarmac in Germany in August. Road position will be very important for those challenging for the championship as we head through these events. Thierry Neuville leads the championship giving him the situation where he is opening the road. Last year when he was in that position, he was not troubling the top positions, meaning that it’ll be interesting how he deals with this. Can the Hyundai teammates get themselves into good positions to take points away from his rivals in the championship?

 

Seb Ogier and Citroen have to be considered as potential winners, but incredibly the Champion has never won this rally, but has stood on the podium four times. Perhaps this will be the year that sees him and Julien take their first win.

Can Sébastien Ogier – Julien Ingrassia take their first victory in Rally Argentina this weekend? Photo credit Citroën Total WRT.

Two years ago, Elfyn Evans almost won this event, finishing just seven tenths from Thierry Neuville. This year, he comes to this event, having driven incredibly fast and consistently in Tour de Corse, with terrible heartbreak in the end for the Welshman, missing out on his second victory.

 

Now twelve months ago, Ott Tanak took his first victory for Toyota and will be hoping for a repeat, but perhaps we’ll see Kris Meeke win instead. After all, he did take his first victory in this event in 2015, and what of Jari-Matti, who has also done very well, winning in 2014 for Volkswagen during their first season. One driver missing from the event is 2016 winner Hayden Paddon, and what a shame he is not competing.

 

Well, let’s have a look at the stages that make this year’s event. There is a total of 347,50km’s competitive tests making up this year’s event, with minor changes to the event and the penultimate stage, SS17 being run in the same direction as 2017. The start times for the stages are three hours behind GMT.

 

THURSDAY 25 APRIL

10.00am: Shakedown (4,25 km)

6.30pm: Start (Service park – Villa Carlos Paz)

7.08pm: SS 1 – Super Especial Villa Carlos Paz (1,90 km)

7.33pm: Parc ferme

 

FRIDAY 26 APRIL

6.25amp: Start & service A (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 mins)

8.08am: SS 2 – Las Bajadas – Villa Del Dique 1 (16,65 km)

8.55am: SS 3 – Amboy – Yacanto 1 (29,85 km)

10.08am: SS 4 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 1 (23,44 km)

12.03pm: SS 5 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 1 (6,04 km)

12.43pm: Service B (Villa Carlos Paz – 40 mins)

2.51pm: SS 6 – Las Bajadas – Villa Del Dique 2 (16,65 km)

3.38pm: SS 7 – Amboy – Yacanto 2 (29,85 km)

4.51pm: SS 8 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 2 (23,44 km)

6.41pm: Flexi service C (Villa Carlos Paz – 45 mins)

 

SATURDAY 27 APRIL

6.57am: Start & service D (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 mins)

7.47am: SS 9 – Tanti – Mataderos 1 (13,92 km)

8.38am: SS 10 – Mataderos – Cuchilla Nevada 1 (22,67 km)

9.25am: SS 11 – Cuchilla Nevada – Characato 1 (33,65 km)

11.26am: SS 12 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 2 (6,04 km)

12.02pm: Service E (Villa Carlos Paz – 40 mins)

1.17pm: SS 13 – Tanti – Mataderos 2 (13,92 km)

2.08pm: SS 14 – Mataderos – Cuchilla Nevada 2 (22,67 km)

2.55pm: SS 15 – Cuchilla Nevada – Characato 2 (33,65 km)

4.55pm: Flexi service F (Villa Carlos Paz – 45 mins)

 

SUNDAY 28 APRIL

7.45am: Service G (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 mins)

9.08am: SS 16 – Copina – El Condor (16,43 km)

10.31am: SS 17 – Mina Clavero – Giulio Cesare (20,30 km)

12.18pm: SS 18 – Power Stage El Condor (16,43 km)

2.01pm: Service H (Villa Carlos Paz – 10 mins)

2.31pm: Finish

Let’s hear from the drivers then.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Rally Argentina is a fantastic event with some tough stages and a great atmosphere. As one of the roughest rallies of the season, it requires a careful approach. On the one hand, we need to look after the car but on the other there are some sections where you can really attack. It’s a balancing act; we have to find a good rhythm but also be ready to push more or less when necessary. We’d like to add more victories after the success in Corsica but we know it will be a demanding event, especially starting first on the road.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Argentina
26-29 April 2018
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Argentina is without doubt one of my favourite gravel rallies. There are a huge number of spectators and passionate fans, which creates an incredible atmosphere. The stages are in really nice condition, a little bit sandy compared to other gravel events that increases the grip level. As a result, we can set the car sideways into the corners and then push to the maximum. There are also the classic Argentina stages El Condor and Mina Clavero, which offer the ultimate test of man and machine.”

Dani Sordo

“I always look forward to Rally Argentina, a special event with some truly amazing supporters. Despite being one of the roughest events on the calendar, there are some very nice stages – including El Condor and Mina Clavero – that are a real privilege to drive. We showed our pace on gravel in Mexico, fighting at the front on the opening day. We want to repeat that level of performance in Argentina and do all we can to get a good result for ourselves and the team.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“Although I have never won in Argentina, it’s a rally that I like and I have often been quick here in the past. So, I come into this round with the same high hopes as usual. I would even go as far as to say I feel slightly more motivated by the prospect of winning this rally for the first time and with Citroën. It’s also true that being second in the running order gives me a bit more of a chance than in previous years. The

type of roads used varies a lot, but I would say that what really stands out is how rough the gravel can be in places. You really do have to think about looking after your car sometimes, whilst continuing to drive quickly.”

Esapekka Lappi

“With only one previous appearance at this rally, which doesn’t change much from one year to the next, in principle, I start with a bit of a disadvantage compared to many of my rivals. Having said that, I’ll have a good place in the running order and I’m very determined to build on my promising outing on gravel in the C3 WRC in Mexico and bring home the best possible result from Argentina. I remember that the stages here are fairly nice, but you have to watch out for the countless embedded rocks, because they pose a real risk in terms of punctures.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak

“I’m feeling good about Rally Argentina. It’s the event where we managed to take our first win for Toyota last year, and we are expecting nothing less this year. I believe that we should be able to perform well again there. The fast roads and the kind of surface that we have in Argentina should really suit our car quite well. It’s a really tough event, as the stages can turn very rough in places, so there are points where you need to take some extra care. As for Chile, I don’t really know what to expect, as I haven’t been there before. There are a few things that we’ve been able to find out in advance, but we’ll only really discover how the stages are when we get there and see them for ourselves in the recce.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 05, Rally Argentina / April 26-19, 2018// Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Rally Argentina is one of the greatest events we have in the WRC. There is a lot of passion and a lot of spectators: some of them camping in the mountains, waiting to see the rally cars come by. The rally itself has some very nice, beautiful stages. The main challenge is that they can get quite rough for the second pass. On the other hand, I have been looking at how the roads are in Chile, and that won’t be a rough event: there are no rocks and the sides of the road are very clean. Some places actually remind me of how the forest stages in Britain are when they’re dry. My motivation is now very high, and I’m looking forward to getting started on these two events and being in the fight.”

 

Kris Meeke

“Argentina has always been a rally that I’ve enjoyed and I have some good memories from there, particularly my first ever WRC win in 2015. I’ll be hoping to try and have a clean rally. Mexico and Corsica could have been a lot better for me, so I’m definitely looking to have a top result. I had three days of testing on gravel in Portugal last week and I think we’re in good shape for Rally Argentina. We’ve got five gravel events in a row coming up and they’re all rallies I go well on, aside from Chile which is new for everyone. As drivers we won’t know exactly what we’re facing until we get to Chile and do the recce, but events in South America are always really well-supported with a great atmosphere, and I’m sure this one will be no different.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans

“I’ve always enjoyed Rally Argentina and I’m looking forward to heading back there again this year. The Argentine fans are amazing and make it a really special place for rallying – and for me. It’s where I got my first podium back in 2015, and where I came pretty close to victory in 2017.

“We’ve had a pretty good start to the season and we want to see that continue that next week. We’ve had the speed; we’ve made some good steps forward with the car and we’ve secured two back-to-back podiums.

“The goal will be to continue that with another podium in Argentina. The competition is exceptionally strong at the moment and it’s fair to say that we struggled here last year. But I’m confident in the work we’ve been doing and if everything goes to plan, I see no reason why we can’t challenge for another top result.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Argentina (ARG) – WRC 26/04/2017 to 30/04/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Teemu Suninen

“I’m really looking forward to next week and it will be interesting to see where we are. The start of the season has shown that the team have clearly taken another step forward with the car. There are still some question marks, but based on the previous events I feel that we can be competitive in Argentina.

“I competed here for the first-time last year and really enjoyed it. It’s not a particularly rough rally, but it is fast and requires a lot of strength. On a long straight you can feel the holes in the road as they bounce the car in the air! You also need a lot of traction and the car needs to handle well in the ruts – which is one of the things we focused on at our test last week.

“Personally, I don’t feel the same pressure that I had before Corsica but I still need to finish this rally with a good result. The good thing is that we can rely on our old pace notes from last year as there aren’t many changes to the route.”

 

I held a Twitter poll from my account (@Warren_S_Nel) asking to predict the winner and got 118 votes.

Sébastien Ogier got the highest percentage score of the votes, with Thierry deemed least likely to take victory.

Sebastien Ogier33%
Elfyn Evans29%
Ott Tanak26%
Thierry Neuville12%

 

Well, we are set for a fascinating battle, and you’ll be able to follow all the action on WRC+ in the app, plus highlights on 5Spike Monday evening the 29th of April at 7pm for an hour.

British GT – Rick Parfitt Jr and Seb Morris Win GT3 Opening Race

Rick Parfitt Junior and Seb Morris took a popular victory in the opening round of the season after an eventful start to the race on JRM’s British GT debut.

Phil Keen and Adam Balon were second as the lead two cars were in a class of their own, before Bradley Ellis and Ollie Wilkinson held off Jonny Cocker and Sam De Haan.

The two Century Motorsport BMWs driven Ben Green/Dominic Paul and Jack Mitchell/Adrian Willmott were next ahead of Jonny Adam/Graham Davidson and Adam Christodoulou/Richard Neary.

Rounding out the GT3 finishers were Marco Sorensen/Andrew Howard and Nicki Thiim/Mark Farmer, the latter spinning early on and unable to make inroads thereafter.

Drama found the British GT series as early as the second lap when Ryan Ratcliffe’s optimistic move on polesitter Iain Loggie had predictable consequences, the Scotsman spun around and both drivers left out of the race after just two minutes.

A lengthy clean up operation saw the Safety Car out for over ten minutes, and Parfitt was able to capitalise on his inherited lead having passed Sam De Haan at the start.

Parfitt was able to pull out a lead of over four seconds over De Haan, who had the attentions of both Century Motorsport BMWs of Paul and Willmott to contend with for much of the opening stint.

While almost all of the GT3 competitors pitted as soon as possible, Parfitt allowed an extra lap to avoid traffic in a tight Oulton Park pit lane. De Haan found out to his cost how tight the pit lane can be, as he lost several positions when handing over to teammate Cocker.

Cocker would pressurise the Aston Martin of Bradley Ellis for the duration of their second stint for third place to little avail at a narrow and twisty Oulton Park, with third place through to ninth covered by five seconds.

British GT – GT4 Qualifying – Multimatic Motorsports Dominate in GT4 qualifying

Scott Maxwell and Sebastian Priaulx took an unusual qualifying clean sweep in GT4 as the Multimatic Ford Mustangs dominated proceedings at a baking Oulton Park.

Canadian Maxwell, having previously never visited Oulton Park, took pole for the morning race on Monday ahead of teammate Jade Buford, with the HHC McLaren duo Dean MacDonald and Tom Jackson very much the best of the rest.

The TF Sport #95 entry of 16-year-old Patrick Kibble was the highest placed Aston Martin of the early session for TF Sport ahead of Tolman’s Jordan Collard and defending GT4 champions Century Motorsport with Mark Kimber.

Alex Toth-Jones in the Academy Motorsport Aston Martin was eighth, while James Dorlin was ninth for Tolman having graduated from the Renault Clio Cup last year ahead of Pro/Am category Championship contender Kelvin Fletcher in the Beechdean Aston Martin.

In Race Two qualifying, Priaulx was over a second clear of the field as he annihilated his GT4 counterparts.

Scott Malvern’s Team Parker Racing Mercedes was the next best, 1.1s behind the Ford Mustang with Michael Broadhurst third to make it an AMG 2-3.

Martin Plowman backed up teammate Fletcher’s earlier top ten starting position with fourth for Beechdean Aston Martin, with Tom Canning’s TF Sport Aston rounding out a competitive top five.

Matt George was sixth in the Invictus Racing Jaguar ahead of Luke Williams in the HHC McLaren and Lewis Proctor’s Tolman McLaren, with defending champions Century Motorsport ninth on the grid with Angus Fender and Josh Smith in the second Tolman completing the top ten.

Elsewhere, it wasn’t all plain sailing for the three Ford Mustang entries, as Sam Smelt and Aron Taylor-Smith hit strife in the Race Performance #23 to start from the back of the field on Bank Holiday Monday.