2020 British Touring Car Championship taking shape after Autosport announcements

The 2020 British Touring Car Championship puzzle is slowly coming together, after a flurry of announcements at the Autosport International show in Birmingham at the weekend.

No less than seven drivers were announced over the course of the weekend, with some big names catching the attention.

The big news of the weekend was Tom Chilton making the switch from Motorbase to BTC Racing for 2020. The veteran replaces Chris Smiley in the team and joins Josh Cook, forming a formidable partnership in the FK8 Honda Civics. BTC are also taking on a third Civic for this season, and racing in it will be new fans favourite Michael Crees, creating a strong team.

Excelr8 Motorsport announced their first driver for 2020 with Senna Proctor joining the team from BMR Racing. Proctor will be behind the wheel of the brand new Hyundai i30 with three years of BTCC experience behind him. His team mate is yet to be announced.

Elsewhere Ciceley Motorsport have decided to retain their lineup of Adam Morgan and Daniel Rowbottom, with both having had strong 2019 seasons, but knowing there is more to come from the Mercedes A Class.

Trade Price Racing announced former British GT champion James Gornall will be joining the team racing the Audi S3 Saloon, joining Bobby Thompson. While Sam Osborne was announced as the team mate for Jake Hill in the AMD team Honda Civic FK2’s.

Catch Jack Prentice’s interview with new Trade Price driver James Gornall here!

With only a few seats left to announce, including three from Motorbase, the 2020 Championship is shaping up to be one of the best yet.

2020 British Touring Car Championship Entries

Team Car Drivers
Team BMW BMW 330i M Sport Colin Turkington, Tom Oliphant, Andrew Jordan
Team Dynamics Honda Civic FK8 Matt Neal, Dan Cammish
Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Corolla Tom Ingram
Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra Jason Plato, (tba)
BTC Racing Honda Civic FK8 Tom Chilton, Josh Cook, Michael Crees
Team Motorbase (tba) (tba, tba, tba)
Ciceley Motorsport Mercedes A Class Adam Morgan, Dan Rowbottom
Laser Tools Racing Infiniti Q50 Aiden Moffat, Ash Sutton
Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai i30 Senna Proctor, (tba)
Trade Price Racing Audi S3 James Gornall, Bobby Thompson
AMD Tuning Honda Civic FK2 Jake Hill, Sam Osborne
Team HARD Volkswagen CC Mike Bushell, Jack Goff, (tba)
Team HARD BMW 125i Carl Boardley
Simpson Racing (tba) (tba)
Team Parker Racing (tba) (tba)

Interview with Teemu Suninen, Autosport International 2020

Teemu Suninen starts his second full season with M-Sport Ford. Photo credit, M-Sport

Warren Nel

Let’s talk about your stats from last season. It was really interesting to note that you took more stage wins last year than Esapekka last year. Anyway, give us an idea of your hopes for this new season.

Teemu Suninen

It would be the same before the new season, because we are having new rallies that we haven’t seen so I don’t have any expectations for the new rallies, as we have seen the pace can change quite a lot between rallies, which we saw last year like Sweden, and Germany I was able to set top three times all the time, Citroen were struggling in Germany, yet the rally after they improved and took the top two spots and then Toyota took the top three positions in Germany, and then in Turkey they were nowhere, so it’s difficult to say what the expectations are for the new events.

Warren

What are your hopes though?

Teemu

My hopes are to have more podiums and it would be great to finish the season in the top five or six and try to be close with the second group of drivers.

M-Sport Ford’s new livery. Photo credit Warren Nel

Warren

Are you hoping to be closer to the top three drivers?

Teemu

Yes, basically to be more consistent, everyone can challenge them on some rallies but not in all rallies.

Warren

There’s three new rounds, Safari, New Zealand and Japan finishing the season. In terms of those events you can’t test outside Europe, so how are you going to prepare for those events?

Teemu

That’s a good question, because it’s not easy to find the same kind of roads, they are quite different to the roads in Africa, so I think we need to be quite open minded about with the roads and testing places for Kenya, yeah and we doing the recce in Japan and we saw what kind of roads there is and everyone is wondering where can we find these kinds of roads, because it’s so different. They are in a deep forest, there is no sunshine in the daytime, as they’re so deep in the forest, and a lot of leaves on the tarmac, so it’s never clean and it is also quite slow. It going to be quite challenging with the daylight lights and not losing too much power from the alternator.

Warren

You scored one podium last year. Are there any events that you’re looking to get a podium this year apart from Italy? Score a few more and perhaps your first win?

Teemu

Proper rallies like Portugal and Sardinia, also Turkey. In those rallies I try to get a good pace and set good times.

Thanks to Teemu for his time.

Interview with Gus Greensmith, Autosport International 2020

Gus Greensmith at last season’s Rally de Portugal. Photo credit, M-Sport Ford

Warren Nel

Well, Gus last time I spoke to you was twelve months ago when you were looking forward to Portugal. How do you feel that event went for you?

Gus Greensmith.

It was a learning event. Clearly, it’s gone pretty well, because now I’m here in a WRC car, but it was great. It was great to beat Seb Ogier and Seb Loeb, the first stage I’d done in a world car, so that was an eye-opener for some, and then it went from there. The pace was pretty good, obviously you’ve got the three guys at the front, Seb, Thierry and Ott are steps ahead at the moment, but then if you look at those I was fighting with, Teemu, Elfyn, Esapekka we were separated by tenths, so it went well.

Then there was the call up for Finland, which was less than a week away from the rally, not prepared and again we were doing good times there, and Germany as well. Yes, it was a pretty narrow window to get prepared for a world rally car, it all went well, now we’re here. Pretty much straight after Finland that I got the offer for this year, so I’d known about it for a very long time.

Since then there’s been a big weight loss, 21 kilos just to get the weight to be perfect, so it been very busy behind the scenes since then and worth every second.

Warren Nel

Looking ahead to the season ahead, just take me through which events you’ll be taking part in.

Gus Greensmith

Monaco, Mexico, Argentina, Portugal, Sardinia, Finland, Turkey, Germany and depending on results maybe we can see one or two more, but results will have to be strong for that, so we’ll have to see. I have my rounds that I kind of picked, where I want to push, where I want to show my worth, aside from that it’s all about be flat out on every rally, that’s the benefit of only having nine, the fact that we don’t have to be prepping for every event, I’ve got a little bit longer to prepare myself for some of the rallies, which for me is extremely important. At the end of the day, you’d always prefer the full calendar, it’s also a good thing to have that extra time week or two to prepare will make a difference, and I proved that in Portugal, I proved that in every rally I’ve done, for me the nine rallies seems quite a bit perfect, and if we can get one or two more with some good results then all the better.

Warren Nel

If we go back to Portugal, you picked that event, but you hadn’t intended doing the other events, take us to that moment when you found out you were doing more events.

Gus Greensmith

I was always going to be doing more events, we just didn’t know which and it just coincided that they needed a driver. I literally landed from holiday, I was jet lagged and it was about eight pm and I got a phone call from Rich and he said, you don’t share this to anyone, but you’ll be driving the world rally car in Finland, so I was like what the f***, er right fine, no problem, I’m up for any challenge, and yeah, it was grand!

Warren Nel

What did you learn in that weekend, as it’s a pretty spectacular event?

Gus Greensmith

It was, for sure, the toughest rally of my career, for many reasons. One, not the prep I wanted to put in, two, it’s such an abstract rally compared to the calendar- You have to be flat out, fully committed and be confident with the car and unless you are then things just don’t click, so to be fighting with Teemu and beating him on the first day was incredible, alright but the pace as a package for the Ford team wasn’t good enough, we were cleaning the roads, so from that point in it was really tricky to find the speed, but comparatively against the team, those behind, our times were quite strong.

Warren Nel

This season you’ve got nine rounds, which event are you most looking forward to?

Gus Greensmith

Portugal I’m doing again, that’s the one that I’m going to go for it, see how far we can get up the leaderboard, I think we can be really strong there. Obviously, we won in Monaco last year, pretty dominant, I’d like to do the same this year, but to put a strong performance this year, then you’ve got to look at Turkey, it’s a rally that I suit well, got to do well there. The thing is I’ve got to deliver on every rally, if I want to earn my place in this sport full time, which is my ambition.

Warren Nel

In terms of scoring points for the team, have you got a set amount to be scoring?

Gus Greensmith

No, for me I’ve got the good job, I’ve got the third car, so they can just send me off as a loose cannon, and I just go and drive and try not to crash. Still, at some point in the year I’ll have to play the team game and score some points, but for now that’s Teemu and Esapekka’s job. For me, it’s about getting the best results in each individual rally.

Warren Nel

In terms of your preparations and testing, has it been good?

Gus Greensmith

Yeah, I got back from two days testing in Monaco, it was really good, went really well, really positive by the end of the day, I think all the footage looked really sideways, but for me, Monaco it’s quite important to be confident with the car, rather than finding the ultimate setup and time, you’ve just got to be confident in changing conditions, so that day was about throwing it in, I did it last year, so I don’t see why it shouldn’t work again.

Warren Nel

I said that fans had been watching the testing videos which had been posted online and were saying how the car looks quite lairy and sideways.

Gus Greensmith

Yeah, people love it and it’s not the fastest way, but unfortunately when you’re driving in Monaco you’ve just got to be prepared to throw it into a corner that’s going to have no grip in it what-so-ever, so we have to send it in, and I want to be the fastest person transitioning from tarmac to the ice, and that’s why in the test you saw me throwing the car around from corner to corner, I want to when I get here I know exactly what’s it going to be like before anyone else.

Warren Nel

Who are your safety crew for the tarmac rounds?

Gus Greensmith

I’ll have a Canadian called Anthoine L’Estage an eight time Canadian champion, an incredible understanding of how snow changes and develops and hugely important for my success on tarmac rallies, and then on the passenger side I’ll have Steve Lancaster, a very experienced co-driver working with him, and it’s worked really well before, so I see no reason to change something that isn’t broken.

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Ford Fiesta WRC 2020 Livery
January 2020
Photo: Drew Gibson

Many thanks to Gus for his time!

Hyundai enter BTCC with Excelr8 Motorsport – Is this the end for MG 6 GT?

There will be a new car in the British Touring Car Championship for 2020 as Hyundai enter the sport for next season.

The brand have a rich Motorsport heritage in recent years, especially in the World Rally Championship, having won this season’s constructors championship. They also have touring car experience having ran in TCR and WTCR.

They link up with Excelr8 Motorsport for the new season, replacing the old MG6’s that were used in their debut season. Excelr8 picked up four points with Rob Smith and Sam Osborne behind the wheel grabbing two points apiece.

The drivers are yet to be announced but Excelr8 will be aiming for consistent points finishes in the i30 Fastback N Performance. Thankfully for the team, the Hyundai is a similar shape to the MG and so this should help Excelr8 who are now well aware of the inner intricacies of an NGTC car.

The end of the MG 6GT? Image Credit: BTCC Media.

Though this also means the likely end of the MG6 GT, which has been in the series since 2012. Driven by some of the finest drivers of this generation, including Jason Plato, Andrew Jordan, Sam Tordoff, Ash Sutton and Josh Cook.

It won 24 races over its time in the BTCC with Plato finishing runner up in the championship to Colin Turkington in 2014. The 6 GT also won the manufacturer’s crown in 2014, remaining a manufacturer entry until 2018. AMD Tuning and Excelr8 have used the car in recent years with no luck.

While it is still early, and many teams are yet to announce their cars for next season, the MG has most likely driven its final race.

Rally Spain, Day Three- Thierry Neuville wins Rally Spain, Ott Tänak wins the World Championship!

With just four stages totaling 74km, the startlist looked like this- Meeke, Katsuta, Ogier, Suninen, Evans, Latvala, Loeb, Tänak, Sordo, Neuville.

First up then was SS 14 – Riudecanyes 1 (16,35 km), and Ott Tänak had one goal. To pass Dani Sordo. The Spaniard was on it though, and whilst Thierry won the stage, Dani took the second fastest stage time and with the Estonian just a few tenths behind i20 pilot, the gap opened up a little. Elfyn was finding some pace as well, going fourth fastest and reducing the gap to Jari-Matti.

The first run through SS 15 – La Mussara 1 (20,72 km) was won by Dani, whilst Ott Tänak took the second fastest time and young Finn Teemu was third. Seb Ogier was eighth, complaining of wheelspin at the rear.

Into SS 16 – Riudecanyes 2 (16,35 km) and the Dani and Ott battle continued. The Hyundai pilot won the stage, and had increased the gap to Ott, whilst Seb Ogier’s changes to his car improved things, but made other things worse. Elfyn was finding some pace, and had reduced the gap to Latvala to fifteen seconds.

The final stage then, SS 17 – La Mussara 2 Power Stage (20,72 km) and there were some surprises. Elfyn had set the early benchmark time. Dani and then Thierry tried their best to beat it, and then Ott Tänak flew through, like he has on so many occasions this year and took the fastest time, and as a bonus, beat Dani Sordo’s time as well by six seconds, thus clinching second place overall. We have a new world champion crew, and the first from Estonia as well! What a drive from Ott Tänak and Martin Jarveoja in their Yaris WRC.

 

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:07:39.6
  2. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +17.2
  3. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +17.6
  4. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +53.9
  5. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:00.2
  6. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:14.2
  7. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:47.6
  8. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +4:20.5
  9. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +8:24.6 (1st RC2 & WRC2Pro)
  10. Camilli / Veillas (Citroën C3 R5) +8:47.2 (2nd RC2 & 1st WRC2)

 

Driver Quotes.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“What a weekend! We have been consistently quick on all three days, and we did absolutely everything we could. It wasn’t enough to keep the drivers’ championship alive until Australia but my congratulations go to Ott for securing the title. Our focus now moves fully onto the manufacturers’ battle. We have taken good points this weekend, and increased our lead but there’s now a crucial rally to come in Australia to get the job done. The car has proven itself to be quick on all terrains in recent rallies, and we can head to the season finale in a positive frame of mind.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 13, Rally de España
24-27 October 2019
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (3rd)

“I am happy to finish on the podium in my home rally but of course we would have preferred to keep hold of second place. Ott was on a mission today, and we missed out by 0.4 seconds. A podium is always special but it’s even better with the support of the Spanish fans. We’ve had a competitive rally and for the team this has been an important result. Thank you to the team for giving us a car that has worked so well all weekend. These sorts of results don’t come just from the crews, it is a full team effort and they’ve all done a great job.”

Seb Loeb (4th)

“It has been a positive rally for the entire Hyundai Motorsport team. While our own performance has been a bit frustrating since Saturday, we took reassurance from Thierry and Dani’s pace. The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC is a fantastic car on all terrains, as we have seen this weekend. We pushed as hard as we could today, but we just could not set the sort of times we’d have wanted. However, this is a team effort and we leave Spain with a lot of valuable points for the manufacturers’ championship, which sets things up as nicely as possible for the final round.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“It’s hard to know what to say in this moment. The pressure this weekend has been on another level. This has been the target of my life. I knew I couldn’t make any mistakes, but still I had to do a good result to make it happen. So, it was massive pressure and it was difficult to get used to it at the beginning. But in the end, I was somehow able to relax and do my normal driving. This morning I had a good feeling in the car and could drive with a good rhythm, but Dani [Sordo] was always a bit faster, so I knew it would be hard in the Power Stage to get the points we needed. I pushed hard and, in the end, it paid off. I’ve had to overcome a lot in my career, so it’s nice to finally achieve this. Thank you to the team; they have done a great job.”

FIA World Rally Championship / Round 13 / Rally RACC Catalunya/Rally de Espana / Oct 24-27, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)

“I’m happy with my weekend. I think we had a consistent run and we didn’t really make any mistakes during the weekend, and the performance was overall at a good level. I was lacking some confidence at the start of this rally so I must be happy with the result and that we could score some good points for the team. Maybe we could have got fourth place today if I had pushed hard, but it would not have benefited us in the manufacturers’ championship and this was the most important thing, to keep it open going to the final round in Australia.”

Kris Meeke (29th)

“I enjoyed the rhythm back in the car today. We know that the Yaris WRC is really strong on asphalt, and I had a good feeling again this morning. We had to back off in the Power Stage because there was no way in which we could have helped Ott wrap up the championship, and it was important not to get in the mix and potentially take points away from him. We’ll go to Australia with something to fight for still in the manufacturers’ championship and we’ll give it our best.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“Sixth place isn’t the result we wanted this weekend. At times we were able to show the speed we were capable of, but unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that all the time and I was struggling with the general feeling. But we made a small change for the Power Stage and I was able to really push. We secured a good result there, and moved up again in the championship which is a positive.”

Elfyn and Scott had a mixed weekend, but we did see more pace on the final day. Photo credit, M-Sport

Teemu Suninen (7th)

“I was really pleased with my pace and consistency on Tarmac this weekend, and now we can focus on the next step which is to be even faster with that same consistency. On the Power Stage I knew I could be fast but I braked too late, touched the rock face, and lost a lot of time. Without that, I know I could have scored some really good points there. Still I am really pleased with my performance, and looking forward to the last rally in Australia.

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (8th)

“Clearly, this wasn’t the result that we were hoping for coming into this round. We were determined to fight right to the end but unfortunately, it was all over for us early in the weekend. After the issue on Friday, inevitably our adrenaline and motivation levels were never quite the same, but we did what we could to be as professional as possible, to work on the car’s tarmac set-up and still try to push hard. Congratulations to Ott and Martin for deservedly winning the titles. They have done it in style.”

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia used the rest of the weekend to test new ideas on the C3 WRC. Photo credit Citroën Racing

Esapekka Lappi (DNF)

“I’m disappointed that my rally came to a premature end, especially as I had enjoyed a pretty solid and consistent opening leg up to that point, in terms of pace. The gaps were small and we were up for the fight, because I felt comfortable in my C3 WRC. I was looking forward to seeing how much progress we made on tarmac and the times set by Sébastien and Julien suggest that we have definitely moved in the right direction. I will now look forward to Australia and finishing the season on a high with the best possible result.”

 

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Ott Tänak – 263 points
  2. Thierry Neuville – 227 points
  3. Sébastien Ogier – 217 points
  4. Andreas Mikkelsen & Elfyn Evans – 102 points
  5. Kris Meeke – 98 points
  6. Jari-Matti Latvala – 94 points
  7. Teemu Suninen & Dani Sordo – 89 points
  8. Esapekka Lappi – 83 points

 

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 380 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 362 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 284 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 218 points

 

Summary

Well, it’s happened at last! We have a new world rally champion crew. Ott Tänak and Martin Jarveoja have secured their first world crown, and finally broken the run of fifteen consecutive French world champions. It’s the first drivers’ world championship for Toyota as well since Didier Auriol won in 1994.

FIA World Rally Championship / Round 13 / Rally RACC Catalunya/Rally de Espana / Oct 24-27, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Thierry and Nicolas did their best to hold them off, with a great drive in Spain to their third win of the year. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia started well on Friday, but after their problems, they really weren’t in the running. They will be back next year, even stronger to gain the title back before they retire.

Elsewhere in the service park, Dani Sordo and Seb Loeb put together some very good drives that have helped Hyundai in their fight for the manufacturer’s championship. Their lead over Toyota is eighteen points heading to Rally Australia.

In the M-Sport camp, Elfyn found some pace and came close to a stage victory, only being eclipsed by Ott Tänak right at the end. This result, plus the points that he scored for sixth position have lifted him back into fourth overall in the championship standings, equal with Andreas Mikkelsen. This battle to finish best of the rest in the standings will be decided at the final round next month down under.

We have one round left then, Rally Australia from the 14th to 17th of November. Pop back then for my preview.

Rally Spain, Day Two- Hyundai Continue to Lead Rally Spain

With seven full tarmac stages today, the battle for the rally win and championship continued. The startlist looked like this – Ogier, Katsuta, Suninen, Evans, Latvala, Tänak, Meeke, Sordo, Neuville, Loeb.

 

We started with SS 7 – Savallà 1 (14,08 km) and straight away, Thierry who’d set the fastest time, moved into the lead, setting a time almost five seconds faster than overnight leader Loeb, who could only get the sixth best time. Meeke and Ogier were second and third in the stage with the result that the Toyota pilot now moved ahead of Dani and into third overall. Elfyn had the goal of getting ahead of Latvala, and was over two seconds quicker than the Finn.

 

The longer SS 8 – Querol 1 (21,26 km) saw the demise of Kris sadly, after hitting some Armco with the right-hand-side of his car. This put the Brit out for the day, and now we had a Hyundai 1-2-3 again, with everyone gaining a place. Latvala gapped Evans again, after going second fastest, and thus increased to thirteen or so seconds. Ogier was now in eighth place. Meaning he was in the points scoring positions.

 

Into SS 9 – El Montmell 1 (24,40 km) and there wasn’t much to separate the top three of Tänak, Ogier and Sordo covered by just 1.7 seconds, and the gap between the Estonian and Spaniard reduced to a little under ten seconds.

 

After lunchtime service the rerun of SS 10 – Savallà 2 (14,08 km) saw Ott top the times again, as he and Martin found their rhythm, and now the gap to Dani was a little over seven seconds. How would the Hyundai pilot react in the next one? Meantime Thierry was pulling away at the front from his illustrious teammate, the gap now more than fifteen seconds. In the battle between Elfyn and Jari-Matti, the Finn was winning, with the gap now almost twenty seconds.

 

Next up, SS 11 – Querol 2 (21,26 km) and the top three, Tänak, Latvala and Neuville were separated by just six tenths of a second. Super close! The gap was coming down bit by bit between Dani and Ott, as the Estonian looked for another podium.

 

The last big stage of the day, SS 12 – El Montmell 2 (24,40 km) and we had a change in the podium positions, but not who you might have expected! Dani passed Loeb, as the Frenchman could only manage the eighth fastest time, almost eight seconds slower than Ott. Further down the gap between Elfyn and Latvala remained around twenty seconds, despite the Welshman being a little faster than Jari-Matti.

 

Now it was time for the final stage of the day, SS 13 – Salou (2,24 km) and Thierry set the best time from Dani and Ott, and the Estonian was now ahead of Loeb and in third place, and just a few seconds behind second place as well.

 

CLASSIFICATION DAY TWO

  1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:25:15.8
  2. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +21.5
  3. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +24.6
  4. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +25.2
  5. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +46.8
  6. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:09.2
  7. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:24.5
  8. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +4:09.9
  9. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +6:35.2 (1st RC2 & WRC2Pro)
  10. Camilli / Veillas (Citroën C3 R5) +6:38.2 (2ndRC2 & 1st WRC2)

 

The Driver Quotes

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“We have been fully motivated and confident with the car on these tarmac stages today. We had the perfect start to the day with two more stage wins and moving into the rally lead. From there, we were able to gradually increase our advantage stage by stage, adopting a clever approach to keep things smooth and clean. We took things a bit easier once we saw Kris (Meeke) have his issue this morning, especially in the big cuts to avoid punctures. Overall, we’re in the position we want – and need – to be. Nothing’s over until it’s over so we will keep pushing with our sights set firmly on securing victory tomorrow, and a good team result for the manufacturers’ championship.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 13 Rally de España
24-27 October 2019
Day 2, Action, Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (2nd)

“We have done our best to continue the 1-2-3 formation that we achieved yesterday but it’s been a more challenging day. We have pushed as hard as we could, even if we’ve been missing some time here and there. It has also been important to stay cautious at times, particularly in the cuts, as it is so easy to run into trouble. Tänak has been driving well, as we expected, so our job today has been trying to defend our position. There’s not a lot of time between three crews battling for second place, so tomorrow will be a critical day. We will keep fighting as hard as we can.”

Seb Loeb (4th)

“We started this morning’s loop almost like a completely new rally, swapping the gravel stages for tarmac. It doesn’t matter what surface we have, the stages in Spain are great and the atmosphere is incredible. We have had to adopt some caution at times today to avoid making mistakes. The feeling with the car and the balance has been nice but for some reason the times just haven’t been there. In the final stage, I stalled the engine which cost us some time and lost us third place. But overall, I don’t think we could have done much more. We will check this evening to understand where we’re losing out. Thierry has been going very fast and the team is still in a strong position overall, which is the positive we take into Sunday’s stages.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (3rd)

“I’m really happy with how today turned out. This morning, I was really struggling and I couldn’t find any rhythm. The car was feeling good but I was a long way from being close to the limit. It was difficult to get used to the pressure of the situation. But I managed to reset for the afternoon and I could improve the rhythm. Tomorrow is another long day with some demanding stages, so there is still a big job to do.”

FIA World Rally Championship / Round 13 / Rally RACC Catalunya/Rally de Espana / Oct 24-27, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)

“Overall, I must say that today has been good. At first this morning, I struggled with the brakes a bit after the change from gravel, but in the second stage already I had a very good feeling with the car. The afternoon started pretty well too. On El Montmell I ran wide, hit something and damaged the steering arm so we lost a bit of time there. But otherwise, it has been a positive day. Tomorrow I’m going to try to keep the pressure on and see what happens, as we need as many points as we can get.”

Kris Meeke (39th)

“When you transition from gravel to asphalt on this event, you’re always wondering what the car is going to feel like. The rhythm was really nice this morning and the car felt incredible. Not far into the second stage, I went to brake for a fast left that tightened. I knew the corner very well, but immediately I locked the rear wheels and I didn’t make the corner. I touched the barrier at the rear of the car and that was it. I’m really frustrated. I had to put it on the line today to try and get among our rivals for the manufacturers’ championship. I think we could have had the speed to do it but unfortunately that small mistake cost us.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“We’ve been trying hard all day but just weren’t able to find the pace as the day wore on. In terms of the balance of the car, the feeling was improving all the time but it just didn’t seem to affect the times at the end of the stage. It was always two or three seconds here and there, and that’s what makes the difference. Unfortunately, we just haven’t had an answer to the guys at the front today.”

Teemu Suninen (7th)

“I think it’s been a pretty good day for us and I had a good feeling with the car in the afternoon. I was able to really focus on my driving and I think we set some good times. But no matter what we did, or how long the stage was, we were always three seconds behind Sébastien [Ogier]! I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but hopefully one day we will be three seconds ahead! We know where the level is, and we’re not too far away so that it definitely a good thing.”

Teemu and Jarmo continued to learn together. Photo credit, M-Sport

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (8th)

“Although it wasn’t easy to find motivation today, I did my best to remain very focused and push hard.  We ended up setting some decent times. I’m pleased that my good feeling in testing has been confirmed here in the rally. The balance of the C3 WRC is better and I have more confidence in the front axle. We’re not quite there, however, there’s still a little something missing. We’re going to keep working hard to find the last few tenths, which are always difficult to get.”

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia did their best, despite lacking big motivation, given how things had turned out. Photo credit, Citroën Racing

Summary

Well, what an interesting day. Thierry had done everything right, moving into the lead at the start of the day and then pulling away, and keeping his title hopes alive. It had also been a very good day for Ott, who’d moved up the leaderboard and into the podium positions and is now just a few seconds from second place. Who’d bet against him getting past Dani Sordo tomorrow?

It was a shame that Kris and Seb ended their challenge in the second stage of the day, as they were going really well, having passed Dani Sordo in the stage before. A small mistake, that had big consequences for his hopes.

It was a surprise to see Elfyn and Scott not setting quick times. They just couldn’t set some quick times and drifted further back from the leading drivers, despite feeling that he was setting good times.

Sébastien and Julien drove well, setting good times and climbing the standings into eighth position. It’s hard to see them gaining anymore places though, unless one of the crews ahead suffer a problem.

Thinking ahead to Sunday’s stages, there is a total of 74km over four tests. Talking about the final stage, La Mussara, Miikka Anttila says “This is probably the one stage this weekend that none of the crews have much experience on. The first six kilometres were driven in 2016; the rest not for a long time in this direction. In the beginning, the road turns a lot, and once on top of the hill it’s very fast and flat-out in places. Then it’s back to a slower road down to the finish.”

Perhaps, we’ll know then if Ott Tänak will have won the crown.

Rally Spain, Day One – Seb Loeb leads a One, Two, Three for Hyundai Motorsport

It was good day for Hyundai, but not so good for Citroën, who suffered two separate technical failures on their cars.

With six stages all on gravel today, the start list looked like this – Tänak, Ogier, Neuville, Meeke, Evans, Latvala, Lappi, Suninen, Sordo, Loeb.

 

It was a good start by Seb Ogier, who won SS 1 – Gandesa 1 (7,00 km) from Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville was right there as well. The short stage didn’t affect Ott Tanak too much either, with the championship leader only losing 1.8 seconds to the reigning champion.

 

With the longer SS 2 – Horta-Bot 1 (19,00 km), it started to unravel for Ogier. He started to lose time very early in the and the problem got worse and worse. By the end, he and Julien had lost 44 seconds and had fallen to fifteenth position. Is this the moment when the championship slipped away from the Citroën pilot? Thierry moved into the lead after winning the stage, with his Spanish teammate just a few tenths behind. Kris now held third, as the top Toyota at this point. Elfyn suffered a part spin, losing a few seconds and falling behind his Finnish teammate, but not by a big margin. Meantime, Ott had made his way up to fourth place.

 

The next stage, SS 3 – La Fatarella – Vilalba 1 (38,85 km), a really long and proper stage. Seb Ogier lost even more time on this long stage, losing almost three minutes, and was now three and a half minutes from the lead. His fellow multiple world champion Seb Loeb won the stage and moved up to sixth place. Meantime, Dani Sordo took the lead with championship hopeful Thierry now falling to second place. Elfyn had a better stage, setting the fourth fastest time and moving up the leaderboard to into fourth place. The drivers to fall behind were Kris, who was just a few tenths behind the Welshman and in fifth, whilst Esapekka was now in seventh place. The gaps were really quite small though, with only twelve seconds covering first and seventh.

 

After lunchtime service, SS 4 – Gandesa 2 (7,00 km), and Dani was quick out of the blocks once more, winning the stage from Teemu. Loeb also went well, making it a one-three for Hyundai in the stage and moving him above Kris and Elfyn and into fourth place. Thierry put a good stage together and continued to hold second overall. Hyundai had found a good set up for their cars, and were going well indeed.

 

Into SS 5 – Horta-Bot 2 (19,00 km) and Loeb won from Sordo, whilst Latvala was starting to feel more comfortable, setting the same time as Dani. Loeb’s pace moved him into third overall, with Ott now falling behind the former champion. Kris was also going well, passing Elfyn. Esapekka Lappi sadly dropped out of the standings with a technical problem. We now had a Hyundai one-two-three! Seb Ogier was well out of the running and despite his complete professionalism really struggling for motivation.

 

The final stage of the day then, and SS 6 – La Fatarella – Vilalba 2 (38,85 km) saw a massive push from Loeb, which gave him a superb stage victory, beating Kris and Thierry and was enough to give him and Daniel the rally lead, whilst Thierry and Dani completed a one-two-three for Hyundai. On the flip side, Elfyn had a terrible stage with an engine problem and he lost 38 seconds and fell to seventh. Not how he would have wanted to end the day, but at least he’s still in the running for the points and we know how fast he is on tarmac.

Driver Quotes at the end of Day One

Hyundai Motorsport

Seb Loeb (1st)

“An incredible day for the team! It is a wonderful feeling to be leading this rally, even if at this early stage of the weekend. There was a bit of a tyre strategy in the morning, and I was only able to get the hard compounds working to their optimum performance at the end of the loop. The conditions were just too slippery and greasy in the opening stages. The afternoon was better and I had a good feeling throughout. In the final stage, the car was perfect and I was just flying. We gave it a push and it was good enough to secure a 1-2-3 for the team to end the first day. We now have two long days of tarmac ahead of us.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 13 Rally de España
24-27 October 2019
Day 1, Action, Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“We have had a great start to this rally and the car has been working very well. We had a positive opening loop this morning and continued in the same direction for the afternoon. There were some tricky sections at times but we stayed focused and tried to be efficient. The final stage was particularly tough with some visibility issues, a combination of the sun being low and some fog, so we had to remain concentrated. Aside from losing a second or two at the last hairpin, it was a strong end to an almost perfect day.”

Dani Sordo (3rd)

“All in all, we have had a good day and things are looking good for the team on the standings with the top three positions. The car has been working very well, even with changeable grip levels. The only downsides were a puncture 5km before the end of the morning loop, which lost us some time, as well as a disappointing end to our afternoon. Some places were difficult to drive but there was nothing immediately wrong. I think we can still be happy with our performances today, as we now turn our attention the tarmac stages.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kris Meeke (4th)

“This morning I struggled a bit with the setup and so I wasn’t comfortable over the bumps, especially in the long stage, SS3. But everything came together in the afternoon. The car felt a lot different and I could trust it a lot more. I said beforehand that I needed to be within 10 seconds of the lead tonight and the gap is currently 13, so it’s not bad, we’re still there. My pace has been strong on asphalt this year and I know the Yaris WRC works really well, so I’m confident and looking forward to the rest of the rally.”

Ott Tänak (5th)

“It was a really tough and demanding day today. When you’re opening the road during the first loop, it’s constantly slippery, but in a way it’s still manageable. The conditions are always more difficult in the second loop and it can be really frustrating. I pushed as hard as I could and I couldn’t do any more, so we need to be happy with that. Tomorrow is very much a new day and a very different day, and hopefully it can be a stronger day for us.”

FIA World Rally Championship / Round 13 / Rally RACC Catalunya/Rally de Espana / Oct 24-27, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala (6th)

“This day on gravel was not as simple as last year. After the rain earlier in the week, the grip level was much lower, and it was more difficult this morning. Then in the afternoon, the grip was pretty consistent, but there were many ruts. I wasn’t confident enough this morning, but we made some changes with the suspension in service, and I fought back in the afternoon. I feel a lot more relaxed and confident now and I’m looking forward to the next two days on asphalt.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (7th)

“It was shaping up to be a pretty good fight, but it didn’t go our way in the end. We had some speed at times, but then we had a pretty bad misfire on the last stage. We managed to change a few things on the road section and get it going again so it’s just one of those things – and we’ll need to make sure we’re on it from the word go when the action moves to Tarmac tomorrow.”

Elfyn and Scott suffered an up and down day, which ended with an engine problem. Photo credit, M-Sport

Teemu Suninen (8th)

“We found a good rhythm this afternoon and I had a really good feeling with the car. I tried to set some good times, and I was happy that we managed to do that. But I wasn’t so good at managing the tyres on the long stage. On the first pass I pushed too hard, and on the second I didn’t push enough. It’s something I need to improve, but I know it’s a learning curve so I will make some good notes and do some good homework.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (17th)

“I lost the power steering pretty much at the start of SS2, then the gearshift paddles went and finally the central differential. It was so hard physically to drive the car without power steering, I ended up with blisters on my hands. Obviously, it’s disappointing because the intention was there. We made the right call on tyres and the time on the opening stage confirmed the good feeling we had. Everyone in the team is disappointed this evening, but obviously we’re professionals and our approach has always been to never give up and see where we are at the end of the rally.”

It wasn’t a good day for Seb and Julien. Photo credit, Citroën Racing

Esapekka Lappi (DNF)

“I’m disappointed that my rally has come to a premature end, especially as I had enjoyed a pretty solid and consistent day up to that point, in terms of pace. The gaps were small and we were up for the fight, because I felt comfortable in my C3 WRC. I will now look forward to Australia and finishing the season on a high with the best possible result.”

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY ONE

  1. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:21:24.7
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1.7
  3. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +7.6
  4. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +13.0
  5. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +21.7
  6. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +30.1
  7. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +44.0
  8. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +51.8
  9. Katsuta / Barritt (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:50.3
  10. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +2:59.8

 

Summary

Well, a very interesting first day on the gravel roads in Spain. It’s certainly not the day that the Citroën team would have wanted, and now it is looking very likely that we will see our first Estonian world champion.

At the front, Hyundai’s drivers are doing all they can to help Thierry take the fight to the final round, but with Ott Tänak sitting in fifth overall, he’s in a good position to take the title.

Toyota had a reasonable day, with Kris, Ott and Jari-Matti all setting pretty good times, and will look to move up the order tomorrow.

At M-Sport they had their moments, but with the problems that Elfyn had in the longest stage this afternoon, they’ll be wanting more from the weekend. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.

Now, tomorrow sees the crews attack seven stages totaling 121km. We’ll have a better idea if Ott Tänak is set for his first championship by the end of tomorrow.

Rally Spain 2019 Preview – The title battle moves to Spain.

The Championship Rivals

The championship fight between Ott, Seb and Thierry arrives at the dual surface challenge that is Rally Spain! The Belgian is on balance, given he is forty-one points behind Ott Tänak, the driver least likely to win this years’ championship. Very simply, he has to win this event and take the powerstage as well, and hope that neither Ott, or Seb actually finish to take the fight to the final round down under. Even then, he’d still be behind the Estonian. Seb though is closer, just twenty-eight from the leader, giving him the chance to lead the championship should he win and take the powerstage, assuming that Ott doesn’t finish. Now, the championship could be decided in Spain should Ott finish ahead of either of his rivals.

 

The Podium Challengers

There are a number of drivers who could finish on the podium. Now, think back to Tour de Corse, we saw a storming drive from Elfyn and Scott on the tarmac, which almost gave them victory. The M-Sport duo will almost certainly feature at the front, and last time out in Wales they made a great return. Kris and Seb will also be quick enough to take stage victories. Now in the Hyundai camp, we’ll have Dani returning to his i20 and last years’ Rally Spain winners, Seb and Daniel as support to Thierry and Nicolas.

Driver Quotes.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak

“I’m looking forward to Spain. As always, I will aim to do my best, but we need to be smart. We know that it could be tricky for us on the first day, as we’ll be running first on the road on gravel. The weather could change things too: We saw last year that we can easily get rain in Spain at this time of year. But I believe that our performance should be good on both surfaces: We were already fast on this event last year and hopefully that will be the case again this time, and we can get the result we need.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 12 / Rally Catalunya-Costa Daurada Rally de Espagna 2018 / October 25-28, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala

“The combination of gravel and asphalt in Spain is something I’ve always really liked. The gravel stages are quite smooth but very slippery, while the asphalt roads are best that we have in the championship: really smooth and fast. I had a test on asphalt in Spain last week and I had a really nice feeling in the car. I’m very motivated and looking forward to being back in the car, fighting for the best possible result as we try to win the manufacturers’ championship again.”

Kris Meeke

“Spain is one of my favourite events on the calendar. I’ve always enjoyed the mixed-surface challenge, and last time I did the rally in 2017, I managed to take the win. I’ve had a really good feeling with the Yaris WRC on asphalt so far, so I’m especially looking forward to that part of it. On gravel, we know there will be a couple of drivers who will have ideal road positions and can be very strong on this event. With the manufacturers’ championship being so close now, we’ve got a job to do and we’re certainly going to have to be on our game.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“I enjoy racing on different surfaces so I like this rally and I’m very determined to score big points here if I can. We don’t have any choice, really. We have to close the gap to Ott if we are to retain our hopes of retaining the title. Given the influence of road position, the first leg on gravel is bound to be difficult for us but I’m not going to worry about that any more than usual. I’m confident that we’ll be quicker on tarmac. The feeling in testing was much better than recently but only the times and those of our rivals will tell us whether or not the step forward we have made is big enough.”

Seb and Julien drove to a strong second place last year. Could they take the win this year? Photo credit, Citroën Racing

Esapekka Lappi

“I like the idea of racing on a mixed-surface rally, even though it’s a huge challenge. It’s especially tricky on Saturday morning when you have to switch from gravel to tarmac with no transition and be immediately on the pace from the first corner. I hope it will stay dry on Friday and I’ll be able to make the most of my position in the running order, particularly as we have now shown good pace on gravel. I love the tarmac stages here. The roads are smooth and flowing, very fast in places, and on the whole pretty clean if it doesn’t rain. They are the ones that remind me most of my track racing past. We should be more competitive than on the previous tarmac rounds, because we definitely pinpointed something during testing, but we’ll have to wait for the times on the first few stages on tarmac to see where we really stand.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“We are approaching a critical part of the season, where the championship really intensifies. Our aim is clear: to fight for victory and to outscore our rivals. At the same time, we know that Rally de España is a unique event due to the fact that we are running one day on gravel and two days on tarmac. It has very specific characteristics and it is truly the only one like this on the calendar. It poses challenges to which we all look forward. We have shown that we are strong contenders on both surfaces this year and we will keep pushing as hard as we can for the championship.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 12, Rally de Espa–a
25-28 Octobre 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo

“I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in Spain, my home rally. This is always a very special event as we compete on both gravel and tarmac in the same weekend. It’s nice to start on gravel. With our advantageous position, starting later on the road, we can hopefully gain some time. Then there’s a big fight on tarmac as there are fast crews in every team, so it promises to be an exciting event. As it is in Spain, it is also double motivation for me. The spectators come to see everybody but I think they support the Spanish drivers a little bit more than the others normally!”

Seb Loeb

“For me, Rally de España is a rally I’ve always enjoyed. I have won it a lot of times but what I like the most is the location: it’s a nice place close to the sea. The mixed surface is something I always enjoyed in the past and it’s the only event we completely change the set-up of the car in the middle of the rally. We are confident we can be on the pace and support the team to extend the lead in the manufacturers’ battle.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans

“It was great to be back in Wales, and to see that our pace was strong enough to challenge for the top results. We want to see that pace continue in Spain and I see no reason why we can’t do that. I feel as though we have some unfinished business this year, and I’m keen to deliver some strong results over these final events.

“As the only mixed-surface event on the calendar there’s nothing else quite like this rally. The gravel stages can be quite technical in places, and the asphalt roads are as close as we get to rallying on a race track in full Tarmac trim.

“We completed an asphalt test earlier this week and the feeling is good, so I’m really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel and seeing what we can do.”

There’s no doubting Elfyn and Scott’s pace on tarmac and gravel this year. Photo credit, M-Sport

Teemu Suninen

“We completed a three-day test with Elfyn last week, and got to experience three different types of Tarmac roads. We know that the car is very good on this surface, and on gravel as well, so I’m looking forward to showing what we can do next week.

“My aim is to secure a strong result, and it would be great if we were able to challenge for the podium. The battle between the three Finns in the championship is also really exciting, and I want to do well in that fight.

“We need to be focused, and I will try to find a good rhythm straight away. This is a rally that I have done every year since 2015, so it is quite familiar and if I can get everything right then I think we can challenge for a good result.”

 

Here’s the stages! There are 325km over seventeen stages, with six gravel on Friday. Once again, getting through the first day in a good position will help give the good start position for Saturday. This will be key, given that the lower that you run on the tarmac, the dirtier it will be, therefore harder to set a quick time.

THURSDAY 24 OCTOBER

9.01am: Shakedown (2,00 km on gravel)

7.00pm: Ceremonial Start (Salou)

 

FRIDAY 25 OCTOBER

8.00am: Start from PortAventura service park

9.23am: SS 1 – Gandesa 1 (7,00 km)

10.03am: SS 2 – Horta-Bot 1 (19,00 km)

11.13am: SS 3 – La Fatarella – Vilalba 1 (38,85 km)

1.23pm: Service A (PortAventura – 40 minutes)

3.26pm: SS 4 – Gandesa 2 (7,00 km)

4.06pm: SS 5 – Horta-Bot 2 (19,00 km)

5.16pm: SS 6 – La Fatarella – Vilalba 2 (38,85 km)

7.51pm: Flexi service B (PortAventura – 1 hr 15 minutes)

 

SATURDAY 26 OCTOBER

7.30am: Start & service C (PortAventura – 15 minutes)

9.00am: SS 7 – Savallà 1 (14,08 km)

9.41am: SS 8 – Querol 1 (21,26 km)

10.38am: SS 9 – El Montmell 1 (24,40 km)

12.10pm: Service D (PortAventura – 40 minutes)

2.01pm: SS 10 – Savallà 2 (14,08 km)

2.42pm: SS 11 – Querol 2 (21,26 km)

3.38pm: SS 12 – El Montmell 2 (24,40 km)

5.30pm: SS 13 – Salou (2,24 km)

6.00pm: Flexi service E (PortAventura – 45 minutes)

 

SUNDAY 27 OCTOBER

6.45am: Start & service F (PortAventura – 15 minutes)

7.41am: SS 14 – Riudecanyes 1 (16,35 km)

8.38am: SS 15 – La Mussara 1 (20,72 km)

9.48am: Service G (PortAventura – 30 minutes)

10.54am: SS 16 – Riudecanyes 2 (16,35 km)

12.18pm: SS 17 – La Mussara 2 Power Stage (20,72 km)

1.41pm: Service H (PortAventura – 10 minutes)

2.01pm: Podium (Salou)

 

Summary

There could be a new world champion by Sunday afternoon and the first not called Seb since Petter Solberg won in 2003. Who’d have thought in 2004 we would have so many years with French drivers dominating the championship? Now anyone could stand on the podium, and this will have a bearing on the manufacturer’s championship in which the fight between Hyundai and Toyota is really close, with just eight points between them. The Hyundai team are very keen to win this one. This is why they have Dani and Seb in the other two cars, giving them the best possible chance to score more points than Toyota. We really are set for a fascinating weekend.

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

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

Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STANDINGS AFTER DAY ONE

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

Kris Meeke (3rd)

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (Retired)

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

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

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

Esapekka Lappi (Retired/Rally2)

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (4th)

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

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

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

Craig Breen (6th)

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

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

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (7th)

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

Elfyn Evans (8th)

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

Pontus Tidemand (9th)

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

Saturday

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

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

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

Elfyn and Scott pass #Elfynscorner in Myherin

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

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

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

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

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

STANDINGS AFTER DAY TWO

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

Kris Meeke (5th)

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

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

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

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

Esapekka Lappi (20th)

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

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

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

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

Craig Breen

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

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th)

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

Pontus Tidemand (7th)

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

Teemu Suninen (DNF)

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

Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINAL STANDINGS

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

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

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

Kris Meeke (4th)

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

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

Andreas Mikkelsen (6th)

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

Craig Breen (8th)

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

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

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

Esapekka Lappi (27th)

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

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (5th)

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

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

Pontus Tidemand (7th)

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

 

Summary

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

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

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

Wales Rally GB 2019 Preview- The title battle continues!

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

 

Possible winners?

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

 

Who else could feature at the front?

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

 

Stage information.

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

#ElfynsCorner Banner

THURSDAY 3 OCTOBER

08h00: Shakedown Gwydir (4,68 km)

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

16h00: Cérémonie de départ (Liverpool)

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

21h17: Parc fermé (Llandudno)

 

FRIDAY 4 OCTOBER

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

07h18: ES 2 – Elsi 1 (11,65 km)

07h46: ES 3 – Penmachno 1 (16,19 km)

09h56: ES 4 – Dyfnant 1 (19,36 km)

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

13h07: Assistance B (Llandudno – 42’)

14h40: ES 6 – Elsi 2 (11,65 km)

15h08: ES 7 – Penmachno 2 (16,19 km)

15h57: ES 8 – Slate Moutain (1,60 km)

18h11: ES 9 – Dyfnant 2 (19,36 km)

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

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

 

SATURDAY 5 OCTOBER

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

08h06: ES 11 – Dyfi 1 (25,86 km)

10h08: ES 12 – Myherin 1 (22,91 km)

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

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

14h08: ES 14 – Myherin 2 (22,91 km)

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

16h19: ES 16 – Dyfi 2 (25,86 km)

19h13: ES 17 – Colwyn Bay (2,40 km) 

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

 

SUNDAY 6 OCTOBER

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

07h28: ES 18 – Alwen 1 (10,41 km)

08h08: ES 19 – Brenig 1 (6,43 km)

09h26: ES 20 – Great Orme (4,74 km)

09h42: Assistance G (Llandudno – 17’)

11h10: ES 21 – Alwen 2 (10,41 km)

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

13h32: Arrivée (Llandudno)

 

Right, lets’s hear from the crews!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak

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

Jari-Matti Latvala

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

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

Kris Meeke

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

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

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

Photo credit, Citroën Racing

Esapekka Lappi

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

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

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

Andreas Mikkelsen

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

Craig Breen

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

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans

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

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

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

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

Teemu Suninen

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

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

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

Pontus Tidemand

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

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

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

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

Gus Greensmith

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

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

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

Hayden Paddon

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

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

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

Summary

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