After a number of gravel events, we return to tarmac, with the completely unique Rally Germany. Each day has a completely different type of tarmac as well, making it exceptionally challenging, and that is before the rain arrives, and the mud and stones gets pulled on the road. Then it really is unpredictable.
Two years ago, Ott Tanak took his first ever WRC victory in this event. Now he and Martin head to this event as championship leaders, twenty-two points ahead of reigning champions Seb and Julien. The Estonians have to be considered as favourites for the win, but the champions in the Citroen will want to hit back and take a win.
Thierry and Nicolas in their Hyundai, who are third in the championship will also want to take a win to close up at the front, and their car does go well on tarmac. They picked up a win earlier this year on the island of Corsica, after Elfyn’s puncture on the final stage.
Of course, Elfyn and Scott sadly will be missing a second rally as the Welshman continues to recover from his back injury. Gus and Elliot will be making their debut on tarmac this weekend, and this will very much be a learning process for them. Teemu and Jarmo will be leading the team, and their car will be capable of getting them onto the podium.
These are the 19 stages and a total of 344km of competitive mileage facing the crews. Saturday is the longest day, with eight of the stages run just on that day. This event is often regarded as actually being three rallies in one. One part of the route features very narrow, technical stages lined with pavements that wind through steep hills of the Mosel vineyards. Another part takes the crews through the countryside of the former French department of the Sarre, with a series of tight hairpins, whilst Saturday’s leg is famous for the stages held in the Baumholder military base, where the bumpy, concrete roads are hard on both the tyres and the cars’ damper systems.
THURSDAY 22 AUGUST
10.00am: Shakedown St. Wendeler Land (5,20 km)
6.45pm: Start (Bostalsee)
7.08pm: SS 1 – St. Wendeler Land (5,20 km)
7.38pm: Parc ferme
FRIDAY 23 AUGUST
9.00am: Start & service A (Bostalsee – 15 mins)
10.14am: SS 2 – Stein und Wein 1 (19,44 km)
11.08am: SS 3 – Mittelmosel 1 (22,00 km)
12.43pm: SS 4 – Wadern-Weiskirchen 1 (9,27 km)
2.03pm: Service B (Bostalsee – 40 mins)
3.42pm: SS 5 – Stein und Wein 2 (19,44 km)
4.36pm: SS 6 – Mittelmosel 2 (22,00 km)
6.11pm: SS 7 – Wadern-Weiskirchen 2 (9,27 km)
7.11pm: Flexi service C (Bostalsee – 48 mins)
SATURDAY 24 AUGUST
7.15am: Start & service D (Bostalsee – 15 mins)
8.09am: SS 8 – Freisen 1 (14,78 km)
9.12am: SS 9 – Römerstrasse 1 (12,28 km)
11.09am: SS 10 – Freisen 2 (14,78 km)
12.12pm: SS 11 – Römerstrasse 2 (12,28 km)
1.31pm: Service E (Bostalsee – 40 mins)
3.08pm: SS 12 – Arena Panzerplatte 1 (10,73 km)
3.46pm: SS 13 – Panzerplatte 1 (41,17 km)
5.41pm: Service F (Bostalsee – 15 mins)
6.53pm: SS 14 – Arena Panzerplatte 2 (10,73 km)
7.31pm: SS 15 – Panzerplatte 2 (41,17 km)
9.06pm: Flexi service G (Bostalsee – 48 mins)
SUNDAY 25 AUGUST
6.20am: Start & service H (Bostalsee – 15 mins)
7.46am: SS 16 – Grafschaft 1 (28,06 km)
9.41am: SS 17 – Dhrontal 1 (11,69 km)
10.10am: SS 18 – Grafschaft 2 (28,06 km)
12.18pm: SS 19 – Dhrontal 2 (11,69 km)
1.23pm: Service I (Bostalsee – 10 mins)
Let’s hear from the drivers!
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
“Germany is obviously a rally that I like a lot. Martin and I have won there two years in a row and our target this year is definitely to make it three. It’s certainly not an easy rally: I think last year was one of the most difficult wins in my career, as the competition was very strong and I had to push really hard from the beginning. It’s a big challenge for a driver to have so many different types of road in one rally, and to try to be fast on all of them and not make any mistakes. We know that the weather is often a big factor as well, and it can be very hard to predict.”
“It was really good to get the podium finish in Finland, and it means that I have a more relaxed feeling going to Germany. Last year we were up to second place when we had a problem on the final day and had to retire, so we know that we can be strong there. I’m really excited to see how we will do and I hope we can be fighting for the podium places again. The last asphalt rally in Corsica was difficult for me but we really worked on this in our test in Germany before Rally Finland: We were working on the braking and the turning, and I had a good feeling in the car.”
“After a run of gravel events, I’m really looking forward to competing on asphalt again. I’ve had a great feeling with the Yaris WRC so far on asphalt and I hope that we can find that again in Germany. It’s always a really demanding event because of the three different types of terrain and, on top of that, the weather is often changing from one stage to the next. But it’s a rally where I’ve been competitive in the past and I really hope that we can secure a good result for the team.”
Citroën Total WRT
“My aim coming into this round in Germany, a rally where I have always performed very well, is to secure a good result and shift the momentum a little bit in the championship. We had several types of weather conditions during testing and that’s always positive. The fact that we will be tackling the military base stage in the opposite direction to normal might make it a decisive test again, even though in the last few years the need to manage the tyres has meant we’ve been unable to push really hard. It is still a tricky section, like a lot of the rally itself. The risk of picking up a puncture is higher than usual, with the many curbs on the roads in the vineyards and the small, sharp stones that end up on the road surface in Baumholder.”
“My test in June was very successful. In addition to half a day in the military base, I had a full day on a good test base, with a little bit of everything we can expect road surface-wise during the race, and I felt comfortable in the C3 WRC. But it’s always difficult to know where you are compared to your rivals. In the meantime, I also spent the day at Satory, and that allowed me to get my bearings back on tarmac. So, I feel ready and I think that on this kind of tricky rally, as well as having good speed, you need to be consistent given the number of incidents that invariably occur. The podium I secured last year showed just that.”
“Germany is a very challenging event due to the fact that you have three different days with very different characteristics. You have the vineyards, the Saarland stages and the famous Baumholder stages. In addition to that, the weather plays a key role in the result of the rally and the past editions have always been surprisingly wet. That makes it hard to choose the right tyres. We will be pushing to fight at the front and challenge for victory.”
“Rallye Deutschland is a beautiful rally, and it will represent our first time on tarmac for quite a while. The rally contains three contrasting days. The Mosel valley and the vineyards are very tricky stages, and then we have the military area, which needs a completely different type of driving before the countryside stages. All are very different, but enjoyable. It’s important to find consistency and score as many points as possible to help the team maintain the lead of the championship.”
“Germany is always a nice rally and really special because of the different road profiles. The Baumholder stages in particular are famous for their concrete roads that can wear the tyres, as well as the Hinkelsteins and hairpin turns. I have won here in the past and been on the podium many times. Normally I am on the pace every year, so I hope this year will be the same.”
“Rallye Deutschland is a really demanding rally, but I feel ready for the challenge. We had a good run last time out on Tarmac, and I hope we can build on that next week.
“We’ve had a day and a half testing to find the best set-ups on the car, and the feeling is really good. Of course, it’s impossible to be on the limit all the time at an event like this, but if we stay focused, I think we can have a good rally.
“The route note crews will also be really important next week – and I think this is the most important event for them after Rallye Monte-Carlo. There is always a lot of cutting here which brings a lot of dirt onto the road. The conditions can change so much from one corner to the next, and that means a lot of changes in the notes.”
“I’m really excited for this one – Tarmac is the surface I grew up on, so this is my kind of territory. I thought the Ford Fiesta WRC was quick on gravel – but it’s another level on Tarmac!
“I’ve had a day and a half testing in Germany to prepare, and everything has been really promising so far. I felt immediately more comfortable with the Fiesta WRC on Tarmac, and the feeling behind the wheel was truly special.
“Being a Tarmac event, the margins are smaller and everything feels that little more on the edge. But our focus is on gaining the full experience of the rally, and if I’m relaxed, I’m confident the times will come too.”
I held a poll on my twitter account, asking who was likely to win. Here’s the result.
Well, if Ott and Martin win this rally for the third year in a row, they will be in a commanding position in the fight for this year’s world championship. Now, who else could stand on the podium? Seb Ogier, Thierry Neuville, Dani Sordo all have the pace. Kris Meeke and Teemu Suninen and Jari-Matti Latvala could all also make it, depending on their consistency through the stages. Which drivers could make it into the points? Well, Gus Greensmith makes his third start of the year, and will hope to make it to the finish this time. It’s certainly going to be a spectacular event! Enjoy!
Ott Tanak and his co-driver Martin Jarveoja have taken their second victory on the incredible roads in Finland. Here’s the story of how it all came together for the young Estonian pairing.
With ten stages on day one and Ott Tänak opening the road, it would be interesting if his championship rivals could take advantage and get ahead of him on the leaderboard. The start list looked like this – Tänak, Ogier, Neuville, Suninen, Meeke, Mikkelsen, Lappi, Latvala, Greensmith, Breen.
The first stage of the day, SS 2 – Oittila (19,34 km), and it was a stage victory for Jari-Matti, with Lappi and Meeke second and third fastest. Ott though was only nine tenths off his teammates pace and held the overall lead from his teammates. Ogier and Neuville held fifth and ninth at this point.
Into SS 3 – Moksi 1 (20,04 km) then and Kris set a great pace and, but you could argue Ott was even better with second fastest time, with Jari-Matti in third. In the Hyundai camp, Craig Breen, with Paul Nagle alongside him was going well and setting some great times and held sixth overall at the end of this stage, ahead of both Andreas and Thierry.
Jari-Matti won SS 4 – Urria 1 (12,28 km) from Craig, with Esapekka and Ott setting the same time to both go third fastest. Craig’s pace allowed him to pass Seb, taking fifth overall at this point. The M-Sport duo of Teemu and Gus were down in eighth and tenth, with Thierry between them. Incredibly, Ott still held the lead.
SS 5 – Ässämäki 1 (12,33 km) saw Ott take stage victory, 1.1 seconds ahead of Craig, who increased the gap to Seb. Esapekka and Andreas were equal third fastest. Kris was now 4.2 seconds from his teammate in second place. Further back, Thierry passed Teemu, moving into eighth position.
The final stage before the service break, SS 6 – Äänekoski 1 (7,80 km) and Jari-Matti took it by just a tenth of a second from Craig, who was clearly getting very comfortable in his Hyundai. Latvala’s pace lifted him above Kris, the Finn retaking second overall. It had been a good morning for Tommi’s team, winning every stage so far.
After lunchtime service, there was a change in the lead, after Jari-Matti won SS 7 – Moksi 2 (20,04 km) with Esapekka and Kris just one tenth of a second slower. Ott emerged in second overall, now just four tenths off the lead. The gap between Craig and Seb reduced a little in their battle over fifth position.
Andreas won SS 8 – Urria 2 (12,28 km), breaking the stranglehold that Toyota had held on stage victories, with Esapekka and Jari-Matti second and third fastest. The outcome of all of this was Jari-Matti held the lead by just six tenths of a second from Esapekka, Ott and Kris who were all on the same overall time. Andreas’ pace was enough to move him ahead of Seb and into sixth place. Incredibly, Craig was now just ten seconds from the lead, and feeling very comfortable.
Jari-Matti took SS 9 – Ässämäki 2 (12,33 km) from Esapekka, with Kris in third, and these were the top three as well. Craig lost a little time to Andreas, but still held fifth overall. Sadly, the two Fiesta’s were in ninth and tenth place, and it was a surprise to see Teemu so far off the pace.
It was an incredible SS 10 – Äänekoski 2 (7,80 km), with Jari-Matti and Kris sharing the fastest time, plus Seb and Andreas equal second fastest, and this had the result of Kris moving ahead of Esapekka, pushing the Finn down to third overall.
The final stage of the day then, SS 11 – Harju 2 (2,31 km) and it was a second stage victory for the Hyundai Motorsport team, with Thierry winning the stage from Seb and Kris, who set the same time. The top four were separated by just 2.6 seconds. Just incredibly close!
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:04:01.1
Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1.2
Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +2.4
Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2.6
Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) +14.2
Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +14.6
Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +15.3
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +30.9
Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +52.6
Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:38.3
Here’s the thoughts of the drivers after day one.
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Jari-Matti Latvala (1st)
“It’s been a really good day. There were a couple of stages where the time was a little bit down, but generally I was able to have a strong performance. It has been so tight and the pressure has really been on, so it’s pleasing to be able to keep up the speed and not make mistakes when you’re trying to find the difference anywhere you can. Tomorrow I think the morning loop is going to be crucial because there are some new sections, and the profile of the road is generally a bit different: Wider with more crests and jumps.”
Kris Meeke (2nd)
“It’s been a good day I’ve really enjoyed it. In Finland it’s so important to make a good start and get away with the lead group, and we were able to do that this morning. The stages and the pace-notes were new to me on the first pass, so I could be a lot calmer this afternoon with that knowledge. I think there was a bit more road cleaning on the second pass but I think we made the most of our position. It’s so close between the top four, so it’s going to be exciting to see how it develops tomorrow.”
Ott Tänak (4th)
“Generally, I’m feeling pretty good at the end of the day. The conditions were challenging running first on the road, but in the morning, I had a good flow from the beginning, the car was working well and so I could focus on the driving. This afternoon the conditions were much tougher, and it was a bit frustrating as I was pushing hard and we lost a few places. But we are still very close, and tomorrow we should have a much better road position than we had today, so everything is to play for.”
Citroën Total WRT
Esapekka Lappi (3rd)
“It’s good to be back among the frontrunners and on the pace, especially at this rally, which means so much to us as Finns! My C3 WRC was perfect today and I really enjoyed driving on these stages. It’s crazy that the gaps are so small after such a long day. It looks like it will be a huge battle at the front tomorrow, but you can count on us to keep fighting!”
Sébastien Ogier (7th)
“I think we had a very good day. I was comfortable in the C3 WRC, but our position in the running order certainly didn’t make our lives any easier. I would’ve loved to end this first day in a better position so we could start further down the running order tomorrow, but I will at least have more cars ahead of me than today. It’s still very tight, so we have to keep pushing as hard as we can. We’re still in the fight to score some big points.”
Craig Breen (5th)
“It has been an unbelievable day and it’s gone better than I could have ever imagined. I have missed the feeling of being back in the WRC so I’ve felt on top of the world. I won’t be completely happy until we’re banging in the quickest times but I have picked up confidence in the car as the day has gone on, and that is half the battle. I have not been getting carried away; my goal is to support the team as best I can, taking no risks. The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC is probably the finest car I’ve ever driven and to get the opportunity to drive on these Finnish roads is something very special. The times have been incredibly close; it’s really testament to the quality of the WRC that one second in a stage can make such a big difference on timesheets. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (6th)
“We’ve had a pretty good day and I’m happy with what we’ve achieved. The morning loop was clean and the times were incredibly close. I planned to ramp things up a bit in the afternoon, and we were able to take a stage win. The feeling inside the car has been really nice and it’s been highly enjoyable to drive. We’ve struggled on these high-speed gravel stages before so it’s nice to see our work taking steps in the right direction. I’d like to say thanks to everyone at Hyundai Motorsport who have worked so hard on the car for this event; there’s been no summer vacation there to get a perfect job done.”
Thierry Neuville (8th)
“We started the rally in a very positive frame of mind and with a stage win on Thursday evening. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to replicate that during Friday’s stages. The feeling with the car itself was not so bad and we kept pushing hard during the day but we should have been able to set faster stage times. We have tried a number of different things but something hasn’t quite clicked yet. The rally is still long so we’ll continue to give it everything we’ve got.”
Teemu Suninen (9th)
“It’s really hard for a Finn when they’re not fast in Finland, and it’s been a really disappointing day for us. The driving feels good, but we are struggling to find the pace. In the past I have been beating Ogier and Tänak in the same car, so I know I can be fast here. But we are missing something this weekend, and need to do our homework and try to be faster.”
Gus Greensmith (10th)
“I can’t say today wasn’t enjoyable – it was amazing – but the learning curve was as big as the jumps – massive! Obviously, we started off quite cautiously in the morning and the times weren’t really where we wanted them to be. I managed to be there or thereabouts with my team-mate in the afternoon which was really good, but there seems to be a big gap to those further ahead. We’ll try a few different things tomorrow, and I’m sure the time will come to us.”
Being the longest day, with eight stages totalling 133km. The startlist looked like this – Greensmith, Suninen, Neuville, Ogier, Mikkelsen, Breen, Tänak, Lappi, Meeke, Latvala. We found out that Seb had a bad night’s sleep as well, after he’d been sick throughout the night. It would make his day interesting indeed.
Ott took the first stage, SS 12 – Pihlajakoski 1 (14,42 km) and jumped straight into the lead. Esapekka was second fastest and Jari-Matti third. Andreas was also on the move, passing Craig for fifth position. Further down the field, Kalle Rovanpera was driving his Skoda Fabia R5 out of his skin, posting an almost four seconds faster time than Gus Greensmith.
Into SS 13 – Päijälä 1 (22,87 km) and it was a 1-2-3 for Toyota with Kris leading Jari-Matti and Ott. Ott fell to second overall, although just two tenths of a second from new leader and teammate Jari-Matti. Also, on the move was Craig, who repassed Andreas in their battle over fifth place.
Into SS 14 – Kakaristo 1 (18,70 km) and Ott retook the lead. It wasn’t a happy time though at Toyota, as Kris and Jari-Matti both damaged their cars. Kris was out for the day, after breaking his suspension, whilst Jari-Matti had a bit more luck only damaging a tyre. There were a few more changes on the leaderboard, with Esapekka, Andreas and Seb moving up ahead of Craig who was now in sixth place after the demise of Kris.
SS 15 – Leustu 1 (10,50 km) was won by Jari-Matti, beating Ott who continued to hold a strong 13 second lead over his remaining teammate. Esapekka had made third place his, and Seb closed a little on Andreas for fourth place.
Esapekka won SS 16 – Pihlajakoski 2 (14,42 km) and jumped ahead of Jari-Matti into second place. Seb backed up his younger teammate, going second fastest and passing Andreas as well and moving into fourth place. The gap between Andreas and Craig remained very small as well.
The status quo continued in SS 17 – Päijälä 2 (22,87 km), with Ott winning from Esapekka who increased the gap he had over Jari-Matti, whilst Craig edged closer to Andreas. Gus Greensmith was doing his best to learn the stages, but he was struggling out there, now over three and a half minutes off the lead.
SS 18 – Kakaristo 2 (18,70 km) saw Esapekka win, pipping Ott by just half a second, whilst Andreas moved ahead of Seb into fourth place, but only by four tenths of a second. Could Seb take back the position in the following stage? The two M-Sport Fiesta’s were two minutes and four minutes off the lead sadly, just down to the fact that they were opening the road.
The final stage of the day then, SS 19 – Leustu 2 (10,50 km) and it was a stage win for Andreas, thus increasing the gap between him and Seb, who had driven well given his lack of sleep, whilst Ott was only one tenth slower, thus maintaining a sixteen second lead over Esapekka.
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:08:49.4
Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +16.4
Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +28.8
Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +50.5
Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +53.1
Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) +59.1
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:19.3
Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:05.3
Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:09.7
Here’s the thoughts of the drivers then after day two.
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Ott Tänak (1st)
“It’s been a really good day. This morning it was really intense as everyone was pushing hard. It was good that we were able to build a bit of a gap to Esapekka [Lappi], as this afternoon he did a very good job, and we had to follow his pace. At the same time, I felt really comfortable in the car and it was working very well. In the very rough places, I was a bit more careful, but in the smooth and fast sections I really enjoyed it and we had a good rhythm. I think our advantage is good but there is still some way to go so there is still a lot of focus needed.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd)
“We had a fantastic morning speed-wise, fighting for the lead with our team-mates, and I had a really good feeling with the car. But in Kakaristo I was too fast in a right-hander, ran wide into a ditch and hit a big rock. In the afternoon, I knew that I couldn’t afford to make any more mistakes so I tried to find a comfortable speed where I would be avoiding risks. At the same time Esapekka was able to raise his pace, so I couldn’t match that. I’m a bit disappointed that I couldn’t find the right rhythm, but to get the points is the most important thing: To be on the podium tomorrow would be a really important result for myself, but also for the team.”
Kris Meeke (Retired/Rally2)
“It had been an incredible fight from the beginning of the rally, and I was enjoying it again this morning: I was in a good rhythm and the car felt phenomenal. In Kakaristo, we came to a fast, fifth-gear right-hand corner, and I just dropped a wheel off the camber on the outside. Normally that wouldn’t be a big problem but there was a massive rock just sitting in the ditch, and I didn’t know it was there, so it was a big surprise. I’m gutted: When the battle is so close like that, and everyone’s trying to do their best for the team, it’s very disappointing to have to stop.”
Citroën Total WRT
Esapekka Lappi (2nd)
“Obviously, it’s been a very positive day for us! After what happened in the morning loop, I was expecting to suffer on the second runs on these wide and fast stages, but I really went for it and it has worked out pretty well for me so far. We found the right balance to push without overdriving the stages or drifting outside of the lines. I’m going to continue at the same pace tomorrow and am absolutely determined to secure the result.”
Sébastien Ogier (5th)
“I’m pleased that it’s over because I was running really low on energy this afternoon. I can’t wait to get to bed, to be honest. I had to really push myself all day so I’m glad to have made it through the leg without making any mistakes because it was sometimes very difficult to keep up the concentration. Tomorrow will be another day and I hope that I will be able to recover sufficiently tonight so that I can do myself justice and fight all the way to the finish.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (4th)
“It has been an epic fight, with positions changing hands back and forth throughout the day. I’ve enjoyed it, competing with everything we have on some truly beautiful stages. It’s been really cool. The car has given me all the confidence I need on both loops. We made a few adjustments to our pace notes for the afternoon, specifically for the wider sections, and although it was rough at times we gave it our maximum. The second run through Kakaristo was just what we needed to keep hold of fourth place. Following that up with our second stage win of the weekend was perfect. A lot of fun!”
Craig Breen (6th)
“There were a few more struggles compared to yesterday, mainly on the narrower sections where I lacked confidence. I’ve never had such a stable car so it takes time to get used to committing fully. SS17 was a particular highlight today; there was not a millimetre left out on the stage and I think it was one of the best stages of my entire career. We didn’t end the day so positively, unfortunately. We lowered the ride height of the car for the last stage but the conditions were rougher than we expected so we lost a bit of time. We are still in a close battle and there are plenty of positives from today.”
Thierry Neuville (7th)
“A much better feeling and a more positive day overall. Of course, the road cleaning has made life far from perfect but we’re trying to enjoy ourselves and work within the confines of what is possible. We lost too much time yesterday but everyone is pushing really hard and we have to keep an eye on the championship, rather than a single stage result. I don’t think we could have done much more today. The only slight disappointment was picking up a bit of rear damage late in the afternoon loop. Even if we’re not in the position we would like to be, we have to accept where we can make a difference, and salvage what we can from the weekend.”
Teemu Suninen (8th)
“We went a bit softer with the car this morning to try and find some more traction, but it makes the car quite unpredictable. We went back to the base set-up for the afternoon, and that felt better. Now we need to get the confidence to drive on the limits and get the most out of the car.”
Gus Greensmith (9th)
“It’s been pretty tricky for us out there today. We tried some big set-up changes this morning, but it didn’t work out. The car felt much better in the afternoon and I was really enjoying the driving, but we had to clear a line through the ruts left by the national crews. I know tomorrow’s stages pretty well, so I think I’ll give it bit of a push to see how good I am at cleaning the road – but not too much, because I promised Rich that I would bring the car back in one piece!”
The final day beckoned, with four stages totalling 45km. The startlist looked like this – Meeke, Greensmith, Suninen, Neuville, Breen, Ogier, Mikkelsen, Latvala, Lappi, Tänak.
Ott picked up from where he left and won SS 20 – Laukaa 1 (11,75 km), with Seb, who was feeling much better, and Jari-Matti his closest challengers. Esapekka made it past through – last year this was the stage that saw him crash out. Kris restarted as well, setting the ninth fastest time. Ott now had a lead of twenty seconds over Esapekka.
Seb had problems in SS 21 – Ruuhimäki 1 (11,12 km), with something moving around in his footwell. Jari-Matti won the stage, going through seven tenths faster than Andreas who had really made fourth overall his own. Seb still managed to be third fastest in the stage, making us wonder how much faster he’d have been without his issues. Sadly, Gus retired from the rally on this stage.
Into SS 22 – Laukaa 2 (11,75 km), the penultimate stage, and Andreas was quickest, with Esapekka and Seb just a few tenths slower in second and third. The big news from this stage was that Craig had taken a twenty second penalty, thus allowing Thierry through into sixth place. Also, Kris broke his suspension, bringing his return to the action to a premature end.
The final stage then, SS 23 – Ruuhimäki 2 Power Stage (11,12 km) and you’d have forgiven the leader if he’d taken it easy. However, he flew through the stage and was almost seven tenths faster than Thierry, with Andreas, Seb and Jari-Matti finishing off the fastest five, and thus taking the powerstage points.
Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:30.40.3
Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +25.6
Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +33.2
Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +53.4
Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +56.1
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:32.4
Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:38.2
Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:33.8
Let’s hear then from the drivers!
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Ott Tänak (1st)
“It feels really good to get this victory. It was very important to get a good result here to help us in both championships. I would say that this is a perfect result to begin the second part of the season. I think it’s a great boost for the whole team and now we need to keep pushing. I focused on having a clean run through the first three stages today, and then on the Power Stage I pushed. I tried to have a fast and clean run with no mistakes, and we were able to get the maximum points. Now we need to continue in the same way, starting with Germany.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd)
“I’m really really Happy to be back on the podium here on Rally Finland. It has been almost nine months since I last had a podium, a really really long time. I think the opportunity was there to go for second place, but this time I think it was better not to take the risk. We really needed the points for the future, not just for myself but also for the team. Today I was more relaxed than yesterday afternoon and the performance was good. This result gives us more confidence to keep fighting for more podiums in the upcoming rallies.”
Kris Meeke (DNF)
“Restarting today, we didn’t have much to fight for with our road position, but I’m disappointed with myself for making a stupid error in the penultimate stage. On a long left-hander, I put car sideways and hesitated a little bit, and when I lifted off the throttle the car went more to the inside of the corner than I wanted it to. There was a big stone in the grass and we hit it. It’s really not been the weekend that I wanted, so we need to pick ourselves up before Germany.”
Citroën Total WRT
Esapekka Lappi (2nd)
“I’m very pleased for the team – they deserve this result for having been patient and supportive during the first part of the season, when things were difficult. We worked really hard – and well – together so that the C3 WRC suited my driving style more effectively, especially on the front diffs and I really felt full of confidence driving the car this weekend. I literally felt like I could do what I liked in it! From the first run in the shakedown, I knew that things were looking good. I now hope to keep up this level of performance for the rest of the season.”
Sébastien Ogier (5th)
“It was a tough weekend for us. To be honest, I had higher expectations at the start. As always, I gave it absolutely everything. For sure, Saturday’s leg – when I was really low on energy – didn’t help matters, but even today, when I felt better, unfortunately I wasn’t able to do more.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (4th)
“Fourth place, even if it wasn’t quite a podium, means a huge amount to me. We have been involved in an incredibly close battle with Sébastien for much of the rally, and it has really come down every tenth of a second, fighting right to the very end. Thankfully, we had the speed and performance in the car, and the confidence in ourselves, to get the job done. It’s been a tough rally in the past, so it’s fantastic to have cracked the code this weekend. I have had a good feeling with the car all weekend and we’ve been able to set some competitive times. This is thanks to the efforts of the whole Hyundai Motorsport team over many months. We had some upgrades on the car for this rally, including some specifically to help my driving, which have worked wonders. I feel like my old self again!”
Thierry Neuville (6th)
“We gave it everything we had this weekend and it is important to focus on the positives. We were able to take away from really important points for both championships, including four from the Power Stage. We could not have done more. The car has shown an improvement in these fast gravel conditions, which is encouraging. We didn’t have the best of tests ahead of this rally, and I struggled to find the right feeling on Friday, which really dictated our weekend. We keep our heads high and look forward to the next one.
Craig Breen (7th)
“This has been an amazing rally I have to say. To have the opportunity to return to this level of rallying has been very special and I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has made it possible. I have enjoyed myself immensely as part of the Hyundai Motorsport team, and I was immediately comfortable in the car. We knew the job we had to do this weekend, and I think we’ve achieved that; it’s been a privilege to play our part in the team’s championship efforts.”
Teemu Suninen (8th)
“It’s always fun driving in Finland, but it’s been frustrating to look at the times this weekend. We know that we have the pace, but this wasn’t our weekend. We weren’t able to challenge for the top positions, and have some homework to do before the next one”.
Gus Greensmith (DNF)
“I thought I heard a pacenote that I knew I didn’t have in that stage [Ruuhimäki, SS21]. At that point I got distracted, tried to read the road, and then missed the braking for a sharp left. I tried to pull it round, but hit the tree and took the wheel off. It’s disappointing, but Elliott [Edmondson, co-driver] and myself are both okay which is obviously the most important thing.”
DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Ott Tänak – 180 points
Sébastien Ogier – 158 points
Thierry Neuville – 155 points
Elfyn Evans – 78 points
Andreas Mikkelsen – 71 points
Teemu Suninen – 66 points
Kris Meeke – 60 points
Esapekka Lappi – 58 points
Jari-Matti Latvala – 56 points
Dani Sordo – 50 points
MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Hyundai WRT – 262 points
Toyota Gazoo Racing – 236 points
Citroën Total WRT – 198 points
M-Sport Ford WRT – 158 points
An incredible drive then from Ott Tänak and co-driver Martin Jarveoja, who had kept his timeloss throughout Friday’s stages to a minimum, allowing him to get a great road position for the rest of the weekend. He didn’t panic as well, when his teammates started to challenge him at the top. Once they fell from the front, he made the event his own. Jari-Matti Latvala got away lucky I feel, after hitting the same rock as Kris Meeke, but only suffering a puncture and damage to the bodywork at the rear, rather than suspension damage. The Toyota team were looking at a 1-2-3 until that point.
Whether they’d have got that is a moot point, as Esapekka had his best event of the year, looking like he and the Citroen team had got the car to a point where he could show his considerable skills. The young Finns teammate and current world champion Seb suffered throughout Saturday, but came through to bag some important points for the defence of his world title.
Hyundai had an interesting event, with the regular drivers being overshadowed by Craig Breen throughout Friday, and the Irishman having to take a time penalty on Sunday to allow Thierry through into sixth place. Andreas drove really well to get up to fourth though, but if Seb and Kris had not had their problems, it’s fair to say would he have been behind them I suspect.
Finally, M-Sport didn’t have a great event. Teemu just couldn’t get on the pace, and after Hayden Paddon crashed during his test, they didn’t really have anyone to lead the team. Of course, they were missing Elfyn and Scott (who are the team leaders at the moment) as he recovers from the back injury sustained at last months Rally Estonia. Gus Greensmith did his best, given the circumstances – He’s still learning the way with the top spec WRC machine, plus had not competed in Finland before either – That’s a steep learning curve!
The next event is Rally Germany. It runs from the 22nd to the 25th of August. Look out for my preview in the days before.
After a long summer break, the WRC roars back into action in Finland. The usual suspects will be battling it out for the championship, whilst at Hyundai and M-Sport there are a couple of driver changes. Sadly, Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin will be sitting this one out after their heavy landing during Rally Estonia. In his place comes Gus Greensmith, getting his first outing in a full WRC car in Finland, and his second this year after Rally Portugal. Joining Malcolm’s team as well is Hayden Paddon, partnered by John Kennard. At Hyundai, Thierry and Andreas will be joined by Craig Breen, and co-driven by Paul Nagle. It will be interesting to see how Hayden and Craig get on in their new cars.
Meantime, the top three championship challengers are set to continue their battle for this year’s crown. Can Thierry fight for the podium this year. I’d say that he does need to finish ahead of both Ott and Seb, but will his car allow him to do this? We know how effective Ott and his Yaris have become. Citroen contested Rally Estonia as a test bed for this event. Did they find anything that will help them in Finland? They have made some changes to the front of the car, and in particular the axle. After testing, it seems to have improved the car. Kris Meeke has won this event, with Paul Nagle, and it will be interesting if he can score that first podium of the year.
I held a Twitter poll asking for the votes for fans to vote for the driver most likely to win. Here’s the result.
Teemu will be leading the M-Sport challenge, and he is more than capable of setting great times, meaning that he could well be standing on the podium. Jari-Matti will be hoping for a great event in his Yaris as well. Two years ago, he was leading and pulling away from then teammate Esapekka Lappi, before reliability problems struck and put him out. Lappi then went on to win.
Okay, lets take a look at the stages that make up this year’s event. A total of 307.58 km makes this year’s event.
THURSDAY 1 AUGUST
9.00am: Shakedown Vesala (4,26 km)
6.37pm: Start (Jyväskylä Paviljonki)
7.00pm: SS 1 – Harju 1 (2,31 km)
7.20pm: Parc ferme
FRIDAY 2 AUGUST
6.40am: Start & service A (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 15 mins)
8.18am: SS 2 – Oittila (19,34 km)
9.21am: SS 3 – Moksi 1 (20,04 km)
10.24am: SS 4 – Urria 1 (12,28 km)
11.16am: SS 5 – Ässämäki 1 (12,33 km)
12.39pm: SS 6 – Äänekoski 1 (7,80 km)
1.56pm: Service B (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 40 mins)
3.24pm: SS 7 – Moksi 2 (20,04 km)
4.27pm: SS 8 – Urria 2 (12,28 km)
5.19pm: SS 9 – Ässämäki 2 (12,33 km)
6.42pm: SS 10 – Äänekoski 2 (7,80 km)
8.00pm: SS 11 – Harju 2 (2,31 km)
8.30pm: Flexi service C (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 45 mins)
SATURDAY 3 AUGUST
6.25am: Start & service D (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 15 mins)
8.08am: SS 12 – Pihlajakoski 1 (14,42 km)
9.10am: SS 13 – Päijälä 1 (22,87 km)
10.08am: SS 14 – Kakaristo 1 (18,70 km)
11.34am: SS 15 – Leustu 1 (10,50 km)
1.00pm: Service E (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 40 mins)
3.08pm: SS 16 – Pihlajakoski 2 (14,42 km)
4.10pm: SS 17 – Päijälä 2 (22,87 km)
5.08pm: SS 18 – Kakaristo 2 (18,70 km)
6.34pm: SS 19 – Leustu 2 (10,50 km)
7.47pm: Flexi service F (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 45 mins)
SUNDAY 4 AUGUST
7.30am: Start & service G (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 15 mins)
8.38am: SS 20 – Laukaa 1 (11,75 km)
9.38am: SS 21 – Ruuhimäki 1 (11,12 km)
11.01am: SS 22 – Laukaa 2 (11,75 km)
1.18pm: SS 23 – Ruuhimäki 2 Power Stage (11,12 km)
2.21pm: Service H (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 10 mins)
Let’s hear from the drivers then!
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
“I’m really looking forward to getting the second part of the season started on Rally Finland. It’s a rally that I enjoy a lot with the fast and smooth roads, and it was an incredible feeling to win last year. Of course, we will try to achieve the same result this year, but it looks as though it will be more difficult, as we will be running first on the road on the Friday. Two weeks ago, we took part in Rally Estonia and it was great to win the rally again in front of so many fans, but it was also a really good test for Rally Finland. I believe that we learned a lot, so I’m feeling well-prepared.”
“I’ve had a good summer break and I’m feeling ready to restart the season on Rally Finland. I tried to have some time away from rallying, but we also had a couple of days of testing to prepare for this event, and it’s always enjoyable to be back driving on fast gravel roads here in Finland. These are the roads where I feel at home, and I always get a lot positive support during the week of the rally. Last year, it’s where our season took a more positive turn with a podium finish and I hope we can do similar this time. The speed is there on gravel, we know that from the last few events, so now we just need to try and secure a good result.”
“Rally Finland is definitely one of my favourite events with some special memories for me, and I’m really looking forward to taking it on with the Yaris WRC. Finland is where I got my first taste of this car, and we tested there again last week, and the car always feels incredible to drive on those roads. It was developed in Finland and we’ve seen in the last two years just how strong it can be on this rally. I think that everyone in the team is feeling confident about the second part of the season, and hopefully we can kick-start that with a great result in Finland. I’m going to be at a bit of a disadvantage because a lot of the route will be new for me, but I’m ready for the challenge.”
Citroën Total WRT
“This rally, contested pretty much in the back yard of one of our main competitors, is set to be a serious challenge. But I was able to recharge my batteries during the summer break and I feel fresh. As usual, I’m ready to put up a fight. With the high speeds on the stages, this is definitely a rally where you need to be completely at one with your car in order to really go for it and I have to say that I finished my two days of testing with a good feeling in the C3 WRC. The upgrade introduced at this round means we’ll have better options in terms of set-up for the rest of the season.”
“After getting our bearings at high speed in Estonia, we were able to fine-tune the basic set-up during the test day held afterwards in Finland. We had increased grip and the handling of the C3 WRC was further improved. This event is obviously something special for all of us. The main thing is to enjoy it, and if I can do that, then the result will come naturally. In any case, I feel confident and I’m determined to do my best.”
“Finland is a challenging event, and one I enjoy driving. You have a lot of good sensations in the car and a lot of adrenaline, especially after the huge jumps. It’s what we drivers really love and I’m hoping it will be a good event for our team this year, as we aim to defend our manufacturers’ position. We are also only seven points from first place in the drivers’ championship, and our aim is to close that gap even further in Finland.”
“The road profiles in Finland are so different to any other rally: the surface is really hard. A lot of the roads are quite wide and it’s very fast with a lot of blind crests and jumps, so you have to be very committed and trust your pace notes. When you feel comfortable there, it’s the most beautiful rally in the world – but if you don’t, it’s the worst place on earth. We want to be back fighting at the front of the pack, just as we were in Sardinia.”
“Rally Finland is very close to my heart. It’s the event I’ve done the most and this year marks ten years since I first competed there. I have a lot of amazing memories from the start of my career and my first podium there in 2016. It’s a rally I always enjoy with fast roads and flying in the forests. I’m really looking forward to it this year in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC.”
“The summer break was long – really long – and I can’t wait to get back in the rally car. Rally Finland is one of my favourites and there is something special about rallying at home – so of course I want to do well there.
I would say that I’m in a better pace this year than I was last year, and my experience is on a level now where I can compete for the good results. We had a good two-day test last week and the car feels a lot more competitive than it was 12 months ago.
But of course, our rivals will also have made some steps forward and we need to stay realistic. Last year I finished sixth, so my aim is to at least do one better than that.”
“I want to wish Elfyn a full and speedy recovery. These aren’t the circumstances in which we wanted to be back behind the wheel of the World Rally Car, but it’s the cards we’ve been dealt and I’m really proud that M-Sport and Ford saw us as the best crew for the job.
Rally Finland gives you so much satisfaction behind the wheel, and I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like with the Fiesta WRC – this rally and this car blow my mind every time!
We had a strong debut in Portugal, but there are still many aspects we need to improve and Finland will be an even bigger challenge. I tend to go quite well on the faster rallies, and if we can make a good step forward, I’ll be happy.
I had six months to prepare for Portugal, but for Finland it was more like six hours! I got the call and was on my way to the test the very next day. It was total madness, but I felt really comfortable really quickly. The test team did a fantastic job and I think we’ve got a competitive package for the rally.
But I’ll still need to take the, ‘don’t run before you can walk,’ attitude into next week. I’ve proved my potential, but the reality is that there is a mountain to climb before I’ll be in a position to challenge for the podium. I know that, and I need to get as much experience as possible under my belt.”
“We’re really eager to get underway at Rally Finland. It’s been a long time away, and we’re looking forward to getting back in the car. Everyone at M-Sport has been really accommodating and I’ve been in the workshop this week – getting used to the car and the team before taking to the wheel for the first time at the test on Monday.
It’s going to be an enjoyable rally, and we need to enjoy it first and foremost. But at the same time, we’re not just here to make up the numbers. We want to make the most of the opportunity, and naturally want to be competitive.
We still need keep our expectations in check – we’ve been out of the game for eight months and that could make it quite hard to bridge the gap. But I’m sure we’ll be able to build our speed as the rally progresses, and if the feeling is there from the start then John and I have the experience and the confidence to be mixing it at the top.
All of the ingredients for a good rally are there, and we hope to put all the pieces of the puzzle together for a good result next week.”
We are set then for an amazing rally. Just six rounds left to decide the championship. Will Ott be able to win, even though he’ll be opening the road throughout Friday’s stages? Well, with possible rain during the afternoon on the first day, this could help him.
Rally Sardinia is probably one of the toughest rallies I’ve done, it’s right up there with Turkey and Mexico. Even the recce is extreme, getting around the stages in a recce car is a challenge in itself.
The event was very hot, very dusty, and in places extremely rough. It took grit and determination to succeed.
We didn’t make the right tyre choice for the first loop of stages on Friday, and that cost us some time, but we had a clean run which was positive and to the plan. The afternoon loop we made better tyre choices and saw the benefit – even though the temperatures in the car soared. Our fitness training was paying off.
Saturday was going well, but a puncture in the last stage of the loop on both passes (which had to be changed in the stage) saw us drop a fair bit of time. We’d practised tyre changing a lot though so we did our best to minimise the effect. Saturday was a very long day, an early 5am start and a late finish meant you really had to maintain focus. Preparation was key, maintaining hydration and energy levels, and working as a team to maximise efficiency.
Sunday was a tricky day, with only 4 relatively short stages. Unfortunately, we cracked the oil sump on the engine on the very last stage – even making it on to the final road section. We made temporary repairs by the side of the road and carried on, attempting to drag the car to the finish, but it wasn’t to be. Our repairs melted as the engine got hot, and we ran out of materials to keep fixing it, ultimately leading to us having to retire at the side of the road to the finish.
A disappointing end to the rally in some respects, but it did allow us to demonstrate our determination to succeed. As always, a huge thanks to our team at M-Sport Poland who were incredible all event.
Tom doesn’t need much introduction. He made his debut in the BTCC aged 17, driving a Vauxhall Astra for Barwell Motorsport. He would take his first victory at Silverstone in 2004. He has taken 15 victories to date in the BTCC.
He very kindly agreed to answer some questions for us.
Now two podiums at the start of the year at Brands Hatch, including a win that was taken away from you was a good start even excepting the penalty for the clash with Matt Neal. Then 4th being the best result in race two at Donington Park was quite a good start. Sum up your thoughts for me at this stage, as you were fourth in the overall championship and also first in the Independents Championship.
We got off to a great start to the year. After Race two at Donington Park, we were leading both the British championships which is nothing to be sniffed at. Our problem was when we hit the hard tyre in race 3, we cannot get the hard tyre to work at all.
Thruxton was a nightmare of a weekend, and I see that you have suggested to Mark Blundell that he should step out of the championship following the clash, you had with him during qualifying. Could you describe what actually happened, and how that effected the rest of your race weekend?
Nightmares are better than how Thruxton went. It’s frustrating when anybody holds you up in qualifying, especially someone with so much experience like Mark. Having said that, Team Shredded Wheat racing with Gallagher was amazing and fixed the car so quickly.
Thinking about car setup, do you think there are certain tracks that the Focus goes better at, and what influence do the different tyres have in making the car stable? Also, when success ballast is added to the car, do you change anything in the setup to compensate?
The Focus has always been better at the tight twisty circuits due to its shorter wheel base and hatchback shape not needing to worry about drag for straight lines as much. Last year, I got a double podium at Oulton Park which is a real chassis circuit. You have to always change the car between circuits, tyres and success ballast. Which is one of the reasons why the BTCC rewards such experienced teams and drivers. It’s very hard to get it perfect every time.
It looks like Josh Cook and Rory Butcher are the drivers that you will be battling with for the rest of the season for the Independents Crown. When you look at the standings, can you see any other drivers like Jake Hill, Sam Tordoff and Adam Morgan joining the battle for this championship?
This championship is one of the most competitive championships in the world. You can’t count anyone out. All of our lap times are so close it still can be anyone’s. For me I just need to focus on myself and keep clicking those gears. Points make prizes and I love prizes!
Many thanks to Motorbase/Jakob Ebrey for the photos and for Romy Chandler for arranging the interview.
The statistics will say that Dani Sordo won this event, but we know that it was Ott Tanak’s weekend. Here’s the story of how this all came to pass. The event started with a short stage on Thursday evening which was won by Seb. The real stages would follow on Friday.
It was a warm start to the day and there were eight stages facing the crews. Over a 140km in total as well, providing a big challenge, with a lunchtime service break in the middle. Starting positions looked like this- Ogier, Tänak, Neuville, Evans, Meeke, Suninen, Latvala, Mikkelsen, Sordo.
Starting first on the SS 2 – Tula 1 (22,25 km), a long technical stage, we saw straight away that being in the middle of the line up would allow a much faster pace, with more grip. Teemu starting sixth on the road gave him better grip and he set a very good time, winning the stage from Elfyn and Jari-Matti. Who were fourth and seventh in the lineup.
The following stage, SS 3 – Castelsardo 1 (14,72 km), saw Teemu again set the fastest time, the new co-driver partnership already paying off. Jari-Matti ensured it there were two Finns at the top, and with Elfyn only fifth fastest, the Welshman fell behind Jari-Matti to third. Championship leader Seb was now almost 30 seconds from the lead.
On then to SS 4 – Tergu – Osilo 1 (14,14 km) and Ott took a very good stage win from Latvala and Sordo, who set an identical stage time. Latvala now took the lead as Teemu lost 15 seconds in the stage and fell to second overall, whilst Ott’s pace now lifted him into third overall. But it was Lappi who had the worst stage, picking up a puncture and tumbling down to eleventh overall.
After the lunch service, there was both good and bad news for Citroen. Firstly, Seb hit a rock in the stage, SS 5 – Monte Baranta 1 (10,99 km), and they pulled over and stopped in the stage to attempt a fix, but unfortunately, they were unable to and retired for the day. There was some good news, as Esapekka Lappi won the stage from Ott, who edged a little closer to leader Latvala. Teemu fell back as he ended the stage ninth fastest, dropping to fifth overall.
The rerun of SS 6 – Tula 2 (22,25 km) saw lots of position changes! Teemu won the stage with Dani second fastest and Ott third. All of this meant that Ott and Dani held a joint lead, with Teemu just eight tenths off in third overall. Those falling from the top of the leaderboard included Latvala, who lost eight and a half minutes after a roll in the stage, whilst Thierry was passed by Kris Meeke, but still in the fight.
The following stage, SS 7 – Castelsardo 2 (14,72 km) saw three crews tackle the stage, before it was halted- The reason? Well, the first clue was that an ambulance had entered the stage, and it turned out that a spectator was taken ill.
Well, SS 8 – Tergu – Osilo 2 (14,14 km) saw Dani take another stage win, from Lappi and Latvala. With the previous stage having been cancelled, there was no official leaderboard, whilst the officials grappled with how best to deal with handing out notional times.
The final stage then, SS 9 – Monte Baranta 2 (10,99 km) and we were still waiting. The top three fastest were, Andreas, Esapekka and Dani.
When the leaderboard was finally updated, this is how it looked.
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:36:01.5
Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +10.8
Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +11.2
Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +20.2
Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +20.3
Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +29.5
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +57.7
Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:03.5
Hänninen / Tuominen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:38.0
Let’s hear then from the drivers.
Dani Sordo (1st)
“We have had a great start to this rally, but it is important to remember it is run over three days; we can’t win on Friday! Still, we have found some very competitive pace from the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, benefitting of course from our road position. We have had to make the most of this opportunity today in order to get the strongest road position for Saturday. It has required us to be very focused, especially in the afternoon loop, because we know the smallest mistake here can have big consequences. We sacrificed a bit of speed in the final stage to ensure we ended the day strongly. Leading the rally sounds good to me, but there’s a long way to go.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (4th)
“Our day got off to a bad start when we made the wrong tyre choice on the morning loop – it was clear from the start that it was going to be tough. There was nothing we could do and the car was all over the place. By the final stage, the rear tyres were slicks. We had a much better afternoon. The driving was good, the tyre strategy was correct and we had a great feeling from the car. Road order is going to be really important tomorrow so it’s a shame we couldn’t be even higher up the order, as I am sure we could have been without our morning issues.”
Thierry Neuville (7th)
“We’ve not had the greatest of days, but the important thing is that we’ve survived. This morning although we didn’t opt for the best tyre choice, it was enough to keep us close to the lead. The extra weight was the biggest disadvantage; there are a lot of stones on the outside where the car is dancing, and we struggled to keep the car straight. The afternoon started badly when we had a miscommunication on the pace notes and ended up in a ditch. There’s no one to be blamed, it’s just one of those things but we lost a lot of time. We used a lot of tyre performance on the next stage, which was ultimately cancelled for the other crews, and that left us at a disadvantage. We are going to face an uphill battle for the rest of the weekend, but we don’t give up. A podium is still not out of the question.”
Teemu Suninen (2nd)
“I have to say that I’m really happy with our performance today. I think we did a great job with the whole team, and it was just a shame that we did that one mistake in the morning – spinning and losing over 10 seconds.
“Jarmo has been teaching and coaching me all day and I have to say that I really enjoyed being the student again. I am still young and it’s great to be next to a really experienced co-driver like him.
“I think everyone will be really fast tomorrow, and we need to focus on our own performance. I would be happy with a podium, or even a top-four, but let’s try our best and see what happens.”
Elfyn Evans (5th)
“When the going was good, the speed was there, but we didn’t have the correct feeling with the car for some stages this morning – and that cost us quite dearly.
“Things were looking up in the afternoon but with the cancellation of the second stage [SS7] for the guys behind, we used a lot more tyres. I then made a little mistake in the next stage [SS8], and there was a massive cleaning effect in the last one [SS9].
“We dropped down the order a lot further than we would have liked, but it’s still incredibly close and we’ll fight our way forward tomorrow.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Ott Tänak (3rd)
“It has been a challenging day but I believe we did everything we could. This afternoon we had an extra challenge running first on the road: Some sections were OK but in the narrow sections the ruts were full of loose gravel and it was really hard to find traction. In the last stages it was difficult for us to compete with the guys whose tyres had done one less stage. But we had a good rhythm and I could just try to push on every stage. Tomorrow it will be a big fight but we will have a better road position and hopefully this will make all the difference.”
Kris Meeke (6th)
“These stages today were mostly new for me, and I struggled a bit this morning just to find my way. We maybe could have had a different tyre choice as well, as the temperatures were very high already by mid-morning which was tough on the medium tyres. This afternoon was stronger and we had a decent rhythm. The car’s been near perfect and I’m generally quite happy. Tomorrow’s stages are more traditional from this rally and I have knowledge of them from the past, so hopefully the feeling should be better and we’ll try to take every position we can.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (TBC)
“We had a really good morning. It was very hot and I knew the tyre wear would be high in those conditions, so I took five hard tyres and I think it was a great choice. Then in the first stage of the afternoon, at a hairpin I pulled the handbrake too early, we cut the inside of the corner and rolled. It was a stupid mistake. It took a lot of effort for Miikka and I to get the car back on its wheels. The car was driving fine in the next stage and we could set a good time. But on the last stage, accelerating out of a hairpin the steering locked to the left and we went off the road and couldn’t continue. It’s difficult to take at the moment but hopefully we can come back and enjoy it tomorrow.”
Citroën Total WRT
Esapekka Lappi (8th)
“We had a bit of an up-and-down leg, what with my puncture this morning and the sensor issue that meant we had no engine boost, so we had trouble putting it all together. But we finished the day better than we started it. Unfortunately, on gravel, the opening leg is always fairly decisive and our day means that we won’t have a good position in the running order tomorrow. We’ll have to rely more on endurance to have a chance of moving up the standings.”
Sébastien Ogier (DNF/Rally2)
“The retirement was clearly my mistake. I just cut a little too much on a very tight left-hand corner, hit a big rock and broke the steering arm. I knew exactly where the rock was, as we had passed it three times on the shakedown. There’s a slight crest, a bit blind and perhaps I turned in slightly too early. We tried to do some makeshift repairs, but we couldn’t manage and so we had no other option but to retire. There’s not very much for us to hope for from this weekend now. As one of the early runners, I don’t think we have any chance of scoring five points in the Power Stage, given how loose and sandy the roads are, so we’ll watch what our rivals do.”
This would be the longest day of action, with over 150km of stages, including two 28km stages back-to-back. The start list looked like this – Ogier, Latvala, Hänninen, Lappi, Neuville, Meeke, Evans, Mikkelsen, Tänak, Suninen, Sordo.
Straight away, there were changes to the leaderboard after SS 10 – Coiluna – Loelle 1 (14,97 km), with Ott winning the stage and moving ahead of Teemu into second overall. Elfyn started well, passing Andreas for fourth overall, but this battle was certainly not over.
There was more trouble for Seb, who’d damaged his rear suspension and stopped again to fix it in SS 11 – Monti di Ala’ (28,21 km). Ott won the stage, closing on Dani for the lead, the gap now just 2.6 seconds between them! Andreas repassed Elfyn in their fight over fourth place.
An inspired choice of medium tyres for Ott lead to another stage victory in SS 12 – Monte Lerno 1 (28,03 km) and with it the overall lead now by six seconds. Elfyn passed Andreas once more, whilst Thierry didn’t seem to be able to find any pace at all, firmly holding seventh overall, almost 50 seconds from Kris.
The afternoon stages started with SS 13 – Coiluna – Loelle 2 (14,97 km) and Ott continued to build a lead over Dani. Once more the fight between Elfyn and Andreas continued with them setting the exactly same time in the stage, with Elfyn holding fourth from the Norwegian.
SS 14 – Monti di Ala’ 2 (28,21 km) saw Ott open up an even bigger lead, winning the stage by almost seven seconds from Teemu, who was consolidating his podium challenging position of third. Dani remained in second overall.
The final stage of the day, SS 15 – Monte Lerno 2 (28,03 km) and the top three was Ott, Teemu and Thierry. Rally leader Ott had won every stage today, and increased his lead to almost half a minute over Dani Sordo. Thierry moved up as well, as Kris lost two and a half minutes after having to stop and change a tyre having got a puncture, so he fell to eighth.
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:04:10.3
Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +25.9
Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +42.9
Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:25.4
Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:33.3
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:32.4
Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:58.3
Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3:53.3
Hänninen / Tuominen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +7:23.2
Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:19:20.6
Let’s hear from the drivers.
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Ott Tänak (1st)
“We’ve had a very strong day, but it was really demanding. We had to fight hard to get into the lead and make the gap that we have now. This morning we had a very good tyre call, and I believe that gave us some advantage. The car was working well and I had the confidence to push. This afternoon the conditions were rough and it was hot in the car. It was tough to push while also managing the tyres, and it would have been easy to get a puncture. But we had a very clean run with a good rhythm. We’re in a great position but we still have a big job to do tomorrow with four tricky stages waiting for us.”
Kris Meeke (8th)
“This morning I had a decent rhythm but I was still hesitating a bit in places, as it had been four years since I’d last driven these stages. Still, we managed to maintain the gap to the two drivers in front of us even though they had an advantage with the road cleaning. This afternoon I improved my rhythm and the first two stages went really well. Then in a fast section we had an impact with something in the middle of the road and it damaged a rim. I always knew this rally would be one of my toughest of the year, so to have been fighting for fourth tomorrow would have been really nice, so it’s really disappointing. Now we just need to bring home some points tomorrow.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (22nd)
“The goal for today was to enjoy the driving, but it’s never easy to be first on the road. This morning was very good, I was actually very happy with the stage times for the road position that we had. The afternoon we tried something different with the setup and to have the car a bit stiffer, but it didn’t work for my driving style: I couldn’t feel the grip in the same way, so the times were not that great. But when I didn’t have that confidence, I knew to stay calm and not make mistakes. Tomorrow we’ll go back to the setup we had this morning with some fine tuning, and hopefully we can get some points from the Power Stage.”
Dani Sordo (2nd)
“We have had another good day but we just haven’t been able to match the pace of Tänak. We expected him to be fast based on his performance yesterday, and so it proved. I have been pleased with our own performance, though, as we’ve been able to hold onto second place quite comfortably. We have had to take it easy at times, in order to avoid picking up punctures, but the gap is still manageable to third place. We will try to push as much as we can tomorrow and secure our first podium finish of the season.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)
“The fight for fourth is well and truly on; it gives us all the motivation we need to keep pushing. It wasn’t always possible to find the best times today. We struggled to find confidence on the first pass, as we did on Friday, when the stage conditions are particularly slippery. There’s a fine line in this event because it’s so easy to pick up a puncture on the second pass. My tyres were gone by the end of the loop, so I had to take it super carefully. We lost some time to Elfyn as a result, but we’ll do all we can to get that back tomorrow.”
Thierry Neuville (6th)
“It’s definitely not been the sort of day we were expecting to have. We wanted to show improvements compared to yesterday but we’ve struggled. The morning loop was challenging and I didn’t feel confident in the car. Our tyre choice was again not ideal but we just had to persevere. In the past four or five events, we have really felt confident in the car but that is missing in this rally. Our pre-event test (PET) was obviously not good enough. We have spent today making adjustments to the settings and the differentials, we have learned some things but we’re not where we need to be.”
Teemu Suninen (2nd)
“I think we can be really happy with our performance today. The pace has been really solid all day and we were in the top-three on all of the stages.
“Dani [Sordo] is still some seconds away, but let’s see what we can do. We’ll try to catch him if we can, but I’ll still be happy with third position.
“Also, things with Jarmo are working really well – we have spent 14 hours together in the car today and we’re still smiling so that’s good!”
Elfyn Evans (4th)
“It’s been an okay day for us. I was a bit disappointed with the speed in some places, but overall, it’s been fairly positive and we’re back up to fourth place.
“It’s going to be a close fight with Andreas tomorrow so it was a shame to lose some time with the dust on the last stage. It was coming and going with light dust in some places and thick dust in others where we had to completely slow down.
“Everyone else had a clean run, so let’s see what happens with that. Whatever the outcome, it’s still going to be close, so we’ve got to keep pushing. It’s another tricky day tomorrow, but we’ll give it our best and hopefully come away with another strong result.”
Citroën Total WRT
Esapekka Lappi (7th)
“Apart from one stage where we lost a bit of ground, we more or less managed to keep pace with Neuville today, who was behind us in the running order, so that’s pretty pleasing. I was comfortable in the C3 WRC but we couldn’t hope to do much more with our road position.”
Sébastien Ogier (44th)
“Our mistake this morning was disappointing, because it then prevented us from really testing ourselves against our rivals on the second loop. We tried to do what we could, but without having driven the stages at full speed on the first run, it was clearly almost impossible to set fast times in the afternoon. SS13 is the only stage where I tried, because we had completed it in normal conditions on the first loop, and the time was okay. Obviously, you can count on me to try and grab some points in the Power Stage, even though it looks like it will be mission impossible. As the stage is rough, perhaps some crews won’t be flat out, but we’ll be pushing as hard as we can.”
Well, we had just four stages left totalling 42km’s of action. This was the start list – Ogier, Latvala, Hänninen, Meeke, Lappi, Neuville, Mikkelsen, Evans, Suninen, Sordo, Tänak.
Andreas won SS 16 – Cala Flumini 1 (14,06 km), with Elfyn just two tenths of a second behind him and holding fourth place very nicely from the Norwegian by seven seconds. Ott increased his lead a little more over Dani, who was looking good for his first podium of the year.
SS 17 – Sassari – Argentiera 1 (6,89 km) was also won by the Norwegian and with Elfyn five and a half seconds slower the gap in their battle for fourth was getting close! Ott was still holding the lead. Seb pushed in the stage, looking to get comfortable, ready for later, when the stage would be rerun.
A further stage win for Andreas in SS 18 – Cala Flumini 2 (14,06 km), took him closer to Elfyn, just six seconds separating them. Seb took it very easy through the stage, saving his tyres for a big push in the rerun of the stage, which would be the powerstage, his best hope for scoring points.
Finally, SS 19 – Sassari – Argentiera 2 Power Stage (6,89 km), and there were three surprises! Firstly, Seb set a great time, good enough for second fastest, behind Andreas who’s made it three out of three stage wins! Elfyn could only manage fifth fastest, losing the fight to Andreas, and then lastly with Dani Sordo having already finished, there was drama for Ott, who’d lost his powersteering in the first sector of the stage, the Estonian lost two minutes in the stage, falling to fifth place. All of this meant Dani had won, securing a popular win in the service park.
FINAL RALLY STANDINGS
Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:32:27.2
Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +13.7
Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +32.6
Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +33.5
Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:30.1
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:06.7
Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) + 2:59.6
Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4:40.1
Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:22:58.5
Well, that was a big surprise, with Dani Sordo scoring his second victory at the top level of rallying!
Let’s hear from the drivers!
Dani Sordo (1st)
“This is incredible. I have no words; it’s just an amazing feeling to take my first win for Hyundai and the second WRC win of my career. Of course, I am very sorry for Ott and Toyota to have experienced such bad luck on the Power Stage. At the same time, we knew we had to keep the pressure on in case this sort of situation occurred. I just can’t believe it happened. We have been quick and consistent all weekend. There was no chance to beat Ott on outright pace so we just did what we could and avoided mistakes. It wasn’t easy but we made it through to the end – and we now have this fantastic victory as a reward. Thanks to Carlos and to the team for the support and for sharing this result. I think it will take some time to fully sink in.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (3rd)
“We gave it a massive push on the final morning in an effort to cut the gap to Elfyn Evans. We had to dig deep but we were confident in our chances. The car felt really nice and we were properly in the zone. Taking all four stage wins was a fantastic feeling and we would have been content to take fourth. Unfortunately, Ott had his issues, which then handed us a podium finish, which was an unexpected but very welcome bonus. Although it has been achieved at one of our rival’s expense, we are grateful to score a 1-3 result this weekend.”
Thierry Neuville (6th)
“Absolutely not the weekend we were looking for. We have not been in the fight, so it’s been a case of damage limitation. A combination of incorrect tyre choice and other issues on Friday put us on the back foot from the start, and we’ve not been able to play a role since. We have to put it down to ‘one of those weekends’ and look to regroup and fight back in Finland. We pushed as hard as we could in the Power Stage but we could do no more. Congratulations to Dani; we have worked together at Hyundai for six years now and I am really pleased to see him and Carlos secure their first win for the team.”
Teemu Suninen (2nd)
“I am really pleased with our performance this weekend. We had good speed with some fastest times on Friday, and then we were extremely consistent after that – especially on Saturday where we set the second or third fastest time on every stage.
“Today was a lot more difficult. The plan was to bring the car home, but this car really doesn’t like being driven slowly and we had to pick up the pace to make it nicer to drive. It was really hard to judge the rhythm, but we made it and it’s nice to get my first podium of the year.
“Also, the partnership with Jarmo was working really well. I thought it would be a lot more challenging having a new voice in my ear, but actually this is the voice I heard whilst watching the rally on the TV as a kid – and that gave me some good memories and big smiles all weekend.”
Elfyn Evans (4th)
“It’s really disappointing to have missed out by such a small margin. Looking back, the first stage of the loop was okay but we gave far too much away in both passes of the Power Stage. It’s so rough in there and so easy to make a mistake – but also so easy to make the time if you’re willing to put it all on the line. I wouldn’t say that we didn’t push, but I was definitely too cautious in the hairpins and that’s where we lost it. It’s difficult right now, but it’s still a good result and we’ve strengthened our position in the championship.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Ott Tänak (5th)
“Very early in the final stage, something very strange happened with the steering and basically it was locked. We were stationary for some time, fighting to get the steering working. Somehow, we managed to get going again, but there was a lot of time lost and so was the victory. I’m frustrated, but I also feel very sad for the team. Everybody put so much effort in for this event and in the end to lose it in this way is really a shame. I’m sure that the team will work hard to solve the problem, and we will keep fighting. It’s been a tough season so far but the championship situation is much better than it was at the same time last year. Now it’s time to have some rest and be away from rallying for a bit, and then it’s back to business.”
Kris Meeke (8th)
“I was quite enjoying it yesterday afternoon: We were improving our rhythm and our speed. Then we had the issue in the final stage, and that meant that we didn’t have much to fight for today: We were just focusing on bringing it home to score some points for the team. I knew this would be a tougher event for me, but we can take some positives from yesterday. Now I’m looking forward to Rally Finland and the rest of the year: I know that the team was really strong over the second half of the season and I think everyone’s going to give everything from now until the end of the year.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (19th)
“Today the target for me was to score some points on the Power Stage. I wanted to get into a nice rhythm this morning and keep the speed up. Then, on the third stage, I was just saving the tyres. The Power Stage was always going to be hard with our road position, and I struggled a bit in the ruts, but we had a decent run and we were able to take some points away. Overall it has been a tough weekend for me after the positive start. It’s not been the rally that we were hoping for. But we need to look forward and keep fighting.”
Citroën Total WRT
Esapekka Lappi (7th)
“Obviously, it wasn’t quite the result that we were hoping for. The problems we had on the first leg went a long way to determining the rest of our weekend. We weren’t able to perform at our true level given our position in the running order. It was pretty much impossible to make up ground on these roads, where the grip increases so much with each passing car. We also weren’t helped by making the wrong call on tyres on Saturday morning. But at least we made it to the finish. We’ll now get back to work so that we’re in better form for our home round in Finland.”
Sébastien Ogier (42nd)
“Sometimes in motorsport, you have a weekend where things just don’t go your way and this weekend was clearly one of those. We’ll put it behind us and focus on the future. In running first on the road, the best we could have realistically hoped for would have been to finish around fifth, so my mistakes cost us a few points. But it is still incredibly close in the championship, even though I’m not the kind of person to take any pleasure from the misfortune of others, especially when it’s Ott. I’m now going to have a holiday and recharge my batteries. We’ll be back in Finland and try to do a lot better.”
DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Ott Tänak – 150 points
Sébastien Ogier – 146 points
Thierry Neuville – 143 points
Elfyn Evans – 78 points
Teemu Suninen – 62 points
Kris Meeke – 60 points
Andreas Mikkelsen – 56 points
Dani Sordo – 52 points
Esapekka Lappi – 40 points
Jari-Matti Latvala – 40 points
MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Hyundai WRT – 242 points
Toyota Gazoo Racing – 198 points
Citroën Total WRT – 170 points
M-Sport Ford WRT – 152 points
Well, what a remarkable round! It had everything! First of all, Ott Tänak showed once again that he with his co-driver Martin Järveoja in that Yaris WRC are a force to be reckoned with. The combination is devastatingly effective, just so fast, even when second on the road. They are now in the championship lead. He’ll have to open the road at the next round in Finland, like Thierry did last year. That will be an interesting event.
Dani Sordo drove brilliantly to head into the final day holding second place, and it would have been a well-deserved podium. His first win since 2013, when he was driving for Citroën at that years Rally Deutschland is well deserved! Andreas also found some good pace, and it was a good result for the Norwegian, who is still under pressure I believe to deliver strong results.
Teemu’s performance was really impressive as well, with Jarmo Lehtinen making his return to the co-driver’s seat at the top level for the first time since 2014. Thinking about Elfyn, and his performance over the weekend, he drove pretty well, but it was a surprise to see him lose some much time to Andreas. He’ll want to analyse with Scott, where they went wrong, as it could have been a podium, and to some degree, he was over shadowed by Teemu.
At Citroën, they had an event to forget, apart from a brilliant drive from Sébastien Ogier to second fastest time in the powerstage, despite being the first car. A strange mistake from the Frenchman saw his challenge end, but he’s still well in the fight, and he is a bit lucky that Ott didn’t win as well. Esapekka is still getting used to his C3, but he had a good event, with a stage victory, but a puncture didn’t help him.
We now have a seven week break before the next event, Rally Finland on the weekend of the first to the fourth of August. We’ll then have six events in five months to decide who wins this year’s championship!
We come to this event with a very close battle between Seb Ogier, Ott Tanak and Thierry Neuville! Just ten points separate Seb on 142 and Thierry on 132. Now the French champion didn’t want to be leading the championship coming to this event, just because it is the hardest event of them all. The dust on the road makes everything so tricky.
Now, twelve months ago we were treated to an incredible final day when Thierry passed Seb in the final stage, winning by just seven tenths of a second! Could we see the same thing happen this year? We’ll see Ott Tanak fighting at the front as well. That is a dead cert. Who else will be there? Well, Jari-Matti and Kris will go well, although the Northern Irishman will likely be held back with the lack of knowledge, as he hasn’t competed in this event recently. Also there will be another car for Juho Hanninen run by Tommi Makinen Racing.
In the M-Sport WRT team, Elfyn and Teemu will look to score good points for themselves and their team. Last year was not a great event as the drivers finished way down the standings. If they can keep it on the road, which they have this year, then certainly a top result is on the cards for them. A big change again for Teemu is that he has Jarmo Lehtinen replacing Marko in the number 33 Fiesta.
Over at Hyundai, alongside Thierry, Dani and Andreas will be competing. Which Andreas will turn up this weekend? He is capable of being very fast, but by not being in the car will affect the pace he can run at. We shall see. We know what Dani is capable of doing, and he had a good rally last time out, only for car troubles to dent his challenge.
Well, here are the stages awaiting the crews. There are 19 in total, totalling 310km! Saturday is the longest day, with 142km in total of competitive stages.
THURSDAY 13 JUNE
9.00am: Shakedown Olmedo (3,92 km)
4.00pm: Start (Alghero)
5.00pm: SS 1 – Ittiri Arena Show (2,00 km)
6.00pm: Parc ferme (Alghero)
FRIDAY 14 JUNE
6.00am: Start & service A (Alghero – 15 mins)
8.03am: SS 2 – Tula 1 (22,25 km)
9.20am: SS 3 – Castelsardo 1 (14,72 km)
10.09am: SS 4 – Tergu – Osilo 1 (14,14 km)
11.18am: SS 5 – Monte Baranta 1 (10,99 km)
12.14pm: Service B (Alghero – 40 mins)
2.42pm: SS 6 – Tula 2 (22,25 km)
3.59pm: SS 7 – Castelsardo 2 (14,72 km)
4.48pm: SS 8 – Tergu – Osilo 2 (14,14 km)
6.04pm: SS 9 – Monte Baranta 2 (10,99 km)
6.33pm: Flexi service C (Alghero – 45 mins)
SATURDAY 15 JUNE
5.20am: Start & service D (Alghero – 15 mins)
8.08am: SS 10 – Coiluna – Loelle 1 (14,97 km)
9.11am: SS 11 – Monti di Ala’ (28,21 km)
10.03am: SS 12 – Monte Lerno 1 (28,03 km)
12.55pm: Service E (Alghero – 40 mins)
4.08pm: SS 13 – Coiluna – Loelle 2 (14,97 km)
5.11pm: SS 14 – Monti di Ala’ 2 (28,21 km)
6.03pm: SS 15 – Monte Lerno 2 (28,03 km)
8.35pm: Flexi service F (Alghero – 45 mins)
SUNDAY 16 JUNE
7.15am: Start & service G (Alghero – 15 mins)
8.15am: SS 16 – Cala Flumini 1 (14,06 km)
9.08am: SS 17 – Sassari – Argentiera 1 (6,89 km)
11.15am: SS 18 – Cala Flumini 2 (14,06 km)
12.18pm: SS 19 – Sassari – Argentiera 2 Power Stage (6,89 km)
1.15pm: Service H (Alghero – 10 mins)
Let’s hear from the drivers!
Citroën Total WRT
“Running first on the road in Sardinia means we can more or less write off our chances of winning from the word go, given how much the stages clean here. It looks like we won’t be getting any help to upset the odds from the weather, with no forecast for a repeat of the rain that fell last year. So I’m expecting a tough weekend but as ever, I’ll be giving it my absolute maximum, regardless of the circumstances, and we’ll see how many points we have at the end of the weekend. The C3 WRC has clearly progressed recently and I had a good feeling in Portugal. Our performance on day one will once again largely determine our overall result.”
“Obviously, we have learned the lessons from Portugal. As regards Sardinia, it’s a rally where you can’t push flat out all the time, especially on the second runs, because you have to think about taking care of the car and looking out for loose rocks. Given that we are starting in ninth position in the running order on day one, we should in any event have an advantage. It’s up to us to make the most of that. If we keep the same speed we had in Portugal and we don’t make any mistakes during the three days, we should secure a good result. I’m determined to produce a solid, consistent performance in all three legs. That really is my number one priority this weekend.”
“Sardinia is one of my favourite events. It suits perfectly to my driving style and to our pace notes system. Nicolas and I have always felt comfortable there and we have had lots of success in the past. I hope we will be able to add to that in this year’s event. The championship is heating up nicely, so it will be another close battle I am sure. We will have the pleasure of driving against some really beautiful landscapes with some nice, technical stages – exactly what we enjoy!”
“I am excited to get back behind the wheel of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC after Thierry’s strong result in Portugal. Sardinia is a tricky rally, very technical with narrow roads that require precise pace notes and driving style. It’s important to have a predictable car for this event, one that gives you the confidence to push. Often there are rocks on the road and it becomes heavily rutted on the second pass. This puts extra focus on tyre management. Starting position is also a key factor with those running later benefitting from the cleaning effect. A tough but enjoyable rally awaits us.”
“We know that we missed an opportunity for a competitive result in Portugal but we have regrouped and our focus is now on Sardinia where our target is for a trouble-free, reliable weekend. It is, however, a difficult rally. The roads are narrow with stones on the side that can catch us unaware. The first pass is quite sandy so there is more grip on the repeat loop, which means we have to follow a clever tyre strategy. The hot conditions also make it a gruelling rally on the car, tyres and crew, so we have lots of things to monitor and manage over the whole weekend.”
“I think every driver remembers the first time they got behind the wheel of a world rally car, and for that reason Sardinia will always be a really special place for me. It’s not an easy rally, but once you’ve been there a few times you really learn to enjoy the challenging nature of the stages.
“We haven’t done a pre-event test for this event, but I did join the guys at Red Bull UK for ‘Red Bull Cut It’ – which is basically a lawnmower race! I’m not sure how much it will help me out on the stages this week, but it was a lot of fun and a good chance to catch up with all of the other Red Bull UK Athletes.
“Looking ahead to Sardinia, our aim has to be the podium. It won’t be easy as the competition is extremely strong at the moment, but if we can deliver a clever rally, I see no reason why we can’t be up there challenging for the top results.”
“I’ll have a new co-driver next week as Jarmo Lehtinen joins me for the rest of the season. I want to thank Marko [Salminen] because we achieved a lot together over the first half of the year. We won stages and led our very first rally. But I am still learning, and having the experience of someone like Jarmo will be really important if I am to achieve my goals over the second half of the season.
“Rally Sardinia is quite familiar to me. This will be my fourth time there and I hope that helps as I get up to speed with Jarmo. With only a week since the previous event we haven’t had long to prepare, but if everything goes to plan, I’m confident I can show the same pace I had in Portugal.
“We’ll need to be really focused, not only because this is a new partnership but also because this is a really tough rally. The stages can be quite rough so we’ll have to be careful to mark every stone on the recce. And it’s also a really hot rally so we’ll need to make sure we’re drinking enough and eating properly to keep our energy levels high.”
Well, here we go! Who will win, and perhaps we shall see a change in the championship leader!?
It was a another very strong victory for Toyota and Estonian Ott Tanak this year. Here’s the story of how he won Rally de Portugal! He was joined on the podium by Thierry Neuville and Seb Ogier.
This was going to be an interesting day, as there was no afternoon service. It was also very hot as well, with temperatures set to get higher! The crews faced seven stages, which had been last run in 2001. The start list looked like this – Ogier, Tänak, Neuville, Meeke, Evans, Loeb, Lappi, Latvala, Suninen, Sordo, Greensmith.
SS 1 – Lousa 1 (12,35 km) was won by Dani Sordo in his Hyundai, showing that the later you ran the better your grip, although Ott setting the second fastest time showed how good he and the Yaris were getting on. Ogier, who was opening the road, was way down in ninth with Thierry one place ahead. Teemu went well, sitting third at this point.
The longer SS 2 – Gois 1 (18,78 km) saw a number of changes to the top ten. Ott went fastest from Jari-Matti, and leader Sordo setting the third fastest time. Teemu was slower than both Kris and Jari-Matti, which saw him drop places down to fifth overall. Elfyn also gained a place, passing Thierry overall and staying ahead of Ogier.
The last morning stage, SS 3 – Arganil 1 (14,44 km) saw Ott take the lead after problems for Dani, whilst Esapekka suffered a puncture losing over a minute and tumbling down to eighth place. The top three was now a Toyota 1-2-3, with Jari-Matti and Kris slotting into the podium positions. Also going well were Teemu and Elfyn, who were around twenty seconds from the lead. Thierry did a great job in the stage to close the gap to Ogier by five seconds to just half a second.
The re-run of SS 4 – Lousa 2 (12,35 km) saw a more difficult surface for the crews to contend with. Dani Sordo won the stage, whilst Finns, Jari-Matti and Teemu set the same time and were equal second fastest. Thierry moved ahead of Ogier on the overall leaderboard as well. Further down, Gus Greensmith, who was making his maiden challenge in a full WRC car was finding his feet, setting the ninth fastest time, only a few tenths down from Lappi.
SS 5 – Gois 2 (18,78 km) saw the end of Elfyn’s challenge near the front after a problem that caused the car to just stop. The Welshman would lose around four minutes finding the problem and fixing it. What a shame. In the other Fiesta WRC, Teemu would set a great time, winning the stage and jumping ahead of Kris into third overall. Ott continued to lead, whilst Ogier, after going second fastest, jumped ahead of Thierry into fifth place. However, this battle was certainly not over.
Thierry won SS 6 – Arganil 2 (14,44 km), his first stage victory of the weekend and jumped straight back ahead of Ogier, plus with Teemu suffering a problem it put him in a net fourth place overall. Kris was now back into third place. Elfyn showed that without the problem in the previous stage, he’d still be in the fight for the final podium place, with a time good enough for seventh, only a few tenths from Jari-Matti.
The final stage of the day, SS 7 – Lousada (3,36 km) was won by Thierry who had just managed to shade Ogier’s’ time and staying ahead of the Frenchman. At the top, we still had a Toyota 1-2-3, but now Thierry was looming in the mirrors of those Toyota’s! Ogier was also right there as well, looking to move into a podium position.
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:03:26.7
Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +17.3
Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +22.8
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +24.2
Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +25.8
Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:15.7
Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:22.1
Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:23.7
Veiby / Andersson (VW Polo R5) +3:45.2
Kopecky / Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +3:49.3
The thoughts then after day one from the drivers.
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Ott Tänak (1st)
“It was a very challenging day. It’s been really hot and the stages have been quite demanding. But, in the end, we had a very clean day. I’ve had a great feeling and confidence with the car, so I’ve been able to push. We wanted to get a good road position for the rest of the rally and we managed to succeed in that. In that sense we did everything we could and we should be happy with that. As a team we’re in a great position, but we’ve only completed a small part of the event so far and there is still a long way to go. Tomorrow will be tough: We saw during the recce that the stages are quite rough, so we need to keep our focus.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (2nd)
“Generally, I’m happy about today. The car was going fantastically, it was really enjoyable to drive. I was pleased with my driving this morning, and the speed was good this afternoon as well. I was just struggling with the tyre wear a little in these temperatures: It has never been as hot as this when I’ve been doing this rally in northern Portugal. That together with an aggressive driving style is not a good combination. So that’s going to be our focus tonight, to try and make it a bit easier to manage tomorrow. We’re in a good position, and now we need to try and defend it.”
Kris Meeke (3rd)
“It’s been a great day for the team. It was tough out there, especially with the high temperatures. We had a problem with the intercom during the morning, so Seb had to make hand signals for me on one stage as I couldn’t hear the pace-notes. In the afternoon we had to manage a few small issues, but we’re in third place overall and I’m quite content with that. We have a couple of quick guys breathing down our necks, but we’ll get the car back in shape in service tonight and we’ll give it our all again tomorrow.”
Thierry Neuville (4th)
“It has been a tough start, no question. We struggled on the opening stage this morning due to the standing dust and we had to take things a bit too carefully. In SS2, I stalled the car at a junction and lost some time. We were back on track in SS3 and set the second fastest time, so it was a mix of feelings at lunchtime. Things weren’t perfect in the afternoon loop. The most frustrating thing is that we have been missing a bit of speed all day and haven’t had the chance to find the rhythm. To finish the first day with two stage wins and inside the top-four – only 1.4 seconds from the podium – is not too bad but we know we have more in the tank.”
Seb Loeb (39th)
“A disappointing day and certainly not what we wanted coming to this rally. Things started out OK but then about 20 metres into the third stage of the morning loop we picked up a mechanical issue. We had to complete the stage at a very slow pace and lost between 15 and 16 minutes. It was the start of what we had hoped to be a positive rally but now we are far back with nothing to play for. We had just to enjoy the afternoon loop as much as we could, have a bit of fun because we will be one of the first on the road tomorrow so it will be a long, tough day.”
Dani Sordo (43rd)
“We started the day well with a stage win on the opening run and getting a good feeling with the car. We conserved tyres on SS2 to prepare for the end of the loop. At the start of the final stage of the morning, the car just lost power and we lost a massive amount of time getting to the end. I was frustrated, not just for myself but also for the team. As we could see from our pace on other stages, we had a great opportunity to fight for the victory this weekend, and that’s been taken away from us.”
Citroën Total WRT
Sébastien Ogier (5th)
“I’m pleased with what we managed to do in the really tough conditions we had today in opening the road, especially on the first stage of the loop. If you’d offered me fifth position at the end of day one before the start, I’d have bitten your hand off! The gap to Ott is already pretty big, but the second-placed crew is not that far ahead. We’re now going to try our very best to catch them. Day two will be very long and probably very rough but we’ll give it everything.”
Esapekka Lappi (8th)
“We were unlucky with the puncture but I’m pleased to see that we are a lot more competitive here than at the previous rounds. We’re moving in the right direction, especially as I’m now starting to feel that we can do even better. That’s our aim for the rest of the rally: focus on our race, undoubtedly fight with Teemu, whilst trying to keep out of trouble.”
Teemu Suninen (6th)
“We had some problems with the brakes this afternoon and lost close to a minute on a single stage – I can tell you that these fast cars are not easy to drive without brakes! Apart from that, we had a really good day. I was setting good times and fighting for second position. Just before the problem I set a fastest time, and I had a really good feeling with the car. Everything was working well so it’s a shame that we lost the podium position. But tomorrow is another challenging day and anything can happen so we have to keep going.”
Gus Greensmith (7th)
“It’s been a mega day out there and I’m pretty happy with how things have gone. The morning was fairly clean – maybe not pushing enough on the second stage and losing a bit of unnecessary time – but in the afternoon we took a good step forward. We lost some time when the car cut out at the start of SS5 – costing us about 10-15 seconds as we waited for it to restart. Then out of frustration I drove way too aggressively and cooked the tyres for the next one. But overall everything has been good and we’re beating some pretty big names! The plan is to improve again tomorrow – I know those stages pretty well, so it would be nice to have a bit of a push!”
Elfyn Evans (16th)
“It’s obviously been a disappointing day for us. It hadn’t been the perfect morning, but the feeling was good after lunch and we were starting to make some ground on the guys in front. Then unfortunately there was just a loose connection on the throttle pedal and it took a while to track down the issue. We lost a fair bit of time, and our road position won’t be ideal tomorrow, but I think we just need to go out there, enjoy ourselves, and see what happens.”
We would see the longest day’s action, with over 160km of stages, including a double run through the Amarante stage, which was the longest of the day at 37km’s. The startlist looked like this – Sordo, Loeb, Evans, Lappi, Greensmith, Suninen, Ogier, Neuville, Meeke, Latvala, Tänak.
After SS 8 – Vieira do Minho 1 (20,53 km), there were comments from Ogier and Lappi to have a longer time gap between the cars, saying three minutes was not long enough to allow the dust to settle. Kris Meeke, third to last on the road won the stage and what with Latvala second fastest and Ott fifth, but nine seconds down on Kris, his lead was now just 11.3 over Jari-Matti. Lappi moved ahead of Gus in their battle over seventh.
Latvala won SS 9 – Cabeceiras de Basto 1 (22,22 km), and Ott pretty much matched his time, the Estonian just three tenths slower than his Finnish teammate. Ogier moved ahead of Thierry as well. A battle for sixth place between Lappi and Suninen was starting to develop as well.
A second stage victory for Latvala in SS 10 – Amarante 1 (37,60 km), plus Ott only third fastest, but 5.8 seconds slower, meant the Finn was just 5.1 seconds from the lead. There were also a couple position changes, with Thierry moving back ahead of Ogier, who was now fifth and Lappi passing Suninen who was now in seventh. Showing how hard it is to open the road, Elfyn was half a minute slower than the stage winner.
SS 11 – Vieira do Minho 2 (20,53 km) saw Ott hit back with a stage win, with Kris just one second slower, whilst Thierry continued to increase his gap over Ogier. Latvala was now almost fifteen seconds behind Ott and the Finn had a broken damper to deal with. Meeke was going well and staying well out of Thierry’s reach.
SS 12 – Cabeceiras de Basto 2 (22,22 km) would see disaster for Jari-Matti, as his broken suspension continued to cause him problems. He lost over 50 seconds and dropped out of the podium fight, into fifth. Gus Greensmith suffered a puncture, falling a further 30 seconds behind Suninen, but still in eighth overall.
The last stage of the day, SS 13 – Amarante 2 (37,60 km) was won by Thierry, with Kris just 1.8 seconds behind the Belgian. Ott’s lead was now just 4.3 after he lost almost a full thirteen seconds to his teammate. He’d suffered the same problem as Latvala with a broken damper, costing him time. There was a spin as well at roughly half distance, a result of the handling imbalance.
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:47:23.1
Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4.3
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +9.2
Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +21.0
Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:37.5
Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:02.7
Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 6:10.4
Rovanperä / Haltunen (Skoda Fabia R5) + 8:33.8
The driver’s thoughts then after Saturday.
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Ott Tänak (1st)
“It’s been a really tough day. Already early in the first stage we lost the brakes. We had to work quite hard on the road sections but we managed to make the car OK for the long stage and then the team could fix it completely in service. The afternoon loop was definitely the most challenging of the rally. It was really rough with lots of rocks everywhere, so it was very demanding for the cars. Unfortunately, we got an issue on the last stage, and we were lucky to continue. But we are still in the lead and it’s all to play for tomorrow. We know the car has the speed and performance to win. Sunday drives can sometimes be quite boring but this time we will need to push, and I’m looking forward to the fight.”
Kris Meeke (2nd)
“It’s been a good day for me, probably my best yet in this car. I’ve really enjoyed driving the car and I
was able to find a good rhythm this morning, much better than yesterday. I’ve struggled on the second passes up to now, but I could have good pace this afternoon which I’m happy about. We had to push hard to defend our position, and I gave it everything. I feel sorry for Jari-Matti as he was doing a really strong rally. But it’s been a tough rally, especially for the cars: With it being so hot and dry, the roads were really broken on the second pass – the worst conditions I’ve seen them in. Now it’s important that Ott and myself try to bring home a Toyota one-two. We’ll need to do our maximum tomorrow.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Retired/Rally2)
“I had a really good morning. I went for two hard tyres and they were working really well, and I was able to push hard. I was really happy with the speed. The car was feeling really good and I was in a good rhythm and enjoying it. Then in the first stage in the afternoon, I had a strange feeling at the front and knew that something wasn’t right. We tried to make a fix in order to continue but the road was so rough and it finally broke. It’s frustrating because I thought we had the chance to get back on the podium. At least the speed is there: That keeps me motivated, and I know we will keep fighting. Tomorrow we will try to take some points from this rally.”
Thierry Neuville (3rd)
“It has been a strong day for us and I’m pleased to reaffirm our potential here this weekend. It’s been a first-class team effort. We made a strategic call to take six soft tyres for the morning loop, which was perhaps a mistake because of the extra weight. It wasn’t too bad and we were able to keep Ogier behind us. We had five tyres in the afternoon and looked to build a gap, which we did, as well as move closer to the podium. It wasn’t easy on the second pass with some rocks on the line and a far from trouble-free final stage. However, the speed has definitely been there with another two stage wins. We now have Meeke and Tanak in our sights; it promises to be an exciting battle for the win on Sunday.”
Dani Sordo (24th)
“There’s not much to say after the disappointment from Friday but we never give up, particularly when our main job is to support the team’s championship ambitions. We weren’t able to match the times set by the frontrunners today; they were just out of reach. We have done our best and also used the opportunity to prepare a bit for Sardinia. We had a good feeling for much of the day and our job now is to complete the rally smoothly, to soak up the atmosphere from the amazing fans and to enjoy these wonderful stages.”
Seb Loeb (27th)
“It’s never as much fun when you are not fighting for the leading positions, but we acknowledge we have a team role to play and we’ve done that today. My situation doesn’t change much in the circumstances because our chances for a strong finish were over on the opening day. We have simply been concentrated on each stage as it comes. We didn’t drive anywhere near the limit, playing it safely so we can bring home some important points for the team.”
Citroën Total WRT driver
Sébastien Ogier (4th)
“I’m pleased with my fourth place this evening. The morning went better than the afternoon. We made a call on the tyres and changed the set-up, and perhaps that wasn’t the best decision for the second loop. I am still learning the C3 WRC. It is still a positive result so far, because I feared the worst given the very loose conditions we saw in recce.”
Esapekka Lappi (5th)
“It was a very good day for us. I really enjoyed driving the C3 WRC! We have done some good work with the team and the car suits my driving style much better now. In fact, you can see this in the times we set, despite our position in the running order. The aim is now to keep up the momentum tomorrow.”
Teemu Suninen (6th)
“It was a difficult day running early on the road. The driving was on an okay level, but we still lost some time to the other drivers so it wasn’t as good as yesterday!”
Elfyn Evans (7th)
“Being first on the road for the majority of the day made it pretty difficult for us. Obviously, there was quite a lot of cleaning today so it was just a case of making it through without any problems. Tomorrow we just need to do more of the same and if the feeling is good, we can have a look at some points in the Power Stage.”
Gus Greensmith (15th)
“We wanted to be closer to the pace today, and that’s what we did – trading times with Elfyn and Teemu on only my second day in a world rally car. I felt as though we were getting better with every kilometre, so it was a shame about that last stage. I just missed my braking, slid wide and hit a tree with the rear. It was a silly mistake, but I can’t be too upset because at the end of the day I was still driving a world rally car – and that’s awesome!”
Just a few stages then to decide the winner! The startlist looked like this – Greensmith, Latvala, Sordo, Loeb, Evans, Suninen, Lappi, Ogier, Neuville, Meeke, Tänak.
First stage then, SS 16 – Montim 1 (8,76 km) and Kris won the stage, beating leader Ott and reducing the gap to him as well. There was some swapping going on as well, with the two Hyundai drivers (Loeb and Sordo) not starting at their allotted times and going in just before Neuville. Interesting tactics. Meanwhile Lappi spun, and had a low speed roll at a hairpin. The Finn lost half a minute.
Now it was time for the first run through the spectacular SS 17 – Fafe 1 (11,18 km), with its jump! Ott hit back with the fastest time from Kris, but there was more drama further back, as Esapekka slid wide, hitting a bank. His car was looking a bit second hand, with damage to his aero after the roll and now suspension after this stage. Sadly, he retired from the event, as the damage was too much to fix.
Ott then also won SS 18 – Luilhas (11,89 km) and increased his lead over Meeke who certainly wasn’t giving up on victory. Thierry now had a very good gap to Ogier as well, adding another ten seconds just in this stage. Elfyn had now made it up to sixth overall as well, after a well-judged drive through the field.
Stage SS 19 – Montim 2 (8,76 km) and it was nearly disaster for Kris Meeke, who spun at the same hairpin as Lappi earlier! He lost 17 seconds and second place to Thierry who won the stage.
The last stage then, SS 20 – Fafe 2 Power Stage (11,18 km) and the drama wasn’t over. First up, Loeb who ran wide, damaging his suspension and he limped to the end of the stage. Then Gus crashed after landing from the jump. His suspension was broken before he took off, meaning he was always going to lose control when he landed. Finally, Kris cut a corner too much and broke his steering, the result that he slid off the road and was out! The top five in the stage were Ogier, Neuville, Tanak, Suninen and Sordo. With Ogier taking third place, he would now lead the championship as well. Not what he wanted at all.
Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3h20’22’’8
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +15’’9
Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +57’’1
Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2’41’’5
Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 7’08’’3
Rovanperä / Haltunen (Skoda Fabia R5) + 10’34’’2
Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 11’28’’2
Kopecky / Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) + 11’41’’9
Let’s hear then from the drivers!
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Ott Tänak (1st)
“It feels great to stand on the top step of the podium today. It’s been a long and very tough weekend, definitely the hardest win I’ve ever had. From Friday, our performance was really strong, especially considering our road position. On Saturday we had to fight really hard, but today everything was working well and the speed was there. In the first stage I was a bit careful, as there was a lot of tricky dust and it was difficult to see anything, but after this we could safely push a bit more and build a bigger gap. The championship is looking really tight but I think we are in a good position going to Sardinia.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (7th)
“It was good to restart this morning, and our target was to get back into the top 10 and score some points. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go for a fast time on the Power Stage: My run was red-flagged because another car blocked the stage in front of us. But in the end, we were able to get back up into seventh position overall and take some important points, especially for the team. Personally, I can’t be satisfied with the result, as we were going very strongly yesterday. But the speed is there, that is very important, and we know that the car is fast. I’m looking forward and believe we can have some very positive rallies coming up.”
Kris Meeke (Retired)
“Today started well. We were able to increase the gap to behind us, and then we were just trying to hold it. Unfortunately, we had a spin on the penultimate stage and it cost us some time trying get going again. Going into the Power Stage, I didn’t have so much to fight for, the bonus points were not such a big concern for me. But in a right-hand corner there was a tree stump in the grass on the inside, I didn’t have it in my notes and I caught it with the steering wheel open. It was completely my mistake. I’m gutted for the team because we’d had such a strong rally. Now we have to move on and take the positives from this weekend: It’s been my strongest yet in this car and we have to look forward.”
Thierry Neuville (2nd)
“After the big crash we had in Chile, it was important to come back fighting. It’s not been an entirely smooth weekend but we have shown some strong pace including several stage wins. Overall, I think we can be pleased with second place. The time we lost on Friday’s opening stages is more or less the time we were missing at the end. We were lacking a bit of precision today to give it more of a push, but on the whole it’s a good result. The championship is nicely poised as we reach the halfway point. We know there is no room for error when things are this close, so we have to keep pushing together.”
“We have tried to put the disappointment and frustration from Friday behind us, and to enjoy these great Portuguese stages. It’s a special feeling when you are pushing hard and flying through Fafe with all the spectators. We have put in a full team effort this weekend so I think we all share in the podium result, even if it would have been nicer to be standing on the podium ourselves. We’ll have to try and rectify that in Sardinia!”
“I enjoyed driving this morning’s stages with some new discoveries for me. It wasn’t without incident but overall it was nice to get the experience. The routes were fast and narrow, and the feeling with the car was pretty good. It was particularly nice to get the buzz from all the fans. We were able to set some competitive times, which shows what might have been possible this weekend. I am happy for the team to get a podium finish after what has been a tough event.”
Citroën Total WRT
Sébastien Ogier (3rd)
“I didn’t think we could score twenty points this weekend. Although we never had a chance of winning the rally with our position in the running order, we gave it absolutely everything, regardless of the situation. So, to that extent, this result is just rewards. In truth, I was hoping not to be first on the road in Sardinia, but every point counts at the end of the season. I’m pleased to see that we were competitive on the Power Stage, which was more or less the only stage of the weekend where we had the same grip conditions as our rivals. That means we have also progressed in terms of performance although it was difficult to show it, given the circumstances.”
Esapekka Lappi (Retired)
“After our roll, the car wasn’t too badly damaged, it was just missing the rear spoiler. I thought I had a good rhythm on the following stage but I was slightly too optimistic on a right hander over a crest and I hit a bank, which caused a puncture and then damaged the suspension. There were too many kilometres left to cover with our makeshift repairs. I’m really very sorry for the whole team, who deserved better.”
Teemu Suninen (4th)
“I can be quite happy with this result. It’s a shame that we had a problem on Friday afternoon because that meant we didn’t have a good road position for the rest of the weekend. But our pace was really good on Friday morning, and we took some points in the Power Stage today which was also really good.”
Elfyn Evans (5th)
“We made a pretty good start to the weekend. It wasn’t perfect, but the pace was there. Obviously, it was a shame to lose as much time as we did with the issue on Friday, but these things happen. There wasn’t much more we could do after that, and in all fairness fifth place is a lot more than we could have hoped for on Friday evening.
Gus Greensmith (Retired)
“It’s been a really good weekend for us. For some reason everything just seemed to click quite nicely and, to be honest, the speed came pretty quickly. We were battling with Elfyn and Teemu throughout most of the weekend – and that wasn’t something I was expecting from my first time in a world rally car!
“It was a different challenge opening the road today, but generally a really good experience. It was just a shame that we had the issue over the jump. To have our rally come to an end just 200 metres from the finish was a bit gutting, but overall it’s been a more than positive weekend.”
Well, another victory for Ott and Toyota! The combination is proving pretty amazing and consistent! Once he took the lead, he was never headed. Both his teammates went very well, and it was a shame that it ended with Kris retiring. Jari-Matti was right there, and set for a well-deserved podium before the suspension problem.
Thierry came back and got his head down to the task at hand. It was a good battle between him and Seb Ogier, before the Belgian moved clear, the result being very good with second place and keeping him in touch with his two rivals. Dani Sordo also drove incredibly well, running at the front until car troubles hit. Hyundai will be happy that they continue to lead the manufacturers standings.
Seb Ogier drove his C3 to a very good podium, given that the team are working to make it better. Being in the top five by the end of Friday was key to the result, and he did have some good fortune with the two Toyota’s hitting trouble to get him up onto his sixth podium of the year.
In the M-Sport camp, Elfyn and Teemu drove really well, and could have had a double podium result, with both of them. Sadly, their challenge was held back with car troubles. Brakes on Teemu’s car and electrics on Elfyn’s. Still the Welshman got up into fifth place and was rewarded with moving ahead of Kris Meeke into fourth in the drivers’ standings. Teemu didn’t lose so much time, and kept the car on the road well, given the problems. Finally, Gus drove a great event, his first in a WRC car, setting some good times, only to be derailed on the final stage, not far from the finish. It won’t be long before we see him in a top car again.
DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Sébastien Ogier – 142 points
Ott Tänak – 140 points
Thierry Neuville – 132 points
Elfyn Evans – 65 points
Kris Meeke – 56 points
Teemu Suninen – 44 points
Sébastien Loeb – 39 points
Jari-Matti Latvala – 38 points
Andreas Mikkelsen – 36 points
Esapekka Lappi – 34 points
MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Hyundai WRT – 202 points
Toyota Gazoo Racing – 182 points
Citroën Total WRT – 158 points
M-Sport Ford WRT – 122 points
We don’t have long now to wait for the next round with the next round, Rally Italia Sardegna on the weekend of the 13th to 16th of June. It will be the final round before the summer break for the championship.
The championship arrives in Portugal with the top three, Seb Ogier (122), Ott Tanak (112) and Thierry Neuville (110) separated by just twelve points. Once again, road position will be key and this will mean that those further down in the championship will hope to take advantage of their position in the startlist.
Last season, Thierry and Nicolas took victory from Elfyn and then co-driver Dan, with Teemu and Mikko taking third. The Belgian duo will want to get back on the podium after their crash last time out, but Elfyn and new co-driver Scott will want to take one step higher on the podium with victory. In fact, any of the top five in the championship could win, even Ogier, although even that will be tricky for him and will depend on his road position going into Saturday’s stages.
There will also be interest in Gus Greensmith and Elliot Edmundson who will be making their debut in a full-blooded WRC Fiesta this weekend. When I spoke to him at this years Autosport International in January, he talked about how he’d bring his skills in looking after the tyres to this event.
Now, here are the details about the twenty stages that lie in wait for the finest rally drivers in the world. Covering 306km’s of competitive stages over the three days. Friday sees a different set of stages not used since 2001, with 94km in total, with no lunchtime service, and just a tyre fitting zone. Saturday sees a huge challenge with 160km’s and not much change from last year, while Sunday will see the double run of Fafe!
THURSDAY 30 MAY
8.00am: Shakedown Paredes (4,60 km)
7.00pm: Ceremonial start (Coimbra)
7.10pm: Parc ferme
FRIDAY 31 MAY
8.30am: Start (Coimbra)
8.35am: Tyre fitting zone (Coimbra – 15 mins)
9.48am: SS 1 – Lousa 1 (12,35 km)
10.32am: SS 2 – Gois 1 (18,78 km)
11.20am: SS 3 – Arganil 1 (14,44 km)
12.33pm: Tyre fitting zone (Arganil – 15mins)
1.51pm: SS 4 – Lousa 2 (12,35 km)
2.35pm: SS 5 – Gois 2 (18,78 km)
3.23pm: SS 6 – Arganil 2 (14,44 km)
7.03pm: SS 7 – Lousada (3,36 km)
8.10pm: Flexi service A (Exponor – 49 mins)
SATURDAY 1ST JUNE
6.45am: Start & service B (Exponor – 19 mins)
8.38am: SS 8 – Vieira do Minho 1 (20,53 km)
9.31am: SS 9 – Cabeceiras de Basto 1 (22,22 km)
10.47am: SS 10 – Amarante 1 (37,60 km)
12.50pm: Service C (Exponor – 44 mins)
3.08pm: SS 11 – Vieira do Minho 2 (20,53 km)
4.01pm: SS 12 – Cabeceiras de Basto 2 (22,22 km)
5.17pm: SS 13 – Amarante 2 (37,60 km)
7.15pm: Flexi service D (Exponor – 49 mins)
SUNDAY 2 JUNE
6.50am: Service E (Exponor – 19 mins)
8.25am: SS 16 – Montim 1 (8,76 km)
9.08am: SS 17 – Fafe 1 (11,18 km)
9.48am: SS 18 – Luilhas (11,89 km)
10.35am: SS 19 – Montim 2 (8,76 km)
12.18pm: SS 20 – Fafe 2 Power Stage (11,18 km)
1.50pm: Service F (Exponor – 14 mins)
2.20pm: Finish (Matosinhos)
Let’s hear from the drivers!
Citroën Total WRT
“We had a good day of testing and now we need to take that into competitive conditions. In any case, Portugal is a rally that I have always liked. I’ve done well here in the past, so it’s really enjoyable to come back, even though I’m well aware that leading the championship again isn’t going to make life easier for us this year. If we are to have a chance of scoring heavily here, we’ll need to manage running first on the road as best we can on Friday’s new and fairly short opening leg, to end the day as high up the standings as possible. On gravel, it’s crucial in order for the rest of weekend to go well.”
“Although the first leg is new, the rest of the rally is contested on roads that I like and know, where we can push. It’s also one of the rallies where I have more experience. Last year, we were pretty quick on both Saturday and Sunday. I hope that the weather will stay dry, so I can make the most of my seventh position in the running order. That way, we can build on the good feeling we had at the end of Rally Chile and gradually keep upping the pace.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
“These next two events are rallies that I enjoy, and they both have some special meaning to me: Portugal was the first WRC round I ever competed in, and Sardinia is the place where I took my first podium and my first victory. They are quite fast rallies in places but they can also be very tough, as we experienced last year. But the team has been working really hard and I believe we are well-prepared. To win in Chile was really important: it has definitely put us back into the fight. Now we need to keep focused and try to take some good points from these next two rallies.”
“Portugal always reminds me in some ways of Argentina with the sandy roads, although it isn’t quite as rough. But this year on the Friday we’ll go to Arganil, which is a famous area from Rally Portugal in the 1980s and ’90s, and where the road is a bit more like bedrock and harder for the tyres. In Sardinia, the main differences are that the roads always have a hard base, they’re narrower and there are lots of big rocks at the sides that you need to avoid. I came away from my test last weekend really happy: I feel we’ve improved the car in rough conditions, so I’m looking forward to these rallies confident that we’ve got a strong and fast car. I hope we can be back on the podium.”
“I’m looking forward to Portugal. It’s a rally I know well and where I’ve always been quite strong – I won it in 2016 and I’ve led there in the two years since. As for Sardinia, I haven’t driven much there over recent seasons, although I still know the island fairly well from the past. The last few events have been frustrating for us. We have had the speed to be on the podium, so now we really need to focus on translating that into a strong result. I had a good test on Monday – we’re always trying to find some ways to improve the car – and I hope that we’re in good shape for the next couple of events.”
“We have had some very strong results at Rally de Portugal in recent seasons. It’s a very demanding rally, with heavily rutted stages on the second pass. The conditions make it difficult, especially at the high speeds we reach, which make the car behaviour unpredictable at times. It’s part of the nature of this rally, and one that makes it an enjoyable challenge. We lost ground in the drivers’ championship after Chile, but Nicolas and I are fighting fit and ready to support the team to our full capability in the manufacturers’ title battle.”
“Rally de Portugal is a nice event, particularly for us with lots of fans travelling from Spain to support us. There is always a fantastic atmosphere, which makes it a pleasure to drive there. We have had a break since our last event in Argentina, so we are well prepared for this rally. My target is to fight for the victory and to bring home as many points for the manufacturers’ championship as possible.”
“Participating in this rally is an unexpected bonus, but I am looking forward to it greatly. I found a really nice feeling with the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in Chile, which allowed us to finish on the podium. Portugal will offer different challenges and new stages. If we can get quickly back into the same rhythm, I am hopeful we can feature strongly.”
“Rally de Portugal is one of the classics. Most of the drivers have a lot of experience here, and everyone will be pushing for the top results – ourselves included. The Portuguese fans have a real passion for their motorsport, and everyone wants to do well in front of this crowd.
“We’ve always had pretty good speed here, and the whole team have been working hard to ensure that continues. We completed a day and a half of testing last week, and everything feels good. The competition is so close at the moment, but if it all comes together, I see no reason why we can’t challenge for another strong result.”
“I have done this rally four times before, which means that only Rally Finland is more familiar to me! Having secured my first podium here last year, I hope that we can be in the fight for another strong result – and I feel quite optimistic that things could go well for us next week.
“Friday will be the toughest day with a lot of new stages that have a hard base, and will be more aggressive on the tyres. If there is a lot of cleaning, we will need the confidence to make the most of our advantage – because the fight is always very tight at the moment.”
“I’ve spent the last ten years of my life preparing for this moment, and I can tell you that I feel ready to climb this mountain! But it’s not just about me – so many people have worked hard to get me to this point and it’s been a real collective effort. I’ll take the time to thank each and every one of them, but for now there is only one job I need to focus on.
“I don’t have any expectations other than to enjoy myself. I’m one of the very few to have been given an opportunity to drive one of these cars – so whatever happens, I will drive with a smile on my face, and hopefully we can make next weekend something positive for everyone involved.
“It’s also quite special for me to be making my debut in Portugal. I really love this country and the area around Porto – it really does feel like home when I walk out of the airport. Of course, the stages are amazing to drive, but it’s the country and the Portuguese way of life that makes me feel so at ease.”
In addition to the front runners, there will also be a Fiesta R5 pedalled by young Polish crew of Łukasz Pieniążek and Jakub Gerber, competing in the WRC2 Pro category.
“Rally de Portugal is one of my favourite events, and last year I secured my career-best result there with second place in WRC 2. I can’t wait to get back in action and do the best I can. This will be my fourth start in Portugal and experience plays a big role in this sport – so I hope that will help me keep a good pace.
“Friday’s stages will be completely new and a big unknown for everyone which will require very good preparation during the recce. Saturday is a very long day and another tough challenge which demands clean driving and a good strategy.
“Portugal will also mark the start of another chapter for me as I’ll be joined by Jakub Gerber as my co‑driver. We worked together in 2015 – with good results both in the Polish Championship and the European Rally Championship – so I’d like to welcome him back to the team.”
Well, we are set for another round- Who will emerge on top by Sunday afternoon? We could see another change in the championship order as well! Enjoy!
Summer has well and truly arrived in Ireland; lambs are skipping around the fields, birds are singing in the trees, hard slicks are the tyre of choice and the Irish Tarmac Championship is blasting its way through valleys and over mountain passes, shattering the tranquility.
The Easter Stages and the Killarney Rally of the lakes made up rounds 3 and 4 of the Championship and with the two rounds taking place only two weeks apart, there has been little time to catch breath. Both rallies were contrasting in terrain, the Easter Stages took place in the fertile plains and rolling hills surrounding Lough Neagh in the Northeast of the island and the Rally of the Lakes which took place in the rugged mountains of Kerry in the Southwest. There has been one constant element in the Irish Tarmac championship this season however and that is the Fiesta of Craig Breen and Paul Nagle. So far this season the pair have been dominant. The results so far are testament to the pair’s dominance, but from the roadside, there are times when Craig is having to drive the R5 close to the limit to stay ahead of the chasing pack.
On the Easter stages, Desi Henry and Liam Moynihan were at forefront of the chasing pack, pushing their Skoda Fabia hard for two days through the Ulster lanes to finish second, only 18 seconds behind Breen. It was a rally where Henry finally had some well-deserved luck, having been on the pace all season only to run into bad luck on numerous occasions. Merely stating Henry took second place on the rally doesn’t tell the entire story though, the battle for the podium behind Breen is one that will live long in the memory.
At the end of day one, after six stages, only 12.9 seconds separated Jonny Greer, Desi Henry, Sam Moffett and Callum Devine in the battle for second. Over nine more stages on day two, the podium battle would rage with fractions of seconds being traded. On stage eight, Callum Devine and Brian Hoy put in an astonishing time on the longest stage of the rally to take third place overall, but only 3.3 seconds separated second position and fourth position. On stage nine, Henry responded to move back into third place, on stage eleven Devine responded to retake third …… and this tit for tat battle continued until stage thirteen when Devine dropped 10 seconds with a power steering issue. There was no stopping Desi Henry and Liam Moynihan now though, with only one second gap to Jonny Greer and Kirsty Riddick in second place, the battle continued unabated.
Over the final two stages, both Jonny Greer and Desi Henry were visibly trying. Not one inch was given and every available bit of tarmac, and sometimes beyond, was used in the search for fractions of seconds. When the dust had settled, Desi Henry and Liam Moynihan emerged in second place, 3.5 seconds ahead of Jonny Greer and Kirsty Riddick.
Callum Devine will probably consider himself unlucky not to stand on the podium at the Easter Stages but deserves a special mention. The podium battle was frantic, the commitment and speed carried by the drivers at the top of the timesheets was visible from the roadside. A fourth-place finish on a rally of this standard in only his fifth rally in an R5 car is a serious achievement.
Of the other Championship contenders, after finishing second on both the opening rounds, Alastair Fisher and Gordon Noble had been Craig Breen’s closest competitors for the title. Alistair had a slow start on the Easter Stages but recovered well on Saturday to overtake Sam Moffett to finish fourth. In fifth, sixth and seventh places were Sam Moffett, Meirion Evans and Josh Moffett.
After a two-week break, the whole cavalcade travelled almost the entire length of Ireland to Killarney and the legendary stages in the Kingdom of Kerry. Mention ‘The Gap’, ‘Healy Pass’, ‘Cod’s Head’ or ‘Ardgroom’ to an Irish Rally fan and they will have a story to tell. The Rally of the Lakes is a place that has to be experienced to be believed. Only 2 miles from Killarney town center is the start line for the one of the most famous stages in Irish rallying, Molls Gap, which winds its way around the lakes before rising up through the rock-strewn landscape to the famous Gap at the top.
As is tradition, this famous stage opened the rally and the fastest men up ‘The Gap’ for the first time were Craig Breen and Killarney native Paul Nagle. Second over the stage was Alastair Fisher and Gordon Noble, retaking their position as the foremost crew pushing Breen this season. Winner of the Easter Stages, Desi Henry, was in third and Callum Devine was in fourth, building on his stellar performance on the Easter Stages. Day one of the Rally of the Lakes was a day of classic stages tackled in blazing springtime sunshine. After everything had been settled (and the after sun applied), the rally leaders after the opening day was Craig Breen and Paul Nagle, with Alastair Fisher and Gordon Noble 24.9 seconds behind and Callum Devine and Brian Hoy only 6.6 seconds behind Fisher in third.
Again, day two opened with a high-speed roller-coaster ride up Molls Gap. Callum Devine gave credit to the ‘Coco-pops’ he had for breakfast but, whatever it was, he and co-driver Brian Hoy were the fastest out of the blocks. On both the first loop and the second loop, the former Billy Coleman Award winner was fastest up ‘The Gap’ and after stage eleven, the battle between the second and third placed drivers was only 0.7 of a second. This battle between Fisher and Devine continued for the remainder of the day, with seconds traded here and there, different stages seemingly suiting each driver.
While the battle for second raged behind, Craig Breen portrayed a façade of calmness as he attempted to control a 20 second lead with the two youngsters snapping at his heels. The view from the hedges slightly belied the calm exterior, a moment on stage twelve on a 3 left over crest, followed by an encounter with a deer on the same stage, showed that the leaders were pushing hard to maintain their lead. On the finish ramp, Craig admitted to feeling pressure to win the event for his local co-driver Paul Nagle and it was beginning to show ever so slightly.
Over the final two loops of the rally on Sunday afternoon, the battle for second began to sway in the direction of Fishers and Noble but the pair showed no sign of slowing their pace as they won stages 12, 13 14 and 16, pushing Breen to the wire. Ultimately, Alastair Fisher and Gordon Noble crossed the ramp in Killarney in second place, only 14.9 seconds behind Breen to cement their place as the strongest challengers to the Breen And Nagle partnership this season. It feels like it is only a matter of time before Alastair wins a round of the Irish Tarmac Championship, and on his performance to date this season, it would be thoroughly deserved.
Callum Devine had to settle for third place, an astonishing result for only his sixth rally in a R5 car. There was a consolation prize awarded to Callum Devine and Brian Hoy for being fastest up Molls Gap (which they done twice) but to take third place in the Irish Tarmac Championship was probably the drive of the weekend.
The winners once again were Craig Breen and Paul Nagle, continuing their dominance of the Irish Tarmac Championship this season. However, this was the closest margin of victory the pair have taken this season and it is clear that there is a very hungry pack behind, pushing and clambering to be the first to break the dominance of the man who was rallying with the elite in the WRC last season.
With four wins from four events, Craig Breen and Paul Nagle lead the Championship with 68 points, Alastair Fisher and Gordon Noble are in second place on 50 points and Desi Henry and Liam Moynihan are in third place on 32 points. Despite the dominance of Craig Breen, it is still all to play for in the final three rounds of the championship as just one non-finish could totally change the final outcome.
Next on the calendar for the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship is the jewel in the crown of Irish rallying, the Donegal International Rally. A three-day rallying extravaganza of fast, bumpy, shiny tarmac stages in the hills of the northwest.