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

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

Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

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

 

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (1st)

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

Kris Meeke (2nd)

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

Ott Tänak (4th)

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

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (3rd)

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

Esapekka Lappi on a charge. Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Sébastien Ogier (7th)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Craig Breen (5th)

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

Andreas Mikkelsen (6th)

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

Thierry Neuville (8th)

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

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (9th)

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

Gus Greensmith (10th)

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

Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

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

 

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd)

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

Kris Meeke (Retired/Rally2)

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

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (2nd)

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

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (4th)

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

Craig Breen (6th)

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

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

Thierry Neuville (7th)

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

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (8th)

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

Gus Greensmith (9th)

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

Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

FINAL STANDINGS

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

 

Let’s hear then from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd)

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

Kris Meeke (DNF)

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

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (2nd)

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

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (4th)

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

Thierry Neuville (6th)

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

Craig Breen (7th)

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

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (8th)

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

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

Gus Greensmith (DNF)

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

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rally Finland 2019 Preview – Time for high speed and spectacular jumps!

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.

The Finns

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)

4.00pm: Podium

Let’s hear from the drivers then!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak

“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.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 08 / Rally Finland 2018 / July 26-29, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala

“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.”

Kris Meeke

“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

Sébastien Ogier

“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.”

Esapekka Lappi took victory two years ago. Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Esapekka Lappi

“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.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“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.”

Andreas Mikkelsen

“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.”

Craig Breen

“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.”

Craig and Paul return to the championship! Photo credit, Hyundai Motorsport

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen

“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.”

Gus Greensmith

“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.”

The M-Sport cars will be running with tributes to Manus Kelly.

Hayden Paddon

“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.

Hayden and John return to the WRC with M-Sport. His supporters are very happy. Photo credit, M-Sport

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.”

Summary

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.

We will enjoy this one!

Phil Hall’s Rally Italia Sardinia Diary

Written By Phil Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rally Italia Sardegna Review 2019 – Dani Sordo Wins!

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.

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

  1. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:36:01.5
  2. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +10.8
  3. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +11.2
  4. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +20.2
  5. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +20.3
  6. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +29.5
  7. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +57.7
  8. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:03.5
  9. Hänninen / Tuominen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:38.0

 

Let’s hear then from the drivers.

Hyundai Motorsport

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.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 08, Rally Italia Sardegna
13-16 June 2019
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

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.”

 

M-Sport WRT

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.”

 

Saturday

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 

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:04:10.3
  2. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +25.9
  3. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +42.9
  4. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:25.4
  5. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:33.3
  6. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:32.4
  7. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:58.3
  8. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3:53.3
  9. Hänninen / Tuominen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +7:23.2
  1.     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.”

Hyundai Motorsport

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.”

M-Sport WRT

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!”

Teemu Suninen drove to a career best finish of second place with new co-driver, Jarmo Lehtinen alongside him. Photo credit, M-Sport

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.”

Esapekka Lappi had a good event, held back with punctures. Photo credit Citroen Racing

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.”

 

Sunday

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.

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 08 / Rally d’Italia Sardegna / 13-16 June, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

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.

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 08 / Rally d’Italia Sardegna / 13-16 June, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

FINAL RALLY STANDINGS

  1. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:32:27.2
  2. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +13.7
  3. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +32.6
  4. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +33.5
  5. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:30.1
  6. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:06.7
  7. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) + 2:59.6
  8. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4:40.1
  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!

Hyundai Motorsport

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.”

M-Sport WRT

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

  1. Ott Tänak – 150 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 146 points
  3. Thierry Neuville – 143 points
  4. Elfyn Evans – 78 points
  5. Teemu Suninen – 62 points
  6. Kris Meeke – 60 points
  7. Andreas Mikkelsen – 56 points
  8. Dani Sordo – 52 points
  9. Esapekka Lappi – 40 points
  10. Jari-Matti Latvala – 40 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 242 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 198 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 170 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 152 points

Summary

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!

Rally Italia Sardegna Preview 2019

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.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 07, Rally d’Italia, Sardegna / June 7-10, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

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)

1.25pm: Finish

3.00pm: Podium

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“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.”

Seb and Julien have finished on every podium so far this year. Can they do the same here? Photo credit Citroen Racing.

Esapekka Lappi

“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.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“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!”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07, Rally Italia Sardegna
7-10 June 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“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.”

Dani Sordo

“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.”

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans

“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.”

Elfyn and Scott will want to show improved pace this weekend. Photo credit, M-Sport

Teemu Suninen

“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!?

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

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

 

Friday

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

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

 

The thoughts then after day one from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (2nd)

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

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

Kris Meeke (3rd)

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (4th)

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

Seb Loeb (39th)

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

Dani Sordo (43rd)

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

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

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

Esapekka Lappi (8th)

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

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (6th)

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

Gus Greensmith (7th)

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

Elfyn Evans (16th)

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

 

Saturday

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

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

The driver’s thoughts then after Saturday.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

Kris Meeke (2nd)

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

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (Retired/Rally2)

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

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

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

Dani Sordo (24th)

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

Seb Loeb (27th)

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

 

Citroën Total WRT driver

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

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

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

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

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (6th)

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

Elfyn Evans (7th)

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

Gus Greensmith (15th)

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

 

Sunday

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

FINAL STANDINGS

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

 

Let’s hear then from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (7th)

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

Kris Meeke (Retired)

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

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

Dani Sordo

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

Seb Loeb

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

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

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

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

Esapekka Lappi (Retired)

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

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (4th)

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

Elfyn Evans (5th)

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

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

Gus Greensmith (Retired)

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

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

 

Summary

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

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

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

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

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

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

Rally de Portugal Preview 2019 – Back to European Gravel.

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

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

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

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

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

 

THURSDAY 30 MAY

8.00am: Shakedown Paredes (4,60 km)

7.00pm: Ceremonial start (Coimbra)

7.10pm: Parc ferme

 

FRIDAY 31 MAY

8.30am: Start (Coimbra)

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

9.48am: SS 1 – Lousa 1 (12,35 km)

10.32am: SS 2 – Gois 1 (18,78 km)

11.20am: SS 3 – Arganil 1 (14,44 km)

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

1.51pm: SS 4 – Lousa 2 (12,35 km) 

2.35pm: SS 5 – Gois 2 (18,78 km)

3.23pm: SS 6 – Arganil 2 (14,44 km)

7.03pm: SS 7 – Lousada (3,36 km)

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

 

SATURDAY 1ST JUNE

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

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

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

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

12.50pm: Service C (Exponor – 44 mins)

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

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

5.17pm: SS 13 – Amarante 2 (37,60 km)

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

 

SUNDAY 2 JUNE

6.50am: Service E (Exponor – 19 mins)

8.25am: SS 16 – Montim 1 (8,76 km)

9.08am: SS 17 – Fafe 1 (11,18 km)

9.48am: SS 18 – Luilhas (11,89 km)

10.35am: SS 19 – Montim 2 (8,76 km)

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

1.50pm: Service F (Exponor – 14 mins)

2.20pm: Finish (Matosinhos)

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

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

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

Esapekka Lappi

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak

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

Jari-Matti Latvala

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

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

Kris Meeke

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

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

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

Dani Sordo

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

Seb Loeb

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

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans

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

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

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

Teemu Suninen

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

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

Gus Greensmith

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Łukasz Pieniążek

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

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

 

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd)

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

Kris Meeke (5th)

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

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

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

Esapekka Lappi (10th)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (4th)

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

Seb Loeb (6th)

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

Andreas Mikkelsen (8th)

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

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (7th)

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

Teemu Suninen (9th)

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

Saturday

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

Kris Meeke (10th)

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (13th)

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

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

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

Esapekka Lappi (6th)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Seb Loeb (3rd)

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

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

Andreas Mikkelsen (7th)

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

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (4th)

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

Teemu Suninen (5th)

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

Sunday

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

FINAL STANDINGS

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

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

Kris Meeke (10th)

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (11th)

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

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

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

Esapekka Lappi (6th)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Seb Loeb (3rd)

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

Andreas Mikkelsen (7th)

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

M-Sport

Elfyn Evans (4th)

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

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

Teemu Suninen (5th)

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

 

Summary

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

Phil’s 2019 Tour de Corse Diary

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

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

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

Phil Hall. Photo credit, M-Sport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full stage schedule

THURSDAY 9 MAY

10.00am: Shakedown (6,45 km)

 

FRIDAY 10 MAY

6.30am: Start day 1

8.00am: SS 1 – El Pinar 1 (17,11 km)

9.33am: SS 2 – El Puma 1 (30,72 km)

10/36am: SS 3 – Espigado 1 (22,26 km)

12.51pm: Service A (Talcahuano – 40 mins)

3.24pm: SS 4 – El Puma 2 (30,72 km)

4.27pm: SS 5 – Espigado 2 (22,26 km)

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

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

 

SATURDAY 11 MAY

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

8.08am: SS 7 – Rio Lia 1 (20,90 km)

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

10.20am: SS 9 – Pelun 1 (16,59 km)

12.05pm: Service D (Talcahuano – 40 mins)

2.08pm: SS 10 – Rio Lia 2 (20,90 km)

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

4.20pm: SS 12 – Pelun 2 (16,59 km)

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

 

SUNDAY 12 MAY

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

8.08am: SS 13 – Bio Bio 1 (12,52 km)

9.30am: SS 14 – Lircay (18,06 km)

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

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

1.15pm: Finish (Talcahuano)

Let’s hear from the crews.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

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

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

Andreas Mikkelsen

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

Seb Loeb

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

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

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

Esapekka Lappi

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

Photo courtesy of Citroen Racing

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans

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

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

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

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

Elfyn and Scott. Photo courtesy of M-Sport

Teemu Suninen

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

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

 

Gus Greensmith (WRC2 Pro)

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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