Rally Spain Review- Seb and Julien, 4 Times World Champions!

Coming into this rally, Seb and Julien had a hand on their fourth world title. All they had to do is finish ahead of Andreas. Well, they’ve been doing that all year, so you’d think that wouldn’t be too hard. However, this was the rally that saw Seb crash out in the last stage last year and hand the win to the young Norwegian.

This year, the challenge came from Dani Sordo and the Hyundai team. Here’s the story of how the Spaniard challenged the reigning champs.

The event started on Thursday evening with the short 2.3km blast that is Stage one. It was very wet as it rained very heavily just an hour before the stage start. It started to rain again as the stage started. Also, don’t forget that this stage was fully tarmac, but because all of the Friday stages are gravel, the cars were set up for gravel, making them very interesting to drive on this stage.

The rain continued to fall and the puddles got bigger, so the drivers that came later, were really at a disadvantage. Jari-Matti didn’t go well at all, losing 12 seconds. He was far too aggressive sliding the car around and was very surprised to be so far off.

01 Tänak 3m 47.6s

02 Bertelli +2.7s

03 Ogier (VW) +3.5s

04 Meeke +5.2s

05 Breen +5.2s

06 Neuville +5.7s

07 Mikkelsen (VW) +5.8s

08 Østberg +6.1s

09 Paddon 6.4s

10 Sordo +7.1s

11 Latvala (VW) +12.0s

Ott made a great start on his D-Mack tyred Fiesta to take a lead, the first time he’d lead a rally since he came so close to winning in Poland during the summer.

Seb was right there though in third place. He’d driven really well to be third fastest despite the worse conditions. The rally had started well for the champion-elect.

Friday morning then and it was the 12.5km stage first up. Seb was first into the stage. The rain looked like it followed them, and so the stage was wet. It was a troublesome one for Hayden in here, as he suffered a failure on his anti-lag system, so was down on power. Also with no lunch time service, he was going to have to take a look under the bonnet to try and figure out what it was.

Kris was next up and it was going well, but then he came around a fourth gear left hander and the rear slid round. Next thing he knew, the car was rolling. He had to turn the car around and this lost him over 30 seconds.

01 Neuville 7m 39.9s

02 Paddon +1.6s

03 Ogier (VW) +2.5s

04 Sordo +4.2s

05 Latvala (VW) +4.6s

06 Mikkelsen (VW) +5.6s

07 Østberg +16.2s

08 Breen +30.7s

09 Meeke +40.9s

10 Abbring +41.5s

Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN), Miikka Anttila (FIN)
Volkswagen Polo R WRC (2016)
WRC Rally Catalunya 2016
Photo: Daniel Roeseler

Stage 3 then and it was Jari-Matti who won it from Seb who duly moved into top spot. With the weather having turned so bad, instead of it being a disadvantage to be first into the stage, it became an advantage. He took the lead from Thierry.

01 Latvala (VW) 4m 12.0s

02 Ogier (VW) +1.0s

03 Neuville +1.4s

04 Paddon +2.4s

05 Mikkelsen (VW) +2.6s

06 Sordo +3.7s

07 Østberg +6.1s

08 Meeke +6.2s

09 Breen +6.5s

10 Tänak +9.2s

Stage four next, the longest of the entire rally. Terra Alta at 38km and this stage has both tarmac and gravel parts to it. Dani pushed very hard in this one, looking to move up the leaderboard. Jari-Matti was fastest though, thus winning two in a row. Hayden was really suffering with his engine not performing correctly and it must have been so frustrating for him. He would spend the midday break poking around under the bonnet trying to see what was wrong.

01 Latvala (VW) 25m 48.7s

02 Ogier (VW) +3.9s

03 Sordo +6.1s

04 Neuville +8.2s

05 Mikkelsen (VW) +10.4s

06 Paddon +17.6s

07 Østberg +22.9s

08 Breen +25.4s

09 Meeke +29.2s

10 Tänak +52.0s

Stage five was a re-run of number two. It was starting to dry up out there with the rain having stopped and the sun coming out. Thierry managed to remove his bumper and grille from the car as he tapped a couple of small trees and spun. He would lose 18 seconds…. It went even more wrong for Jari-Matti though. Coming through a right hander, which had a section of Armco running alongside and he tapped the end of it with the right front of the Polo. This not only broke his drive shaft but also the steering rack as well. A big shame. He was out for the rest of the day.

It was totally different for Dani through here though! He won the stage and took the lead in one go. A brilliant performance! Fourth into first place in one go. He was overjoyed!

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 12 / RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de Espagna 2016 / October 13 – 16, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

01 Sordo 7m 57.3s

02 Abbring +4.1s

03 Østberg +4.5s

04 Bertelli +4.6s

05 Meeke +5.2s

06 Paddon +5.2s

07 Mikkelsen (VW) +8.5s

08 Camilli +9.5s

09 Prokop +12.3s

10 Tänak +13.7s

11 Ogier (VW) +16.3s

He found himself 6.1 seconds ahead of Seb after that one. Hayden had also found some time in there to close the gap to the front.

Stage six then, and rerun of Terra Alta. Dani won this, thus opening up a 11.8 second lead over Seb. Just completely in the groove!

01 Sordo 4m 06.0s

02 Tänak +1.2s

03 Meeke +2.4s

04 Breen +3.5s

05 Ogier (VW) 5.7s

06 Mikkelsen (VW) +5.8s

07 Østberg +6.1s

08 Paddon +6.9s

09 Abrring +7.8s

10 Neuville +7.8s

Last stage of the day and It was a Kris win in here with Dani second and Seb third, but 6.9 seconds slower.

01 Meeke 24:50.1

02 Sordo +1.7

03 Ogier +6.9

04 Ostberg +15.2

05 Mikkelsen +19.2

06 Breen +27.4

07 Neuville +27.9

08 Tanak +29.4

09 Paddon +30.2

10 Camilli + 41.6

Kris really got into the groove through there, but it was Dani who’d really driven brilliantly through the day and taken the lead. What a lead as well.

D. Sordo / M. Martí (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) 1:18:44.4

S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +17.0

A. Mikkelsen / A. Jaeger (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +35.1

T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +46.3

H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +47.5

M. Østberg / O. Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +54.3

K. Meeke / P. Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:06.3

C. Breen / S. Martin (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:44.6

O. Tanak / R. Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:04.4

E. Camilli / B. Veillas (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:44.3

K. Abbring / S. Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +4:02.8

The thoughts of the top three then.

Dani Sordo said: “It has been an unbelievable day. I am really pleased to be leading the rally, particularly in front of all these amazing Spanish fans. The New Generation i20 WRC has been fantastic to drive today, and it is thanks to the whole team that we have been able to start the rally in such a positive manner. The wet conditions have made these stages very slippery, so it has been an achievement to make it through without any problems. We haven’t really been taking any risks so far, but as we move onto asphalt for the remaining days, we need to make sure that we keep up the fight.”

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“The conditions were really extremely difficult for all the drivers today. It was super slippery in places – with a lot of water and mud on the roads. I pushed as hard as I could again on the afternoon’s final stage. At the moment, things are looking very good for Julien and me in the battle for victory in Spain and the world championship. Tomorrow is the start of a completely new rally. I am looking forward to the fast asphalt stages on Saturday and Sunday. It always feels a bit like being on a racetrack here in Catalonia. The asphalt is absolutely perfect the roads are generally very wide.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“Wow, what a tough day. The rain gave us some extremely slippery stages on the gravel today. You can never be quite sure what the conditions were like on the muddy surface. There was plenty of grip one minute, then all of a sudden hardly any at all. We tried to put ourselves in a good position for the next two days on asphalt, whilst taking as few risks as possible. Opening the road was not the ideal starting position today, but I think we made the best of the situation.”

The rest of the drivers

Volkswagen Motorsport

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

“We found our rhythm very quickly today and underlined this with two wins on stages three and four. Unfortunately, our fightback then came to an abrupt end. We got a bit off the line in a left-right combination and damaged the suspension. We tried to repair it, but it was impossible to continue. That was it for today. It is bitterly disappointing, but there’s nothing we can do about it now. We will come back tomorrow and try to score as many points as possible towards the Manufacturers’ Championship.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville said: “It’s been a day of two halves. The opening stages this morning went well, despite the conditions, and we were able to take a stage win and briefly lead the rally. We were keeping the pressure on and headed into the afternoon in positive mood. Unfortunately, we got unlucky in the repeat of Caseres as we approached a slow right-hand corner, I got stuck on the inside and the car spun, hitting a tree. The engine stalled and we lost some time restarting. We were able to fix some of the damage and could continue the loop. Thankfully we minimised the time loss and will look to push more tomorrow.”

Hayden Paddon said: “We have been battling a technical issue all day which has prevented us from doing too much more. In fact, I’m surprised we’ve been able to set some of the times we have. This morning already felt like we were missing some power and we had no throttle response. I adapted my driving style, which felt a bit unnatural, but with no lunchtime service there wasn’t much else we could do. I think we could have been quite competitive, so it’s a bit of a missed opportunity. Still, we have made it through and we’re still in the hunt for a good result. Tomorrow’s another day, as they say.”

Kevin Abbring said: “It’s a disappointing end to the day with the problem but all in all it’s been a positive experience out there. The conditions have not been easy, so it’s heightened the challenge for us. We’ve never rallied on stages like these before, and certainly not on wet gravel, so it’s been a learning curve. I felt we were doing ok, particularly in the afternoon loop. Second in SS5 was a real boost to the confidence. But in the final stage we experienced a loss of power, which in turn lost us a lot of time. It’s a shame but we will come back stronger tomorrow – and I hope we will be able to enjoy a drier day.”

M-Sport WRT

Mads Østberg (6th) said:

“The stages here in Spain are fantastic and I have really enjoyed the day. Our driving and our performance have been really strong but, unfortunately, luck hasn’t been on our side.

“In the morning that was largely due to the weather but, if I’m honest, we made that back in the afternoon. We also had a small problem with the differentials – a new one – and we have no idea what it is. I’m trying to explain it to the engineers and they can see it on the data, but at this moment we can’t pin-point exactly what’s causing it. Obviously we had a full day without service so we just had to adapt and try to be faster and faster with every stage – which I think we achieved.

“We also had some really strong splits on the Tarmac section of Terra Alta which was great to see. Of course it’s with completely different tyres and set-up, but it’s still Tarmac and it’s still a section in the stage where I’ve always lost out. In the past I’ve lost more than a second per kilometre in there, but this year we were one of the fastest both times though – that makes me especially happy.”

Éric Camilli (10th) said:

“It was very difficult for us in the morning. We were competitive here last year, but in these conditions it was hard to judge the limits. You never know where you can push, where it will be slippery, where there will be grip, where there will be water… and in this car, which has so much more power, it can be very tricky. But we took the time to learn and we were able to show a big improvement this afternoon.

“We’re looking forward to tomorrow, but we’ll keep the same mind-set until the end of the season. Right now, the most important thing for me is to take the experience. We’ve already proved our pace this season, so now it’s time to manage everything else and continue learning so that we can make more progress next year.”

Abu Dhabi Citroen WRT

Kris Meeke: “Obviously, it was a bit of a frustrating start to the day for us. We knew it was going to rain, but it was torrential in the mountains! And when the dust that normally covers these roads gets wet, the surface becomes incredibly slippery… A few kilometres after the start of SS2, I was caught out by some standing water in the ruts. It put the car sideways on the road and we touched the bank and rolled. The damage was superficial and we only lost fifteen or twenty seconds with the roll! But with the conditions, I don’t think I would have been able to fight for the lead in any case. I quickly refocused on my main objective for the weekend: find a good rhythm and feel comfortable on this surface. The results in the afternoon were encouraging, even though my road position helped. Overall, it’s still a disappointing day, but we’re not out of it yet. Let’s see what we can do, maybe we can sneak a podium.”

Craig Breen: “This has been one of the most difficult days of my career. We had to deal with the worst conditions, with so much rain and mud. The first stage was particularly tough, the rainfall was at its heaviest just as we set off and there was a lot of standing water on the ground. We did our best, but I still made a minor mistake on SS5 and spun the car. Although we weren’t going very fast, we hit a tree and that damaged the radiator. We were even more cautious after that, so we made it to the end of the day without incident. I’m glad we switch to tarmac and a more traditional rally tomorrow!”

Khalid Al Qassimi: “I’ve never seen conditions like these in Catalonia. It wasn’t enjoyable to drive in such thick mud and I was even more cautious when I saw other cars stopped by the side of the road. I really backed off and didn’t take any risks at all this morning, even if the reduced power meant the car wasn’t really working properly. On the second runs, there was more grip and I was able to push a little bit more. I felt more confident as the afternoon drew on and I quite enjoyed the Terra Alta stage. Tomorrow we reset everything, it’s a completely different rally when we switch to tarmac. I hope that the weather will be kinder, both for us and for the fans!”

Day two then and with a complete switch to tarmac, the teams had made the suspension, brakes and tyre changes necessary at the end of the first day, preparing the cars for the smooth roads.

Eight stages made up Saturday’s line up and the sun was still rising when the first cars fired into Stage eight. Having restarted with a rebuilt car, Jari-Matti powered through to beat Kris in this stage by just two tenths of a second. Dani’s lead was trimmed a little by Seb, but the gap between them was still almost 17 seconds.

01 Latvala (VW) 4m 03.4s

02 Meeke +0.2s

03 Mikkelsen (VW) +0.5s

04 Ogier (VW) +1.7s

05 Sordo +1.8s

06 Neuville +2.6s

07 Paddon +4.3s

08 Tänak +5.1s

09 Østberg +5.2s

10 Abbring 6.3s

Stage nine then and could Seb close the gap some more? Well, actually it widened a little, whilst Jari-Matti took a second stage win. Kris suffered a puncture in the stage, so dropped some time, although still maintaining seventh overall.

01 Latvala (VW) 11m 05.9s

02 Sordo +0.7s

03 Ogier (VW) +1.3s

04 Mikkelsen (VW) +2.2s

05 Neuville +2.6s

06 Paddon +6.4s

07 Camilli +8.7s

08 Østberg +16.3s

09 Tänak +18.1s

10 Abbring +24.2s

Stage ten next and Seb won the stage from Dani to reduce the gap by three seconds to 14.5 with Jari-Matti just three tenths off in third.

01 Ogier (VW) 11m 12.9s

02 Sordo + 3.0s

03 Latvala +3.3s

04 Meeke +3.5s

05 Neuville +5.4s

06 Mikkelsen (VW) +7.4s

07 Paddon +8.6s

08 Camilli +14.7s

09 Tänak +23.2s

10 Østberg +24.3s

One more stage then before midday service, stage eleven and Seb flew through this one at an amazing 116kph average speed, including one section where he topped 191kph! Just incredible and with that closed the gap to Dani to just 7.7 seconds. Lots for Dani to think about.

01 Ogier (VW) 12m 27.3s

02 Sordo +6.8s

03 Latvala (VW) +9.9s

04 Neuville +10.9s

05 Meeke +12.0s

06 Mikkelsen (VW) +12.2s

07 Paddon +13.9s

08 Østberg +23.9s

09 Camilli +26.5s

10 Abbring +30.8s

After service Andreas, with the Hyundai drivers getting closer was pushing hard to keep them behind. It all went wrong in stage 12. Coming round a right hander, his Polo went wide and there was some Armco which was on the outside of the corner. The car slid onto it and it flipped the car over onto its roof and then back over. Andreas and Anders were fine, but the car wasn’t going anywhere after that.

Seb won the stage from Dani again, just 2.5 seconds quicker and reducing the lead to 5.2 seconds. Could Dani stop Seb from passing him?

01 Ogier (VW) 11m 02.0s

02 Sordo +2.5s

03 Paddon +5.9s

04 Neuville +8.4s

05 Breen +10.5s

06 Østberg +12.6s

07 Meeke +19.6s

08 Abbring +19.8s

09 Prokop +21.2s

10 Tänak +24.2s

11 Latvala +40.4s

Stage thirteen then and Seb kept coming with another stage victory over Jari-Matti and Dani third through here. It was looking very likely that Seb would be back in the lead very soon.

01 Ogier (VW) 11m 14.3s

02 Latvala (VW) +2.0s

03 Sordo +2.7s

04 Neuville +3.9s

05 Meeke +4.5s

06 Paddon +8.1s

07 Breen +11.7s

08 Østberg +18.4s

09 Abbring +23.9s

10 Tänak +25.5s

Stage fourteen then and could Dani hold Seb off? Sadly, not I’m afraid. He was 4.2 seconds slower through there and thus came out 1.7 seconds behind Seb.

01 Ogier (VW) 12m 29.3s

02 Latvala (VW) +2.2s

03 Neuville +3.9s

04 Sordo +4.2s

05 Meeke +4.9s

06 Paddon +5.5s

07 Breen +12.4s

08 Østberg +20.1s

09 Abbring +22.8s

10 Tänak +27.8s

Last stage of the day then and it was a win for Kris round the super special. Seb was fourth, but it was a shame to see Dani lose more time, ending the stage four seconds slower than Seb, meaning that he would be 5.8 seconds behind going into the last day.

01 Meeke 2m 33.0s

02 Paddon +0.1s

03 Neuville +0.2s

04 Ogier (VW) +0.3s

05 Latvala (VW) +0.7s

06 Østberg +0.9s

07 Prokop +2.5s

08 Bertelli +3.3s

09 Tänak +3.9s

10 Sordo +4.4s

So, here’s the thoughts of the top three at the end of day two.

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“A perfect day! I am very happy with our performance. I knew we could only make up the 17-second deficit to Dani Sordo with an absolutely flawless display. He is very quick on asphalt, and this is his home rally. We consciously took a slightly more cautious approach on this morning’s first stage, because it was still damp and slippery in places. From then on, however, Julien and I went on the attack. We obviously now have a huge chance of securing our fourth title here in Spain. That is at the back of our minds, but the points for the team in the Manufacturer’s Championship are also important. No doubt about it, we want to win tomorrow. However, I still remember well the outcome of last year’s Power Stage. We don’t plan to let that happen again this time.”

Dani Sordo said: “I was disappointed to lose the lead of the rally this afternoon, if I am honest. We knew it would be a tough challenge but when you are in the top spot, it’s natural instinct to want to protect it. The morning loop was not too bad, and we defended well but Ogier was pushing hard. We had a bit of understeer but I felt happy with my driving overall. We made a few adjustments at lunchtime service, but there wasn’t any more we could do. It’s very easy to make mistakes when pushing too hard, so we have to find a compromise. We’re not too far off in terms of the overall time, and there are still plenty of opportunities tomorrow. I’m not one to give up so we’ll see what we can do. It’s our home rally, so we want to win for all the Spanish fans.”

Thierry Neuville said: “It’s been a solid day for us and obviously it’s nice to be in the podium positions heading into the final day. The battle with Andreas this morning was poignant, not only because we are friends but also because we are involved in a close fight for second in the drivers’ classification. We were already putting some pressure on before he went off in the afternoon loop. I have been pretty pleased with my driving today. We had a bit understeer and there has been some room for improvement, but all in all we can be happy. As a team, we’re looking strong, so we need a clean Sunday to pick up these important manufacturer points.”

The rest of the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon said: “Consistency has been the word of the day for us. The team did a great job in service last night to get all the cars switched for today’s asphalt tests. We have been in or around the top-six in most stages today and we’ve been able to move up to fourth place, following Andreas’s retirement. Things feel better than they were in Corsica, although we’ve still had to work hard to adapt to the conditions and to the car. We’ve been digging deep and trying to move forward – and we’ll continue to do that through Sunday’s four stages.”

Kevin Abbring said: “It’s been a really enjoyable day. I have felt my confidence grow inside the car with each stage. The rhythm has been getting better and better. We had a good morning loop, improving the car bit by bit. It’s been a year since we were on tarmac in Corsica in a WRC car so we’ve had to reacclimatise. We wanted to gain some positions today – and circumstances have allowed us to do that. We made some good progress this afternoon, and have a few ideas for tomorrow. To be inside the top-eight is great and something we want to defend in the final stages on Sunday.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke: “This morning, I had a good rhythm but I picked up a puncture after cutting a corner. After that, I had to deal with an uneven tyre set-up. Some portions were also very dirty. This afternoon, I had a bit of a moment with a sixth-gear spin. I haven’t really managed many of the stages without any issues, but it’s up to me to eliminate these silly mistakes. Overall, it’s been a frustrating leg, but the positive is knowing that I can challenge with the best when everything is going well! That wasn’t the case a year ago, so we’ll have to take that into 2017.”

Craig Breen: “The day couldn’t have got off to a worse start, because we broke a driveshaft after two or three kilometres. After the stage, we removed both of the front driveshafts. It was a long and difficult job, so we picked up a penalty for arriving late at the time control for the next stage. After the mid-leg service, we just tried to learn the stages. It was difficult for us to commit as we were on our first high-speed pass when everyone else was on their second. It wasn’t a good day, but sometimes you need this kind of experience to appreciate the good times! On tomorrow’s final leg, we’ll be just trying to finish the rally well.”

Khalid Al Qassimi: “It’s been a pretty good day for me. I didn’t feel especially confident on the first loop, my pace notes weren’t perfect and there was a lot of dirt and stones on the road. I nonetheless managed to up the pace on the second pass, altering my driving style to use the car’s torque more rather than shifting through the gears. I’m pleased to have improved my times quite significantly. It’s not easy to come back to tarmac after a year away. The other WRC drivers compete at a very high level and they do a lot more kilometres than me on this surface. But I still love this rally!”

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 12 / RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de Espagna 2016 / October 13 – 16, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: M-Sport/McKlein

M-Sport WRT

Mads Østberg (6th) said:

“I’m quite happy to see that our new driving style is starting to pay off. We’ve seen an increase in speed and set some decent stage times too. Of course you always try to improve in the same direction and sometimes it kicks back which makes it quite difficult to tune in, but we are trying and I think we are getting there.

“Sometimes you need to learn something new to move forward, and that is what we’re doing on Tarmac. You need to allow some time to see the results, but you also need to see the gains and I’m quite happy to see that we are moving in the right direction and that we are getting faster.”

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 12 / RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de Espagna 2016 / October 13 – 16, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: M-Sport/McKlein

Éric Camilli (21st) said:

“Of course it’s disappointing to finish the day like this, but it hasn’t been a bad day by all means. We’ve shown better speed but more importantly we’ve also proved our adaptability. One of the stages was completely new to me this morning and normally I would lose some time there, but this time we were actually quite close to the fastest which was really good.

“Having checked the pacenotes over the first pass, we wanted to improve further on the second and close the gap even more. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible as we had an issue with the gearbox. These things happen and I think every driver has to accept that sometimes.

“We’ll have to use the gravel gearbox tomorrow but that is just the way it is and we’ll focus on checking the notes and making sure that we’re as prepared as we possibly can be for next year.”

Top ten at the end of day two

01 Ogier (VW) 2h 35m 12.8s

02 Sordo +5.8s

03 Neuville +1m 03.9s

04 Paddon +1m 20.0s

05 Meeke +1m 57.9s

06 Østberg +2m 35.7s

07 Tänak 4m 24.7s

08 Abrring 6m 22.7s

09 Prokop 7m 13.3s

10 Bertelli 9m 17.1s

Four stages then and could Dani overhaul Seb to score a first victory for a Spaniard at home since El Matador, Carlos Saniz in 1995?

The first cars headed into the stage, number 16 and the sun had not yet come up. Lights ablaze, they turned and twisted their way through.

01 Ogier (VW) 10m 58.3s

02 Paddon +2.0s

03 Sordo +2.6s

04 Neuville +4.7s

05 Latvala (VW) +6.3s

06 Breen +8.5s

07 Tänak +18.9s

08 Østberg +22.7s

09 Camilli +23.6s

10 Abbring +24.6s

Seb had a bit more light in the stage and therefore increased his lead from 5.8 seconds to 8.4 seconds.

Sadly, Kris would retire from the event at the end of the stage, having suffered from an engine failure. A big shame after a rally that promised so much.

Stage seventeen next and it was a Jari-Matti stage win again! Just showing that if he can get just some consistency, he can definitely challenge for victories.

01 Latvala (VW) 10m 53.1s

02 Ogier (VW) +1.2s

03 Paddon +1.5s

04 Neuville +2.1s

05 Sordo +2.7s

06 Breen +3.6s

07 Camilli +9.0s

08 Østberg +9.8s

09 Tänak +16.1s

10 Abbring +16.8s

It looked like it was all over for Dani though, losing more time and with the gap to Seb increasing all the time. He’d have to find some amazing pace to move back ahead of Seb, the gap now 14.2 seconds.

Just the power stage now…. Last year Seb crashed on this, handing victory to Andreas. Would he make the same mistake?

Not a chance…. He finished the stage second fastest and won the rally from Dani.

Stage 19

01 Latvala (VW) 7m 55.8s

02 Ogier (VW) +1.6s

03 Sordo +3.2s

04 Neuville +3.6s

05 Paddon +3.6s

06 Breen +5.2s

07 Østberg +6.4s

08 Camilli +10.3s

09 Abbring +15.3s

10 Bertelli +15.4s

Overall result

01 Ogier (VW) 2h 46m 11.1s

02 Sordo +8.4s

03 Neuville +1m 08.6s

04 Paddon +1m 22.0s

05 Østberg +2m 58.4s

06 Tänak +4m 43.6s

07 Abbring +6m 47.3s

08 Prokop 7m 56.8s

09 Kopecky +8m 13.6s

10 Tidemand +8m 24.5s

He’d joined the great’s, Juha Kankunnen and Tommi Mäkinen as a four times World Rally Champion.

Julien Ingrassia (F), Sébastien Ogier (F)
Volkswagen Polo R WRC (2016)
WRC Rally Catalunya 2016
Photo: Helena El Mokni

His thoughts then at the end of the event.

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“I feel fantastic! The fourth world championship title for Julien and me, it is impossible to describe how this feels. It is an honour to be mentioned in the same breath as such big names as Kankkunen and Mäkinen. I would like to say a huge thank you to our team at Volkswagen. Without them, Julien and I would not be here today. They do a fantastic job all year and we have had a perfect car all season. I had great fun at the wheel of the Polo R WRC once again this weekend. The tension ahead of the closing Power Stage was obviously greater than usual, given the fact that we were within touching distance of the title, and bearing in mind the mistake we made last year. But we’ve done it. Despite the more difficult regulations, and despite the strong opposition. I am extremely proud of this title. It is now time to celebrate in style with a team and my wife – and when I get home I can show my young son Tim the trophy that daddy won. I dedicate this world championship title to him.”

Dani Sordo said: “It’s been an incredible weekend and I cannot thank the fans enough for all the support. I can honestly say we did our best today but we just couldn’t do anything to stop Sébastien. I have to extend my congratulations to him. We wanted so much to take the win for the team and the fans but he was too strong. Still, to finish in second place after such a competitive event is something to be proud of. It’s our second podium of the season and we worked really hard for it. I have been generally very happy with the feeling we’ve had in the car, both on gravel and asphalt. The team has done a fantastic job to prepare a competitive car, and it’s very encouraging that the overall result has been so positive for everyone at Hyundai Motorsport.”

Neuville said: “It’s been a good weekend. I don’t think we could have got anything more out of the car in this rally. I took things carefully this morning. We did a good job to get into the podium positions so we didn’t want to waste that effort. We were focused on the 15 championship points, so accepted that we’d have to compromise our stage times to do that. We had to take it cautiously in some sections, but I was mostly able to drive my usual rhythm. As a team, we’ve had a competitive weekend with three cars in the top-four, so we can use this momentum for the final events of the season in GB and Australia. There are a few more competitive performances to come from us this year, I’m sure!”

The rest of the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon said: “It’s been a good final day for us and a positive event for the entire team. We have continued with our learning curve and kept the pressure on. Even if we weren’t able to finish on the podium, I’m happy with what we’ve achieved over the three days. Ever since we changed some things on the car yesterday lunchtime, it’s been an improvement. I’ve enjoyed the stages today. I liked the first stage (Pratdip) but I was surprised by our pace in the second one (Duesaigües) because I’ve always struggled on that one. There’s nothing more frustrating for me than standing still so I’m pleased we’ve started to move in the right direction. Now let’s bring on the gravel!”

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 12 / RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de Espagna 2016 / October 13 – 16, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Kevin Abbring said: “It’s brilliant to register our best ever WRC result here in Spain. It’s been a very valuable learning weekend for us, and I’d say it is “mission accomplished” as far as the result is concerned. We probably hoped to benefit more from our road position on Friday, but with the wet conditions it didn’t play into our hands. We didn’t expect to be winning stages but we’ve made important steps on this mixed surface rally, and I’m delighted with seventh place. I’d like to say thanks to the team for the opportunity and for their support to us in this event.”

Volkswagen Motorsport

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

“Congratulations to my team-mate Sébastien Ogier on his fourth Drivers’ title. That puts him in the same league as my Finnish compatriots Tommi Mäkinen and Juha Kankkunen. That is a fantastic effort, not only from him, but from the entire Volkswagen Motorsport team. For me, the Rally Spain, as has so often been the case this year, was over far too soon. After the suspension damage on Friday, we had no chance of getting ourselves back in contention. Despite this, we did manage to win some special stages and eventually managed to contribute four points towards the Manufacturers’ Championship. Perhaps we will be able to wrap up this title at the next rally in Great Britain. That will definitely be the goal.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“Congratulations on the title and respect for this victory to our team-mates Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. Anders and I are pleased for them. They set the benchmark again in 2016. For us personally, the Rally Spain obviously did not end as we would have hoped. After victory last year, we wanted to do well again here and certainly to extend our lead over third place in the world championship. However, that was not to be. We came into a right-hander too quickly on Saturday, drifted wide, hit the barriers and rolled. That was 100 per cent my mistake. The battle for second place in the world championship is now wide open again, and we will have to be at our very best in the remaining rallies to achieve the goal we have been aiming for since the start of the season. We will work hard to make that possible.”

M-Sport WRT

Mads Østberg (5th) said:

“It’s really satisfying to see that this new strategy is starting to pay off. There has been a lot of work over the last two rallies – and that will continue – but it’s always nice to see everything come together in a single stage.

“We experienced that on the last stage today [SS19] and I was quite happy that we managed to do it. It still wasn’t a 100 percent perfect stage, but it’s certainly getting there. I’ll have to see the report from my coach before I can say that it was very good, but it felt good and it’s almost a shame that we’re heading back to gravel now!

“But, Wales Rally GB is an event that I am definitely looking forward to. It’s a little bit earlier this year and we might see a dry event which would be fantastic! I’ve done it in the dry once before and that was really amazing. I hope it will be dry, but if it’s wet I don’t mind either! I’m looking forward to it a lot.”

Éric Camilli (19th) said:

“It was a shame about the technical issues we had but these things happen and it wasn’t a bad weekend by all means. We’ve been able to gain a lot of new experiences and really improve our driving on Tarmac.

“We took a lot of pleasure from these stages – the most that we have taken on Tarmac all year – and we will remember it with smiles on our faces. It’s so important to have this feeling ahead of next year. Of course the cars will be different, and maybe the pacenotes too, but we have the experience and we can build on that.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Craig Breen: “It has been a positive final day. This morning, it was still pitch black when we set off on SS16. But we set a good time compared with the guys who had the same visibility conditions as we did. We kept up the good form on the next few stages and we learned a lot, especially by trying out a few different set-ups. I’m really pleased to finish in the top 10 and score one point. I’m now really looking forward to competing at Wales Rally GB!”

Khalid Al Qassimi: “I’m happy to have made it to the end of this rally without having any problems. The conditions on the first day didn’t help me but we managed to keep out of trouble. Overall, the team result is a bit disappointing, but everything that happened to Kris and Craig will help us to learn and be better in the future. My WRC season is over now and I’m proud of what we have accomplished with Abu Dhabi Total WRT.”

Kris Meeke: “There’s not much to say about today, really. It just rounds off a frustrating weekend. It’s very rare for us to have to retire with an electrical issue but that’s just part and parcel of racing. But we have look at the positives and move forward. A little bit like in Corsica, I have finished this rally feeling better than I did at the end of 2015. And that’s the most important thing, because we’re already focused on 2017!”

D-Mack WRT

Ott Tänak said: “It was a very tricky event, especially with the rain on Friday, and it was good to lead it briefly at the start. I enjoyed the Tarmac roads, the stages are really nice and flowing here and it’s a good feeling when things are going well. Sixth place means solid points again and we’ve picked up more important experience for next season.”

Drivers’ standings

1. Sébastien Ogier, 222 points

2. Andreas Mikkelsen, 127

3. Thierry Neuville, 127

4. Hayden Paddon, 114

5. Dani Sordo, 111

6. Jari-Matti Latvala, 104

7. Mads Østberg, 90

8. Ott Tänak, 60

9. Kris Meeke, 54

10. Craig Breen, 36

Manufacturers’ Championship

1. Volkswagen Motorsport, 322 points

2. Hyundai Motorsport, 260

3. M-Sport, 144

4. Volkswagen Motorsport II, 136

5. Hyundai Motorsport N, 124

6. DMACK, 74

7. Jipocar Czech National Team, 18

8. Yazeed Racing, 4

Just two rounds to go then and who will win the remaining rallies? With Wales Rally GB and Rally Australia left this year. Kris would love to win at home and I’m thinking Hayden will be treating Australia as almost a home event.

Pop back, and checkout my Previews and Reviews later this month.

Warren Nel

2016 Tour de Corse Review

Seb came to this event having never won on the roads of Corsica. He was looking to set the record straight. Here’s the story of his victory which has taken him to the brink of his fourth world championship.

Jari-Matti won the event last year becoming the first Finn to do so for three decades.

Now as well as the usual protagonists’ in this event, Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT were here as well, with Kris and Craig each having a DS3 to drive.

Here’s a reminder of the stages that made this year’s Tour de Corse.

Friday 30th September: Leg 1

SS 1-3: Acqua Doria – Albitreccia (49.72 Km)

SS 2/4: Plage Du Liamone – Sarolla Carcopino (29,12 Km)

Saturday 1st October: Leg 2

SS 5-7: Orezza – La Porta – Valle Di Rostino (53.72 Km)

SS 6/8: Novella – Pietralba (30,80 Km)

Sunday 2nd October: Leg 3

SS 9: Antisanti – Poggio Di Nazza (53,78 Km)

SS 10: Porto-Vecchio – Palombaggia (10,42 Km) – Power Stage

So, the action started early on Friday morning! First driver in was championship leader Seb… He stormed through the nearly 50km stage in 30 minutes, 24 seconds, setting an average speed of 98 kph! Kris was just 4 seconds behind that time in second place with Spanish ace Dani a further 8 tenths behind in third. Last year’s winner, Jari-Matti was already 18 seconds off the leader, he just couldn’t get on the pace at all.

Stage two then and Seb made it look easy, going 8.7 seconds faster the Thierry, and Kris had a spin in this one, thus setting the fourth quickest time, but crucially keeping his second place on the overall leaderboard. Dani fell down to fourth, as he was 4 seconds slower than Thierry through the 30km stage.

Moving into the afternoon stages then and with a rerun of the same two stages, they all lined up, ready to blast into the 50km stage again.

It was another stage win for Seb with him averaging 98.8kph through here, and sadly this is where the challenge from Kris and Paul in the Citroen came to an end. They picked up a puncture somewhere in the stage and given the length of it, pulled over and changed the tyre, thus losing over two minutes and 27 seconds to Seb. This of course meant that everyone behind moved up a place. Now Jari-Matti was still losing more time and was now nearly 50 seconds off first place, albeit running in fourth place. Craig, Kris’ teammate was now in sixth place, so finding his feet on the tricky stages.

Now the last stage of the day, but with 130km’s already behind them, certainly not an easy day! Well, Seb made it four stage wins out of four! Kris was making good progress though setting the second fastest time on the same stage that he got the puncture earlier, just ten seconds slower that Seb through here and with Jari-Matti just 6 tenths behind Kris. With this he’d moved up into a podium position.

So, here was the leaderboard at the end of day one:

01 Ogier (VW) 1h 37m 52.8s

02 Neuville +44.0s

03 Latvala (VW) +58.0s

04 Mikkelsen (VW) +59.3s

05 Breen +1m 18.7s

06 Paddon +1m 26.2s

07 Camilli +2m 00.7s

08 Sordo +2m 39.1s

09 Østberg +2m 41.9s

10 Meeke +2m 51.9s

Here’s the thoughts of the top three then:

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1: “An ideal opening day for Julien and me – beautiful stages, superb weather and a perfect car. The key to stage one was to find our rhythm. Looking at the lead we opened, we appear to have done just that. It was pretty hot in the cockpit in the afternoon, particularly on the long 50-kilometre stage. We have a similarly demanding day ahead of us tomorrow, particularly if the weather deteriorates. However, we obviously want to continue as we were today, to make sure we win in the end. That is definitely the goal at our home rally.”

Thierry Neuville said: “We had a good morning loop despite experiencing some small issues with the brakes towards the end of the opening stage. We could see on the last split that I lost around five seconds. That was a shame but we made improvements on the second stage. We haven’t been able to take the fight to Ogier today, but we are second, which will hopefully set us up nicely for the rest of the weekend. There are a few more details we want to adjust to make the behaviour of the car more consistent, but it’s a decent start to the rally.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2: “We were a little too cautious at first, but gradually found our rhythm the further into the rally we got. We can make a few improvements here and there, for example when braking, but apart from that we are racing the right way for the Rally Corsica. That only makes the outstanding times set by our team-mate Sébastien Ogier all the more astonishing. Hats off to his performance. We will obviously try to stick with him tomorrow and on Sunday. If we can, we have a good chance of finishing on the podium.”

The rest of the drivers:

Volkswagen Motorsport:

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9: “We are not so much focusing on winning the world championship, but more on securing second place. With that in mind, we are going nicely in fourth place. I struggled to know how hard to brake in the morning. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of time as a result. Apart from that, though, it was a good day for us, but we have two more challenging days ahead to come.”

Hyundai Motorsport:

Hayden Paddon said: “I’m definitely feeling more comfortable on these Corsican stages in the dry conditions we have had today. It’s not been a perfect day but we can see some positives, as well as some places to improve. We needed some adjustments to our pace notes after the opening run. The car was sliding around too much but we found a better direction for the repeat loop. It was a case of building things up step by step. We were doing precisely that but we had a puncture 8km from the end of the final stage, which lost us a bit of time. We’ll just work to take the positives from today forward into the rest of the weekend and see if we can break into the top-five.”

Dani Sordo said: “It’s been far from a good start to the rally for us. I didn’t have a good feeling in the first stage this morning but we had a decent time. It was then the opposite in stage two; I felt good in the car but the time was not there. We also had some issues with the brakes, the same as some other drivers. We wanted to make improvements in the afternoon loop and to consolidate our top-three position. Unfortunately that wasn’t possible because we had a rear puncture in the first half of the final stage, so we had to stop to change tyre. We lost nearly two minutes of time as a result which has dropped us down the classification. We will try to make up ground tomorrow and see what we can pick up.”

M-Sport WRT:

Éric Camilli (7th) said: “It has been a really good day for us. We started carefully and stage after stage our confidence grew and we were able to push a little bit more.

“We had a good run this afternoon and I was happy with our pace. In the last stage, the pacenotes for every single corner were exactly as they should be – for the entire 30 kilometres. That was a very important milestone and it gives us more confidence moving forward.

“I still have a lot of things to learn, but I think we have made a really good step today and I’m looking forward to what tomorrow has to offer.”

Mads Østberg (10th) said: “We’re trying something different with our driving on Tarmac. It’s not been an easy day, but it has been an interesting one and I am quite happy with all of the things that we have been able to try.

“We had some issues with the brake cooling this afternoon and lost quite a lot of time but, to be honest, that doesn’t matter so much. We are here to test our training and we can still work on that.

“We have a new plan for tomorrow – which isn’t too far away from where we were today. Step by step we are just trying to make something that doesn’t feel comfortable to me, comfortable. It will take some time, but it is a positive thing to be trying something different.”

Elfyn Evans (8th / 1st WRC 2) said: “It’s been a good day, but not an easy one by all means. These stages are absolutely fantastic but they can also be quite demanding and I’m really pleased to be where we are at the moment as we didn’t have the opportunity for a pre-event test.

“The plan will be to keep extending our lead tomorrow. It’s still quite a close fight with Jan [Kopecky]. He’s been driving pretty hard and won two of the stages so we need to keep on it.”

Abu Dhabi WRT:

Craig Breen: “I was pleasantly surprised today. I didn’t know what to expect at the start of the first stage, because I still have so many things to learn on tarmac in a WRC. My rhythm was good, but I had a few problems managing the tyres over these long stages. For the second loop, we decided to take two spare tyres – even if it meant losing a bit of time – and I also adjusted my driving style. Overall, I’m very pleased to finish in the top five on my first day on tarmac. We’ll need to put into practice some of the things we’ve learned today, especially as tomorrow’s stages look more difficult to me.”

Kris Meeke: “The morning went pretty well. On the opening stage of the afternoon, I don’t know what happened but I felt that we had lost some grip on the left-hand side. I kept going for a bit before it became clear that we had a puncture. We stopped to change the wheel because there were still a lot of kilometres left on the stage. It’s really strange because it didn’t feel like we had hit anything at all. As I’m not competing in the championship, I can’t be too frustrated by the situation, but I would have liked to keep fighting for the lead all the same. Having said that, I’m pleased with my rhythm and my speed throughout the day. We’ll try to keep doing the same thing tomorrow and just enjoy ourselves in the car.”

Saturday morning then and with 169km and four stages again, the Tour de Corse was definitely showing its character.

It was Kris who drove a stormer through here and won the stage by seventeen seconds from Andreas, with Seb only third, a further three tenths adrift. There was a change for third place with Jari-Matti dropping behind Andreas having been eight seconds slower than Andreas. Kris was now up to eighth place overall.

Stage six next. Seb and Andreas set identical times through this one! Kris was out though after he miss heard a note from Paul and showing that these stages can bite! He didn’t go far off the road, but with trees lining the road, it was enough to damage the right front of the car. A real shame really. His teammate Craig was doing really well, now in fifth place overall and just like in Finland, showing his qualities!

Stage seven then and once more it was Seb fastest from Andreas who was consolidating his third place on the overall leaderboard, now 28 seconds ahead of Jari-Matti. Thierry was looking good for second place, but was now 59 seconds behind Seb.

So, the last stage of the day and Thierry won it with Dani and Craig second and third, so great to have a different top three with just six seconds covering them at the end of the 30km stage.

01 Ogier (VW) 3h 27m 10.0s

02 Neuville +46.5s

03 Mikkelsen (VW) +1m 08.0s

04 Latvala (VW) +1m 41.3s

05 Breen +2m 04.6s

06 Paddon +2m 42.7s

07 Sordo +3m 03.9s

08 Camilli +4m 18.2s

09 Østberg +5m 10.5s

10 Tänak +6m 00.2s

The thoughts then of the top three:

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1: “I did not want to take too many chances today, as the risk of suffering a puncture is quite high on these long stages. Given the lead we had, Julien and I could afford to lose a few seconds to the opposition. However, that does not mean that we were slow. Our priority was to drive a clean line. The rain made things even more exciting in the afternoon, but the combination of four hard and two soft Michelin tyres was definitely the correct choice. Right now, it looks as though Julien and I have a very good chance of finishing on the top step of the podium at our home rally. However, the 53-kilometre stage tomorrow morning demands full concentration – one mistake can shake everything up again.”

Thierry Neuville said: “We’ve had another good day and I was really happy with our performance in all stages. We started this morning taking more care with the brakes after our experience from yesterday, and we were able to maintain good speed. The New Generation i20 WRC has been working well and we’ve had a positive feeling. The weather conditions this afternoon put a focus on tyre selection, as we expected conditions to be slippery. In the final stage, we had a soft tyre at the rear, which was a good choice. I went wide at the beginning and hit a stone. There was some vibration but that went away, thankfully, and we could continue to take the stage win. The fight has been close with Andreas, but I hope we can keep our hold on second tomorrow. We have a monster stage to start off, and that will be the key to our result this weekend.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9: “I had a good feel for the car this morning, and went on the attack a bit. We fought our way into third place and made up some good time on Thierry Neuville, who is ahead of us in second place. We then lost a little ground in the afternoon, as we found it tough to match the opposition’s pace, particularly on a drying route. All in all, we are happy and are obviously hoping for a podium finish tomorrow. However, we have far from given up on second place. It will definitely be interesting again tomorrow, as the longest stage of the rally is still to come.”

The rest of the drivers:

Volkswagen Motorsport:

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2: “I never really had a good feel for the brakes today, and was not really happy with my times. Unfortunately, this meant I was unable to attack as I had hoped. Instead, I just had to do what I could. We tried out a slightly softer set-up towards the end, which worked well. All in all, fourth place is a good result, although not what I had hoped for. However, we will not give up in the battle for the podium.”

Hyundai Motorsport:

Hayden Paddon said: “I’m not going to hide away from the fact that it’s not been the best of days for us. Our times in the morning loop were not so good. We used the long regroup and service at lunchtime to understand where we could improve. It’s not been easy to put our finger on the reason why we’ve been struggling. We’ve tried a variety of things inside the car to get more speed. The weather played its part in the afternoon. As we’re not in the battle up front, we decided to cross over tyres in the final stage. That changed the balance of the car but we have to try these things. We’ve made it safely to the end of the day, so we will now look closely into all the data and see what we can do in the final two stages on Sunday.”

Dani Sordo said: “We wanted to put the puncture from yesterday behind us and quickly get back into the competitive rhythm. The morning went OK. We were out of the mix, so we tried a different suspension, which made the car a bit softer. The car felt good and the times helped us to move up a few positions. The final stage was difficult in places. We had chosen all hard tyres, so I was pleased we could finish second. We are not too far off the top-six, but we have a very long stage to start on Sunday. That will be important to get right if we are to pick up a good collection of Championship points this weekend.”

M-Sport WRT:

Éric Camilli (8th) said: “Like yesterday, it’s been another very good day for us. We proved that we can have some speed on Tarmac and that was very encouraging because it is never easy here in Corsica – and especially for us as we are experiencing the stages for the first time in a world rally car.

“I was really happy with my pace this morning with some very positive splits. And to be honest, I was quite happy with my pace this afternoon too but we were a little unlucky on the road. We got caught in the worst of the rain and lost almost 50 seconds in 10 kilometres!

“But that’s the way it is and our objective was not to fight for position this weekend. We want to make it through all of the stages, to learn, and to push when we feel comfortable. So far, that is what we have done and I hope it continues tomorrow.”

Mads Østberg (9th) said: “We’ve manged to get through the day without any big problems and when everything was working well I could focus on our strategy. This new style goes against my natural way of driving. It’s not so comfortable at the moment, but it’s positive that we are trying something different.

“I knew before the rally that we would lose time here, but we need to do it. We need to do this training in competition, and hopefully we will see a benefit in the future.”

Elfyn Evans (10th / 1st WRC 2) said:

“It’s been a pretty good day. We had a clean run with no problems and managed to build on our advantage from last night which was our objective for the day.

“We got caught in the worst of the rain this afternoon so that didn’t help us in the overall standings. When the conditions are like that, you really have to concentrate on your driving technique and that seemed to work pretty well for us, but we lost out to those who were running in the dry further up the road.

“Overall, and in terms of the WRC 2 championship, the day has been good.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT:

Craig Breen: “Once again, I’m very pleased how today’s leg went. The only really frustrating part of the day was at the end of SS7, when I got caught in the rain. Starting quite far back in the running order counted against me, because the rain just got heavier and heavier. I felt better after setting the third fastest time on the next stage and overall, it’s been a positive day. I don’t think I could ask for much more, really. I can feel that my confidence is growing as we get through more stages. I’ll try to finish the job tomorrow. Jari-Matti isn’t too far ahead, but I won’t be trying to go after him. I would be delighted to finish in the top five.”

Kris Meeke: “I had good pace on today’s first stage and set a very good time at the end. On the next test, I listened to the pace notes as we took the first proper corner… but they weren’t correct. During recce, I hadn’t noticed just how much the corner tightened. We hit a tree and that put an end to our day. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. On the ‘Rally of 10,000 Corners’, you need 10,000 correct pace notes and we didn’t have them on this occasion! In any event, I’m pleased to have had a good rhythm at this rally and I can’t wait to come back to Corsica next year. In the meantime, we’ll contest the last two stages tomorrow to get the experience.”

Sunday then and two stages to go. Kris had a rebuilt car and boy did he go for it! He motored through stage nine a full 35 seconds faster, setting an average speed of 97kph to beat Hayden and Jari-Matti into second and third.

So, the last stage and once more, it was Kris quickest again, getting great experience and knowledge for next year. He won the stage by only half a second from Andreas with Seb a further second off.

So that was that, just ten stages, but definitely one of the longer rallies on the world stage. Seb won from Thierry and Andreas was third. Stand out drive for me was Craig. He’d never driven a WRC car on these stages, yet finished in fifth place.

The final standings then:

01 Ogier (VW) 4h 07m 17.0s

02 Neuville +46.4s

03 Mikkelsen (VW) +1m 10.0s

04 Latvala (VW) +1m 35.6s

05 Breen +2m 18.6s

06 Paddon +2m 36.1s

07 Sordo +3m 06.9s

08 Camilli +4m 53.9s

09 Østberg +5m 37.7s

10 Tänak +6m 26.6s

Here’s the interviews with the top three then:

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1: “What we really wanted this weekend was to get the win at our home rally. It is the first time that Julien and I have won a WRC event on Corsica and it feels fantastic. It’s a real classic. We had a strong start on Friday and were able to manage the lead on Saturday and Sunday. It went perfectly. I couldn’t be happier. The chances of being able to celebrate the championship title here were only really theoretical, but now we have a real possibility of clinching it in Spain. We are so close to getting our fourth star. It’s fantastic and naturally we will turn all of our attention to that now. We want to take the momentum from Corsica with us. But we won’t be driving tactically at all, we want to fight for the win there, too.”

Thierry Neuville said: “It has been a very positive and competitive weekend. We have made no mistakes in some tricky but enjoyable stages; it was pretty much the perfect event, really. Everyone in the team has done a good job, and I’m happy with what we have achieved. The New Generation i20 WRC has had great pace, as we have seen from some of the stage times. We were able to build a gap over Andreas on Saturday so we just had to stay focused on our driving in the final stages to bring the car home. Working with my new engineer, we have made continuous improvements to the car so I’m satisfied with the weekend. We’ve built some excellent momentum since Sardinia so I hope we can continue in this direction as we look ahead to Spain.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2: “Unfortunately we didn’t manage to get any points from the Power Stage because I was a little bit too cautious in places. Overall we aren’t overly happy with our performance – but I only have myself to blame. In terms of set-up, we went in a direction that didn’t work. Now we are looking to the future, since we want to do much better at the Rally Spain and finish on the podium again there at least. Last year we were involved in a thrilling battle for second place with our team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen, which we want to win this time.”

The thoughts of the rest of the drivers:

Hyundai Motorsport:

Dani Sordo said: “A really frustrating weekend for us after the puncture on Friday afternoon. That ended any chance we had of finishing on the podium. We have shown on occasions what would have been possible without that two-minute time loss. We’ve had some encouraging stages as well as some difficult ones, but we have to put this down to experience and move on. The next rally is my home event in Spain so I’ll come back fighting!”

Hayden Paddon said: “We had a much stronger finish to the rally after a tough two days. It’s been a case of going back to the basics to try and find a way forward. Looking at the results from this morning’s two stages, I’d say that we’ve made a step in the right direction. Second place on the long opening stage was much more like where we want to be. That gives us confidence as we prepare for Spain.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT:

Craig Breen: “This week has been pretty intense and tough, but we’re obviously delighted to finish in the top five at the Tour de Corse. Everything went really well and we have got a bit more experience under out belt, both in a World Rally Car and at what is undoubtedly the most difficult tarmac rally. Fifth overall is very much in line with the target we had set ourselves before the start. And we’ve also improved with every kilometre and set some really good times. I’d like to thank everyone who has made it possible for me to compete here and who have supported me throughout this rally!”

Kris Meeke: “For me, it was very important to get back to top form this morning. I had to get back the confidence in my pace notes, after the mistake we made in recce had led to yesterday’s incident. It’s a timely reminder that this part of the race is important. The rally doesn’t start on Friday, it starts on Monday, when we have to describe every corner during the two runs on each stage at low speed. It’s a good lesson for us and one we’ll take on board for the future. This morning, I was pleased with my time on SS9 and I’m also happy to have won the Power Stage, even though the points are rather meaningless as I’m not competing in the championship. I’m looking forward to coming back to the Tour de Corse, to try and fight for the win.”

M-Sport WRT:

Éric Camilli (8th) said: “I’m really happy with this weekend. Our target was to complete all of the stages without mistakes and we did that. When we felt comfortable, we could push a bit more and when we did that it was good to see that we had some really competitive split times. That was a big confidence boost and we know that we are going in the right direction – we just need the experience.”

Mads Østberg (9th) said: “This rally has been really good practice for me. We’ve been trying a new strategy this weekend – changing our style to improve our driving on asphalt. Before the rally we knew that it would not be easy and that we would lose a lot of time, but it is definitely a positive to be trying something different.

“I haven’t set any blinding times, but we have to be patient. I feel that we progressed throughout the weekend and by the last stage I felt that we had some really good settings. The plan now will be to take everything we have learnt this weekend and continue the progress in Spain.”

D-Mack:

Ott Tänak, DMACK World Rally Team driver, said: “It was a difficult weekend and we weren’t able to push for a higher result but it was important to complete all the stages and get the experience for next season. These roads are very specialised and now at least we have more knowledge for 2017.”

So, after win number 40 for the Polo WRC, Seb now holds a 68 point advantage over Andreas in the championship. It’s a question of when, rather than if Seb wins his fourth title. Just three rounds remain this year now.

Drivers’ Championship:

1. Sébastien Ogier, 195 points

2. Andreas Mikkelsen, 127

3. Thierry Neuville, 112

4. Hayden Paddon, 102

5. Jari-Matti Latvala, 101

6. Dani Sordo, 92

7. Mads Østberg, 80

8. Kris Meeke, 54

9. Ott Tänak, 52

10. Craig Breen, 35

Manufacturers’ Championship:

1. Volkswagen Motorsport, 293 points

2. Hyundai Motorsport, 227

3. Volkswagen Motorsport II, 136

4. M-Sport, 132

5. Hyundai Motorsport N, 106

6. DMACK, 66

7. Jipocar Czech National Team, 18

8. Yazeed Racing, 4

Join me soon for all the details.

Warren Nel, WRC editor

CITROËN REVEALS ITS CREWS FOR THE 2017 AND 2018 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIPS

Just a few days after the Citroën C3 WRC concept car was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show, Citroën Racing has announced the crews that will be competing for the team in the next two seasons of the FIA World Rally Championship. Already confirmed to drive for the team until 2018, Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle will be joined by Craig Breen/Scott Martin and Stéphane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau. Chairman of Abu Dhabi Racing, Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi will also be competing with his co-driver Chris Patterson at some events in 2017.

Step by step, Citroën Racing continues to assemble the necessary ingredients for its return as a works team in the FIA World Rally Championship. Since April of this year, the Citroën C3 WRC has completed seven development tests, both on gravel and tarmac, and is now very close to the final version.

Until 16 October, visitors to the Paris Motor Show can also admire the Citroën C3 WRC concept car, a veritable exercise in style that heralds the new generation of World Rally Cars, which are set to make their competitive debut at the 2017 Rallye Monte-Carlo.

By announcing now their driver and co-driver line-up for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Citroën Racing takes another important step forward, one which has been highly anticipated by many WRC observers!

After confirming Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle at the end of last year, the line-up is now completed by two crews considered to be among the most promising young talents in the WRC. Having come to prominence in the rally programmes of the PSA Group and competing this season for the Abu Dhabi Total WRT, Craig Breen/Scott Martin and Stéphane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau convinced Citroën to put their faith in youth.

This choice is very much in line with Citroën’s long-held policy aimed at identifying and developing talented young rally drivers. In the last 15 years or more, Citroën has identified some of the best in the business: Loeb, Ogier, Sordo, Neuville, Camilli and of course Meeke. Breen and Lefebvre are destined to add their names to this illustrious list!

At the start of the season, the team will enter two Citroën C3 WRCs: one for Kris Meeke and the other for either Craig Breen or Stéphane Lefebvre, who will alternate driving duties. The exact distribution of events to drivers will be announced at a later stage and Citroën will start entering three cars as soon as possible. The FIA’s World Motorsport Council recently decided it would let manufacturers enter three cars, the top two scoring points towards the Manufacturers World Championship.

At some rounds of the 2017 World Championship, a fourth Citroën C3 WRC will also be entered for Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson.

Already involved in the development of the Citroën C3 WRC, Kris Meeke, Craig Breen, Stéphane Lefebvre and Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi will continue to conduct testing until the new car completes homologation. At the same time, they will be competing at this year’s Rally de España (Meeke, Breen, Al-Qassimi) and Wales Rally GB (Meeke, Breen, Lefebvre) in order to acquire experience driving the current cars.

Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal: “We had several scenarios regarding the choice of our crews for the future. Kris Meeke was confirmed at the end of last year and has become the natural leader of the team. As well as challenging for the lead on each of his appearances in 2016, winning in Portugal and in Finland, he has also done most of the development work for our Citroën C3 WRC. In choosing two young crews to complete the line-up, I don’t think we can be accused of having gone for the easy option. But this original solution is very much aligned with Citroën’s mindset. And having seen them compete this season for the Abu Dhabi Total WRT, we believe in the potential of Craig Breen and Stéphane Lefebvre. They have the natural talent, motivation and work ethic to win rallies. I would also say we are proud to take these young drivers – who have been with the PSA Group for many years – up to the top level of the sport. At the start of the season, we’ll have no choice but to have them take turns behind the wheel in the second Citroën C3 WRC. However, as soon as possible, our three crews will be starting each round. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi is a true ambassador for rallying in the Middle-East and we are very pleased to support him in his approach.”

Hyundai Motorsport finalises 2017 WRC driver line-up

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Rally d’Italia Sardegna // June 09-12, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Hyundai Motorsport finalises 2017 WRC driver line-up

Hyundai Motorsport has announced a two-year extension to its contract with Belgian driver Thierry Neuville

Neuville has been part of Hyundai Motorsport’s line-up since the team’s WRC debut in 2014, taking two wins and a total of nine podiums in that time

2017 driver line-up of Neuville, Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo offers the team important stability as it builds on strong foundations to prepare for WRC’s new era.

Alzenau, Germany

October 5, 2016 – Hyundai Motorsport has finalised its driver line-up for the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with the announcement today that Thierry Neuville has signed a two-year extension to his contract with the team.

Neuville will compete with Hyundai Motorsport in the 2017 and 2018 WRC seasons alongside co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul as part of a three-crew team. Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo are also contracted for two further years, which will offer the team important consistency as WRC moves into a new era with revised regulations.

Having first been announced as a Hyundai Motorsport driver back in November 2013, Neuville has been an integral part of the team’s growth on the competitive world rally stage. There were already a number of milestones in its inaugural WRC season in 2014. The Belgian claimed the team’s maiden podium in Mexico and followed that up with a debut victory in Germany.

In his three seasons with the team to date, Neuville has claimed two victories, the most recent of which was scored with the New Generation i20 WRC in Rally Italia Sardegna earlier this year. He has amassed a total of nine podiums, including his second-place at Tour de Corse last weekend.

Thierry Neuville said: “I am delighted to extend my contract with Hyundai Motorsport for two more years. Although I had alternative options available, it seemed the most logical decision to keep up the great momentum we have within this team. 2017 will be a new era for the WRC with the revised regulations. We have shared very special moments together since the team’s debut in WRC. Our first win together in Germany was one of my career highlights. With a new car next year, and even more ambitious targets, I am excited by what this next chapter will bring.”

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “Thierry has been a great asset to our team so we are pleased to announce this two-year extension. There has been a lot of talk about Thierry’s future, which is obviously part of the motorsport game, but the fact we continue together shows the strength of our relationship. We have had some great memories, as well as some difficult moments, but overall we’ve been on a positive growth curve together. Now we have finalised our driver line-up with Thierry, Hayden and Dani, we can aim for a competitive finish to our 2016 season, as well as focusing on development of our 2017 challenger.”

FIA World Rallycross – An Introduction

OVERVIEW

Rallycross is a combination of rallying and circuit racing. It is head-to-head short, sharping racing on mixed surfaces (dirt and asphalt) contained within amphitheatre venues. High profile drivers are equipped with RX Supercars with over 600bhp and the ability to accelerate from 0-60mph in less than two seconds – faster than an F1 car.

Rallycross was invented by Robert Reed, who was the producer on ITV’s World of Sport programme at the time. The first event took place at Lydden Hill on 4 February back in 1967, where it quickly became a staple of Saturday afternoon sports in the UK with both ITV and BBC broadcasting rallycross. The popularity of rallycross soon spread, with the first event on the European mainland taking place in Holland in 1969, with the Scandinavian rallycross debut taking place in Sweden two years later.

The FIA World Rallycross presented by Monster Energy was inaugurated in 2014 in Portugal after the FIA granted the World Championship status to the sport, becoming one of only five championships in that category.

TYRES

Cooper Tires is the official supplier of the FIA World Rallycross championship, as well as the FIA European Rallycross Championship in all 3 categories (Supercar, Super1600 and Touring Car). Each competitor is entitled to use 8 tyres of each compound (wet and dry tires) per championship weekend.

THE CARS

Supercar

Hot hatch/super mini turned into the ultimate racecars by the addition of turbocharged, two-litre, 600bhp engines and four-wheel drive. They accelerate from 0-60mph (100km/h) in 1.9 seconds – faster than an F1 car

Super1600

Front-wheel drive ‘hot hatches’ using 1600cc engines where many of the top Supercar drivers have developed from including Eriksson, Timerzyanov, Bakkerud and Nitiss.

Touring Car

Rear-wheel drive and two-litre engines. Cars produced with front-drive can be converted to rear-drive. 21st century interpretation of traditional rallycross cars also a development ground for Supercar drivers. Past champions like Larsson, Tohill, Marklund and Salsten have all progressed to the Supercar category.

RX Lites

Spec category for identical 310bhp, mid-engined, four-wheel drive racecars built by Olsbergs MSE. Guest support category at selected World RX events.

THE FORMAT

Each event is made up of an open practice sessions, four timed qualifying heats, two knock out Semi-Finals and one Final. There are four qualifying heats with a maximum of five cars starting abreast in each race over four laps.

QUALIFYING 1 (Q1). Starting positions in the races are determined by a draw that is carried out beforehand.

QUALIFYING 2-3-4 (Q2-Q3-Q4). Race starters determined according to timed classification of the previous qualifying heat.

Qualifying Classification is based on time of the driver, not the position within a race. The Top 12 drivers are then qualified for the Semi-Finals, with odds going to Semi-Final 1 and evens in Semi-Final 2. The top 3 of the two Semi-Finals progress to the Final, where the winner of the event is crowned.

CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

Drivers score Championship points at three stages of the event.
The top 16 drivers after the four qualifying heats (Intermediate Classification) score points starting from 16 for the best placed, down to one point for 16th place.

The top 12 progress to two six car Semi-Finals in which points from six for the winner to one for sixth place are awarded. The top three from each Semi-Final then enter the Final.

Scoring for the Final is as follows:

1st: 8 points
2nd: 5 points
3rd: 4 points
4th: 3 points
5th: 2 points
6th: 1 point

Maximum score in an event is 30 points (16+6+8). All points scored in all 12 rounds count. The Team’s Championship will include all points scored by the two team drivers at all events.

That is your introduction to the FIA World Rallycross Championship. I will be bringing you news, reviews, reports and interviews from this exciting, chaotic and mind-blowing series of racing.

See You At The Chequered Flag

Neil Simmons

WRX Editor

Twitter: @world_racing

Photo Credits:

Logo – FIA World Rallycross and Monster Energy (c)

Photos – Neil Simmons 2016 (c)

Rally Deutshland Preview: Who’ll take spoils in German battle?

The WRC heads to Germany this weekend as Sebastien Ogier looks to get back on track following a few disappointing results.

The Volkswagen driver still leads the standings thanks to his stunning consistency at the start of the season and nurses a 45 point lead over team mate Andreas Mikkelsen. However this current season is being lauded as one of the most open and competitive in over a decade.

With six different drivers winning rallies this season, including Ogier, Mikkelsen, Jarri-Matti Latvala, Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon and Thierry Neuville, and Citroen’s Kris Meeke. The latter won last time out in Finland, and along with co-driver Paul Nagle, they became the first British duo to conquer the famous event.

With only five rounds left to go due to the Chinese round being cancelled on safety concerns, Germany poses a much bigger significance than first thought. Famous for its tarmac and asphalt stages and the notorious concrete barriers, known locally as Panzerplattes, lining the roads and not taking any prisoners.

Rally Deutschland joined the WRC calendar in 2002 and is located in Trier, with a mix of vineyard and military area stages, it’s known as one of the most difficult asphalt events of the calendar. The event was dominated by Citroen and Sebastien Loeb from 2002-2014.

The imperious Frenchman took nine victories here, with Ogier and Dani Sordo both taking wins before Thierry Neuville broke the streak in his Hyundai. There’s been a Rally Deutschland since 1982 and it was part of the European Championship.

Neuville is looking forward to what he describes as his home rally, saying: “Rallye Deutschland is the highlight of the season for me. It’s like my home rally, very close to the Belgian border and a lot of supporters come down with lots of Belgian flags. So it’s the rally we are most waiting for in the season, and it’s an event we have always been competitive at. We got our first victory there so I am looking forward to it.”

Ott Tanak, whose best result this season is second on Rally Poland, said he will be ‘pushing as hard as possible’ to get a good result. “I like Tarmac and also enjoy the stages in Germany – you can have different weather on every stage in a loop so it’s always a compromise. We’ve shown how our pace can be on gravel this year and hopefully we will have the right conditions next week. Either way, I will be pushing as hard as possible for a solid result,” the Estonian said.

Championship leader Ogier will be keen to get back to winning ways after a poor couple of gravel events in Poland and Finland. He said: “I always look forward to the Rally Germany, but slightly more than usual this time around. Finally, Julien and I have a realistic chance of fighting for the win under our own steam again after the difficult gravel rallies.

“I am highly motivated and very keen to repeat the success of last year. The Rally Germany is also Volkswagen’s home event and so the whole team wants to deliver a particularly good performance in front of the fans,” the reigning champion added.

With the rally about to get underway in Germany, can Ogier get back to winning ways having not won since Sweden back in round two? Or will one of the chasing pack cut into his lead?

Previous Winners

Sebastien Loeb (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012)

Sebastien Ogier (2011, 2015)

Dani Sordo (2013)

Thierry Neuville (2014)

Rally Finland Review! Meeke becomes Meekenen!

 

|They both came here. Colin and Richard. Looking to take on the Finns, Norwegians and Swedes in a place that the Scandinavians have dominated the top step for decades.

They never won, but now history has been made with the first fully British crew to win and beat them all.

Well, how did it all come about? As ever it all started on the Thursday evening with a short blast around SS1 which gave us a top ten of sorts.

1 A. Mikkelsen
2 O. Tanak
3 S. Ogier
4 T. Neuville
5 K. Meeke
6 J. Latvala
7 C. Breen
8 K. Abbring
9 H. Paddon
10 M. Ostberg

So to the first full day of stages and Kris and Paul really felt comfortable in their Abu Dhabi run DS3 and thus took the lead from Jari-Matti by 6 seconds, with Ott third on the stage. The top three overall was Kris, Ott and Andreas.

Moving onto stage three and Jari-Matti won it with Kris just two tenths behind followed by Ott in third. Early leader Andreas has slipped down the order sadly, now 6.9 seconds behind Kris. Of course the running order which is taken from the championship standings meant that he was second on the road.

Moving onto stage four and Ott went through fastest, but Kris with doing a great job, going through just seven tenths slower. It was all change behind that with Andreas going through third fastest and therefore moving into third overall. Jari-Matti suffered a puncture on this stage after running wide and crossed the line 16 seconds slower than Ott and dropped two places from third to fifth. Craig showed great pace on this stage as well, setting the fourth fastest time.

Onto stage five then and Kris won this one, to extend his lead over Jari-Matti and Craig again showing his talent to finish third through here.

Stage six next and Jari-Matti went through eight tenths faster than Kris, but the lead was still over 18 seconds. It seems that he’d found his inner Finn!

Stage seven saw Ott set the fastest time from Craig and Jari-Matti in third. What this all meant was that Craig was catching Seb for third place on the overall leaderboard, now only 8.9 seconds behind.

Top three on stage 8 was Kris, Ott and Jari-Matti. Craig was continuing to match Seb’s times, and driving exceptionally well, although he’d dropped down to sixth place after that stage as Thierry and Andreas went quicker than him.

Into stage nine, and Ott continued to set quick times after his puncture earlier winning this one from Jari-Matti, with Kris in third.

Stage ten saw a shock. Seb slid off into a ditch and lost over 16 minutes. Jari-Matti won the stage by 1.6 seconds with Thierry third. On the overall leaderboard, with the demise of Seb, everyone behind moved up a place. Andreas moved into third, and there was now just ten seconds between Craig in fifth and Andreas.

So, stage eleven. Kris and Jari-Matti continued their battle at the front with Kris just edging the stage win by nine tenths of a second and keeping his lead at around 19 seconds over the Finn.

So, the last stage of the day and Andreas won it from Thierry and Jari-Matti in third. Kris was fifth, 2.6 seconds slower.

This was the full leaderboard at the end of Friday.

01. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën, 1h 13m 22.2s
02. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen, + 18.1s
03. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai, + 44.3s
04. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen, + 45.4s
05. Craig Breen/Scott Martin (IRL/GB), Citroën, + 53.8s
06. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai, + 58.2s
07. Mads Østberg/Ola Fløene (N/N), Ford, + 1m 02.9s
08. Ott Tänak/Raigo Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford, + 1m 14.4s
09. Eric Camilli/Benjamin Veillas (F/F), Ford, + 1m 22.6s
10. Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (FIN/FIN), Škoda, + 2m 01.8s

Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, + 16m 53.3s

This is what the top three drivers had to say at the end of the day.

1st

Kris Meeke (#7): “I’m really surprised to have led throughout this first leg and to finish with a twenty-second lead. Latvala and Tänak were very quick today, but I managed to pull clear when they had problems. Otherwise, it was a constant battle, like it always is here. A really close fight with just a few tenths in it. My aim is still the same: do the best job possible. It’s not that I don’t want to, but I don’t absolutely have to win. So I’ll stick with the same strategy tomorrow, doing my best whilst staying just within the limit. It will be very difficult with two runs on Ouninpohja, in the reverse direction to recent years. I’ll have to be really focused, especially on the morning run.”

2nd

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“It’s not easy for me to sum up today. It definitely got off to a bad start, but fortunately my slip on the fourth special stage didn’t have too much of an effect. But the puncture cost us a lot of time. After that we kept on improving our rhythm and threw everything at the task in hand. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for us to overtake Kris Meeke. The advantage of the starting position is too great here in Finland. But we aren’t going to give up, we will keep driving at the limit and trying to pile on the pressure. Tomorrow’s action includes the stage “Ouninpohja”. A lot can happen; nothing is for free here.”

3rd

Thierry Neuville said: “It’s been a day of two halves, really. In this morning’s first loop, we were pushing to the maximum but we weren’t really seeing the results on the timesheets. The car felt OK but we just struggled to find any traction. This afternoon we took the same approach. We got everything we could out of the car and the results were a bit better. It seems the morning loop doesn’t suit our settings so we will have to be aggressive first thing tomorrow. Still, I am pleased we are holding third position at the end of this first day. We know how unforgiving the rally is, and there’s a long way to go, but we’re there or thereabouts. We’ll try to make some improvements to the car ahead of tomorrow’s stages.”

Comments from the rest of the drivers.

Volkswagen

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“The morning went really well for us: I was really pleased with the handling of my Polo and with our speed. Some sections were new to me and I noticed that I was faster in places. Then I found these tracks a little easier on the second pass. However, the competition also stepped it up and the battle for third place couldn’t get much closer. We also have the legendary Ouninpohja stage ahead of us on Saturday – there is a lot of work to do before the finish on Sunday.”

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“There is a hairpin turn at the point at which I was too hard on the steering and wanted to cut the corner. As a result, I slid into the ditch on the inside. It was totally my mistake, and then at perhaps one of the slowest sections of the entire rally of all places. But that can happen when, like Julien and I, you have constantly been at the limit for the last six rallies. Or need to give 110 percent to try and make up for the disadvantage of the starting position. Initially, it didn’t look all that bad and the fans did their best to help us. Unfortunately, there weren’t as many spectators there as I would have hoped for. But without their help, Julien and I would never have got back on the track, so Kiitos!”

Hyundai

Hayden Paddon said: “It’s been a disappointing day but if you take the top two drivers out of the equation, we are not too far off. The morning was difficult. We tried to be aggressive but we struggled with the car on the loose and slippery conditions. We were sliding around and couldn’t stay in the lines. We tried to enjoy it a bit more in the afternoon but it’s hard when the times are not as we’d like them to be. Still, we will come back fighting tomorrow and aim to make up some positions.”

Kevin Abbring commented: “I’d summarise by saying it was a pretty satisfying day. There are little bits that we can improve in all areas but this is normal in our first ever event with the New Generation i20 WRC. We didn’t do Poland so it’s been tough to get up to these incredibly high speeds and to find the confidence to drive flat-out. We’ve made improvements to the car as we’ve learned more about it, and adapting it to our style. The only real issue we had today was in SS8 (Mökkiperä) when I hit the front after a heavy compression. It seemed fine to begin with but by the penultimate stage of the day, we had some front right suspension damage so had to nurse the car back. Tomorrow’s another day – and I’m looking forward to it!”

M-Sport

Mads Østberg (7th) said:

“It’s been a really fun day today – as offices go you don’t get much better than this! We’ve had some good sections of stages, and some not so good, but that’s okay. We’re still within touching distance of the podium, and anything can happen with two days of challenging stages still to come. We’ll keep pushing.”

Éric Camilli (9th) said:

“It’s been a great day for us. Rally Finland is such a special event and it’s never easy for a Frenchman to go fast here, especially when they are driving a world rally car for the first time!
“We’re so happy to have set some competitive times today. I know that we have a lot more to learn before we can be consistently setting top times on these stages, but it was fantastic to challenge the guys with much more experience at times.
“The car has felt fantastic and the team have been working really hard. The aim will be to continue learning and progressing tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans (6th WRC 2) said:

“We came here with the intention of challenging for the win so this afternoon was obviously really disappointing. I think that we showed some good speed today, but these things happen. It’s disappointing for everyone as we were on course to challenge for another really strong result.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Craig Breen (#8): “I might just be the happiest man in Jyväskylä tonight! From start to finish, we thoroughly enjoyed every moment in the car today. Even though I have competed here many times before, you really do go a lot quicker in a World Rally Car and the feeling is immense. Obviously, everything wasn’t perfect, but we learned a lot, especially on the second pass. I think I can safely say that it was best day of my career as a rally driver! I didn’t think that I’d be so high up the standings and within ten seconds of the podium…”

Khalid Al Qassimi (#24): “It’s been a fantastic day for us. We tried to steer clear of the worst of the trouble and we had a strategy that enabled us to start with a good rhythm. The car worked just as I wanted it to and we were a lot quicker than last year on the same stages. I even felt that I could have gone even quicker still. The second pass was very difficult for the car, with a lot of embedded rocks. I opted to drive more cautiously in these sections.”

Saturday morning then and a long day of action, with Ouninpohja run twice and 33km in length!

Kris had got up early to watch a video of the stage and had decided to push. Well, he certainly did that, setting a time that we would expect from Jari-Matti and winning the stage by 13. 4 seconds from the Finn. The lead that Kris now had was now 31.5 seconds. Ott was third, but the great pace of Craig had seen him take seven seconds out of Andreas’ lead and close to within 1.4 seconds of third overall. Thierry lost a lot of time and fell from third to fifth on this stage.

A shorter stage beckoned in the form of stage 14 and Ott won it from Kris who once more was faster than Jari-Matti by 3 seconds, opening up his lead further over the VW driver. There was a big crash on this stage, with Lorenzo Bertelli rolling his Fiesta, thus meaning any drivers behind would be given a nominal time for the stage. Craig was one of these, so although Hayden was shown in third place, it was extremely likely that position was Craig’s.

Moving into stage 15 next and Kris won the stage from Seb with Jari-Matti a further 2.4 seconds behind, thus meaning that the overall lead was now over 37 seconds.

So, stage 16. Seb and Mads shared the quickest time through this one, with Thierry slotting into third.

Overall, we got confirmation that Craig was up to third overall, just Jari-Matti and Kris ahead! A remarkable drive from the young man.

The Saturday afternoon action started with a re-run of Ouninpohja, stage 17. Kris went even quicker than he did in the morning and won the stage again, beating Jari-Matti by almost 6 seconds and thus taking his lead to over 40 seconds. Just totally in the groove!!

Stage 18 next and the duel for supremacy continued between the chaser, Jari-Matti and the man at the top, Kris. Ott was taking the fight to Craig for the final podium place, going through ten seconds faster and closing the gap to him to 14 seconds.

Into stage 19 then and Ott finished second behind Seb, taking almost another 2 seconds from Craig and the gap just 11 seconds between them.

Stage 20 and the last stage of the day. Craig matched Ott through this one to stop the young Estonian catching him. All the while the gap between Jari-Matti and Kris remained the same at the top.

This was the leaderboard at the end of Saturday then.

01. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën, 2h 22m 00.8s
02. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen, + 41.0s
03. Craig Breen/Scott Martin (IRL/GB), Citroën, + 1m 43.0s
04. Ott Tänak/Raigo Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford, + 1m 54.5s
05. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai, + 2m 00.9s
06. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai, + 2m 03.6s
07. Mads Østberg/Ola Fløene (N/N), Ford, + 2m 06.0s
08. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen, + 2m 24.0s
09. Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (FIN/FIN), Škoda, + 4m 23.6s
10. Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (FIN/FIN), Škoda, + 5m 10.5s

Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, + 19m 51.6s

Here are the thoughts of the top three then.

1st

Kris Meeke (#7): “Yesterday was my best day in a WRC. But that wasn’t the case for long, because today has surpassed it! This morning, I got up an hour early today to watch the video of my recce on Ouninpohja. I think it’s the greatest stage in the world, and the most iconic as well. So I was really determined to do something special on it! I knew Jari-Matti Latvala would try to close the gap so I had to push really hard… At the end, I felt that I couldn’t have done any more. But I was still surprised when I found out just how big the gap was! In the afternoon, the rain tended to improve the grip and I was able to go even quicker, but it wasn’t quite as exciting as the first pass. We’re now in a good position to see out the win. We’ll have to stay focused to manage our lead tomorrow and finish the job we have done over the last two days.”

2nd

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“Like yesterday, we had to settle for second best on the day. Kris Meeke produced a very strong performance and also had the better starting position. Put these two things together, and we had no chance. It is not as though we did not try, but after the first running of the Ouninpohja stage it was clear to us that we had to focus on making sure we picked up some valuable points towards the championship. Plus, we also have to think about the Manufacturers’ Championship. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the fans out on the stages for their support. That means an awful lot to Miikka and me, particularly here on home soil. We must all keep our fingers crossed for the Power Stage now.”

3rd

Craig Breen (#8): “I never thought I’d be fighting for a podium place before the start of this rally! This morning, I learned a lot during the first run on Ouninpohja. I then didn’t complete SS14 because it was cancelled after Lorenzo Bertelli’s crash. We kept improving though and we had already moved up into third by the mid-leg point. I did feel a little bit of extra pressure for the second loop due to my position. As was to be expected, I lost a bit of time on the stage that I hadn’t contested this morning. But I was pleased to hit back at Ott Tänak on SS20. He knows that I will try to defend my position tomorrow, even though I won’t go over the limit to do so. Once again, I’m delighted with how things are going for me!”

The rest of the drivers

Hyundai

Thierry Neuville said: “All in all it’s been a decent day. We have done the maximum we could do, and we’re involved in a nice, close fight with Hayden. I didn’t really feel comfortable at the start of the morning loop but we have tried to make improvements to the car throughout the day. We were hoping to gain more confidence in the afternoon but it wasn’t easy. Still, we are in a very close battle and the gaps are so small that it won’t take much for us to suddenly be back in podium contention. We just have to keep focused on our job and hope that we have a trouble-free Sunday morning.”

Hayden Paddon said: “We started the day feeling more confident. It was certainly a better morning loop than we had yesterday. We made some changes to the car balance, adjusting some suspension settings, and it was more to my liking. Of course, we were second on the road so we were sweeping on the morning stages, which didn’t help. We were preparing for a good fight in the afternoon but we weren’t able to find the speed we were expecting. It was difficult to pinpoint why we were losing the time because I couldn’t have driven any faster. We’ll sit down with the team, do some homework and try to sort things out. I can’t be too negative – we get to drive a WRC car on these amazing Finnish stages and that’s special.”

Kevin Abbring commented: “We have just continued to acclimatise to the New Generation i20 WRC again on today’s stages. We’ve had to find the best compromise between finding speed and staying cautious. When you see people in front of you go off, as happened this morning, you’re reminded to take things carefully. To be in Finland for the first time in a four wheel drive car, it’s not realistic to be on the pace immediately. It’s the first time I drive this car competitively too, so we’ve been making changes on each stage to get a better understanding. We had an issue on this afternoon’s loop when we lost the paddleshift. The car was also misfiring with the mechanical lever too, so we had to drive around that. Our aim is still the top-ten, and we have four stages to achieve that tomorrow.”

M-Sport

Mads Østberg (7th) said:

“We’ve been fighting really hard today – you never give up in Finland because anything can happen. I can’t believe how close it is. At the moment we are in seventh position, but the gap to the podium is actually relatively small. Even though it’s just a short day tomorrow, we have to keep pushing and keep the pressure on. We never give up.”

Éric Camilli (DNF) said:

“My pacenote into a left-hand corner was too fast. We went into a ditch and then into the trees and rolled the car. It was a big one – a proper crash – but we are both okay which is the most important thing.

“We have proven that we have the potential to be fast here in the future. Finland and Sweden are the most difficult rallies for a Frenchman – especially a Frenchman experiencing them for the first time – so it was a positive to challenge some of the more experienced drivers this weekend. We need to remember that.

“This wasn’t the finish that we wanted, but it wasn’t a bad weekend either; and next we have a series of Tarmac rallies that I am really looking forward to. I know that I have more knowledge and more feeling with the car on that surface.

“Rallye Deutschland is my favourite event of the year. We have competed there twice before and we are really motivated to do well there.”

Elfyn Evans (4th WRC 2) said:

“It’s been a much better day for us today. We’ve been driving well and managed to keep out of trouble for the most part. We climbed ahead of the two guys in front, but the gap is too big to reach the podium on driving alone. We just need to be reliable tomorrow and wait and see if anything happens.”

Volkswagen

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Although the atmosphere is fantastic and the routes are incredible fun, this is just not going to be my weekend at the Rally Finland. After yesterday’s mistake, we struggled with braking issues this morning. Unfortunately, the repairs then took so long that we were given a time penalty. That is obviously frustrating for Andreas, as he then had to take over the role of road sweeper. If anyone can understand how he feels, then it is me. For Julien and me, the priority on Sunday is to at least pick up a few points in the Manufacturers’ Championship and, obviously, to push for the three points on the Power Stage. There is nothing more at stake for us.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“Our first day in the role of road sweeper was not particularly easy, but we did learn a lot. On the one hand, we can be happy with our performance: Anders and I really pushed and came through the day without any problems, except for one slight slip-up. Unfortunately, however, our hard work was not reflected in the results. Some of our times were only on a par with the slower R5 cars. However, we will take that on the chin and do our best again tomorrow – even though it is unlikely that we will be able to improve our position under our own steam.”

Citroen

Khalid Al Qassimi (#24): “The start of the day was difficult, with SS13 being cancelled after we had started driving on it. I made good progress in the afternoon, despite the weather conditions which made the stages very slippery in places. At the same time, I was thinking a lot about the performances of Kris and Craig. They are both enjoying a really great race and I’m delighted to see them so well placed this evening. I hope we can secure a great result for the Abu Dhabi Total team tomorrow.”

It was the last day and just 4 stages stood in front of Kris and Paul for an historic win. There had been four British co-driver winners before, sitting alongside local drivers, but never a fully British crew. All they had to do was bring it home.

First stage of the day, stage 21 saw a push from Ott and Raigo to catch Craig and Scott and they were 4.3 seconds quicker closing the gap to around 5 seconds.

The following stage saw that push end unfortunately. Ott and Raigo hit a rock and were forced to retire. Thierry won the stage from Hayden and Jari-Matti. Craig had a 7 second lead over Thierry who had benefitted from the demise of Ott to move up into fourth place.

Stage 23 then and how would Craig respond to this pressure then with the Rally Sardegna winner closing on him? Well, he went out there and took his first stage win, beating Hayden by a tenth of a second! A brilliant performance.

So, one stage left then and Kris held a large 32.4 second over Jari-Matti and Craig in third.

Thierry won the power stage, picking up the three points and beating his teammate, Hayden by a tenth of a second, with Jari-Matti just 6 tenths off in third. Craig was sixth and Kris eighth, but with that they’d won this rally and become only the sixth driver not from Scandinavia to win this event.

A truly remarkable performance! This is what he had to say.

1st

Kris Meeke (#7): “For a WRC driver, winning Rally Finland is the ultimate goal before becoming World Champion. It’s an incredible feeling to win on the greatest roads in the world. This result was largely determined yesterday with the two runs on Ouninpohja. At the end of the first run, I didn’t know my time but I knew that I had driven really well. But I could hardly believe it when I found out that I gone thirteen seconds faster than Jari-Matti Latvala! Last year, in the other direction, he beat me by six seconds when I thought I had driven the perfect stage. That just goes to show the progress we have made, through a combination of work with the team and my growing experience. I also have to say that the car worked perfectly all weekend. We only did one day of testing, last Sunday, but that was enough for us to see that we already had the best set-up. I felt really confident right from the word go and that was a key factor in the win. This morning, I was totally relaxed. I just had to drive the last few stages to finish off the work that we had done in the first two days.”

2nd

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“I am happy with my performance this weekend, even though I came up just short of a hat-trick of wins at the Rally Finland. Second place and a point on the Power Stage is a very good haul. I also climbed a place in the overall standings. All in all, we could not have done any more against Kris Meeke this weekend. I would like to say another big thank you to all the many fans who supported me. It is always very special to drive here on home soil. We now move on to the asphalt season, which was remarkably good to me last year. We must now back up this weekend’s performance in Germany.”

3rd

Craig Breen (#8): “It’s the best day of my career again. But it seems that with this car, every day is a bit better! When I grabbed third place yesterday afternoon, I already felt that I had moved up another level. There weren’t many kilometres left to complete today but it was still pretty tough because I was put under pressure by my rivals. I couldn’t be happier, claiming my first WRC stage win and finishing on the podium. The finish was very emotional. I couldn’t believe it, but it was fantastic to celebrate this moment with the people who have supported me. It’s also a richly-deserved result for the guys in the team, who had to work hard to repair the car after I went off during testing on Monday. I’ve taken a step closer to where I want to be this weekend.”

The rest of the drivers

Hyundai

Thierry Neuville said: “We have given our maximum throughout the weekend and been absolutely on the limit. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to get on the podium – but it was very close! We had a strong finish with two stage wins today including the Power Stage, so that was a nice way to end the rally. It was particularly pleasing for the whole team to have a 1-2 in the Power Stage after a tricky weekend. We have had some difficulties with the car settings and grip levels on most stages so I think we can be reasonably satisfied. It was an exciting battle with Hayden and to have the opportunity to compete on these incredible Finnish stages is always a pleasure. There are definitely some more things we need to learn about the performance of our car in these conditions. We can now look forward to Germany – a rally where we have fond memories!”

Hayden Paddon said: “It’s been a challenging weekend but there are some positives to take away. We were second on the road for much of the weekend, so to come away with a top-five result is not too bad. We had a decent final day even if the driving was a bit untidy at times. We didn’t take any massive risks and concentrated on getting the cars home. With that in mind, to take 1-2 in the Power Stage was a nice consolation. We gave it our all but we’ve struggled with the car in the slippery conditions. It was a close fight with Thierry and I’ve really enjoyed these fantastic stages.”

Kevin Abbring said: “I am happy with how this weekend has gone all things considered. We haven’t made any mistakes and we’ve come away with a top-ten result in Rally Finland. It has been an extremely valuable learning experience and I’d like to thank the team for giving us the opportunity. The New Generation i20 WRC has performed well and it’s been a real pleasure to drive. We have made improvements with each stage, refining our pace notes and we’ve done what we set out to achieve.”

M-Sport

Mads Østberg (6th) said:
“It’s been a really good weekend and we’ve been pushing hard on all of the stages. There’s been a fantastic fight for the podium throughout the entire rally. It’s quite incredible to see so many cars fighting for the top positions – and it’s just a shame that we’ve finished towards the end of that fight.

“I felt something wasn’t quite right on the back of the car and that prevented us pushing to our maximum today. It’s a shame that’s the way it ended – and that we had to settle for sixth – but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”

Éric Camilli (DNF) said:

“We knew before the rally that it would be challenging. Like Sweden, it is hard for a Frenchman to come here for the first time in a world rally car and show immediate speed, but I was actually quite pleasantly surprised by our times.

“It was a pleasure to be battling with the guys who have a lot more experience than us and we were gaining a lot of confidence with every stage. Maybe we gained a little too much confidence!

“Through the first pass of Ouninpohja (SS13) we could see that our pacenotes were too slow. All of our minuses were in fact pluses, so I decided to change them for the next stage (SS14). But one left-hand corner was a minus, not a plus. We went wide into the ditch and rolled the car at high-speed.

“Thankfully both myself and Ben were okay which is the most important thing and we have to put this one down to experience. We’ve learnt a lot this weekend and I think we have shown that we have the potential to do well in the future.

“Now, we are really looking forward to the Tarmac rallies. I have a lot more experience on that surface and a lot more knowledge. Germany is an event that I know quite well, and I hope it will be possible to do something there.”

Elfyn Evans (3rd WRC 2) said:

“It’s been a challenging weekend. Some problems on Friday put us on the back foot and dropped us down to sixth. Third place was probably the best we could have hoped for after that. We’ve had a clean rally with no mistakes and the speed has been really good in places too. It’s a shame as the result could have been a lot more.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Khalid Al Qassimi (#24): “The pressure was on all our shoulders today! Between the stages, I kept up to date with Kris’ progress and Craig’s fight for third. Finishing with both Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team cars on the podium at Rally Finland is an extraordinary performance. We couldn’t really have hoped for a better result. I’m also very pleased with my performance. I managed to up my pace and improved significantly on my times from last year.”

D-Mack

Ott Tänak said: “Once again we’ve shown a top pace and been able to set top times on the fastest event of the season. But a few problems have stopped us from challenging for the victory, even though we pushed to the maximum all weekend. We had prepared really well for this rally and put in so much work before hand.”

Karl Kruuda said: “It wasn’t the final result we were after but our pace has improved steadily over the last three events. We had been pushing pretty hard here and the speed at the front really was fast. Finland is one of those special events and it really was an enjoyable weekend here.”

Marius Aasen said: “After the accident in Poland it was important for us to get a strong finish here. We improved our pace over the weekend and never made any mistakes and I was really having a nice enjoyable event. We made a few changes with the car and everything worked pretty well during the event.”

FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Rally Finland – Final Results*

01. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën, 2h 38m 05.8s
02. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen, + 29.1s
03. Craig Breen/Scott Martin (IRL/GB), Citroën, + 1m 41.3s
04. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai, + 1m 45.9s
05. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai, + 1m 48.2s
06. Mads Østberg/Ola Fløene (N/N), Ford, + 2m 04.6s
07. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen, + 2m 22.4s
08. Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (FIN/FIN), Škoda, + 4m 53.8s
09. Kevin Abbring/Sebastian Marshall (NL/GB), Hyundai, + 5m 22.4s
10. Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (FIN/FIN), Škoda, + 5m 35.5s

24. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, + 19m 50.6s

2016 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings

S. Ogier 143 points
A. Mikkelsen 98
J. M. Latvala 87
H. Paddon 84
T. Neuville 76
M. Østberg 70
D. Sordo 68
O. Tanak 52
K. Meeke 51
C. Breen 25
E. Camilli 23
H. Solberg 14
S. Lefebvre 12
M. Prokop 12
T. Suninen 8
M. Ligato 6
E. Evans 6
E. Lappi 6
L. Bertelli 4
K. Abbring 4
P. Tidemand
N. Fuchs 2
A. Kremer 1
V. Gorban 1
J. Kopecky 1

2016 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings

Volkswagen Motorsport 227 points
Hyundai Motorsport 168
M-Sport World Rally Team 112
Volkswagen Motorsport II 109
Hyundai Motorsport N 86
DMACK World Rally Team 58
Jipocar Czech National Team 18
Yazeed Racing 6

So, what an incredible event! Fantastic to see the man who was mentored by Colin win a rally that is so specialist, that you just don’t see the Finns get beaten like this.

Also, what about Craig?! This young man has shown what he is capable of and driven amazingly through the weekend! Surely he has to be considered for the other seat next to Kris by Citroen after that performance.

So, the next rally up is Germany, and Thierry Neuville won there two years ago. Can that be repeated this year? It’s a fully tarmac event and this will certainly see Seb fighting at the front for the win.

See ya!


9th August 2016

Rally Finland Preview…. Round Eight

This is a very important rally. It’s one of the absolute classics. Formerly known as the 1000 Lakes Rally, the roads are so specialized that it took years for someone not born in the region to win. First held in 1951, it took till 1990, when Carlos Sainz won driving a Toyota Celica GT-Four.

The drivers with the most wins are Hannu Mikkola and Marcus Gronholm, each winning the rally seven times.

Now this event features one of the most spectacular stages in the world. It’s called Ouninpohja. It is 33km (21 miles) long and is a real roller coaster of a stage! This year it features twice on Saturday and the drivers will need to be ready, as it is the first stage on Saturday morning! That will make them wake up for sure! It’s also being run in the opposite direction this year, so this adds a further twist!

Here are the details of this year’s stages.

Thursday evening

SS1 Harju 1 2,31km 19h00

Friday Morning

SS2 Mökkiperä 1 13,84km 07h13

SS3 Halinen 7,07km 07h46

SS4 Jukojärvi 1 21,24km 09h02

SS5 Surkee 1 14,95km 10h39

SS6 Horkka 1 15,01km 11h32

Friday afternoon

SS7 Äänekoski-Valtra 7,39km 14h10

SS8 Mökkiperä 2 13,84km 15h08

SS9 Jukojärvi 2 21,24km 16h38

SS10 Surkee 2 14,95km 18h15

SS11 Horkka 2 15,01km 19h08

SS12 Harju 2 2,31km 20h30

Saturday morning

SS13 Ouninpohja 1 33,00km 08h08

SS14 Päijälä 1 23,50km 09h11

SS15 Pihlajakoski 1 14,51km 10h34

SS16 Saalahti 1 4,23km 11h52

Saturday afternoon

SS17 Ouninpohja 2 33,00km 14h48

SS18 Päijälä 2 23,50km 15h51

SS19 Pihlajakoski 2 14,51km 17h14

SS20 Saalahti 2 4,23km 18h32

Sunday

SS21 Lempää 1 6,83km 08h28

SS22 Oittila 1 10,15km 09h21

SS23 Lempää 2 6,83km 11h15

SS24 Oittila 2 (Power Stage) 10,15km 13h08

The total competitive distance of the stages is 333,60km over the three days and this promises to be an exciting weekend of fast and flowing stages and hopefully a big battle for the win.

We can expect the drivers from the Nordic states to be near the front, so watch out for Jari-Matti, and Andreas from Volkswagen to challenge for the podium. The other driver I expect to be near the front, if not in the lead is Ott Tanak. After his total domination last time out in Poland, and finishing 4th last year in this rally, he will want to fight at the front again.

This was the result from last year

J.M Latvala / M. Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 2:33:03.8

S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +13.7

M. Østberg / J. Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:36.8

T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:58.7

O. Tanak / R. Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:29.3

J. Hänninen / T. Tuominen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:44.3

M. Prokop / J. Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +6:20.3

E. Lappi / J. Ferm (Škoda Fabia R5) +7:11.2

P. Tidemand / E. Axelsson (Škoda Fabia R5) +8:52.2

L. Bertelli / L. Granai (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +9:37.4

D. Sordo / M. Martí (Hyundai i20 WRC) +10:17.8

Here are the thoughts of the drivers ahead of shakedown then.

Volkswagen

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“The Rally Finland is unquestionably one of the highlights of the year. I love driving there, because rallying is everything in Finland. I am also looking forward to Finland, because the Finns manage to produce perfect route conditions. The roads are not only beautiful, but are tailor-made for rallying. The starting order has denied me any realistic chance of winning any of the gravel events this year. As such, the weather situation will also play a major role again in Finland. Let’s wait and see, and keep our fingers crossed that it is nice and damp. Admittedly, what matters most in the end is that we defend our title. We are looking good in that regard at the moment, but it would be nice to have another fair shot at winning a rally in similar conditions. Particularly as the series is blessed with some very strong drivers at the moment.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

“The Rally Finland is obviously the highlight of the season for me. I am really looking forward to it, even though the pressure is naturally greater than at any other rally. That can also serve as a motivation, as you obviously want to do well in front of your home crowds. The expectations of the Finnish fans are huge, particularly as I have only won once so far this year. The characteristics of the rally suit me. Fast gravel roads and big jumps – that is my kind of rally. The keys to this rally are ensuring the pace notes are correct and choosing the right line for jumps and fast sections. I will relax ahead of my home race in a very Finnish manner – in the sauna.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“The way I see it, it will not be easy to repeat our victory in Poland at the Rally Finland. The rally has a completely different character. The surface is much harder and there are many more crests and jumps. On the whole, the rally is far more demanding than the one in Poland. It is particularly important to get the pace notes spot on. As such, we will focus hard during the ‘Recce’ to get the pace notes as accurate as possible. Because there are a lot of blind crests, you need to know exactly what to expect on the other side. That then gives you the confidence you need to be fast. One of the new features this year will be the ‘Ouninpohja’ stage, which we will drive in the opposite direction to recent years. That will add a bit of extra spice to the occasion.

Hyundai

Thierry Neuville said: “Finland is probably one of the most challenging rallies of the season. Everybody is always a bit nervous going there. It’s a very fast event with huge grip and big jumps. You need to get everything 100% right to be fast and not make any mistakes. It’s very enjoyable once you get a good feeling and you are ‘on it’. It is the rally where you get the best sensations. But, it can be a difficult rally if you don’t find the best settings and get a good feeling, then it can quickly turn into the worst rally of the season! Nicolas and myself have had some positive results recently, so we want to build on that in Finland.”

Hayden Paddon said: “The result in Poland was really important for us and allowed us to bounce back after two tough results. I think Finland is the one we always look forward to the most. It’s like the home of rallying, the Monaco Grand Prix of the World Rally Championship. It’s a rally that I aspire to win one day, it’s very high on my list! We have a good car and a good package this year, so for sure we are going to try and fight right up near the front. But the Scandinavians on home turf are also very fast so we’ll have our work cut out for us. We’re feeling up for the challenge.”

Now, Dani Sordo was injured in pre event testing in an accident, so Kevin Abbring will be stepping into the i20 for this weekend. He’s not driven the new generation i20 competitively yet.

Kevin Abbring commented: “First of all, I would like to wish Dani a speedy recovery and thank Hyundai Motorsport for this opportunity. Our debut in the New Generation i20 WRC will be at rallying’s most challenging event. We’re obviously really excited for it, but we know that it’s a tall order. Rally Finland is just special; the roads are really fast and the fans are passionate about rallying. It has such an amazing atmosphere! The plan will be to continue to gain as much experience as possible and get more acquainted with the New Generation i20 WRC – I cannot wait to tackle the amazing stages this week.”

M-Sport

Mads Østberg said:

“It’s time for a comeback and we’re fully focussed on Rally Finland. We’ve all been working really hard in the lead-up to this event, and myself and Ola have spent a lot of time preparing. We’re determined to return to the stage-winning pace we showed in Sardinia.

“Eighth place in Poland was not what we came for, but I was ninth there last year and ended up on the podium in Finland. We need to keep that in mind and focus on being as competitive as we can from the very first stage.

“This is one of the events that everyone looks forward to. It’s such an adrenaline rush and when you hook up that perfect stage there really is no better feeling. We’re looking forward to that, and I can promise you that we’ll be aiming for a strong result. If everything goes to plan, there is no reason why we can’t be challenging for the podium again.”

Éric Camilli said:

“Rally Finland is a very special event, and I can’t wait to discover these stages for the first time in a world rally car. We have some knowledge of the rally from last year, but this year will be a completely new challenge. The speed of the world rally cars on these roads is incredible. We really enjoyed our test and did a lot of work with our engineer which should see us well-placed for the rally.

“Even though the event didn’t go to plan for us last year, we were pleased with our speed. With only a few gravel events under our belt, we were still discovering what it takes to perform on that surface but were able to set some really competitive times.

“We’re keen to keep up the same level of progress that we have shown recently. We’ll take everything in our stride and focus on our own rally, but I hope to build on the speed we had in Poland.”

Elfyn Evans said:

“The WRC 2 field is extremely strong at the moment and it will be a challenge to beat the Scandinavians on their home turf. This is probably one of the most competitive events of the year, but we’re ready to give it our all. We’re feeling well prepared and ready to challenge for the win, but we know it won’t be easy.

“Speed and precision is what we’ll need. The stages are so fast that any time loss is hard to recover. You need to have precise notes and the confidence to drive to the maximum. We’ve shown some pretty good speed here in the past so, if we can couple that with a clean run, anything is possible.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke (#7): “Finland is a unique moment in the WRC season. I have excellent memories here, such as my first race with Citroën Racing in 2013 and my podium finish the year after. Every year, I take pleasure, above all, in driving on the most amazing routes in the world. I’m not competing in every race this season, but I was determined that Finland should be part of my programme. It’s a rally that often comes down to just a few tenths of a second and it will provide a good opportunity for me to work on my turn of speed. I won in Portugal, but I don’t have any particular goals. I’ll be doing my best to learn, understand and enjoy myself at the wheel. The weather forecast is for rain every day in Jyväskylä, which will no doubt have an influence on performances depending on the starting orders. But once again, it doesn’t really matter to me, as I don’t have any special aims this season. I think it’s going to be a big challenge from reconnaissance on. There are a lot of new special stages, including Ouninpohja, which we are going to be taking on in the opposite direction from usual. We’ll have to forget our usual markers and approach that sector as if it were totally new.”

Craig Breen (#8): “Obviously, I feel much better prepared for this race than for my first two rallies with Abu Dhabi Total WRT! I’m going to be able to draw on my experience from a month ago and my aim will be to pick up where I left off at the end of Rally Poland. For this rally to be a success for me, I’ll have to produce a consistent race, without making any mistakes, and attacking a little harder when I feel able. I’m familiar with Rally Finland as I’ve already taken part six times. Two years ago, I was at the wheel of a WRC, but in a totally different context, with my dad working on the car and my mum doing the catering! That family effort has got me here and I fully intend to take this new opportunity.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (#24): “I can’t wait to be back in Finland. It’s a really special event for the WRC. The course is known for being fast and for its high-speed jumps. We will be able to draw on our experience from last year, but more than half of the special stages are new and we will have to be focused from reconnaissance on to make sure we take good notes. It will be important to feel good at the wheel again, particularly after such a long break since Portugal. You need a lot of commitment for this rally and we will be working hard to gradually get to grips with the car. I hope we will enjoy ourselves and that Kris and Craig will do the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team proud.”

D-Mack

Ott Tänak said: “Finland is always a highlight of the season and all the drivers love the high speeds and rollercoaster roads. Our confidence is good after Rally Poland and once again we will push as hard as possible. I’ve done the rally quite a few times now and have a strong level of experience so, if things feel good, then we should have a chance.”

Karl Kruuda said: “The feeling is quite good after Poland and I’m looking forward to some fast stages again. The aim is to try and be up there with the other guys and pick out a few stages where we can beat them, but Finland is still a tough and sometimes daunting place. Poland highlighted a few areas where we can make some changes so we will aim to improve further.”

Marius Aasen said: “Finland is one of my favourite rallies and I have always dreamed of participating there in a R5 car. This will be my fourth time doing the rally, but I know the Fiesta R5 is much faster than the cars I have driven there before, so it will be a big difference. After our crash in Poland I think we will need some stages to get back into the good rhythm. This time we will use some of our pacenotes from last year and I’m sure that will help us.”

So, can Ott and Raigo challenge at the front again? Will Jari-Matti continue his winning form at home? Can Mads find some good form, and finish on the podium like last year, or will he beaten by his teammate, Eric? What about Kris Meeke, who is back in an DS3? Could we see him challenge at the front? After all, he won in Portugal.

I strongly recommend you follow this event. It is astonishing!

Enjoy!

Warren Nel

27th July 2016

@Warren_S_Nel