Phil Hall’s Rally de Portugal diary

Day One (Tuesday 15th of May)

Ford Fiesta reece car – Photo courtesy of Phil Hall

Recce for Rally Portugal is particularly challenging, the stages are tight and twisty but also rough. Today we did 6 incredible stages, which will form the route for Friday and Sunday. A lot of KM covered and in the hot and dusty conditions you really have to focus.

Rally de Portugal reece day – Photo courtesy of Phil Hall

 

I get a few funny looks around the world when I turn up to Recce with a pillow ‘borrowed’ from the hotel. But on rough roads it makes all the difference to lean on as a shock absorber. Along with a lot of practice it means I can usually get all my notes down tidily on the first pass, with little touch up work later. It’s actually quite interesting to see which countries make the best Recce pillows. Keep an eye on my Twitter as I usually post the best ones.

 

Recce day Two (Wednesday 16th of May)

Similar to day 1, another challenging day of recce awaited us. Today we covered the Lousada super special as well as the monster that is Amarante. The surface in Portugal changes a lot so it is important to make sure your pacenotes take this into account.

Thursday: (17th of May)

Shakedown is a spectacular, if short, stage finishing in a huge arena full to the brim with fans. We had a good run, getting a good feeling for the car and the surface.

After a long drive to the ceremonial start, a great opportunity to meet the incredibly passionate Portuguese fans, we headed to the Super Special at Lousada. The sheer volume of rally fans crammed into this venue was a sight to behold.

 

Friday: (18th of May)

The rough northern stages bring their own challenges, we tried to keep it clean and were running comfortably inside the top ten despite a puncture. For a co-driver here in the heat and dust it is very important to keep focused. the tight twisty stages require a lot of information to be delivered often whilst the road is very rough.

Tom and Phil press on in their M-Sport built Fiesta R2

Saturday: (19th of May)

A new day and a new surface, and the iconic Amarante test. At 37km this is a big test for crews, and for us unfortunately where it all unravelled. Amarante hasn’t been kind to me, I rolled out of the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy event on this stage in 2016, and again today we had a small roll that put us into Rally 2.

 

Sunday: (20th of May)

Another tough day, and the attrition rate was high. A few stages were cancelled because of incidents and we focused on just being clean and getting to the finish. despite a couple of near misses, we did just that and got to the end. In fact, we managed to hold on to our top ten position, with 7th overall in the JWRC.

 

Things to take away about Rally Portugal:

– The Fans are incredible!

– The stages are a true test of physical and mental stamina

– Dust!

-Truly iconic roads

 

Many thanks again to Phil Hall for this great diary! Why not give him a follow on Twitter? @PhilHallRally

Also give Tom @williamsrally a follow too!

 

Kris Meeke’s contract is terminated.

We found out this afternoon that Kris and Paul have been dropped by Citroen. In their statement they say;

 

Due to an excessively high number of crashes, some of which were particularly heavy and could have had serious consequences with regard to the crew’s safety and given that the risks involved were unjustified by the sporting stakes at play, Citroën Racing WRT has decided to terminate the participation of Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle in the 2018 WRC.

 

The decision becomes effective from the 2018 Rally Italia Sardegna and we will shortly be announcing the team’s line-up of crews for the remainder of the 2018 season. The entries of C3 WRCs for Craig Breen / Scott Martin and Mads Ostberg/Torstein Eriksen still stand for Sardinia.

 

Pierre Budar: “This wasn’t an easy decision to make because it effects a driver and a co-driver, but it is largely founded on safety issues which come under my preoccupations as Team Principal. We have consequently chosen to make this decision as a preventive measure.

 

Already there has been a big reaction to this decision online, especially as it seems that Kris and Paul were not aware of it.

 

It’s certainly true that the C3 has been a tricky car to drive, and the team, including Kris had done a lot of work to make it friendlier to drive. When I spoke to the pairing at the start of the year, they talked about the change to the suspension and the latest change was the new rear axle that was brought to the car for Rally Argentina.

 

There have been a number of incidents which have led to this situation, but is it the correct decision? Kris took his first victory in Rally Argentina during the 2015 season. He then, during the part season that followed in 2016 won in Portugal and followed that up with an amazing win in Finland, the first ever British driver to do so.

 

In 2017 with the new C3, he took wins in Mexico and Spain, but missed Poland mid-season after the team rested him for that event, but he did lead in Corsica before the engine cried enough.

 

He’s definitely a driver that takes the car to the edge, like Colin. The crash that put Kris and Paul out on Saturday came after a puncture on Friday that led to the car running second on the road on the very loose gravel. Yet, earlier on Friday he’d taken some great stage victories and was running near the front.

I

Is this the end for Kris and Paul? I do hope not.

Rally de Portugal Review – Thierry takes an unlikely victory.

In my exclusive interview last week, Thierry said that he didn’t think he’d be able to win and was hoping instead for a podium finish. Here the story of an unlikely win on the roads of Portugal, which has lifted him into the championship lead. Elfyn and Teemu also had great events to round off the podium.

 

Ott Tanak took the early lead in the stage that kicked off this event on Thursday evening. Less than two seconds covered the top ten.

 

Friday morning dawned a beautiful day and the cars would go into the days eight stages in championship order – Ogier, Neuville, Tänak, Mikkelsen, Sordo, Meeke, Lappi, Latvala, Evans, Breen, Paddon, Ostberg, Suninen.

 

The first stage of the day – Viana Do Castelo, was won by Hayden, making his first start for Hyundai since February’s Rally Sweden. Evans and Meeke were second and third as well, whilst Seb could only manage eighth, 12 seconds slower. Thierry was ninth at this point. Sadly, for Toyota, Ott stopped in the stage after hitting some rocks. So far, Thierry’s predictions were so far true.

 

The next stage – Caminha, Kris won and this was enough to move him into the lead with Hayden dropping to second. Seb set a great time considering his road position and with those ahead not so fast jumped to positions into sixth, whilst Thierry also moved up to into eighth. Toyota also saw a second retirement, with Jari-Matti also stopping in the stage! Big drama for Tommi’s team.

 

The third stage of the day – Ponte De Lima, and the last before midday service saw another change in the lead, with Dani Sordo now winning the stage from his teammate Andreas and moving ahead of Kris by almost 5 seconds. Ogier also showed great pace again, setting the third fastest time and moving up to fourth, but Thierry was keeping close to the French champion in fifth overall.

 

The midday break was welcome for a few drivers, in particular, Mads Ostberg who was shown a few things by the Citroen team. He put these things to good use in the first afternoon stage.

 

Stage 5 – Viana Do Castelo 2, was won by Kris with Mads going second fastest, just eight tenths slower. There was drama in the M-Sport camp though with Seb going off and retiring from the rally! A big shock, but he was pushing very hard and when you’re first on the road, things can catch you out. With his stage victory, Kris had moved back into the lead, with Dani slipping back just one place to second. Further back, Elfyn had moved up to seventh. Andreas and Craig were also both on the move, passing Thierry who was now sixth.

 

Stage 6 – Caminha 2, and Kris got a puncture about 3km into the 18km stage, despite running the hard tyres. He lost 18 seconds and dropped to fifth but was still just 11 seconds from the leader who was once again Hayden. Craig and Thierry were both now ahead of Kris in third and fourth.

 

There was more drama in stage 7- Ponte De Lima 2, with Craig and Kris both getting punctures, Andreas retiring and Hayden going off and damaging his car too much to complete the stage. Thierry was now in the lead with Elfyn up to second.

 

The final two stages of the day were won by Thierry, with Dani and Craig also second and third in both.

Thierry had driven brilliantly and very consistently throughout the day letting the others make mistakes. Citroen had reasons to smile, but fortune was not smiling on them with punctures spoiling their efforts. Hayden also was showing pace and had led, only to suffer misfortune. Things were definitely looking better for Elfyn though! The welsh wizard had driven very well!

 

Classification after Day One

1 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1:37:30.7
2 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +17.7
3 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +24.3
4 T. Suninen M. Markkula Ford Fiesta WRC +34.4
5 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +45.8
6 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 WRC +48.3
7 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +1:18.7
8 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +2:27.3

 

 

Anyway, lets here from all the drivers after Friday’s stages.

 

Thierry Neuville

“All in all, I am pretty happy with my day. We have made improvements to the car from one stage to the next, and we have been able to stay out of trouble. The afternoon loop proved decisive with a complicated tyre selection. We opted for six soft tyres, which – in hindsight – was perhaps not the best choice, but we were clever and made it work quite well in the end.  Despite incredibly rough conditions, we felt comfortable and pushed as hard as possible. We took four stage wins in a row, and the performances in the Street Stage allowed us to build a decent lead. However, it’s still very early days in this rally, and we’ve seen today that we absolutely cannot be complacent.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Rally de Portugal
17-20 May 2018
Action
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Elfyn Evans

“It’s good to be in this position at the end of the day. I felt that our driving was pretty good on the whole, but there are still some things we can improve and we’ll be working on that tomorrow. We’ve just got to keep going and fight for the best result possible.”

 

Dani Sordo

“It has been a very tough day, so I am pleased to be inside the top-three overall and still in the close podium hunt. There is still a long way to go, but it has already been a rally with many incidents. We started the morning loop carefully but built up confidence in the first run through Ponte de Lima to win the stage. For the afternoon, we opted to run soft tyres, which in the end was not the ideal choice. The stages were rougher than expected and we had high wear which prevented us from pushing. We managed the situation reasonably well and had two good runs during the Porto Street Stage to end the day positively. I hope for a smoother Saturday!”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (4th)

“I was happy with my pace – especially on the second loop when I did some really good stage times. I was just a bit disappointed with SS4 where I was a bit too careful and lost a lot of time. That tells me that I need to go flat-out all the time, and that’s what we plan to do tomorrow.”

 

Sébastien Ogier (Rally 2)

“I went just a couple of centimetres too deep into a right-hand corner. There was a bank and I thought it would be okay to touch it a little, but unfortunately there was something there – a small root [or tree stump].

 

“It was a small, short impact on the suspension, but it was enough to break it. In the next corner nothing happened when I braked – I couldn’t turn and went straight into the trees. It was my mistake and I shouldn’t have touched the bank – those two or three centimetres have cost us a lot this weekend.”

 

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Kris Meeke (6th)

“It was a difficult day for us. It had all started so well, I felt so good in the car and we were leading the rally. But in the afternoon, I picked up two separate punctures – I’ve no idea where – and suddenly things were a lot more complicated. In order not to break the rules, which say that you can’t drive on the wheel rims during the road sections, we had to manage the two flat tyres as best we could. In running second on the road tomorrow on the stages that will clean the most this weekend, I’m going to suffer for sure, but you can count on me to fight all the way and give it everything.”

 

Craig Breen (7th)

“Obviously, it’s been a frustrating day for us. We had really got back into our stride again this afternoon. Without the puncture, we could potentially have been leading the rally tonight. I’ll be first on the road tomorrow, but I’ll be doing my utmost to limit the damage.”

 

Mads Østberg (8th)

“After an up and down morning where I made a few set-up mistakes, I really enjoyed it this afternoon. The car was really perfect to drive, after the team made changes in service. We stopped on the road where Paddon had his accident to see if we could help, so we didn’t contest the longest stage of the day, but that wasn’t the most important thing at the time. The conditions remind me of the Acropolis Rally, in Greece. It was so rough out there today, but we made it to the end of the leg and we’re going to try and do even better in the rest of the rally.”

 

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“The morning wasn’t the best for me as I struggled a bit with the confidence. The car itself was fine but I didn’t feel like we had much lateral grip, so I just couldn’t push as much as I wanted to. This afternoon the conditions were some of the roughest I have seen in my career, with so many rocks on the road. We changed a lot of things on the car during the mid-day service and that helped. The first stage this afternoon was immediately better. Then we had a small issue with the damper and we had to manage that until the end of the day, but the times were still not too bad. I think we are in a fighting position for tomorrow.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala (Rally 2)

“On the first stage I was a bit too cautious, but on the second stage I started to push more. Then about five kilometres into the stage, in a left-right corner combination, there was a rock in the line, which was in my pace-notes. I went over the rock as intended but immediately the front-right suspension was damaged, and I had to stop. The team has worked hard to fix the car and we will be able to carry on tomorrow. I’m very motivated to continue. I really want to drive now, because I have a very good feeling with the car and I am enjoying driving it.”

 

Ott Tänak (DNF)

“It was very, very unfortunate what happened to us this morning. Quite early in the first stage we came across a place where the road was full of rocks: there were not just one or two rocks but four or five. We could not avoid them and they caused damage to our radiator. We had to stop soon afterwards with an engine issue, which it was not possible to repair here. We were in a strong position coming into this rally, and like the previous rally I had a really good feeling in the car. It’s a hit for our championship bid but it’s never over before it’s over, so I will still keep fighting. We will aim for a big fight-back in Sardinia: we know we have the performance.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (Rally2)

“A day of two halves for us, unfortunately. The morning went reasonably and I felt like we were getting more comfortable with each stage. The car felt good and I was encouraged for the afternoon loop. In SS6, the second run through Caminha, we lost the power steering midway through and had to battle hard to make it to the end of the stage. We tried to fix the problem with the remote support of the team. Although we couldn’t manage to find a solution, we were still able to start SS7. Towards the end of the stage, the engine started to feel strange and I noticed oil on the windscreen, so we had no choice but to stop the car. The team will now assess the car to see if we are able to rejoin under Rally 2 on Saturday. I am very disappointed as we were going well and the car was perfect.”

 

Hayden Paddon (DNF)

“The day was going well, we were driving within ourselves and to our plan. It was a difficult day for everyone and hard to get the tyre choice right but it was, of course, good to be back on the pace right away. Near the start of SS7 there was a big rock on the inside of the corner, which was concealed. I had to steer out a little for the corner to avoid it, but then the speed was too great and the car ran wide. The problem then was a big culvert on the exit of the corner, which stopped the car instantly. I’m gutted for the team as a good result was possible but for a third year in a row, this stage bites us.”

 

Day two, Saturday would see the crews tackle six stages. Hayden and Seb wouldn’t restart the rally after the Kiwi was kept in hospital overnight. Seb and Jari-Matti would however be back out, looking to get some points come the end of Sunday’s stages. Kris Meeke’s car was also rebuilt on one side by the amazing Citroen team.

 

Jari-Matti made a great start to day two winning Vieira Do Minho from Neuville and Lappi who was holding fourth overall. Elfyn and Dan lost a little ground to Thierry but were holding their own near the top of the leaderboard.

 

Into stage 11 – Cabeceiras De Basto, and it was Elfyn’s turn to win a stage and with that he closed on Thierry by a few seconds. Dani and Jari-Matti were second and third fastest, and this showed just how competitive the WRC is at the moment with three different cars setting times that are very evenly matched.

 

The first run through the longest stage of the day, stage 12 -Amarante sadly saw Kris and Paul crash out. The car was wrecked and there would be no return sadly. At the front, Thierry took another stage win and with Elfyn 17.2 seconds slower the Belgian now had a lead of almost 30 seconds! Just behind him the remaining Toyota duo were showing the great pace of the Yaris with Lappi closing on Suninen for fourth place.

After the midday service break stage 13 – Vieira Do Minho 2 was won by Elfyn, with Seb second fastest and Teemu with the third fastest time – a M-Sport triple, and with Thierry only fifth fastest, the gap had reduced to a little over 23 seconds. Also, Teemu had now opened up the gap to Lappi. He was being allowed to push as he wanted, and that pace really showed.

 

The second run of Cabeceiras De Basto 2, stage 14 saw some surprising rain! Latvala, Thierry and Ogier were the top three, whilst further back Mads went off the road after sliding off in the rain! He still held onto sixth place though, as Craig was two minutes behind the Norwegian.

 

The final stage of the day -Amarante 2, and it was won by Seb with Thierry and Jari-Matti second and third. The lead that Thierry held now was almost 40 seconds over Elfyn with Dani in third. However, the battle for the final podium position was not over with just four seconds between Dani and Teemu.

 

Classification after Day Two

1 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3:16:30.0
2 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +39.8
3 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +57.2
4 T. Suninen M. Markkula Ford Fiesta WRC +1:01.9
5 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +1:13.0
6 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 WRC +3:14.1
7 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +4:53.1

 

Let’s hear then from the crews!

 

Thierry Neuville

“We have had a very positive day and can be extremely satisfied with our position. That’s not to say we can relax because we have some tricky stages on Sunday, including the two runs through Fafe. Our focus today was to extend our lead overall but we knew we had to be clever with our strategy on both loops. We had to save the tyres in some places to maximise the performance on the longer Amarante stages. We knew we could make the difference here; it’s a stage I really enjoy and we could give it a really big push. There were a few wet patches at the end of the afternoon, but we made it through and could increase our margin. We will need to remain concentrated because there are still five stages to go – and we’ve seen just what can happen here.”

 

Elfyn Evans

“On the whole I think we can be pretty happy with our day. It’s not been perfect by all means and I was a bit disappointed with both runs through the Amarante stage (SS12 and SS15). But overall we can be pretty satisfied and we’re in a good position going into tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans, Rally de Portugal 2018, Photo credit, M-Sport.

Dani Sordo

“In general, I am pleased with our day and to be in the battle for the podium. The gap to the guys behind is close so we need to keep pushing. The only downside to today’s running was the final stage, the repeat of Amarante, which started with a half-spin. I don’t know what happened; something felt a bit strange and I lost the rear, but we kept our focus. We quickly built up our confidence again and worked on reducing the time loss. The crowds at this rally have been incredible and it really gives us the motivation to fight for the podium on Sunday morning. That’s our target!”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (4th)

“It’s been a good day for us and I was really pleased to see that we were able to improve through the slower sections which is what we wanted to work on today. Now there are just five stages left and it looks like we have a chance of challenging for the podium too. I’m really happy to be in this battle, and tomorrow I want to continue like this – to show what I can do.”

 

Sébastien Ogier (Rally 2) said:

“It wasn’t a very exciting day for us, but I wanted to make use of it – doing some work on the car and trying to find some little things to improve the set-up. I’m pleased with that and we were quickest over the second loop – closing the day with a fastest time. Power Stage points is the only thing we can try to push for tomorrow. We’ll be running pretty early on the road so it won’t be easy, but at least we have nothing to lose.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“It has been a pretty good day. The feeling has been nice with the car and I have been pushing really hard. I don’t think I’ve ever pushed as hard for a whole day, especially this afternoon. I gave it everything, and it was really enjoyable. The guys in front of me have been doing a really good job and it has been hard to take any time out of them, but I’m really happy with my driving and that I could stay on the limit for so long. It was a risky tyre choice this afternoon to go with the hard tyres and it didn’t pay off, but we didn’t lose anything to our rivals either. The gap is quite big going into the final day but I want to keep the pressure on.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala (Rally 2)

“I’m really, really happy about today. We had two stage wins, so we know the speed is there. I still have a little bit of margin: particularly this afternoon when it was quite rough in places I was a bit more careful not to break the car, as it has been important for me to have a clean day. The car is fast and I have started to find in myself the speed and confidence. All the elements are now there so we just need to bring it to the end. Tomorrow my approach will be to try and carry on in the same way. I want to be competitive and to do another clean day, and then of course in the Power Stage, I will try to attack and try to get some points. The idea is try to and keep building the confidence ready for Sardinia.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Mads Østberg (6th)

“The morning went well for us. I felt full of confidence in my C3 WRC and the times were pretty decent given our position in the running order. Since we weren’t in a close fight for position with anyone, we decided to do some set-up tests this afternoon to try and keep improving with the car. We probably pushed things a bit too far, but that’s part and parcel of the learning process.”

 

Craig Breen (7th)

“It was a difficult day for us, with a huge amount of cleaning with the dry and sandy ground. It hasn’t rained properly here for a while! But it’s the kind of experience that you have to get in order to fight with the very best one day and I prefer to focus on the very good feeling that I had driving my C3 WRC.”

 

Kris Meeke (DNF)

“I turned into a fast-left-hand corner a little bit late, missed my line and got onto the loose gravel on the outside of the corner and lost control of the car. Obviously, I’m sorry for the whole team, who clearly deserved better. I’m really very grateful that they built such a strong car. It was my mistake, of course, so I’ll take it on the chin. But the feeling in my C3 WRC was so good here in Portugal that I can’t help but take the positives away from this weekend.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport 

Andreas Mikkelsen (Rally 2)

“First of all, I am very grateful to the team for their efforts in getting us back into the rally after the problems we experienced on Friday. We had to make some adjustments to the engine settings for today to help us make it through. As a result, we didn’t have access to full power, which limited what we could do. We simply had to do our best with what we had at our disposal and I think in that regard it has been a pretty good day. It is important for us to finish the rally cleanly in order to secure manufacturer points for the team, even if we are not at the level we know we could be. We always want to compete at the front and I hope we can fight for some Power Stage points tomorrow.”

 

The final day then and with five stages to go, it wouldn’t be easy.

 

The first stage then saw Dani lose third overall with Teemu and Esapekka moving ahead of the Spaniard. Thierry’s lead was really strong, whilst Elfyn was looking good for his best result of the year.

The first run of the famous Fafe stage, with its jump just before the finish line saw Ogier set the best time – a sign of things to come, whilst the battle between Dani and Esapekka continued over fourth, this time the Spaniard getting back ahead!

 

Stage 18 – Luilhas, saw them swap again and Esapekka was back into fourth! Meantime, Teemu was looking really good in third and likely to score his first WRC podium. Thierry and Elfyn were just stroking their cars to the finish, ticking off the km’s.

 

Teemu won stage 19 – Montim 2, beating Lappi by 1.7 seconds whilst Dani was third. The overall positions were really set now, with Thierry looking likely to win his second rally of the year, but in the M-Sport camp all eyes were on their young drivers. Elfyn was set for his best result since last October’s Wales Rally GB and Teemu was set for his first ever podium finish!

 

Time then for the final stage, the re-run of Fafe, with its famous jump. Of course, there were as usual points up for grabs for the quickest five drivers! The winner of the stage was Lappi, and Thierry was second. Dani, Teemu and Elfyn rounded out the top five. Seb had rejoined under rally 2 regs, and had come very close to scoring some points, ending up just 8 tenths away from fifth place.

 

Thierry had taken a unexpected but very welcome victory, and we also had Elfyn in second place, with teammate, Teemu Suninen taking his first ever podium. Thierry had also taken the lead of the world championship after Seb’s mistake took him out of the points. He’ll want to bounce back at the next round- no doubt!

 

Final Overall Classification – Rally de Portugal

1 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3:49:46.6
2 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +40.0
3 T. Suninen M. Markkula Ford Fiesta WRC +47.3
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +54.7
5 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:00.9
6 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 WRC +3:33.5
7 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +5:23.0
8 P. Tidemand J. Andersson Škoda Fabia R5 +14:10.8
9 L. Pieniazek P. Mazur Škoda Fabia R5 +16:17.3
10 S. Lefebvre G. Moreau Citroën C3 R5 +16:34.3
2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Rally de Portugal 17-20 May 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Let’s hear from the drivers! 

Thierry Neuville

“What a weekend and what a result! We have taken a clever approach to this event, pushing when we could and controlling the pace when we needed. The car has been fabulous all weekend long, and the team has been behind us every stage of the way. I have felt completely comfortable and at ease despite some challenging conditions. My teammates have also been on the pace but were unlucky not to be on the podium. We tried to give it a bit of a push in the Power Stage, to take as many points as we could, but also taking care not to make any mistakes. We have a lot of Portuguese people in the team, so it’s going to be a nice celebration. A fantastic weekend for our team.”

 

Elfyn Evans

“I’m happy with this result, and a bit relieved too if I’m honest! Everyone knows that our season didn’t get off to the best of starts. Monte started well with the exception of the puncture, but one thing led to another and it quickly snowballed into what was becoming a pretty dismal season.

“We knew coming here that we needed to get some strong points on the board – for the team and for us as well. So, to come away with second place was good. It wasn’t perfect, and there are some areas where we can still improve. I wasn’t entirely happy with my driving through all of the stages, but it’s certainly alleviated the pressure and we can go to Sardinia in a positive frame of mind.”

Teemu Suninen

“It’s really great to get my first podium here in Portugal – the first one is always special and I think it will be a big step for my career. I was really happy with my driving all weekend. We struggled a bit to find the limit on Friday morning as I had to get used to driving this car on these stages, but after that I was able to push and set some really good times.

“I want to thank the team for their trust in me and for the good support that they gave me all weekend. I’m really happy that I could pay them back with these good points for the championship.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Rally de Portugal 17-20 May 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Hyundai Motorsport 

Dani Sordo (4th)

“I am disappointed not to finish on the podium after what had been a very promising and competitive weekend for us. We showed our pace in many stages and were definitely in the fight. The time penalty was frustrating but we put that out of our mind and concentrated on doing the best job we could on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, we had an issue during the penultimate stage when a stone went through our front splitter and smashed the windscreen. This made some corners difficult to see in the Power Stage but we gave it absolutely everything. There are so many fans here and lots of people supporting me, so I was happy to put on a good performance through Fafe. Congratulations to Thierry and Nicolas on a great win, and thanks to the team.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (16th)

“That was not the weekend we had hoped to have but it’s been a positive final morning. The car was working much better in the Power Stage, which allowed us to really give it a push. I’d like to send big thanks to the team who put in a huge effort to adapt the car to get it better suited to my style. I have enjoyed driving this weekend and without our issues on Friday, and the knock-on effects of that, I am sure we could have had a much more representative result. Congratulations to Thierry and Nicolas on their victory, which is thoroughly deserved for them and the entire team. I am looking forward to Sardinia.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“Today we just continued like we ended yesterday: flat out all the time. In the end, we just couldn’t catch Suninen. It was a tough, tough fight. He did a good job and deserved the podium. However, I have to be pleased to take five points from the Power Stage as well. I have now won half of the Power Stages this year, and this is important, because I now have 15 points just from these three stages alone. I’m pretty satisfied with the weekend: we didn’t make any mistakes, and that is what we were looking for.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06, Rally Portugal / May 17-20, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala (24th)

“Today was another good day, with another stage win. Of course, I tried to go for points on the Power Stage and give everything I could. It was a very good run; I don’t think I could have driven much better, but there was a very big cleaning effect on the Fafe stage today and I was the first World Rally Car on the road. I am happy though because the confidence is improving a lot. We had the problem on Friday but at least I could then drive two clean days without any mistakes. We could also learn something on today’s stages, which were more technical than before, about the setup that we need for Sardinia. I feel very positive going there.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT 

Mads Østberg (6th)

“This first rally on gravel was informative for us because we learned a lot about the C3 WRC. Although we struggled a bit to find the right set-up on Friday morning, the team quickly worked it out and the car worked very well in the afternoon for the second loop. It’s just that we then had a tough time of it due to our road position. If you don’t have as good a first day as you were hoping for, then your whole rally ends up being affected, but I’m pleased to see that the speed was there whenever we pushed and we had the right conditions.”

 

Craig Breen (7th)

“Our puncture on Friday afternoon, when we were running third, meant we had to open the road on the next two days and from that point on, it was difficult to hope for a better outcome. But I’m now looking forward to Sardinia to turn the good feeling we had this weekend into a significantly better result.”

Well, after yet another twist in this year’s championship we head to Rally Italia Sardegna held from the 7th to the 10th of June!

Craig Breen, Scott Martin, Rally Portugal 2018, Photo credit, Citroen Racing.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings 
After round 6

1 T. Neuville 119
2 S. Ogier 100
3 O. Tanak 72
4 D. Sordo 58
5 E. Lappi 57
6 A. Mikkelsen 54
7 E. Evans 45
8 K. Meeke 43
9 J.M Latvala 31
10 C. Breen 26
11 T. Suninen 23
12 M. Østberg 16
13 S. Loeb 15
14 P. Tidemand 11
15 H. Paddon 10

 

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 6

1 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 175
2 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 162
3 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 140
4 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 111

 

Rally de Portugal Preview 2018

It’s time for round six of this year’s championship and the teams are headed for the classic Portuguese roads that make this event. With twenty stages totaling 358.19km of competitive action it’s sure to have lots of drama.

Twelve months ago, Seb took his second victory for M-Sport with Thierry and Dani taking second and third.

Final Overall Classification  Rally de Portugal 2017

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 3:42:55.7
2 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +15.6
3 D. Sordo M. Martí Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:01.7
4 O. Tanak M. Jarveoja Ford Fiesta WRC +1:30.2
5 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +1:57.4
6 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +3:10.6
7 J. Hänninen K. Lindstrom Toyota Yaris WRC +3:48.9
8 M. Østberg O. Floene Ford Fiesta WRC +5:29.7
9 J.M Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +5:43.6
10 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +8:13.3

 

Here’s the full run down of this year’s stages then.

 

RALLY PORTUGAL SCHEDULE (GMT+1)

THURSDAY 17 MAY

7.30am: Shakedown (Paredes)

6.10pm: Start(Guimaraes)

7.03pm: SS 1 – Lousada (3,36 km)

8.00pm: Parc fermé (Exponor)

 

FRIDAY 18 MAY

7.45am: Service A (Exponor – 19 min)

9.15am: SS 2 – Viana Do Castelo 1 (26,73 km)

10.20am: SS 3 – Caminha 1 (18,11 km)

10.53am: SS 4 – Ponte De Lima 1 (27,54 km)

1.40pm: Service B (Exponor – 34 min)

3.25pm: SS 5 – Viana Do Castelo 2 (26,73 km)

4.30pm: SS 6 – Caminha 2 (18,11 km)

5.03pm: SS 7 – Ponte De Lima 2 (27,54 km)

7.03pm: SS 8 – Porto Street Stage 1 (1,95 km)

7.28pm: SS 9 – Porto Street Stage 2 (1,95 km)

8.10pm: Flexi service C (Exponor – 49 min)

 

SATURDAY 19 MAY

7.15am: Service D (Exponor – 19 min)

9.08am: SS 10 – Vieira Do Minho 1 (17,50 km)

9.46am: SS 11 – Cabeceiras De Basto 1 (22,22 km)

11.05am: SS 12 – Amarante 1 (37,60 km)

1.00pm: Service E (Exponor – 34 min)

3.08pm: SS 13 – Vieira Do Minho 2 (17,50 km)

3.46pm: SS 14 – Cabeceiras De Basto 2 (22,22 km)

5.05pm: SS 15 – Amarante 2 (37,60 km)

7.00pm: Flexi service F (Exponor – 49 min)

 

SUNDAY 20 MAY

7.00am: Service G (Exponor – 19 min)

8.35am: SS 16 – Montim 1 (8,64 km)

9.08am: SS 17 – Fafe 1 (11,18 km)

9.36am: SS 18 – Luilhas (11,89 km)

10.35am: SS 19 – Montim 2 (8,64 km)

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

1.50pm: Service H (Exponor – 14 min)

2.20pm: Finish (Matosinhos)

 

Here’s the views of the drivers.

 Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“After two fairly specific rallies on gravel in Mexico and then Argentina, Rally de Portugal will be the first real test in terms of out-and-out performance. As the stages are unchanged from last year, everyone has the pace notes and the same knowledge of the roads. I’m going to try and take advantage of my sixth position on the road on day one. It’s a rally that I really like and I have high hopes that, like in Argentina, I can show the progress that our C3 WRC has made on this surface.”

Craig Breen

“I have some good memories from 2017. We were fast, especially on the Friday, so much so that we weren’t far off ending the opening leg in the lead. The stages are fantastic, the fans are very passionate and there are lots of them too! I would love to fight for a podium place. We went pretty close in Argentina, despite our lack of experience, but this time I want to produce that level from start to finish, avoid making any mistakes and turn all of that into a good result.”

Mads Østberg

“I’m delighted to be back in the team after my last race at Rally Sweden, which already seems like it was light years ago! With this long break, I might need a bit of time to get my bearings again. But I had a good day testing with the C3 WRC before Argentina. The feeling in the car was very good and I felt confident fairly quickly. Rally de Portugal is obviously a bit special for me, as it’s the only one I’ve won in the WRC, but at the time it was held in the Algarve. However, this year my approach will perhaps be slightly more cautious, so I can get my bearings back and make it to the end without any problems. Then I’ll be ready to go for a big push in Sardinia!”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“This rally will be a big weekend for all of us at Hyundai Motorsport. Not only are we entering four cars, but we are also determined to continue the form we showed in Argentina. Portugal is a great event with a lot of supportive fans and some nice stages. It offers us some unique challenges with varying grip levels on the stages. We saw at the last rally that our rivals are very strong but this gives us added motivation to improve ourselves and do all we can to fight at the front.”

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

Hayden Paddon

“I have spent the time since our last WRC event doing some rallies in New Zealand and training hard. It will be challenging having not driven the WRC car for three months but Seb and myself are ready to give it our best shot. The Portuguese stages require a lot of commitment and the grip levels can be quite changeable, depending on the weather. As everyone knows the rally quite well, only with perfect preparation and pace notes will we be competitive.”

Dani Sordo

“Rally de Portugal is a special event for me, being situated so close to Spain. Many supporters make the short trip to show their support, and it makes for a fantastic atmosphere. Of course, the Fafe jump is a highlight of the weekend but there are many other enjoyable stages to tackle over the weekend. We have four cars for this event, which will make our service area very busy, but it will be fun to drive alongside the other crews.”

Andreas Mikkelsen 

“We head back to Europe following a pretty positive weekend for the team in Argentina.  I have good experience at Rally de Portugal with a best result of second place a couple of years ago. I didn’t take part last season so I am looking forward to putting my i20 Coupe WRC through its paces on the gravel stages. It can be quite rough with high grip in places. It’s an event I enjoy and we’ll be looking to put our recent gravel experiences to good use.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Even though my rally ended early, there were positives to take from Argentina: the car felt really, really good and the speed was also good for me before my retirement. This gives me great confidence going to Rally Portugal. I believe our car will be strong again in Portugal. It is quite a similar rally to Argentina, with the main differences being that the surface is smoother and the roads are a bit more flowing. Therefore, I see no reason why the car shouldn’t work well in Portugal. We had two days of pre-event testing there last week and I am really happy with how that went. I had our test driver Juho Hänninen with me during the test: we were working together to fine-tune the car and I am really pleased with how the car feels.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Portugal (POR) – WRC 18/05/2017 to 21/05/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Ott Tänak

“We certainly go to Portugal with a good feeling. We obviously know just how well the car can perform. Everything felt good too in our pre-event test last week, where we were just trying to find some more improvements and even better performance. Portugal has always been one of my favourite events. It’s always really nice to go there: there is a great atmosphere. It is also the place where everything started for me in the WRC in 2009. Our aim is to perform as well as in Argentina, but let’s see how it goes. I think Friday will be critical with our road position: we have two cars in front of us so we will have some lines to follow, but normally the cleaning has more of an effect in Portugal. It is important to get another strong result for the championship: we closed the gap a bit in Argentina and now we aim to do the same in Portugal.”

Esapekka Lappi

“Portugal is where I started to compete in a World Rally Car last year, so I think that everything should be a little bit easier from this point onwards. In the first part of the season there were ups and downs, but I was pretty surprised with how good the speed was on some events. There were many positives and we just need to try to learn from the negative moments and be better in the second half of the year. It is going to help to have already done the upcoming rallies with this car. That is especially true for Portugal as it will be basically the same roads as last year. Argentina was already good from a car setup point of view, but I think we still made a small step forward on the pre-event test. I am pretty confident this time to start to push from the first stage: the approach will be different to Argentina.”

 

 

Well, we are set for another great battle in this event, and we can only guess at this point who will stand on the podium.

 

Enjoy!

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Portugal (POR) – WRC 18/05/2017 to 21/05/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Exclusive interview with Thierry Neuville

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07, Rally Italia Sardegna
05-11 June 2017
Day 1
Portrait
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry gives his thoughts after five rounds of this year’s world rally championship. After three podium finishes including a win in round two in the snow-covered stages of Sweden, he’s now just ten points away from championship leader Seb Ogier with Rally Portugal next week.

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

Warren Nel

Thinking about Day one of Rally Argentina, how hard is it the judge the pace to drive at when you’re second on the road?

Thierry Neuville

Its not more hard than before, but you know that due to the road cleaning you are losing time, but that’s part of the game so you try your best you have to take some times a bit more risk, but the Friday is the most important day because it influences your road position for the upcoming days so you have to give it everything.

 

WNDay two of Rally Argentina saw some foggy stages. Can you give an idea how hard it is to drive fast when faced with this?

TN – Really tricky, especially when there were no trees- was really really tricky, but had to say I had good pace notes, I was confident, I was decided to make a difference in that stage, to try to make a gap with Kris Meeke, and I was able to do it, kept Dani Sordo behind, Ott Tanak was on the same speed as us, but we have done pretty well.

 

WNSunday saw you win the power stage and score another podium this year. When we spoke at the Autosport Show in January you said you were aiming for a consistent approach to the results throughout the year. Would you say that was working so far?

TN – Of course, it’s working so far, no real big mistake, good points couple of podiums, a win so I’m satisfied, there were only some issues we had in Mexico which made us lose some points, but other that this we are really consistent, we never gave up, even in difficult conditions and scenarios like in Mexico with the powersteering and the fuel problem, but we kept it going and were still able to score important points.

 

WNLeading the championship heading into Rally Mexico meant that you opened the road on day one. How did you approach the creation of the stage notes taking this into account?

TN – No different approach, you just need to be mentally prepared, you won’t be the fastest, it’s not possible, but still we were driving well, obviously we got some issues, but yeah, my approach is the same, try to do your best, make no mistakes, and obviously so far always try to keep Ogier behind.

 

WNWith eight rounds of this year’s championship left you’re ten points behind Seb and Ott is now third. Do you think the championship fight will just be between you three, or will someone else join the fight? 

TN – Ah yes, I think so. We are three drivers, we are clearly always fighting for podium positions. Yep, it’s going to be between us. Maybe Mikkelsen can join at some point as well. But for sure the wins in upcoming events that won’t be us, we have Hayden joining with a very good road position, Kris Meeke, Jari-Matti Latvala, who are quite far in the standings as well, Lappi a bit behind, so all those guys going to fight for wins on the next events so we going to try to survive with our road position and try to make podium out of it.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, Rally Sweden
15-18 February 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

 

A big thank you to Thierry for answering my questions. Also, a big thank you to the PR of Hyundai Motorsport, Nicolette Russo for sending these to Thierry, and finally our own PR, Julia for setting up the interview.

Rally Argentina Review – Ott Tanak takes it!

Young Estonian Ott took his third WRC victory and first for Toyota on his fifth outing for the Finnish based Toyota squad! Here’s the story of how they did it. In the championship fight, Thierry closed the gap on his rival Seb in their fight for the title and Ott Tanak has brought himself into this fight with his brilliant drive to victory.

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

After the short stage on Thursday evening, Thierry Neuville held a lead over Ott with Seb in third.

Friday would see the crews tackle seven stages, totaling 154.2km. This was the start list – Ogier, Neuville, Tänak, Mikkelsen, Meeke, Lappi, Latvala, Sordo, Breen, Evans, Suninen, Al Qassimi.

Despite being the first car into the stage, Seb won the stage and was eight seconds faster than Thierry who was fourth fastest. Ott was not fast in this one, over twenty seconds slower than the leader and tenth.

It all turned around on the next stage. Ott took the stage and Seb dropped 17.8 seconds. Andreas Mikkelsen moved into the lead with Ott now just nine and a half seconds off the lead. Sadly, this stage saw the exit of Jari-Matti.

Stage four saw Ott close the gap to Andreas to just one second, whilst Kris got past Seb into third overall. Thierry was also moving up on place to fifth overall.

The lead changed again in stage five in the short 6km super special with Ott moving ahead of Andreas. Thierry also dropped a place to Dani.

After the service break, the second run of Las Bajadas – Villa Del Dique saw Ott take another stage victory and increase his lead after Andreas drop right down to eight overall. Kris was now the closest to the young Estonian.

Stage seven saw the lead increase again with Ott now almost 17 seconds ahead of Kris. Dani was second fastest in the stage and this moved him ahead of Seb and Thierry into third overall.

The final stage of the day was won again by Ott with Thierry just a little over one second slower than him in second, meaning that he’d moved ahead also of Dani and into third overall. Kris remained the closest driver to Ott, ending the day 22 seconds away, and wary of the foggy stages that sometimes show up during the morning of day two.

Ott had driven a superbly all day, whilst Kris had done a clever drive. He’d picked up a puncture in the last stage of the day though, leading to the little time loss.

Classification after Day One

1 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC 1:30:38.6
2 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +22.7
3 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +28.6
4 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +29.5
5 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC +36.4
6 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +41.2
7 A. Mikkelsen A. Jæger Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +58.5
8 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +1:07.9
9 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +1:10.3
10 T. Suninen M. Markkula Ford Fiesta WRC +1:33.7

Let’s hear then from the drivers-

 

Ott Tanak

“I am definitely happy with today. We have been pushing really hard and I couldn’t have done that if it wasn’t for the perfect feeling that I have with the car. It has been performing really well and it’s giving me confidence. It’s good that we have been able to make some improvements and they seem to be paying off, although I think there is still more to come. It’s a shame that we lost some time on the first stage this morning: I’m not sure how it happened but we had a spin in a very narrow place and it took a long time to get back in the right direction. Then we started to push hard to get the time back, and this afternoon we had three perfect stages. I feel quite confident about our position: Tomorrow the stages are even faster and we know that fast roads suit this car really well, and I was able to do some really good times on these stages last year, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Kris Meeke

“Although our day got off to a difficult start, with some visibility issues on the first stage and some problems finding the right pace on the next one, we worked things out after that. This was a daunting leg so we’re pleased to have been both smart and consistent. I felt confident behind the wheel, which just goes to show that the changes made to the car are going the right way and that we have to keep it up. If there is fog tomorrow, then that blows the whole thing wide open again because the gaps will end up being minutes rather than seconds. So it’ll be up to us to perform!”

Thierry Neuville

“I am quite pleased with the day overall. We have had a good feeling inside the car and felt that we could really push for competitive stage times despite starting second on the road. At the same time, we have had to avoid trouble and effectively save the car, as the stages were pretty rough in places. The strategy has really been to take it easy and keep in touch with the leaders. I am sure we have more pace in us for tomorrow, which will be a very different challenge.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport 

Dani Sordo (4th)

“It has been a positive start to the rally for us, and I am thoroughly enjoying driving in front of these crowds. The stages themselves, as we know from the past, are very rough and it is very easy to have some problems. To be fighting for the podium is where we would hope to be at the end of the first day – and it is very close. I have to thank the team for the job they have done to prepare our car. I have hit a few big rocks this afternoon, and the car has done its job perfectly, very solid and competitive. Let’s see if we can keep up the fight tomorrow!”

Andreas Mikkelsen (7th)

“We had a great morning and led the rally for a few stages, which was very promising. Ott has been incredibly fast today so we knew we had to push hard, which is easier said than done on such rough stages. It was going well until the start of the afternoon loop when the tyre came loose from the rim and lost us a lot of time. We then had to be extra careful because we knew one more issue might be game over, so we focused on getting the car home. We’ll be ready for another push on Saturday.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT 

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“It was an excellent day for us and I couldn’t do much more in terms of driving. We didn’t make any mistakes and I really tried to push as much as I could. Ott [Tänak] is flying and did a great job, but other than that we’re still in the fight for second place – despite opening the road.”

Sébastien Ogier, Rally Argentina 2018 – Photo Credit, M-Sport Ford

Elfyn Evans (9th)

“For sure it has been a difficult day for us. On the whole I felt that the driving wasn’t particularly bad, but the times just haven’t been there. We need to understand why that is and do better tomorrow.”

Teemu Suninen (10th)

“It hasn’t been the easiest day in the car, but we have learnt a lot. We were able to improve the driving a bit today, but we need to improve more to be faster and challenge for the podium. The main things we need to look at are the braking style and corner entries. Hopefully if we can improve one, it will be like a domino effect and the other will improve too. So, let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 

Esapekka Lappi (8th)

“This morning started surprisingly well on the first two stages. On the third one we lost a lot of time, as it was a bit more slippery and I didn’t want to make any mistakes. This afternoon it was a lot rougher on the second pass, and to have three punctures today is obviously not good. I’m not really sure why it kept happening, and to be honest I think it was just bad luck: the tyres themselves were fine but they kept coming off the rim. Tomorrow the weather might be different and this could be an opportunity for me to get some time back.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (DNF)

“I had a perfect feeling with the car this morning. The Yaris WRC is going so well here, and it was so easy to drive. I was really enjoying it. The second stage of the day was going really well and actually getting better and better as it went on. Then we came to a long right-hand corner and at the exit of the corner I hit a rock which I didn’t see hidden in the shadows. Immediately the front-right suspension was broken and one of the oil pipes was damaged, so I had to stop. On this rally there are so many rocks: sometimes you are lucky with them and sometimes you are unlucky, and I think I was unlucky. It is very frustrating because we were in such a good rhythm. My co-driver Miikka was really frustrated too, because he knew that I was not attacking too hard. I just need to put this behind me, and hope that I can get that good feeling again on the next rally. One thing is for sure: the car is really fast.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Craig Breen (6th)

“It was a pretty good leg for us, given our lack of knowledge of the stages. I think I made a real breakthrough in the afternoon, in trying to adapt my driving style to the handling of the C3 WRC. My time on the final stage shows this and that augurs well for the rest of the rally.”

Kris Meeke, Rally Argentina – Photo Credit Citroen Racing

Khalid Al Qassimi (15th)

“With the fog we experienced in recce, my pace notes weren’t perfect but we made it to the end of this leg whilst making steady progress. Although the first loop was difficult, I felt more confident on the afternoon loop thanks to the adjustments to my C3 WRC’ set-up by the technical team.”

 

Day Two – Saturday!

The crews had seven stages and 146.88km of action! The top cars would run in opposite order – Al Qassimi, Suninen, Evans, Lappi, Mikkelsen, Breen, Ogier, Sordo, Neuville, Meeke, Tänak.

 

Ott started the day where he left off, winning from Kris and extending his lead over the Citroen driver. Seb was doing his best to stay with the leaders but lost more time.

Stage ten saw the crews face the fog and Al Qassimi really struggled with this, using the brakes a lot just to be sure he’d complete the stage. Thierry and Dani were the closest challengers to Ott who won the stage, but Kris fell back a little and now the gap between them was over 30 seconds.  Thierry was now closer to Kris as a result.

Stage eleven saw more fog and a longer stage at 40km’s! Craig rolled out after losing control over a jump and his teammate Kris fell behind Thierry. We saw a welcome return to the front of Elfyn Evans who set the third fastest time and moved up one place to seventh. Ott’s lead was now a pretty comfortable 43 seconds.

The short 6km super special saw Thierry take a stage victory, his measured approach paying dividends, now ten seconds ahead of Kris. Dani was also driving well, his gap over Seb growing and hoping to take points away from Seb to benefit Hyundai’s best hope for the drivers’ championship (Thierry).

Ott continued to set the pace at the front in the first afternoon stage, number thirteen, and continued to open the gap over Thierry and Kris and was looking pretty comfortable.

The fog had now gone from the next stage, but Kris reported that it was very low grip after wearing his tyres more in the previous stage. He was now almost a minute behind the leader. The Hyundai twins of Thierry and Dani set exactly the same time, just 2.1 seconds slower than Ott.

The second running of the 40km stage saw disaster for Kris who ran over a stone and got a puncture immediately. He and Paul changed the tyre as fast as they could, but still lost two and a half minutes meaning that they dropped to eighth overall. The top three was now Ott followed by Thierry and Dani.

The Spaniard won the stage, ending Ott’s run of fastest times today. Esapekka also moved ahead of Elfyn into sixth after setting the second fastest time.

After all the drama, the top ten at the end of Saturday looked like this-

Classification after Day Two

1 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC 2:58:33.9
2 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +46.5
3 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:08.2
4 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC +1:59.0
5 A. Mikkelsen A. Jæger Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:13.8
6 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +2:42.9
7 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +2:49.1
8 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +3:20.4
9 T. Suninen M. Markkula Ford Fiesta WRC +4:17.6

Here’s the views then, starting with the top three.

Ott Tänak

“Everything has been working really well. I have a very good feeling with the car, and especially so on today’s roads, which were fast and flowing and suit our car very well. I was not pushing as hard as yesterday, when I was really on the limit. Today there was maybe a bit more control, but still the times were clearly quite good. This morning we had some really tricky conditions with really thick fog, but we managed it well and this afternoon was very enjoyable. I need to show respect for tomorrow’s stages, because El Condor and Mina Clavero are very tough pieces of road and very different compared to today, but I am feeling confident.”

 

Thierry Neuville

“I am pleased to have moved up into second place in the overall classification. We have had to stay really focused today. We lost a bit of time early on as we tackled the foggy morning stages but pushed as hard as we could. In the afternoon, with soft tyres, we had to take things carefully to avoid risking a puncture. We could have done a bit more but it wasn’t necessary. Ott has a commanding lead of this rally so our target tomorrow is to secure second place and maximise points for both championships.”

Dani Sordo

“The opening loop was really difficult in the fog, and it was impossible not to lose some time getting through in those conditions. Things improved at the end of the long stage but it offered a tough start to the day.  The fight for the podium places has been quite open. The final stage went really well – although I was a bit scared of the tyres because we were on the limit. We couldn’t afford a single mistake so we drove clean and just enjoyed it. In the end, the time was good and we moved back up to third. We will do all we can to keep this position on Sunday.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Argentina 26-29 April 2018
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th) said:

“I wasn’t committed enough to go for it in the fog this morning. I was a bit too careful and maybe also a bit distracted when I got the message that Craig [Breen] and Esapekka [Lappi] were stopped – thinking something worse would be coming. At least we are here now – finishing the day in the points which isn’t too bad for the championship.

“Dani [Sordo] did a great job today and it would have been difficult to catch him anyway. It looks as though we’re not as fast here as we have been at the previous events. Like last year we struggled with the pace and we’re not exactly sure why – so at the end of the day fourth position is not too bad.

“Tomorrow we will of course try to hold on to this position, and it would be good to grab some extra points in the power stage. The three stages tomorrow are the toughest challenge of the weekend. We’ll have to see what the weather does and – if it turns out to be foggy as it so often does on El Condor – it will be a challenge for sure.”

Elfyn Evans (7th) said:

“It’s been another tough day to be honest, and we were still struggling in all the clean stages. We were able to make a difference in the fog – pushing very hard and setting a pretty decent time – but we’re still not where we would like to be and need to find the answer.”

Teemu Suninen (9th) said:

“We’ve been the second car on the road today so we had a lot of cleaning to do. I was a bit disappointed with the time in last stage, but it’s all a learning curve and all okay. Tomorrow we will experience another completely different type of stage where the roads are a lot slower and a lot narrower. I’ve still got some homework to do, but hopefully next time we will be better.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport 

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

“We have used today to try and make up some places after our issue on Friday. The fact we are back into the top-five is a positive result considering where we were at the start of the day. We have made some changes to the car during the day in a bid to find more rear stability and there was a definite improvement. We are not a million miles behind Seb in fourth place but we are just trying to drive neat and tidy, and we’ll see where we end up tomorrow. As we’ve seen again today, this is a particularly tough and unpredictable rally.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi

“This morning started well: the car was working well and the setup felt good. Then on the long stage, I got a wrong pace-note, and in the fog, I couldn’t see anything and we went a long way off the road.

Luckily, we didn’t hit anything. This can happen, we are only human. The afternoon was really promising.

We all know the potential is there in the car, as Ott has been showing since yesterday, and I’m getting there step by step. I had some strong times and the road was getting cleaner for the drivers behind me, so, I’m pretty pleased with the speed. Every day is different here on Rally Argentina, and tomorrow’s stages are the slowest, very technical and narrow with a lot of rocks. Therefore, I don’t know if I can have the same confidence tomorrow, but I will certainly try for sure.”

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

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Kris Meeke (8th)

“There was a stone in the middle of the road and I couldn’t avoid it, given the width of the road. Unfortunately, I got a puncture straight away on the right rear tyre. It’s a shame because I was both quick and consistent, and I clearly felt capable of securing third place.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (14th)

“It wasn’t an easy day for us, mainly due to the fact we opened the road all day, which meant we spent the morning especially cleaning the road for those behind. I enjoyed the afternoon driving a C3 WRC that was more precise, despite making a minor mistake, which fortunately had no serious consequences.”

Craig Breen (DNF)

“Unfortunately, I turned in a bit too soon on a right-hander over a crest. I realised that I was going to hit a ditch so I tried to steer to avoid it but it was too little, too late and when we landed, we were thrown into a roll. Obviously, I’m sorry for the team, who deserved a better result, and am frustrated not to have been able to complete any more miles at this event, where I’m already short on experience. But I have to focus on the speed we showed at certain points and will aim to come back stronger in Portugal.”

 

Day Three – Sunday!

The last day then and with 55km’s spread between three stages and the narrowest stages including a double run of the iconic El Condor stage, with the added twist of running in the opposite direction this event could still throw up a surprise. The start list looked like this- Al Qassimi, Suninen, Meeke, Evans, Lappi, Mikkelsen, Ogier, Sordo, Neuville, Tänak.

Kris and Citroen were using the final day to test some changes and settings for Portugal and clearly it worked after setting the fourth fastest time and climbing one place to seventh. Esapekka lost a chunk of time dropping from sixth to eighth. Andreas won the stage with Seb just half a second slower and Ott third fastest with his lead now at 49 seconds, only disaster would stop him winning!

 

The penultimate stage, the longest of the final day at 22km. Tanak was taking a measured approach, whilst Thierry won the stage from Andreas and Dani. Despite being the third car on the road, Kris set a good time, just twelve seconds slower than Thierry for sixth fastest, the settings for Portugal proving their worth.

So, to the final stage and Thierry blazed through the stage and beat Seb to the power stage victory, taking all five points with Andreas third, Ott fourth and Kris fifth despite having to avoid a dog which he blamed for losing him half a second.

However, it was Ott Tanak’s weekend. He’d won his third rally and his first for Toyota. It was also their first victory of the year! He’d set the pace all weekend and brought himself into a championship battle with Seb and Thierry.

Final Overall Classification – Rally Argentina

1 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC 3:43:28.9
2 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +37.7
3 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:15.7
4 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC +1:58.6
5 A. Mikkelsen A. Jæger Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:02.6
6 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +3:06.3
7 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +3:25.7
8 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +4:32.6
9 T. Suninen M. Markkula Ford Fiesta WRC +5:38.6
10 P. Tidemand J. Andersson Škoda Fabia R5 +12:15.8

 

 

Let’s hear what he had to say.

Ott Tänak 

“It is very special to take my first win with the team. We have been improving the car very quickly, and it is now pretty much how I like it. It has been giving me great confidence. It is also great to see how much the team has been supporting me. To dominate a rally like this for the first time is very nice, but it has definitely not been easy. Earlier in the weekend I was pushing a lot. As the gap was growing it was possible for us to control it more and more, and today we were more on the safe side. The direction is good and we are closing up in the championship. It is still fairly early in the season, so now we just need to keep going in the same way in the coming rallies.”

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

Thierry Neuville

“I am thrilled to finish on the podium in Argentina and to have taken the Power Stage win. It has been something of a relief after the difficulties we had in Corsica, as we have been on the pace all weekend and felt completely comfortable with our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. The team has really done a great job for this rally and I am hugely thankful for everyone’s contribution. We knew we had to push on the Power Stage to take as many points as we could off Séb, and we were able to do that. I’m happy with what we take away from Argentina and look forward to Portugal.”

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

Dani Sordo

“What a fantastic rally this has been for the whole team. I am really happy to take my second podium of the season alongside Carlos, and to continue to show a competitive pace. The stage times have been very close all weekend long with lots of fighting for positions each day. Above all it has been a positive event for the team with a double podium that scores good manufacturer points. We didn’t take too many risks on this final day, concentrating on finishing third. Thankfully we had a decent buffer so could complete our mission to take the podium. We have had a huge support from the fans – we hope they enjoyed the show!”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“There was an amazing atmosphere this weekend and I’ve never seen so many fans out on the stages. It wasn’t an easy rally for us and we need to work on some areas to improve. But when you come away from a difficult event with 16 points, it’s not so bad.

“As expected, the stages were challenging again today. They were rough and slow with very low grip – and we weren’t super-fast in those conditions. We had to push hard to try and make a good time in the Power Stage, and we managed to grab four points which was important.”

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“All things considered, sixth place isn’t a bad result and it was good to get  some solid points on the board. But the pace just wasn’t there this weekend. It was disappointing and not what we came here to do. We need to do some analysis to try and understand why that was. The engineers will study the data, I’ll study the onboards, and hopefully we can get back on it in Portugal.”

Teemu Suninen (9th)

“It’s been a challenging weekend, but I have to say that the car has been amazing. It’s really nice to drive and really easy to drive. From that side I really enjoyed the rally – even though I would have liked to have been a bit faster.

“On Friday we weren’t able to set the fast times and that gave us the worst starting position for the next two days. It’s like that for everyone, but we need to work on having a better Friday so that we have a better starting position for the weekend.

“But overall it has been a good experience – not an easy one, but a good one. Next year it will be much easier to prepare as we’ll know what to expect and what the biggest challenges will be.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

“Firstly, I extend my congratulations to Thierry, Nicolas, Dani and Carlos for their podium results here in Argentina. From the team’s point of view, this was a very competitive weekend with all three cars inside the top-five. We had a positive final day with a stage win, a second place and three points from the Power Stage. Obviously, we would have liked to fight those couple of places higher up but unfortunately our time loss on Friday prevented us from doing that. It has been a very closely fought and tough weekend, which has been a pretty good start to the run of gravel events.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Kris Meeke (7th)

“It was a good day for us: we did set-up tests for Portugal and it was informative. The feeling was very good in the car. Apart from that, and the frustration of not being able to bring home the result that we deserved, the main thing for me is that the upgrades introduced this weekend to the C3 WRC enabled us to be a lot more consistent. I felt confident throughout the weekend, even when fighting for the podium. I felt that I had the situation under control at all times and we need to keep going in this direction.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (14th)

“Obviously, I’m disappointed for the team that we didn’t manage to secure a result that would reflect our real performance level. Nevertheless, I’m pleased to see our C3 WRC make regular progress and I’m convinced that this will lead to some good results very shortly. On a more personal note, running first on the road didn’t make life easy for me today, but I was happy to be back with the team and enjoy the atmosphere of the championship again.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT  

Esapekka Lappi (8th)

“I can take home some positives from my first Rally Argentina. My speed was actually better than I was expecting on my first time here. It helped that we seemed to have the best car here: Ott controlled the whole rally, congratulations to him. We had many issues with punctures during the weekend and we need to investigate what was causing them. Although we had many things that caused us to lose time, we managed to do all the stages and get the experience. This first part of the season was never going to be easy, with events I did not have enough experience on, but there have been positive moments and I will take this on to Portugal.”

The next round is in Portugal, held from the 17th of 20th of May. I think we are set for an amazing mid season, with just twenty-eight points between first and third places. Also Mads makes his second start of the year with Citroen and they are bringing three cars to the party!

Thierry should be very happy with his result, bringing the gap down to Seb to just ten points. Hayden Paddon is re-joining the Hyundai team in Portugal as well and will want to do well.

Finally, Elfyn and Dan will want to get a good result there as well. They’ve not had the best start to their campaign.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings 
After round 5

1 S. Ogier 100
2 T. Neuville 90
3 O. Tanak 72
4 A. Mikkelsen 54
5 D. Sordo 45
6 K. Meeke 43
7 E. Lappi 40
8 J.M Latvala 31
9 E. Evans 26
10 C. Breen 20
11 S. Loeb 15
12 H. Paddon 10

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 5

1 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 144
2 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 129
3 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 124
4 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 93

Rally Argentina 2018 Preview – Back to Gravel!

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

The WRC heads to Argentina for the fifth round of this year’s championship. Seb Ogier increased his lead over Thierry Neuville last time out with a dominant victory on the tricky roads that make the Tour de Corse. This year’s event features 18 stages and a very interesting twist at the end. El Condor, which is the Power Stage and is one of the most famous stages in the world will be tackled uphill this year.

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

Here’s the full stage schedule.

RALLY ARGENTINA SCHEDULE (GMT-3)

THURSDAY 26 APRIL

8.00am: Shakedown (Villa Carlos Paz – Cabalango)

6.30pm: Start (Villa Carlos Paz)

6.45pm: Regrouping (Villa Carlos Paz – 20 min)

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

7.33pm: Parc fermé (Villa Carlos Paz)

FRIDAY 27 APRIL

6.25am: Start and Service A (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)

8.10am: SS 2 – Las Bajadas – Villa Del Dique 1 (16,65 km)

9.00am: SS 3 – Amboy – Yacanto 1 (33,58 km)

10.13am: SS 4 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 1 (23,85 km)

12.08pm: SS 5 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 1 (6,04 km)

12.48pm: Service B (Villa Carlos Paz – 30 min)

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

3.38pm: SS 7 – Amboy – Yacanto 2 (33,58 km)

4.51pm: SS 8 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 2 (23,85 km)

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

SATURDAY 28 APRIL

7.30am: Start and Service D (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)

8.23am: SS 9 – Tanti – Mataderos 1 (13,92 km)

9.08am: SS 10 – Los Gigantes – Cuchilla Nevada 1 (16,02 km)

9.35am: SS 11 – Cuchilla Nevada – Rio Pintos 1 (40,48 km)

11.38am: SS 12 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 2 (6,04 km)

12.15pm: Service E (Villa Carlos Paz – 30 min)

1.23pm: SS 13 – Tanti – Mataderos 2 (13,92 km)

2.08pm: SS 14 – Los Gigantes – Cuchilla Nevada 2 (16,02 km)

2.35pm: SS 15 – Cuchilla Nevada – Rio Pintos 2 (40,8 km)

4.35pm: Flexi service F (Villa Carlos Paz – 45 min)

SUNDAY 29 APRIL

7.45am: Start and Service G (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)

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

9.55am: SS 17 – Giulio Cesare – Mina Clavero (22,41 km)

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

2.21pm: Service H (Villa Carlos Paz – 10 min)

2.31pm: Finish

 

There’s 358km of stages this year. Last year, we saw welsh wizard Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt drive brilliantly throughout the event, only to be denied victory after some technical problems by Thierry Neuville who won by just seven tenths of a second.

Here’s the views from the drivers then.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Rally Argentina is a famous event and one that attracts an incredible crowd of passionate rally fans. It creates a fantastic atmosphere that we appreciate during the stages. We have good memories of last year’s rally, which we won in dramatic style in the Power Stage.  I hope we can pull off a similar result this time around. It is a highly demanding event, very tough on the car and the crew, so it’s not one that we can take lightly.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Argentina
27-30 April 2017
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rally Argentina is probably one of my favourite rallies of the entire season. It is a very special type of gravel event because the roads are sandier which suits my driving style a bit more; you can really create an angle, which helps to attack the corner. The stages can get quite rough on the second pass so it’s important to take care of the car, but all in all it is a beautiful rally. El Condor and Mina Clavero are two stages I particularly look forward to.”

Dani Sordo

“The huge number of spectators really makes this a special rally for everyone. It is always nice to see so many people lining the routes and cheering us on. It gives us a real boost regardless of how we are performing. Of course, our aim is to be fighting towards the front. We have had a couple of solid results in a row, so we want to use the momentum to add another gravel podium to the one we scored in Mexico.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Argentina is a place where I have had some very enjoyable moments in the past, including my win there in 2014. It is a really challenging event and that makes it very satisfying when things are going well. There is a nice mixture of different stages over the weekend, from the fast and sandy roads in the valley on Friday to the rougher mountain stages on Sunday, including the famous El Condor, which is the Power Stage again this year. It is always a very spectacular stage with all of the fans up on the hillsides cheering us on. Argentina is a very demanding rally for the cars, and we learned a lot there as a team last year. Together, we are working hard to constantly improve the car, and hopefully we can show some good progress. It would be good to get some more points on the board.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Miikka Antilla. Photo credit – Toyota Gazoo Racing

Ott Tanak

“Rally Argentina has always been a tough event. There are some nice smooth and fast stages but also some pretty technical roads, so it’s a rally where you get a bit of everything in one weekend. It’s also really demanding on the cars, as the stages can get pretty rough. I finished third there last year, and that gives me confidence that I can perform well this time. I’m also feeling good after our pre-event test in Sardinia: the roads went from wet to dry during the test and the surface can be just as rough there, so I think that we got just the right conditions that we needed for a good test for Argentina. I am pretty happy with the improvements that we were able to make to the car and now I am eager to see how we are going to compare against the others.”

Esapekka Lappi

“Although I haven’t competed in Argentina before, I have done the recce twice, so I have some picture of what the rally is like. I have heard that it can be the toughest round of the championship: the surface can get very rough in places, and there are a lot of rocks, so you need to take care sometimes. It looks as though on Friday the roads are going to be a little bit softer than on Saturday, and then on Sunday in the mountains there will be more loose gravel and rocks. I am really confident that we can do much better in Argentina than in our last gravel rally in Mexico, where I think I learnt quite a lot. It is usually a rally where a lot of things can happen, so it might be that my main target will be to just try and stay out of trouble, but let’s see how it goes.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“I come into this fifth round very determined to move back up the championship standings, but this rally is such a challenge, you have to treat it with respect it deserves. I’ll do my very best, as always, but the weather may be a factor. The condition of the roads is often determined by how much rainfall there has been over the previous six months. In any case, it’s a rally that I really love, both for the wide range of difficulties involved and the warm, very enthusiastic welcome we get from the local fans. Added to which, I have always been comfortable here: I’ve finished on the podium twice in my four appearances, including my first WRC win.”

Craig Breen

“Having only raced here once before, and even then, only for part of the rally, when the other guys have been driving on these stages for years, I fear that my lack of knowledge may hamper me a bit. But I really enjoyed the brief glimpse of the rally that I got here last season and I can’t wait to get started. Testing went really well. It had been a little while since I had last driven the C3 WRC on gravel and the car has clearly improved on this surface. So, my confidence has been given a serious boost coming into this rally, which is set to be pretty demanding.”

Craig Breen, Scott Martin. Photo credit Citroen Racing.

Khalid Al Qassimi

“I think this rally is going to be a real challenge for me because it has been some time since I last competed here, but I am very much looking forward to it. I’ll have to get my bearings again, review and revise the pace notes for the stages. My sole aim is to make it to the finish and enjoy myself, whilst also supporting the team.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“We’ve made a great start to the season and come to Argentina with the ambition of continuing this positive start. It’s the only event Julien and I are yet to win and, even though I won’t be fixated on a win this week, I would also love to stand on the top step of the podium in Argentina!

“We know that the win won’t be easy, but we have made a lot of progress this year and will certainly give it our best. The competition is strong, but if we can limit the time loss on Friday, which will be the key, I’m sure we’ll be in with a chance.

“The car felt great last time out on gravel, but the surface in Argentina is completely different. The roads are much softer and sandier here, but also quite rough in places meaning that a good result is dependent on a compromise between speed and endurance.

“We completed a development test in Portugal last week and everything continues to go in the right direction. We’re keen to see what we can do next week, and optimistic of delivering another strong result.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 -WRC Mexico (MEX) – WRC 08/03/2018 to 11/03/2018 – PHOTO : @World

Elfyn Evans

“It’s great to see Dan fully recovered and back at an event that holds a lot of special memories for the both of us. It’s where we secured our first podium in 2015, and where we came so close to victory last year. That was a hard defeat to take at the time, but it made us stronger and we’ll be hoping to challenge for the top results again this year.

“It’s fair to say that I’ve not had the best start to the season, but we’re determined to turn that around this week. With a solid result in Corsica, and Dan back by my side in Argentina, we’re looking forward to the challenge and focused on delivering a strong result.

“You have to take a fairly measured approach to an event like this as there is very little margin for error. There’s the potential for something to catch you out around practically every corner – so you have to have a clean rally and keep mistakes to a minimum.

“We completed some development testing in the lead-up to this event where we were able to get a feel for driving on gravel again. We will have a fairly good road position for the opening day and the car feels good – so let’s see what we can do.”

Teemu Suninen

“Argentina will be an interesting event in that sense that I have not competed here before. We did the recce in 2016 and from what I can remember there are quite a few rhythm changes on the stages – high-speed roads often turning into very narrow tracks with no room to run wide.

“The rhythm change is the biggest challenge, but the roads are also soft in places and the risk of punctures is increased by small stones bordering the road.

“We completed a development test in Portugal and got some good kilometres under our belt on gravel. It was really important to have that test. We have trust in the car but I know that the conditions will be a little different in Argentina.

“My aim this week is to continue to learn, continue to gain experience and continue developing my driving. If we can do that, the good results will come too.”

 

Well, we are set for a very good rally. All the ingredients are there, with Kris and Thierry who have conquered these very challenging stages in recent years. Also, let’s not forget that Elfyn and Dan led a large portion last year, only to miss out by such a small amount in the end. Perhaps Seb will take his first win here this weekend. He’s come pretty close before, but with him opening the road throughout Friday, he’ll need to ensure that the time loss to the leaders is kept small.

One driver missing, which is a shame, is 2016 winner Hayden Paddon. I’m surprised that Hyundai didn’t have him in the third i20 this weekend. Still, we’ll see him next time in Rally Portugal.

Enjoy the rally!

Phil Hall’s Tour de Corse Diary.

Hello rally fans. This is the first in a series of Rally Diaries that Phil Hall, Co-Driver to Tom Williams will be providing for you to enjoy. Here, Phil shows the whole week dedicated to Tour de Corse. Enjoy!

 

Reece Day One

Monday the 4th of April

Phil Hall – Photo courtesy of M-Sport.

Recce on Corsica is a challenge in itself. Writing down a seemingly endless stream of pacenotes whilst trying to navigate (including turning pages in the pacenote and road books independently) requires no small amount of multitasking and coordination. Because of the sheer number of corners, I actually use 50% more pages of paper in Corsica than a ‘normal’ rally.

Today was the first day of recce and saw us cover 3 incredible stages in the north of the island. In Sweden we found Elk, in Mexico we found goats, and today we found a herd of cows. We are certainly discovering plenty of wildlife this year.

Reece Day Two.

Tuesday the 5th of April

This is where we see the full breadth of road types on the island; from race track smooth 2 lane winding up the valleys, to slimy and gravely ‘barely there’ slivers of asphalt clinging to mountain sides.

The pinnacle of today is a 49km stage that covers everything this rally has to throw at you. And it takes so many pages of pacenotes, I started an entirely new book for this stage just to be sure I had enough.

You have to really focus on the pacenotes here, there are so many variables. It’s a great challenge.

Reece day Three.

Wednesday the 4th of April

The final day of Recce, on paper, looks simple enough. Just 2 stages. But when one of them is a Monster 55km Corsican legend, the day continues the challenging theme of the event.

72 pages; concentrating on making quality notes for nearly an hour and a half straight, reading the road and writing it down, page after page. It’s a real team effort.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 -WRC Tour de Corse (FRA) – WRC 04/04/2018 to 08/04/2018 – PHOTO : @World

An incredible stage to (almost) finish the rally, as the penultimate test of the event it will make Sunday an exciting prospect to say the least!

Friday, 6th of April – Day One of Competition.

Only two stages repeated sounds quite simple. Except this is Corsica. A 50km monster followed by a fast and flowing test was a true challenge.

Reading pace notes for 40 minutes nonstop is a work of concentration and endurance. Especially as the car is moving around so much on the twisty roads.

The conditions today saw a lot of gravel on the roads and some damp and wet patches in places that only added to the difficulty. However, we had a good clean day and I’m looking forward to tomorrow (Saturday).

Saturday, 7th of April- Day Two

Saturday was a huge day of the rally, an early start and a late finish. Though only covering two loops of 3 stages, the day was a complex challenge. We had three very different stages to contend with; the opening test was long and narrow through mountainous terrain with a lot of bridges and big drops (!), the second was more like a race track, wide and flowing with smooth and consistent tarmac, the final stage was possibly the trickiest with a lot of gravel and dirt on the road whilst still being fast.

We got a front puncture on the first stage of the day and had to change it, we are well practised at changing the wheels but we still lost quite a lot of time. The rest of the days stages went smoothly, or as smoothly as any Corsican stage can go.

Sunday, 8th of April- Day Three

Sunday had only two stages, the first being over 55km in length! We had a really good run over both stages, we had learnt a lot over the rally and were starting to get everything to work really well. Reading pacenotes flat out for nearly 40 minutes is a challenge and shows why co-drivers have to be fit as well as drivers. We had no straight longer than 150m in the whole rally, and corner after corner had to be delivered exactly on time. That’s a lot of processing power being used!

Tom Williams – Photo courtesy of M-Sport.

Corsica is one of my favourite rallies, and I can’t wait to be back next year. Our next JWRC event is WRC Portugal.

Phil Hall and Tom Williams – Junior WRC – Photo courtesy of Phil Hall

A huge thanks to Tom for a great drive, M-Sport for a great car and team, and my supporters ITSMYMOTORSPORT and the Royal Air Force.

Tour de Corse – Day Three

The final day then, and even though there were only two stages, we had the prospect of the longest stage of the whole weekend, the monster 55km stage!

The start list looked like this – Mikkelsen, Evans, Sordo, Lappi, Neuville, Tänak, Ogier, Meeke, Loeb.

Sadly, Latvala wouldn’t start. His Toyota was too damaged.

The stage start was slightly delayed, but once started, Andreas launched his car. He’d been battling understeer all weekend and was not able to show the pace that you’d expect from him. He set the benchmark at 34 minutes and 9 seconds. In the end, his time was beaten by several other drivers and our top three was Tanak, Meeke and Neuville. Ogier was fourth fastest and held a lead of 31 seconds over second placed Tanak going into the twelve and final stage.

The powerstage followed a couple of hours later. Who would top the times? Citroen and Toyota had provided the cars most likely since the start of Saturday.

It was Lappi who emerged fastest, with Loeb, Ogier, Meeke and Tanak completing the top five in the stage. Thierry suffered a mechanical problem with his Hyundai’s engine. He was not happy and didn’t even give an interview at the end of the stage.

 

Summing up the final day and the weekend as a whole.

Ogier had taken victory, thus extending his championship lead over the Belgian to 17 points. He’d been fast out of the blocks on Friday morning, building a lead whilst Thierry, Kris and Jari-Matti all struggled with their cars.

Loeb’s return to Corsica had promised so much and probably left more unanswered questions than before. If he returned to the championship, I believe he’d be right at the front. He’s lost none of his speed.

What of Thierry then? He had a frustrating weekend but finished on the podium. The consistency he craves is there, it’s just that the man he wants to beat is also getting good results.

Next up is Kris. He’d driven well on the whole with a car that wasn’t doing what he wanted and then on Saturday when the car was put back to the settings they used last year he was on the pace we expect from him. Such a shame then that he slid off on the final stage of Saturday and couldn’t get back on the road.

Finally, Jari-Matti. He won this event three years ago, but Toyota just didn’t have the right settings for any of its drivers to show their pace early on, but once they’d got the car where they wanted, we saw Lappi and Tanak both come forwards. Jari-Matti was starting to benefit from these settings when he had his off that led to his retirement. Hopefully this will lead to better things in Germany, the next all tarmac rally.

Looking ahead to the next event, Rally Argentina, later this month, a place that has seen first time winners in recent years. Perhaps we’ll see the Hyundai, Citroen and Toyota teams take the fight to M-Sport?

 

Let’s hear from the drivers then.

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It’s been a really good weekend for us and I am very happy with the performance. We had great pace on Friday and then just had to manage the gap after that.

“It was really satisfying to show this kind of speed – especially after last year where it was a bit more difficult. Now it seems like everything is going in the right direction – we have made some developments and I am feeling better and better in the car.”

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia win the 2018 Tour de Corse! Photo credit M-Sport WRT

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“Overall it has been a very nice weekend. Corsica has always been the event which I maybe enjoy the least: I have really struggled here in the past. This year I worked really hard to be consistently on the pace. We were never pushing to the maximum but we were always setting a good rhythm. On the penultimate stage, I had a really clean run and I tried to be close to the maximum all the time, and it looked like it paid off. On the Power Stage, I took no risks: I just wanted to make sure we finished in second position, which was very important. For my first time on proper asphalt with Toyota, I’m happy with that.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 04, Rallye de France, Tour de Corse 2018 / April 5-8, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“It’s good to finish on the podium but there has been a bit of frustration over the weekend. We haven’t been able to match the times of the front-runners, even if we tried really hard. We have to be content with the results we have achieved, securing a podium and important points for the manufacturers’ championship. In general, I am pleased with the final result but in terms of outright performance we were just not on the pace this weekend.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04 Rallye de France
05-08 April 2018
Action
Day 3
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (4th)

“Our end result is not too bad considering the disappointing weekend we have had in Corsica. We have just not been able to find the speed and performance needed to tackle these roads. It was a similar story today; we have pushed as hard as we can but the times have not been there. Still, fourth place gives us important points for the championship so that’s something positive we can take away. Now we need to work together as a team to get more speed on tarmac for later in the season.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (7th)

“Absolutely not the result we wanted and a very difficult weekend overall. We made some more set-up changes for this morning’s two stages but unfortunately, we couldn’t find the breakthrough that we needed. It has been a challenging rally but we know that we have to do to gain more experience with this car on tarmac. We need more mileage to understand where we can find more performance from ourselves and from the car. We have some time before the next asphalt event in Germany, so we have to put in lots of effort to make the improvements we need. That’s the homework we are taking from this weekend.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Elfyn Evans (5th)

“It was never going to be an easy weekend for us, but Phil has done an incredible job – jumping in at the last minute and getting us through without incident. We’ve collected some solid points which is what we came here to do. There is still a lot of work to do as far as the championship is concerned, but at least we can go to Argentina in a positive frame of mind and try to push for a strong result.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (6th)

“I think we have learned a lot here both as drivers and as a team. We have been able to find a good setup for the car. Yesterday was really perfect, and the speed was good on the final day as well. Unfortunately, I made a small mistake, which I take full responsibility for. I guess the rear tyres were still a bit cold and I lost the rear a bit and hit a kerb on the outside. We broke part of the rim and the tyre started to come off so we had to stop and change it. After that it was good to win the Power Stage: there was actually more grip than I was expecting, so I just pushed harder and harder.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke (9th)

“Obviously, it’s frustrating to have dropped out of contention yesterday when a top three place was clearly within our reach, but we had to get back at it today and I think we have proven our ability to do just that. We are already looking ahead and we’ll be trying and get back on the podium and turn our speed into good results at the next few races.”

Kris Meeke, Paul Nagle – Citroen Racing

 Sébastien Loeb (14th)

“It’s a real shame that we went off on Friday. We would have undoubtedly been right in the mix otherwise. In any case, I’m delighted to have been on the pace again this weekend for our second one-off appearance of the season. I prefer to focus on the enjoyment we have had throughout the weekend in the C3 WRC. It is a really formidable car on tarmac and I really enjoyed driving it on these magnificent Corsican roads. It was also very nice to feel all the love and support from the French fans at our home event.”

 

Final Overall Classification – Tour de Corse

1              S. Ogier                 J. Ingrassia                                 3:26:52.7

2              O. Tänak              M. Järveoja                                          +36.1

3              T. Neuville           N. Gilsoul                                         +1:07.5

4              D. Sordo               C. del Barrio                                   +2:02.6

5              E. Evans                P. Mills                                               +2:06.1

6              E. Lappi                 J. Ferm                                              +2:33.5

7              A. Mikkelsen      A. Jæger                                           +2:43.4

8              J. Kopecky           P. Dresler                                      +10:34.8

9              K. Meeke            P. Nagle                                           +10:40.5

10           Y. Bonato             B. Boulloud                                    +12:26.0

 

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings

After round 4

 

1              S. Ogier                 84

2              T. Neuville           67

3              O. Tanak               45

4              A. Mikkelsen      41

5              K. Meeke             36

6              E. Lappi                36

7              J.M Latvala          31

8              D. Sordo               30

9              C. Breen               20

10           E. Evans                18

11           S. Loeb                  15

12           H. Paddon           10

 

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings

After round 4

1              Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team                       111

2              M-Sport Ford World Rally Team                                    107

3              Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team                     93

4              Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team                81

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