Hyundai launch 2017 WRC Challenger!


December 2, 2016


Warren Nel

Yesterday, Hyundai launched their new WRC car at the Cathedral of Speed in Autodromo Naz Monza!

Unlike last year’s car, it’s based on the three door i20. With completely new regulations, the car has been completely re-designed. More power, lighter and with new mechanicals as well, there is an air of anticipation as to what they could achieve with this car.

Hyundai says

‘The technical new regulations for 2017 have been introduced to enhance the overall spectacle of WRC even further than before, with cars sporting an aggressive new look. While changes have centred on improving aerodynamic and mechanical grip, there has been an increase in engine power from 300 to 380bhp, a reduction in the overall weight of the car, and the re-introduction of the active centre differential.’

The new car has done 6000km of testing this year! Hayden Paddon recently told me that he’d done 800km himself.

Last year saw the team take two victories in Rally Argentina with Hayden and also Thierry who won Rally Italia de Sardegna. The team also picked up a number of podiums, meaning that they’d finish second in the Manufacturers championship. 2016 was a very good year for the team.

The drivers said at the launch;

Hyundai Motorsport
2017 Team Launch
Monza, 1st December 2016
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Sarah Vessely
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville said: “I have high hopes for our new Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, which is the product of a lot of hard work from everyone in the team. I am optimistic it will help us to continue our momentum in the competitive WRC. My initial impressions of the car in testing were very positive. The changes in regulations have allowed us to make improvements in key areas, such as aerodynamics and rear stability. The increase in power is incredible while the additional grip and driveability gives us more confidence to push. For the spectators, there will be a visibly marked difference in terms of the car’s speed. I can assure you we will be able to feel it in the car too! We had a very positive 2016 season, and I was delighted to finish the season second in the Championship. Of course, from here there is only one place to go, and we want to be firmly in the fight for the title in 2017.”

Hyundai Motorsport
2017 Team Launch
Monza, 1st December 2016
Hayden Paddon
Photographer: Sarah Vessely
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Hayden Paddon commented: “My target for 2017 is to continue the improvements we showed during this past season. I want to start challenging for more rally wins and demonstrate more consistent speed throughout the year. The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC is enjoyable to drive and I think it will be more exciting for the spectators too. I like that the cars will be more tuneable to each driver and driving style. The new regulations will help to make the sport even more appealing to a new generation of motorsport fans. With more radical looking and sounding cars, I think we will be able to attract a younger fan base that may not have been so familiar with rallying before. On a personal note, I feel happy to remain part of the Hyundai Motorsport family. We all know each other very well and we grow stronger all the time. There is a great team spirit and it’s amazing to work with such a highly-motivated group of people.”

Hyundai Motorsport
2017 Team Launch
Monza, 1st December 2016
Dani Sordo
Photographer: Sarah Vessely
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo said: “We are all looking forward to this new season. It will be a fascinating one for everybody with the new technical and sporting regulations. With such a significant change, we will have to wait until the first rallies of the Championship to see how things develop, but I am confident. When I first tested the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, I was taken aback by the speed of the car. The more powerful engine and increased grip from the aerodynamics are impressive. I am sure this will be an exciting season to be a WRC spectator as well as for us inside the car! It’s very special for me to remain part of the Hyundai Motorsport team. It’s more than just team; it really is like a family. We work very well together and the atmosphere is incredible. The people in this team are some of the best in the business, so we have everything we need for a competitive car and a successful 2017.”

Hyundai Motorsport
2017 Team Launch
Monza, 1st December 2016
Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Michel Nandan
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “We are heading into a new era for the sport with the biggest change to the regulations for some time. It’s a great new technical challenge and one that we have tackled with enthusiasm. It’s an opportunity to put into practice everything we have learned and experienced in the past three seasons. All teams are starting from scratch so we are on equal footing. Having finished in second position in 2016, we want to demonstrate our ability to fight for the Championship in 2017 – and we are confident the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC will help us do just that.”

So, can the team build on their success last year and challenge for both titles? With Citroen coming back full time and M-Sport WRT who will definitely be stronger next year, they will find it tough.

Not long before we find out now!

Warren Nel



2016 FIA World RX Rallycross Championship / Round 12 / Rosario, Argentina / November 25 – 28, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: IMG/McKlein

Norway’s Andreas Bakkerud has won World RX of Argentina, the final round of the 2016 FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy at the wheel of his Hoonigan Racing Division Ford Focus RS RX Supercar. Volkswagen RX Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson and EKS driver Topi Heikkinen finished second and third. EKS has clinched the 2016 World RX Teams’ Championship as team-mates Mattias Ekstrom and Topi Heikkinen racked up enough points during qualifying to scoop the coveted title ahead of Team Peugeot-Hansen.

2016 FIA World RX Rallycross Championship / Round 12 / Rosario, Argentina / November 25 – 28, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: IMG/McKlein

Ekstrom was crowned this year’s World RX drivers’ champion at the previous round in Germany after scoring enough points to secure the accolade before Argentina. In the three-way battle for the 2016 World RX runner-up spot, it was Kristoffersson who came out top – only one point ahead of Bakkerud and Solberg who finished third and fourth respectively.

“Now that it’s been confirmed that I’m third in the driver standings, I’m feeling very emotional – I’ve had so many people supporting me on my route to be here today and it’s a great feeling,” explained Bakkerud, who also wins the Monster Energy Super Charge Award following his rapid start off the front row of the final. “I am very proud of myself and want to thank all my partners and fans for supporting me. Ever since Ken called me last year to confirm that I was his team-mate, it’s been an incredible journey. Today was a very hard race because there was so much on the line and I’m just so happy that I secured a podium in the Drivers’ World Championship.”

2016 FIA World RX Rallycross Championship / Round 12 / Rosario, Argentina / November 25 – 28, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: IMG/McKlein

Second-placed Kristoffersson ends the year second in the standings – one better than his third place finish last year. He explained: “After the semi-final, I knew I had to finish P1 or P2 in the final to get second overall so the pressure was on. Once I got to turn three, I just focused on staying behind Andreas and keeping everything clean.”

2016 FIA World RX Rallycross Championship / Round 12 / Rosario, Argentina / November 25 – 28, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: IMG/McKlein

Newly-crowned 2016 World RX Champion Mattias Ekstrom spoke highly of his team-mate Heikkinen, who finished second today, and EKS taking the 2016 teams’ title. The new 2016 World RX Champion commented: “We have always dreamed of this moment but with the level of competition in World RX, it hasn’t been easy. As a driver and team owner, this year has been fantastic – only three years ago we were starting out with a blank sheet of paper and now we are double champions, it is just the best feeling. For the driver it is nice, but for the team it is even better as everyone has worked so hard.”

2016 FIA World RX Rallycross Championship / Round 12 / Rosario, Argentina / November 25 – 28, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: IMG/McKlein

Timo Scheider took the best result of the year for ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport after finishing fourth this weekend in a Seat Ibiza. The German DTM driver was delighted with his performance: “It felt awesome to make it through to the final after our issues with the power steering and we really found some pace this weekend.”

2016 FIA World RX Rallycross Championship / Round 12 / Rosario, Argentina / November 25 – 28, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: IMG/McKlein

The 2015 Argentina RX winner Robin Larsson qualified for today’s final and finished sixth in his privately-run Audi A1. Last year’s World RX Champion Petter Solberg looked on course for a strong finish after completing a clean sweep of qualifying race victories – a feat only accomplished once before in World RX history. The Norwegian started on pole of today’s semi-final one but sustained steering damage at turn one and later hit a tyre barrier. Despite Solberg and Bakkerud being tied on points, Bakkerud beat his fellow Norwegian to third place because he has more event wins.

Timmy Hansen finished a difficult weekend in 13th place. Hansen’s team-mate Sebastien Loeb started on the front row of the second semi-final but failed to reach the final after getting stuck in race traffic. Germany RX winner Kevin Eriksson was unable to repeat his Estering performance and finished the event 16th in his OMSE-run Ford Fiesta RX Supercar.

World RX Managing Director for IMG, Paul Bellamy, concluded: “Congratulations to EKS which has made it a double victory this year by winning both the drivers’ and the teams’ championships which is an extraordinary achievement. Today we saw three Audis in the final for the first time with Mattias, Topi and Robin all representing the marque. We also witnessed a fiercely-fought battle for second and third place in the drivers’ standings – Andreas took the event win but it was Johan who edged ahead in the standings by a single point. It’s quite incredible to think that our second, third and fourth placed drivers are separated by only one point at the end of 12 events. Now we have a four-and-a-half month break before the 2017 season-opener in Barcelona next April but first we are off to the FIA prize-giving in Vienna where we will watch Mattias and EKS crowned the new drivers’ and teams’ champions after what has been a year of fantastic race action.”

(c) all photographs courtesy of FIA World Rallycross

Neil Simmons


Rally Australia Review- The last hurrah for Volkswagen

Rally Australia represented the end of an era for a number of reasons. First of all, it was the last rally for the current regulations for car specification. Then came the news that Volkswagen were pulling out of the championship at the end of this year as well.

At the end of shakedown, Seb and Andreas were at the top. Ott was also right there, showing great pace in the D-Mack shod Fiesta RS WRC.

01. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, 3m 01.5s

02. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen, + 0.1s

03. Ott Tänak/Raigo Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford, + 0.8s

04. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai, +1.0s

05. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai, + 1.0s

06. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 1.1s

This were the stages awaiting the crews on Friday.




09:48AM SS4 – NEWRY16 I





03:02PM SS9 – NEWRY16 II



So, at the end of stage one, with so many questions hanging over his future, Andreas won the stage to take a lead of just a little over a second from Ott. Thierry, who was one of the drivers who could finish as runner up to champion Seb was way off the pace. It didn’t start well for Jari-Matti…. He clipped some Armco on a bridge and broke his right rear suspension.

Stage one

1. A. MIKKELSEN 4:55.9

2. O. TANAK 4:57.2 +1.3

3. M. OSTBERG 4:57.3 +1.4

4. H. PADDON 4:57.3 +1.4

5. D. SORDO 4:57.7 +1.8

6. S. OGIER 5:00.3 +4.4

7. T. NEUVILLE 5:01.5 +5.6

8. E. CAMILLI 5:01.8 +5.9

9. L. BERTELLI 5:04.6 +8.7

10. E. LAPPI 5:06.5 +10.6

So, to stage two then and after he’d taken the decision to do something different with his tyres, Hayden took the lead of the event with a great time through Bakers Creek. Jari-Matti got his car temporarily fixed, but would have to wait till midday service before he’d get the car back to the point where he could push hard. This meant that through the remaining stages, he’d have to limp through. Very frustrating for the flying Finn.

Stage two

1. H. PADDON 10:05.5

2. A. MIKKELSEN 10:07.5 +2.0

3. O. TANAK 10:09.2 +3.7

4. D. SORDO 10:09.8 +4.3

5. M. OSTBERG 10:10.8 +5.3

6. E. CAMILLI 10:11.4 +5.9

7. T. NEUVILLE 10:12.2 +6.7

8. S. OGIER 10:14.0 +8.5

9. E. LAPPI 10:26.8 +21.3

10. L. BERTELLI 10:29.1 +23.6

The stages were coming thick and fast…. Just half a hour after stage two started, it was time for stage three. Andreas fought back and retook the lead from Hayden at the end of this one. Eric drove well through here as well and the experienced Mads also was showing good pace in fourth.

Stage 3

1. A. MIKKELSEN 5:49.3

2. H. PADDON 5:51.0 +1.7

3. E. CAMILLI 5:51.5 +2.2

4. M. OSTBERG 5:51.7 +2.4

5. O. TANAK 5:51.8 +2.5

6. D. SORDO 5:51.9 +2.6

7. T. NEUVILLE 5:54.0 +4.7

8. S. OGIER 5:55.8 +6.5

9. L. BERTELLI 5:59.9 +10.6

10. E. LAPPI 6:01.3 +12.0

Stage four next and just 2.6 seconds separated Andreas from Seb. Sadly, Ott spun in this one and lost 30 seconds and tumbled down the leaderboard.

Stage four

1. A. MIKKELSEN 6:22.6

2. S. OGIER 6:25.2 +2.6

3. T. NEUVILLE 6:28.7 +6.1

4. D. SORDO 6:28.8 +6.2

5. E. CAMILLI 6:32.7 +10.1

6. H. PADDON 6:35.2 +12.6

7. M. OSTBERG 6:36.8 +14.2

8. L. BERTELLI 6:46.0 +23.4

9. E. LAPPI 6:48.8 +26.2

10. O. TANAK 6:53.2 +30.6

Just Stage 5 next before the midday service and Andreas took his fourth stage win out of five. Seb was right there though, showing he wasn’t about to give up at all.

Stage five times

1. A. MIKKELSEN 1:17.6

2. T. NEUVILLE 1:17.6 +0.0

3. S. OGIER 1:17.7 +0.1

4. H. PADDON 1:18.1 +0.5

5. D. SORDO 1:18.4 +0.8

6. N. FUCHS 1:18.8 +1.2

7. E. CAMILLI 1:19.3 +1.7

8. O. TANAK 1:19.3 +1.7

9. E. LAPPI 1:19.5 +1.9

10. M. OSTBERG 1:19.6 +2.0

Jari-Matti of course was glad to get back to the service park, so the Volkswagen team could fix his rear suspension.

So, at the midday break, Andreas had a 14 second lead over second placed Hayden Paddon.

Stage six next and Andreas took that as well. He was really in the groove and doing an exceptional job. Jari-Matti would go well through here too.

Stage six times

1.A. MIKKELSEN 4:50.5

2.J. LATVALA 4:50.8 +0.3

3.S. OGIER 4:52.1 +1.6

4.D. SORDO 4:52.6 +2.1

5.O. TANAK 4:52.7 +2.2

6.H. PADDON 4:52.7 +2.2

7.M. OSTBERG 4:53.3 +2.8

8.E. CAMILLI 4:53.7 +3.2

9.T. NEUVILLE 4:54.2 +3.7

10.L. BERTELLI 4:59.7 +9.2

Stage seven and it was a stage victory for Thierry and now that Jari-Matti had a car that handled properly, he could get the hammer down. He would finish this stage in second as well.

Stage seven times

1.T. NEUVILLE 9:48.8

2.J. LATVALA 9:49.6 +0.8

3.A. MIKKELSEN 9:51.2 +2.4

4.S. OGIER 9:51.3 +2.5

5.H. PADDON 9:51.6 +2.8

6.E. CAMILLI 9:52.3 +3.5

7.D. SORDO 9:53.8 +5.0

8.O. TANAK 9:54.7 +5.9

9.M. OSTBERG 9:55.0 +6.2

10.L. BERTELLI 10:09.4 +20.6

It took till stage eight for Seb to get his first stage win of the event. He closed the gap a little to Andreas as well. Thierry was also showing good pace now in his Hyundai. He’d make some tweaks to his car during the midday service and was now more able to express himself.

Stage eight times

1. S. OGIER 5:37.5

2.T. NEUVILLE 5:39.2 +1.7

3. A. MIKKELSEN 5:40.1 +2.6

4.H. PADDON 5:40.7 +3.2

5.M. OSTBERG 5:40.8 +3.3

6.O. TANAK 5:41.0 +3.5

7.D. SORDO 5:41.3 +3.8

8.J. LATVALA 5:42.0 +4.5

9.E. CAMILLI 5:44.8 +7.3

10.L. BERTELLI 5:47.1 +9.6

At the end of this stage, Andreas had pulled further clear of Hayden, his lead now 17 seconds and Seb was getting closer to taking second place away from Hayden as well. Thierry was also pretty close to Seb as well.

So, stage nine next and this fell to ever present Seb again who went through 7.2 seconds quicker than Hayden, whose tyres were starting to give up. He would drop from second place to fourth sadly.

Stage nine times

1.S. OGIER 6:13.8

2.T. NEUVILLE 6:16.2 +2.4

3.A. MIKKELSEN 6:16.2 +2.4

4.O. TANAK 6:18.3 +4.5

5.J. LATVALA 6:19.6 +5.8

6.H. PADDON 6:21.0 +7.2

7.M. OSTBERG 6:22.7 +8.9

8.E. CAMILLI 6:23.8 +10.0

9.D. SORDO 6:24.5 +10.7

10.L. BERTELLI 6:35.3 +21.5

Stage ten and eleven were short stages at the end of the first day and Seb won them both.

Stage ten times

1.S. OGIER 1:02.4

2.A. MIKKELSEN 1:02.9 +0.5

3.J. LATVALA 1:03.8 +1.4

4.T. NEUVILLE 1:03.9 +1.5

5.M. OSTBERG 1:04.0 +1.6

6.D. SORDO 1:04.1 +1.7

7.H. PADDON 1:04.5 +2.1

8.O. TANAK 1:05.8 +3.4

9.E. CAMILLI 1:06.5 +4.1

10.E. LAPPI 1:06.5 +4.1

Stage eleven times

1.S. OGIER 1:02.0

2.H. PADDON 1:02.8 +0.8

3.T. NEUVILLE 1:02.9 +0.9

4.A. MIKKELSEN 1:02.9 +0.9

5.L. BERTELLI 1:03.4 +1.4

6.M. OSTBERG 1:03.5 +1.5

7.J. LATVALA 1:03.8 +1.8

8.D. SORDO 1:04.0 +2.0

9.O. TANAK 1:04.1 +2.1

10.E. LAPPI 1:04.5 +2.5

So, at the end of the first day down under, Andreas had a 15.4 second lead over Seb. There was also a battle between Thierry and Hayden for third, with just over a second between them.

01. Mikkelsen/Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen, 57m 16.7s

02. Ogier/Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, + 15.4s

03. Neuville/Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai, + 22.5s

04. Paddon/Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai, + 23.7s

05. Østberg/Fløene(N/N), Ford, + 38.8s

06. Camilli/Veillas (F/F), Ford, + 46.6s

07. Sordo/Martí (E/E), Hyundai, + 50.2s

08. Tänak/Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford, + 1m 30.6s

09. Lappi/JFerm(FIN/FIN), Škoda, + 2m 20.3s

10. Bertelli/Scattolin (I/I), Ford, + 2m 24.7s

16. Latvala/Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen, + 7m 53.4s

Here’s the driver’s thoughts then at the end of day one.

Volkswagen Motorsport

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

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“A good start for us here in Australia. I am very happy with second place for Julien and me. The afternoon conditions were better than expected. I was flat out all day. After all, we have nothing to lose here. The heat is definitely a factor. If it is as hot as this tomorrow, it will be a very tiring 50 kilometres against the clock on ‘Nambucca’. The temperature will also play a role with the tyres. Whatever happens, I will try to stay ahead of Thierry Neuville, in order to help Andreas and Anders in the battle for second place in the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championship.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

“I don’t know how often I’ve been in this situation this year. No sooner had the rally got underway, than it was over for me again. I lost a bit of grip in a long right-hander just before a bridge on the opening stage, and caught the bridge with the rear-right tyre. It was not a big impact, but we suffered a damaged suspension as a result and had lost a lot of time by the midday service. This is obviously not how we wanted to say goodbye to the team on our final appearance for Volkswagen. We must now end the rally with dignity.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“An absolutely perfect day for us – it doesn’t get much better than that. The Polo R WRC was better than ever in the morning. The set-up was ideal and fantastic to drive. The conditions out on the route changed in the afternoon, and we struggled a bit with oversteering and understeering at times. We expected to lose a lot of time on those behind us. To lead the rally and have won five stages on the way is absolutely perfect. If we want to clinch second place in the world championship, we are almost compelled to win – and that is exactly what we are trying to achieve here. Our goal has to be to have a good lead by Saturday evening, then we will have a good chance of crossing the finish line in front on Sunday. To achieve this, however, we still have a lot of hard work ahead of us.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville said: “The morning loop went OK. Our goal was to keep up with Seb (Ogier), who was starting first on the road – just ahead of us. In those conditions, we could run quite close, better than expected to be honest. The afternoon loop went well, and we could set some fast times, which moved us up the classification. Andreas is doing well, and leading the rally, so we know we have to maintain our speed and rhythm in our fight for second in the Championship.”

Hayden Paddon said: “All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with how this opening day has gone. The first three stages were to my liking, everything was flowing and the car felt good. The only real disappointment was the fourth stage, which didn’t go to plan. We had a lot of moments, and the balance of the car wasn’t ideal. A few half spins lost us some time. We tried something different with the tyres in the first loop with a mix of hard and soft. The afternoon went without any real dramas, and I think we’re well placed for the remainder of the rally. We’re still in the hunt; I’m feeling relaxed and comfortable.”

Dani Sordo said: “It’s been a really disappointing day for us. We started well and were in the fight after the opening three stages. But the time penalty has cost us a 20-second penalty. We misjudged the time we had to make it to SS4. After changing tyres on the road section, we were under some pressure and we missed two junctions on the way to the stage. These things can happen; we are only human. But it’s still immensely frustrating. There’s a long way to go in this rally and we’ll keep pushing.”

M-Sport WRT

Mads Østberg (5th) said:

“It’s been a good day. We had quite a big moment in the morning, but we got away with it and I’m pleased to see that we are competitive and posting times to challenge the leaders.

“We seemed to lose quite a lot of time on both passes of the Newry stage (SS4 and SS9) and would have been even closer were it not for that. Okay, we were on the same pace as those around us, but there was quite a big gap to the guys ahead so we need to understand why that was.

“Apart from that, it’s been good. We’re only 15 seconds shy of the podium and it’s great to be back in the fight. We’ll do what we can to continue that fight tomorrow.”

Éric Camilli (6th) said:

“It’s been a really good day for us. We didn’t expect to be this competitive straight away so that is always great to see. We showed some really good speed in places and set the third fastest time on the third stage of the morning.

“This is our first time here and we took a lot of pleasure from the stages. We had a lot of confidence with the car and that was a big positive for us – especially after the last couple of events.

“We’ll try to continue like this for the rest of the rally and hope to secure a good result at the end.”

Day two, Saturday. These were the stages that were ahead of them all. The significant one was Nambucca. It was the longest stage of the itinerary at 50km’s. Tyre choice would be critical.


09:37AM SS13 – VALLA 16 I



02:25PM SS16 – VALLA16 II



Hayden made an excellent start to win stage 12 with Jari-Matti 2.5 seconds and second fastest and rally leader Andreas 10 seconds slower. Hayden drove a stormer to halve Andreas’ lead and move back into second place overall! This was despite dust coming into the car that he admitted was quite a distraction.

Dani also moved ahead of Eric into sixth place overall.

Stage twelve times

1.H. PADDON 28:38.6

2.J. LATVALA 28:41.1 +2.5

3.A. MIKKELSEN 28:48.8 +10.2

4.S. OGIER 28:51.2 +12.6

5.O. TANAK 28:52.7 +14.1

6.M. OSTBERG 28:57.9 +19.3

7.D. SORDO 28:58.4 +19.8

8.T. NEUVILLE 29:00.9 +22.3

9.E. CAMILLI 29:06.6 +28.0

10.L. BERTELLI 29:47.2 +1:08.6

It was great to see Jari-Matti win stage thirteen with a consummate drive in this 15km stage. He declared that he was back! Seb closed the gap a little to Andreas through this one having picked soft tyres for the morning loop. It appeared to work well for him.

Stage thirteen times

1.J. LATVALA 8:37.1

2.M. OSTBERG 8:44.9 +7.8

3.S. OGIER 8:44.9 +7.8

4.H. PADDON 8:46.0 +8.9

5.A. MIKKELSEN 8:46.1 +9.0

6.E. CAMILLI 8:46.7 +9.6

7.D. SORDO 8:47.2 +10.1

8.O. TANAK 8:48.9 +11.8

9.T. NEUVILLE 8:51.1 +14.0

10.L. BERTELLI 9:01.4 +24.3

The short blast around the Raceway stage showed that you couldn’t really separate Andreas, Dani and Seb, with all three setting the same time!

Stage fourteen times

1.A. MIKKELSEN 1:16.8

2.D. SORDO 1:16.8 +0.0

3.S. OGIER 1:16.8 +0.0

4.T. NEUVILLE 1:17.0 +0.2

5.H. PADDON 1:17.0 +0.0

6.O. TANAK 1:17.5 +0.7

7.M. OSTBERG 1:17.6 +0.8

8.E. CAMILLI 1:18.2 +1.4

9.E. LAPPI 1:18.3 +1.5

10.J. LATVALA 1:18.5 +1.7

After the lunchtime service break, it was time for the second run of the day through Nambucca. Andreas had a 13.6 second lead over Hayden with Seb a further three seconds adrift. This was not over. Well, what followed was another stage win for the resurgent flying Finn Jari-Matti, and Seb moved back ahead of Hayden with the Frenchman now four seconds ahead of the Kiwi.

Stage fifteen times

1.J. LATVALA 28:07.0

2.S. OGIER 28:07.9 +0.9

3.A. MIKKELSEN 28:12.5 +5.5

4.D. SORDO 28:13.5 +6.5

5.T. NEUVILLE 28:15.1 +8.1

6.H. PADDON 28:15.2 +8.2

7.E. CAMILLI 28:22.7 +15.7

8.M. OSTBERG 28:26.8 +19.8

9.O. TANAK 28:47.4 +40.4

10.E. LAPPI 29:11.0 +1:04.0

It was another stage victory for Thierry, but the big news from the stage was that Andreas suffered a problem with his pedals. Basically, the clutch and brake pedal for some reason became connected and pressing one would make the other react…. Andreas lost 9.8 seconds to Seb… Now the lead was just 2 seconds.

Stage sixteen times

1.T. NEUVILLE 8:31.5

2.S. OGIER 8:32.1 +0.6

3.H. PADDON 8:35.1 +3.6

4.D. SORDO 8:38.3 +6.8

5.M. OSTBERG 8:38.6 +7.1

6.J. LATVALA 8:39.3 +7.8

7.E. CAMILLI 8:39.7 +8.2

8.A. MIKKELSEN 8:41.3 +9.8

9.O. TANAK 8:44.9 +13.4

10.L. BERTELLI 8:53.0 +21.5

Now every single second counted for Andreas. In fact, you could say every tenth of a second…. There wasn’t much to separate the teammates. Seb was one second quicker through SS17, but then Andreas was two tenths quicker in SS18. Seb had Andreas in his sights and was not going give this up.

Stage seventeen times

1.S. OGIER 1:01.7

2.D. SORDO 1:02.3 +0.6

3.A. MIKKELSEN 1:02.7 +1.0

4.M. OSTBERG 1:03.1 +1.4

5.H. PADDON 1:03.1 +1.4

6.T. NEUVILLE 1:03.2 +1.5

7.L. BERTELLI 1:03.6 +1.9

8.J. LATVALA 1:03.7 +2.0

9.O. TANAK 1:04.1 +2.4

10.E. LAPPI 1:04.6 +2.9

Stage eighteen times

1.A. MIKKELSEN 1:01.3

2.S. OGIER 1:01.5 +0.2

3.T. NEUVILLE 1:02.0 +0.7

4.D. SORDO 1:02.0 +0.7

5.M. OSTBERG 1:02.4 +1.1

6.L. BERTELLI 1:02.7 +1.4

7.H. PADDON 1:02.8 +1.5

8.J. LATVALA 1:03.2 +1.9

9. E. LAPPI 1:03.3 +2.0

10.O. TANAK 1:03.3 +2.0

Overall standings at the end of day two

01. Mikkelsen/Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen, 2h 15m 06.2s

02. Ogier/Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, + 2.0s

03. Paddon/Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai, + 12.0s

04. Neuville/Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai, + 33.8s

05. Sordo/Martí (E/E), Hyundai, + 59.2s

06. Østberg/Fløene (N/N), Ford, + 1m 00.6s

07. Camilli/Veillas (F/F), Ford, + 1m 21.7s

08. Tänak/Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford, + 2m 19.9s

09. Bertelli/Scattolin (I/I), Ford, + 4m 56.6s

10. Lappi/Ferm (FIN/FIN), Škoda, + 5m 22.7s

11. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen,+ 7m 33.8s

Here are the thoughts of the drivers at the end of day two down under.

Volkswagen Motorsport

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“That was a perfect day for us. Julien and I decided to take the risk and go for it. I used the boundary markers along the track like a slalom skier, as you can tell from the dents on the bonnet. We put all our eggs in one basket with our tyre selection as well – and luckily, choosing four soft tyres paid off. Before the rally, I would not have expected us to still have such a good chance in the battle for the win. Tomorrow will be a thrilling day for the fans. Andreas and Hayden will give their all to claim the win, and I also have nothing to lose.”

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

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

“From a driving point of view, today was definitely one of our better days and I am very pleased with the two best times. However, my mistake yesterday means that I cannot make a decisive contribution to the overall result. So, I will be keeping my fingers crossed that my team-mates Sébastien and Andreas cross the finish line at the head of the field. And then, with the whole team, we will raise a glass to the four extraordinary years that we have experienced.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“Sunday will be really interesting, although I could live with a little less tension. We had a great day today, we were always fast and we managed to stay ahead pretty well. We lost some time later on, as some damage to the footwell meant that the clutch and brake pedals were overlapping. That was a strange situation. It doesn’t change much about the grand finale tomorrow: whether we lead by two seconds or twelve and more – it will be a tough battle for the victory, and we would be happy to win it. We have to give our all until the finish line – and that is exactly what we intend to do.”

Hyundai Motorsport

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 14 / Rally Australia / November 17-20, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon said: “It’s been a good day. We started well with the stage win through Nambucca, which set a positive tone. There was a lot of dust coming into the car on those first stages. It was a bit of a distraction, but you have to expect that in Rally Australia. We knew that Seb (Ogier) would be on a charge in the afternoon, which proved to be the case, so we just focused on keeping up the pressure. We missed a bit of speed in the afternoon loop but all in all it’s been a good improvement over last year. We’re involved in a close fight up front. It’s a good position to be in and we’ll certainly be giving it a hard push tomorrow to see what we can do.”

Thierry Neuville said: “It’s been close to a perfect day for us considering the conditions. We made a wrong tyre choice this morning, which lost us some ground in the battle for third place. I was concerned the soft tyres would be too soft for the conditions. In hindsight, we should have perhaps taken the risk but that’s easier said than done when we’re trying to secure second in the Championship. The afternoon was better and I felt I drove well. We had to manage the tyres carefully but I was pretty pleased to set the fastest time in SS16, when conditions were more equal for everybody. We’re still firmly in the podium fight and we definitely won’t give up until the rally is over.”

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 14 / Rally Australia / November 17-20, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo said: “A much more positive day for us. After incurring the 20-second time penalty yesterday, we wanted to make up some positions. We knew from our performance on Friday that we had the pace to compete with the front-runners, so I was pleased to set some good times today. We started with the long Nambucca stage so it was important to find a good rhythm quickly. We went a bit wide, and lost some time, but apart from that everything has worked well. The car has been nice to drive, even if we have had to take care with the tyres. I am feeling confident, so let’s see what we can do tomorrow. We want to finish the season strongly.”

M-Sport WRT

Mads Østberg (6th) said:

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 14 / Rally Australia / November 17-20, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: M-Sport/McKlein

“It’s been a good day and, again, we showed that we have some really good speed with the second fastest time through the second stage this morning (SS13).

“We decided to make some changes to the set-up for the second pass of Nambucca (SS15) but unfortunately that didn’t work out and we lost quite a lot of time. It was still quite slippery and we were struggling for traction. I knew already after a couple of corners that it wasn’t going to work so to do 50 kilometres like that wasn’t easy.

“We did our best, but we’ll go back to the standard set-up tomorrow and fight again. The gap to Dani [Sordo in fifth] is very small, and we want that fifth place so that is what we will fight for.”

Éric Camilli (7th) said:

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 14 / Rally Australia / November 17-20, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: M-Sport/McKlein

“Like yesterday, it’s been another good day for us. The rally is continuing very well and we are on the pace which is really good. Of course, I know I could go faster in places, but that brings more risk which is not the objective this weekend. Still, it’s really good to see that we are not so far away.

“The first pass of the long stage was not so easy as we were discovering the road for the first time, but then it got a lot better. On the next stages our times were a lot stronger and that was really good to see. Even when we lost the brakes through the second pass of Valla (SS16), we were able to manage the situation and the time was competitive.”



08:06AM SS20 – BUCCA 16




Day three dawned hot and dry just like the first two days. Just two seconds separated Andreas and Seb, with both wanting to give Volkswagen their last victory at the top of the rallying world. Would Andreas do it? All it would take would be one spin, and it would all be over.

So, the first outcome was that Mads had do what he wanted and moved ahead of Dani into fifth place. Thierry was pushing hard, and spun in the stage, losing 15 seconds. It was still nip and tuck between Andreas and Seb. Just six tenths of a second separating them at the end of the stage.

Stage nineteen times

1.A. MIKKELSEN 3:06.5

2.S. OGIER 3:07.1 +0.6

3.H. PADDON 3:08.9 +2.4

4.J. LATVALA 3:10.0 +3.5

5.O. TANAK 3:10.7 +4.2

6.M. OSTBERG 3:12.0 +5.5

7.D. SORDO 3:14.9 +8.4

8.E. CAMILLI 3:18.2 +11.7

9.L. BERTELLI 3:19.7 +13.2

10.E. LAPPI 3:20.2 +13.7

Stage twenty then and it all happened in this one. Hayden saw his podium hopes slip away after he ran wide and hit the rear right, and puncturing his tyre. He lost more than a minute and dropped from third to fifth…. It was this stage that also saw Seb make a mistake! Incredible stuff! On the exit of a left-hander he struck a bank, and this spun him around. Precious seconds ticked away whilst he got the car turned around. The upshot of it all was that he lost nearly twenty seconds to Andreas and thus his hopes on victory.

Stage twenty times

1.A. MIKKELSEN 17:22.5

2.J. LATVALA 17:41.3 +18.8

3.S. OGIER 17:42.1 +19.6

4.D. SORDO 17:42.3 +19.8

5.T. NEUVILLE 17:46.7 +24.2

6.M. OSTBERG 17:51.1 +28.6

7.O. TANAK 17:53.8 +31.3

8.E. CAMILLI 18:13.9 +51.4

9.H. PADDON 18:36.1 +1:13.6

10.E. LAPPI 18:48.1 +1:25.6

Okay, so was the drama over for this event, or would there be another sting in the tail for someone? Well, young Frenchman Eric had been going really well, setting some top times on his debut down under. It would all unravel for him. He got a bit greedy on a right-hander which had a small bank which he put his front left wheel onto, and this tipped the car over into a roll and onto its side.

Stage twenty-one times

1.A. MIKKELSEN 3:40.8

2.J. LATVALA 3:41.0 +0.2

3.S. OGIER 3:41.3 +0.5

4.T. NEUVILLE 3:42.5 +1.7

5.D. SORDO 3:42.6 +1.8

6.H. PADDON 3:43.1 +2.3

7.O. TANAK 3:45.3 +4.5

8.M. OSTBERG 3:45.4 +4.6

9.E. LAPPI 3:53.0 +12.2

10. N. FUCHS 3:55.7 +14.9

Just two stages left then…. Andreas was nearly there…. Seb took stage twenty-two with Andreas coming in third fastest letting Seb edge a little closer, but only a few seconds conceded there.

Stage twenty-two times

1.S. OGIER 3:05.1

2.H. PADDON 3:06.5 +1.4

3.A. MIKKELSEN 3:07.9 +2.8

4.T. NEUVILLE 3:09.2 +4.1

5.D. SORDO 3:09.3 +4.2

6.J. LATVALA 3:09.6 +4.5

7.M. OSTBERG 3:09.7 +4.6

8.O. TANAK 3:11.0 +5.9

9.L. BERTELLI 3:16.5 +11.4

10.E. LAPPI 3:16.7 +11.6

So, we came to the last stage on the last event of the year. Seb took the three power stage points, Thierry the two points and Dani third quickest through took one. Andreas had done it though. His third WRC victory, beating his 4-times world rally champion teammate. That’s no easy feat at all.

Stage twenty-three times

1.S. OGIER 3:36.8

2.T. NEUVILLE 3:38.0 +1.2

3.D. SORDO 3:39.5 +2.7

4.H. PADDON 3:39.6 +2.8

5.J. LATVALA 3:40.7 +3.9

6.A. MIKKELSEN 3:41.8 +5.0

7.M. OSTBERG 3:42.2 +5.4

8.O. TANAK 3:43.1 +6.3

9.L. BERTELLI 3:49.9 +13.1

10.E. LAPPI 3:51.1 +14.3

So, the final standings are as follows.

01. Mikkelsen/Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen, 2h 46m 05.7s

02. Ogier/Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, + 14.9s

03. Neuville/Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai, + 1m 12.6s

04. Paddon/Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai, + 1m 26.7s

05. Sordo/Martí (E/E), Hyundai, + 1m 28.3s

06. Østberg/Fløene (N/N), Ford, + 1m 41.5s

07. Tänak/Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford, + 3m 04.3s

08. Lappi/Ferm (FIN/FIN), Škoda, + 7m 32.3s

09. Latvala/Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen, + 7m 56.9s

10. Bertelli/ Scattolin (I/I), Ford, + 8m 00.1s

Volkswagen end their involvement at the top level of the rally world with a one-two and Thierry finishes in third. This meant that he kept his second place in the championship. After the poor results in 2015, this year has been remarkable for him.

So, let’s hear from the drivers for the last time this year.

Volkswagen Motorsport

Anders Jæger (NOR), Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)
WRC Rally Australia 2016
Photo: Toni Welam

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“What a fantastic weekend, and what a wonderful result at the end of our season. Today has been a very special day, as it was our last appearance as a team. I was so desperate to win this rally for Volkswagen. It is fantastic to have achieved that. Volkswagen is the team that gave me the opportunity to step up into the top class of the WRC. They put a lot of faith in me and made so much possible for me. They will always have a special place in my heart. Everything came together at the final rally. Everything, absolutely everything, worked perfectly – it was simply the optimum of what we have achieved together in four years in the World Rally Championship. On the one hand, it is a bit of a shame that we just missed out on second place in the championship. On the other hand, that is not so important. If I had been given the choice of winning our final rally together or finishing runner-up in the world championship, I would always have chosen the win.”

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“I was a bit wide exiting a left-hander at the end of the ‘Wedding Bells’ stage, and spun. In the huge dust cloud, it took me a few moments to work out where the road was. We lost almost 20 seconds as a result. However, I have no regrets. Julien and I were really going for it all weekend, and had had a great battle with Andreas up to that point. He deserved the win. The most important thing is that our fantastic team bids farewell to the World Rally Championship with a victory. This is a very emotional moment for me. I have so much to thank the team for. Volkswagen Motorsport has been like a family to Julien and me. I have made a lot of friends and will never forget the wonderful moments we have had together over the past few years. A fantastic journey is coming to an end, and I am proud to have been a part of it.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

“I enjoyed the final few kilometres in the Polo R WRC on today’s Power Stage. We had some good special stages today and yesterday, and made good progress through the field. We can be happy with our performance over the past few days. Unfortunately, we made light contact with a wall on a bridge on the opening stage, and destroyed the rear suspension in the process. We lost a lot of time as a result, and had no chance of challenging for either the podium or the win. I would have liked to have done that – primarily to give our team a fitting leaving present. Our team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen and Sébastien Ogier claimed a deserved one-two. Congratulations to them both. We will celebrate as a team again this evening, before our time together in the World Rally Championship comes to an end. It is sure to be very emotional.”

Hyundai Motorsport

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 14 / Rally Australia / November 17-20, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville said: “I am delighted with how this rally has gone. We had some tricky conditions on the first days with our road position, so it hasn’t been easy. We concentrated on keeping our driving clean and we’ve been able to achieve our objectives – a podium finish and second in the Championship. It was particularly nice to end the rally with some Power Stage points. We’ve had the speed in the car all weekend so I’m happy to complete the season in this positive manner. Thanks to the team for a job well done this year. We had a difficult start but since Sardinia we’ve been able to show the speed and consistency necessary to be genuine contenders. I am already looking forward to 2017.”

Hayden Paddon said: “We didn’t want to go down without a fight. We started this morning’s opening stages knowing we’d have to push for the win, but we were determined to give it our best shot. We might not have had the speed to achieve the victory, but a podium would still have been a great way to end the year. For that reason, I was pretty devastated with what happened. We ran slightly wide on a corner, which popped the tyre off the rim, and we had to drive 20km with a puncture. We got over it quickly and knuckled down for the final stages, moving back up to fourth. Not quite the result we wanted, but perhaps representative of our roller-coaster season. There have been ups and downs, but all in all there are plenty of positives and experiences to take forward to next season. Our thanks go to the whole team and to all our fans for the support. We’ll be back next season, stronger than ever!”

Dani Sordo said: “We wanted to give it a big push today to see how strongly we could finish the rally – and the 2016 season. We were in a very close battle with Hayden for fourth, and we gave it a good attempt. Of course, whether you finish fourth or fifth in these circumstances doesn’t really matter but it was nice to score a Power Stage point for our efforts. Without the time penalty on Friday, we could have been fighting for the podium but these things happen. Thank you to the team for their work this season. We might have missed a victory along the way but we have taken a few podiums. It’s been a positive season and definitely gives us something to build on.”

M-Sport WRT

Mads Østberg (6th) said:

“It’s been a good rally and I’ve been quite happy with the weekend. Like in Finland, we were able to set some really competitive times and were fighting close to the front. Unfortunately, there were just a few stages where we lost too much time and the big battles got away from us. Apart from that, it’s still been a really good weekend. We might only be sixth, but we had some really good stages and it was good to be back in the fight.

“It’s also been nice to have been at the very first rally with this Fiesta, and here again at its final outing in the WRC. I’ve had a lot of success in this car, especially from 2011 to 2013 where I had some really strong performances. It really took me forward in the championship and helped me gain a position as a manufacturer driver. The car really has meant a lot to me over the years.”

Éric Camilli (DNF) said:

“This time we didn’t deserve not to finish the rally. I don’t know if the word ‘unlucky’ exists in rallying as there are so many factors that can contribute to making you go off the road, but this one I think might be that.

“I thought the road would be very slippery, but in fact it was not. I turned in too early and went too deep into the corner. We went up on two wheels and rolled the car. It’s not a mistake because of experience, or a wrong pace note, or too much speed or anything like that, it’s just one of those things. We just need to forget about it and focus on the good race we were having before that moment.

“I really enjoyed the Australian stages and we were running a really good rally. We set a lot of good times and the most important thing was that our pace was very close to everyone else. We were in the battle and quite a few times we were setting times better than those with a lot more experience. We didn’t expect that, and for sure next year we will come back stronger.”

D-Mack WRT

Ott Tänak said: “Apart from the problems on Friday, it was a really enjoyable rally. The stages here are great fun to drive, with some nice, flowing sections. Overall it’s been a positive season and we’ve worked really hard with the DMACK technicians to move things forward. There have been highs and lows but the progress this year has been impressive.”

Last of all, the thoughts of the team principles.

Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport Director

“Today is a very successful day for Volkswagen on the one hand, and an emotional goodbye to the world rally championship on the other. To bid farewell with a one-two is simply fantastic. Despite the difficult situation, the entire team gave their all and was thoroughly professional right down to the final metre. I am incredibly proud of our performance here at the Rally Australia – and over the past few years. I would like to thank everyone in Hannover, Wolfsburg and at the rallies, as well as our partners, who have all contributed to our success. We have achieved a lot and head into our future in motorsport full of confidence.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR), Anders Jæger (NOR)
Sébastien Ogier (F), Julien Ingrassia (F)
Volkswagen Polo R WRC (2016)
WRC Rally Australia 2016
Photo: Toni Welam

Hyundai Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We knew we’d be in for a thrilling final day. There were a few final twists in the tale of the 2016 season, but overall we can be satisfied with our debut Australian podium. Well done to Thierry and Nicolas on their performance and claiming second place in the Drivers and Co-drivers’ Championships. They have had a fantastic season, particularly since their win in Sardinia. It was a pity for Hayden that his incident this morning prevented a push for victory. Dani, too, was also unfortunate not to be able to fight for a better result. As a team, we have had a strong year. The New Generation i20 WRC has done us proud but it’s the result of hard work by the entire team. We have shown a lot of progress and maturity this year, and I am personally grateful to every individual member of Hyundai Motorsport for their valuable contributions. I would also like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Volkswagen Motorsport for being such fierce competitors. They have set the benchmark very high. We will miss competing against them, but will continue to be inspired by their achievements.”

M-Sport WRT Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“It is the end of an era as we say goodbye to the current Ford Fiesta RS WRC – a car which has delivered a lot of success over the past six years. Closing this chapter is made all the more special exactly 20 years after signing the contract with Ford.

“For two decades we have been competing at the head of the FIA World Rally Championship and I’m sure that further success lies ahead. I’m convinced that we have produced another rally-winning car with the new Ford Fiesta WRC and the whole team are now fully focussed on next season where we’ll be determined to make a return to the top step of the podium.

“Before we wave goodbye to 2016 however, we must commend Volkswagen Motorsport and thank them for their commitment to our sport. Their achievements have been marked and the whole service park has benefitted from their involvement. I speak for the whole team when saying that it has been a pleasure to compete with them and they will be sorely missed. We hope to see them return in the future for more close-fought competition.”

So, the final championship standings.

Drivers’ Championship

1. Sébastien Ogier, 268 points

2. Thierry Neuville, 160

3. Andreas Mikkelsen, 154

4. Hayden Paddon, 138

5. Dani Sordo, 130

6. Jari-Matti Latvala, 112

7. Mads Østberg, 102

8. Ott Tänak, 88

9. Kris Meeke, 64

10. Craig Breen, 36

Co-drivers’ Championship

1. Julien Ingrassia, 268 points

2. Nicolas Gilsoul, 160

3. Anders Jæger, 15

4. John Kennard, 138

5. Marc Martí, 130

6. Miikka Anttila, 112

7. Ola Fløene, 102

8. Raigo Mõlder, 88

9. Paul Nagle, 64

10. Scott Martin, 36

Manufacturers’ Championship

1. Volkswagen Motorsport, 377 points

2. Hyundai Motorsport, 312

3. Volkswagen Motorsport II, 163

4. M-Sport, 162

5. Hyundai Motorsport N, 146

6. DMACK, 98

7. Jipocar Czech National Team, 18

8. Yazeed Racing, 4

Warren Nel

23rd November 2016

Twitter @Warren_S_Nel

Rally Australia Preview 2016-WRC heads Down Under

It’s the end of an era… Volkswagen are leaving… The current type of cars are being pensioned off…

The team that have won the last four world titles will want to go out on a high though. There is a real battle going on for second in the drivers’ standings as well. Thierry Neuville, Andreas Mikkelsen and Hayden Paddon can all finish in that position. There’s just 14 points between Thierry and Andreas, with Hayden a further 3 points away!

These are the stages that await the crews on this WRC Finale!

Friday’s Stages




09:48AM SS4 – NEWRY16 I





03:02PM SS9 – NEWRY16 II



Saturday’s Stages


09:37AM SS13 – VALLA 16 I



02:25PM SS16 – VALLA16 II



Sunday’s Stages


08:06AM SS20 – BUCCA 16




A total of 312.32 km of action over the three days awaits them all! Here’s the views of the drivers before this iconic rally.

Volkswagen Motorsport

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“It is a strange situation for everyone at Volkswagen Motorsport. The announcement of our withdrawal from the World Rally Championship at the end of the year was not the way that we, as a team, wanted to celebrate our fourth title. We will now contest our final rally together in Australia. When I look back at the last five years, I do not only think about the success we have enjoyed together. I am grateful to have worked with such great people at Volkswagen. We have formed genuine friendships over the years. I can only hope that I see as many as possible of them again. The final rally with Volkswagen – that sounds crazy. However, I am sure I will be able to put this out of my mind during the rally. Although my starting position is not exactly promising, I will do everything in my power to ensure that we have something to celebrate together again after our final outing in Australia.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

“Last week’s news was far from pleasant. It is very difficult to comprehend the magnitude of this decision in such a short time. I can only repeat that I will always remember the time at Volkswagen Motorsport. The many great moments mean a lot to me, and I would like to thank everyone in the team. It is now my duty to focus fully on the season finale in Australia again. I am really determined to do well in my last rally with Volkswagen, and will push hard to try to challenge for the win. My season has not been easy, so a good result in Australia would be doubly nice – particularly as a farewell present to the team.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“The Rally Australia will be very emotional, as we all know that it is the final race for Volkswagen. The team has become very close to my heart. I am very grateful for the great time together, and really want to bid farewell with a good result in Australia. That is also important for Anders and me, because we want to take back second place in the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ World Championship from my friend Thierry Neuville. To do so, we must go for the win. However, this will not be easy, as we will be third onto the special stages. Despite this, we will apply pressure from the word go and give it our all. The biggest challenge at the Rally Australia are the sections with fast corners, which are hard to see. A rally in the jungle – that is the best description. I am certainly very motivated and looking forward to Australia, as I really like driving there.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR), Ola Fløene (NOR)
Volkswagen Polo R WRC (2015)
WRC Rally Australia 2015

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville commented: “We all love coming to Australia and it will of course be extra special this year as it is the last rally event on the calendar. Compared to Wales, the conditions will be very different. The gravel here can be a bit more abrasive and the temperatures will be much higher, so it will be a completely different challenge for both us and the car. It’s great to come here in the fight for second place. Both Nicolas and I are really looking forward to trying to finish the season on a high note!”

Hayden Paddon said: “Australia a special rally for us as it’s as close as it gets to being at home. We’re really looking forward to having a lot of Kiwis and maybe even a couple of Aussies supporting us. We’re in a really great position overall and I’m sure we can end the season on a real high. We’re going to be pushing really hard. I really enjoy the stages and the surface. We want to put ourselves in position to fight for the win. We want to put on the biggest show that we possibly can and give it our best shot.”

Dani Sordo commented: “I am very excited to be coming to Australia again. It is a really nice area for rallying and a great place to finish the Championship. We had a difficult rally in Wales and we couldn’t manage to get the best out of the car or ourselves. We want to bounce back that’s for sure. I know what we are capable of on gravel with this car. As it is the last race, we will of course try to get the best possible result and end the season on a positive note. We are involved in a close battle in the Drivers’ Championship, too, so it will be an exciting season finale.”

2015 World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Australia // 10th – 13th September, 2015 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

M-Sport WRT

Mads Østberg said:

“Every year I enjoy coming back to Australia and the unique challenges that it has to offer. It really is like nothing else in the championship – so different to anything else we experience throughout the year.

“The character of the stages changes quite a lot and we often switch from very wide, open roads to tight and twisty sections in the forests. Recce is really important. You need to keep the rhythm in your notes and have every tree and rock noted. It’s a big challenge to end the season.

“The event is a little later this year so we’ll have to see how that affects the advantages and disadvantages of running order. Generally, it’s better to be further back, but there is also a risk of hanging dust which can be really challenging so we’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out.

“It’s strange to think that I’ve only contested this event twice before, but we will give it our all and always want to achieve the best possible result.”

Éric Camilli said:

“I’m really looking forward to experiencing another new rally and discovering all of the challenges that Australia has to offer. This is my first time at this event so there will be a lot to learn, but we’re really looking forward to it. From what I’ve seen, it looks like a fantastic rally with amazing scenery and stages.

“As with any new event, the pacenotes that we make on the pre-event reconnaissance will be really important. Thankfully, we have made a big step forward in that area this year. Our pacenotes have progressed a lot over the past 12 months, and next week’s event gives us an opportunity to put everything into practice.

“We want to end the season on a high, but it is also important to complete all of the stages and gain maximum experience. I believe that we have already shown the speed that we can be capable of, so we’ll just take each stage as it comes and aim to build on our performance throughout the weekend.”

D-Mack WRT

Ott Tänak said: “Rally Australia is a special event and one that I really like. It’s a real mix of conditions and a proper challenge. The wide, hard roads are fast and flowing – really enjoyable to drive on. Then in the forests it’s really tricky and you have to be careful, especially with the changes in shade and light. I’m looking forward to it.”

Here’s a list of the former winners of this event.

2015 Sébastien Ogier Julien Ingrassia

2014 Sébastien Ogier Julien Ingrassia

2013 Sébastien Ogier Julien Ingrassia

2012 Event not held

2011 Mikko Hirvonen Jarmo Lehtinen

2010 Event not held

2009 Mikko Hirvonen Jarmo Lehtinen

2008 Event not held

2007 Event not held

2006 Mikko Hirvonen Jarmo Lehtinen

2005 François Duval Sven Smeets

The fascinating battle will begin on Friday morning…. Who will win down under?

Warren Nel

Wales Rally GB Review- Ott Pushes Seb all the way

Seb might have won Rally GB for the fourth time, but he was pushed all the way by the D-Mack tyred Fiesta WRC driven brilliantly by the young Estonian Ott Tanak.

On the days running up, it was dry and there was not much mud about. However, when Friday dawned, normal service resumed in the Welsh forests… Fog and lots of slippery stages, ready to chuck cars into the trees!

This was only going to benefit Seb in his Polo. Someone didn’t tell Ott and Raigo though. First stage down and there was only 7.6 seconds between him and Seb! The fight had begun!

Stage one top ten

01 Ogier (VW) 18m 07.0s

02 Tänak +7.6s

03 Paddon +8.0s

04 Breen +8.1s

05 Mikkelsen (VW) +11.5s

06 Meeke +11.7s

07 Latvala (VW) +16.4s

08 Neuville +22.3s

09 Østberg +32.2s

10 Sordo +34.3s

Stage two then, a much shorter stage and Seb won again, thus increasing his lead.

01 Ogier (VW) 2m 49.0s

02 Mikkelsen (VW) +3.3s

03 Neuville +4.5s

04 Tänak +4.5s

05 Latvala +5.5s

06 Paddon +6.1s

07 Sordo +6.2s

08 Breen +6.3s

09 Meeke +6.8s

10 Østberg +9.1s

Stage three though saw Ott fight back, winning it from Seb and reducing the gap to just 9.9 seconds! Clearly the D-Mack tyres were giving good grip out there!

01 Tänak 20m 45.4s

02 Ogier (VW) +2.2s

03 Latvala (VW) +6.5s

04 Meeke +9.5s

05 Sordo +10.5s

06 Neuville +12.6s

07 Paddon +14.2s

08 Breen +16.5s

09 Mikkelsen (VW) +21.6s

10 Østberg +26.7s

Stage four saw Ott win again and chip away at Seb’s lead again. It would also be the stage that would see Andreas start to get trouble with his transmission….. He lost 1 minute and 25 seconds thus dropping out of the top ten.

01 Tänak 10m 18.9s

02 Ogier (VW) +2.2s

03 Latvala (VW) +6.3s

04 Neuville +7.5s

05 Paddon +8.8s

06 Meeke +8.9s

07 Breen +10.6s

08 Sordo +11.8s

09 Østberg +14.8s

10 Lefebvre +20.6s

Stage five would see a Seb win with Ott only third, 7.4 seconds slower. What had happened? He reported at the end of the stage that he’d lost confidence in the rear of the car- with the geometry changing. The big casualty from this stage was Craig and Scott in their DS3. Coming around a left hander, he lost the rear and started to spin. The car then dug in at the front and rolled at least once coming to rest on its side. They were fine, but most definitely out of the event.

So, stage six saw Seb win again and Ott was third through this one, but only losing a couple of seconds. Between them, Thierry was just a second and a bit behind Seb, the Belgian finding his feet in the tricky conditions.

01 Ogier (VW) 2m 53.7s

02 Neuville +1.2s

03 Tänak +2.3s

04 Meeke +2.4s

05 Sordo +3.5s

06 Latvala (VW) +3.7s

07 Paddon +5.7s

08 Østberg +6.5s

09 Lefebvre +7.3s

10 Camilli +8.7s

Moving on to stage seven Now Jari-Matti fell to the transmission issue that had inflicted Andreas earlier… He spun in the stage sadly and lost over a minute. This dropped him to seventh overall, nearly two and a half minutes off the lead. Seb won the stage and increased his lead to over 20 seconds.

01 Ogier (VW) 20m 58.6s

02 Tänak +5.9s

03 Neuville +11.5s

04 Paddon +14.0s

05 Meeke +19.8s

06 Sordo +25.5s

07 Østberg +31.1s

08 Lefebvre +43.1s

09 Camilli +48.5s

10 Gilbert +1m 06.9s

Last stage of the day then, number eight…. We had another stage winner with Thierry taking it by just 7 tenths of a second. Ott’s tyres finally cried enough and he picked up a puncture on the right front with six km’s to go in the stage. Also, Seb’s driveshaft failed…. How lucky was that?!

Day one top ten

01 Ogier (VW) 1h 44m 31.2s

02 Tänak +37.3s

03 Neuville +1m 09.0s

04 Paddon +1m 12.8s

05 Meeke +1m 14.8s

06 Sordo +2m 07.2s

07 Østberg +2m 37.3s

08 Latvala (VW) +3m 43.6s

09 Lefebvre +4m 31.6s

10 Camilli +5m 26.0s

Right then, the thoughts of the drivers at the end of day one.

Volkswagen Motorsport

Quotes after day one of the Rally Great Britain

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“The first stage this morning was extremely difficult and slippery. The priority there was to make it through to finish in one piece. After that, the grip was noticeably better – particularly for us as the first car onto the route. I think that goes someway to explaining the large lead we had opened up over the majority of the opposition by midday. I am jolly glad to have made it through the day. It is obviously a great shame for my team-mates that they struggled with issues. I am confident that our team will get to grips with the problems, and that we will all be able to push hard again with the Polo R WRC tomorrow. Winning the Manufacturers’ title is the top priority for us – without our fantastic team, Julien and I will not be world champions. We want to give them something back by winning in Wales.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

“I obviously cannot help but be disappointed. We basically made a good start to the rally and soon found a good pace, despite the conditions, which were not easy. The priority was to be ahead of the Hyundai’s, in order to score more points than our rivals in the Manufacturers’ Championship. We were on course to do precisely that. Unfortunately, the rear-right drive shaft broke on stage seven. That meant we were no longer competitive for the rest of the day. We must now shake off this disappointment, but will push hard again tomorrow.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“I’m incredibly disappointed. I would have preferred to have been challenging for second place in the world championship here. I had a really good start to the rally, despite taking things rather cautiously. Unfortunately, however, I was denied by a broken driveshaft at the front-right of the car on stage four, after which I only had rear-wheel drive. Instead, I ended up losing endless amounts of time. There is not a lot that Anders and I can do here now, apart from to go for broke on Sunday’s Power Stage. We will obviously do that, and then really go for it in Australia.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville said, “Conditions are tricky and we can’t relax at all. It was very slippery in there. I lost too much time in the fog on the first stage and we had a spin and stalled the car near the start of SS3 which cost us about six seconds. This afternoon has gone much better although the stages were still wet and it was easy to get caught out. It’s now a great battle and I tried to do a good stage to finish the day in the podium position.”

Hayden Paddon said, ”It’s hard with changing grip levels. Sometimes you brake too early and sometimes too late, but the margins between being too slow and too fast are very small. It’s difficult to judge pace but it’s the same for everyone. I’m happy with the progress we are making, particularly compared to last year and I think we can have a big attack for the podium tomorrow when the conditions are a bit more consistent and should suit us better.”

Dani Sordo said, “It was really difficult with lots of fog and slippery places – I didn’t feel comfortable throughout the first loop. Once conditions improved towards the end of the morning the times were not so bad and I started enjoying it a bit more. I tried to do my best – but it’s not easy to learn the grip. All in all, it has been a tough day for us and we are looking forward to a more positive Saturday.”

M-Sport WRT

Mads Østberg (7th) said:

“It’s been a tricky day and we’ve had to make quite a few adjustments to both the car and the driving throughout the day. It’s been challenging, but I felt we did some really good stages. The times might not have been what we were expecting, but we are in a strong seventh place and that’s not so bad.

“Tomorrow will be a different day with a different surface which will hopefully provide a bit more grip. At the moment I can’t seem to find the traction so hopefully with a bit more grip we can be faster.”

Éric Camilli (11th) said:

“It’s not been an easy day but we are still here and that is the important thing. It was a shame for us this morning as we had two very rare punctures and we don’t fully understand why. That’s life sometimes, and this afternoon we decided to continue on the same rhythm.

“This is never an easy rally and at times we were able to match the pace of Mads which is very important for us. He has a lot of experience here so that is a good first step with the experience that we have and we’ll work hard to keep building on that tomorrow.”

Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke: “It was a very, very long day! We weren’t expecting the conditions to be so difficult, with a lot of rain and fog. We also know that it’s in this type of situation where the lack of development on the car tends to show the most. I feel that I did my best and I enjoyed driving out there today, even though I was bit frustrated when I saw my times at the end of the stages! We’re not far off the podium, so we go again tomorrow!”

Craig Breen: “We had a good morning; the level of performance was enough to put me in the top five. I still had a bit of moment at one point so I was trying to get the balance right between pushing and being cautious. I wanted to use what we had learned during the first pass this afternoon, but we were a bit unlucky on SS5. The car skidded and the front hit a bank on the inside of a corner. We did several rolls and we weren’t then able to get away again under own steam. It’s frustrating, but these things happen in rallying.”

Stéphane Lefebvre: “I think I could have been a little bit higher up the standings, but we didn’t choose the right set-up. We thought that the roads would be drier and I lacked traction in the twisty sections. We had to make the best of this option throughout the day because there was no mid-leg service. In any case, I feel that I got the maximum out of what I had to work with and I’m pleased to finish the leg without having made any mistakes. We’ll be back tomorrow with the set-up that worked well last year and that should make things better.”

Quentin Gilbert: “We started at an extremely cautious pace. With the fog and lack of grip, the first stage had the worst possible conditions for building confidence! We improved as we completed more stages, reducing the gap with the leading drivers. I can’t wait to get back out there tomorrow. It was a joy to drive this car, everything works perfectly and I was really enjoying it despite the difficulties of the course.”

Day Two

Now this day was going to be interesting. They would have to do the whole day without any service. This meant that if they wanted new tyres, they would have to carry them in the car.

Stage nine was first up and it saw a continuation of the battle of who would be faster- Ott or Seb…. Well, Ott took it from Seb, thus being 1.5 seconds quicker. The D-Mack tyres giving great grip. A bit of history for you. This stage was last run in 1997 and it was the late great Colin McRae who won it.

01 Tänak 5m 47.1s

02 Ogier (VW) +1.5s

03 Neuville +2.0s

04 Latvala (VW) +3.8s

05 Paddon +4.3s

06 Mikkelsen (VW) +5.1s

07 Meeke +8.5s

08 Østberg +9.7s

09 Sordo +10.3s

10 Lefebvre +14.0s

Stage ten saw Seb and Ott first and second and the gap had increased again, now 38.2 seconds. He wasn’t about to give up though!

01 Ogier (VW) 12m 01.2s

02 Tänak +2.4s

03 Paddon +8.6s

04 Mikkelsen (VW) +11.1s

05 Neuville +11.8s

06 Latvala (VW) +13.4s

07 Østberg +19.4s

08 Meeke +20.1s

09 Sordo +24.6s

10 Camilli +36.3s

Stage eleven fell to Thierry with Andreas finally showing some pace now that his car was sorted, in second.

01 Neuville 7m 00.9s

02 Mikkelsen (VW) +0.3s

03 Tänak +1.0s

04 Ogier (VW) +2.9s

05 Paddon +4.4s

06 Latvala (VW) +5.7s

07 Sordo +5.9s

08 Meeke +9.4s

09 Østberg +10.6s

10 Camilli +14.5s

What happened next was that Ott won stage twelve, thirteen and fourteen and reduced the gap to Seb from 36.3 to 24.8 seconds! A big push to apply pressure to the rally leader.

Stage 15 next then and incredibly Seb went through the 14km stage seven seconds faster than Ott and as such took the lead straight back up to 31.8! A remarkable time!

Time for the last stage of the day then, and the crews headed into the UK for the first time since 1999. The short blast around Cholmondeley Castle saw Andreas win it, with Seb second and Hayden in third.

01 Mikkelsen (VW) 1m 08.6s

02 Ogier (VW) +0.3s

03 Paddon +0.6s

04 Neuville +1.3s

05 Sordo +1.5s

06 Meeke +1.9s

07 Tänak +2.3s

08 Østberg +2.5s

09 Latvala (VW) +2.6s

10 Lefebvre +3.5s

The thoughts then of all the drivers at the end of the second day

Volkswagen Motorsport

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“On the whole I am very happy with our day. It could hardly have gone better for Julien and me. We went on the attack and tried to make the most of our start position, which gives us a slight advantage here. We know that even our soft tyre compound is a little too hard for the conditions in Wales. For this reason, we wanted to open a good lead ahead of the finale on Sunday, in order to finish ahead of Ott Tänak. On the other hand, the fact that we had a harder tyre compound than our rivals meant we had absolutely no problem completing the hundred kilometres of special stage without a tyre change. Tomorrow is definitely going to be exciting, that much is certain. Ott is quick here at the rally in Wales. However, I am very determined to do my bit towards winning the Manufacturers’ title for the Volkswagen team, hopefully with a win.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

“As far as the driving is concerned, today was a good day. Like yesterday, we soon got up to speed and then tried to go about making up some of the time that we lost yesterday. We obviously only had limited opportunities to make any progress in the overall standings. Despite this, we did make up over a minute on Mads Østberg and will try to take seventh place from him tomorrow and to do our bit for the team in the Manufacturers’ Championship.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“Today was all about finding our rhythm again. Having driven almost the whole of Friday with just rear-wheel drive, we first had to get used to the grip you have with four-wheel drive again. We managed to do that, and set some good stage times here and there. We had to change our driving style a little again in the afternoon – that is a feature of the Rally Great Britain, as the routes become more slippery in the afternoon and you have to choose a different racing line. All in all, we are looking forward to tomorrow. We want to attack on the Power Stage, in order to score as many points as possible in the battle for second place in the world championship.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville said: “We’ve had a good day, driving fast and smooth. The morning loop went OK. The first run through Dyfi was a bit more difficult. I clipped a bank on the inside and lost the steering, so I was a bit out of rhythm. We were fortunate because it could have been worse. We lost too much time in the foggy conditions but other than that it went well. We set the fastest time on the following stage and we’ve been able to extend our hold on third place. In the afternoon, we focused on controlling our pace, driving efficiently and finding traction. As long as we are on the podium tomorrow I’ll be content, but there’s still work to do before we can think of that.”

Hayden Paddon said: “It’s been a day of careful strategy today with no lunchtime service and no remote tyre fitting zone. We struggled slightly to get confidence on the morning loop. We didn’t lose much time but I needed to find my mojo a bit. The conditions were quite typical for Wales, still very slippery but with more consistent grip. I’ve had to dial-in the driving because it’s not my natural style, so that’s been the main struggle. We made some changes, which gave me a better feeling, but we couldn’t find enough traction. It’s a close fight for the podium with Thierry and the gap is not so big. We’ll have to see what we can do to build more confidence for Sunday’s final stages.”

Dani Sordo said: “It has not been a particularly memorable rally for us so far. The stages are wonderful and I enjoy them but we have simply not been able to find the pace we need to fight higher up the classification. The conditions have been difficult with slippery and damp patches throughout. It’s better than last year – and a characteristic of this rally – but it just hasn’t clicked for me this weekend. We will continue to do all we can to get the most out of the car and ourselves. The gap to those in front of us is too big to reduce tomorrow morning, so we have to keep it clean and secure this position.”

M-Sport WRT

Mads Østberg (7th) said:

“It’s been another typical day at Wales Rally GB with rain, mud and fog. It looked really dry on the recce, but today it was completely different – full wet with full fog and very tricky conditions.

“We also had a bit of a strange morning with Ola not feeling 100 percent. He was acting very strange and even in the stages he struggled a lot. He was reading the notes very strangely and we are a team so then I struggled as well.

“It looks as though he has been bitten by a snake! I don’t know if that’s what it was but it certainly looks that way and he wasn’t feeling very well at all. At the Regroup I made him see the doctor and after some medicine and a bit of a break he was feeling much better which is the main thing.”

Éric Camilli (10th) said:

“It’s been a good day for us, with proper Wales Rally GB conditions. It’s not been easy of course, but after the time loss yesterday we decided to take it steady to learn the stages and have really enjoyed the day.

“At times we pushed and were able to match the likes of Mads, Kris and Dani. They have a lot of experience here in a world rally car – and I have none – so that was very good to see. Of course there’s still a long way to go before we can be setting the sort of pace that Sebastien and Ott are setting up front, but this is a very good start and a good step ahead of next year.”

Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke: “What happened this morning was fairly unusual! After the first stage, we had a slow puncture on the road section. And then we had the same problem after SS10… I don’t understand what happened, but in any case it dictated – at least in part – the rest of the day. I kept pushing but I had to cope with early wear on my four remaining tyres. Apart from my misfortune with the tyres and our difficult starting position, I think we were just short of speed on this surface.”

Stéphane Lefebvre: “We did our best to try and improve in conditions like these. Our set-up was much better than yesterday, although I still felt short of traction. In terms of the gap per kilometre, I got a bit closer to Kris and that’s the key thing for me. Once again, I didn’t have any moments and I felt comfortable in the quickest sections. It’s another positive point, although I would have preferred to be close to the front. One step at a time, though!”

Quentin Gilbert: “I’m continuing to get closer to the leading drivers, but my progress was a bit up and down today. Several factors unsettled me this morning, such as the fog on SS10, my pace notes which were too optimistic in places and the variations in grip from one corner to another. The second pass went better and I’m pleased to have avoided making any mistakes. It’s sometimes frustrating to see the times of the leading guys, but you have to stay focused on your own targets.”

The last day then, and five stages to decide this rally starting with stage 17! Unlike last year, it wasn’t raining, but the stages were still muddy and very slippery! Could Ott mount a final attack on the world champion?

Well, he started the day well with yet another stage victory, but Seb was right there in second just six tenths off Ott’s time and the gap remained at just over 33 seconds. Looking good for third was Thierry, but Hayden wasn’t calling time yet on his bid for the final step on the podium. Jari-Matti was also right there, closing on seventh placed Mads and looking to move ahead.

Stage 18 saw Ott take another stage win with Seb losing more time to the Estonian crew in the D-Mack Fiesta. Hayden was again quicker than Thierry, still looking to move ahead of Thierry.

Stage 19 then and it was another stunning run through the forest for Ott, who now closed the gap to Seb taking seven seconds out of the erstwhile leader! Jari-Matti had won the battle with Mads and moved ahead into seventh place.

Into stage 20 then Ott’s charge was continuing- Would he have enough stages to get ahead for his first WRC victory? He’d closed the gap again to 23 seconds at the end of this stage and there were still two more to go! Thierry was now looking comfortable in third having been quicker through this one by a second.

Right then- stage 21…. Well, it was a fifth stage win in row for Ott and Raigo, an incredible 6.6 seconds quicker than Seb and Julien! The gap was just 16.4 seconds going into the last stage of the rally. Could Ott and Raigo pull it off? It certainly would be a popular victory!

Well, the crew won the last stage of the event to take all three power stage points, Andreas was second fastest, thus getting two extra points and Thierry was third getting one extra point.

Seb and Julien were fifth fastest, just a little over six seconds slower than the stage winner, meaning that they’d won Rally GB, but by only 10.2 seconds from Ott and Raigo. Third place went to Thierry and Nicolas in their Hyundai.

Fourth place went to Hayden and John, with Kris and Paul finishing in fifth, Dani and Marc sixth Jari-Matti seventh, Mads and Ola in eighth, Stephane ninth on his return to competition after that huge accident in Rally Germany back in August and Eric in the M-Sport Fiesta taking the final championship point in tenth.

Final classification

01 Ogier (VW) 3h 14m 30.2s

02 Tänak +10.2s

03 Neuville +1m 35.4s

04 Paddon +1m 54.9s

05 Meeke +2m 35.2s

06 Sordo +4m 02.6s

07 Latvala (VW) +4m 28.3s

08 Østberg +4m 38.3s

09 Lefebvre +7m 12.2s

10 Camilli +8m 19.3s

So, the thoughts of the drivers at the end of the penultimate rally of the year.

Volkswagen Motorsport

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

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“This victory is fantastic. I am so delighted that we have wrapped up the Manufacturers’ title for our fantastic team. It was hard work hanging onto our lead in these extremely slippery conditions here in Wales. Ott Tänak put us under a lot of pressure, so Julien and I had to push ourselves to the limit all weekend. But we did it. Looking back, we have all been on an incredible journey over the past four years. To have such a run of success is definitely something very special – particularly in motorsport, where so many different factors come into play. I am very happy that I opted for Volkswagen before anyone knew where this WRC adventure would take us.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

“Looking at today on its own, we did our job: we overtook Østberg and ended the rally in seventh place. On the whole, we were obviously hoping for a lot more from the weekend and are not happy with this result. On the other hand, Volkswagen claimed its fourth Manufacturers’ title in a row thanks to our team-mate Sébastien Ogier’s win. That is obviously a fantastic success for the entire team here and at the headquarters in Hannover. We will still push hard again in Australia and look to improve our record for this season.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“I am very pleased for our Volkswagen team that we have once again been crowned world champions in the Manufacturers’ Championship. That is no less than we deserve, and I am pleased to have contributed a little here and there. From a personal point of view, I am obviously disappointed with the outcome of the Rally Great Britain in general. We wanted to battle with Thierry Neuville for second place in the championship here, but unfortunately that was not to be. A drive shaft was damaged on Friday and we consequently lost many minutes. That is a real shame, but that is motorsport. These things can happen. We then focused fully on the Power Stage and really gave it our all. We could not have done any more and came away with two points. We will now have to do our very best in Australia to finish second in the world championship. That is exactly what we plan to do.”

D-Mack WRT

Ott Tänak said: “It was a great weekend. After a few issues on Friday we had a very clean run through all the stages and I really enjoyed being back in the battle fighting for the lead. The stages yesterday afternoon and today were very slippery but I think that was the place where the DMACK tyres were working the best and we had the advantage. We didn’t have the best road position but obviously, we benefited from having the best tyres.”

Hyundai Motorsport

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 13 / Wales Rally GB / October 27 – 30, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville said: “It’s been a really nice weekend for us. The team has done an incredible job and we’ve had a good car to contest these tricky stages. We didn’t have the pace to fight for the win but I’m still happy with a podium result. To take a Power Stage point was an added bonus, even if we weren’t pushing for it. The conditions this weekend have been typically demanding but we’ve kept our focus and found some good pace when it has mattered. It’s nice to take the team’s first Wales Rally GB podium, and to continue our run of positive results. It’s particularly pleasing to move clearly into second place in the Drivers’ Championship. Our aim is now to finish the season on a high in Australia.”

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 13 / Wales Rally GB / October 27 – 30, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon said: “We’ve had a hard weekend, so to take fourth place isn’t too bad. We were involved in a tight battle with Thierry for the final podium position, but we weren’t able to take the fight any closer to him. All we could do was keep the gap as small as possible to remind him that we were there, but he had it covered. It’s the second rally in a row where we’ve just missed out, but there are still plenty of positives to take from this event. We know we have areas where we can improve in these conditions. I’ve had to work on adapting my driving style this weekend; this experience will be useful for the future. We now look ahead to Australia, with some positive momentum and a good road position.”

Dani Sordo said: “It’s really been a weekend to forget for us. We weren’t able to find a rhythm on these slippery stages, and we lacked confidence on all days. Our aim this morning was simply to bring the car home and to take some points, which we thankfully achieved without any issues. We have to sit down to analyse why we couldn’t repeat the sort of pace we have enjoyed in other events this season. I have tried my absolute best but nothing we did delivered any real improvements. I’m determined to bounce back in Australia.”

M-Sport WRT

Mads Østberg (8th) said:

“It’s been an enjoyable rally with some really nice stages. I feel as though we have been driving well and we’ve had a good rhythm through the stages but for some reason the times just weren’t coming.

“We also had a very strange moment yesterday when it looked as though Ola was bitten by a snake! I don’t know for sure if that’s what it was, but the symptoms were very similar to a snake bite. His hand swelled, and he was acting very strangely – losing focus even on the stages which is not like Ola at all!

“Thankfully, we got him to the doctor and after some medicine and a bit of a break he was feeling much better. He’s been back to his best today, and we set some encouraging times, but we’ll be hoping to challenge much closer to the front in Australia.”

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 13 / Wales Rally GB / October 27 – 30, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: M-Sport/McKlein

Éric Camilli (10th) said:

“It was a shame about the time loss on the first day, but I think we have to be happy with this weekend. The aim was to gain experience ahead of next year and we have done that – adjusting the pacenotes and learning where it is possible to gain time on these tricky stages.

“When we felt comfortable, we pushed harder and it was good to see that we could match the times of Mads, Dani and Kris – especially when you remember how much experience those guys have.

“Experience counts for so much at this level, so our target will remain the same in Australia where we’ll focus on learning another new rally and being as prepared as possible for next year.”

Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke: “We’ve had a fantastic season. It was very important for me to keep competing in rallies, looking ahead to 2017. Yes, we won two rallies in Portugal and in Finland, but we also had a very high level of performance in Monte-Carlo, Sweden and Corsica. I did my best here in Wales and I’m pleased with my performance, given the conditions. It’s the end of a very special period for me, as the last three seasons have enabled me to secure my place at the highest level. But above all, I can’t wait to get started next season!”

Stéphane Lefebvre: “I’m pleased to have made it to the end without making any mistakes. I managed to find a good rhythm on this third leg. We changed the set-up again and that made a difference. With more traction, I immediately felt more confident behind the wheel. With a more favourable starting position, I set some good times and got a bit closer to Kris. I’m relieved because I was surprised to be so far off the pace of the leading guys yesterday. It’s obviously very important for the future and I am now really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the Citroën C3 WRC.”

Quentin Gilbert: “My main aim was to make it to the finish. Apart from that, I wanted to improve consistently throughout the event. Some stages were better than others and I would have liked to have set some better times but overall, I feel that I did a good job for my first rally in a WRC. I think today was probably my best day of the rally. And yet the conditions were once again very difficult. I would like to thank everyone at Abu Dhabi Total WRT, who have done everything they could to get us in the best possible shape this weekend.”

Also, the thoughts of the team principles.

Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport Director

“A performance worthy of world champions from Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, and a fantastic day for Volkswagen. To win all three titles in the World Rally Championship for the fourth time in a row is anything but a matter of course. It takes a lot of work from the entire team to be so successful. I am extremely proud of the whole team. Drivers, co-drivers, engineers, mechanics, logisticians, the medical department and catering team, meteo and weather crew, and team management – everyone has played an important role. The dedication they show Volkswagen, and their team spirit, cannot be beaten.”

Dick Cormack, DMACK managing director, said:

“This result is extremely significant for DMACK, with our British tyres leading the world-class field on our home WRC rally. We targeted this event and the plan worked perfectly. We’ve demonstrated to manufacturers and competitors just how much we’ve progressed this season and it’s the result of a huge amount of work from our small but committed team, and of course a stunning performance from Ott and Raigo.”

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented:

“Firstly, we are all delighted to secure second place in the Manufacturers’ Championship with today’s result. It’s a special moment in our history and confirmation of our most competitive season in the WRC. It’s actually been a bittersweet weekend from a performance point of view. On the one hand, I am pleased we could take our first ever Welsh podium, thanks to a strong showing from Thierry and Nicolas. On the other hand, we were not able to put up a stronger fight for the top-two positions, which shows there are some areas of performance where we still need to improve. Looking at the positives, the New Generation i20 WRC ran reliably all weekend, and all three crews finished in the top-six – by far our most competitive showing in Wales to date. We can look positively towards the final event of the season.”

M-Sport WR Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“It’s been a really strong performance from Ott and Raigo this weekend – and one of the most impressive of the season. They have totally dominated the final day of competition here in Wales – winning all six stages and claiming maximum points in the Power Stage.

“The team now head to Australia in excellent spirits. Once again, Ott has proven that we have a car capable of claiming rally wins and we’ll be looking for a good performance before embarking on an exciting new era for both the team and the championship.”

Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal:

“I would like to thank our partners Abu Dhabi and Total for having made this transitional programme possible at eight European rounds of the WRC. Well done also to everyone at the PH Sport team, who have run the cars with an excellent level of quality. This season has seen Kris Meeke, Craig Breen and Stéphane Lefebvre add to their experience and maintain their competitive edge, during a phase in which we are developing the new Citroën C3 WRC. Kris’ two victories have extended Citroën’s incredible record in the WRC to 96 wins. This programme also helped us to enhance our technical database. All the positive and negative experiences will help us to prepare more effectively for Citroën’s return in 2017.”

Well, there you go, the closest finish of the year, with a really good battle for the lead. One rally to go, Rally Australia, with shakedown on the 17th of November and then three days in one of the toughest rallies on the planet, with the young Kiwi Hayden essentially regarding it as an almost home event.

It will also as we know now, be the final event in the WRC for Volkswagen, with the news that they are ending their involvement at the end of that event. A big shock really.

Julien Ingrassia (F), Sébastien Ogier (F)
WRC Rally Great Britain 2016
Photo: Bodo Kräling

Here’s the points standings for the drivers and teams’ championship.

2016 Word Rally Championship standings, drivers

01 Ogier (VW), 247 points

02 Neuville, 143 points

03 Mikkelsen (VW), 129 points

04 Paddon, 126 points

05 Sordo, 119 points

06 Latvala (VW), 110 points

07 Østberg, 94 points

08 Tänak, 82 points

09 Meeke, 64 points

10 Breen, 36 points

2016 Word Rally Championship standings, manufacturers

01 Volkswagen Motorsport, 355 points

02 Hyundai, 285 points

03 M-Sport Motorsport, 154 points

04 Volkswagen Motorsport II, 138 points

05 Hyundai Motorsport N, 136 points

WRC Rally Great Britain 2016
Photo: Bodo Kräling

Warren Nel

8th November 2016

Volkswagen realigns motorsport programme

Sébastien Ogier (F), Julien Ingrassia (F)
Volkswagen Polo R WRC (2015)
WRC Rally Great Britain 2015

Commitment to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) ends after winning twelve world championship titles in a row

Wolfsburg, 2 November 2016 – The Volkswagen brand realigns its motorsport programme. From 2017, Volkswagen will focus on new technologies and customer sport. The commitment to the FIA World Rally Championship is coming to an end after four historically successful years, in which Volkswagen won WRC titles in the driver, co-driver and manufacturer rankings in a row with the Polo R.

“The Volkswagen brand is facing enormous challenges. With the upcoming expansion in electrification of our vehicle range we must focus all our efforts on important future technologies. We far exceeded our sporting goals in the WRC, now we are realigning Volkswagen Motorsport and moving the vehicle technology of the future more starkly into focus,” said Frank Welsch, Member of the Board of Management responsible for Technical Development, to about 200 motorsport employees in Hannover. “At the same time, Volkswagen is going to focus more on customer racing. As well as the Golf GTI TCR on the circuit track and the Beetle GRC in rallycross, we also want to offer customers top products and will develop a new Polo according to R5 regulations.”

Started with the 2016 season, the Golf GTI TCR prepared by Volkswagen Motorsport offers a production-derived customer sport vehicle for ambitious drivers and teams committed on global and national levels in the fast growing TCR touring car category. In the USA, Volkswagen of America has successfully entered two Beetle vehicles, developed by Volkswagen Motorsport in Hannover, into the Global Rallycross series and has already prepared them for the 2017 season. Scott Speed won the drivers’ title in the popular US series in both 2015 and 2016, and this season the manufacturer’s title also went to Volkswagen. The brand will investigate the expansion of these activities on the strength of their existing experience in rallycross. Moreover, in 2017 Volkswagen will begin development of a new rally vehicle in the R5-category based on the next generation Polo and will offer the car to customers to buy from 2018 onwards.

The new vehicle, the Polo, will reap the benefit of the entire experience from the successful WRC commitment, where the factory teams of Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia, Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila and Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jæger competed in 51 rallies with 42 wins and 621 best times in the special stages – no other car in the history of the World Rally Championship has a better success rate. Last weekend, Volkswagen won their fourth manufacturer’s title* in a row in the UK World Rally Championship.

“I want to give our heartfelt thanks to our drivers and co-drivers for their outstanding achievements. They are not only unbelievably quick, but also extremely effective ambassadors for the Volkswagen brand. The whole team built around Motorsport Director Sven Smeets has created the basis for this success with the enormous commitment of each individual. We want to continue working with this excellent team and bring about the realignment. In the same way, we will expand the close cooperation between production development and motorsport, which has always shown benefits to both sides in recent years. There is a guarantee of employment for the Volkswagen Motorsport employees,” said Frank Welsch.

Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets explained: “Of course, we regret the departure from the WRC very much – as this was the most successful chapter in the Volkswagen brand’s motorsport history. The team has done great things. At the same time, our vision is firmly ahead, because we are aware of the great challenges facing the entire company. We want our realignment to contribute to the success of the Volkswagen brand. From now on, the focus is on upcoming technologies in motorsport and on our customer sports range, where we will position ourselves more broadly and attractively.”

* Subject to ratification of the results by the FIA

Wales Rally GB 2016

It’s time for the home rally, the penultimate WRC rally of the year! Twenty-two stages of action from Wales and also England this year for the first time since 1999. Now the weather looks much kinder than last year with low temperatures, but no rain. Last year it rained so much, it was really muddy out there. The stages were really slippery as well with Jari-Matti sliding out very early!

Last year’s result

1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:03:02.0

2. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (DS 3 WRC) +26.0

3. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +36.2

4. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:51.3

5. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:00.5

6. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:09.1

7. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (DS 3 WRC) +4:28.4

8. Stéphane Lefebvre / Stéphane Prévot (DS 3 WRC) +5:38.4

9. Robert Kubica / Maciek Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +6:22.7

10. Lorenzo Bertelli / Lorenzo Granai (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +8:05.0

Here’s the details of each stage this year.

Friday 28th of October


SS 1 Myherin 1 31.82 08:20

SS 2 Sweet Lamb 1 4.24 09:11

SS 3 Hafren 1 35.14 09:24

SS 4 Dyfnant 1 17.91 11:15

SS 5 Myherin 2 31.82 13:54

SS 6 Sweet Lamb 2 4.24 14:45

SS 7 Hafren 2 35.14 14:58

SS 8 Dyfnant 2 17.91 16:49

Friday Total KM 178.22

Saturday 29th October


SS 9 Pantperthog 1 9.64 08:18

SS 10 Dyfi 1 21.12 08:51

SS 11 Gartheiniog 1 11.34 09:27

SS 12 Pantperthog 2 9.64 11:04

SS 13 Dyfi 2 21.12 11:37

SS 14 Gartheinog 2 11.34 12:13

SS 15 Aberhirnant 13.91 13:18

SS 16 Cholmondeley Castle 1.80 15:41

Saturday Total KM 99.91

Sunday 30th October


SS 17 Clocaenog 1 7.70 08:31

SS 18 Brenig 1 7.93 09:08

SS 19 Alwen 1 10.41 09:28

SS 20 Clocaenog 2 7.70 10:33

SS 21 Alwen 2 10.41 11:14

SS 22 Brenig 2(Power Stage)7.93 12:08

Sunday Total KM 52.08

Total KM 330.21

A long event then and the stages at the end of Friday and Saturday will be run close to sunset as well. Now, if you recall, last year was won by Seb. He’ll be coming here to this hoping to repeat this. Competing for the last time this year will also be Kris and the Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT crew. It’s been a long time since we had a winner of the home event from these shores. Richard Burns and Robert Reid were the last in 2000, so I hope that Kris and Paul can challenge at the front. Of the current drivers, Jari-Matti and Seb have won the last five Rally GB between them with Jari-Matti in 2011 and 2012 and Seb the last three years

Here’s the views of the drivers ahead of this classic rally.

Volkswagen Motorsport

Sébastien Ogier (F), Julien Ingrassia (F)
Volkswagen Polo R WRC (2015)
WRC Rally Great Britain 2015

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

“I am very happy to travel to the Rally Great Britain as world champion. However, I remain just as motivated, as we also want to defend the Manufacturers’ title for Volkswagen. The Wales Rally GB is one of the rallies that is the most steeped in history. It took me a while to find my feet in Wales. The learning process was probably longer here than at any other rally. I have won here three times since joining Volkswagen. After everything I’ve been through in Wales, I can now say that I feel right at home here. An important factor is, as it is every year, the weather. If no rain is predicted in the weather forecasts, you can actually still count on there being rain. I expect very wet and foggy routes, which are very typical for this time of year there. The fans are absolutely crazy, as thousands of spectators turned out to cheer us on every year, despite the poor weather. I am particularly looking forward to that.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

“The rally in Wales is one of my very favourite rallies. As I was really quick on the gravel stages in Spain last time out, I will also be quick in Wales. I have no doubt about that. However, the season has been really difficult for me so far. As such, I hope I can finish strongly at the final two rounds of the season and make it into the top three in the Drivers’ Championship come the end of the year. The surface can be very tricky in Wales. If it has rained heavily overnight, the tracks can be very greasy and slippery for the cars starting further down the order. That is typical for Wales. However, this year’s rally starts two weeks earlier than in recent years, so I hope it will not rain quite as much. I drove my first rally there in 2002, so have greater experience in Wales than at any other rally – I am certain that I can challenge for victory there.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

“I particularly like the layout of the special stages at the Rally Great Britain. I always enjoy driving there. Driving the Polo at the limit on the muddy, slippery surface is very tricky. Like every year, we will have to be prepared for rain and difficult conditions in Wales. The crash in Spain meant I dropped valuable points in the championship and my friend Thierry Neuville has drawn level on points with me in the Drivers’ Championship. It is going to be a tough battle with him for second place. My goal is obviously to be second come the end of the season. Anders and I will focus solely on our own performance and try to get the maximum out of the final two races. We have already had a few great battles with Thierry this season, and Wales will be no different.”

Hyundai Motorsport

2015 World Rally Championship / Round 13 / Rally of Wales GB // 12th – 15th November, 2015 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo said: “Wales Rally GB is a special event for everyone. It’s a ‘big name’ event on the calendar and one where we all want to achieve success. Typically, the terrain is quite challenging. If it rains a lot, the conditions can get very muddy and slippery. I feel that we are well prepared with our car for this event. It offers good grip, so often it can be very enjoyable to drive in the wetter conditions. As always, I’ll try my best to compete near the front. We had an incredible rally in Spain – and it was fantastic to be in a fight for the victory. I will carry those feelings onto Wales and see what we can achieve.”

Thierry Neuville said: “Wales Rally GB is a very fast and exciting rally, especially with the narrow roads that go through the forest. It can, of course, be quite slippery as well. This is particularly an issue on the second pass when driving on wet gravel. It can make it very interesting, I can tell you! It’s a nice event and one we all enjoy a lot. To be competitive, you need to find a good rhythm early on, so that will be our first objective. We want to be challenging again for the podium – and to keep up our positive run of results.”

Hayden Paddon said: “Rally Spain was a valuable event for us. We really made some good progress on the tarmac stages, and that was rewarded with our best result on the surface. I am now ready for a return to the loose stuff, so I’m looking forward to Wales Rally GB. It’s an event I enjoy a lot. It reminds me a bit of being back in New Zealand with the Welsh forest, and of course being an English-speaking venue. Despite it being an enjoyable rally, I’ve never really been able to put together a good result. That is definitely something we want to rectify this year. Bring it on!”

D-Mack WRT

Ott Tänak said: “The Rally GB stages are great fun to drive and this year’s event will see us make quite a few new pace-notes as many stages are either new or reversed – and that’s always a challenge. We are back on gravel so the aim is like always – to go as fast as possible and be competitive like the other gravel rallies this year.”

Abu Dhabi Citroen WRT

Kris Meeke: “Wales Rally GB wasn’t initially part of my schedule, but the cancellation of Rally China means I’m able to take part and I’m delighted to do so! In the 1980s, I remember my first experience of rallying on television, watching the Group B cars tackling the stages of the RAC rally. This was also the first World Championship rally that I saw in person, in 1996, I think it was. At the time, I was spellbound as Colin McRae and Richard Burns sped by. It didn’t matter that you were standing in the darkness and the rain, with your feet in the mud! Then I competed in my very first rally on the Welsh stages and it was also here that I made my WRC debut in 2002. It’s the event that I know the best and I feel at home here. Last year, I secured a good result with second place, but we all know that the weather and the running order are more important in Wales than anywhere else! Obviously, the first car has an enormous advantage. Once the racing lines become covered with a layer of greasy, slippery mud, it doesn’t budge… Bearing in mind that we’re ninth on the road, it’s likely to be very difficult for us. In any case, I can’t wait to get started. All the stages are special in some way, but I particularly like Hafren, which we are going to contest in the opposite direction for the first time. For my final appearance of the year, I’ll be trying to enjoy driving the car as much as possible and hopefully take some momentum into 2017.”

Craig Breen: “I’m looking forward to racing on these stages again, which I have driven on many times in the British Rally Championship and during my five appearances at Wales Rally GB. I have a lot of good memories, the highlight probably being when I won the Junior WRC title in 2011 alongside Gareth Roberts, who was Welsh. In fact, the start line for Myherin – the opening stage this year – is exactly at the point where we won the title! Although this year’s rally is being held a few weeks earlier than usual, I’m not expecting the conditions to be especially different: rain, mud, fog, etc. Maybe we’ll see a few rays of sunshine, but it would be weird! The race conditions will have a huge influence on our ability to secure a good result. If our tenth place on the road became an advantage, I think I could fight for a podium spot, like in Finland. We’ll start the rally with a positive mindset and we’ll see what we can do.”

Stéphane Lefebvre: “Two months after Rallye Deutschland, I’m happy to be back behind the wheel of a WRC. It’s an important weekend, both in terms of finding my speed again and acquiring experience for 2017. With Gilles de Turckheim, who will be my co-driver in Wales as Gabin Moreau continues his recovery, we took part in recce at Rally de España and we have done a lot of work preparing for the Welsh stages. I feel ready to drive at 100%, on a rally that I really like. My last two outings here were in four-wheel drive cars and I was quick despite the difficult conditions. I remember driving on my first gravel stage, at night and in the rain… and I enjoyed it! At first, the stages don’t seem that difficult. It looks like a series of straight sections and a few more or less muddy changes in direction. In the race, however, you realise that you hit the turns a lot quicker than expected and the car doesn’t always stop in the way you intended! You have to ‘read’ the grip changes to stay on the limit without overstepping it. It’s a little bit like the kind of conditions you get in the north of France, but on gravel. I hope I can have a consistent race, with a steady gap to the leaders.”

Quentin Gilbert: “I really like this event for the stages, the difficult conditions and the atmosphere. I have some bearings from having competed here three times before. I have also been lucky enough to drive a WRC in the French Championship. I know what to expect in terms of power, braking and handling. So I won’t be starting from scratch next weekend! The team is doing everything it can to make my job easier, working in precise detail on my position behind the wheel and running a test session, which will help me get used to the car. On my side, I have been preparing by stepping up my physical training and working on on-board camera footage. I’m trying to take on board as much information as possible so I can be in my element at the start. As regards my objectives for the weekend, I know that I can’t compete with the drivers who have been racing in the WRC all season. The most important thing for me is to improve on the stages as the rally progresses to reduce the gap to the leaders by the end. I would like to thank Citroën Racing and Abu Dhabi Total WRT for this incredible opportunity and I hope I can prove my worth.”

M-Sport WRT

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

Mads Østberg said:

“We’ve learnt a lot on the last few Tarmac rallies, but I must admit that it feels good to be going back to gravel – and to one of my favourite events on the calendar.

“There is something special about Wales Rally GB and we really want to be back challenging for the podium. I’ve always enjoyed these stages and I’ve been competitive on them too. I’ve been on the podium twice before, and the aim is to be in a position to fight for those top positions again this year.

“The stages really are fantastic. They’re so fast and smooth and you can get into a really good rhythm. They’re actually quite similar to some of the stages we find in Norway, so I definitely feel at home in Wales. The key is to feel comfortable and confident in the tricky conditions, and that’s what we’ll be aiming to do.

“The event is a little earlier this year so we could actually see a dry rally which would be amazing. I’ve done the rally in the dry once before and it was brilliant. But whatever the weather, I really don’t mind, I’m just looking forward to throwing the car into those fast gravel corners!”

Éric Camilli said:

“Wales Rally GB is a really special event for me, and it will be even more special this year as it’s the home rally for my team. They have been so supportive this season, and it would mean a lot to repay them with a good result next week.

“We’ve only competed in Wales once before – in WRC 2 – but we were competitive from the start and came really close to the win. This year will be completely different, but I’m looking forward to it and to building on our gravel performances from earlier in the year.

“The stages are really fast and flowing and even in the wet the grip levels can be surprisingly high. We’ll need to take some time to discover how a world rally car handles and reacts to the conditions, but we always want to do our maximum.

“The most important thing is to finish the event, but if the feeling is there, it will be nice to push the limits and see how far we’ve come.”

So, this will be the swansong for the DS3 WRC as well. A very successful car over the years. Can it sign out with at least a podium place? Can Jari-Matti get a third victory?

We shall find out! Enjoy the event!

Warren Nel

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

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

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

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

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

01 Tänak 3m 47.6s

02 Bertelli +2.7s

03 Ogier (VW) +3.5s

04 Meeke +5.2s

05 Breen +5.2s

06 Neuville +5.7s

07 Mikkelsen (VW) +5.8s

08 Østberg +6.1s

09 Paddon 6.4s

10 Sordo +7.1s

11 Latvala (VW) +12.0s

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

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

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

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

01 Neuville 7m 39.9s

02 Paddon +1.6s

03 Ogier (VW) +2.5s

04 Sordo +4.2s

05 Latvala (VW) +4.6s

06 Mikkelsen (VW) +5.6s

07 Østberg +16.2s

08 Breen +30.7s

09 Meeke +40.9s

10 Abbring +41.5s

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

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

01 Latvala (VW) 4m 12.0s

02 Ogier (VW) +1.0s

03 Neuville +1.4s

04 Paddon +2.4s

05 Mikkelsen (VW) +2.6s

06 Sordo +3.7s

07 Østberg +6.1s

08 Meeke +6.2s

09 Breen +6.5s

10 Tänak +9.2s

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

01 Latvala (VW) 25m 48.7s

02 Ogier (VW) +3.9s

03 Sordo +6.1s

04 Neuville +8.2s

05 Mikkelsen (VW) +10.4s

06 Paddon +17.6s

07 Østberg +22.9s

08 Breen +25.4s

09 Meeke +29.2s

10 Tänak +52.0s

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

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

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

01 Sordo 7m 57.3s

02 Abbring +4.1s

03 Østberg +4.5s

04 Bertelli +4.6s

05 Meeke +5.2s

06 Paddon +5.2s

07 Mikkelsen (VW) +8.5s

08 Camilli +9.5s

09 Prokop +12.3s

10 Tänak +13.7s

11 Ogier (VW) +16.3s

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

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

01 Sordo 4m 06.0s

02 Tänak +1.2s

03 Meeke +2.4s

04 Breen +3.5s

05 Ogier (VW) 5.7s

06 Mikkelsen (VW) +5.8s

07 Østberg +6.1s

08 Paddon +6.9s

09 Abrring +7.8s

10 Neuville +7.8s

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

01 Meeke 24:50.1

02 Sordo +1.7

03 Ogier +6.9

04 Ostberg +15.2

05 Mikkelsen +19.2

06 Breen +27.4

07 Neuville +27.9

08 Tanak +29.4

09 Paddon +30.2

10 Camilli + 41.6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The thoughts of the top three then.

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

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

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

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

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

The rest of the drivers

Volkswagen Motorsport

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

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

Hyundai Motorsport

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

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

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

M-Sport WRT

Mads Østberg (6th) said:

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

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

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

Éric Camilli (10th) said:

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

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

Abu Dhabi Citroen WRT

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

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

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

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

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

01 Latvala (VW) 4m 03.4s

02 Meeke +0.2s

03 Mikkelsen (VW) +0.5s

04 Ogier (VW) +1.7s

05 Sordo +1.8s

06 Neuville +2.6s

07 Paddon +4.3s

08 Tänak +5.1s

09 Østberg +5.2s

10 Abbring 6.3s

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

01 Latvala (VW) 11m 05.9s

02 Sordo +0.7s

03 Ogier (VW) +1.3s

04 Mikkelsen (VW) +2.2s

05 Neuville +2.6s

06 Paddon +6.4s

07 Camilli +8.7s

08 Østberg +16.3s

09 Tänak +18.1s

10 Abbring +24.2s

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

01 Ogier (VW) 11m 12.9s

02 Sordo + 3.0s

03 Latvala +3.3s

04 Meeke +3.5s

05 Neuville +5.4s

06 Mikkelsen (VW) +7.4s

07 Paddon +8.6s

08 Camilli +14.7s

09 Tänak +23.2s

10 Østberg +24.3s

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

01 Ogier (VW) 12m 27.3s

02 Sordo +6.8s

03 Latvala (VW) +9.9s

04 Neuville +10.9s

05 Meeke +12.0s

06 Mikkelsen (VW) +12.2s

07 Paddon +13.9s

08 Østberg +23.9s

09 Camilli +26.5s

10 Abbring +30.8s

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

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

01 Ogier (VW) 11m 02.0s

02 Sordo +2.5s

03 Paddon +5.9s

04 Neuville +8.4s

05 Breen +10.5s

06 Østberg +12.6s

07 Meeke +19.6s

08 Abbring +19.8s

09 Prokop +21.2s

10 Tänak +24.2s

11 Latvala +40.4s

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

01 Ogier (VW) 11m 14.3s

02 Latvala (VW) +2.0s

03 Sordo +2.7s

04 Neuville +3.9s

05 Meeke +4.5s

06 Paddon +8.1s

07 Breen +11.7s

08 Østberg +18.4s

09 Abbring +23.9s

10 Tänak +25.5s

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

01 Ogier (VW) 12m 29.3s

02 Latvala (VW) +2.2s

03 Neuville +3.9s

04 Sordo +4.2s

05 Meeke +4.9s

06 Paddon +5.5s

07 Breen +12.4s

08 Østberg +20.1s

09 Abbring +22.8s

10 Tänak +27.8s

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

01 Meeke 2m 33.0s

02 Paddon +0.1s

03 Neuville +0.2s

04 Ogier (VW) +0.3s

05 Latvala (VW) +0.7s

06 Østberg +0.9s

07 Prokop +2.5s

08 Bertelli +3.3s

09 Tänak +3.9s

10 Sordo +4.4s

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

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

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

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

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

The rest of the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

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

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

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

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

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

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

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

M-Sport WRT

Mads Østberg (6th) said:

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

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

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

Éric Camilli (21st) said:

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

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

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

Top ten at the end of day two

01 Ogier (VW) 2h 35m 12.8s

02 Sordo +5.8s

03 Neuville +1m 03.9s

04 Paddon +1m 20.0s

05 Meeke +1m 57.9s

06 Østberg +2m 35.7s

07 Tänak 4m 24.7s

08 Abrring 6m 22.7s

09 Prokop 7m 13.3s

10 Bertelli 9m 17.1s

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

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

01 Ogier (VW) 10m 58.3s

02 Paddon +2.0s

03 Sordo +2.6s

04 Neuville +4.7s

05 Latvala (VW) +6.3s

06 Breen +8.5s

07 Tänak +18.9s

08 Østberg +22.7s

09 Camilli +23.6s

10 Abbring +24.6s

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

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

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

01 Latvala (VW) 10m 53.1s

02 Ogier (VW) +1.2s

03 Paddon +1.5s

04 Neuville +2.1s

05 Sordo +2.7s

06 Breen +3.6s

07 Camilli +9.0s

08 Østberg +9.8s

09 Tänak +16.1s

10 Abbring +16.8s

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

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

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

Stage 19

01 Latvala (VW) 7m 55.8s

02 Ogier (VW) +1.6s

03 Sordo +3.2s

04 Neuville +3.6s

05 Paddon +3.6s

06 Breen +5.2s

07 Østberg +6.4s

08 Camilli +10.3s

09 Abbring +15.3s

10 Bertelli +15.4s

Overall result

01 Ogier (VW) 2h 46m 11.1s

02 Sordo +8.4s

03 Neuville +1m 08.6s

04 Paddon +1m 22.0s

05 Østberg +2m 58.4s

06 Tänak +4m 43.6s

07 Abbring +6m 47.3s

08 Prokop 7m 56.8s

09 Kopecky +8m 13.6s

10 Tidemand +8m 24.5s

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

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

His thoughts then at the end of the event.

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1

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

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

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

The rest of the drivers

Hyundai Motorsport

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

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

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

Volkswagen Motorsport

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2

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

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9

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

M-Sport WRT

Mads Østberg (5th) said:

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

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

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

Éric Camilli (19th) said:

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

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

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

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

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

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

D-Mack WRT

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

Drivers’ standings

1. Sébastien Ogier, 222 points

2. Andreas Mikkelsen, 127

3. Thierry Neuville, 127

4. Hayden Paddon, 114

5. Dani Sordo, 111

6. Jari-Matti Latvala, 104

7. Mads Østberg, 90

8. Ott Tänak, 60

9. Kris Meeke, 54

10. Craig Breen, 36

Manufacturers’ Championship

1. Volkswagen Motorsport, 322 points

2. Hyundai Motorsport, 260

3. M-Sport, 144

4. Volkswagen Motorsport II, 136

5. Hyundai Motorsport N, 124

6. DMACK, 74

7. Jipocar Czech National Team, 18

8. Yazeed Racing, 4

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

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

Warren Nel

2016 Tour de Corse Review

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

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

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

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

Friday 30th September: Leg 1

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

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

Saturday 1st October: Leg 2

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

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

Sunday 2nd October: Leg 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

01 Ogier (VW) 1h 37m 52.8s

02 Neuville +44.0s

03 Latvala (VW) +58.0s

04 Mikkelsen (VW) +59.3s

05 Breen +1m 18.7s

06 Paddon +1m 26.2s

07 Camilli +2m 00.7s

08 Sordo +2m 39.1s

09 Østberg +2m 41.9s

10 Meeke +2m 51.9s

Here’s the thoughts of the top three then:

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

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

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

The rest of the drivers:

Volkswagen Motorsport:

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

Hyundai Motorsport:

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

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

M-Sport WRT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abu Dhabi WRT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

01 Ogier (VW) 3h 27m 10.0s

02 Neuville +46.5s

03 Mikkelsen (VW) +1m 08.0s

04 Latvala (VW) +1m 41.3s

05 Breen +2m 04.6s

06 Paddon +2m 42.7s

07 Sordo +3m 03.9s

08 Camilli +4m 18.2s

09 Østberg +5m 10.5s

10 Tänak +6m 00.2s

The thoughts then of the top three:

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

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

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

The rest of the drivers:

Volkswagen Motorsport:

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

Hyundai Motorsport:

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

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

M-Sport WRT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT:

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

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

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

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

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

The final standings then:

01 Ogier (VW) 4h 07m 17.0s

02 Neuville +46.4s

03 Mikkelsen (VW) +1m 10.0s

04 Latvala (VW) +1m 35.6s

05 Breen +2m 18.6s

06 Paddon +2m 36.1s

07 Sordo +3m 06.9s

08 Camilli +4m 53.9s

09 Østberg +5m 37.7s

10 Tänak +6m 26.6s

Here’s the interviews with the top three then:

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

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

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

The thoughts of the rest of the drivers:

Hyundai Motorsport:

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

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

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT:

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

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

M-Sport WRT:

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

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

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


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

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

Drivers’ Championship:

1. Sébastien Ogier, 195 points

2. Andreas Mikkelsen, 127

3. Thierry Neuville, 112

4. Hayden Paddon, 102

5. Jari-Matti Latvala, 101

6. Dani Sordo, 92

7. Mads Østberg, 80

8. Kris Meeke, 54

9. Ott Tänak, 52

10. Craig Breen, 35

Manufacturers’ Championship:

1. Volkswagen Motorsport, 293 points

2. Hyundai Motorsport, 227

3. Volkswagen Motorsport II, 136

4. M-Sport, 132

5. Hyundai Motorsport N, 106

6. DMACK, 66

7. Jipocar Czech National Team, 18

8. Yazeed Racing, 4

Join me soon for all the details.

Warren Nel, WRC editor


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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