Rallye Deutschland 2018 review – Ott Tanak makes it two in a row!

Shakedown took place on Thursday morning, with Ott showing great pace, and the two top championship protagonists in third and fourth.

SHAKEDOWN STANDINGS

  1. Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:52.9
  2. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:53.1
  3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:53.5
  4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:53.6
  5. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:53.8
  6. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:54.3
  7. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:54.3
  8. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:54.7
  9. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:55.4
  10. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:55.9
  11. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:57.3

 

Later in the same day, we had the first stage of the day and with Ott taking and early lead from Kalle Rovanpera who is driving a Skoda Fabia WRC2 in this event! Real giant killing driving! In fact, there were a number of WRC2 drivers inside the top ten.

Onto Friday’s action and with six stages, who would emerge in front? The start list looked like this – Neuville, Ogier, Tänak, Lappi, Sordo, Mikkelsen, Latvala, Evans, Ostberg, Breen, Suninen.

Seb won SS2 from Thierry and Ott third and with it took the lead by just eight tenths of a second from the Estonian. The road was becoming quite gravel strewn by the time Craig came to it, with him finding he needed to be cautious, and getting his braking points right, so made it through with no moments.

Onto SS3 and there was a change in the lead, with Ott five seconds faster than Seb in the stage. Everyone who finished the stage before Craig had a clean run, but three or four km’s into the stage the heavens had opened and it was really wet! His Citroen teammate, Mads had a spin in a hairpin as well, so not a great stage for their team.

It was a Toyota 1-2 in SS4 with Ott faster than Esapekka, and Thierry taking third, closing the gap to Ogier a little. Further back, Latvala passed Elfyn, moving into sixth.

It was time for service, and the opportunity to change some aspects in the car set up.

Into the afternoon stages, and Ott won SS5 by just three tenths of a second from Seb. There was a big change though, with Elfyn jumping from seventh to fourth overall with a great stage time. Mads sadly had a car problem, losing engine power. Craig was also on the move in his Citroen, passing Andreas in their battle for eighth overall.

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 09 / Rallye Deutschland 2018 / August 16-19, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Well, SS6 had dried out since the run in the morning and Ott won again, increasing his lead a little bit over Seb. Mads lost some more time with his engine problem dropping out of the top ten. There was another change in the top ten, with Dani getting past Esapekka Lappi into sixth.

The final stage of the day and SS7 was won by Ott again, whilst Lappi and Sordo were ahead of Seb. Ott’s lead over Seb was now 12.3, with Thierry in third overall. Craig was optimistic that Saturday would be better too.

Here’s the top ten then after Friday’s stages.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 59:22.6
  2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 12.3
  3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +27.4
  4. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 37.8
  5. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 38.8
  6. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 42.7
  7. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 42.8
  8. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 58.0
  9. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 59.0
  10. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:21.4
  11. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:28.1

 

Here’s the thoughts of the drivers then – Top three first

Ott Tänak

“I think we have had close to a perfect day today. The driving was clean and the car was working really well. Everything was new for me, driving this car on these very specific stages, but I could adapt quickly, the rhythm was there from the first stage and I was able to push hard all day. This afternoon it was more difficult because it rained during lunchtime and every corner had a different level of grip, but we had a clean run with no mistakes. Tomorrow is a different day with more demanding stages on Baumholder, but the mindset is still the same. There is a long way to go and we just need to keep focused and keep concentrated.”

Sébastien Ogier

“I’m pretty happy with my day. I was pushing hard all the time and the car feels good. The chassis is working really well this weekend and I had a lot of fun driving.

“Hats off to Ott [Tänak] for a really strong day – but of course it is frustrating to see him just that little bit faster than us on almost every stage; making the gap 12 seconds at the end of the day.

“We need to keep trying tomorrow and with Baumholder having a different characteristic you never know what’s going to happen.

“The main target is to stay ahead of Thierry [Neuville], but the second target is to win the rally – so I’m only halfway there! Tomorrow will be a long day and we have to keep trying.”

Thierry Neuville

“I think we have done all we could today with no real mistakes. We had one minor problem this morning, which we were able to resolve and we can reflect on a safe start to this rally. In the morning loop we took the safer option with two spare tyres, and lost some time because of the extra weight. It was also quite dusty. It’s been difficult to match the times of Ott and Seb, but we are in the podium fight, which is good. I am not in the mood to take big risks being in the lead of the championship.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Elfyn Evans (4th)

“It’s been an okay day and I think we can be pretty happy with the way things have gone. It was a bit of a shame to lose so much time this morning, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes and we have to keep trying. It’s extremely close in the mid-pack, but we’ll give it a good push for the podium positions tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans, Dan Barritt. Rally Deutschland. Photo credit M-Sport

Teemu Suninen (10th)

“The feeling has been getting better and better and I have been really happy with the car. This is my first time with this car on Tarmac, but already the level is quite good. There is still a lot to learn and the main thing is the braking and turning with these cars, but I’m enjoying and looking forward to another challenge tomorrow.”

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)

“This morning I lacked a little bit of confidence in the conditions: with my road position there was more dirt coming on the road than I was used to here before. In service we made some changes with the front differential and the afternoon was definitely better for me. I was very happy with what we did on the second run over Mittelmosel in particular. It’s going to be a good fight tomorrow. For me, tomorrow’s stages are the best ones on this rally. It’s wider and you can use racing lines more, and that’s what I like. Also, the roads will be cleaner than today and that should suit me better.”

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

“I was quite pleased with the morning loop. The conditions were quite nice and the car worked really well. The afternoon was then quite tough. The vineyard roads got really dirty in some corners and I struggled a lot in these places. The car feels fine, it’s just a lack of confidence on my side because I don’t want to make a mistake and I am backing off too much. Still, tomorrow is a long day and we have a good road position, and we are only five seconds away from fourth place.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (6th)

“It has been a difficult start to the rally for us. I wasn’t particularly happy on the morning loop and struggled to find grip. We have continued to push as hard as possible but the times at the front are very quick and we haven’t been able to match them. We have suffered with understeer and just haven’t been able to get into the required rhythm. The stages tomorrow will give us a different tarmac challenge, so we will continue to do what we can. The fight for fourth place is very close!”

Andreas Mikkelsen (9th)

“We have spent the day working hard on adapting my driving style as well as making some adjustments to the car. It was clear during the morning loop that I had to be more aggressive on the steering. We looked closely at the situation at service, and my engineer did a great job to help us make improvements. The afternoon was definitely a step in the right direction. Changing my style of driving after ten years is not the work of a moment but I hope we can continue in this way for the remainder of the weekend.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (8th)

“It really does seem that I can’t get a break on a Friday. Things didn’t go the way I had hoped, but there’s still a long way to go. The weather is forecast to be dry and sunny tomorrow and I’ll have a decent road position, so hopefully I can show what we’re capable of.”

Mads Østberg (11th)

“I’m still learning about the car, and getting used to racing on tarmac again as well. Given the conditions, the morning went fairly well for us in terms of our pace. The afternoon was harder with the engine issue, but I really hope that tomorrow’s leg will work out better for us.”

 

Day Two – Saturday

Into Saturday then and with eight stages run, a much longer day to deal with. The start list reflected the top ten – Serderidis, Ostberg, Suninen, Mikkelsen, Breen, Lappi, Sordo, Latvala, Evans, Neuville, Ogier, Tänak. Certainly, Craig was looking to a better day, with his best road position since Sweden.

The first one, SS8 saw Latvala go fastest with Dani and Craig just a tiny gap behind. Jari-Matti’s pace took him past Elfyn. Craig’s pace took him closer to Lappi, with the Citroen driver so much faster than the Finn.

The next one, SS9 saw a fastest time from Dani Sordo and with that, he jumped into fourth passing Elfyn who now fell to sixth. Ott Tanak’s lead was now 13 seconds over Seb. Mads, who was looking to get back into changed part of the setup, but it introduced understeer when on the power, making the car hard to drive. Craig was fourth as well, getting a little closer to Lappi.

It was Lappi though who hit back in SS10, winning the stage from Jari-Matti with Ogier third. This moved him ahead of Elfyn. Mads and Teemu continued their battle for the final points position, with just a little over a second between them, but in Teemu’s favour.

Disaster would befall Elfyn in SS11, after he went off. Craig Breen won the stage, from Lappi with Mads and Ott sharing the third fastest time. Dani could only manage the eighth fastest time whilst Thierry was ninth, meaning they’d both been passed by Jari-Matti who was now in third place overall.

A service break followed, with Thierry looking to make some changes to his car, so that he would feel a lot more confident with it. Ott said that he wasn’t that happy with his car

Into SS12 then, and Dani won the stage, moving ahead of his teammate, Thierry, who was now in fifth place. The gap closed a little between Ott and Seb, but not really anything to get too excited about with the gap still at over 13 seconds between them.

Massive change happened in SS13. Another stage victory for Dani – he was really in the groove – moved him ahead of Jari-Matti, and with Ogier getting a puncture 8.4km into the stage, he only managed 21st fastest, losing 1 minute 43 seconds and dropping to ninth overall. Mads didn’t understand why he was slow, after reporting that his car felt great in the stage. Dani was now in second overall.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 09, Rallye Deutschland 16-19 August 2018
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Just two stages remained and the first, SS14 was won by Seb, fighting back after his problem in stage 13. Lappi and Latvala were second and third after setting the same time. Top three overall was Ott, Dani and Jari-Matti. Ogier’s pace was good enough to put him up one place into seventh, Teemu dropping behind. Andreas will be Seb’s next target, with just 3.5 seconds between them.

Okay, the final stage of the day, SS15. Drama for Craig, who went off the road, damaging the rear left tyre. He lost so much time and dropped to tenth place, behind Mads. Winner of the stage was Jari-Matti, four tenths faster than Esapekka whilst Ogier set the third fastest time and this meant the gap to Andreas had come down to just half a second. But what a day that Ott had?! His lead over second placed Dani stood at 43.7 seconds and now Jari-Matti was just eight tenths of a second behind the Spaniard.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:23:2711
  2. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 43.7
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 44.5
  4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +52.5
  5. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 58.8
  6. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:50.7
  7. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:51.2
  8. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:57.0
  9. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:20.4
  10. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 2:34.4

 

Thought’s then of the drivers – Top three first

Ott Tanak

“Obviously it has been another good day. This morning it wasn’t easy, because I had to get used to driving on different types of road in this car for the first time, and I needed to push hard because it was a really close fight. In the afternoon my feeling was much better and I was enjoying it a lot. The changes we made during lunchtime service were a good step in the right direction and the car is really comfortable to drive. Now we have a big gap behind us and there are some nice stages tomorrow, so the most important thing will be just to enjoy it.”

Dani Sordo

“All in all, it has been a competitive day for us and it’s encouraging to be involved in such an exciting fight for the podium in the team’s home rally. We have taken three stage wins and have pushed really hard throughout the day, I felt really comfortable and competitive in the Panzerplatte stages, getting absolutely everything out of the car. We struggled a bit in some other stages, especially in the morning, but we couldn’t do more. Jari-Matti closed the gap a lot on the final stage, after I lost quite a lot of time, so we will be focused on defending our position from him on Sunday morning.”

Jari-Matti Latvala

“It has been a really enjoyable day. It started well this morning and then I was delighted with how the afternoon went. I couldn’t match Dani Sordo’s pace in the military area, but then on the Saarland stages on the farm roads I tried to push harder. He was better in one area and I was better in the other and now we are really closer to each other. To be fighting like this is a really nice feeling and I am looking forward to continuing the battle tomorrow.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“We have to accept that we haven’t really been on the pace today. We have struggled with the handling of the car, and have had to be careful not to push too much because we know how easy it is to make a critical mistake. There’s a lot to think about so we have to remain calm and just do what we can. I didn’t do some of these stages last year, so we have been using Dani as a reference and have to be satisfied, even if we’re not completely happy.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (6th)

“It has been another challenging day, that’s for sure, but we have fought hard and continued to find out little things which we can use to improve. All the stages have their own characteristics so we have had to continue trying and evaluating different driving styles. We have been working closely with the team and I’ve tried to be more aggressive with the handbrake. We want to be fighting for better results than we are currently. The time sheets don’t make for good reading but we are taking steps and that is the most important thing right now.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“Overall, today has been quite average for me. In the Baumholder area I struggled a bit. This morning I had too soft a setup for those stages, and although I think I managed to improve that for this afternoon, I still lost a lot of time there for some reason and that is frustrating. On the other hand, on the other stages among the fields everything felt nice and the times were good, even when there was dirt on the road on the second pass. The gap to fourth place is still quite small so let’s see how it goes tomorrow.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier (7th)

“We had some bad luck today. We know that this stage has a lot of stones everywhere and that it’s always a bit of a lottery whether you will pick up a puncture. Unfortunately, this time, we didn’t win that lottery.

“It was a slow puncture after seven kilometres and we had to stop and change it. After that I took some crazy risks as I had nothing to lose. I was pushing super hard to finish the day, but there isn’t so much we can do now – only some points in the Power Stage.

“We made a good effort this weekend and were doing a good job. It’s frustrating not to get the reward for that, but we will come back stronger.”

Seb at speed. Photo credit, M-Sport Fordd

Teemu Suninen (8th)

“It’s been a good day and the driving is starting to be on a good level now. I was able to be much closer to the fastest guys which was really good, and I know where we can be faster. That is a big positive as I already know how to make the fastest times.”

Elfyn Evans (Rally 2)

“It didn’t go fantastically well for us today. We spun at the start of the third stage in the loop [SS10], and then on the fourth one [SS11] we hit some gravel and understeered off into a field. Unfortunately for us, there was a big concrete block on the line we took and that broke the suspension which meant we could go no further.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Mads Østberg (9th)

“There were highs and lows today, with some difficulties in finding the right rhythm in the military base. The main thing for me was that I managed to set a few good times, particularly the third-place finish this morning. I can’t wait to get back out there tomorrow to keep learning about this car on this surface, especially as the Power Stage, for example, is being contested on similar roads to the sections where I have been the most comfortable so far.”

Craig Breen (10th)

“It had been a positive day for us, setting quite a few good times, until this final stage. Unfortunately, on a fast, difficult right-hander, there was a bump on the inside of the corner that sent me slightly off the line and I ran wide into a field. Obviously, I’m very disappointed for the team, but I’m going to try and find some confidence again tomorrow and the same sort of pace we had today.”

Craig Breen, Scott Martin. Photo credit Citroen Racing

 

Sunday

The final day then and three stages remained. Interestingly, the power stage would only be run once. The start list looked like this – Serderidis, Breen, Ostberg, Suninen, Ogier, Mikkelsen, Lappi, Neuville, Latvala, Sordo, Tänak, Evans. We had just a little under 45km’s to run.

There would be drama from the get go in SS16! First up, Jari-Matti had the bonnet up on his car before the start of the stage…. What was happening? Meantime, Dani had lost time, and there were reports of a damaged right-front corner and a smashed windscreen. Trouble for both of those in second and third… Jari-Matti appeared to have a problem with changing gear, as he was using his manual gear change. It all came to naught, just a kilometre from stage end, Jari-Matti pulled over and it looked like transmission failure for the Finn. With Dani, he reported that he’d lost the car in a right-hand corner and hit the vineyards. Mads also went off in the stage, so it was all over for him. All of this had the result of bringing Thierry, who won the stage, and Esapekka into second and third!

Before the re-run of the same stage, both crews were attempting to start the next stage. Sadly, despite their best efforts, they didn’t manage to do it. Still, SS17 saw Seb win from Thierry and Craig who was now up to seventh overall.

Mads Ostberg and Torstein Erikson. Photo credit Citroen Racing

The final stage then – SS18. Top five was Seb, Ott, Esapekka, Craig and Thierry! Ott was so close to taking the stage, just one tenth slower than Seb! The Estonian was bringing himself back into the title fight though. What a drive, and it meant that he now matched Markko Martin for WRC victories, both of them on five apiece. A very impressive drive from Esapekka Lappi, plus a mechanical failure for his teammate Jari-Matti, brought him to a good podium, but he still has more to learn, as Dani, Craig and Elfyn could all have finished ahead of him.

 

FINAL CLASSIFICATION

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:03:36.9
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 39.2
  3. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:00.9
  4. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:34.5
  5. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:02.9
  6. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 2:13.8
  7. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 2:39.1
FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 09 / Rallye Deutschland 2018 / August 16-19, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Drivers points after Rallye Deutschland

  1. Thierry Neuville – 172 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 149 points
  3. Ott Tänak – 136 points
  4. Esapekka Lappi – 88 points
  5. Andreas Mikkelsen – 65 points
  6. Dani Sordo – 60 points
  7. Jari-Matti Latvala – 55 points
  8. Elfyn Evans – 52 points
  9. Mads Ostberg – 48 points
  10. Craig Breen – 47 points

 

Manufacturers standings

  1. Hyundai WRT – 254 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 241 points
  3. M-Sport Ford WRT – 224 points
  4. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 159 points

 

Here then are the thoughts of the drivers – Top three first

 

Ott Tanak

“This was definitely the hardest victory I have ever had. For the majority of the weekend it was a really close fight and I had to push so hard. On Friday in the vineyards I felt very comfortable with the car. On Saturday morning I did not feel so confident, but the team really improved the car in service. Today I just needed to keep it clean. I am really happy for the whole team: we were really strong this weekend. We are moving in the right direction in the championship but I am still taking it event-by-event: Now my focus is on Turkey and trying to be as well prepared as possible.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 09 / Rallye Deutschland 2018 / August 16-19, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Thierry Neuville

“It has been a challenging weekend so to come away with second is a job well done. I have been able to increase my lead in the drivers’ championship slightly, which was the objective. I was hoping to take a few more points in the Power Stage but unfortunately, I made a mistake and had to reverse, so I took it steady after that. We have struggled with confidence and pace, even if we have been consistent over the weekend. Not an easy weekend but we’ve done what we needed. The championship battle is going to be closely fought right to the end of the season!”

Esapekka Lappi

“It has been a difficult weekend but it was also a clean one with no issues and that has brought us this podium. There was a lot of drama for the others yesterday and this morning as well. That is rallying and we have been in that position before. I think we made some good progress during the weekend. I think I still need some more mileage to understand what the limits are when these roads are dirty. There is not much room for mistakes and I really didn’t want to make one this time.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“We deserved more this weekend so I can’t say that I am happy with the result, but that’s rallying and we just need to accept it. We saved the day by winning the Power Stage and now we just need to focus on the next one.”

Teemu Suninen (5th)

“It was a really great weekend of us and I was improving the driving a lot and finding a good set-up with the car. From the beginning of the rally until the end we made a lot of progress and I was able to set some really good times. Of course, I couldn’t drive all of the stages like this, but I know what it takes – I just need the experience.”

Elfyn Evans (25th)

“We had a positive first day and, considering our road position, I think we did a pretty good job. But unfortunately, Saturday just didn’t go our way at all. We lost a bit of time on the opening stage [SS8], had a spin in the third one [SS10] and then a trip into the field in the fourth [SS11] which ended in retirement. It certainly wasn’t the result we came here for, so now we just have to look forward to the next one.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (6th)

“This weekend has been one of experimentation with the car, trying to adapt the settings and my driving style to match the demands of these tarmac stages. We have found some things that have given us a positive feeling but there have also been things that worked less well. To get a top-six finish is not too bad considering. We didn’t take any risks at all in the Power Stage because these points are too important for the manufacturers’ championship. When you don’t feel completely comfortable, it’s easy to make a mistake when you push. We have a lot of homework to take away from this weekend, to prepare for the tarmac stages in Spain. For now, I am looking forward to getting back on gravel where I feel more confident with the car.”

Dani Sordo (DNF)

“I am incredibly disappointed for the team and for myself. We had put ourselves into a strong position after Saturday’s stages and the car this morning – in the first kilometres – felt amazing with lots of grip. I had a lot of confidence. I was a bit late braking into a corner with some gravel in the road that sent us wide into the vineyards. The windscreen was completely smashed and there was some damage to the radiator. We tried to repair it but the temperatures were too high to continue. In any case, our rally was already over with the time lost in the stage. We take comfort from knowing we were able to fight for the podium. The speed was there, but the result this time was not. I can now only look forward to my home event in Catalunya in October.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (7th)

“Obviously, it’s a shame about the rain on Friday and my mistake yesterday afternoon, because I really wanted to fight with the very best drivers throughout the race. But we managed to make it through yesterday and I also had a good feeling again in the car today. I’m going to give it my very best shot to secure a good result in Turkey. Everyone will be starting from scratch there, so we should be in with a serious chance.”

Mads Østberg (DNF)

“On a fast left-hander, I oversteered and ran wide into the bushes. The impact caused damage to the car’s cooling system and we were unable to continue. It’s a shame, but there were still some positives this weekend. We gradually upped our pace and managed to set some decent times despite a lack of knowledge of the car on this surface.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (DNF)

“On the road section to the first stage I stopped and when I selected first gear it didn’t take the gear. The hydraulic pump stopped, and although I could switch to the manual gear lever, there was a lot of stress for the gearbox and eventually we lost drive completely. We have had a lot of bad luck this year, but I had a great feeling this weekend. The car’s performance was very good, I was really enjoying the fight and that’s the most important thing.”

Well, just an incredible event. Two wins in a row for Ott Tanak has done amazing things for the championship. At the end of Sardinia, the points standings between the top three looked like this

  1. Thierry Neuville – 149, 2. Sébastien Ogier – 122 3. Ott Tänak – 77

The gap between Ott and Thierry stood at 72 points. After Finland it had reduced to 46 points, and now just 36 separate them. Now, it’s a tall order with four events remaining for Ott to catch and pass Thierry and win the title, but he’s certainly capable of winning the remaining events. Turkey next time out will be an all new event, so anything could happen there. It will be a fascinating championship run in.

Rallye Deutschland 2018 Preview

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Deutschland (DEU) – WRC 16/08/2017 to 20/08/2017 – PHOTO : @World

The battle for this year’s championship arrives on the sealed roads in Germany. Thierry Neuville holds a twenty-one-point lead over Sébastien Ogier, and he will be aiming to build on that, as his road position will give him an advantage.

2017 FIA World Rally Championship, Round 10, Rallye Deutschland 17 – 20 August 2017, Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, Photographer: RaceEMotion, Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Four years ago, he won on these roads, and will be looking to do the same this year. Thierry is joined by Andreas and Dani, back to the i20 for the first time since Portugal. Andreas scored a second place in this event last year and will be looking to get a strong result again, whilst Dani has taken two second places in 2014 and 2016.

 

Ott Tanak is trying to get back into the championship fight, and his win last time out in Finland has done him some favours. He won last year for M-Sport, and will want to do the same again. Jari-Matti took a podium here in 2015 when driving for Volkswagen.

 

M-Sport come here with three cars, Seb and Elfyn, with Teemu taking part in his first full tarmac event in a full-blooded WRC car. He’ll be looking to gain knowledge and experience on this very tricky event. Seb has won this event three times, whilst Elfyn came close to a podium in 2014, taking fourth in the end.

 

The rhythm of the event changes day by day, with roads around the famous vineyards, the Baumholder military roads and classic country lanes, making the recce and car set up crucial. Even Sunday is by no means easy, with almost 75kms of stages to run.

 

Here’s the full schedule for the rally.

 

ADAC RALLY DEUTSCHLAND SCHEDULE (GMT+2)

THURSDAY 16 AUGUST

8.00am: Shakedown St. Wendel (5,52 km)

2.45pm: Start (Bostalsee)

7.08pm: SS 1 – Super Special Stage St. Wendel (2,04 km)

7.48pm: Parc fermé

 

FRIDAY 17 AUGUST

9.00am: Service A (Bostalsee – 15 min)

10.11am: SS 2 – Stein und Wein 1 (19,44 km)

11.05am: SS 3 – Mittelmosel 1 (22,00 km)

12.53pm: SS 4 – Wadern-Weiskirchen 1 (9,27 km)

2.13pm: Service B (Bostalsee – 30 min)

3.39pm: SS 5 – Stein und Wein 2 (19,44 km)

4.33pm: SS 6 – Mittelmosel 2 (22,00 km)

6.21pm: SS 7 – Wadern-Weiskirchen 2 (9,27 km)

7.21pm: Flexi service C (Bostalsee – 48 min)

 

SATURDAY 18 AUGUST

7.35am: Service D (Bostalsee – 15 min)

8.48am: SS 8 – Arena Panzerplatte 1 (9,43 km)

9.15am: SS 9 – Panzerplatte 1 (38,57 km)

11.03am: SS 10 – Freisen 1 (14,78 km)

12.06pm: SS 11 – Römerstrasse 1 (12,28 km)

1.40pm: Service E (Bostalsee – 30 min)

3.08pm: SS 12 – Arena Panzerplatte 2 (9,43 km)

3.35pm: SS 13 – Panzerplatte 2 (38,57 km)

5.23pm: SS 14 – Freisen 2 (14,78 km)

6.26pm: SS 15 – Römerstrasse 2 (12,28 km)

7.40pm: Flexi service F (Bostalsee – 48 min)

 

SUNDAY 19 AUGUST

6.20am: Service G (Bostalsee – 15 min)

7.49am: SS 16 – Grafschaft 1 (29,07 km)

9.42am: ES 17 – Grafschaft 2 (29,07 km)

12.18pm: SS 18 – Bosenberg Power Stage (14,04 km)

1.00pm: Podium

 

Let’s hear from the drivers then.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“After four consecutive gravel events, it is going to be nice to get back onto tarmac. Rallye Deutschland is a great event. It is a home rally for the team, and it is also situated close to the Belgian border, so we see lots of travelling fans coming to support us. We have had some fantastic results here in the past – including our debut win in 2014 – as well as some more difficult ones. Still leading the championship after a frustrating weekend Finland, I am ready to get back to the front in Germany.”

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rallye Deutschland is one of my favourite tarmac events. It is a rally with plenty of variety and challenges, but one that I find highly enjoyable. I finished second in last year’s event, so it brings back good memories. I hope for a good result this time around with Hyundai Motorsport. We’ve not had the sort of results recently that we know we are capable of, so I am determined to rectify that in Germany.”

Dani Sordo

“I am pleased to be back in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC for Rallye Deutschland, which is a very nice event and a home rally for the team. It is not a straightforward event with lots of different stage profiles. We often see some rain over the weekend, which can leave the roads muddy and slippery, but who knows what we will face this year. We have been competitive in Germany in past seasons, with some happy memories of the podium. That’s got to be our target against tough competition from our rivals.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“After Rally Finland I am feeling relaxed and I have a good feeling about Rallye Deutschland. I hope we can continue where we left off and maintain a good rhythm until the end of the year. I think our car should be good in Germany: last year we were already quite competitive there. I really enjoy the small country roads through the fields, which are narrow but fast, and the military area which also has some nice sections. We just have to be prepared for everything when it comes to the weather, because it can be very changeable.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Deutschland (DEU) – WRC 16/08/2017 to 20/08/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Ott Tänak

“We will go to Germany with a high target after our win in Finland. I want to take it event-by-event, try to get the maximum out of each rally and see whether we can get back into the championship fight. I enjoy Germany every year. I like the challenge of having many different kinds of roads. We will need to keep an eye on the weather because when I won the rally last year, the tyre choice made a big difference. The Yaris WRC has been performing pretty well on asphalt so I hope we will have everything we need to fight for the top. We are feeling confident.”

Esapekka Lappi

“Rallye Deutschland is always such a challenging rally. Usually there is some rain and you often get different conditions during each day. This can make things tricky because there is a lot of corner-cutting and a lot of dirt on the road. It has been difficult for me in the past, but I actually really like the challenge. I’m looking forward to being back on asphalt, too. In Corsica we achieved a nice setup with the car and the speed was good. Germany is quite a different rally but hopefully we can repeat that.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen

“I’m longing to get back on the tarmac. It’s been a year since I last competed in a 100% tarmac rally. The Saturday stage will definitely be decisive again, with the two runs through the Baumholder military base, but before that, I really hope more than anything that it doesn’t rain on Friday, so that we can start the race in ideal conditions, despite being a long way down the running order. Since our Germany tests at the start of the summer, I have had an extra day of testing in Alsace to get back into the habits you need to drive on tarmac, and I’ll be giving it my all to rediscover the joys of the podium.”

Craig Breen, Scott Martin – Photo credit Citroen Racing

Mads Østberg

“Except last year, I have competed in this rally every year since 2010, so I know the course pretty well and I have always enjoyed the variety of the stages, even though it makes things difficult! I will have to get to grips with driving on this surface again, but I know I can count on the team’s immense experience on tarmac and at this rally in particular. I have had two days of testing with the C3 WRC to work through all the road profiles I will be facing, so a top-five finish would be a good result for me.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“We didn’t have the pace that we wanted in Finland, but next week’s Rallye Deutschland is a completely different event and we’ll be aiming to challenge for the leading positions once again.

“It’s always nice returning to asphalt, and we had the performance last time out in Corsica. But this is another difficult rally and everyone knows how big the challenge is to get everything right with all the varying stages.

“As always, the goal is to deliver our best and challenge for the victory. That’s what we’ll be aiming for – together with the target of reducing the gap to the championship leader.”

Seb Ogier, Julien Igrassia – Photo credit M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans

“Rallye Deutschland is a pretty challenging event, but I think that’s one of the reasons why I enjoy it so much. The stage characteristics and conditions are constantly changing, and you’ve really got to be on the ball.

“It’s all about finding the right rhythm and set-up for each of the different challenges; as well as staying fully focused as this is one of those events where second chances are few and far between!

“The weather can also play a crucial part and a wet rally would make things pretty interesting. But let’s see what gets thrown at us next week. The Fiesta felt really good last time out on Tarmac, and we’ll be aiming for a strong result.”

Teemu Suninen

“This will be my first time in a world rally car on asphalt and a big leap into the unknown. So far, I know nothing about driving these cars on this surface and I will have a lot to learn. I’m most curious about the tyre wear and how to use the brakes.

 

“This rally will be full of questions, and it’s always been one of the most challenging on the calendar. There is always a lot of dirt that gets dragged onto the stages, but I hope to find good confidence in the car and improve my driving in these tricky conditions.”

 

We really are heading to the end of the season, with just five rounds remaining, including this event. Who will win, and what will it mean for the championship?

We shall see! Enjoy!

 

Rally Finland 2018 Review – Ott Tanak takes it!

After a fight through Friday with Mads Ostberg for the lead of this rally, Ott Tanak opened up a good lead through Saturday and then controlled his pace and 15 years after the last Estonian to win Rally Finland, took a very well-deserved victory. The championship protagonists found themselves playing bit parts further down the standings.

 

Here’s the story of how Rally Finland played out.

 

After Thursday’s short evening stage, Ott held the lead from Thierry and Seb.

 

The start list looked like this for Friday’s stages, running in championship order – Neuville, Ogier, Tänak, Lappi, Mikkelsen, Evans, Latvala, Breen, Ostberg, Suninen, Paddon, Al Qassimi. Ten stages awaited the crews out there.

 

The first stage of the day, SS2, was won by Ott, with Mads just behind, 1.3 seconds slower than the Toyota driver, with Teemu Suninen a further few seconds behind in third, and this was now the overall top three with Seb and Thierry now in seventh and ninth respectively. Craig suffered a puncture seven km’s into the twenty km stage, losing 47 seconds and falling to 18th overall. We would see a fightback from him through the rest of the rally.

 

Stage 3, a shorter 12km stage was won by Jari-Matti and with that, he passed Teemu, moving into a podium position. Craig put the disappointment of the puncture behind him and drove to second fastest, just eight tenths slower, whilst Ott increased the overall lead over Mads a little. Further back, Seb and Thierry were still in seventh and ninth, their road position hurting them.

 

Stage 4 saw a couple of dramatic moments – Mads took the lead after setting a great time 4.8 seconds faster than Ott and now in the lead by just half a second. However, Hyundai driver, Andreas went off the road, losing more than three minutes. Craig’s pace in the last two stages had brought him up into tenth overall.

 

The following stage, number 5 saw greater pace from Ott and coupled with some little mistakes from Mads, he retook the lead, by just 1.1 seconds. A mistake from Thierry saw him drop behind Craig and the Belgian was now over a minute behind the leader. Hayden though was now the top Hyundai driver, just nine tenths slower and second fastest, meaning he was now in fourth overall.

 

Midday service followed this stage, and then it was time to tackle the remaining six stages.

 

Mads started off in a strong way, winning stage 6 and retaking the lead from Ott and with Teemu going several seconds quicker than Jari-Matti and Hayden, he moved back into third overall! Showing how competitive these cars are three different cars in the top three, just nineteen seconds between them.

 

Mads and Ott continued their fight for the lead in stage 7, with them both setting identical times through the stage, the lead remaining at one tenth of a second. Jari-Matti retook third overall. Further back, Thierry remained in tenth overall, now one minute 41 from the lead, whilst Seb was in seventh, 54 seconds from first place.

 

Top three in stage 8 was Craig, Esapekka and Jari-Matti, whilst the overall top two were fifth and ninth fastest. It was Mads who opened up a gap of 1.9 seconds over Ott. The Norwegian was driving to a safe pace, knowing Ott wasn’t as fast.

 

The lead swapped again in stage 9 after Ott was fastest and with Mads nearly three seconds slower, the Estonian retook the lead by a second. Mads was not letting him get away, driving a sensible but fast stage as his tyres were quite worn. The rest of the positions in the top ten were pretty static though.

 

Stage 10 was won by Ott and with Mads seventh fastest there was now a 4.3 second gap between them. Further back, Hayden repassed Teemu in their battle over fourth place and Seb passed Elfyn, the Frenchman now in sixth. Craig set the fifth fastest time in the stage, despite starting to suffer with brake problems near the end.

 

The final stage of the day, 11, saw Seb set the fastest time from Ott and Thierry, who set identical times. Craig and Kalid suffered with fuel pressure problems in their C3’s, with Craig losing 27 seconds, but didn’t drop out of the top ten at least. A real shame for him, after a very good drive through the day after the puncture.

 

So, what a day. Toyota and Citroen both shared out the stage wins and Ott ended the day in the lead. Mads had driven really well, and had kept a great pace, leading at times as well.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:02:26.0
  2. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 5.8
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 23.1
  4. Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 36.4
  5. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 46.1
  6. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 58.9
  7. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:01.1
  8. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:01.4
  9. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 1:34.1
  10. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:57.7

24. Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) +8:28.5

 

Let’s hear from the drivers. Top three first.

 

Ott Tänak

“I am really happy with my day. Everything has been working just perfectly. I have a lot of confidence in the car and it is really nice to drive on these roads. Except for one moment where I stalled the engine and lost a bit of time, I did everything that I could. The roads have been pretty slippery with a lot of cleaning. Tomorrow, we will have the same conditions as the guys we have been fighting with today, which will be good, but it still won’t be easy.”

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

Mads Østberg

“I’m delighted for everyone in the team that I have managed to produce such a solid performance. We have all worked so hard together in order to make it happen. I really enjoyed driving my C3 WRC throughout the whole day. We are now going to try and keep it up tomorrow!”

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I think today has been pretty good. On the first stage it was difficult to get into the rhythm, but then I found it on the second stage. I also made the car a bit stiffer to have some more stability, and since that I’ve been happy. I was a bit too careful on the first stage this afternoon but I was able to fight back and claim third position. I am enjoying the driving and hopefully I can improve a bit more tomorrow.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (5th)

“It’s been a tough day. We were fighting for a podium position but then we had a few issues and dropped down to fifth. The driving has been on an okay level, but there is still some more to find and I hope that I can find that tomorrow.”

Sébastien Ogier (6th)

“If I’m honest, I expected things to happen the way they did today. With the roads being so dry, it was a tough day for us and we lost some time for sure. That said, I have to say hats off to Ott [Tänak] because he has been flying. Starting just behind us, he was setting times which were really impressive to watch.

“I think I did more or less what I could today. Of course, I could have gone a little faster – a few tenths here and there – but then I would have needed to take some big risks. Our road position will be a bit better tomorrow, and hopefully we can find some small things to be a bit faster. It’s not been an easy day, but we’ll keep trying tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans (7th)

“We can’t be completely satisfied as this isn’t really the position we were looking for. Although to be fair, it was pretty clear that the road evolution played a big part over the morning loop. With the exception of Ott [Tänak] who was just on a different planet, we were faster than everyone in front of us but the guys behind were faster than us.

“We then struggled on a few stages this afternoon so it was okay but not perfect. There’s still a long way to go, and Saturday was a really good day for us last year – so we have to try and let’s just see what happens.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (4th)

“I think we can be pretty happy with our opening day, even if we could have probably taken a few more risks. We didn’t want to overdo it, because we were focused on getting the set-up right for the whole weekend. In the morning loop, we had to adapt to the conditions and our pace notes were a bit slow in places. From there, we started to enjoy the car and the stages more. We’ve been consistent, had good pace and that’s allowed us to stay in touch with the leading three. We’ve now got to build on this over the next two days.”

Thierry Neuville (10th)

“Starting first on the road, particularly in this event, makes life really tough from the outset. There was not much more we could do, as we struggled for grip and consistency. Things weren’t helped by the mistake in SS5 when we were too optimistic with a pace note. I was thinking about correcting it, but then missed the next one and ended up going straight into a ditch. We had to take it a bit easier after that. The mechanics did a great job at midday service to fix the car. We are losing some positions compared to Ogier, so we can’t really be happy but we knew it would be hard. We can only do our best in these circumstances and minimise the damage.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 08, Rally Finland
26-29 July 2018
Day 1
Action
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“It has been a very challenging start to Rally Finland for us. We made a mistake in SS4 during the morning loop, but we’ve struggled for pace throughout the day. You never want to make a mistake but I misheard a pace note. I thought Anders had said five minus, when it should have been four, which is quite a difference. We had a slow roll but were pushed back onto the stage by the Finnish spectators, who were very helpful. Thanks to my mechanics for getting us ready for the afternoon. We still have some work to do to get the right feeling but we will aim for a fresh start on Saturday.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (9th)

“In terms of the times, we had a good rhythm and overall, it was a good day. Obviously, it’s frustrating to have picked up a puncture this morning and then to have had the fuel problem this evening, but that’s the way it goes, I guess. It’s gone now, so we’re already focusing on tomorrow’s leg. We’ll try to enjoy ourselves on these magnificent roads and do even better.”

Craig Breen, Scott Martin – Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Khalid Al Qassimi (24th)

“I really liked the fast, typically Finnish stages. Less so the stages that were very narrow and rough, but I adopted a cautious approach in these sections in order to keep out of trouble. I’m going to try and up my pace during the rest of the rally.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (8th)

“This morning was a bit of a struggle: I stalled in a junction in the first stage, which was very disappointing, and after that I was having difficulty finding a rhythm. In service the engineers found a small issue on the car and were able to fix it. After that, it started to go well and the speed was more like what I was expecting. Of course, I wanted to be fighting for the victory, but there are still two days to go and some good chances to gain positions.”

 

Saturday would see eight stages for the crews to tackle and the start order looked like this – Al Qassimi, Mikkelsen, Neuville, Breen, Lappi, Evans, Ogier, Suninen, Paddon, Latvala, Østberg, Tänak.

 

Starting with SS12, the top three was Ott, Mads and Jari-Matti and now Ott’s lead had increased over Mads and Latvala was now on a mission to catch Mads. Further down the leaderboard, Esapekka and Elfyn overtook Ogier, who was now down to eighth.

 

Into SS13 and Ott increased his lead over Mads, who in turn was doing enough to keep Jari-Matti at arm’s length. Further back, just 14 seconds covered the gap between 6th and 8th. Craig was driving well and enjoying the car on the stages and wishing for a better road position.

 

In SS14, Ott continued to make the most of his road position and increased his lead a further few seconds, his overall lead now over twenty seconds after Mads made a couple of mistakes. Seb also passed Elfyn for seventh place.

 

The shorter stage SS15 saw Ott still faster than Mads, whose tyres were not giving him the feel he wanted. Last years winner, Lappi set a great time, going fourth fastest and passing Teemu for fifth place.

 

After service, the same stage was run as SS16. Jari-Matti and Ott set the same time, whilst Mads was only fifth fastest, losing a little over three seconds to the charging Finn. He’d made some changes to the car during the service break, with the hope that these would give him the opportunity to push harder on the longer stages.

 

Lappi kept the stage wins in the Toyota team camp with a great time through SS17. Jari-Matti closed the gap to Mads by five seconds, just twelve seconds between them now. The reason for this was that he had two spare tyres in the car and was finding the car harder to drive on the limit with the extra weight.

 

Esapekka won the following stage too, SS18 and with that moved ahead of Hayden Paddon, deposing the Kiwi to fifth, whilst the gap between Mads and Jari-Matti came down another four seconds to eight between them now. The ruts in the stage were hindering Craig, plus a little change that he made to his car between the stages actually gave the car understeer, and not giving him confidence to push into the corners.

 

Lappi really was on a mission, winning SS19 and building a gap to Hayden too, with a nine second gap between them. The fight was still on between Mads in second and Jari-Matti who wanted that position, with the Toyota driver taking another three seconds out of the Norwegian and now just five seconds behind. They’d have to wait now till Sunday to continue their battle.

 

It had been a remarkably good day, with just one accident and no reliability issues either. We still had all of the top cars and drivers.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:13:18.2
  2. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 39.0
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 44.4
  4. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:20.6
  5. Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:29.6
  6. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:45.1
  7. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:07.6
  8. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:17.9
  9. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 2:56.4
  10. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:34.5

 

 

Let’s hear again then from the drivers after day two. Top three first

 

Ott Tänak

“Overall, it has been another a good day. In the morning we were in a good rhythm and our road position was so much better than yesterday, so we managed to increase the gap even though I was not pushing as hard. This afternoon I was a lot more cautious because the roads were pretty rough and we already had a good gap. It was not so enjoyable to drive like this, but we still managed to increase our lead, so I cannot complain. Tomorrow we have some pretty smooth and fast stages and I’m looking forward to it.”

Mads Østberg

“Once again, we gave it everything today on these magnificent and very demanding roads. With the warm conditions, in the afternoon we had to contend with high tyre wear. We also had extra weight from the two spares we took for the second loop, but I think we managed really very well to hang onto second place! I’m pretty confident about tomorrow. We’ve already shown that we can hold off Latvala.”

Jari-Matti Latvala

“It has been really enjoyable today. There was still a little bit of speed missing during the morning loop but we made some changes to the car in mid-day service and I started to get a better feeling and I could start to push more. This meant that I was wearing my tyres a lot, but it was amazing how fast we were still able to go. Of course, we need to try and attack tomorrow and try to get second place. But of course, if you do risks they need to be controlled risks and that’s important.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

“It has been a really strong day, particularly this afternoon. The morning was pretty enjoyable and we managed to gain three places already. Then during the afternoon, I pushed really hard, and didn’t save the tyres at all. This was a very risky game because we didn’t have much rubber left for the last stage, and yet we were still fastest! Now the target for tomorrow is to stay ahead of the guys behind us.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (5th)

“It has been a marginally better day compared to Friday being second on the road. I feel we’ve had a decent day, considering, taking no risks. We know we have nothing to play for. It’s a difficult situation but we absolutely accept that. Now, we need to keep the car on the road and get to the end of the rally. Having led the championship for a few events, we knew there would come a time when our job would be trickier – and this rally is that moment! Finland is a particular event; we just have to enjoy it and accept our limitations.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 08, Rally Finland
26-29 July 2018
Hayden Paddon, Seb Marshall, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (10th)

“It has been a marginally better day compared to Friday being second on the road. I feel we’ve had a decent day, considering, taking no risks. We know we have nothing to play for. It’s a difficult situation but we absolutely accept that. Now, we need to keep the car on the road and get to the end of the rally. Having led the championship for a few events, we knew there would come a time when our job would be trickier – and this rally is that moment! Finland is a particular event; we just have to enjoy it and accept our limitations.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (11th)

“It is always hard to be first on the road. Thierry had to manage yesterday and today it was my turn. We have had to use today’s stages effectively to get some mileage under our belts in an effort to improve the car. We are trying in all areas to find solutions but there’s not much we can do this weekend.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (6th) said:

“We made some good progress throughout the day and were able to make the car a bit faster during the midday service. In the second loop I had a much better feeling for the car and was able to set some much better times. We’re still missing a bit of pace compared to the guys at the front, but I was able to beat both of my team mates which means I can be happy with my day and my driving.”

Sébastien Ogier (7th) said:

“Performance wise, it’s not been the weekend we wanted – but we are ahead of Thierry [Neuville] which is always the main target. We’re still in a position to close the gap in the championship, and that is a positive.

“We all expected the Toyota’s to be the benchmark this weekend, but we were hoping to be closer too. We’re happy about the new package of parts, but with only one day of testing it was going to be a bit of a risk. We’ve used today as another test session, but we still have some work to do before we’re where we ultimately want to be.”

Elfyn Evans (8th) said:

“It’s not been a bad day and all three of us have been fighting quite closely together – although for sure we’d all like to have been fighting a bit higher up the leader board! We lost a bit of time this afternoon as I didn’t want to take the risks. We’ve got to play the team game and whatever happens we won’t be finishing ahead of Sébastien [Ogier] so it wasn’t worth taking the risks.”

Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt, Photo credit M-Sport

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (9th)

“Although it’s always frustrating for us as drivers to not be able to do any more, we had a decent day given our road position, setting similar times to those around us in the running order.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (Rally2)

“It’s a shame to have made a mistake in a technical section on the loose gravel, but these things can happen at events that are as difficult as this one. I have high hopes that I can make up some ground again tomorrow.”

 

Sunday would see four stages, totalling 45km, and they were all a little over 11km each in length. There was also the spectacular Ruuhimäki, with its huge jumps, including at the finish!

 

The running order was – Mikkelsen, Neuville, Breen, Evans, Ogier, Suninen, Paddon, Lappi, Latvala, Ostberg, Tänak, Al Qassimi.

 

The first stage of the day SS20, saw the demise of Esapekka Lappi, who crashed out. This promoted everyone up a position and now Andreas was in the top ten. Meantime Mads won the stage with Jari-Matti just nine-tenths of a second behind and second fastest.

 

This battle continued in SS21 and it was Jari-Matti who won the stage from Mads and the gap was now around five seconds again. Ott remained in control and in the lead, which was now thirty-three seconds.

 

Jari-Matti was really on a mission now, winning SS21 from Mads again, the overall gap between them now, just two and a half seconds. This was the only battle now, with the gaps between the others too big to overcome.

 

The final stage then, SS22 and Ott won it, taking maximum points from the weekend! Mads prevailed over a charging Latvala, scoring a great second place for him and Torstein would be standing on his first WRC podium too! We saw team orders come into play too, with Teemu slipping behind M-Sport team leader Ogier, allowing the reigning champion to take fifth place.

 

Well, Ott and Toyota had done it. They’d followed up Lappi’s victory from last year, and Jari-Matti had got a great podium with third. All three on the podium, had driven really well all weekend. None had been gifted their finishing position. The championship rivals were well down the field, Seb getting some assistance from Teemu and Elfyn to get fifth, whilst Thierry crossed the line in ninth place and keeping a good gap, if slightly reduced to Ogier.

 

Here’s the thoughts then of the drivers, starting with the top three.

 

Ott Tanak

“It has been a perfect weekend. Everything worked as we wanted. On Friday we had a really big job with our road position, and after that we could just increase our advantage. We had the perfect preparation and full support from the team. If you work together as one then these kinds of results are achievable. To win in Finland is definitely special. It’s kind of a home rally for me and it’s the home rally for the team. To win in front of all this support is incredible.”

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

Mads Østberg

“I’m really, really happy to fighting at the front again on these incredible stages! It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my racing career. I’m also delighted for everyone at Citroën. The guys did a fantastic job to get us in this position and I’m proud to be a part of this team. I knew from our pre-event test that this C3 WRC was the best car that I’d ever had on this rally and I’m pleased that we managed to show it this weekend.”

Mads Østberg was overjoyed with second place! Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I gave everything today to try and get second place. It was a great fight. It really helps with the confidence when you fight as hard as this and you can keep everything together and not make mistakes. To be back on the podium after quite a long time feels really good, and especially to do it here in Finland. Together with the victory for Ott, this was a really important result for the team.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (4th)

“On the whole, I’m really happy with the weekend. We have been able to keep pace with some of the event favourites, maintaining a consistent performance. Naturally, we would have preferred to score a podium, of course, but we took a measured approach to secure important points for the manufacturers’ championship. The final morning was all about taking it easy to bring the car home with a comfortable gap behind us. I’ve really enjoyed the stages this weekend, the car has been a joy to drive and it has given me the confidence I need. We are back on the right track.”

Thierry Neuville (9th)

“Road position has really dictated a lot this weekend. Even without our mistake on Friday, when we misread a pace note, I don’t think we would have been any higher up the classification. We have had to accept our limits and focus on completing each stage with no further trouble. The main target was not losing too many points to Ogier, which we did to the best of our ability. We could only control what’s in our hands. We gave it everything we could in the Power Stage and it was good to take a couple of extra points. Overall, we have done our best, the team has done a good job and we can be proud of ourselves. We now look ahead to the team’s home event in Germany.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (10th)

“A difficult weekend for us. Any chance we might have had to feature further up the order was spoiled with our time loss on Friday morning’s loop. Losing three minutes due to a pace note error was just what we didn’t need, and it meant we were penalised as first on the road for Saturday and again this morning. We have had to avoid any unnecessary risks and use this event as a way of better understanding the car in these conditions but I’m sure we’ll be back on pace in Germany.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“For sure it was a difficult weekend for us and we expected to be a lot more competitive. The Fiesta performed really well here last year and every driver was able to set fastest times. That wasn’t the case this year and it was a bit of a bad surprise.

“We tried all we could, but there wasn’t a lot more we could do. That’s how it is and we just have to try and analyse why we were not able to keep up the pace this weekend. The positive is that we scored more points than Thierry [Neuville] – and that is anyways always our main target.”

Seb Ogier, Julian Ingrassia reduced the points lead after finishing four places ahead of Thierry and Nicolas. Photo credit M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (6th)

“It’s been a tough weekend for us. We wanted to challenge for the podium, but we were missing some pace and couldn’t fight with the fastest drivers. I was able to beat my team mates and I am happy with that, but we let Seb past just before the last stage as he’s the one fighting for the championship.”

Elfyn Evans (7th)

“It’s not been a terrible weekend driving wise and I don’t think anyone can say that they don’t enjoy driving these stages, but for sure seventh place wasn’t the result we wanted.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (8th)

“It was a difficult weekend for us, with the puncture on Friday that proved very costly, leaving us to clean the road for two days. We nevertheless managed to show our pace whenever the conditions enabled us to do so. It was nice, especially, to finish with a good time on the Power Stage, which means we can now look ahead to Germany with optimism.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (37th)

“Although it was a difficult rally for us, with our mistake yesterday morning, I’m pleased we were able to re-join the action today and enjoy these incredible stages. Above all, I’m delighted for the team, whose hard work has been rewarded by a great result.”

 

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2 :35:18.1
  2. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 32.7
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 35.5
  4. Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:35.6
  5. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:15.0
  6. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:19.2
  7. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:29.5
  8. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 3:08.4
  9. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:51.8
  10. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +8:37.4

 

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Thierry Neuville – 153 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 132 points
  3. Ott Tänak – 107 points
  4. Esapekka Lappi – 70 points
  5. Dani Sordo – 60 points
  6. Andreas Mikkelsen – 57 points
  7. Jari-Matti Latvala – 55 points
  8. Elfyn Evans – 52 points
  9. Mads Ostberg – 48 points
  10. Kris Meeke – 43 points
  11. Craig Breen – 39 points

 

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 228 points
  2. M-Sport Ford WRT – 202 points
  3. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 201 points
  4. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 153 points

Well, the next round is Rallye Germany, 16th to the 19th of August, the scene of Thierry’s first win in 2014 for Hyundai. It really will be battle on for the championship between the Belgian and M-Sport’s champion Seb. Who else can challenge there? We know Elfyn goes well on tarmac, and Seb took a tarmac win this year too. Clearly, Citroen are making progress with their car again and you can’t discount Toyota, as they have last years winner, Ott as well!

 

It’ll be a fascinating event!

 

Till then, bye!

Rally Finland 2018 Preview

The summer break is over and there are six rounds left this year. Thierry Neuville leads the championship by twenty-seven points over the reigning champion, Sebastien Ogier. The Frenchman has also not finished this event for the last two years, but can be quick, having taken victory in 2013. His Belgian rival will want a decent haul of points from this event but opening the road will make it hard for him to fight for victory, particularly with the three Toyota’s having been honed to perfection on the very unique gravel roads that make this event so hard for non-Scandinavians to win.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Finland (FIN) – WRC 26/07/2017 to 31/07/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Now, there’s a good chance that Toyota could sew up the whole podium, with former winners Jari-Matti and Esapekka Lappi in the team, plus a very quick Ott Tanak, but who could challenge this? Well, Elfyn Evans scored a brilliant second place last year, after being patient early on and getting the car in a good place, showed great pace on the Saturday and Sunday to score his best result ever on these roads.

 

Hoping to do well will be the Citroen squad. Two years ago, Kris Meeke took an incredible victory, the first for any British driver, beating Jari-Matti. Now Craig Breen and Mads Ostberg are the drivers the team are looking to, and both have scored podiums on this event. The key to their chances will be with whether they can take advantage of the road position on Friday, which if they can, will benefit them both on Saturday and Sunday.

 

Here’s the full schedule for the event. Sixty-five percent of the stages are new, and two that were run last year are being run in the opposite direction. Getting those pace notes correct during the reece which takes place today (Tuesday) and Wednesday will be so important.

 

RALLY FINLAND SCHEDULE (GMT+3)

 

THURSDAY 26 JULY

 

8.00am: Shakedown Vesala (4,26 km)

6.37pm: Start (Jyväskylä Paviljonki)

7.00pm: SS 1 – Harju 1 (2,31 km)

7.25pm: Parc fermé

 

FRIDAY 27 JULY

7.15am: Service A (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 15 min)

8.18am: SS 2 – Moksi 1 (20,04 km)

9.21am: SS 3 – Urria 1 (12,28 km)

10.13am: SS 4 – Ässämäki 1 (12,33 km)

11.36am: SS 5 – Äänekoski 1 (7,71 km)

12.51pm: Service B (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 30 min)

2.24pm: SS 6 – Oittila (19,34 km)

3.27pm: SS 7 – Moksi 2 (20,04 km)

4.30pm: SS 8 – Urria 2 (12,28 km)

5.22pm: SS 9 – Ässämäki 2 (12,33 km)

6.45pm: SS 10 – Äänekoski 2 (7,71 km)

8.00pm: SS 11 – Harju 2 (2,31 km)

8.30pm: Flexi service C (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 45 min)

 

SATURDAY 28 JULY

6.00am: Service D (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 15 min)

8.13am: SS 12 – Päijälä 1 (23,92 km)

9.29am: SS 13 – Pihlajakoski 1 (14,90 km)

10.38am: SS 14 – Kakaristo 1 (23,66 km)

12.13pm: SS 15 – Tuohikotanen 1 (8,95 km)

1.31pm: Service E (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 30 min)

2.55pm: SS 16 – Tuohikotanen 2 (8,95 km)

4.08pm: SS 17 – Kakaristo 2 (23,66 km)

5.36pm: SS 18 – Päijälä 2 (23,92 km)

6.54pm: SS 19 – Pihlajakoski 2 (14,90 km)

8.55pm: Flexi service F (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 45 min)

 

SUNDAY 29 JULY

7.30am: Service G (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 15 min)

8.38am: SS 20 – Laukaa 1 (11,74 km)

9.38am: SS 21 – Ruuhimäki 1 (11,12 km)

11.01am: SS 22 –  Laukaa 2 (11,74 km)

1.18pm: SS 23 – Ruuhimäki 2 Power Stage (11,12 km)

2.21pm: Service H (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 10 min)

4.00pm: Podium

 

So, lets hear from the drivers.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Sardinia was an incredible weekend, we couldn’t have hoped for a better result heading into the summer break! Now I’m ready to carry the momentum forward into the second half of the season. Finland is one of those rallies that everyone looks forward to. It’s going to be tricky this year coming into it after the extended break and jumping straight in the car. For the second event in a row, we’ll be first on the road and won’t have the advantage of the sweeping effect to begin with. It will be tough as the speed is very high – but I can’t wait for the challenge.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship, Round 09, Rally Finland 27 – 30 July 2017, Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, Photographer: RaceEMotion, Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rally Finland is a really nice rally – it’s probably the event the drivers fear most, but also the one they really want to win! Because the grip is so low, you have to be very confident in the car to go fast on the stages. We were disappointed we couldn’t show our true potential in Sardinia, so hopefully we can find a good pace quickly and push hard to bring home a strong result.”

Hayden Paddon

“For me, Finland is the most incredible rally of the year. Not only are the roads, the jumps, and the pure speed impressive but also the atmosphere is electric. It really makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. I’m really looking forward to getting back into the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. We hope we can put the pieces together this year to bring home a strong result.”

 

M-Sport Ford

Sébastien Ogier

“It was nice to have a little break and spend some time relaxing with family and friends, but now the action is ready to resume and we’re fully focused on Rally Finland.

 

“For so many people this is the highlight of the year and it’s easy to see why. There is an atmosphere here that you don’t get anywhere else and the roads were tailor-made for rallying.

 

“This is the fastest event on the calendar and at those speeds its mere tenths of a second that you’re fighting for. The competition will be extremely strong, but the engineers and designers from M-Sport and Ford Performance have been working tirelessly to ensure we’re in the best possible position.

 

“We’ll have some aerodynamic updates on the rear of the car that we hope will give us that little bit extra in terms of performance, but we’ll still have to get absolutely everything right over the course of the weekend if we want to be in the fight for the top results.

These are the updates that will be run on Seb’s car.

“We know that the car was strong here last year and we had a good feeling on the test, but this is a rally that doesn’t forgive even the smallest of mistakes. We’ll certainly give it our best and the goal is always to come home with a strong haul of points.”

 

Elfyn Evans

“It feels like a long time since we were last in competition, but we’ve not been sitting idle! The team have been working extremely hard, we’ve had a good test, and I’ve also been doing a lot of PR work with Ford and Red Bull.

 

“I was involved in an advert for the new Fiesta ST – a great little road car – and also got behind the wheel of the Fiesta WRC to film some promotion with Red Bull ahead of Goodwood Festival of Speed. The festival itself was great, but now we’re ready to get back to business, and start the second half of the season with one of the highlights of the year – Rally Finland.

 

“I’d challenge anyone who said they didn’t enjoy driving Finland’s gravel roads in a world rally car! The high speed combined with the technical nature of the stages is incredible, and when you get into a good rhythm it’s a phenomenal feeling.

 

“We did well here last year and found a good feeling on the test; but the margins for error are so fine and the gaps so small that even the slightest of mistakes can be costly. The competition is going to be strong so we’ll need to be note perfect and deliver a very clean and precise drive. If we can do that, and get everything right, then I’d hope that we’ll be in with a good chance.”

Last year Elfyn drove his D-Mack shod Fiesta to second place. Photo credit, M-Sport

Teemu Suninen

“We had a really good test and are feeling ready and well prepared for the rally. We drove more than 200 kilometres on our test day – starting with the base set-up my team mates found earlier in the week. All three of us drive with a pretty equal set-up, so there were only some small confirmations to find and the car feels really fast.

 

“Having come so close last year, the top-three is my ultimate goal. It could be hard to achieve, but we will try our best. At the end it’s such a small margin that decides whether you finish third or sixth!

 

“Starting the first forest stage last year I was pretty nervous, but as soon as I saw the time and saw that my speed was enough I felt better straight away. This year the rally will be driven on similar roads and we have a very good feeling with the car in the high-speed sections. We’ll start the rally as we mean to continue – driving flat-out.”

 

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I am really looking forward to Rally Finland. It is a good opportunity to start the second half of the season in a positive way. I have always felt really good support on my home event, and this is even more the case now that we are driving a car that has been built here. I could really feel last year that everybody was behind the team and willing us on. One of the big challenges this year will be the changes to the route. I have driven some of the new roads before, but it was a long time ago and there are large sections that even I don’t know. Therefore, I think it will actually create a more level playing field.”

Ott Tanak

“Rally Finland is always one of my favourite events. It is quite a specific rally: really high-speed but also quite technical with the jumps. You really need to have some respect for the roads there. This year there will be a lot of new roads that we have not seen before, which will add to the challenge. I think we have had some really good preparation. As well as our pre-event testing, I took part in Rally Estonia last weekend and won it, which was quite nice in front of so many fans. I am sure that a few of them will go to Rally Finland as well, and I hope we can give them a good result there too.”

Esapekka Lappi

“Rally Finland is always a special event and even more so after our victory last year. I am really looking forward to it. There is more pressure this year. From my side, I am expecting a good result and I think everyone else is too, so we really need to perform. I think it will be tougher to win it this time, though. The competition will be tougher, both from inside our team and from the other teams as well. The new stages will also create a big challenge. We know that our car will be competitive so the focus will be on making good pace-notes and finding a nice flow with the driving.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Finland (FIN) – WRC 26/07/2017 to 31/07/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Craig Breen

“Rally Estonia was excellent preparation for me. It gave us the opportunity to look at a few things and we also noted that with the new front geometry, the C3 WRC is even better balanced. I feel very confident coming into this round, especially as it’s one of the world championship events where I have the most experience. Experience is absolutely critical here, even though some of the stages have changed for this year’s rally.”

Craig Breen, Scott Martin will be hoping for a good result on these challenging roads. Photo credit Citroen Racing

Mads Østberg

“This really is one of my favourite events of the season. Although you need to make good pace notes in recce, afterwards it’s all-out attack! You don’t have to worry about tyre wear or the road surface breaking up. I have some very good memories from here, especially the podium secured when driving for Citroën in 2015, and I hope to take advantage of my two days of pre-event testing to get off to a good start and try to reproduce the same kind of performance.”

Khalid Al Qassimi

“This round is special for me because it’s where I made my debut in a works team in 2007. The feeling in the car during the stages, with the high speeds and never-ending crests, is also unique. It’s also what makes it such a difficult rally: you must be really comfortable and have good pace notes. As my last outing was in Argentina, I’ll need to get my bearings back first of all. I’ll then try to up the pace gradually whilst making sure I don’t make any mistakes.”

 

Well, can Hyundai score their first ever podium on these roads this year, or will we see a podium lockout for the Toyota team? What about Seb? Will he use the new aero on the back of his car to win? Can Citroen have a better event and challenge at the front?

 

Enjoy!

Rally Italia Sardegna 2018 Review – Thierry beats Seb in a straight fight!

Well, what an amazing rally we witnessed this weekend!

 

End of day one (Thursday): 
1 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2m02.7s
2 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +0.1s
3 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +0.7s

Friday morning saw rain arrive. Now this would see drama in each stage! This was the start list for the day – Neuville, Ogier, Tänak, Lappi, Mikkelsen, Evans, Latvala, Breen, Suninen, Ostberg, Paddon.

 

First stage of the morning, stage two, and Andreas would use his good road position to make a great start and take the lead from Seb and Mads slotted into second overall. Thierry remained in third, but Elfyn suffered a big problem and damaged his steering arm. He’d replace it in the stage very quickly and get back underway.

 

Stage three would see Andreas increase his lead to 15 and a half seconds after he won the stage, and with Mads dropping back with handling woes. Thierry, Ott and Teemu all moved ahead of the Norwegian.

 

Stage four would see Ott Tanak set the best time and he’d move into second overall, whilst Seb moved ahead of Mads after he put hard tyres on his car and with the heavy rain really struggled for grip! Andreas remained in the lead though, 14 seconds ahead of Ott.

 

Into stage five, the last of the morning before service and Thierry won it, moving ahead of Ott who fell to third. Seb set the second fastest time and closed to within one tenth of a second of his younger teammate. Further back, Jari-Matti and Miikka, making his 200th wrc top level start set the fourth fastest time, thus passing Mads into sixth overall.

 

The service break would allow M-Sport to fix Elfyn’s steering arm, but the timeloss with his problem would hamper his progress.

 

Stage six would have standing water and this would see Seb put an amazing time in, going from fifth place into the lead, with Andreas three and a half seconds now behind after he overshot at a tight left hander. Esapekka also moved ahead of Teemu into sixth place. Thierry suffered a spin and was now eight seconds behind our new leader.

 

Stage seven would see Andreas drop out of second place, 10km into the stage after he stopped with gearbox failure. Teemu won the stage from Seb and new second placed man, Thierry was third fastest. Just two stages remained and the top three was, Seb, Thierry and Ott, with just 15 seconds covering the top three!

 

Thierry won stage eight, reducing Seb’s lead to ten and a half seconds, whilst Ott remained in third place a further six seconds behind. Meantime, further back, Elfyn was climbing the leaderboard after setting the 7th fastest time bringing him into 23rd place.

 

The final stage of the day was won by Jari-Matti and with the demise of Ott Tanak after he broke his radiator on a jump and Teemu who’d gone off the road after losing control on a right-hander, he was now in third overall.

 

Classification after Day One

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 1:35:56.9
2 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +18.9
3 J.M. Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +37.2
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +41.6
5 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 WRC +58.3
6 H. Paddon S. Marshall Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:01.5
7 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +1:26.0

 

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

 

Sébastien Ogier

“It’s a perfect result at the end of the day and I’m really happy with our performance. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood to take all of the risks this morning, but I knew that I had to do a little bit more if I wanted a good position for tomorrow.

“The first stage of the afternoon was really demanding and in these conditions it’s so hard to estimate your rhythm. You never know if you are going to lose 20 seconds or gain 20 seconds, so to get to the end of the stage and see the time – let’s say that it was a happy surprise.

“If it stays dry tomorrow then we should have a good road position, but there is still a long way to go. It’s nice to be in the lead with a 19 second advantage, but for sure there is no time to relax.”

 

Thierry Neuville

“A challenging day, that’s for sure! Starting first on the road is never easy, irrespective of the conditions. The rain on the opening loop helped minimise the disadvantage, but we knew it would be a struggle. The car was working well, and I was pretty satisfied as we could fight for some stage wins and end the day second overall. We have had to be clever with our tyre strategy. It worked well in the morning, but by the final stage we had two new tyres left and opted to put them crossed on the car. Unfortunately, this created a big imbalance in the handling; the car was unstable and tentative with a lot of slipping. We tried to push hard but experienced some surprises. Tomorrow will continue to be hard but we’ll give it our best.”

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Today has been very positive. I was too cautious on the second stage this morning but then I started to find the rhythm and the speed. In the second run through Tula the conditions were more like Wales with the rain and the mud, and it was so slippery. I lost a lot of time at the end of that stage, but after that the conditions got better, I felt like I could push more and then in the final stage of the day I had the confidence to attack and we won the stage. It’s very close with Esapekka going into tomorrow. I like tomorrow’s stages and the most important thing will be to have a clean run. Then, if we can keep the speed up as well, we will be in a good position.”

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (Rally2)

“On the final stage of the day we had a bad landing which caused some damage to the car and forced us to stop. The impact caught us by surprise quite a bit because we have driven this section of road four times now, including the shakedown yesterday and the first pass this morning, and I always had the same approach. Therefore, it’s difficult to explain why it happened. It’s a tough moment and a big setback. Even though I hadn’t had a perfect feeling with the car today, we were doing OK and we were still in the fight, so it’s a big shame to have to retire from the day with this kind of issue. It makes our title chase really hard now, but we will try to win every other rally from here.”

 

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

“This morning was quite difficult. That car felt OK but we had a slow puncture in the first stage and our one spare tyre was a hard compound, and because it was raining it was not really a good tyre to put on. The conditions were crazy in the first stage this afternoon with a lot of mud and rain but we managed to do a good run there and gain some time back to most of the others. Then the weather dried up, and we made some small changes to the car before the last stage and we were close to the top time. I think we can just work to find a little more grip for tomorrow and fight for the podium.”

 

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (7th)

“It hasn’t been a very good day for us, especially due to the problems we had with the handbrake. On twisty stages like those we had today, we tend to use the handbrake a lot. I stalled three times on one of the stages and lost quite a bit of time. I’m going to be running second on the road tomorrow, which will probably be difficult, but I’ll do everything I can to try and make up the time lost.”

 

Mads Østberg (5th)

“This rally has never been easy, but today’s crazy weather undoubtedly made it even more difficult. We were a bit unlucky, especially with two mistakes on tyre choice for the Tergu-Osilo stage, but I’d rather focus on the second fastest time on the final stage, which means that we will have a pretty good road position for tomorrow.”

Mads Ostberg, Torstein Erikson – Rally Italia 2018. Photo credit Citroen Racing

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (6th)

“We can’t be happy with our performance or results today. Whatever we have tried just hasn’t worked. Nothing has been clicking. We took a bit of a gamble this morning with the tyre choice, expecting it to dry out more than it eventually did. Tyres aside, we haven’t had the rhythm we need, nor the confidence to push. We have had little choice but to play the sensible game and get to the end of the day without having any issues. We are in the top-six but that is little consolation. We need to let the times come more naturally, and there are some things you can’t shake a magic wand at. We’ll sleep on it tonight and start again on Saturday morning.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (Rally2)

“The ultimate day of two halves for us today. We started really positively and confidently. It was a great morning loop and we could really build a good lead. It was nice to show the results of the changes we had made to the car, which we weren’t able to demonstrate at the last rally. We wanted to keep that momentum going into the afternoon but it wasn’t to be.  An overshoot about 2km into SS6 lost us a lot of time, and then in SS7 we had some transmission problems, which left the car in reverse gear. The car was returned to service. We start under Rally 2 on Saturday but we’ve missed a good opportunity to assert our authority on this rally.”

 

 

Saturday would see seven stages run over a distance of 146km. The running order looked like this – Evans, Breen, Paddon, Ostberg, Lappi, Latvala, Neuville, Ogier, Tänak, Suninen, Mikkelsen

 

Ott won the first stage of the day. Despite not completing all the stages on Friday, he’d got a pretty decent position in the running order. In fact, so did Teemu and Andreas too. Meantime Elfyn, who had finished all the stages was first on the road – a very interesting situation. In the battle for the lead, Thierry took some time out of Seb’s advantage whilst Latvala and Lappi were separated by just nine tenths of a second in their inter-team battle for the final step on the podium.

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

In stage eleven, Seb was fastest resulting in the gap increasing again to Thierry. Further back, Citroen duo of Mads and Craig suffered with poor stages. Mads was hampered with speed sapping understeer, whilst Craig had a big impact on the front right. Latvala opened up a decent gap to his younger teammate after setting the fourth fastest time, opening up the gap by around five seconds.

 

The last stage of the morning loop, stage 12 saw a storming drive by our championship leader Thierry, who flew through it 14 seconds faster than Seb who suffered with understeer, bringing the lead down to just 4.9 seconds! Meantime, Hayden passed Mads gaining fifth place from the Norwegian.

 

The afternoon loop started with the short stage 13 and clearly any changes that had been made by M-Sport to Seb’s car hadn’t helped in this stage. The stage was won by Esapekka, but more significantly Thierry went third fastest and closed down Seb some more, the lead just 2.9 seconds.

 

Stage 14 saw Seb strike back, winning it and bringing the gap back up to nearly seven seconds. Hayden was now making fifth place his too, opening up the gap to Mads who was still the best placed Citroen.

 

Thierry wasn’t about to give up though in his pursuit of Seb, winning stage 15 and now the gap was just 4.3 seconds. In fact the battle between Latvala and Lappi continued to rage, with the younger Finn three seconds faster – now just two seconds separated them.

 

Well, the final stage of the day, and Thierry completed it just four tenths faster than Seb, but this meant there was just 3.9 seconds between the title protagonists. This was not over at all. Now, annoyingly for Jari-Matti and Miikka, they’d completed the stages and held a good lead of 6 seconds over Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm. Unfortunately, their car didn’t make it back to the service park after it stopped on the road section. Sadly, the alternator had packed up. Such is the way of motorsport.

 

Classification after Day Two

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 3:02:16.9
2 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +3.9
3 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +54.2
4 H. Paddon S. Marshall Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:01.8
5 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 WRC +2:03.9
6 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +3:13.6

 

Let’s hear then the thoughts of the drivers!

Sébastien Ogier

“Generally, I think it’s been a good day and it’s been really enjoyable driving these stages – there was just one that didn’t go to plan. I don’t know why, but on SS12 I didn’t have the rhythm and it’s actually in that one stage where we lost all the time.

“For sure it will be a big battle tomorrow and the pressure will be on; but to be honest it’s been like that all weekend with no time to relax at any point. Nobody likes to cruise to the finish on Sunday morning – we all like to fight – and it’s definitely not going to be a cruise tomorrow. If we want it, we will have to fight for it.”

Sébastien Ogier- Photo credit, M-Sport

Thierry Neuville

“We have had a good day and have really set up a great fight between Sébastien and me for the final morning. With just 3.9 seconds between us, it will be full attack for the win on Sunday. Generally, we’ve had a strong performance with three more stage wins and a good feeling inside the car. The mechanics did an amazing job to repair the small damage we picked up on Friday afternoon, and we could really feel immediately back ‘at home’ on the morning loop. We have taken fewer risks than we did yesterday but still been able to push and feel comfortable in the car. The afternoon wasn’t as smooth but we have kept out of trouble and can now look forward to an exciting end to the rally.”

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

Esapekka Lappi

“Today was quite fun. It was a really good fight with Jari-Matti. I was faster on one stage and then he would be quicker on the next. It was like that this morning and again in the afternoon. It is a shame how it ended with the problem for Jari-Matti. It means that we will start tomorrow with a big gap in front of us and a big gap behind, so we don’t need to push very hard. The car felt really good this afternoon, so I’m feeling pretty confident.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (4th)

“We have definitely enjoyed the conditions today more than we did on Friday. There has been a little bit of sweeping required, but nothing too detrimental. The grip was good on the morning loop and we recovered some of the positive feeling we had in shakedown. Rally Italia Sardegna certainly throws up a fair few surprises, as we’ve seen again today, so we played it smart and concentrated on clean runs. We tried to keep the pressure on Mads throughout the day, and it’s going to be a close-run final morning. There are important manufacturer points up for grabs, so we won’t be doing anything foolish but fourth is there for the taking, so we’ll do our best to defend it.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (20th)

“We knew that there wasn’t going to be much to challenge for today, as we restarted under Rally 2. Of course, it is a shame we weren’t able to push for a good result, especially after taking an early lead. Instead, we just wanted to find a good feeling from inside the car on today’s stages and carry out some learning for next year. There’s not much more we could have done in the circumstances. We still wanted to show our pace, which I felt we did in many of the stages. We had a spin in the first run through Monte Lerno and a puncture in the repeat stage, but otherwise it was a decent day for us. Let’s see if we can push for some Power Stage points tomorrow.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Mads Østberg (5th)

“Although we played it safe this afternoon by taking two spares, we managed to stay right in the mix for a good final position, and I really enjoyed today when the conditions were closer to those you expect at this round. Tomorrow looks set to be another exciting and close fight, and I can’t wait to get started!”

 

Craig Breen (6th)

“Despite our poor road position, some of our times were fairly encouraging, but we then broke the anti-roll bar mounting and that slowed us down a bit in the ruts on the afternoon’s two long stages.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 

Jari-Matti Latvala (8th)

“Overall, I would say that it was a good day, even though it ended this way. Looking just at the special stages, I’m really pleased with how they went. I took care when there were rough sections and I pushed harder when the conditions were better. Esapekka was doing really good times and getting closer and closer and I wanted to really attack on the last stage. I got to the end of the stage, but we had an alternator warning and eventually we ran out of battery on the road section. It’s very frustrating because I really wanted to get a podium from this event. Tomorrow we will carry on fighting and try to score as many points as possible.”

 

Ott Tänak (9th)

“After the frustration of yesterday it was important to get back behind the wheel today. We made a couple of changes to the car at lunchtime and this afternoon it was really enjoyable. The car was feeling almost perfect and I had a nice rhythm. Unfortunately, we picked up a puncture somehow on the last stage, which gives us a little bit more to do tomorrow because we are trying to gain one more position and now the gap is a bit bigger. But we are not giving up and we will start tomorrow with a big attack to try and get this one position.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (13th)

“It’s not been an easy day and it was difficult to find the rhythm. I think I was a bit too careful after yesterday, and that cost us a lot of time. But we were still able to take a lot of experience that will help in the future – and next year I believe I can be faster.”

Elfyn Evans (14th)

“It’s never an easy situation to be in when you’re opening the road and not in a fight. There were some tricky sections today, so we just had to focus on getting through without any mistakes.”

 

Sunday arrived and it was a sunny day! We had the amazing situation with a real battle for the win between Seb and Thierry. The Belgian had a great opportunity to beat Seb and increase his lead in the championship and just four stages covering 42km to do it in. This was the start list – Evans, Breen, Ostberg, Paddon, Lappi, Latvala, Neuville, Ogier, Tänak, Suninen, Mikkelsen.

 

Well, stage 17 saw the lead that Seb held over Thierry close by 8 tenths of a second. Now just 3.1 seconds separated the top two. The Belgian was delivering on what he said. He said at the end of the stage “I don’t know if it’s enough. It will be tight. Two small mistakes at a junction and I ended up in a bit of loose, so I lost a bit of time.” Seb said “It is okay, it is very narrow, so it is hard to push harder”. Ott completed the top three in this stage

 

Thierry continued his push in stage 18, taking 1.8 seconds out of Seb. The gap was just 1.3 seconds… wow. Thierry was asked how he felt after a dominant display. “I don’t know! I just try to keep it on the road and push as much as I can without making mistakes. At this level everyone is pushing hard and fighting with Ogier is the most difficult!”

 

Seb said “It is tight! We will have to push to the end. This stage is all about fighting with the car, and for sure you can be a lot more aggressive. I will have to push on the next one.” Andreas was third fastest and saving his tyres for the powerstage.

 

A short regroup before the final two stages, and which way was this going to go?

 

Well, we had the answer. Thierry went through and it may not sound much, taking half a second from Seb’s lead. That however meant just eight tenths of a second remained between these two…. One stage left.

 

Thierry said, “I made two mistakes. I overshot the ruts and I was once was a bit close to the wall so I lost a bit of speed. We are going to go for it to the end”. Seb didn’t say anything at all and left his timecard with a marshal at the end of the stage. Clearly the pressure was telling. Ott collected the timecard and returned it to Seb.

 

The last stage then, after a pretty epic event! Who would prevail? Thierry set the fastest time in the stage, beating Tanak’s benchmark. He said “I had to try. I gave it everything. I want to say thank you to the team for all their hard work this weekend.” Now, at first Seb was seven tenths up at the first split, but the middle split showed he’d lost that time and more, now two tenths down. Coming through the final split he was 2.2 down, therefore technically not in the lead and finally coming over the flying finish 1.4 down. Thierry had done it. He’d beaten Seb by just seven tenths. The Belgian said, “We gave it everything and it was a great fight. Such a small difference at the end.”

 

Seb had this to say, “I tried everything I could today. I was always losing a few tenths here and there. The last stage was very rough and I made two mistakes which cost me a few tenths. It is still good points for the championship. We lost the battle, but we haven’t lost the war. There are still six rounds to go, it isn’t time to panic. Thierry was lucky with the rain but there will be another rally where he loses time as the road opener.”

 

Summing up the event.

Thierry did benefit from the rain on Friday to a degree, but this will go down in history as I believe as his best drive to date. Just amazing. It was a shame for Jari-Matti and Miikka retiring on Saturday from a great third place on Miikka’s 200th WRC event.

 

Hayden Paddon and Seb Marshall drove well, getting a great fourth place. Elfyn can feel a bit annoyed with his position of first on the road, despite completing all the stages. Those to benefit from the rally2 regs had a far better positions, and I believe it’s something that needs to be looked at.

 

The Citroen pairing of Mads and Craig had solid events, but it’s fair to say the team have some work to do to make their car faster.

Let’s hear from the drivers’ then!

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“I can’t believe it! We knew we had to give it everything we had this morning, and it was a truly fantastic fight with Sébastien. The gap at the end was so small and we left absolutely nothing behind. We kept pushing as hard as we could without doing anything stupid. Battling against Séb is one of the most difficult things to do, so this is a precious victory. Nicolas and I send massive thanks to the whole Hyundai Motorsport team for giving us a great car this weekend. Without them we couldn’t have done this today. Starting first on the road on Friday put us at a disadvantage. The rain helped a bit but we never gave up and we can share in one of the finest wins of our career. Leading both championships heading into the break gives us all the motivation we need for the second half of the season.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07 Rally Italia Sardegna
07-10 June 2018
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“I don’t think I can be unhappy with this weekend. I did everything I could, but I have to say that I was not prepared to take as many risks as Thierry. We still have some work to do because we were losing some tenths here and there – especially in the slower, more technical sections – but it’s still a good result for the championship.

“We’re only at the halfway point with six more events to come, but for sure we will have to be consistently strong. It will be a nice challenge and we will enjoy that, but now it’s time to have a break and enjoy the holidays!”

 

Esapekka Lappi (3rd)

“Today was just about bringing the car to the finish and to the podium. This is a really important result, both for my confidence but also for the team as well. I think we deserved a podium. We had opportunities to do it earlier in the season but I made some mistakes. Both Portugal and Sardinia have been quite clean rallies for me with a consistent performance, so I hope I can take this forward to Finland.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (4th)

“A difficult weekend for us, but a positive end to the rally for the team. We wanted more from this rally, but to take fourth place gives us important confidence for the coming events. Things didn’t really click from the first stages, and we weren’t able to replicate the positive feeling we had from shakedown. Still, it’s nice to finish this event for the first time in three years, and to score important points for the team in the manufacturers’ championship. We will look to build from here, and to try and take a few more risks. Congratulations to Thierry, Nicolas and the whole team for a fantastic victory.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (19th)

“We gave it all we could in the Power Stage to try and salvage something from what has been a frustrating weekend. Since the last rally, we have found a much better feeling from inside the car but we haven’t had the results to match. On Friday morning, we could show the potential we have with some strong times and leading the rally. Unfortunately, the transmission problem ended our rally and we’ve spent the remaining stages just refining things and picking up useful information about the car on these tough gravel stages. It is all valuable learning but we leave Sardinia with a feeling of missed opportunity. We will regroup over the summer break and be ready for Finland. Finally, congratulations to Thierry and Nicolas on an outstanding win this weekend.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Mads Østberg (5th)

“Although we set competitive times on a number of occasions, we quickly found ourselves having to defend our position. We therefore didn’t take any unnecessary risks. That was true both on my side, in terms of driving, and also from a technical point of view, in carrying two spares for yesterday afternoon’s loop, for example. But I’m pleased to secure this fifth place for the team.”

 

Craig Breen

“The weekend didn’t go especially smoothly for us. Having started quite far down the running order on Friday in the rain, we struggled with the tricky road conditions. We then ended up opening the road for the next two days as the ground dried out. The roads, when dry, are renowned for cleaning a lot, meaning the early runners are at a real disadvantage. I nonetheless managed to improve my knowledge of this specific rally. My focus has already shifted to Finland.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (7th)

“It was good to be able to get back out on the stages today after the frustration of yesterday. The feeling in the car was good and the times were pretty good, even though we were saving the tyres. Unfortunately, on the Power Stage I stalled the engine in one corner: I went too quick into a left-hander and the ruts were quite deep. I really wanted a podium here but I will try to have a positive break and be ready to fight in Finland.”

 

Ott Tänak (8th)

“It was a tough weekend with many lessons learned. We still need to understand what happened and why, and we need to avoid the same things happening in the future. Generally, the feeling is good, we are really fast, now we just need a bit of consistency. I know we can do it. As a team we are still young but we are learning quickly. I have good faith in the team and I’m sure we can put these moments behind us and be stronger in the future.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT 

Teemu Suninen (10th)

“On Friday I was really happy with my speed. The feeling was good and the rhythm was coming quite easily – we were in the fight for the podium and weren’t taking any big risks. Then in the last stage I just pushed a little too hard on the old tyres and we went off.

“After that it was a difficult weekend. We were focused on getting through all of the kilometres and when you’re driving carefully you lose the rhythm and the times don’t come as easily. But we got to the end and I am sure that we will be faster here next year.”

 

Elfyn Evans (14th)

It’s been a frustrating weekend – especially as the feeling in the car was really good on Friday morning. A relevantly small error proved pretty costly, and when you drop 13 minutes there is very little to fight for. We managed to salvage a point from the Power Stage which was some consolation, and now we’ll have a few weeks off before getting fully focused ahead of the next one in Finland.”

 

We now have the summer holiday break and the WRC will return in the last weekend of July, a full six weeks from now for Rally Finland!

 

Final Overall Classification – Rally Italia Sardegna

1 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3:29:18.7
2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC +0.7
3 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +1:56.3
4 H. Paddon S. Marshall Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:55.2
5 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 WRC +3:10.9
6 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +4:31.7
7 J.M. Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +11:22.1
8 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC +12:38.2
9 J. Kopecky P. Dresler Škoda Fabia R5 +13:14.6
10 T. Suninen M. Markkula Ford Fiesta WRC +15:30.4

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings 
After round 7

1 T. Neuville 149
2 S. Ogier 122
3 O. Tanak 79
4 E. Lappi 70
5 D. Sordo 60
6 A. Mikkelsen 56
7 E. Evans 46
8 K. Meeke 43
9 J.M Latvala 37
10 C. Breen 34
11 M. Østberg 26
12 T. Suninen 24
13 H. Paddon 22

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 7

1 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 212
2 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 184
3 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 161
4 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 129

Rally Italia Sardegna 2018 Preview – Jumping in the dust!

It’s time for the really dusty rally! Last year, M-Sport won the rally, thanks to a superb drive from Ott Tanak. Thierry Neuville is the championship leader, currently 19 points ahead of the reigning champion Seb. Opening the road on Friday will make the event very tricky for him. Last year we saw Seb open the road and he finished in fifth place and kept the lead in the championship.

Rally Italia Sardegna – Photo credit – M-Sport World Rally Team

Here’s last year’s result.

Final  Overall Classification  -Rally Italia Sardegna

1 O. Tanak M. Jarveoja Ford Fiesta WRC 3:25:15.1
2 J.M Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +12.3
3 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:07.7
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +2:12.9
5 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC +3:25.3
6 J. Hänninen K. Lindstrom Toyota Yaris WRC +3:38.5
7 M. Østberg O. Floene Ford Fiesta WRC +6:31.8
8 A. Mikkelsen A. Jaeger Citroën C3 WRC +8:07.8
9 E. Camilli B. Veillas Ford Fiesta R5 +11:15.8
10 J. Kopecky P. Dresler Škoda Fabia R5 +11:21.4

 

Here’s the full schedule for this tricky event!

RALLY ITALIA SARDINIA SCHEDULE (GMT+2)

THURSDAY 7 JUNE

8.00am: Shakedown Olmedo (3,34 km)

5.00pm: Start (Alghero)

6.00pm: SS 1 – Ittiri Arena Show (2,00 km)

7.00pm: Parc fermé (Alghero)

 

FRIDAY 8 JUNE

6.30am: Service A (Alghero – 15 min)

8.33am: SS 2 – Tula 1 (21,99 km)

9.48am: SS 3 – Castelsardo 1 (14,52 km)

10.37am: SS 4 – Tergu – Osilo 1 (14,14 km)

11.48am: SS 5 – Monte Baranta 1 (10,78 km)

12.44pm: Service B (Alghero – 30 min)

3.02pm: SS 6 – Tula 2 (21,99 km)

4.17pm: SS 7 – Castelsardo 2 (14,52 km)

5.06pm: SS 8 – Tergu – Osilo 2 (14,14 km)

6.24pm: SS 9 – Monte Baranta 2 (10,78 km)

7.00pm: Flexi service C (Alghero – 45 min)

 

SATURDAY 9 JUNE

5.55am: Service D (Alghero – 15 min)

8.38am: SS 10 – Coiluna – Loelle 1 (14,95 km)

9.33am: SS 11 – Monti Di Ala’ 1 (28,52 km)

10.11am: SS 12 – Monte Lerno 1 (29,11 km)

1.03pm: Service E (Alghero – 30 min)

2.11pm: SS 13 – Citta’ Di Ittiri – Coros (1,40 km)

4.08pm: SS 14 – Coiluna – Loelle 2 (14,95 km)

5.03pm: SS 15 – Monti Di Ala’ 2 (28,52 km)

5.41pm: SS 16 – Monte Lerno 2 (29,11 km)

8.15pm: Flexi service F (Alghero – 45 min)

 

SUNDAY 10 JUNE

7.45am: Service G (Alghero – 15 min)

8.45am: SS 17 – Cala Flumini 1 (14,06 km)

9.38am: SS 18 – Sassari – Argentiera 1 (6,96 km)

11.12am: SS 19 – Cala Flumini 2 (14,06 km)

12.18pm: SS 20 – Sassari – Argentiera 2 Power Stage (6,96 km)

1.15pm: Service H (Alghero – 10 min)

2.15pm: Podium (Alghero)

 

Let’s hear from the driver’s!

 

 Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Portugal was the near-perfect weekend for us, as we took 29 out of a maximum 30 points. We now move onto Sardinia, which is one of the most technical events on the calendar, leading the championship. The roads are very narrow and become extremely rough on the second pass. The grip level is quite high on the repeat loop, but we often lack traction on the first run through. They are tricky conditions but the stages tend to suit my driving style and pace notes system. I am able to be very precise and I have been successful there many times in the past.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07, Rally d’Italia Sardegna
8-11 June 2017
Thierry Neuville – Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: RaceEMotion
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Hayden Paddon

“First of all, I am feeling fighting fit after the incident in Portugal and I’m ready to get back down to business. Up to that point, we were able to show a competitive level of performance, taking a stage win and battling for the lead. Rally Italia Sardegna is certainly one of the highlights of the year, located in the Mediterranean with sunny conditions and hot temperatures. The stages are very twisty and challenging. It is a rally I enjoy, and from where I have good memories. I scored my first WRC podium there in 2015 and led the rally in 2017. I would like to finish off what we started last year.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rally Italia Sardegna is a very warm event and it’s important to have high concentration; there are many rocks sticking out that can cause punctures or damage. You also need a stable car because the stages are quite narrow and rough with a lot of bumps. We have made improvements to the car on gravel, which has given me an improved feeling, and I felt really comfortable during Rally de Portugal. This is a positive sign for Sardinia where our aim is to catch up some points and improve our position in the drivers’ championship, while also helping the team to increase the manufacturers’ lead. It will be tough on mind and body, as well as the car and tyres, but we’re ready for it.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I always enjoy competing in Sardinia. I actually drove there for the first time in 2003 on the Rally Costa Smeralda, the year before the WRC started going there. The roads have a very hard base with a layer of sand on the top which can make it very slippery for the first cars on the road. The roads are narrow but you can go very fast if you can keep to the right line. I feel positive heading to Sardinia. I had two clean days of driving in Portugal without any mistakes and this helped my confidence a lot, and I am really enjoying driving this car.”

Jari-Matti and Miikka scored a podium last year on this event – Photo credit Toyota World Rally Team

Ott Tanak

“Sardinia is a special rally for me as it’s where I got my first win one year ago. Hopefully we can get another top result this time around. I think this will be a key rally for the championship. Portugal obviously didn’t go as well as we planned or hoped, so it will be really important to score some strong points. We are trying to be well prepared as possible, and I know that the team is working really hard. I am really happy with how the car has been performing: In Argentina it was fantastic and it felt good in Portugal as well. Now we just need to translate that speed into a good result before the summer holidays.”

 

Esapekka Lappi

“I am really looking forward to competing in Sardinia again. We had a pretty good result there already last year and my speed was good, as we won six stages. I think I have learnt a lot since then, and there has also been a lot of progress with the car. I have felt very comfortable over the last couple of rallies and I have had the confidence to push hard. Now that we are fifth in the championship, we will have to run quite early on the road on Friday. The road cleaning effect can be quite big there, but I got some good experience of this on the final two days in Portugal, so I am not worrying about this too much.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“Portugal was a shame as we had the speed to challenge for the win. It was a small mistake with big consequences, but we put it behind us and are now fully focused on giving it everything we’ve got in Sardinia.

“Having competed here many times before, I’ve learned to really enjoy these demanding stages. It’s a beautiful island, but not the easiest of rallies with some very rough and abrasive terrain. You need to keep a margin and stay focused from start to finish – which is exactly what we intend to do next week.

“We won’t be opening the road this year, but we’ll still have something of an uphill battle with many fast drivers benefitting from a cleaner road behind. Even so, I’m confident that we can challenge for a good result. If we can keep the lead in sight on Friday night then we’ll be in with a chance – and will push for the best possible result.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Italy Sardegna (ITA) – WRC 08/06/2017 to 11/06/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Elfyn Evans

“Sardinia will always be a special place for me. It’s where I first got behind the wheel of a world rally car and I’ve come to really enjoy the challenging nature of the stages. It’s not an easy rally by all means, but I think that’s one of the reasons why I enjoy it so much.

“It’s such a demanding event and there are so many things that you need to keep in mind. The stages themselves are very rough and abrasive. You need to keep a margin within your driving otherwise your rally can be over before it’s even begun.

“Then there’s the heat. At this time of year, we can be looking at temperatures as high as 30C. That takes its toll on the cars, and the 50C plus temperatures inside the cockpit take their toll on the crew too!

“After our good result in Portugal we’re keen to keep that momentum going in Sardinia. We’ve completed two days of testing and we’ll have a fairly good road position on Friday that we’ll need to make the most of. If everything goes our way, I see no reason why we can’t be challenging for another strong result.”

 

Teemu Suninen

“I didn’t compete in Sardinia last year, but I did win the WRC 2 category in 2016 so hopefully that will help us this year. Every rally is difficult at this level and every minor detail has an effect on the end result – I’m sure Sardinia will be no different.

“We completed a one-day test last week which proved really useful. The road was quite slow, but that was good for me as it’s on these slower roads where I need to focus on improvements – where it’s slow and narrow and you need to take an advantage over every inch of the road.

“Even on the test I noticed how hot it will be next week. Normally I drink three litres a day but in Sardinia I expect to be drinking more than five litres a day! The stages are also quite rough and that means that we will have to get every stone marked in our notes.

“By focusing on my rivals my speed won´t improve. I’ll focus purely on my own driving and on improving stage by stage – then we’ll see where we are at the end of the rally.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT 

Craig Breen

“This is one of the WRC rallies where I have the least experience, but fortunately it hasn’t changed much since last year and so I have most of the pace notes already. It’s not necessarily my favourite event, because it’s never easy to adopt a fluid driving style on these really narrow, technical stages. But I have a good road position in eighth in the running order, because it’s one of the events where cleaning is most significant, so I’m going to try and make the most of it on the opening day.”

Mads Østberg

“It’s one of my favourite rallies. I’ve always been quick here. First of all, you need very good pace notes and then you need to find the right balance between pushing where you can and defending when there is a real risk of smashing the car. I learned a lot about the C3 WRC in Portugal and ended up by showing some pretty decent speed. The two days of pre-event testing held this week will help me to find the right pace, especially as I fully intend to take advantage of my good position in the running order.”

Mads Ostberg – Photo credit, Citroen Racing.

Just one team will be running two cars, with the removal of Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle from the Citroen team a few days ago. This will make it hard for them to make some good ground up in the manufacturers championship, but with Mads making his third start this year for this team and Craig in the other car looking to learn more about this tricky event for the future, they’ve got two drivers that can get to the end of the rally in the points.

Now, this is a special event for Miikka Antilla. He is making his 200th WRC start. A very special moment for Jari-Matti’s co-driver. The Toyota crew will want to get a great result, to mark this weekend.

Well, who do I think could win? Hayden Paddon and Seb Marshall will make their third start this year, and with his great road position, I would expect them to be in the mix for the podium at the very least, along with Andreas, Jari-Matti and Esapekka.

 

Don’t forget, all the action starts on Thursday morning with shakedown at 8am, that’s 6am BST here in the UK. The latest weather reports for the area on Friday are suggesting there will be thunderstorms. If there are stages that have rain, then Thierry will be a happy man.

 

Enjoy!

 

Kris Meeke’s contract is terminated.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

I

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

Rally de Portugal Preview 2018

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

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

Final Overall Classification  Rally de Portugal 2017

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

 

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

 

RALLY PORTUGAL SCHEDULE (GMT+1)

THURSDAY 17 MAY

7.30am: Shakedown (Paredes)

6.10pm: Start(Guimaraes)

7.03pm: SS 1 – Lousada (3,36 km)

8.00pm: Parc fermé (Exponor)

 

FRIDAY 18 MAY

7.45am: Service A (Exponor – 19 min)

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

10.20am: SS 3 – Caminha 1 (18,11 km)

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

1.40pm: Service B (Exponor – 34 min)

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

4.30pm: SS 6 – Caminha 2 (18,11 km)

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

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

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

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

 

SATURDAY 19 MAY

7.15am: Service D (Exponor – 19 min)

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

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

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

1.00pm: Service E (Exponor – 34 min)

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

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

5.05pm: SS 15 – Amarante 2 (37,60 km)

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

 

SUNDAY 20 MAY

7.00am: Service G (Exponor – 19 min)

8.35am: SS 16 – Montim 1 (8,64 km)

9.08am: SS 17 – Fafe 1 (11,18 km)

9.36am: SS 18 – Luilhas (11,89 km)

10.35am: SS 19 – Montim 2 (8,64 km)

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

1.50pm: Service H (Exponor – 14 min)

2.20pm: Finish (Matosinhos)

 

Here’s the views of the drivers.

 Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

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

Craig Breen

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

Mads Østberg

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

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

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

Hayden Paddon

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

Dani Sordo

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

Andreas Mikkelsen 

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

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

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

Ott Tänak

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

Esapekka Lappi

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

 

 

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

 

Enjoy!

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

Rally Argentina Review – Ott Tanak takes it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day One

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

Let’s hear then from the drivers-

 

Ott Tanak

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

Kris Meeke

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

Thierry Neuville

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport 

Dani Sordo (4th)

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

Andreas Mikkelsen (7th)

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

 

M-Sport Ford WRT 

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

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

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

Elfyn Evans (9th)

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

Teemu Suninen (10th)

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 

Esapekka Lappi (8th)

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (DNF)

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

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Craig Breen (6th)

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

Kris Meeke, Rally Argentina – Photo Credit Citroen Racing

Khalid Al Qassimi (15th)

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

 

Day Two – Saturday!

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classification after Day Two

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

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

Ott Tänak

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

 

Thierry Neuville

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

Dani Sordo

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

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

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th) said:

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

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

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

Elfyn Evans (7th) said:

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

Teemu Suninen (9th) said:

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport 

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi

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

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

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

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

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Kris Meeke (8th)

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

Khalid Al Qassimi (14th)

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

Craig Breen (DNF)

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

 

Day Three – Sunday!

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

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

 

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

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

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

Final Overall Classification – Rally Argentina

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

 

 

Let’s hear what he had to say.

Ott Tänak 

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

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

Thierry Neuville

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

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

Dani Sordo

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

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

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

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

Elfyn Evans (6th)

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

Teemu Suninen (9th)

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

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

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

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

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Kris Meeke (7th)

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

Khalid Al Qassimi (14th)

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT  

Esapekka Lappi (8th)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rally Argentina 2018 Preview – Back to Gravel!

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

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

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

Here’s the full stage schedule.

RALLY ARGENTINA SCHEDULE (GMT-3)

THURSDAY 26 APRIL

8.00am: Shakedown (Villa Carlos Paz – Cabalango)

6.30pm: Start (Villa Carlos Paz)

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

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

7.33pm: Parc fermé (Villa Carlos Paz)

FRIDAY 27 APRIL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SATURDAY 28 APRIL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUNDAY 29 APRIL

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

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

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

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

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

2.31pm: Finish

 

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

Here’s the views from the drivers then.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

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

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

Andreas Mikkelsen

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

Dani Sordo

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

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

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

Ott Tanak

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

Esapekka Lappi

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

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

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

Craig Breen

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

Craig Breen, Scott Martin. Photo credit Citroen Racing.

Khalid Al Qassimi

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

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier

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

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

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

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

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

Elfyn Evans

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

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

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

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

Teemu Suninen

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Enjoy the rally!