The final day then, and even though there were only two stages, we had the prospect of the longest stage of the whole weekend, the monster 55km stage!
The start list looked like this – Mikkelsen, Evans, Sordo, Lappi, Neuville, Tänak, Ogier, Meeke, Loeb.
Sadly, Latvala wouldn’t start. His Toyota was too damaged.
The stage start was slightly delayed, but once started, Andreas launched his car. He’d been battling understeer all weekend and was not able to show the pace that you’d expect from him. He set the benchmark at 34 minutes and 9 seconds. In the end, his time was beaten by several other drivers and our top three was Tanak, Meeke and Neuville. Ogier was fourth fastest and held a lead of 31 seconds over second placed Tanak going into the twelve and final stage.
The powerstage followed a couple of hours later. Who would top the times? Citroen and Toyota had provided the cars most likely since the start of Saturday.
It was Lappi who emerged fastest, with Loeb, Ogier, Meeke and Tanak completing the top five in the stage. Thierry suffered a mechanical problem with his Hyundai’s engine. He was not happy and didn’t even give an interview at the end of the stage.
Summing up the final day and the weekend as a whole.
Ogier had taken victory, thus extending his championship lead over the Belgian to 17 points. He’d been fast out of the blocks on Friday morning, building a lead whilst Thierry, Kris and Jari-Matti all struggled with their cars.
Loeb’s return to Corsica had promised so much and probably left more unanswered questions than before. If he returned to the championship, I believe he’d be right at the front. He’s lost none of his speed.
What of Thierry then? He had a frustrating weekend but finished on the podium. The consistency he craves is there, it’s just that the man he wants to beat is also getting good results.
Next up is Kris. He’d driven well on the whole with a car that wasn’t doing what he wanted and then on Saturday when the car was put back to the settings they used last year he was on the pace we expect from him. Such a shame then that he slid off on the final stage of Saturday and couldn’t get back on the road.
Finally, Jari-Matti. He won this event three years ago, but Toyota just didn’t have the right settings for any of its drivers to show their pace early on, but once they’d got the car where they wanted, we saw Lappi and Tanak both come forwards. Jari-Matti was starting to benefit from these settings when he had his off that led to his retirement. Hopefully this will lead to better things in Germany, the next all tarmac rally.
Looking ahead to the next event, Rally Argentina, later this month, a place that has seen first time winners in recent years. Perhaps we’ll see the Hyundai, Citroen and Toyota teams take the fight to M-Sport?
Let’s hear from the drivers then.
Sébastien Ogier (1st)
“It’s been a really good weekend for us and I am very happy with the performance. We had great pace on Friday and then just had to manage the gap after that.
“It was really satisfying to show this kind of speed – especially after last year where it was a bit more difficult. Now it seems like everything is going in the right direction – we have made some developments and I am feeling better and better in the car.”
Ott Tänak (2nd)
“Overall it has been a very nice weekend. Corsica has always been the event which I maybe enjoy the least: I have really struggled here in the past. This year I worked really hard to be consistently on the pace. We were never pushing to the maximum but we were always setting a good rhythm. On the penultimate stage, I had a really clean run and I tried to be close to the maximum all the time, and it looked like it paid off. On the Power Stage, I took no risks: I just wanted to make sure we finished in second position, which was very important. For my first time on proper asphalt with Toyota, I’m happy with that.”
Thierry Neuville (3rd)
“It’s good to finish on the podium but there has been a bit of frustration over the weekend. We haven’t been able to match the times of the front-runners, even if we tried really hard. We have to be content with the results we have achieved, securing a podium and important points for the manufacturers’ championship. In general, I am pleased with the final result but in terms of outright performance we were just not on the pace this weekend.”
Dani Sordo (4th)
“Our end result is not too bad considering the disappointing weekend we have had in Corsica. We have just not been able to find the speed and performance needed to tackle these roads. It was a similar story today; we have pushed as hard as we can but the times have not been there. Still, fourth place gives us important points for the championship so that’s something positive we can take away. Now we need to work together as a team to get more speed on tarmac for later in the season.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (7th)
“Absolutely not the result we wanted and a very difficult weekend overall. We made some more set-up changes for this morning’s two stages but unfortunately, we couldn’t find the breakthrough that we needed. It has been a challenging rally but we know that we have to do to gain more experience with this car on tarmac. We need more mileage to understand where we can find more performance from ourselves and from the car. We have some time before the next asphalt event in Germany, so we have to put in lots of effort to make the improvements we need. That’s the homework we are taking from this weekend.”
M-Sport Ford WRT
Elfyn Evans (5th)
“It was never going to be an easy weekend for us, but Phil has done an incredible job – jumping in at the last minute and getting us through without incident. We’ve collected some solid points which is what we came here to do. There is still a lot of work to do as far as the championship is concerned, but at least we can go to Argentina in a positive frame of mind and try to push for a strong result.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Esapekka Lappi (6th)
“I think we have learned a lot here both as drivers and as a team. We have been able to find a good setup for the car. Yesterday was really perfect, and the speed was good on the final day as well. Unfortunately, I made a small mistake, which I take full responsibility for. I guess the rear tyres were still a bit cold and I lost the rear a bit and hit a kerb on the outside. We broke part of the rim and the tyre started to come off so we had to stop and change it. After that it was good to win the Power Stage: there was actually more grip than I was expecting, so I just pushed harder and harder.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
Kris Meeke (9th)
“Obviously, it’s frustrating to have dropped out of contention yesterday when a top three place was clearly within our reach, but we had to get back at it today and I think we have proven our ability to do just that. We are already looking ahead and we’ll be trying and get back on the podium and turn our speed into good results at the next few races.”
Sébastien Loeb (14th)
“It’s a real shame that we went off on Friday. We would have undoubtedly been right in the mix otherwise. In any case, I’m delighted to have been on the pace again this weekend for our second one-off appearance of the season. I prefer to focus on the enjoyment we have had throughout the weekend in the C3 WRC. It is a really formidable car on tarmac and I really enjoyed driving it on these magnificent Corsican roads. It was also very nice to feel all the love and support from the French fans at our home event.”
Final Overall Classification – Tour de Corse
1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia 3:26:52.7
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja +36.1
3 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul +1:07.5
4 D. Sordo C. del Barrio +2:02.6
5 E. Evans P. Mills +2:06.1
6 E. Lappi J. Ferm +2:33.5
7 A. Mikkelsen A. Jæger +2:43.4
8 J. Kopecky P. Dresler +10:34.8
9 K. Meeke P. Nagle +10:40.5
10 Y. Bonato B. Boulloud +12:26.0
2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round 4
1 S. Ogier 84
2 T. Neuville 67
3 O. Tanak 45
4 A. Mikkelsen 41
5 K. Meeke 36
6 E. Lappi 36
7 J.M Latvala 31
8 D. Sordo 30
9 C. Breen 20
10 E. Evans 18
11 S. Loeb 15
12 H. Paddon 10
2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
Six stages today, and first up was stage five, a long stage at 35km to really wake up the drivers! The start list for each of the stage looked like this – Bouffier, Mikkelsen, Latvala, Sordo, Evans, Lappi, Tänak, Meeke, Neuville, Ogier, Loeb.
As the last car through, Loeb won the stage whilst Kris was happy with the start and end of the stage but lost his rhythm in the middle and had to pick it up. Elfyn lost some more time in the stage with a spin and a stall, caused when he used the handbrake on a corner. This allowed Dani to close on the Welshman, the gap at just three seconds between them! Meantime, Esapekka in his Yaris was really driving brilliantly, just a little off Loeb’s time and making fifth position his!
On to stage six, a shorter stage and the nine-time champion took this one as well. This time it was the Yaris peddled by Tanak who came closest to Loeb. Ogier and Lappi set exactly the same time to go third fastest. Our leader in the M-Sport Fiesta saw his lead open up a little more. His teammate, Elfyn and Dani Sordo were now tied on the same time on the overall leaderboard!
Final stage before the service break, and Ott Tanak took the win, closing the gap further in his pursuit of Kris for the final podium position. Ogier meantime was second fastest and now his lead over Thierry had gone above forty seconds. Elfyn had a scrappy stage, with lots of hesitations and fell behind Dani, into seventh place.
The afternoon stages started with Esapekka winning stage eight, with Loeb picking up another second fastest time. He really was on the pace! Elfyn also had a good stage, closing the gap to Dani in their fight over sixth and seventh! Unfortunately, we lost Jari-Matti in this stage. During service the Toyota team had worked on the balance and made it handle better. Jari-Matti was pushing hard and he lost the rear of the car and hit a tree. He completed the stage but retired afterwards. Kris had also made some changes, returning to last year’s setup that worked so well, and he had a car that responded to him. He used it to good affect closing a little to Thierry ahead.
Stage nine, the penultimate stage was won by Loeb and with Kris setting the fourth fastest time, he drew level on time with Thierry on the overall leaderboard. With the C3 WRC returned to the settings the team used last year, he felt much more at ease with how it responded to him. Elfyn was also on the pace but didn’t take much time out of Dani. The inter-team battle continued with Tanak and Lappi, who were battling over fourth position, with Lappi faster through the stage, but not by much.
The final stage of the day, would see Lappi and Tanak share the fastest time, but the big shock was the exit of Kris who miss heard a stage note and went too far off the road to regain and complete the test. A big shock and one that meant Tanak went from fourth to second with Thierry now in third place, but just one tenth of a second behind. Elfyn also had a good stage, closing a little to Dani again, feeling that the relationship with Phil Mills was starting to gel.
Summing up Saturday.
Whilst there was all that drama behind him, Seb Ogier continued to lead. There were different stage winners, with Loeb taking three more and Toyota teammates Ott and Esapekka sharing the other three between them. The demise of Kris from second overall was a big shame. It shows how little room for error there is in this sport. I do wonder why the team didn’t use the settings from last year from the off.
There are only two stages tomorrow, but the first is the longest stage of the entire weekend, a monster of 55km! Anything can still happen.
“It’s been a long, but good day for us. Whereas yesterday we were just driving flat-out, today has been a bit more difficult as we’ve had to think a bit more about our approach. I tried to keep a good rhythm of course, but at the same time I didn’t want to take too many risks. We still managed to extend our lead on every stage, and I’m really pleased with that.
“There’s still a long way to go with the longest stage of the whole rally to come. We’ve had a good feeling all weekend so I hope to finish like that tomorrow. We won’t push to the maximum as our target is to cross the finish line – but it’s never over until it’s over.”
Ott Tanak (2nd)
“It will certainly be interesting tomorrow, with 0.1 seconds to the car behind and 10.4 seconds to Esapekka, who has been setting some really good times and seems to be confident. Overall our feeling in the car has been quite nice and the pace has been consistent. I haven’t been pushing to the maximum, just going at a good speed with a good rhythm. Let’s see how the feeling is tomorrow. The first stage is a really long one and I think the rhythm will be important there.”
Thierry Neuville (3rd)
“There is very little to say after another very demanding day. We have pushed as much as we can in every stage – but a bit too much on the edge at times. It’s all we can do to try and defend our podium position. We have struggled with the set-up of the car at times, and some of the roads really didn’t suit our car. Like yesterday, we had to accept certain limitations to what we could achieve. It has been mission impossible to defend second place so all we can hope now is that we can keep third position, and minimise the damage after a difficult weekend so far for Hyundai Motorsport.”
Esapekka Lappi (4th)
“It has obviously been a really positive day. It’s really nice to be fastest over the day. We worked really hard yesterday to try and find a better setup, and today the car felt really good and easy to drive. For me, the times are coming really easily. I didn’t need to push too hard, it just came naturally. Tomorrow it’s good that both of the stages are new for everyone because it’s easier for me when that’s the case. I will just try to continue my pace and then we will see what happens. I will not force myself to do something crazy: I’m already happy with fourth place, although I wouldn’t mind if we can climb one or two more places!”
Dani Sordo (5th)
“We made some modifications to the car for today’s stages, which gave us a bit more confidence and a very small improvement on the times. We have done all we can, pushing all the time, but there are still some settings issues that we have yet to resolve. It has been a similar issue for other crews. All we can do is adapt the car to find more front-end grip and aim to improve on tomorrow’s long stage. It might be a bit too late, but we won’t give up without a fight.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (7th)
“Running seventh on the classification is not where we want or expect to be. We have battled a lot with understeer, which has been made worse on the wider, racing-style stages today. We were able to close in a bit on the cars in front of us during the morning loop, but we don’t want to be relying on others’ misfortune to gain positions. We’d much rather be fighting at the front. I tried to change my driving style in the afternoon, but that didn’t deliver any improvement. It’s important for us to continue trying to improve the car and our pace until the very end of the rally.”
M-Sport Ford WRT
Elfyn Evans (6th)
“We didn’t have the best of mornings, and I felt as though I was a bit too hesitant in places. It wasn’t anything major, but it soon adds up. We made some improvements in the afternoon and I was feeling a lot more comfortable in the car. The relationship with Phil has gelled quite a lot better today too and we’ve seen some promising times which bodes well for tomorrow.”
“After we made some changes in mid-day service, the car felt fantastic, so thank you to the team for that. It really gave me the confidence to push, but I maybe pushed a little bit too hard, got too sideways on a left-hand corner and hit a tree with the rear of the car. Normally I would not be smiling after going off the road, but I have some reason to be happy: Ott and Esapekka are going really quickly here, while I had been struggling, but then I found the speed. I learned what we had done wrong with the setup and why I was not fast. Hopefully the guys can fix the car so we can restart tomorrow and show that speed.”
“We were fighting for second and pushing really hard, absolutely on the limit. Unfortunately, something happened that has never happened before between Paul and me. He got the pace notes a bit mixed up, but that’s rallying. It’s the very first time that this has happened. We’ve gone off several times together in the past when it’s been my fault and not his. Look, we win together and we lose together. I’m sure we’ll bounce back from this very quickly.”
“I’m disappointed for sure, but this is part of motorsport and we know it can happen. I was happy with my pace as this car is still quite new to me and I have a lot of things still to improve and understand. In this context it was very good to see some good times and I really hope that we can do some more kilometres with this amazing car.”
The day dawned sunny, but there had been rain in the days before, which was going to affect those running further down the standings. Four stages today- doesn’t sound like much, but with a double run of a 49km stage, anything could happen!
The first stage of the day, and the cars would start in championship order- Ogier, Neuville, Mikkelsen, Meeke, Latvala, Tänak, Lappi, Sordo, Loeb, Evans, and also just 2 minutes between the cars, instead of 3 which we see on gravel.
Ogier would make the most of his starting position winning the stage although he was almost certainly on the limit of grip as he nearly spun a few times in the stage. Loeb was his closest challenger, just 9.7 slower than his compatriot. The fastest Toyota was that driven by Ott Tanak who was a further nine seconds back. Of course, last years early rally leader, Kris found with being fourth he would come across dirty and a wet road, finishing 19 seconds down on the early leader. Elfyn also commented on the condition of the road, with the dirt being pulled out.
Stage two saw Ogier extend his lead over Meeke who was now in second place. Sadly, Loeb had gone out just 300 metres after starting. He lost control, running wide on a kink, which sent him sliding over the road onto the right-hand side and into a ditch, which he couldn’t get out of. The reason given – cold tyres. Both Hyundai drivers, Andreas and Thierry were suffering from cars not responding to them. Thierry’s main problem was no grip, whilst Andreas just slid into a ditch and then suffered with a vibration afterwards. Kris was still in second but having trouble with his intercom. Now imagine that you’re relying on details from your co-driver, but then the system that allows you to hear those keeps cutting out. Very frustrating indeed. Jari-Matti was having trouble with confidence under braking in his Yaris.
All the cars headed back to service at this point. Thierry would want to get his car sorted, whilst Kris would hopefully get his intercom problem fixed as well.
The second run of La Porta – Valle di Rostino, saw Ogier win again and Thierry go second fastest which saw Kris fall behind the Belgian. The Citroen driver was still getting problems with his intercom. During service, Kris had changed his helmet in a hope that would solve the problem but that didn’t help. Meantime, Andreas was still having problems with understeer, dropping 30 seconds to the leader just in this one stage. Jari-Matti was still having trouble with confidence under braking, but his teammate Lappi was in a great position to move up after closing the gap to Dani and Elfyn ahead.
The last stage of the day already and Ogier’s time was very good. However, Thierry then Jari-Matti and finally Esapekka Lappi went faster who leapfrogged both Dani and Elfyn into fifth overall. He was really in the groove through this one. Latvala’s pace was good enough to allow him to pass Andreas for eighth place, but he’ll almost certainly want better from Saturday’s stages.
Summing up Friday
Seb Ogier reigned supreme and has built a lead that he can use to his advantage. The question is, can Thierry or Kris get their problems resolved to allow them to express their pace and challenge the leader?
“We’ve had a great day. It’s always nice to be in the lead, but it’s even nicer to be leading on home soil. The car was very enjoyable to drive today and we’ve had a lot of fun out on the stages.
“We’ve made good progress since last year and in this sport you don’t achieve anything alone – it’s always a team effort. All the energy we’ve put into developing the car over the past year is really starting to pay off. We saw it already in Mexico with a good step forward on gravel, and so far I think we’ve improved on asphalt too which is very positive for the future.
“There’s still two days of rallying to come with a lot of new stages so there will be no time to relax. We’ll take the same approach that we had today into tomorrow and try to stay in a good rhythm. These new sections will be very challenging, but we have to keep pushing.”
Thierry Neuville (2nd)
“It hasn’t been the best of starts to this rally for us, but we know there are some very long stages to come over the weekend so we have to remain positive. In this morning’s loop, we couldn’t find a good feeling with the car. We had no efficiency from the brakes missing some bite. Changes made during lunchtime service were in the right direction and we pushed very hard in the afternoon. Ogier has set a strong pace and we have had to accept we can’t match him so far, but we will keep attacking as best as we can. We are now in second place overall with a small margin to third, so our target is to consolidate our position.”
Kris Meeke (3rd)
“It was a pretty good day for us, I was pleased with my rhythm, even though it wasn’t quite enough to keep pace with the leader. I don’t know to what extent the road became ‘polluted’ as more cars came completed the stages. In any case, I was pleased with my C3 WRC. My intercom was playing up, which was a bit annoying at times. With a couple of totally new stages tomorrow, a lot can still happen but I’m very determined to fight to stay in the podium places.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Ott Tänak (4th)
“This was my first day competing on proper asphalt in this car, and I think we have learned quite a lot today. The general feeling in the car is quite nice. This morning the feeling was already positive: the car was handling well. At lunchtime service we did a couple of changes, and in some areas the feeling was improving and getting better. For tomorrow we have some more ideas of how we would like to improve a bit further to help us in the fight for the podium. We are still quite close to second and third: these places are ours to catch, so we will try our best tomorrow.”
Esapekka Lappi (5th)
“The morning and afternoon were quite similar for me today in terms of stage times. We lost quite a bit on the long stage, which is really twisty like a proper Tour de Corse stage. The shorter one is much faster and our car was working really well there. We ended the day with the fastest time, which is always positive. It would be better if we were stronger on the more twisty stages, but we will work on that tomorrow and try to improve the car. The plan will be to try and keep fifth place but there is still a long way to go and anything can happen.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (8th)
“It was good to finish today with a quick time on the last stage, after quite a disappointing morning. I went the wrong way with the setup, so I lacked confidence and I was driving badly. We made changes in service and the car definitely felt better on the braking and the rear was more predictable. I made another change before the final stage, and then the confidence came and I could improve my driving. The setup is now good for the dry conditions that we are expecting for the rest of the rally, so the plan now is to just focus on the driving: to be consistent and maintain that speed we had on the last stage. I think we can have a good fight with the guys who are just in front of us.”
M-Sport Ford WRT
Elfyn Evans (6th)
“We knew it wouldn’t be plain sailing for us today, but I think it’s gone as well as we could have hoped in the circumstances. To be fair, Phil has done a really good job. We’re building that trust, and hopefully we can keep improving as the weekend goes on.
“My notes aren’t the easiest if you don’t know them inside out. Obviously Phil knows them quite well from being a part of our Route Note Crew, but there are little tricks and ways that things have to be read to makes everything flow a hundred percent. If you’re not used to reading them day after day it’s extremely difficult, so he’s done a really good job.
“There are a lot of new sections coming up tomorrow and, honestly, I was finding the going a bit easier in the more familiar sections today. We have to keep going so let’s just give it our best and see what we can do.”
Bryan Bouffier (10th)
“It’s been a good day and I was happy with both of our passes through the short stage. We still had something to find in the long one – and I was finding it difficult to place the car. We’ll discuss everything this evening and hope to show another improvement tomorrow.”
Dani Sordo (7th)
“I haven’t been very happy with our stage times today, although there has not been anything particularly wrong with the car. In fact, the handling has been quite good during the day. The opening long stage was quite tricky and initially I didn’t have enough confidence. The second stage was better, although there was some gravel pulled onto the road in places. I tried to push a bit in the afternoon but again the times were not forthcoming. The speed at the front is very fast but we will try to find more pace tomorrow to try and get into a top five position.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (9th)
“Our day was compromised by one spin and a small off in the morning loop, one on each stage, which combined lost us about 50 seconds to the leader. A far from ideal way to start this rally! Still, the car itself performed better than expected, and we found some improvements for the afternoon loop. I drove the car to the limits and kept pushing as much as possible. Now we have found a better feeling since lunchtime service, I hope we can be in better shape tomorrow.”
Tomorrow sees six stages totalling 136km. Loeb will return under super rally 2 rules as well. The crews will travel to the northern part of the island.
It’s time for round four, and just four points separate Seb Ogier and Thierry Neuville at the top of the points table!
This year’s edition of this classic event has twelve stages totalling 333.48km over the three days, the longest stage being the 55.17 km for Vero – Sarrola – Carcopino run on Sunday and the shortest being the Piedigriggio – Pont de Castirla 2 13,55 km on Friday afternoon.
Friday sees the crews tackle stages that are in the middle of the island, with four stages, but a mammoth 126 km’s. On Saturday, they head to the northern park of the island and tackle the coastal roads, totalling a huge almost 140km’s of stages and then Sunday sees them head south west and the longest stage run and then the power stage.
Last year Kris led until he suffered a mechanical failure with his engine on Saturday afternoon and Thierry came through to take the win.
Seb Loeb is driving again for Citroen, with the second of his outings for this year, but bigger than that is the news that Elfyn Evans’ co-driver Dan Barritt is sitting out this one as he’s still recovering from the high-speed roll that happened in Mexico. Phil Mills’ will be stepping into co-driver seat. Yes, world rally champion co-driver to Mr Hollywood, Petter Solberg. He has been part of Elfyns’ gravel crew for the past five years, which makes him the ideal man for the job!
TOUR DE CORSE SCHEDULE (GMT+2)
THURSDAY 5 APRIL
8.00am: Shakedown (Sorbo Ocagnano)
6.30pm: Ceremonial start Bastia – Place Saint Nicolas
FRIDAY 6 APRIL
8.00am: Start in Bastia – Place Saint Nicolas
8.40am: Service A (Bastia airport – 15′)
9.50am: SS 1 – La Porta – Valle di Rostino 1 (49,03 km)
11.09am: SS 2 – Piedigriggio – Pont de Castirla 1 (13,55 km)
1.47pm: Service B (Bastia airport – 30′)
3.12pm: SS 3 – La Porta – Valle di Rostino 2 (49,03 km)
4.31pm: SS 4 – Piedigriggio – Pont de Castirla 2 (13,55 km)
7.01pm: Flexi service C (Bastia airport – 45′)
SATURDAY 7 APRIL
6.10am: Start of day 2 and service D (Bastia airport – 15′)
7.37am: SS 5 – Cagnano – Pino – Canari 1 (35,61 km)
9.18am: SS 6 – Désert des Agriates 1 (15,45 km)
11.08am: SS 7 – Novella 1 (17,39 km)
1.31pm: Service E (Bastia airport – 30′)
3.21pm: SS 8 – Cagnano – Pino – Canari 2 (35,61 km)
5.02pm: SS 9 – Désert des Agriates 2 (15,45 km)
6.39pm: SS 10 – Novella 2 (17,39 km)
8.10pm: Flexi service F (Bastia airport – 45′)
SUNDAY 8 APRIL
7.00am: Start of day 3 and service G (Bastia airport – 15′)
9.23am: SS 11 – Vero – Sarrola – Carcopino (55,17 km)
12.18pm: SS 12 – Pénitencier de Coti-Chiavari (16,25 km)
“We’ve had a really positive start to the season – three events and two victories already under our belts. It’s great to see the progress we’ve made, and we’re keen to see that continue with the return to asphalt next week.
“With a lot of mixed conditions in Monte-Carlo, the Tour de Corse is the first proper Tarmac event of the year, and it’s nice to be back. We all know that the competition will be strong, but we completed a good test last week – finding a good feeling and discovering the optimum set-ups to deliver a strong performance
“As a Frenchman, there is always added motivation to do well at the Tour de Corse. Known as the Rally of 10,000 Corners, the name alone says it all and many sections of this island are made for rallying. A lot of the route is new this year, but the stages remain very technical with corner after corner demanding total focus and precision.
“It’s a beautiful island that I always look forward to visiting, and it would be fantastic to secure another strong result on French soil.”
“This is an event that I really enjoy, and we’ll be looking to maximise that next week. The speed is there, but I’ve not had the best start to the year and that’s something I’m determined to put right in Corsica.
“It won’t be easy without Dan, but his fitness comes first and it’s important that he has the time to make a full recovery for the rest of the season. Phil has stepped in, and I hope that we can push for a good result.
“Phil certainly knows his stuff. Other than Dan, he knows my pacenotes better than anyone and he’s certainly no stranger when it comes to winning rallies.
“This year’s route has a lot of new sections, but it’s still a technical challenge which is one of the things I really enjoy here. There’s quite a lot of variation amongst the stages – some are surprisingly smooth, but then there are those which are typically Corsican with abrasive Tarmac that twists through the mountains.
“It’s all about adapting to the conditions, and that will be the case even more so for us next week. We’ll have a fairly late running order which won’t be ideal, and we’ll need some time to get used to one another in the car as well.
“We’ll just have to see how it goes and do the best we can. I’ve had some good results here in the past, and I’m keen to see what we can do this year.”
“The Tour de Corse has long been one of my favourite events. The roads are amazing, but so is the island and so are the people who live there. It’s a fantastic rally and one that I look forward to every year.
“We had a good test last week where I found a good feeling with the balance of the car. Working together with the team, we were able to find some good solutions with the set-up, and I hope that hard work will show on the stages next week.
“Every time I return the FIA World Rally Championship the level is extremely high, but this year the competition is stronger than ever and there are so many drivers able to push for the top results.
“The specific challenge in Corsica is to be consistent through the long stages and to avoid mistakes. That is our goal and we hope to deliver some strong times so that I have the chance to do even more kilometres in this amazing car!”
“Tour de Corse is one of my personal highlights of the season. We have some good memories from this rally across the years; we have won twice, including last year’s WRC victory so I am hoping for another competitive weekend. We had an accident towards the end of the pre-event test but that won’t change our approach to this rally. We know it will be a close contest again, as there are many quick drivers. The long stages that are a particular characteristic of Corsica mean we have to keep focused at all times. It is a really demanding event for crews and teams but we’re determined to strengthen our position in both championships.”
“Corsica is a very special event, and our first true tarmac rally of the season. As a crew, you never really get any break during the stages; it’s a continuous corner-to-corner challenge that requires utmost concentration. It’s equally tough on the car as it is for the driver and co-driver. It is easy for the brakes to get warm so we have to adapt our driving style to save them for the really long stages. Tour de Corse is a beautiful rally and one I really enjoy.”
“I was pleased with our result in Mexico and I hope we can continue with this level of performance as we move onto the tarmac challenge of Tour de Corse. It is a rally I always enjoy, and which requires a very specific approach. With long stages held in the mountains, Corsica really is a classic tarmac event. It’s corner after corner, so we are always turning the steering wheel during the stages, which makes it a very physical event. Precise pace notes are crucial for a good performance. I can’t wait to get started!”
Toyota Gazoo WRT
“I have some good memories of Corsica from my win there in 2015. It is certainly an asphalt rally that I like. There’s a reason they call it the Rally of 10,000 Corners: if you find any straight that is longer than 100 metres, you know you are on the wrong island! You cannot really cut the corners so much and there is not so much gravel on the road, which makes it really enjoyable as you can just focus on the corners and the lines. We had a very, very positive pre-event test. The feeling was extremely good and I am very confident with the car. All of the teams should be quick in Corsica, but I really hope we are up there fighting for the podium places.”
“We have been competitive on every surface so far this season. The team is working really hard to make sure that we can be reliable too. Now we just need to start taking some points back from our rivals. Last year my feeling in Corsica was quite good, so I want to have a strong result this time. The conditions on Rallye Monte-Carlo were very specific so it was difficult to take a lot, but we still went into our pre-Corsica test with some kind of idea which way we want to go. We had a proper two-day test and I think we went in the right direction: It feels like the car is performing well.”
“I have done Corsica a couple of times in the past in other categories, and I would say that it is completely different to any other rally. It is just corner after corner, without many straights to give us a rest. The schedule is also unique as we don’t have as many stages, but they are quite long. This will be my first time in Corsica in a World Rally Car, but I take confidence from the speed we showed in Monte Carlo. In fact, I am actually more confident this time because we managed to find a better set-up in the pre-event test. We tested in both damp and fully dry conditions so we should be ready whatever the weather.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
“The Tour de Corse is one hell of a challenge, with many difficulties, but I’ve always enjoyed racing here. We were very competitive here last year, although we have seen since the start of the season that everyone has made progress, but I hope we can still get among the frontrunners. Our pre-event tests, held on a wide variety of roads, were very productive. I get the feeling that we have progressed further on the dirty and bumpy sections. In any case, I came away from my test sessions pleased with the work done and I can’t wait now to get started!”
“Having recently driven the C3 WRC on gravel, I got my bearings very quickly during our tests in Corsica, even though the road surface was different. I started with Kris’ basic set-up and settled upon something very close to his settings pretty quickly, but which suited me. The feeling was pretty good at the end of my testing days. We’ll have to wait and see where we stand in relation to everyone else. After our performance in Mexico, I hope we will be on the pace again, especially as I’ve always been comfortable on tarmac, not least in Corsica. In any case, it’s a place and an event that I have always enjoyed, even if it’s certainly not the easiest rally. The roads are apparently faster than when I last competed here, although there are still plenty of narrow, technical and bumpy stages, but they are all going to be new for me so it won’t be easy to make pace notes for the entire route.”
As a nice tribute to Henry Hope-Frost, the M-Sport team will be running with the hashtag #Fever and also the names of his sons on their cars.
Just a few days now then to the start of this iconic event. Who will win this year? Enjoy!
Well, what an amazing rally we were treated to! Here’s the story of how Seb Ogier won, and took the championship lead back from Thierry.
On Thursday, last year’s winner Kris topped shakedown with Thierry in his Hyundai also going very well, just a little behind the Northern Irishman, whilst Seb Loeb was getting his bearings back, going ninth fastest on his return to competitive action.
The first stage, run that evening, was won by Thierry.
Friday morning dawned bright, if a little cool. It would certainly warm up, for sure and not just the temperature, as the fight for the lead started in earnest! Nine stages faced the crews, including the longest of the rally, El Chocolate 31km test and as always, run twice!
Stage two saw Kris and Paul take the lead, whilst Thierry tumbled down to ninth as he was opening the road, courtesy of being the championship leader. Dani Sordo also had a great run jumping from eighth to second and Loeb went brilliantly to go third in the stage and move into fourth overall.
The following stage would see a big change around though! Kris found the balance of his car tricky and after being third fastest behind Elfyn and stage winner Dani, would fall to second overall, nine and a half seconds behind our new leader, Dani!
Stage four would see Elfyn and Dan roll multiple times, after losing control on a jump in sixth gear! The car wasn’t actually that damaged, but they were both taken to have medical checks done and Dan was found to have suffered concussion and they would withdraw from the event. A big shame after moving into third overall. Kris also had a big moment on a jump, but was still second overall, whilst Loeb had moved up to third after the demise of Elfyn and Dan.
The short street stage at Leon was won by Teemu in his M-Sport Fiesta, with Andreas and Loeb taking second and third. Thierry suffered from an engine issue in this stage, dropping twenty seconds as a result and dropping two places down to ninth, now more than a minute from his teammate Dani who was still leading.
Stage six started the afternoon loop, after the lunchtime service break and Kris fought back with a time four seconds faster than Dani who continued to lead the event, although it was now reduced to twelve seconds. Ott Tanak was faster than Loeb, and took third overall as a result, whilst Thierry moved back up one place after Hyundai fixed the problem with his car during service.
The second run of El Chocolate, stage seven, and the nine-time champion took it, and with Kris suffering a spin losing six or seven seconds he also moved into second overall! Further down the order, both Teemu and Esapekka went out of the event after sliding out and Andreas passed Ogier for fifth, after being almost three seconds faster.
The following stage saw Loeb and Ott set exactly the same time allowing the Estonian to pass Kris who spun again dropping to fourth and whilst that was happening, Loeb had closed to within eight seconds on the current leader, Dani. Sadly, Jari-Matti, who had been in seventh overall retired with alternator failure after this stage.
Stages nine and ten were run at the Autodromo de Leon, and honours were shared by Tanak and Ogier.
It had been a very interesting day, with Dani leading throughout and the Citroen duo of Meeke and Loeb being the closest challengers. Championship leader, Thierry was a full two minutes off the lead in seventh place whilst Seb Ogier lay just thirty seconds from the lead, fifth overall.
Here’s the thoughts of the drivers at the end of the day with the top three first.
Dani Sordo, Hyundai
“I have been happy with our pace and rhythm today, particularly on the morning loop when we could really set some good times, making the most of our road position. To be leading the rally at the end of the opening day is a great feeling but we know it is very close and we will have a fight on our hands tomorrow. I have to say thanks to the whole team for their hard work. They have given us the perfect car. The stage wins on Friday morning were very nice but we knew the repeat loop would be tricky. We thought the soft tyres might be a bit on the limit but it was a risk that did not really pay off; we didn’t generate enough lateral grip. We have been quick in Mexico before so we hoped to be in the fight, and we will do all we can to remain in the podium battle.”
Sébastien Loeb, Citroen
“Overall, clearly, it has been a very good opening leg! I didn’t know what to expect before coming but we are here in second, not far off the lead, so I’m delighted to be on the pace after six years away from Mexico. We’re now going to try and maintain the same pace, but I know it won’t be easy. Tänak is very close behind, in particular, and we know he’s very good in the quick stages!”
Ott Tanak, Toyota
“All in all, it has been a good day. It is my first time on gravel in this car, so there have been many new things to learn. The temperatures have been very high. This morning we had to manage it as best as we could but the team did an extremely good job during the service and made some good improvements. This afternoon I was pushing really hard. Our road position was not as good as the leaders but still we managed to close on them. It has been a nice start and we can definitely build on that tomorrow.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
“Without the less-than-perfect tyre choice this morning and my two silly mistakes this afternoon, we could have been right up there at the front, so it’s a bit frustrating. But that’s life. The main thing is that our speed is good and I really enjoyed driving my C3 WRC. There is still a long way to go. I’m certainly going to keep pushing and let’s see how things work out.”
M-Sport Ford WRT
“We tried to push as hard as possible today. We had a small spin which cost us maybe six or seven seconds but, being second on the road, I think we can still be happy with our day. We made the best of it and were beating everyone around us. But for sure the guys starting further back were faster – as we expected.
“Tomorrow won’t be much better as we’ll still start very early on the road. It’s going to be difficult to catch the guys in front but you never know and we’ll try our best.”
“I was struggling a bit with the rhythm this morning and wasn’t as fast as I wanted to be. I had a good road position and was hoping to be closer to the guys around me. But I was comparing myself to Loeb, and I need to remember that he is a nine-time World Champion!
“In the first stage of the second loop we were pushing a bit more. There was one easy right that narrowed towards the end and we ran a bit wide. We touched the fence and damaged some of the suspension parts.
“After that the car was really difficult to drive – which is normal if you break it! It was difficult to set the car for the corners and I was braking all the time and overheating the brakes. I ran wide and hit the barrier which forced us to retire for the day.
“But it was really good to win the super special stage as this is an area I have been working to improve. There are a lot of these stages on this rally and if you lose a couple of seconds on every one then it can be a lot of time at the end of the rally. We worked hard to improve on these kind of stages, so it was good to see that hard work paying off.”
“We hit a series of bumps that were a lot worse than expected. We lost the rear – still in sixth gear – and didn’t have the power to pull out of the slide. We clipped the bank on the inside and rolled I don’t know how many times.
“I jumped out of the car immediately because I didn’t think there would be any way to continue. But when the dust settled we could see that the damage wasn’t too bad at all. We got our helmets back on and managed to finish the stage – which is incredible after a roll like that.
“We checked in with the medical team when we returned to service and Dan was advised to go for some further precautionary checks. We’re both okay, which is the main thing, and now we just need to focus on starting our season afresh in Corsica.
“We have tried to push as hard as we could today in the circumstances. I’ve been happy enough overall, but we know there is room for improvement. In the morning loop, our focus was on getting to grips with the car, and how to control it on the dusty mountain stages. In the afternoon, we opted for harder compound tyres, which felt very slippery at times. It was difficult to know where to push, and how hard, because you lose the line so easily. There were a few mistakes here and there but generally it’s been a solid first day. We’re involved in a close battle for the top-five, which gives us something to build on.”
“Not the most positive day for us. Our motivation level was quite high even if we knew it would be difficult as first on the road. We did our best not to lose too much time on the morning loop. Before the start of the short SS5 we were in seventh overall. Unfortunately, we had an unforeseen over-consumption of fuel, which caused a loss of fuel pressure in the stage. We lost around 20 seconds and two positions. It was really disappointing. The afternoon didn’t really improve and we struggled again in SS8 (Ortega 2) with some power steering trouble losing another 40 seconds of time. Tomorrow will be another hard day but we’ll keep pushing to get the best that we can out of the weekend.”
Toyota Gazoo WRT
“The car felt very good at the start of the first stage this morning but then we began to suffer from high engine temperatures. We were able to control it, but it affected our performance, and I was concentrating too much on the temperatures and not on the driving. The team worked on it during service and in the afternoon, it was getting better, so it was a shame that we had the problem with the alternator and had to retire. When we restart tomorrow, there is a good chance for some points so we just need to keep fighting.”
“It has been a really difficult day for me. This morning was quite disappointing and then I made a fairly stupid mistake this afternoon. On a 90-degree left-hander, I missed the line on entry and just slid wide and off the road. The car was not very badly damaged but we couldn’t get it back on the road. There were not so many positives for me from today but hopefully we can make something happen tomorrow.”
Saturday saw around 130km of stages. Loeb would draw first blood, winning stage 11 and with overnight leader Dani only fourth fastest and twelve seconds slower, Loeb moved into the lead, five seconds clear of the Spaniard in his Hyundai. Also, on the move was Kris, Ogier and Andreas who all passed Ott Tanak. He’d suffered turbo failure with seven km’s left of the stage, leaving him bereft of engine power. He retired after the stage.
The following stage saw Loeb and Sordo set pretty much the same pace for fourth and fifth fastest, whilst Kris won the stage closing the gap to the top two by some ten seconds! Also going well was Ogier who had benefitted from Ott retiring plus also he’d brought the gap down to the leaders a full ten seconds, to under twenty.
The final stage of the morning saw Dani close the gap to the leader, whilst stage winner Ogier drew himself level on time with Kris, after the Northern Irishman suffered a scrappy stage with a stall and also running wide near the end of the stage.
After service, stage 14 saw our leader suffer a puncture after his tyre caught a stone on the line which saw him plummet to fifth position. Dani also lost time dropping thirty seconds and falling behind our new top two of Ogier and Meeke who were separated by just 3.8 seconds.
The next stage saw Kris spin and lose thirty seconds, giving Ogier a big lead of the same amount! Loeb was Ogier’s closest challenger, just six seconds down on his fellow country-man.
The second run of El Brinco saw Kris much closer to Ogier’s pace, just 2.6 slower through the 10km stage, whilst Dani was a similar amount further back, consolidating his third place overall.
The last two stages of the day were won by Meeke and Sordo, whilst Ogier’s lead stood at a remarkable 35 seconds! We’d had a super Seb Saturday, turning a thirty-second-time deficit, into a thirty-five second lead! Just astonishing! Dani Sordo had also driven a very clever day, minimising mistakes, and was well placed to take a deserved third place with a 45 second lead over Andreas, his teammate.
Let’s hear then from the top three once more.
“I am very happy to be in the lead at the end of the day. Our starting position was a bit better this morning and, in the afternoon, there was no cleaning left to do which is where we were able to make the biggest difference. We wanted to push – and I was pretty much on the limit most of the time – but we had a good feeling in the car.
“We didn’t always have a perfect run, but I was really happy with the morning loop where I made very few mistakes – especially in the second and third stages [SS12 and SS13] which were almost perfect.
“It was a bit tougher in the afternoon – still very slippery and very hot inside the car and for the engine and the brakes as well. It wasn’t an easy loop, but everything worked well and we can be really happy with the job we have done so far.”
“It was a good day for us in terms of rhythm, especially this morning when we were really comfortable. I then benefited from Seb’s puncture, but that’s part and parcel of rallying, and this stage was particularly tricky, with a lot of loose stones on the road. We now have to finish off the job tomorrow by making sure of second place, but it won’t be an easy task. The power stage might also be interesting, with temperatures that will have risen by lunchtime, whereas we’ll have to decide on tyre choice when it’s much cooler, early in the morning.”
“A podium in Mexico this weekend would be a great result and I am determined to keep this important position for me and the team. Things haven’t gone according to plan today. I struggled with confidence on the opening stage and lost some time compared to my nearest rivals. The feeling was better for the rest of the morning loop, but it was in the first stage of the afternoon when we lost most time. I hit a small stone at the start of SS14, so had to drive the 31km stage with a front-left puncture. With no spare tyres to rely on, I took the rest of the loop quite steady, not pushing hard. We didn’t want to risk anything. Meeke is not so far in front, so we have to make sure we remain focused and see what happens on Sunday morning.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
“This morning, it was really nice to be able to confirm yesterday’s performance and hold the overall lead six years after my last Rally Mexico. To be honest, I hadn’t expected to be in this position before the start but it’s reassuring to know that I haven’t lost my driving skills! It was all set to be a good battle at the front until we got the puncture. There were two successive corners with stones on the inside of the bend. We went over them a little and one of them proved fatal. The mistake we made was to change the wheel. I wasn’t very familiar with how these tyres last and our instinct was the wrong one, probably from cross-country rallying, in fact! We would have lost a lot less time had we not stopped to change the tyre, but that’s just the way it goes. We’ll now try and make it to the finish and enjoy driving the car as much as possible.”
“The morning was tough and our stage times were not so impressive. We were really struggling when the grip levels were low. Things were better in the afternoon and we were more competitive. On the plus side, we are up to fourth, which is not so bad. There is a big gap to Dani in third and to Loeb in fifth, so we have to really concentrate on our own rally. It’s very easy to make a mistake here, so I want to keep a steady pace and rhythm. It’s impossible to do anything about our position based on pure driving but let’s see what happens tomorrow.”
“It has been another difficult day, but we’re still there and fighting. We have managed to gain one position today, and there are lots of things happening at the front of the pack. The morning didn’t get off to the best of starts after we got stuck in the water splash, losing over a minute of time. We also had two punctures during the day which made things very complicated. We learned a lot as first on the road, so we have to take some positives away despite the obvious frustrations. We have to look forward to Sunday and aim for some points to minimise the damage from this tough weekend.”
M-Sport Ford WRT
“It’s been a bit difficult today. In the morning I was struggling to find the right rhythm and driving style. But in the end, it was getting better and the last few stages were okay. There is still some work to do, but the good thing is that I know where I can improve and be more precise with the driving.”
Toyota Gazoo WRT
“I don’t think it’s ever been as hot in Mexico as it was this afternoon. For sure, it was asking a lot from the cars and the tyres. But overall it was a consistent day with no problems. Step by step we were improving. I hope the final day will be good for us because it has faster, more flowing stages which suits me and the car. These are my favourite stages in the rally. We will try to get eighth as the points could be very valuable for the championship, and of course there is a chance in the Power Stage too, so we have to keep attacking.”
“Everything was looking quite good this morning. I could feel more grip than yesterday, and that was suiting our car really well. I missed a junction early on and we lost close to 10 seconds there, but we were still trying to do a good stage. Then seven kilometres before the end the turbo failed and we had to retire from the day. Unfortunately, this is part of rallying, but I can be happy that our pace was competitive on our first gravel event with the team. We will try to do our best tomorrow: it would be nice to get some points from the Power Stage if possible”
“In general, it has been quite OK today and much better than yesterday. The mechanics did a good job to fix the car last night, so a big thank you to them. I was able to enjoy the driving this morning and the times were better. We were delayed after service because my seatbelt was stuck underneath a box that the TV crews had moved, so I had to wait half an hour for them to come and fix it. Once we got going we had some good splits before we got a puncture, and then on the next one I thought I had another puncture, but the time was actually quite decent. The Power Stage tomorrow gives us a chance to get some points.”
Sunday dawned dry and hot. Seb had a very good lead over Kris, but the gap to Dani was just eleven seconds. First stage was won by Jari-Matti, but it was not so good for Kris. The car slid wide, with the result that the wheels popped into a gulley and putting the car on its’ side. He lost 47 seconds, and with it any hope of second place and now Dani was in second place!
Stage 21 was won by Ott, returning to the fray with a new turbo under rally 2 rules, and with this stage doubling up as the power stage later it was one way to find out what would work later. Latvala and Neuville completed the top three.
Ott certainly knew the way with this stage, as he won it and the five points, with Seb second and Latvala third. There would be drama later though, with the French ace being given a ten second penalty for not correctly negotiating the chicane in that stage. This would drop him out of the top five, down to eighth place in the stage. Those to benefit were, Latvala, Neuville, Mikkelsen and Loeb.
However, Seb Ogier had given the field something to think about, after his amazing drive on Saturday, which had given him, Julien and the M-Sport team a consummate victory, tempered slightly with Elfyn and Dan not making the finish.
Dani Sordo had driven very well all weekend, keeping errors to a minimum, and ultimately benefiting from Kris’ mistakes. A well deserved second place. Last year’s winner, certainly had the pace to win, but for those errors that came along. He’ll hope for better things in Corsica, for sure.
Pedro Heller / Pablo Olmos (Ford Fiesta R5) +24:18.1
2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round 3
1 S. Ogier 56
2 T. Neuville 52
3 A. Mikkelsen 35
4 K. Meeke 32
5 J.M Latvala 31
6 O. Tanak 26
7 E. Lappi 23
8 C. Breen 20
9 D. Sordo 18
10 H. Paddon 10
2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 3
1 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 84
2 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 72
3 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 71
4 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 67
Ogier’s win put him back in the lead of the championship, four points ahead of Thierry.
Let’s hear then from the drivers!
“I’m super happy today and this win is a fantastic way for me and Julien to celebrate our tenth-year anniversary in the FIA World Rally Championship. It started in 2008 with a win in the Junior category and so many great things have happened here since then – this win, I think, being one of the best.
“This weekend we really gave it everything. Julien was perfect, and the team were so strong as well. The victory is great of course, but it’s the performance that was really good. We’ve made such a big improvement from last year, and that is a big positive for the rest of the season.
“I was pretty much on the limit all weekend. When you’re early on the road you’re trying your best but the time is still far away from those starting behind. There’s always some frustration coming with that, but you have to keep going and not give up.
“That’s what we did, and on the second day – when our road position was a bit better – we kept pushing and were able to take the lead in the afternoon.
“We can be very proud this weekend, and there’s not a lot we could have done better. We gave it everything – right up until the final stage.”
“I am very happy to score this podium after what has been an enjoyable, competitive but tough weekend. We have shown good pace here in previous seasons, so I was optimistic that we would be able to fight for the top-three this weekend. It wasn’t entirely straightforward; even in the Power Stage there was a scary moment when we picked up a rear right puncture. With stones in the middle of the road, it was so easy for something to happen so we backed off and took it carefully to the end. A podium result is so important and we made the most of our road position in these really tricky gravel stages. It’s been a good team effort and I am particularly pleased to see us increase our lead in the manufacturers’ championship. Thanks to Carlos and to the whole team for this result.”
“Obviously, there are positives to take away from this weekend, starting with the fact that I secured my first podium of the year and picked up good points for the championship. But I can’t help but feel disappointed, not least for the team. I had everything you need to win here in Mexico – the pace, the car and road position – but I didn’t do the job. I made too many silly mistakes and you just can’t get away with that at this level. I need to tidy my game up, starting in Corsica where we were very competitive last year.”
“It has not been an easy rally for us, and we haven’t really been able to find the optimum pace or performance that we needed here. We made some changes to the car in service on Saturday evening, and I felt more comfortable in this morning’s final stages. We weren’t really in a position to improve, so we simply tried to keep things clean and tidy. There were definitely areas where we could have attacked more but finishing fourth gives us important points. As a team we have increased our lead in the manufacturers’ table, and I have also moved up to third in the drivers’ classification, which is a positive to take away.”
“We approached the final morning of the rally determined to score as many points as possible for the drivers’ championship. I gave it all I could in the Power Stage, and I’m happy to take three extra points away from what has been a very tough weekend. Starting first on the road each day was far from ideal, but that’s part of the game. It was actually a useful experience to deal with those conditions, despite the obvious time disadvantage. We had some other issues over the weekend, so to come away with sixth place and to keep up the pressure in the championship is important. Thanks to everyone in the team. We have a never-give-up mentality, and Corsica will be another story.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
“Coming into the rally, I felt that testing had gone well, but I obviously had no certainty about my level, bearing in mind that everyone is fighting over tenths of a second, and that it doesn’t take much to find yourself left behind a little bit. So, it was a nice surprise to be on the pace! I’m just a bit frustrated that I wasn’t able to test myself properly against the others right to the end because of the puncture. In any case, it was a very good weekend and that was the initial aim of this comeback. I hope I can now go on to get a good result in Corsica, even though I’ll still have quite a few things to refamiliarise myself with.”
Toyota Gazoo WRT
“I had a fantastic feeling this morning and the car felt very good. We had a really big push and won the first stage. Then the second stage was also really good, even though we had to save the tyres a bit. In the Power Stage I gave it everything and I’m really happy to finish second fastest with my road position. It has been a difficult weekend but to retire from one day and still come back and score eight points is good. Overall, I know that the car performance is there, and now I am starting to find the performance in myself.”
“Today we were putting everything on the Power Stage. We had nothing to lose and just wanted to get these five points. The car was performing really well and I felt really comfortable in the car so I could give an extra push. Of course, I’m not happy with the overall result as we were in contention for the win, but we still have a long season ahead of us and the performance side has been good. It was my first time on gravel in the car, we learned a lot and we can see many places where we can improve.”
“Today we were concentrating on the Power Stage, so in the first two stages we just wanted to get through them, check the pace-notes and save the tyres. It has been a tough weekend for us. The highlight has actually been the spectator stages. In our pre-event test we did some work on a go-kart track and we managed to find some new things which seem to have worked, because last evening I almost did the fastest time on the street stage. Previously we had been losing a lot of time in those. We also gained a lot of experience and data, which we can use to improve next year.”
“It’s been a difficult rally for us, but we showed some improvement over the second loops and I was also fast on the city stages which is a big positive. These type of stages [city stages] had been my weakness and we worked really hard to improve, so that was a good.
“Of course, it would have been nicer to have been a bit faster on the gravel – and not to have made the mistakes on Friday – but we still learnt a lot and know where we can improve. I need to keep the car on the line and be a bit earlier on the throttle. It’s just some little things, but if you lose 0.1 seconds on every corner it will be a lot of time at the end of the rally!
“We need to analyse this event and then focus on our next one in Argentina. I did the recce there in 2016, so I know something about the stages but this will be my first time in a rally car. Because of this, we will need to prepare even more than normal.”
Gus Greensmith (2nd WRC 2) Fiesta R5
“I feel pretty good after this one. It’s a relief to get to the end to be honest as it was a rough rally – much rougher than I expected – so to walk away with second in WRC 2 and ninth overall is great.
“It was one of those rallies where you don’t want to drive conservatively but, with the attrition rate so high and the wise words of Malcolm and Dad, that’s what we did. I don’t want to have to do it again, but they’re a lot cleverer than me and we’re now fourth in the championship after just one rally.
“I also have to say a big thanks to the team as there wasn’t a single problem with the car all weekend. Everything was brilliant, just brilliant.”
Pedro Heller (3rd WRC 2) Fiesta R5
“I feel really, really happy after this rally. If you compare it to last year, it’s the complete opposite! Okay the gap to the winner was pretty big, but this is Mexico – it’s rough and we made it to the end with our first points in WRC 2 and also our first top-ten finish overall. Now, I’m looking forward to Argentina where we plan to do the same.”
The next round is on the weekend of the 5th to 8th of April on the Island of Corsica. Can Thierry get back winning ways, or will Seb prevail again? Perhaps Kris can follow up his speed from last year and take his first victory. Or will we see Jari-Matti follow up his victory from 2015 and take a win for Toyota?
The WRC heads for much warmer climes in Mexico after the snow and ice of Monte and Sweden! Thierry Neuville leads the championship after a brilliant drive last month. Seb will want to fight back on the classic stages that make this incredible event. Its held at over 2,200 metres, and this has a very big effect on engine performance, with every 1000 metres leading to a 10% loss of engine power.
Big news is that a certain nine-time World Champion will be making his return with Citroen in Mexico, but this does mean that Craig Breen will not be competing, and that is a shame considering his drive to second in Sweden. Last year, Kris Meeke won this rally and he’ll be hoping he can do the same again to get his season going. Certainly, the car will go a lot better this year with the handling problems sorted.
Toyota suffered last year as well, but with a whole event completed and a year to work on their car will almost certainly feature near the front with the combined talents of Jari-Matti, Ott and Esapekka.
Here’s the details then of the stages that await them!
local time (mexico)
Thursday 8th March
shakedown (Llano Grande)
Start day 1 (Leon)
SS 1 – Monster Street Stage GTO (2,53 km
End of day 1
Friday 9th March
Start day 2 and Service A (Leon – 15 min)
SS 2 – Duarte – Derramadero 1 (26,05 km)
SS 3 – El Chocolate 1 (31,44 km)
SS 4 – Ortega 1 (17,23 km)
SS 5 – Street Stage Leon 1 (1,11 km)
Service B (Leon – 30 min)
SS 6 – Duarte – Derramadero 2 (26,05 km)
SS 7 – El Chocolate 2 (31,44 km)
SS 8 – Ortega 2 (17,23 km)
SS 9 – Autodromo de Leon 1 (2,30 km)
SS 10 - Autodromo de Leon 2 (2,30 km)
Flexi Service C (Leon – 45 min)
Saturday 10th March
Start day 3 and Service D (Leon – 15 min)
SS 11 – Guanajuatito 1 (30,97 km)
SS 12 – Otates 1 (26,37 km)
SS 13 – El Brinco 1 (9,98 km)
Service E (Leon – 30 min)
SS 14 – Guanajuatito 2 (30,97 km)
SS 15 – Otates 2 (26,37 km)
SS 16 – El Brinco 2 (9,98 km)
SS 17 – Autodromo de Leon 3 (2,30 km)
SS 18 – Autodromo de Leon 4 (2,30 km)
Flexi Service F (Leon – 45 min)
SS 19 – Street Stage Leon 2 (1,11 km)
Sunday 11th March
Start day 3 and Service D (Leon – 15 min)
SS 11 – Guanajuatito 1 (30,97 km)
SS 12 – Otates 1 (26,37 km)
SS 13 – El Brinco 1 (9,98 km)
Service E (Leon – 30 min)
SS 14 – Guanajuatito 2 (30,97 km)
SS 15 – Otates 2 (26,37 km)
SS 16 – El Brinco 2 (9,98 km)
SS 17 – Autodromo de Leon 3 (2,30 km)
SS 18 – Autodromo de Leon 4 (2,30 km)
Flexi Service F (Leon – 45 min)
SS 19 – Street Stage Leon 2 (1,11 km)
Let’s hear from the drivers then!
“We head to Mexico on the back of our fantastic win in Sweden, so our motivation and morale could not be higher. Mexico is a nice event and one that brings back good memories. I got my first podium there in 2013, and then scored Hyundai Motorsport’s first ever podium just one year later. The rally has a more relaxed atmosphere, and it’s generally a lot calmer for the drivers. We arrive a bit earlier than normal in order to acclimatise and adjust to the time difference. It is the first event of the year with higher temperatures – and altitude – making it a unique and enjoyable challenge.”
“Rally Mexico is an event I’ve done three times in the past. It’s a beautiful rally with stages that are similar from one season to the next, so we know them well. It is always a warm event, so we have to take extra care of the brakes. It is also quite a rough rally, which means it very easy to make a mistake. There is typically a lot of road cleaning, and with stages being held at altitude the engine is down on power, so it requires a slight change of driving style. After finishing on the podium in Sweden, our first one with Hyundai Motorsport, I’m ready to fight for another strong result.”
“I was pleased to see the team score its first win of the season in Sweden, and I am happy to be returning to the line-up for Rally Mexico. I have always enjoyed driving on the Mexican stages, which are lined with many passionate rally fans, who cheer and support us throughout the weekend. Road cleaning in Mexico can create a big difference between those first on the road and those behind. I hope we can benefit a bit from our position and compete near the front to help the team defend our manufacturers’ championship lead.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
“I always like going to Mexico and enjoying the warmth and the sun for the first time after the winter. The stages have sections that are very fast and sections that are very slow, and there are a lot of loose rocks off the line so you have to be precise with your driving. If we can finish on the podium that would be really good for the championship. It’s clear that the performance is there in the car. We had a good gravel test in Spain last week: of course, in Mexico it is going to be warmer but it is the best you can do in Europe at this time of the year. We had some updates to the suspension and I could feel that the traction and the grip under braking are better than what we had at the end of last year.”
“Rally Mexico will be my first event on gravel in the Yaris WRC. I have many new things to learn, but we had two days of testing in Spain last week which were very useful. We tried as many different things as possible, just to understand how the car reacted. The early feeling with the car on gravel is quite good: there are still some things to get used to and some things that we can develop. In Mexico we will have a better road position, starting fifth. The road sweeping has a big effect there, so this should help us. I have quite a bit of experience in Mexico now, so I feel comfortable going there and I think we have a good chance to fight for the top positions.”
“This will be the first time that I have competed in Mexico, although I did do the recce last year so I have some idea of what to expect. The surface is similar to the gravel roads in Spain, where everybody has done their pre-event testing, but I think the stages will be much rougher on the second pass. The altitude will also make a big difference: I have never driven those kinds of conditions where the air is really thin. It means there is less power from the engine, so you may have to drive in a slightly different way. I am quite happy with how my season has started and hopefully we can continue that in Mexico. The main target for me though has to be to do every stage and gain that experience for the future.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
“Mexico is a bit like Catalonia, one of the gravel rallies where we were pretty competitive last year. Since then, we have made further improvements to the C3 WRC, so I have high hopes that we can get among the frontrunners. Of course, a lot of our rivals had reliability issues related to the altitude last year and are bound to be a lot better prepared this time around. It’s definitely an event that I like: as the full power of the cars is not available, you have to be as clean as possible in your driving. I’m also pretty pleased with our recent tests. We seem to have made more progress, especially on the dampers in conjunction with Öhlins. That was Sébastien’s impression too. In any case, I’m really looking forward to it. We need to make the most of running seventh on the road on day one – that will be key in getting a good result.”
“This is a rally that I have always loved, so I have high hopes I will enjoy these stages in the C3 WRC, which is an exciting car to drive. Other than that, I have the same uncertainties as everyone else: although I hope to be more or less on the pace, I have no idea where I stand in relation to the other drivers, so I can’t wait to get started! You have to bear in mind that this is still the world championship! The other drivers haven’t stood still over the last few years… In any case, I’m pleased with the testing we did. I covered almost 500 kilometres in two days. I found the C3 WRC well balanced and I felt that it had improved again since my last test outing at the end of 2017. I have tried to give myself every chance by spending some time in a DS3 WRC beforehand to get the feeling and my reflexes back, and by watching some onboard video footage from previous rallies. 28% of the course is going to be new to me, compared with just 4% for the others, but that’s pretty positive because it is one of the events I still know best. However, my memories of the 72% that I have driven before go back six years, so I’ve done a little bit of work so that I don’t feel completely disorientated. I hope my position in Friday’s running order (11th) will help me to get my bearings because with the current regulations, you really need to have a good first day, otherwise your rally suffers.”
M-Sport Ford WRT
There’s always a special feeling when we return to Rally Mexico – because it’s where everything started for me 10 years ago! It was our first event in the world championship, and the story started with victory in the Junior WRC.
“Since then we added a couple of podiums and victories at the highest level which means that I obviously have Rally Mexico in my heart! We’ll for sure do our best to continue this love story with another strong result and are looking forward to the great Mexican atmosphere!
“This might be the first gravel event of the year, but it has its own unique character which sets it apart from the more traditional gravel rallies. The altitude is higher than anything else we experience throughout the year and the thinner air means a lot less power than we’re used to.
“Those conditions – linked with the pretty high temperatures – are practically impossible to reproduce in Europe which means we are counting even more than usual on the job done by our engineers in the climatic chamber to get the maximum performance.
“The loose gravel can also pose something of a challenge for the early runners and, even though we won’t be the first car on the road next week, there will still be a lot of fast drivers behind us. We need to try and stay as close as we can on Friday morning. Then, we can see where we are and push for the best possible result.”
“Rally Mexico is an event that I really enjoy. It’s such a colourful rally with a great atmosphere and we’ve done well there in the past. It’s one of those events where a clever run can deliver the results. You need to get the balance between speed and risk just right, and that’s exactly what we’ll be aiming for next week.
“When you think about this event two things come to mind – the heat and the altitude. We’ve got to get quickly acclimatised to the environment – both in terms of our physical fitness and our driving style. The thinner air can see the power reduced by as much as 20 percent so you’ve got to be tidy and keep the momentum through the corners.
“We’ll have a good road position, but that’s not without its challenges as there’s an added risk of rocks being pulled onto the racing line. We’ll need to stay focused and hopefully we can deliver a strong result to kick-start our 2018 campaign.”
“Mexico is one of the special events on the calendar where we face some really extreme conditions. The weather is always warm, and the high altitude means that we feel the lack of oxygen. It has an effect on the drivers, but also on the cars with 20 percent less power than the more traditional gravel events.
“It’s a shame that the winter weather prevented us from testing, but that’s the way it goes sometimes and we will have to make good use of the Shakedown to get accustomed to the feeling of driving here in Mexico.
“It’s difficult to estimate our chances next week. I won the WRC 2 class here a few years ago, but this year will be completely different and I expect the competition to be really tough. I’ll try to concentrate on my own driving and then we will see where we are.”
After two rounds and two different winners, who could win this event? Road position will have a big impact on the kind of pace that the drivers will able to produce on the stages. Then there’s the thin air…. All the teams have done a lot of work to minimize the effects of this on these unique stages!
On Sunday, Thierry and Nicolas had a good gap and just three stages to clear before they could take their first Swedish victory. The gap to Craig stood at just under 23 seconds and that meant he’d be able to just manage his pace.
The first stage of the day, Likenäs, saw another stage victory for Ott Tanak, with Lappi second fastest and Jari-Matti third. This allowed Lappi to take fifth place from Mads. Meantime, Craig closed a few seconds down on the leader and the gap was now 14 seconds. Rejoining after his troubles after yesterday, Kris spun again after clipping the inside of a snowbank.
The same stage was run later and this time Lappi took the stage victory, with Thierry second fastest and Craig, having made some changes to his notes with Scott was third, and with that increasing the gap over Andreas on the overall leaderboard a further three seconds to almost fifteen seconds. After setting such a good time, Lappi had now closed to just three seconds of Hayden! Could he snatch fourth on the last stage?
We had a bit of a wait for the last stage, which was set to run just after midday. The re-run of Torsby as the power stage saw Lappi once more at the top, with Seb, Andreas, Thierry and Ott completing the top five in the stage and taking the points for those positions.
Well, we had or top three overall and taking his and Hyundai’s first Swedish victory was Thierry, with Craig Breen finishing second after a superb drive to second, his best result yet! Andreas made it a Hyundai 1-3 double podium! Not only that, but Thierry took the lead in the driver’s championship and Hyundai also now lead the manufacturers championship for the first time ever.
Overall Classification- Rally Sweden
Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 2:52:13.1
Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +19.8
Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +28.3
Esapekka Lapp / Janne Ferme (Toyota Yaris WRC) +45.8
Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +54.4
Let’s hear from the drivers starting with the top three.
“An incredible result! We had a disappointing start to the season in Monte-Carlo, but we didn’t let that get us down. We kept focused and targeted a strong result here in Sweden. We knew the competition would be tough for the win but we came here with the objective to bounce back, and we did that perfectly. We didn’t expect to take the lead so early in the weekend, so we have had to be clever to defend the gap at times, and then increase it when we could. I felt we deserved the win last year, but perhaps even more so this weekend. I was never going to push in the Power Stage because the victory meant too much to risk, so to come away with two extra points is great. We’re now leading the championship, so our 2018 campaign is back on track. Thanks to everyone in the team. We have many people working tirelessly every day behind the scenes to give us a competitive car, one with which we can fight for victories like this. This win is for all of them; it’s been a fantastic weekend for us.”
“I’m absolutely on top of the world! It has been an incredible weekend. I have always really enjoyed this rally in the past, but I have to say that I surprised myself this weekend in that I was able to fight at the front throughout the race, without making any mistakes. I used to think that quick rallies weren’t suited to me, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. In any event, my C3 WRC was perfect here and it’s great to secure this result for the team – the guys have worked really hard for this.”
“It is a fantastic feeling to be standing on the podium for the first time with Hyundai Motorsport. We have had a pretty solid weekend and enjoyed a clean final morning. I wanted to give a push in the Power Stage but it’s always a fine line as we definitely didn’t want to risk our podium. In the end, we took three points and third place overall, which is very encouraging. More than that, it has been an excellent weekend for the team as a whole, and our congratulations go to Thierry and Nicolas on a tremendous result. It’s wonderful to be able to share in this success, and to see the team at the top of the championship, even at this early stage in the season.”
Here’s the rest of the drivers.
Toyota Gazoo WRT
“It has been a very hard weekend for me. We just lost so much time on the first day with our high starting position in the fresh snow and the heavy ruts. We changed the transmission for the final day and this improved the feeling compared to yesterday. The team did a very good job and the car was handling very well. It is both quick and reliable and that is important.”
“This has been a tough weekend. On Friday we faced some bad conditions and couldn’t have done much more. On Saturday our road position was slightly better, the pace was better as a result and we could win quite a few stages. Then today when the conditions were in our favour we could do some more good times. This was my first rally in the Toyota Yaris WRC with a gravel-style setup and we have learned a lot of things.”
“To get the Power Stage win and gain two places today has been very good. I’m really happy for the team as well: at least we got some kind of good result from this weekend. It means I’m not so disappointed anymore about what happened to me on Friday. It’s so easy to make a mistake here. Overall the whole rally was quite strong. I wasn’t expecting this kind of speed from my side, so I’m really looking forward to coming back here next year.”
“An annoying end to what had been a generally positive weekend for us. It was just a small mistake in the Power Stage, which stalled the car and lost us too much time to defend our fourth place. It is what it is. We’re not in the championship hunt this season so whether it’s fourth or fifth doesn’t really matter greatly. We have plenty of positives to take away from the event and I am looking forward to continuing this trend in my next WRC event in Portugal. I’m happy to have been part of this competitive rally for the team and I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
“I’m delighted with my return to the team. I wasn’t expecting to be able to fight for such a good position with the limited amount of miles we covered in testing. I hope that the team is pleased with what we have done with this first experience together. I know that with more time in the car, I can be even more competitive with the C3 WRC. In any case, I would love to drive it again soon!”
“It was a difficult rally for us. With our less than ideal position in the running order on Friday, I had trouble finding any confidence, which meant that we ended up being one of the first on the road on Saturday. I was nonetheless working hard to secure the point for tenth place when we nosed into a snow bank at low speed and damaged the turbo. It was really unlucky. I’m determined to bounce back, starting in Mexico. Out of the next four rallies, I have already won three of them and I was leading in Corsica last year as well.”
M-Sport Ford WRT
“It’s been a difficult rally, but we’ve been improving a lot and learning a lot about how to drive these cars on this surface – because it’s quite different from the R5 cars. The target before the rally was to be somewhere between fifth and eighth, and we’re eighth so it’s okay. But of course, I was hoping for a bit more. We just need to improve the driving and learn more about how to be fast in these conditions.”
“For years now, I have been fighting for different rules regarding the starting order. In the end, this is a World Championship and everyone tries to do their best and take every chance that there is to win points.
“At least on this stage [the Power Stage] we had the chance to score some points. I would have preferred to have come here with a realistic chance of fighting for the win or even a podium, but that was not possible from the beginning of this weekend.”
“It’s not been the easiest of weekends. It’s probably fair to say that we were struggling for some pace through the early stages, but then when the puncture set us back we didn’t have any chance with the road position. It’s certainly not the weekend we wanted, so we just need to put it behind us and look forward to Mexico.”
Well, what an amazing rally we were treated to! A maiden victory for Thierry and Hyundai in Sweden, plus Craig Breen’s best ever result with second place. Also, Esapekka making up for his slip in Monte’s last stage with a very good drive to fourth! It was great to see Hayden out there for the first time this year.
We’ve now got a break with Rally Mexico on the first weekend of March where Thierry and Seb will continue to battle. Will it just be them, or can Kris produce a drive like last year and bring himself into a title fight?
Saturday morning dawned cloudless and cold! Eight stages awaited the crews today including Vargasen which included Colins Crest and would be run twice. Three stages were run in the morning followed by service at 11:40 and then the remaining five in the afternoon and evening.
First stage of the day Torntorp was won by Tanak, which allowed him to close a little on Jari-Matti in the overall positions. The big surprise was the pace that Craig showed and he was just four seconds slower than Ott in the 19km stage and this pace lifted him into third deposing Hayden.
In the following stage, Hagfors, the two leading Hyundai drivers suffered spins and Craig was the chief beneficiary from this, moving ahead of Andreas and now the lead was just four seconds. Hayden also moved ahead of Andreas into third. Ott won the stage, making it two out of two.
Now it was time for the big stage of the day, the first run through Vargasen, and Thierry won the stage by just nine tenths of a second from Ott, with Ogier showing some pace at last in third. Mads was seventh fastest, but managed a huge 42 metre jump over Colins Crest! Craig ran a very good stage, fourth fastest keeping the gap to Thierry as close as he could, just 5.9 away from the Belgian.
After that stage, the crews headed for service.
The second run of Torntorp saw Craig take the stage victory, beating Thierry by 1.3 seconds and reducing the gap to the leader! Hayden lost third to Andreas and Ott closed the gap to Jari-Matti to just five tenths of a second in their battle
Into Hagfors for the second time and Thierry struck back with a great time beating Andreas by 6.6 seconds with Craig sticking a good time on the board and staying in second overall, but the gap was now just 14 seconds. He was managing the tyres, as there was gravel appearing through the snow and ice. Kris unfortunately retired from the stage and the rally after he went off into a snowbank which clogged up the front of his car with snow, seriously affecting the cooling of the engine. After he cleaned the snow out, he got going, but then Ott tried to pass him and there was contact, resulting in the Toyota driver going off. This meant that the battle between him and Jari-Matti was over.
The second run of Vargasen was won by Thierry who was 4 seconds faster that Craig, thus increasing his lead to 18 seconds over Craig. The Belgian also took a very interesting line and landed on two wheels, the car at a 45-degree angle in the air at one point!
The penultimate stage, back at Karlstad was won by Ott from Mads, with Latvala in third. Craig had also set a good time, consolidating second overall, ahead of the two Hyundai pilots, Andreas and Hayden.
Moving to the last stage of the day the Torsby Sprint stage, a short one to complete day two. Thierry won the stage and increased his lead to 22.7 seconds over Craig Breen. Hyundai duo Andreas and Hayden remain in third and fourth, although the young Kiwi lost time in the final stage, after getting stuck in a snowbank.
Overall Standings- End of Saturday
Neuville/Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:23:23.8
Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 22.7
Mikkelsen/Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 32.0
Paddon/Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 48.6
Ostberg/Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 56.8
Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:05.8
Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 2:03.3
Suninen/Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:20.5
Tänak/Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 3:41.3
Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 4:24.9
Let’s hear then from the drivers.
“Things have gone pretty much to plan today and we can be pleased with our day overall. We had a bit of a stressful start this morning after a technical issue in the first stage and a spin in the second, which cost us some time. After that, though, we were able to increase the gap stage by stage. In the afternoon, we took six tyres compared to Craig’s five so we knew we’d lose a bit initially with the extra weight, but we then had fresher tyres for later in the loop. We gave a big push through SS13 and SS14, as we’re involved in a very close fight. We scored more stage wins, which was a nice reward for our efforts. I actually touched the inside bank of the Colin’s Crest jump, which created some exciting images for the fans. I think Colin himself would have called that ‘a little moment’ but we were still able to register the fastest time. We took things a bit steadier in the final stages and we are now prepared to fight for victory on Sunday morning.”
“It has been a day of two halves. The morning loop could have been better. We had a spin in SS10, the second stage of the day, and lost around 15 seconds. We touched a bank and had to reverse out, which was easier said than done, as it was a narrow section of road. We made some set-up adjustments at lunchtime service to find a similar feeling to yesterday, making the car less stiff in a bid to find more traction. The afternoon was a lot cleaner as a result with some improved times. Hayden has been pushing, so we have done the same to try and defend our third place. There is an almost ten-second time deficit to Craig, with three stages left on Sunday, but we’ll give it a good go. It’s not impossible.”
“Not quite the day we wanted but we are still enjoying ourselves and doing the best we can. We started the morning loop knowing that we would be playing a waiting game. The way that the car has been set up for my driving meant we had to find a compromise between my own confidence and the outright performance in those first stages. The wider lines on the roads in the afternoon played more to my strengths, so we had to be patient and wait for the stages to come to us. We were definitely more comfortable to push in the repeat loop. It was fantastic to see so many fans enjoying the stages, especially through Colin’s Crest. Unfortunately, we lost a little time stuck in a snow bank on the final stage, but we are still in a good position to push on tomorrow.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
“I’m over the moon with my day and delighted with the pace we’ve shown. It’s something new for me to be fighting at the front in the world championship but you quickly get a taste for it! The afternoon was incredible for us, even though I couldn’t keep pace with Thierry right to the end. You can count on me to fight every step of the way to hold onto this second place.”
“Given that I’m still working out how best to set up the C3 WRC, I have to be pleased with what we have done so far. Rather than attempting to change everything in the middle of the race, which is always risky, we kept to the basic set-up defined in testing. I’m now trying to improve in my handling of the car as we complete more stages.”
“Initially, I thought I was only going to lose about twenty seconds in this snow bank, but when I got going again, the car had no power. Snow had got into the engine and damaged the turbo. We had been focusing on getting tenth place up to that point and it seems like a heavy price to pay for such a minor mistake. Fresh snow forecast for tomorrow and we’ll be opening the road, so unfortunately, we don’t even have a realistic chance of getting any points on the Power Stage.”
M-Sport Ford WRT
“I tried to change my driving style a bit this morning but it didn’t work out so well. The afternoon was better, but we still have some more to learn before we can be on the pace of the guys at the front. The main thing for us is to drive cleanly and get the experience, and there are still three more stages where we need to keep doing that tomorrow.”
“We can be satisfied with what we’ve done in the car today as we’ve made no mistakes and driven pretty cleanly all day. I tried to be as fast as I could with the conditions I had, but that’s all we could do from this position on the road.
“If you have a look at the top-three in the championship and where they are this weekend, it’s clear that none of us had a chance. There’s nothing wrong with the cars, it’s just that in these conditions it is impossible to compensate as the disadvantage is too big.”
“It’s been a pretty tough weekend for us and it wouldn’t go amiss to salvage some Power Stage points tomorrow. Our road position won’t make it easy as the stages are getting faster and faster with every car, but we’ll give it our best shot.”
Toyota Gazoo WRT
“This morning was going well: I felt good and was enjoying the driving. This afternoon however the car was not behaving well at all. The front differential was not working correctly and I was losing a lot of time, but we are changing the transmission in service so this should be sorted out for tomorrow. Then I’m sure the confidence will come, and if I am feeling good on the start line before the Power Stage then there’s a chance we can score some points there.”
“Overall the pace was quite good today and it was quite a lot more enjoyable. This morning the grip was much more consistent: more like a rally should be. The car was working perfectly in these conditions and it felt good to drive. This afternoon it was as tricky as I expected: it was more or less the same as yesterday, but we had a few more cars ahead of us so a few more lines to follow. We will try to do our best tomorrow and see what is possible on the Power Stage.”
“It’s been a good day. We continued the same pace as yesterday, managing to do top five times on almost every stage, which is quite good, and it has been pretty consistent. We made some small changes in service which made the car better for the rutted roads. I don’t think I could have done better times because the road was getting cleaner car-by-car. We have a good fight going on with Östberg: for sure I want to pass him tomorrow.”
Well, tomorrow sees three stages and 51km of action. Can Thierry win? It’s certainly his to lose. Craig has driven superbly all weekend, and which of the other Hyundai drivers will finish on the podium?
Well, what a day! At the start of the day, we saw more snowfall, which would lead to lots of problems for championship leader Seb in his Fiesta WRC as he acted as a snow plough.
Overnight leader Ott increased his lead by winning the first stage of the day, Hof-Finnskog, 21km of really tricky snow-covered stages, whilst Latvala, who started the day in second place would drop down into fifth place. Those to benefit were Mads, Andreas (who lost his rear bumper in the stage) and Thierry. Just ten seconds covered the top six positions.
The following stage, Svullrya, was won by Thierry and this moved him from fourth into first place with Lappi also jumping ahead to third overall.
Röjden, the final stage of the morning loop saw some drama for Kris and Elfyn. They both hit something at the edge of the stage and suffered damage to wheels, with Kris getting a broken wheel and Elfyn suffering a puncture. Andreas won the stage and moved into second overall, whilst Citroen duo, Mads and Craig both moved up as well. Tanak dropped right back to seventh place after a disastrous stage. He was pretty angry about it.
The crews headed back to service for the midday break, with Seb and Elfyn looking to get some settings that would make the cars handle better.
The afternoon stages got underway with Hof-Finnskog just before 2pm and Hayden won it, with Craig second and Lappi in the Toyota third, which meant that the young Finn displaced Andreas from second overall. Also, with such a good time in the stage, Hayden lifted himself into sixth and was now just twelve seconds from the lead currently held by Thierry.
The following stage, Röjden was won by Craig who said it wasn’t a perfect run, but clearly good enough not only to win the stage, but also to move into third overall at the expense of Mads in the other Citroen.
Last stage then, Torsby, and Hayden flew though setting such a good time that it meant he and Seb jumped into third overall ahead of Craig and Mads, and we now had a Hyundai one-two-three!
So, what a day! Two different leaders and multiple changes in the top positions as well, Friday had it all.
Here’s the comments from the drivers.
“What a day! We have just tried to stay focused on the job and doing what we can from our middle road position. We set ourselves the goal being consistent and fast, not making any mistakes. The car has felt good, the settings were spot on and I have felt comfortable. The cars at the front have suffered a bit in the snowy conditions. Every time I pushed I felt that I was creating faster lines for the guys behind to follow, so it was a tricky balance. To have finished the day with all three Hyundai i20 Coupe WRCs in the top-three is a good morale boost, but we know there is a long way to go. We are trying to fight for victory here, but we’ll have to see what we can do tomorrow.”
“We have made a good start and for sure it’s great to see all three Hyundai Motorsport crews in the top-three at the end of Friday. We used the morning loop to build our confidence and rhythm. We were able to get better stage-by-stage, culminating in a stage win before lunchtime service. I have been really pleased with our progression. Of course, there is no question that the guys first on the road have a disadvantage, but it’s still tricky even for us running later. We took things a bit carefully in places. We have one notch in reserve if we need it, but that brings its own risks. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed driving at home with the stages in Norway today, and I hope that support can see us to a good result come Sunday afternoon.”
“It is great to be back for our first WRC event of 2018. Our objective today was to get the rhythm back. The conditions were not easy. We had to be conscious of keeping the car in the lines, and adapting both the car and my driving to suit the stages. The ruts became really pronounced in the afternoon loop. If you go outside of the lines, you become a passenger in your own car, so we had to pull back a bit at times. The road position has helped but we wanted to have a sensible approach to the day, and a clean run, which we have had. There is room for improvement, but the positions are encouraging and there’ll be more to give tomorrow.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
“It was a very difficult day for us, but we made it to the end. We weren’t very far off the pace of Tänak and Latvala, but I wasn’t comfortable enough nor prepared to risk everything, so I didn’t try to overcompensate. We won’t have a great road position tomorrow either, but we’ll try and adopt a sensible approach and keep any eye on what happens ahead of us. We’ll be ready to take advantage, if an opportunity to move up the leaderboard presents itself.”
“I knew that I had a good road position today, but I’m really pleased that it went so well for me. My C3 WRC worked really well. Tomorrow will be an interesting day! We’ll have to see what happens with the weather, because there was already quite a lot of gravel showing through the ice this afternoon. When we did recce, tomorrow’s stages were in poorer condition than those we did today, so the conditions may be more difficult on the second pass.”
“It wasn’t an easy day, but I’m very happy. When we got here, I didn’t expect to be on the pace so quickly. This afternoon, the road conditions were really different to those we had in testing, and my set-up wasn’t ideal. But I fought hard and I also learned a lot about the C3 WRC. I have high hopes that this will help me to be more competitive for the rest of the rally. Especially as I have always been more comfortable on the Swedish stages than the ones in Norway, so I can’t wait to get back out there tomorrow!”
M-Sport Ford WRT
“I’ve been quite happy with our performance today. There are still some things that we need to improve for tomorrow as we’re still not on the pace to fight with the leading cars. It’s been okay, and I need to get the experience, but I would still like to show an improvement and do a bit better tomorrow.”
“It’s not been the best of days out there. I think it’s fair to say that we were struggling for some pace this morning, but we were pretty unfortunate to pick up the puncture. Quite a few of the top cars hit the same stone, so it was just our bad luck. But to be honest, we were still struggling after that so we’ll make some changes tonight and see what we can do tomorrow.”
“It’s been a difficult day, but one that we couldn’t do anything about. Opening the road, we knew that the conditions would be a challenge – especially on the second pass – but it was worse than any of us had expected.
“We tried to push a couple of times, but in these conditions it’s a fight just to stay on the road. And behind, everyone is taking the same line and it’s getting faster and faster with every car.
“We know that the conditions will not be any easier tomorrow, but we’re so far behind that there’s nothing more to lose – we just have to go out there and see what happens.”
Toyota Gazoo WRT
“It has been a really demanding day. Firstly, we had the fresh snow this morning and then on the second pass through the stages we had to follow the narrower lines of the historic cars and it was extremely slippery outside of those lines. I could not really push any more than I did, but that’s the way it is. I have been quite happy with the car and tomorrow will hopefully be a more positive situation for us.”
“Today has been really tough. There were some extremely difficult conditions, with a lot of snow. It looks nice from the outside but on the road it’s quite a struggle and it is difficult to find any grip. It would be nice if we could be last on the road tomorrow but unfortunately the road position will be the same as today, so it will be a similarly hard job. I think in the end we need to survive and to collect as many points as possible. Let’s do the best we can.”
“The conditions were quite tricky. The second loop was even tougher than the first: it was very easy to make a mistake because the ruts were very deep and there was a lot of loose snow. I kissed a snow bank with the front of the car and got too much snow in the air filter, so I was lacking power in the last five kilometres and we lost half a minute. We are still in the game with two days to go though, and I think that there were also many positives today. I was a bit surprised with how good my speed was, so I just need to take that feeling with me for tomorrow and enjoy it.”
Overall Classification- Friday
Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 1:16:13.1
Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +4.9
Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +12.1
It was an early start for the teams with shakedown at 8am! Beautiful conditions awaited them all. A real winter wonderland!
Shakedown was saw a welcome return for Mads Ostberg in a Citroen C3, and for a while, he was fastest of all, finally finishing just behind Thierry who emerged fastest by just 3 tenths of a second on the 6.8km stage held on the roads around Skalla. Elfyn Evans suffered some problems with the electrics, but once those had been solved, set a very good time.
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 4:17.3
Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) 4:17.6
Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4:18.1
Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) 4:18.3
Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 4:18.7
Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) 4:18.8
Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 4:19.0
Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) 4:19.1
Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4:19.2
Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4:19.3
As usual, it was a really close-run thing.
Moving onto the first stage, we saw the cars go head-to-head around the 1.9km Karlstad stage. Emerging fastest, was young Estonian, Ott Tanak with Jari-Matti just three tenths off in second and Mads showing he’s right on the pace a further three tenths behind.
End of day one (Thursday):
1 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1m32.7s