Rally Sweden 2018 Preview!

Its time for Round Two! The WRC heads for the amazing snow-covered roads of Sweden, one of the fastest rallies of the year! Helping the drivers keep a grip will be the special tyres that Michelin bring.

 

Two centimetres narrower that their gravel equivalent, and a full five centimetres narrower than the tarmac version, Michelin’s “Sweden” tyre mainly stands out due to the 384 studs glued into drilled holes on the tyre tread. The studs provide such a high level of grip that at equivalent speeds, the braking distances are the same as on dry tarmac! The challenge in Sweden therefore consists of taking great care of these twenty-millimetre-long spikes, which protrude around seven millimetres from the tread blocks. The Scandinavian rally is also one of the few events where taking two spare wheels, especially on the second pass when gravel begins to appear and lines form, actually helps performance. The challenge is to switch tyres at the right moment, so that the studs wear out evenly, and avoid having an uneven tyre set-up.

 

This year there are 19 stages and a total of 314,25 competitive km’s.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Sweden (SWE) – WRC 09/02/2017 to 12/02/2017 – PHOTO : @World

 

Here’s the full details of the stages!

 

THURSDAY 15 FEBRUARY

8.00am: shakedown (Skalla)

8.04pm: Start day 1 (Karlstad)

8.08pm: SS 1 – Karlstad (1,90 km)

9.54pm: End of day 1

 

FRIDAY 16 FEBRUARY

6.00am: Start day 2 and Service A (Torsby – 15 mins)

7.55am: SS 2 – Hof-Finnskog 1 (21,26 km)

9.07am: SS 3 – Svullrya 1 (24,88 km)

9.54am: SS 4 – Röjden 1 (19,13 km)

11.31am: Service B (Torsby – 30 mins)

1.41pm: SS 5 – Hof-Finnskog 2 (21,26 km)

3.03pm: SS 6 – Svullrya 2 (24,88 km)

3.50pm: SS 7 – Röjden 2 (19,13 km)

4.56pm: SS 8 – Torsby 1 (9,56 km)

5.31pm: Flexi Service C (Torsby – 45 mins)

 

SATURDAY 17 FEBRUARY

7.05am: Start day 3 and Service D (Torsby – 15 mins)

7.54am: SS 9 – Torntorp 1 (19,88 km)

9.12am: SS 10 – Hagfors 1 (23,40 km)

10.08am: SS 11 – Vargasen 1 (14,21 km)

11.40am: Service E (Torsby – 30 mins)

12.44pm: SS 12 – Torntorp 2 (19,88 km)

2.12pm: SS 13 – Hagfors 2 (23,40 km)

3.08pm: SS 14 – Vargasen 2 (14,21 km)

5.45pm: SS 15 – Karlstad 2 (1,90 km)

7.26pm: SS 16 – Torsby Sprint (3,43 km)

7.56pm: Flexi Service F (Torsby – 45 mins)

 

SUNDAY 18 FEBRUARY

6.30am: Start day 4 and Service G (Torsby – 15 mins)

7.50am: SS 17 – Likenäs 1 (21,19 km)

9.51am: SS 18 – Likenäs 2 (21,19 km)

12.18pm: SS 19 – Torsby 2 (9,56 km)

 

1.00pm: Podium (Torsby)

 

 

Here’s the views of all the teams then!

M-Sport Ford

Sébastien Ogier

“It looks as though we are in for a true winter rally next week with everything needed for a classic Rally Sweden. Reports from the region suggest that there’s a good ice base and high snow banks which is everything a driver wants to hear ahead of this event.

“In those conditions, we can reach incredible speeds and lean the cars on the snow banks to help guide us through the corners. It’s an amazing feeling, but it’s not without its challenges.

“There’s certainly an art to driving on snow and you need to be precise. You have to judge the strength of the snow banks perfectly and – with more snow than previous years – there could be a lot of work to do on the Pacenotes.

“As the first car on the road, we’ll also have to wait and see what the conditions are like and we’re certainly not hoping to see any fresh snow on Friday.

“We got the season off to a great start last month, but we all know how strong the competition is and we’re expecting it to be even stronger next week. The Scandinavians are always strong here, but we plan to give them a hard time and secure another strong haul of points for our championship defence.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Sweden (SWE) – WRC 09/02/2017 to 12/02/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Elfyn Evans

“Rally Sweden is an event that everyone looks forward to. On a classic Rally Sweden – like what we’re expecting this year – we can reach incredible speeds and if you get it right it’s easily one of the most enjoyable rallies on the calendar.

“The feeling on snow isn’t a million miles away from driving on gravel, but there are certain techniques that we’ll need to adapt and it can take a bit of getting used to at first.

“Vision can often be a challenge – particularly if there is a lot of fresh snow making it difficult to read the road ahead. Our Pacenotes and recce are going to have to be spot on, but we’re ready for it and really looking forward to it.

“There’s something of a score to settle after Monte where we were capable of achieving more than we did, so let’s see what we can do in Sweden.”

 

Teemu Suninen

“We’ve just completed some good test kilometres in Northern Sweden which went really well. I’ve not driven the Fiesta WRC since last year’s Rally Finland, so that gave us a chance to get familiar with the car and we’re now feeling well prepared for the start of the rally.

“It would be amazing to challenge for a podium again. Perhaps that is a realistic goal, but we would have to deliver the perfect rally to achieve it. With eight events this year, we also have to consider a slightly different approach. In 2017, we were solely focused on our future and showing what we could do, but this time we also have to think about the team and scoring points for the manufacturers’ championship.

“In terms of the weather, there have been talks of freezing temperatures and high snow banks but we’ll have to wait for the recce before we can see for ourselves. Whatever the conditions, the speed is always high. On a rally as fast as this the seconds are harder to gain, and we will have to be on the pace from the very first stage.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“It looks like we going to get perfect winter conditions this year and like all the WRC drivers, I can’t wait to get started! In the last few seasons, with a limited amount of snow, you had to be very cautious or risk getting stuck in a snow bank after the slightest impact. The snow banks seem to be bigger and more compact this time around, so we’ll undoubtedly be able to drive more aggressively and use the banks more, although we may need a bit of time to get used to that. In any event, it’s an exciting challenge that I’m going to try and tackle with the same sensible approach as in Monte-Carlo.”

Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle, Rally Sweden 2017. Photo Credit, Citroen

Craig Breen

“Between the start and end of last season, the C3 WRC made a lot of progress on gravel, so I hope it’ll be the same on snow and ice. Especially as Sweden is one of my favourite rallies, and one where I feel really confident. In fact, I had my very first race in a WRC here in 2014 and also made my maiden appearance in Sweden with Citroën Racing in 2016. After a difficult Monte, I’d love to get decent points on the board. And it looks like the road conditions will be perfect for this year’s rally, with really solid snow banks that are forgiving if you make a relatively minor mistake.”

 

Mads Ostberg

“Rally Sweden is a special event for me and I have always been quick here, so I’m very happy to have this opportunity to rejoin the team. I’m hoping to make the most of the shakedown at Satory and then the day of pre-event testing to adapt quickly to the C3 WRC. In any case, I’m already up to speed in these conditions, having contested two winter rallies in Norway, the second of which I won. With the bigger snow banks this year, the roads are likely to be narrower and more technically demanding, so perhaps we Scandinavians may be able to take advantage of our greater experience in conditions like these.”

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Sweden is one of my favourite rallies and actually the place where I took my first WRC victory 10 years ago – although it really doesn’t feel like so long ago! Compared to last year I think we have a better car: we concentrated on improving it on the slower and more technical sections during our test, and we definitely made a step forward in this area. Having said that, the competition is even tougher this year: within our own team as well. It’s going to be a really nice challenge in proper winter conditions and that of course helps me raise my own game; I’m confident we can fight for the win again. This weekend I’m also taking part in a local rally on snow in Finland with Juho Hänninen in my historic Toyota Celica, so this will be a lot of fun and the perfect way to prepare.”

Last years winners for Toyota Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Antilla tackle Colins Crest. Photo Credit, Toyota Gazoo WRT

 

Ott Tänak

“I’m still learning about the Yaris WRC, but after driving it on snow during the test I’m beginning to understand why Jari-Matti won in Sweden last year. For the first part of the rally we’ll just have to see how everything goes, but of course I’m hoping that we can fight for the podium and even the win. If the snow is heavy on the stages, which seems to be the case, our start position of second on the road won’t be ideal, but of course the weather can change. I’m just going to enjoy the weekend and do my best. There’s a lot more still to come.”

Esapekka Lappi

“It took me a few days to get over the disappointment of losing fourth place in Monte-Carlo on the last stage, but in the end, there were more positives than negatives. Up to that point, we had driven a very consistent rally, and my aim is to do the same in Sweden. We had a good test and did around 400 kilometres in two days, which was enough for me to get a good feel. Our car should be well-suited to Sweden but it’s a very different type of rally to Monte-Carlo: in Monte, sometimes you have to be brave by going slow enough, whereas in Sweden you need a different type of commitment. I didn’t compete on the rally last year, so I am missing a bit of experience, but snow is a surface I always feel comfortable on.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rally Sweden is a very special event for me because of the opportunity we have to go rallying across the border into my home country of Norway. We have a lot of support from fans, family and friends. It’s a beautiful event and the only one we get to tackle completely on snow and ice with proper studded tyres. They give amazing grip and the feeling is unbelievable. We expect a good number of snow banks this year, so we will be able to explore the limits.”

Thierry Neuville

“We had good speed on the Swedish and Norwegian stages last year but unfortunately things didn’t end well when we were forced to retire on the penultimate day. This year, I am aiming to challenge once again for the win but with a far better outcome. Sweden is truly a unique event; the only one where we can compete with fully studded tyres for the complete rally. As one of the fastest rallies of the season, it’s an exhilarating one from inside the cockpit and for the fans lining the stages. We want to put on a good show and, most importantly, deliver a good result.”

Hayden Paddon

“I can’t wait to get my 2018 season underway finally. It feels like a long time since we were competing in Australia.  Sweden will be a fresh start for us. I have good memories from finishing on the podium two years ago, and I will be trying to repeat some of that performance. It was great to get re-acquainted with the car in testing recently. We were able to enjoy some outstanding winter driving conditions. More of that in the rally, as well as a decent result, would be the perfect start to my season.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, WRC, Sweden
06-12 February 2017
Hayden Paddon, John Kennard, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Action
Day 1
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

 

Now, there are lots of spectacular stages in this event, none more so than Vargasen, which features Colins Crest! Lots of fans base themselves there, just to see these amazing cars fly through the air and last year, Mads got the biggest jump of the event.

This year looks to be just as amazing! There has been a lot of snow, which means the snow banks are of very good quality!

We’ve got the returning Hayden and Mads, plus a good battle between Ott and Seb. What chance we have seeing a different driver leading the championship on Sunday afternoon?

 

Enjoy!

Seb Ogier takes his fifth Rallye Monte Carlo win!

Day One, Thursday evening

 

First stage of the event and there was lots of drama in the Thoard – Sisteron 36km opener! There was no snow and ice in the first 12km and then broken ice for a couple of km’s.

 

Seb Ogier was first in, and spun in the stage! Ott stopped 11km into stage, but got going again and Thierry was another to stop, but got going again as well. Both had slid wide into snow banks. Another to spin was Jari-Matti and he managed to spin twice! Elfyn picked up a puncture at about 12km into the stage, so they had to change the tyre. The Citroen duo of Kris and Craig both spun as well, Kris losing a minute or so.

 

Esapekka completed the stage third fastest, with a good run though, whilst Andreas was the closest challenger to Ogier, just 7.7 seconds off the Fiesta WRC pilot!

Seb Ogier, Rallye Monte Carlo leader. Photo credit M-Sport Ford

Stage two, Bayons – Breziers 25,49km stage which includes a rise of 1184 metres above sea-level to the summit of Col de Sagnes! Ogier won the stage with a very good clean run through with Thierry going second fastest and Ott third. There were a few changes in the leaderboard with Dani moving ahead of Esapekka and into third. Kris and Thierry are a long way off the lead sadly, over two minutes away for the Citroen pilot and over four for the Belgian. That’s a big ask for them.

 

Classification after Day One

1              S. Ogier                 J. Ingrassia          Ford Fiesta WRC                            38:09.8

2              A. Mikkelsen      A. Jæger              Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC                 +17.3

3              D. Sordo               C. del Barrio        Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC                +25.6

4              E. Lappi                J. Ferm                   Toyota Yaris WRC                               +37.4

5              O. Tänak              M. Järveoja          Toyota Yaris WRC                                +42.4

6              J. M. Latvala        M. Anttila            Toyota Yaris WRC                                 55.4

7              C. Breen               S. Martin               Citroën C3 WRC                                +1:02.3

8              B. Bouffier          X. Panseri            Ford Fiesta WRC                                +1:51.0

9              K. Meeke            P. Nagle                  Citroën C3 WRC                                +2:12.7

10           E. Camilli              B. Veillas               Ford Fiesta R5                                     +2:42.2

17           T. Neuville           N. Gilsoul              Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC                +4:18.2

 

Day two, Friday

Well, what a day! Where to start my round up of Friday’s six stages? Seb in his Fiesta was our leader all day, but there were different stage winners and the person leading to fight to the Frenchman changed as well.

 

Andreas Mikkelsen was the man who was closest at the start of the day, but after dropping behind Dani in stage three, he then retired in stage four with alternator failure. There was more pain for Thierry as well, who suffered another puncture in stage three.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo
25-28 Janvier 2018
Andreas Mikkelsen, Anders Jaeger, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

The lead grew in stage four, but Ott Tanak was feeling at home in his new car, moving up the leaderboard and closing the gap to second placed Dani. Meantime, Craig was having a nightmare in his Citroen, with a stone breaking part of the caliper and meaning he’d suffer from brake failure and he was not enjoying that one bit. The good news though was that after stage five, the cars headed for service and the problem was fixed.

 

The afternoon loop began with the 26km and Ott took the fight to Seb, winning the stage and taking six and a half seconds out of erstwhile leader Seb’s lead. Craig was feeling a lot more comfortable now he had working brakes!

 

Elfyn Evans took the long stage seven when the heavens opened, but Seb lost 14 seconds to Ott and the lead was down to 19 seconds after a spin put the Fiesta into a ditch! Craig was increasingly comfortable, setting the fourth fastest time in the stage, whilst Dani, Esapekka and Jari-Matti continued their battle for third overall.

 

The final stage of the day fell to Thierry who after his puncture had been fighting back and closed the gap to Elfyn to just a little over three seconds.

 

Leaderboard at the end of Friday

 

1              S. Ogier                 J. Ingrassia          Ford Fiesta WRC                          2:07:15.4

2              O. Tänak               M. Järveoja        Toyota Yaris WRC                                  +14.9

3              D. Sordo               C. del Barrio        Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC                +59.7

4              E. Lappi                J. Ferm                   Toyota Yaris WRC                           +1:09.9

5              J. M. Latvala        M. Anttila            Toyota Yaris WRC                            +1:10.1

6              K. Meeke              P. Nagle                Citroën C3 WRC                            +2:45.5

7              B. Bouffier          X. Panseri            Ford Fiesta WRC                            +3:34.6

8              E. Evans                D. Barritt              Ford Fiesta WRC                            +4:01.7

9              T. Neuville           N. Gilsoul             Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC           +4:04.1

 

Day three, Saturday

The second full day of Rallye Monte Carlo started with snow falling, which we had been waiting for! Boy, did it come down!

 

Craig Breen was first into stage nine, the first of the day. At the end, he referred himself as a snowplow! Sadly, Dani went off the road and so one of the teams that we expected to see standing on the podium, now will be nowhere near it. The stage was won by Andreas, but clearly the team could do with some luck. Seb made a great start, increasing the gap to former M-Sport teammate, Ott by a full minute who now found himself in second and Jari-Matti a further 21 or so seconds in third. Elfyn Evans in the number 2 Fiesta WRC, gapped Thierry by 20 seconds in their battle for seventh overall.

 

Stage 10 saw Ott close down 15 seconds to Seb, with the French champions advantage a little over a minute at the end of the 16km stage. The Toyota’s were running well, all three in the top four overall positions.

 

The following stage saw Esapekka Lappi pick up a puncture, so Kris Meeke picked up fourth place, despite sliding off into a field. Elfyn also picked up a position, moving ahead of Bryan Bouffier into sixth place. Ogier’s lead was now down to 48 seconds.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship, Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo 2018, January 25-28, 2018.
Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

The next stage, number twelve, was won by Thierry, and this edged him a little closer to seventh placed Bouffier’s Fiesta, the gap just 12 seconds! Kris also was just hanging onto fourth place, with Lappi in the Yaris setting the third quickest time.

 

The last stage of the day was won by Thierry and Elfyn was just two seconds slower than the Belgian keeping the gap between them above 30 seconds. Kris lost fourth place to young Finn, Esapekka Lappi after the Irishman spun in a hairpin, losing a couple of seconds.

 

Heading into the final day , Seb Ogier leads Ott by just a little over half a minute. Just four stages and a total of 64km. It’s certainly possible for something to happen!

 

Leaderboard at the end of Saturday

 

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 3:30:30.9
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC +33.5
3 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +1:32.7
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +4:38.5
5 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +4:40.1
6 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +5:00.2
7 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +5:33.6
8 B. Bouffier X. Panseri Ford Fiesta WRC +5:43.4
9 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +8:49.0

 

Day four, Sunday

Sunday morning was cold and a bit cloudy. We had four stages covering 64km before it was all decided! First up was stage 14 and it was won by Seb and the gap opened up between him and Ott by 11 seconds.

 

The next stage would be the power stage later and at 13km being quick from the off would be key.  Citroen drivers Craig and Kris were surprised how tricky it was, Kris commenting on how there was black ice on gravel! Thierry won the stage, but Seb’s closest challenger, Ott set pretty much the same time and the gap to the front remained pretty static.

 

Stage 16, the penultimate stage was won by Thierry as he was targeting Elfyn who was just a few seconds up the road and holding sixth overall. However, the Welshman was just a second and a half slower meaning the gap was still seven seconds with just one stage to go.

 

The power stage beckoned and there were a could more twists to come…. Despite his surprise earlier in this stage with black ice on gravel, Kris flew through the stage and took all five points for winning it, ending up 2.3 seconds faster than Thierry. Further back there was more drama! Esapekka slid wide and lost a bundle of time which meant he would lose fourth and drop behind Thierry and Elfyn into seventh. Meanwhile, Elfyn would keep sixth place, despite losing out to Thierry who went from seventh to fifth and of course Kris would claim fourth overall! So much drama!

Kris Meeke & Paul Nagle, Rallye Monte Carlo – Photo credit Citroen Racing

In the midst of all of that, Seb Ogier had taken his fifth Rallye Monte Carlo victory and the new Toyota driver, Ott would finish one better than last year in second place and in third, Jari-Matti.

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier 

“We always face tough conditions at Rallye Monte-Carlo but this year they were really extreme. I don’t think I’ve ever struggled so much with the tyre choices, so to have come out on top is fantastic.

“I think everyone made mistakes this weekend – myself included – but it was almost impossible to have the perfect drive. Luckily we only had some small mistakes and once we had a good gap it was just a case of trying to manage it – but that is never easy in these conditions either!

“It’s the best way to start the season and I need to congratulate the team because everyone has worked really hard and I know that they will also be super happy with this result. The competition is going to be stronger than ever and we’ve made a strong start which is really important.”

Elfyn Evans

“It’s been a tough edition of the rally this year and we had an especially tough start losing so much time on the very first stage. Over the next few days I think we were there or there about’s in terms of outright speed, but overall there were just too many little errors.

“When it came to making the smart choices at the right time, we weren’t quite there and that’s what cost us a really good result today. The comforting thing is that the speed is there, but we still need to be better.”

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Rallye Monte-Carlo is never easy. We had difficult conditions once again today, particularly with the ice on the Col du Turini that came since the recce. I’m really relieved to get to the finish and to be on the podium. The team has done an excellent job and the car is performing really well so I’m excited for the season ahead. It’s going to be about staying cool and to think about the championship and about the points. This has been a good start.”

 

Ott Tänak

“It’s really nice to start the season like this. It looks like I have joined a very strong team! The car has been amazing and I’ve felt really comfortable in it since the start of the rally. It was an extremely tough rally with such difficult conditions, but we managed to get through without any serious problems. We were expecting easier conditions today, but it was still really icy. We were able to take it steady because we were in a strong position. I’m now really looking forward to the coming rallies.”

 

Esapekka Lappi

“Today started really well with some good speed and the plan was to keep up the rhythm, including on the Power Stage. Unfortunately, I went wide on one corner and then I couldn’t get reverse, so we lost a lot of time and three positions. At the moment I am quite disappointed but at least I completed every kilometre, gaining experience and learning many things, so there are also a lot of positives. It has been a good rally for the team and Sweden should suit me better.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“It was the hardest Monte-Carlo that I have ever experienced. We had everything: sheer ice on slick tyres on Thursday evening, rain on Friday, snow on Saturday and frost on the Col de Turini today. I’m surprised to finish the rally with seventeen points, but I’ll certainly take them! We now have to stay humble and keep working hard to try and improve.”

 

Craig Breen

“The weekend got off to a difficult start, with our mistake on Thursday evening. And then things went from bad to worse with the brake problems on Friday, which left us opening the road as something of a snow plough on Saturday. But we produced some good performances on a good few occasions, and did so again today on the dry tarmac. We now need to keep working in more changeable conditions, like those you typically get in Monte-Carlo.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“On balance, I think we have had a good rally, despite the various issues we have encountered along the way. Thursday was the biggest factor, when we lost over four minutes getting stuck through my own fault. We have fought back from those early problems, and a few others, and tried to regain as many positions as we could. The places we have made up today – right to the end of the Power Stage – show how important it is to push right to the finish. Without the puncture and tricky snow conditions yesterday, a podium would still have been possible. That’s Monte-Carlo, though. I would like to say thanks to the team for doing an incredible job in hard circumstances this weekend, and together we look ahead to Sweden.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Our rally was over on Friday when we stopped after SS3 with the alternator problem. The focus shifted to salvaging as many points as possible from the Power Stage, which was our aim for today. With no tyre zone or service, we adopted a compromised strategy taking five soft tyres for both loops. We knew that the run up to Col de Turini would be tough, so we took it carefully and accepted we would be slow. SS15 was a good practice for the Power Stage and it was nice for the team to take a 1-2. I was happy with my run, considering we were first on the road and it was still drying in places. It’s my best drive feeling-wise so far with the car on dry tarmac, which is encouraging.”

 

Final Overall Classification – Rallye Monte-Carlo

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 4:18:55.5
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC +58.3
3 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +1:52.0
4 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +4:43.1
5 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +4:53.8
6 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +4:54.8
7 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +4:57.5
8 B. Bouffier X. Panseri Ford Fiesta WRC +7:39.5
9 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +9:06.7

 

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 -WRC Monte Carlo (FRA) – WRC 24/01/2018 to 28/01/2018 – PHOTO : @World

 

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 1

1 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 33
3 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 33
3 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 18
4 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 14

Rallye Monte Carlo- Day Three, Seb steers clear of trouble

The second full day of Rallye Monte Carlo started with snow falling, which we had been waiting for! Boy, did it come down!

Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle, Photo credit Citroen Racing.

Craig Breen was first into stage nine, the first of the day. At the end, he referred himself as a snowplow! Sadly, Dani went off the road and so one of the teams that we expected to see standing on the podium, now will be nowhere near it. The stage was won by Andreas, but clearly the team could do with some luck. Seb made a great start, increasing the gap to former M-Sport teammate, Ott by a full minute who now found himself in second and Jari-Matti a further 21 or so seconds in third. Elfyn Evans in the number 2 Fiesta WRC, gapped Thierry by 20 seconds in their battle for seventh overall.

 

Stage 10 saw Ott close down 15 seconds to Seb, with the French champions advantage a little over a minute at the end of the 16km stage. The Toyota’s were running well, all three in the top four overall positions.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship, Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo 2018, January 25-28, 2018.
Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

The following stage saw Esapekka Lappi pick up a puncture, so Kris Meeke picked up fourth place, despite sliding off into a field. Elfyn also picked up a position, moving ahead of Bryan Bouffier into sixth place. Ogier’s lead was now down to 48 seconds.

 

The next stage, number twelve, was won by Thierry, and this edged him a little closer to seventh placed Bouffier’s Fiesta, the gap just 12 seconds! Kris also was just hanging onto fourth place, with Lappi in the Yaris setting the third quickest time.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo
24-28 January 2018
Day 2
Action
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

The last stage of the day was won by Thierry and Elfyn was just two seconds slower than the Belgian keeping the gap between them above 30 seconds. Kris lost fourth place to young Finn, Esapekka Lappi after the Irishman spun in a hairpin, losing a couple of seconds.

 

Heading into the last day tomorrow, Seb Ogier leads Ott by just a little over half a minute. Just four stages and a total of 64km. It’s certainly possible for something to happen!

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 -WRC Monte Carlo (FRA) – WRC 24/01/2018 to 28/01/2018 – PHOTO : @World

Leaderboard at the end of Saturday

 

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 3:30:30.9
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC +33.5
3 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +1:32.7
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +4:38.5
5 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +4:40.1
6 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +5:00.2
7 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +5:33.6
8 B. Bouffier X. Panseri Ford Fiesta WRC +5:43.4
9 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +8:49.0

Rallye Monte Carlo, Day Two- Seb Ogier continues to lead.

Well, what a day! Where to start my round up of today’s six stages? Seb in his Fiesta was our leader all day, but there were different stage winners and the person leading to fight to the Frenchman changed as well.

 

Andreas Mikkelsen was the man who was closest at the start of the day, but after dropping behind Dani in stage three, he then retired in stage four with alternator failure. There was more pain for Thierry as well, who suffered another puncture in stage three.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo
25-28 Janvier 2018
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

The lead grew in stage four, but Ott Tanak was feeling at home in his new car, moving up the leaderboard and closing the gap to second placed Dani. Meantime, Craig was having a nightmare in his Citroen, with a stone breaking part of the caliper and meaning he’d suffer from brake failure and he was not enjoying that one bit. The good news though was that after stage five, the cars headed for service and the problem was fixed.

 

The afternoon loop began with the 26km and Ott took the fight to Seb, winning the stage and taking six and a half seconds out of erstwhile leader Seb’s lead. Craig was feeling a lot more comfortable now he had working brakes!

2018 FIA World Rally Championship, Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo 2018, January 25-28, 2018.
Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Elfyn Evans took the long stage seven when the heavens opened, but Seb lost 14 seconds to Ott and the lead was down to 19 seconds after a spin put the Fiesta into a ditch! Craig was increasingly comfortable, setting the fourth fastest time in the stage, whilst Dani, Esapekka and Jari-Matti continued their battle for third overall.

Elfyn Evans, Dan Barritt, Day two. Photo credit, M-Sport

The final stage of the day fell to Thierry who after his puncture had been fighting back and closed the gap to Elfyn to just a little over three seconds.

 

Tomorrow sees the crews tackle five stages and a total of 117 km. One thing that could have a big impact to the standings is the snow that has been predicted all week. It will make tyre choices very hard!

Craig Breen, Scott Martin. Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Here’s the standings at the end of day two.

 

1              S. Ogier                 J. Ingrassia          Ford Fiesta WRC                           2:07:15.4

2              O. Tänak              M. Järveoja          Toyota Yaris WRC                                 +14.9

3              D. Sordo               C. del Barrio        Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC                +59.7

4              E. Lappi                 J. Ferm                  Toyota Yaris WRC                           +1:09.9

5              J. M. Latvala        M. Anttila            Toyota Yaris WRC                             +1:10.1

6              K. Meeke              P. Nagle                 Citroën C3 WRC                             +2:45.5

7              B. Bouffier          X. Panseri               Ford Fiesta WRC                           +3:34.6

8              E. Evans                D. Barritt                 Ford Fiesta WRC                           +4:01.7

9              T. Neuville           N. Gilsoul                 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC          +4:04.1

Rallye Monte Carlo, Seb Ogier leads after day one.

First stage of the event and there was lots of drama in the Thoard – Sisteron 36km opener! There was no snow and ice in the first 12km and then broken ice for a couple of km’s.

Seb Ogier, early leader of Rallye Monte Carlo, Photo credit, M-Sport

Seb Ogier was first in, and spun in the stage! Ott stopped 11km into stage, but got going again and Thierry was another to stop, but got going again as well. Both had slid wide into snow banks. Another to spin was Jari-Matti and he managed to spin twice! Elfyn picked up a puncture at about 12km into the stage, so they had to change the tyre. The Citroen duo of Kris and Craig both spun as well, Kris losing a minute or so.

 

Esapekka completed the stage third fastest, with a good run though, whilst Andreas was the closest challenger to Ogier, just 7.7 seconds off the Fiesta WRC pilot!

 

1st    Ogier      23’16”6

2nd   Mikkelsen  + 7”7

3rd   Lappi         + 19”4

4th   Sordo        + 19”7

5th   Breen        + 24”6

6th   Tänak        + 37”9

7th   Latvala      + 48”9

8th   Bouffier + 1’15”6

9th   Camilli    + 1’43”3

10th Meeke   + 1’44”7

 

Stage two, Bayons – Breziers 25,49km stage which includes a rise of 1184 metres above sea-level to the summit of Col de Sagnes! Ogier won the stage with a very good clean run through with Thierry going second fastest and Ott third. There were a few changes in the leaderboard with Dani moving ahead of Esapekka and into third. Kris and Thierry are a long way off the lead sadly, over two minutes away for the Citroen pilot and over four for the Belgian. That’s a big ask for them.

Classification after Day One

1              S. Ogier J. Ingrassia                          Ford Fiesta WRC                           38:09.8

2              A. Mikkelsen      A. Jæger               Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC                +17.3

3              D. Sordo               C. del Barrio        Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC                +25.6

4              E. Lappi                 J. Ferm                  Toyota Yaris WRC                               +37.4

5              O. Tänak               M. Järveoja          Toyota Yaris WRC                               +42.4

6              J. M. Latvala        M. Anttila             Toyota Yaris WRC                              +55.4

7              C. Breen               S. Martin                Citroën C3 WRC                             +1:02.3

8              B. Bouffier          X. Panseri             Ford Fiesta WRC                             +1:51.0

9              K. Meeke            P. Nagle                  Citroën C3 WRC                              +2:12.7

10           E. Camilli              B. Veillas               Ford Fiesta R5                                  +2:42.2

17           T. Neuville           N. Gilsoul               Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC           +4:18.2

 

What will happen tomorrow?  There are six stages and 144.88 km’s of action!

 

Rallye Monte-Carlo Preview 2018

Its time for a new season! Will this year be as amazing as last? Who knows what will happen in 2018?! First up, we’ve got the iconic Rallye Monte Carlo, an event being run for the 86th time, that really challenges the drivers, with ice and snow-covered stages!

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2016 -WRC Monte Carlo (FRA) – WRC 18/01/2017 to 22/01/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Reigning champion Seb Ogier has won this event four times and will be targeting a fifth! If you’re looking for challengers, then last year’s early leader Thierry, plus Andreas and Kris are the drivers likely to be there. Jari-Matti and Ott in the Yaris will also be challenging near the top. Any number of these drivers could stand on the podium.

 

Here’s the full details of the stages.

 

WEDNESDAY 24 JANUARY

4.00pm: shakedown (Gap)

 

THURSDAY 25 JANUARY

5.50pm: Start day 1 (Monaco – Place du Casino)

9.43pm: SS 1 – Thoard – Sisteron (36,69 km)

10.51pm: SS 2 – Bayons – Bréziers 1 (25,49 km)

11.56pm: Flexi Service A (Gap – 48′)

 

FRIDAY 26 JANUARY

8.00am: Start day 2 and Service B (Gap – 18′)

8.51am: SS 3 – Vitrolles – Oze 1 (26,72 km)

10.04am: SS 4 – Roussieux – Eygalayes 1 (30,54 km)

11.37am: SS 5 – Vaumeilh – Claret 1 (15,18 km)

12.52pm: Service C (Gap – 33′)

1.58pm: SS 6 – Vitrolles – Oze 2 (26,72 km)

3.11pm: SS 7 – Roussieux – Eygalayes 2 (30,54 km)

4.44pm: SS 8 – Vaumeilh – Claret 2 (15,18 km)

5.49pm: Flexi Service D (Gap – 48′)

 

SATURDAY 27 JANUARY

6.57am: Start day 3 and Service E (Gap – 18′)

8.08am: SS 9 – Agnières en Devoluy – Corps 1 (29,16 km)

9.16am: SS 10 – St Léger les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve 1 (16,87 km)

10.31am: Service F (Gap – 33′)

11.57am: SS 11 – Agnières en Devoluy – Corps 2 (29,16 km)

1.08pm: SS 12 – St Léger les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve 2 (16,87 km)

2.23pm: Service G (Gap – 33′)

4.09pm: SS 13 – Bayons – Bréziers 2 (25,49 km)

5.29pm: Service H (Gap – 48′)

10.17pm: Parc ferme (Monaco)

 

SUNDAY 28 JANUARY

6.49am: Start day 4

 

8.32am: SS 14 – La Bollène Vésubie – Peira Cava 1 (18,41 km)

9.08am: SS 15 – La Cabanette – Col de Braus 1 (13,58 km)

10.55am: SS 16 – La Bollène Vésubie – Peira Cava 2 (18,41 km)

12.18pm: SS 17 – La Cabanette – Col de Braus 2 (13,58 km)

 

1.58pm: Parc ferme (Monaco)

3.00pm: Prize giving (Place du Palais Princier – Monaco)

That’s a total of 17 stages, covering 388.59km in total.

 

Flashback to 2017 

Thierry Neuville had built a commanding lead over the first two days, but after running wide during the final stage on Saturday and breaking his suspension, Sébastien Ogier came through to take his fourth victory!

 

This is last year’s result.

 

  1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4:00:03.6
  2. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:15.0
  3. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:57.8

 

Okay, let’s hear from the teams then.

 

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team

Malcolm Wilson OBE

“Last year saw us enjoy our most successful season in motorsport and that’s something that we want to see continue in 2018. The hard work has not stopped and everyone has been working around the clock to ensure that we start our title defence on a high.

“We have completed two comprehensive test sessions and the feeling amongst the team is more determined than ever. It might not be possible to make huge gains within the regulations, but we have been working with our partners to enhance what was already an extremely strong package.

“Every team is capable of securing the ultimate prize this year and I am expecting the competition to be closer than ever. It’s so difficult to predict who will even come out on top this week, and that in itself is fantastic for the sport.

“In Sébastien, Elfyn and Bryan we have three very competent and intelligent drivers who are all more than capable of securing a Monte-Carlo victory. That has to be our aim so let’s see what happens. Like every rally fan, I am very much looking forward to the start of this exciting new season.”

 

Sébastien Ogier

“We start the new season with an event that is always a real highlight for me – Rallye Monte-Carlo. As my home event, I always want to give my best and challenge for the top results.

“We started something great here last year and want to try and build on that in 2018. We will need to work hard as the competition will be very tough. Every team has a winning car and a winning driver so everyone is a threat and we need to be ready right from the start.

“It’s such a challenging start to the season – the ultimate test with extreme conditions that can see us go from dry Tarmac to pure ice and snow in the space of a single stage. It’s certainly not easy, but that’s what makes a good result here so rewarding.

“We’ll start this year with what could be the biggest challenge of the entire rally – Sisteron, in reverse, in the dark. It doesn’t get much tougher than that, but that’s Monte. It’s always a challenge and that will be the case from the very first stage this year.”

Sebastien Ogier, Rallye Monte Carlo 2017, Photo credit, Alastair Cummins

Elfyn Evans

“Rallye Monte-Carlo is one of those events that every driver looks forward to. I’ve always said that it offers some of the best Tarmac roads in the world, but at this time of year the conditions make it a true challenge and the ultimate test of strategy. To do well, you really do need to get absolutely everything right.

“We’ve just completed two days of testing in mixed conditions. The road was constantly evolving which is great when it comes to getting a flavour for everything we’ve come to expect on a rally like this, but it can also be a bit of a double-edged sword at times – making it difficult to judge which direction to go in terms of set-up.

“Overall, I would say that we had two pretty good tests and that we are feeling fairly well prepared. Monte can always be a bit of a lottery and it can go either way, but we’re definitely ready to get the season started. We want to start the year on a high, so we’ll give it our best and see what happens.”

 

Bryan Bouffier

“Since learning that I would be driving the Ford Fiesta WRC, Rallye Monte-Carlo could not come soon enough! It’s one of my favourite events and having the opportunity to do it in one of these new generation world rally cars – the championship-winning car – is a dream come true.

“I have a lot of experience at Rallye Monte-Carlo which helps when it comes to reading the road and adapting the pace to suit the conditions, but this event is never easy. It’s one of the toughest events on the calendar and to do well you need to drive a clever rally by making the right calls on the tyres and finding the right balance between pushing hard and being more cautious.

“As one of the ‘French’ events, I feel at home at Rallye Monte-Carlo and am really looking forward to it. First and foremost, we want to have fun. We’ll start in a relaxed frame of mind and if we could help the team by scoring some good points for the manufacturers’ championship it would be amazing.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Pierre Budar

“The new season is upon us, which obviously means both excitement and uncertainty. After claiming second place in Germany and winning in Spain in the second part of 2017, which confirmed the growing strength of the team, I am determined to continue the work begun by Yves Matton, so that the team picks up in 2018 where it left off at the end of last year. This is especially the case since the C3 WRC has been further improved during the off-season, with intensive work put into widening its operating spectrum. Kris Meeke has the required experience to fight at the front at this unique event, as he showed in 2016, whilst Craig gained a lot of confidence from last year’s appearance and is determined to use it to push for a good position. They both also know that you can’t approach this rally just like any other: you must remain composed and treat the stages with the respect they deserve to avoid getting caught out by one of the many tricky sections.”

Citroen C3 WRC, Rallye Monte Carlo, Photo credit, Citroen Racing.

Kris Meeke

“Monte is probably one of the season’s hardest rallies, because of the constant changes in grip, but I’ve always really enjoyed it. I’ve also been quick here. I won the event in the Junior WRC class in 2005, I picked up a podium (3rd) on my full-time return to the WRC with Citroën in 2014 and I fought for the win in 2016… So, I think that we can do a good job here, especially since our off-season tests were held on roads that are fairly representative of what we’ll be facing during the rally, with a good variety of weather conditions. The test sessions also enabled us to keep improving the ability of our C3 WRC to adapt to changes in road surface, particularly by heading back to the Col de Faye, which is where we were least comfortable last year.”

 

Craig Breen

“Monte-Carlo is a rally that I love. It’s a unique challenge, something you don’t get on any of the other events. Until 2017, however, I never felt sufficiently confident in the kind of changeable, slippery conditions you get here. But last year, with the old car, we surprised ourselves. With a bit more horsepower, we could have aimed for the podium, so that gives me confidence. I’d like to think we can do it this time around, even though I’m not the most experienced driver in the line-up. Especially in that based on what we learned in 2017, we come into this event better prepared and with a C3 WRC that is even more versatile.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Tommi Mäkinen

“This time last year, we didn’t really know where we were as we prepared for the debut of the Toyota Yaris WRC. In the coming season, I believe that we can be a lot more consistent, which is really what we need in order to fight for the championship titles. That is our aim after our learning season last year. The break since Rally Australia finished has not been very long but we have been very busy trying to make our car even better. Rallye Monte-Carlo is always a tough event to start the season with. Although I won it four times during my career as a driver, I didn’t prepare for it very well back then: I would not even think about rallying, and just go skiing instead! Our three drivers have been doing much better preparation, with a lot of testing, and we hope for a good result.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala

“We learned a lot last year during our first season together. We discovered where we needed to improve, and we are now ready for the second year and I think we should be very competitive. We have a very good driver line-up: all of us managed to win in 2017 and when everybody is aiming for victories it is usually good for the team. We already achieved a good result on Rallye Monte-Carlo on the debut for the Yaris WRC last year, finishing in second place, which equalled my best result there. Then, it was important to have a clean rally and the same will be true this year, but we also want to have good speed.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Rallye Monte Carlo 2017, Photo Credit Alastair Cummins

Ott Tänak

“There is a lot of excitement ahead of my first rally for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. The team did a really good job last year: even though it was their first season they were already very competitive. I could see how much potential there is and I wanted to make sure I was part of this team in the coming years. Our target is the same: to win the championship. I am just getting used to the team but already I feel very welcome and the preparation has been going really well. In Monte Carlo we will see how we are compared to the competition. For sure, it is one of the most challenging events on the calendar. You don’t know what to expect: whether it will be snow or ice, wet or dry.”

 

Esapekka Lappi

“This will be my first full season in a World Rally Car and the approach needs to be a bit different to before: I need to be a bit more consistent. I still need to gain some more experience: during the first part of the season there are rallies I do not know so well, and Rallye Monte-Carlo is one of those. It is an event where experience can really help, so my aim has to be to do all the stages. Later in the season there are the rallies where I have confidence and where I should be most competitive. The preparation is good: we have just been trying to improve the car and ourselves.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Michel Nandan

“We are as well prepared for this new season as we can be with renewed ambitions for the championship. The performance of our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in the final rounds of last season, especially winning in Australia, gave us a good springboard for winter development. We have taken the car and crews to France and Spain for seven days of testing in the past month, in an effort to replicate conditions that we expect in Monte. The beauty of this opening event is its unpredictability, so we have to be prepared for anything. Autosport International brought together all the manufacturer teams for a unique event, one that perfectly showcases the WRC’s community spirit. We know our rivals will be formidable and relentless, so we have to be on top of our game at all times. Bring on round one – let’s hope it’s another classic Monte.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen

“It’s an amazing feeling to be starting a complete WRC season with Hyundai Motorsport. Last year was a bit frustrating, so I am looking forward to a consistent year with lots of rallying and aiming to be in the championship fight. Monte, of course, is an incredibly difficult challenge to start a new year with all kinds of conditions, including night driving where black ice can catch anyone out. Alongside Anders, I can’t wait to get our 2018 campaign underway.”

 

Thierry Neuville

“Excitement for this new WRC season is at fever pitch. The launch event in Birmingham put us all in a very positive frame of mind, and ready to attack the year ahead. Monte-Carlo is a very special event, one at which even the slightest error can be rally-ending. We saw last year, having led the event comfortably right until the penultimate day, that a small mistake put us out in a very frustrating manner. That’s what Monte is all about; it’s a tough challenge to start the year. We will aim to put all the lessons learned from our participation in the recent editions of this event to good use.”

Thierry Neuville, Rallye Monte Carlo, Photo credit, Alastair Cummins

Dani Sordo

“I am pleased to be starting my fifth season with Hyundai Motorsport at one of the most demanding events on the calendar – Monte-Carlo. We have developed a strong working relationship and although my schedule for this season is just seven events, I will aim to get as much out of them as I possibly can. I have a new co-driver for this season, Carlos, so there will be some areas we need to refresh, but we are optimistic we can deliver a positive result in this debut rally of the new year. We have to expect the unexpected at Monte-Carlo, and it will definitely be a tough fight against our rivals.”

In recent weeks it has been snowing, and this means that the teams and drivers will have a big challenge in getting the right strategy in terms of tyres. With the first stage on Thursday evening, the shakedown held in Gap at 4pm on Wednesday afternoon will be crucial in allowing the teams to really judge how their cars are behaving on these unique roads.

 

We’re all set for an amazing year then! Who will take victory?

2018 WRC season preview!

We are just a little over a week away from the start of the new WRC season! This year’s calendar features a couple of changes. Rally Turkey has returned and has a slot in the middle of September and Wales Rally GB is now on the first weekend of October. Rally Poland does not return this year, which means that there are still 13 rounds like last year.

 

Here’s the full calendar!

Monte-Carlo   25 – 28 January

Sweden              15 – 18 February

Mexico                   8 – 11 March

France                    5 – 8 April

Argentina        26 – 29 April

Portugal            17 – 20 May

Italy                        7 – 10 June

Finland              26 – 29 July

Germany            16 -19 August

Turkey                 13 – 16 September

Great Britain        4 – 7 October

Spain                  25 – 28 October

Australia           15 – 18 November

Reigning champion Seb Ogier will lead the M-Sport challenge with Elfyn Evans alongside him in the number two car. Teemu Suninen will drive a third Fiesta WRC in eight rounds.

 

Malcolm Wilson OBE, M-Sport WRT

“Every year we look forward to revealing our liveries, and this year we were able to do it in style with a joint launch at what is widely considered to be the traditional start of the motorsport season – Autosport International.

“We pride ourselves on producing striking liveries year after year, and this year is no different. Increased technical support from Ford Performance is represented, as is the increased involvement from Red Bull which sees their support extend to the younger drivers coming through our ranks.

“Another thrilling year of close-fought competition awaits, and we can’t wait to get going.”

M-Sport’s Fiesta WRC, Photo credit, Warren Nel

Ott Tanak has switched to the Toyota Gazoo WRT alongside Jari-Matti and Esapekka. Jari-Matti and Miikka have their eyes set on regular points and podiums with their re-worked Yaris, and Ott has definitely made the switch, looking to win championships.

Tommi Mäkinen, Toyota Team Principal

“It’s great to launch the 2018 season at the Autosport International show in front of so many motorsport fans. After a very pleasing first season in 2017 we are excited to build on that in the year ahead. We saw last year that the Toyota Yaris WRC was already capable of winning rallies, which was a great achievement by the team, but the competition also allowed us to discover areas that we can improve. With more time and more learning, we have been able to update the front end of the car to give us better aerodynamic performance, and we also have improvements to the cooling. I’m very excited that we’re going to keep on learning this year, as part of our mission to make ever-better cars.”

 

Hyundai sees Thierry and Andreas do the full season, with Hayden and Dani sharing a third car. Hayden will be driving in Sweden.

Team Principal Michel Nandan said:

“All of us at Hyundai Motorsport have been honoured to play a small part in today’s WRC launch at Autosport International. To have the chance to unveil our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in such a unique way has been incredible, and we are excited by the plans announced by WRC to show every stage live this season. We are always looking to reach new audiences, and show our sport in the most authentic way possible. WRC All Live is the ideal way to do that, and we are sure fans will be closer to the action than ever before.  It’s really been the best way to kick-start 2018.”

 

Citroen will feature Kris Meeke doing the full season and Craig Breen doing ten rounds. Legend Seb Loeb will drive in three rounds, Mexico, Corsica and Spain. Also announced at the Autosport Show, WRC launch day, Mads Ostberg will drive a third C3 WRC in Rally Sweden as a one-off drive, although he’s set his sights on securing more competition time in that car. Khalid Al Qassimi will also drive a few events as well.

Citroen legend Sebastian Loeb, Photo credit, Citroen Racing.

Yves Matton, Former Citroën Racing Team Principal

“For 2018, we have decided to capitalise on what we’ve been building for a number of seasons now with Kris and Craig. Kris’ speed is unquestionable, and with the more relaxed mindset he had at the end of the year, he proved he had it in him to be a leader. The aim will be to target podiums, secure some wins, but Kris can also go for position in the championship. Meanwhile, Craig proved that he was the perfect foil, with some very consistent performances. There is still room for him to improve and aim even higher. I’m also delighted to see that there will be another chapter in the great history between Sébastien Loeb and Citroën: he couldn’t have returned to the WRC with anyone other than us! Seb confirmed that he has lost none of his speed and skill during the test sessions completed, although he is bound to be short of knowledge of the stages and time in the car, compared with the increasingly tough competition. We still believe in Stéphane: we are convinced that he will be a good ambassador for the Citroën C3 R5, for which the brand has great hopes. And this programme will allow him to continue to add to his experience and therefore keep improving.”

 

The big questions remain. Who will emerge triumphant this year? Can Thierry go one better than last year? When I spoke to him and his co-driver Nicolas last week, they were thinking more of the championship, than wins, realising that consistency is crucial when the cars and drivers are so evenly matched.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
2018 Birmingham Team Launch
10-11 January 2018
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Citroen are the sleeping giant, of all the teams, I’d say. They had a better second half in 2017 after changes to the car. With Kris, they have a very good talent, and he can certainly challenge for the championship. Craig will continue his development at the highest level.

You can read what a few of them had to say, when I interviewed them at last week’s Autosport Show. Check out my separate article

 

Come back soon to read my preview for Rallye Monte Carlo!

Citroen Press Release- Pierre Budar, appointed Director of Citroën Racing

Pierre Budar succeeds Yves Matton, who joins the FIA as FIA Rally Director, after having initiated the return of the brand to the WRC.

The Citroën Racing Team, under the leadership of Pierre Budar, to recpnnect with the brand’s prestigious victories in motorsport, with 8 World rally championship titles, 3 WTCC World championship titles and 4 victories at Paris-Dakar Rally.

A graduate of the Ecole Centrale de Nantes, Pierre Budar joined Groupe PSA in 1989 as an engineer before being an official 309 Group N driver for the Peugeot Talbot Sport Team in 1991 and pursuing a brilliant career in engineering in France and in Asia.

After having created in 2010 the department of sports road versions (DS3 Racing, 208 GTi 30th, 308 GTi, DS3 Performance), he expanded his scope in 2016 to activities related to the Customer Competition. With his teams, he notably developed the 308 TCR and the C3R5.

His passion and his skills are undoubtedly an asset to reinvigorate Citroën Racing who is preparing to start the 2018 season of WRC at Monte Carlo rally with his C3WRC entrusting young talents Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle and Craig Breen / Scott Martin

 

On the occasion of his appointment Pierre Budar says: “Groupe PSA has given me a unique opportunity to reconcile my passion for motorsport with an engineering career. I never imagined one day running one of the most prestigious competition teams in the world. I measure the challenge that is proposed to me at the head of an extraordinary team and I will strive to obtain the best of its talents”

Jean Marc Finot, Senior Vice President of PSA Motorsport, adds: “I am proud that the FIA ​​nominates Yves Matton to this prestigious position and would like to thank him for his contribution. I am pleased to give Pierre Budar the opportunity to express all his energy and enthusiasm in the service of ourcit passion: motorsport”

Autosport International Show WRC interviews 2018

I got the opportunity to speak to the stars of the WRC during the launch day of the Championship.

2018 WRC Launch, Autosports International Show, NEC – Birmingham, UK, 11/01/2018

Here’s what they had to say.

 

First of all, I asked Citroen driver Craig Breen to sum up his 2017 season. This is what he said.

“It was a good first season in the world championship, close to a full season. The car wasn’t as good as we’d hoped, and we had to work hard on development in the middle of the year. Even still, it was a good year I’m quite happy, we showed some good speed and some rallies we were quite consistent finishing six times in fifth, so I was happy with that.”

I then asked him about his stellar drive to fifth in Monte Carlo in a 2016 DS3, and of course driving a C3 WRC there this year.

“Yes, Monte was a surprise with the old car, it was nice to do it, to get familiar with the event. Yes, I’m really looking forward to it, first time out with the big car there, and really excited!”

I then asked him which events he was most looking forward to this season.

“Finland, we’ve done well in Finland in the past, bagging a podium with third place in 2016. Portugal as well, Germany too.”

I then asked him if the team had got a good handle with the cars technical aspects.

“Yes, its definitely getting better and better with every test session and it’s going in the right direction and the team have already tested for Monte Carlo and have another two-day test next week.”

 

I spoke to Paul Nagle next, co-driver with Kris Meeke.

I started by asking him which events he was most looking forward to.

“Corsica was the first that he mentioned, saying we should have won that last year and the car gave up. Looking forward to going back to places that we won (Mexico and Portugal). It would be good to get a result in Monte and Sweden, solid results would be good, then Argentina as well (where they took their maiden victory).

I then asked him if he thought they had the pace in the car to challenge as last year was a mix, with a car that was hard to handle.

“We had the pace on tarmac, but the car was a handful. We improved as the year went on, getting more consistent results.”

Finally, I asked him about Sebastian Loeb joining the team for three events.

Autosport International Show, January 2018, Photo credit, Warren Nel

“It’s a good thing, he’s nine times world champion, brings a lot of experience, plus a lot of profile and support to the team and I’m looking forward to working with him.”

Kris Meeke was next up. I said to him that Paul was really positive for the season.

He said, “Its nice to start with a clean slate, and 2017 wasn’t the year we’d hoped for, yet we were able to take two victories. It could have been more with Corsica and Portugal. We certainly struggled in certain areas, I made a few mistakes, probably through my usual trait of trying too hard, when things aren’t right. We identified things that where we were inconsistent and needed to improve, even looking to improve myself as well. We’ll take each event as it comes and hopefully we can try to be in the mix for the title, and give it their best shot.”

I then asked if they’d got a handle on the car.

“Yes, it turned around quite a bit, for sure the car was strong on tarmac, bar Monte Carlo, on gravel we certainly improved after we changed our suspension supplier to Ohlins, and that improved everything. However, there are still areas we have to work on, so we’ll wait and see.”

We then got the surprising news that Mads Ostberg had signed to drive in Rally Sweden for the team!

He said, “Well, for now its just for Rally Sweden, and that he’s working with Yves Matton to drive more events. I’m motivated to work with Citroen, it was some of the best years of my career, it’s a good mix and I’m happy to be back.”  He continued, “I had eight or nine podiums whilst there.

He’s yet to drive the car, but the amount of test time is already agreed.

Mads continued, “I’m happy with the programme that is ahead of me for Rally Sweden.”

He had a real up and down Rally Sweden in the One Bet Fiesta WRC. I asked him for his memories of it.

“We were doing well and in the podium position, then we lost the wing, then we had the gearbox problem and then also had a puncture! I got the longest jump on Colins Crest as well!”

 

Now it was time to talk to the Hyundai team, and I started with Thierry Neuville’s co-driver, Nicolas Gilsoul.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
2018 Birmingham Team Launch
10-11 January 2018
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

I asked him what his hopes were for the new season.

“I think it’s quite clear. We missed the title last year, it’s our main target this year. He said less focus on the wins and more on the title itself and look to get the optimum result each time.”

Asking him if he was disappointed at all with the results, he said,

“No, not at all. A few had said that, and there is a little frustration, but that’s completely gone now and actually its been a fantastic season. If you check the numbers, you can see we have a lot of stage wins, more than Ogier and Tanak together, and except mid-season on a few rallies we struggled, for example we had a mechanical problem in Sardinia, in Finland the car was not competitive, we lost a wheel in Germany, three rallies in a row where we were not competitive or suffered mechanical problems, so except for that it was a very good season. Thinking of the problem at the start of the season, for sure, it should not happen, but I never count the corners through the year but we need some jokers, it’s close to impossible to drive at full speed to not do a mistake and sometimes its only a little mistake and its okay, and sometimes its not and you lose a wheel, or you break something and it’s over.”

I suggested that this is what he and Thierry wanted to do, to conquer these moments and overcome them.

“Yes, it’s a combination of things, to be really strong together, we are winning together and losing together and it’s the same for the team, for example three years ago when it was looking like we were not wanted by the teams we started to complain about the procedures, but it’s not the right way. The most important is to analyse what’s happened, to define what’s happened, to try and win through and solve the problem.”

Speaking about last season, he continued;

“I think last season, we didn’t start with the right mindset, because we didn’t expect it to be so competitive, and when we realised it, it was already too far through the season. Now this season we will start thinking of the championship. Now last year we mostly focused on rally wins.”

I asked them how long they’ve driven together and he said;

“Since 2011” he said. “We are very strong together, we know each other very well, we like working together and it’s easy and not boring at all, it’s still exciting, it’s good because now we are experienced and you are more confidant, because at the beginning you checking and double checking everything, and you are sometimes tired, and now it’s not being lazy, you trust yourself and you its been done and you don’t have to keep checking.”

 

Next, I had a chat with Seb Marshall, who is Hayden Paddon’s co-driver. He’s been working with the Kiwi for a couple of years now, but this will mark a first time they start a season together.

Seb Marshall, Hyundai Motorsport, Autosport International Show, January 2018, Photo credit, Warren Nel

He said “Yes, it’s nice to start a season together, and its confirmed that we have seven events this year, starting with Sweden, and gravel the rest of the year. Now the key objective is results wise with the drivers’ title not a consideration for us one of the key objectives is helping the team win the manufacturers championship, so that means that we need to score well. Last year we scored a couple of podiums and the target is that we can repeat that, and also take advantage of our road position on some events and string things together and target a win. We’ll take things as they come, take opportunities and see where we are at the end of the year.”

I spoke next to Thierry. I said to him, that it got away from him, but that it was a positive year on the whole despite the odd slip up.

He said, “It was a very positive year, the speed was there, the car was very good, the best performance of the team, we can’t complain. We just missed out on the objective, the most important, probably its not all about being world champion, but also enjoyable to do, I really enjoyed what we did we had a huge satisfaction, and I think a great preparation for the up-coming year as well, running in this position, we were one of the contenders for the title and at one point we were leading the championship, these are all things to experience and we have experienced it now we have to be constantly in this position. It won’t be easy. Looking forward to it!”

 

Next up, I spoke to Jari-Matti and his co-driver Miikka from Toyota. The second year with the team run by Finnish legend, Tommi Makinen. I started by saying, its your second year at Toyota.

2018 WRC Launch, Autosports International Show, NEC – Birmingham, UK, 11/01/2018

Jari-Matti said “Yes, it’s going to be exciting, Easier to start the second year than the first year, but there is a little more pressure of course, but you know on the other hand that the car is competitive!”

Of course, we did see Jari-Matti lead the championship after Rally Sweden last year.

Jari-Matti continued, “The first half of the season was very well and the first two races were special, it was an amazing feeling to be leading after Sweden, I knew that it would be more demanding in the high altitude races coming up, Mexico, Argentina, yes we were suffering in those, then it was getting better and I thought that wouldn’t face problems but we did mid-season, and of course it was disappointing to get them at the time when we could almost fight for the championship, but on the other hand it was the learning year and you know that they were coming, but still I prefer this way, that we had a good start to the season, it was really a bit great.”

I asked him next what his hopes were for the new season and what they had worked on over the winter.

“We have the new front bumper, the new front aero, which will give help to the turnings, work done on the engine, gears and suspension and I feel the car is better than last year. The target is to try to fight for podiums in every race.”

I then suggested that we saw a rebirth of him last year after leaving Volkswagen and asked him if that was fair to say.

He replied, “That yes that was fair to say, at Ford I was young and fast but made a lot of mistakes, then I went to Volkswagen and I was close and two times I finished second in the championship, but Ogier was always a step ahead with the consistency but then coming to the Toyota I thought start a new era just focus really for the consistency and it was going well and the target is to keep that this year as well.”

I asked him next on his feelings about Rally Finland where he retired with a problem on the Saturday afternoon.

He said, “Ah, that was very, very, disappointing, I mean my best single day performance in the morning before the technical problems, but these things can happen.”

I then asked him about the relationship between the drivers.

His reply was typically honest as you’d expect.

“In our team we are close and even with the little change with Ott Tanak coming in and Juho being test driver, to try and keep that spirit. All in all, in the rally world basically I would say all the drivers have a very good relationship, it’s not like in the racing world.”

Finally, I asked him which events he was most looking forward to this year, well, other than Rally Finland of course!

He said “For sure Sweden is important, I like Sardinia, Catalunya which I have really wanted to win for a long time.”

 

Then I spent some time talking to Miikka Anttila. I asked him how many years he’d been in the car with Jari-Matti and also how he found the transition from Volkswagen to Toyota.

2018 WRC Launch, Autosports International Show, NEC – Birmingham, UK, 11/01/2018

“Since 2003, I think it’s the fifteenth year already, a long time. We have a very good working relationship. The biggest part is that the team is from Finland, working so much with the Finnish people, for sure makes it a much, much easier, I mean let’s say if we went to Citroen, it wouldn’t have been so easy, and then of course already in the team there were people we knew from the past, I mean not Finnish guys, but from M-Sport times, so all in all its been really easy. When we went there, we found it was a good boost for all the people in the team, that we came from Volkswagen who’d just scored the fourth title.”

Asking him their goals for the year, I said that Jari-Matti had said lots of podiums were what they were hoping for.

“Yes, to fight for the championship, you don’t have to win everything, but you do have to be in the points constantly, when you think the 2017 season there were so many different winners, it means the car needs to be on a good level. The other thing is that it’s the second year of the team, now in this sport you cannot happen that go and win at the top level straight away. Okay, in a way, Volkswagen did that, they did enter the car 18 months before the first rally with the world rally car, they went there with the smaller car, and they faced all the conditions, whereas we faced all the conditions with the new car. If we’d joined with the old regulations, then probably the gap would have been a lot bigger, but now it was new for everybody.”

I asked him next about the development of the Polo WRC and how it compared to the Yaris when they first drove it.

Autosport International Show 2018, Toyota Yaris WRC, Photo credit, Warren Nel

“We didn’t drive the latest of the 2017 Polo, as it was October the last time we drove it, and there would have been improvements to come, but they didn’t come and the car wasn’t finalised when we did our final test. That’s why it’s a bit difficult to compare. For sure, our car was changed a lot between the first test and before Monte Carlo and there were new parts coming all the time which were decided before we joined the team, because it was already December when we joined the team.”

Finally, I asked him about Seb, former teammate at Volkswagen and what he was like to work with.

“Let’s say he was a proper competitor, in the way he is always thinking for the competition what he can improve, not always telling to others, a bit not giving all the secrets of what he has in his pocket.”

 

Finally, I spoke to Elfyn and asked him what his hopes were for this new season

Elfyn Evans, M-Sport driver, Autosport International Show, January 2018, Photo credit Mitch Oakley

He said, “Yep, massively looking forward to it, there’s a lot to do, a lot of expectations to live up to thanks to the success of the team last year, expectations are high but so are my own expectations, to be honest, I would really like to be consistently on the podium as often as we can, we’re anticipating that its going to be even more competitive year, this year so we could find that a big challenge, looking forward to it!”

I then asked him about that win that got away in Argentina.

He said “After the rally it was a second-place finish, after a tough start in the first three or four rallies, although we were starting to show good speed, we’d not been able to bag a good result for different reasons so on reflection of the rally it wasn’t such a bad result, finishing second. At the time, it was hurting pretty badly, I have to be honest after showing such good speed through the first day and fighting through problems on the second, to lose by such a fine margin was tough to accept, but like I say looking back now with everything that happened it is was it is and second at the time was a positive result”

I also asked him about #ElfynsCorner.

“Well, yes it was a surprise to be honest when it came up, I had no involvement in it what-so-ever, I still don’t, its purely a fan base thing, we enjoyed massive support on the rally, both through ElfynsCorner and otherwise, just throughout the weekend, the amount of people supporting both on and off the stages was incredible, something I’d never experienced before, okay I’d always enjoyed great support in Wales before, but never to this extent.”

I then explained that I’d been in touch with the individuals, before it all it all spiraled into what had happened. The reason they did it was because they wanted to raise your profile, they felt you weren’t valued and wanted to show their support. I gave him the names of all the individuals who made it happen and he recognized them.

Autosport International Show 2018, M-Sport Fiesta WRC, Photo credit Warren Nel

His response was interesting, “It especially hard in the UK, because we have so many successful, high level sports, it’s very difficult to build a profile, especially through motorsport, so many high-profile tennis players, football players, football is massive, whereas let’s say Ott, he’s in the top three sportsmen in Estonia!”

 

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the thoughts of the teams. We are getting really close to the start of the season, with just twelve days to go!

Pop back soon, as I’ll have my preview for round one very soon.

 

WRC 2017 review, Seb Switches and makes it Five!

What a year we’ve just had! Here’s my round by round review of this year’s championship.

 

When the new cars were launched, we were treated to the most spectacular looking cars for a very long time. We also had the prospect of the most open championship for years. Volkswagen had left and we had a returning Citroen team.

 

Round One Monte Carlo

There was sadness on Thursday evening when Hayden Paddon slid wide on ice and a spectator was in the wrong place. Out of respect, Hyundai withdrew the car.

Through the weekend, Thierry opened up a big lead, to over a minute, until stage 13 on the Saturday afternoon. He slid wide and damaged his suspension. After completing a quick fix, he completed the stage. However, he was out for the rest of that day. He would re-join under Rally2 regs, but the win had slipped away. Sebastien Ogier had lost time earlier in the weekend, after sliding wide and getting stuck in a ditch, but he chipped away and after getting comfortable in the car had emerged in the lead after Thierry’s accident.

Several other drivers had starring roles too. Craig Breen was driving the previous years car and produced some giant killing times and ultimately finished in fifth place! Top three in the end was Ogier, Latvala and Tanak. It was M-Sport’s first win in Monte Carlo since 2006 and their first win since Wales Rally GB in 2012.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Monte Carlo (FRA) – WRC 18/01/2017 to 22/01/2017 – PHOTO : @World

 

Round Two, Rally Sweden

It was another spectacular event in northern Sweden. Lots of snow, gave us some very good conditions for all the drivers to do their magic.

Mads Ostberg returned to the championship with a Fiesta WRC run by Team Adapta. He had a very interesting time, losing his rear wing during stage four. On Saturday he attempted to beat the record jump from the year before from Colin’s Crest. It stood at 45 metres and he came very close indeed. In the first run of the stage he reached 42 metres and then later set an amazing 44 metres!

Once more Thierry drove a perfect event, building a decent lead, until the final stage on Saturday when his bad luck struck again and he broke his left front wheel after sliding wide. Incredibly, Jari-Matti in his brand-new Yaris WRC was there to pick up the victory.

After taking the lead with just a 3.8 second gap on Saturday evening, he increased it to almost 30 seconds by the end of the rally! With this brilliant drive, he also took the lead of the world championship, leading Sebastien by four points.

Citroen weren’t having a very good time though, with Kris Meeke sliding out on Saturday and incredibly Craig Breen was their top driver in the championship. On the other side, M-Sport were doing really well after seeing Seb and Ott finish both events this year on the podium. Malcolm and the whole team were delighted.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Sweden (SWE) – WRC 09/02/2017 to 12/02/2017 – PHOTO : @World

 

Round Three, Rally Mexico

A month later, the teams headed for the first gravel event of the year, and well, it didn’t start well. After transporting the cars to Mexico City for two short stages on Thursday night, there was a delay getting them back to Leon, which ultimately meant all of the Friday morning stages were cancelled.

It was time for Kris to shine after a troubled start to the year, and he took the lead of the rally through Friday and increased it on Saturday to thirty seconds. M-Sport, Hyundai and Toyota all experienced car problems, with overheating on the very hot stages. Elfyn Evans was also showing that his year away from the top had done his confidence the world of good, setting some good times and building his knowledge for the future.

Ultimately, Kris won Rally Mexico, but not without some big drama! On the final stage, he went wide and left the road clipping a parked car! After re-joining the stage, he crossed the line thirteen seconds ahead of Seb, with Thierry completing the podium!

After that result, Seb moved back into the lead of the championship ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala, who could only manage sixth.

Kris Meeke, Rally Mexico 2017 victor

 

Round Four, Tour de Corse

Day one on the Island of Corsica belonged to Kris and the Citroen team. In the four long stages he felt very comfortable and opened up a lead of 10 seconds over his closest challenger Seb. It was Ott Tanak who would not have a good day. He slid wide in stage three and although the car wasn’t damaged, it was stuck fast and wouldn’t move. Thierry Neuville would have a good day though and was not far off the lead in third.

Saturday would ultimately lead to disappointment for Kris, Paul and the whole Citroen team. After driving really well, they would suffer a mechanical failure with the engine letting go on stage six. It was over. Elfyn would also suffer misfortune, after sliding off and beaching his car.

Sunday would see Thierry continue to lead and take his first victory of the year! A battle for second place between Seb and Dani would entertain us, which ultimately would go to the Frenchman. Jari-Matti would finish in fourth after a very good drive.

Thierry’s drive to victory would see him jump to third in the championship with 54 points, but Seb was in a strong position on top with 88 points.

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04, Tour de Corse – Rallye de France
06-09 April 2017
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Sarah Vessely
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

 

Round Five, Rally Argentina

Kris Meeke and Haydon Paddon had both won this rally in the last two years, but really anything could happen. Would we see another first-time victor?

Well, through Friday we started to hope! Elfyn Evans would win a number of stages and opened up a lead of 55 seconds from second placed Mads Ostberg! Thierry was third at this point, just five seconds behind Mads. Pretty much all the other driver experienced problems of or kind or another. Kris rolled out and his teammate Craig hit the same bump and damaged his gearbox, leaving him stuck in fifth gear.

Saturday would see a big drive from Thierry getting the gap down to Elfyn from a minute, to just eleven seconds. Even a puncture wouldn’t slow him down. However, he was helped with some problems for the Welsh wizard who got a puncture on stage eleven. Ogier had problems in the morning, but after a lot of setup changes in service, the car was handling better.

On the final day, it all unravelled for Elfyn and Dan. They lost more time in the first two stages, meaning that they were just six tenths of a second ahead going into the final stage. At the very end, Thierry did enough to take the victory from Elfyn, winning by just seven tenths of a second!

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

 

Round Six, Rally Portugal 

On the first day there was lots of drama, with Jari-Matti and Kris both damaging their cars. Hayden was challenging near the front, but an electrical problem dropped him from third to sixteenth! The top three was Ott, with Dani second and Seb in third at the end of day one.

On Saturday. Ott continued to have a good run, opening his lead up, but then disaster. He ran wide in stage 12 and damaged his car against a bank and dropped to fifth. Through the afternoon, Thierry and Seb would continue to fight for the lead. Ott’s car was fixed during mid-day, and this allowed him to push again in pursuit of Craig Breen who he passed later in the day.

Into Sunday then, and Seb drove to his second win of the year with Thierry just a few seconds behind. Rounding out the podium was Dani who had driven very well throughout the event. Ott drove well after his problem on Saturday getting into fourth place.

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

 

Round Seven, Rallye Italia Sardegna  

It was the breakthrough we’d been waiting for. Ott Tanak took his first WRC victory! However, it was Hayden who led at the end of the first day after early leader Kris rolled out in the morning. We also saw young Finn Esapekka take his first overall stage victories on Friday, definitely one to watch as we would discover!

On Saturday, Hayden started well, but sadly it didn’t last, with him getting a puncture and broken wheel which then damaged his car too much to continue beyond stage 13. Ott took the lead and by the end of the day, he’d built a decent lead over Jari-Matti, with Thierry in third.

On Sunday Ott used his head and drove to his first victory, whilst Jari-Matti secured second place and Thierry in third. Lappi drove very well to secure fourth as well ahead of Seb.

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

 

Round Eight, Rally Poland 

Kris was stood down for this round, after his accidents in the previous rounds. It rained in the morning of the first day. After a battle between Jari-Matti and Thierry for the lead on the first day, the top three would be Thierry, Ott and Jari-Matti. On his WRC debut, Teemu Suninen won his first stage behind the wheel of an M-Sport run Fiesta. Very impressive indeed. In the Citroen camp, Andreas would run wide and break his suspension. He would make it back to service though.

A dryer Saturday led to a dramatic day on the roads of Poland. The lead changed hands several times between Thierry and Ott who lost his rear wing during the afternoon stages. Hayden Paddon also won a few stages as well lifting himself into the top three. Jari-Matti sadly retired after his car stopped in stage 16.

On Sunday morning it was raining again. The battle was on between Thierry and Ott for the win. In the second stage of the day, Ott spun out hitting a tree in the process. Seb benefitted from that, moving into third overall. Thierry took his third victory of the year and Haydon finished second which after the year he’d been having was excellent news, whilst Seb finished a lucky third.

Thierry had now closed the gap to Seb after Poland to just eleven points and five rounds remained this year. The fight was on and it could go either way.

Thierry Neuville, Rally Poland 2017 victor.

 

Round Nine, Rally Finland 

This was an amazing rally, just like twelve months previously, but for very different reasons. The first thing that happened was that Seb crashed out after hitting a tree on stage four. Both he and Julien were taken to hospital. It was also a bad stage for Ott, who hit a rock causing a puncture. Hayden also hit the same rock, but the damage caused put him out. Through all of this came Jari-Matti, Esapekka Lappi and Teemu Suninen! The Finns were taking this rally back in a big way. After lots of lead changes on Friday, it was Esapekka who was in front of Jari-Matti, on only his fourth WRC start!

Saturday saw Jari-Matti take the lead from his younger Toyota teammate. However, after just a few stages it would all come to nought. Jari-Matti ground to a halt in the second run of Ouninpohja, giving the lead back to Lappi. Behind all these quick Finns, was Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt. They had found some great pace by the end of the day and found themselves just six seconds away from third place overall! Not bad for someone who’d not even run in the pre-event test!

No-one else led this event after Jari-Matti retired and Esapekka Lappi took his first victory! Incredibly, Elfyn and Dan came through and finished in second place! He passed Juho for third in stage 22, but then in stage 23, Juho repassed him, but also emerged in second overall after Teemu spun mid-stage! Anyway, at the end of all of that, Elfyn passed Juho in the very last stage to take second overall by just three tenths of a second!

In the battle for the world championship, things had got very interesting with Thierry Neuville drawing level with Seb Ogier on points, but being counted as leading at that point due to having three wins with Seb only on two.

Esapekka Lappi, Rally Finland victor 2017

 

Round ten, Rally Germany 

Ott Tanak took his second victory of the year in a rally that M-Sport had never won before. Thierry who won this rally in 2014, crashed out in the Panzerplatte stage breaking his suspension. Many drivers have crashed in this stage, and the Belgian ace was yet another claimed by it. Kris sadly crashed out during the Thursday night super special, after hitting one of the concrete barriers lining the stage. Ogier finished third, knowing that would be enough to retake the lead in the championship, whilst Andreas, driving for Citroen finished in second place.

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

 

Round eleven, Rally Spain. 

Kris Meeke took his second victory of the year on the classic mixed surface event that is Rally Spain. Friday sees the crews tackle gravel stage, before switching to smooth tarmac for Saturday and Sunday. Kris mastered the challenge brilliantly, and we saw him and Paul back to their very best form. Andreas made his debut for the Hyundai team, leading at the end of the first day, but ultimately not scoring any points after hitting a rock on Friday.

Thierry also endured an event to forget after experiencing car troubles on Friday which would cause handling problems and then damaging his suspension, putting him out on Sunday. Mads drove a brilliant event, to finish fifth with Torstein alongside him in their Adapta run Ford.

Seb and Ott drove to second and third positions and with that result put M-Sport on the brink of the manufacturers championship, plus Seb had an almost 40-point lead over second placed Thierry.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Catalunya (SPA) – WRC 05/10/2017 to 08/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

 

Round twelve, Wales Rally GB 

Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt drove to a consummate first victory on home soil, the first Brit and also first Welshman to achieve this result and the first home winner since 2000! It started with stage wins on Friday, building on that with good pace throughout Saturday, including the foggy night stages. It was the kind of victory that Seb Ogier would be happy with.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Wales Rally GB (GB) – WRC 26/10/2017 to 29/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

It was also a great weekend for the whole M-Sport team, with the manufacturers championship success, the first since 2006 and their first ever drivers title with Sebastien Ogier.

ELFYNSCORNER, Myherin, Wales Rally GB

Thierry drove a great rally to finish in second place, after sliding wide early on Friday and having to fight back from a penalty that he got on Friday. He was driving better again after two non-finishes which had ended his fight with Seb for the world championship. Third place went to Seb Ogier.

 

Round Thirteen, Rally Australia

Thierry Neuville showed that he was the man on the pace in 2017, with his fourth victory of the year Down Under. The victory came his way when his teammate, Andreas suffered a double puncture on Saturday morning when Thierry started to catch the Norwegian.

Jari-Matti had a pretty decent event, until Sunday. He was firmly in second place until the final power stage, when he crashed out. The weather turned really bad on Sunday and it was these conditions that saw him slide out.

With the Finn crashing his Yaris, Fiesta pilot, Ott moved into second. He’d been as low as sixth place, but had found good pace through Saturday to climb into the podium positions and held it together to take another podium in this stellar year for him.

Hayden completed the podium, bringing his hardest season at the top to an end. It was the second podium of the year for him.

 

Conclusion

Well, what a season we had to enjoy! Seven different winners and three different leaders in the world championship made this a year to remember. Three new winners as well, with Ott Tanak, Esapekka Lappi and Elfyn Evans all taking their maiden victories.

We had spectacular cars as well. These new generation WRC beasts sounded great, looked great and they tested the drivers to new levels.

We had some answers to some questions too. Could Seb win with a different team? He answered that question. Could anyone challenge him? Well, yes, sort of. Thierry took more victories, but with too many non-finishes, he fell short in the end. Ott Tanak took two wins as well, just like his teammate, but he’s still early in his career and lacked the experience to consistently challenge Seb.

Kris Meeke took two wins as well, but also crashed out too often and was stood down for Rally Poland. In my opinion this was the wrong decision really.

Toyota made a great return to the sport with the team run by 4-times world champion Tommi Makinen, with two victories from Jari-Matti and Esapekka, even leading the drivers’ championship after Rally Sweden. However, they weren’t going challenge all year and they can count it as a really good result to finish ahead of Citroen in the manufacturers standings.

The WRC class of 2017

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers

1 Sebastien Ogier 232
2 Thierry Neuville 208
3 Ott Tänak 191
4 Jari-Matti Latvala 136
5 Elfyn Evans 128
6 Dani Sordo 95
7 Kris Meeke 77
8 Hayden Paddon 74
9 Juho Hänninen 71
10 Craig Breen 64
11 Esapekka Lappi 62

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after round 13:

1 M-Sport World Rally Team 428
2 Hyundai Motorsport 345
3 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT 251
4 Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 218

What will 2018 bring?! Its exciting times for sure!