Well, that was fantastic. #ElfynsCorner went down well indeed! The banner had gone up on Thursday afternoon in very foggy conditions! However, we woke on Friday morning to a beautiful morning. Having driven into the stage very late on Thursday night, we camped out in our cars. This was true rally life!
Up on the hill, looking down on ElfynsCorner we positioned ourselves for the double running of Myherin. The crowd grew until there were hundreds of excited rally fans. There were ElfynsCorner stickers to sell, with the proceeds going to The Welsh Air Ambulance.
During the afternoon, WRC TV came and interviewed Peter Jones, who had become the spokesman for the group. The second run of the stage was about to start, so they stayed and filmed the group when Elfyn and Dan were coming past. The excellent news of course, was that they had increased their overall lead at the end of the stage. The group were very happy indeed!
Of course, Elfyn and Dan went on to take their first WRC victory!
Fast forward a couple of weeks and the money collected was handed over to The Welsh Air Ambulance. With the sales of the #ElfynsCorner stickers both before and during Friday, £400.63 was raised!
It was given to them yesterday when Sam Walker visited their base.
Next year, ElfynsCorner will be run again at Wales Rally GB! I suspect it will be even bigger!
It’s time for this year’s final round! The teams head for Coffs Harbour and the unique roads around the Gold Coast, with stages held on dusty tracks, the rainforest and through bushy territory giving this event an authentic down-under feel!
Last year, Andreas Mikkelsen took the victory in the final event entered by Volkswagen Motorsport. He returns this year, driving for Hyundai Motorsport.
The championships may have been decided, but there is lots to be excited about ahead of this classic event. We have our first winner from these shores for the first time since Richard Burns and Robert Reid won in 2000 for Subaru. If Elfyn wins down-under, he could finish ahead of Jari-Matti in the championship. We shall see….
There are 21 stages and a total of 318.33km’s of competitive action over the three days.
RALLY AUSTRALIA SCHEDULE (GMT+11)
THURSDAY 16 NOVEMBER
8.00am: Shakedown (5.02km)
FRIDAY 17 NOVEMBER
7.30am: Start (Coffs Harbour)
8.13am: SS1 – Pilbara I (9.71km)
8.36am: SS2 – Eastbank I (19.05km)
9.39am: SS3 – Sherwood I (26.68km)
11.24am: Service A (Coffs Harbour – 30 mins)
12.37pm: SS4 – Pilbara II (9.71km)
1.00pm: SS5 – Eastbank II (19.05km)
2.03pm: SS6 – Sherwood II (26.68km)
4.54pm: SS7 – Destination NSW SSS I (1.27km)
5.02pm: SS8 – Destination NSW SSS II (1.27km)
5.22pm: Flexi Service B (Coffs Harbour – 45 mins)
SATURDAY 18 NOVEMBER
6.00am: Service C (Coffs Harbour – 15 mins)
7.18am: SS9 – Nambucca17 (48.89km)
8.56am: SS10 – Newry17 I (20.87km)
9.44am: SS11 – Raceway SSS (1.37km)
10.49am: Service D (Coffs Harbour – 30 mins)
12.22pm: SS12 – Welshs Creek (33.49km)
1.08pm: SS13 – Argents Hill (12.24km)
2.16pm: SS14 – Newry17 II (20.87km)
4.54pm: SS15 – Destination NSW SSS III (1.27km)
5.02pm: SS16 – Destination NSW SSS IIII (1.27km)
7.32pm: Flexi Service E (Coffs Harbour – 45 mins)
SUNDAY 19 NOVEMBER
6.40am: Service F (Coffs Harbour – 15 mins)
7.38am: SS17 – Pilbara Reverse I (9.93km)
7.56am: SS18 – Bucca16 (31.90km)
9.08am: SS19 – Wedding Bells16 (6.44km)
10.33am: Service G (Coffs Harbour – 30 mins)
11.46am: SS20 – Pilbara Reverse II (9.93km)
1.13pm: SS21 – Wedding Bells16 II Power Stage (6.44km)
2.16pm: Service H (Coffs Harbour – 10 mins)
3.30pm: Podium (city centre)
Let’s hear from the drivers then.
Sébastien Ogier said:
“Heading to the final round of the season with a fifth championship already secured is fantastic, and exactly what we were aiming for in Wales. It lifts some of the pressure and means that we can go to Rally Australia fully focused on enjoying the great stages that they have there.
“I say some of the pressure as we still want to secure a good result. So far, the team has had a podium on every event and we want to see that continue next week. If it’s dry, our road position won’t make it easy, but we will try our best as always.
“It’s quite an intimate event, but the locals really get behind the rally and we always receive a very warm welcome. If we could end the season with another strong result, it really would be the perfect ending to an incredible year.”
Ott Tänak said:
“It’s a nice feeling heading to Rally Australia as part of a championship winning team, but the hard work isn’t over yet. We’ve still got a chance of finishing second in the championship and we’ll be giving our all to end our time with the team on a high.
“It won’t be easy – Rally Australia never is – and it’s completely different to anything else we experience. Everything is different – even the shadows in the forest – and we’ll have to be at the very top of our game if we want to deliver a strong result.
“It all starts with the recce and we’ll have to be fully focused from the word go – driving with complete trust in the notes and keeping the foot to the floor to combat what would be some fairly heavy road sweeping if it stays dry.”
Elfyn Evans said:
“Securing the win on home soil gave us an amazing feeling, but there wasn’t too much time to celebrate with the next event just around the corner. After a little party, it was straight into our preparations for Australia.
“I’ve always enjoyed this event, but it’s not been particularly kind to us in the past. It’s not the easiest of events and visibility can often be a big challenge. We can get some hanging dust and when the sun is low it can create a strobe effect through the trees which makes it difficult to read the road. It’s certainly an event where you need complete confidence in your notes.
“We missed this rally last year and there are quite a lot of new stages to get to grips with. We’ll also have to wait and see how the conditions suit our package. At the moment the forecasts look a bit uncertain, so that could be interesting. But whatever happens, I always enjoy coming to Australia and we’ll be giving it our all as always.”
Thierry Neuville said:
“Australia is an enjoyable rally, an event where I have finished on the podium a couple of times in the past. It will certainly be nice to finish the season with a great atmosphere and some Australian summer sunshine, my aim for this final rally is clear: to secure our second place in the Championship. We know we have the technical package to compete at the front, so with the addition of a bit of luck I am hopeful we can do what we need to do.”
Hayden Paddon said:
“It is always nice to be heading back to our side of the world. It isn’t quite a home event but it is as close as we can get. The support we receive from the fans is unreal and we want to give them a good show – and something to shout about. We are not competing on the public roads as much as previous seasons, with a lot more stages in the forest. That will make the event slightly different but we are confident in our abilities. Finishing the rally in Wales in the top-eight wasn’t necessarily the result we wanted, but it gave us good mileage in the car, which we hope will translate positively to Australia.”
Andreas Mikkelsen said:
“Australia is probably my favourite rally of the season, and I have great experiences from the event previously. Winning in 2016 was a great memory and I hope we can be in the mix again with Hyundai Motorsport. It would be an amazing way to end the season, and to prepare for a full-season campaign in 2018. It is always a challenging event, so nothing can be taken for granted. We do have an advantageous starting position, though, which we hope to make the most of. I am looking forward to it!”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
Kris Meeke said:
“I have some very good memories of my three appearances in Australia. In 2015, I had led the rally for two days before losing out to the VWs, but third place was nonetheless a very good result. This year, a few of the stages that appeared last year will be new to me, but that shouldn’t be a big problem because I feel comfortable on these roads. There are some characteristics that you just don’t get anywhere else. For example, the trees are so tall in the jungle that the light flashes through the branches, creating a ‘strobe’ effect. The changes in light can make it very difficult to read the road. I’m looking forward to contesting the Nambucca speed test again – it’s one of the finest stages of the season in my opinion. Considering our performance level at the last two gravel rallies, I think we’ll be there or thereabouts.”
Craig Breen said:
“I often say Australia is my second home! My sister lives in Perth and there is a big Irish community in the country, so I have a lot of friends and supporters here. I can’t wait to start my second rally outside of Europe. I know it won’t be easy, because I’ll have to learn the whole course, which is quite a disadvantage at an event that doesn’t change much from year to year. But the stages look magnificent and the performance of the C3 WRC on the last few rallies fills me with optimism. I hope we can finish 2017 in a positive manner.”
Stephane Lefebvre said:
“It’s easier to forget it, but this is the longest journey of the year and we have to think ahead and prepare for the time difference. In 2015, I came here originally just to do recce. Then Mads Østberg had an accident and the team asked me to step in to replace him at the last minute. We didn’t have our racing equipment and we had to come up with improvised solutions for all that within a few hours.. Despite the lack of preparation, I set some decent times overall, whilst also experiencing some difficulties in dealing with the stages in the rainforest, such as Nambucca. Everyone would like to finish the season on a high. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll be aiming to build on my level in Spain, when I was setting times within 2/10ths per kilometre of the leading drivers.”
Toyota Gazoo WRT
Jari-Matti Latvala said:
“I’m really looking forward to Rally Australia. It’s a nice event to finish the year, usually in warm conditions and sunshine. The stages are fast and flowing and it’s a rally that I have pretty much always enjoyed. This year there will be some new sections and parts that have not been used for a long time. On Rally GB we struggled slightly but I think the Yaris WRC should be well-suited to the stages in Australia. Personally, I want to go out there and really push for the podium, and if we could challenge for the victory that would be even better.”
Esapekka Lappi said:
“One of the main characteristics of Rally Australia is the loose gravel on top of the surface, so the first cars have to do a lot of road sweeping. Further down the order it should be better, but it is really important to keep the car on the racing line. Another challenge will be tyre management, as the second pass of the stages can be quite hard for the tyres, and if the weather is warm we will need to look after them. We weren’t so successful in Britain, but it should be better for us in Australia hopefully. We certainly want to have a good season finale.”
It should be a spectacular event, with every driver pushing to get a great result before the winter break. Ott Tanak will want to sign off his time with M-Sport with a top result and perhaps we’ll find out what’s happening with Seb as well. Will he be staying at M-Sport?
Kris did well here a couple of years ago, leading before ultimately finishing third, behind two Polo WRC’s. He’ll want to end the year well, after a real up and down season.
After coming so close earlier this year in Argentina, Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt took their maiden wrc victory driving a D-Mack shod Fiesta WRC. It had been 17 years since we had last had a British winner.
A record number of fans flocked to the event, numbering more than 100,000, after an amazing season of these new generation cars. What they witnessed was a supreme drive by the 28-year-old. Here’s the story of how it happened.
In shakedown, Elfyn set the pace leading Dani Sordo and Ott Tanak in third. This was looking good. The first stage of the rally was held that evening with Seb winning and continuing his amazing run. Elfyn was sixth, but only 1.1 seconds away.
Friday morning dawned a sunny day with light winds. Stage two was the Myherin test. The cars would head onto the stage in championship order meaning that Seb would be first on the road all day. His time would be good enough for third quickest, but it was the home boys that would be top with Elfyn leading Kris in the stage and the welsh wizard moving into the lead as well. Thierry would go wide in this stage, gathering some grass in his wing!
Out on stage, the ElfynsCorner crew were pretty happy! Top three at this point was Elfyn, Seb and Ott- an M-Sport 1-2-3.
Stage three in Sweet Lamb would see Ott and Thierry separated by just a tenth of a second with Elfyn in sixth, the gap was reduced by a second to 2.2 seconds.
The next stage in Hafren was the longest of the whole event at 35.14 km. Elfyn would emerge quickest again, and increased his lead over Ott to 6.7 seconds. Seb fell from second to fourth, now 16.4 behind the leader. Further back, Craig suffered a puncture, but it wasn’t clear how it happened.
With no service, the cars headed for Newtown to change tyres and fit light-pods.
The second run started at half past two. It was getting quite warm out there, and the road had really dried a lot, so much so, that the cars were kicking up a dust trail as they came through! Evans won the stage from Ogier by 4.3 seconds. His closest challenger for the lead, Ott could only manage eighth fastest, and 8.4 slower, meaning that he was now 15.1 behind Elfyn. Seb also moved ahead of Kris, back into third overall.
Seb would win the second run of Sweet Lamb, and closed the gap to Ott as well. This was going well for Elfyn indeed as he was second fastest and his lead was 16.1 seconds with one stage to go, this was looking good!
The second run of Hafren, saw Thierry take his first stage win of the weekend and he would climb into fourth overall, moving ahead of Latvala and Meeke. Ott was slower again than Elfyn, meaning that the lead was now an incredible 24.6 seconds. Further back, Craig had made a mistake and slid off the road, but he managed to get going again and completed the stage.
It was the first time that Elfyn and Dan had led at home ever, and the first time we had a Briton pairing lead at home since 2001!
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION- Day One
Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:09:20.9
Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +24.6
Andreas Mikkelsen / Ander Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +52.0
Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:13.9
Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:22.9
Juho Hänninen / Kaj Lindstrom (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:43.5
Here then are the thoughts of all the drivers, starting with the leader.
Elfyn won three stages today, to become the first Briton to lead since Colin Mcrae in 2001 and the first Welshman since David Llewellin in 1989.
Elfyn Evans (1st) said:
“It feels pretty good to be in this position at the end of the day. We’ve had a solid run with no problems and no mistakes so, so far, so good.
“It’s definitely not been an easy day – especially this morning when the grip was changing so often through the stages.
“Finding the balance between pushing just enough and over-driving was pretty difficult as the grip was changing from corner to corner. We just tried to concentrate on using the traction we had as best we could, but it wasn’t easy for sure.
“Tomorrow’s stages really are fantastic and so enjoyable to drive. They’re real home territory for me so the plan is just to go out there and enjoy it.”
One stage win combined with good consistency in the other stages means that Ott was in a good position overall.
Ott Tänak (2nd) said:
“It’s not been a bad day for us and it’s been really nice out on the stages. The sun has been shining and I think it’s the first time I’ve actually seen the Myherin stage without the fog!
“It’s still a really close battle behind Elfyn so we’ll have to wait and see what we can do. Tomorrow’s stages are completely different but they’re also really enjoyable.
“I’m sure it’s going to be another exciting day, but it will be difficult to make any big-time differences. We’ll keep fighting and keep pushing as always.”
Rounding out the top three was Seb, only a couple of seconds behind Ott, meaning that M-Sport filled the top three positions. He’d taken two stage wins and set some very consistent times.
Sébastien Ogier (3rd) said:
“I feel good at the end of the day. Some sections were quite tough and I struggled to read the grip through the first pass of Hafren. I was a bit disappointed at the end of that one, but other than that it has been a good day for us.
“I took my 500th stage win today, at exactly the same place where I took my very first stage win in 2008, so that is a nice story and it seems that I like Sweet Lamb! Actually, the profile of today’s whole loop is really nice – nice flowing stages and nice corners which are really enjoyable to drive.
“So long as you can read the grip, you can have a lot of fun out there and for sure Elfyn has had a lot of fun today. We knew he could do well here and, even though the tyres are working well for him, it was still a very strong performance. No matter what tyres you have, you still have to drive the car and he deserves to be where he is tonight.
“All three championship contenders are really close now and if I want to stay in the fight I have to push. That will be the plan for tomorrow – to enjoy, to push, and to see the fight continue.”
Thierry Neuville (4th) said:
“We have made improvements during the day and can be satisfied with where we are considering our time penalty from Thursday. The pace is there and we would have liked to be fighting at the top but that put us behind before we’d even really started. I struggled with the settings of the car on the first stage this morning, stalling the engine after running wide and losing some seconds. We changed the differential settings midway through the loop and found some improvements, which have allowed us to move up. Finishing the day with a stage win is encouraging and gives us the motivation we need to keep pushing on Saturday.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (7th) said:
“It is always a pleasure to come back to Wales. I started my career here and it’s fun to be driving this year with Hyundai Motorsport. Although the weather conditions have been fine today, the stages are still incredibly slippery and that has made things quite difficult. From our road position, there hasn’t been much more we could do today. We are still learning about the car in these gravel conditions, and doing all we can to adapt and learn. That is our objective also for the rest of the weekend, and we hope to make up a few more positions on the way, as well.”
Dani Sordo (8Th) said:
“The stages this morning were a lot more slippery than I anticipated which I wasn’t expecting. The grip in SS4 (Hafren) was better, so we hoped to push more in the repeat loop, after the remote tyre fitting zone. Unfortunately, the grip changed again in the afternoon, which prevented us from doing much more. The stages were really fast at times, and I remain hopeful that we can make up some ground over the next two days.”
Hayden Paddon (9th) said:
“Wales Rally GB is a great rally, but it has certain particularities that you need to deliver against in order to be quick. First, you need absolutely bags of confidence and to be completely comfortable in the car. We always seem to struggle with understeer on the opening day, so we were mentally prepared for that, but it held us back today. The conditions were tricky, as you’d expect in Wales, but I’d almost have preferred it to be raining. We changed the settings for the afternoon loop but the conditions changed as well, so it’s a bit of a moving target. Tomorrow is, of course, another day and I hope we can enjoy it a bit more.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (5th) said:
“The conditions have been difficult for everybody today. There was heavy rain overnight and then the roads started to dry, which actually made the situation worse as the moisture came to the top of the road and the surface became slippery. In the morning I was struggling with understeer and didn’t have the confidence to push, but we changed some things at the regroup and the car definitely felt better, even though were still struggling a bit with the traction. To be in fifth position is not so bad, but we have been discussing things that we can do to improve for tomorrow.”
Juho Hänninen (10th) said:
“It hasn’t been so easy today. I knew the conditions would be tricky but trying to estimate the grip this morning when it was changing on every other corner made it hard to find a rhythm. This afternoon the driving didn’t feel too bad but the times were not good at all. Now we are thinking carefully about how we can change the setup a bit and get some more confidence for tomorrow.”
Esapekka Lappi (11th) said:
“Today has been quite frustrating, as we have just been lacking grip. This morning I was missing some confidence, but it’s hard to build confidence when the pace isn’t there. I think we have something wrong in the setup because I was quite on the maximum in the last stage and we were still losing a lot of time. Now we have the opportunity to make changes in service to find some more grip and to learn for next year.”
Kris Meeke (6th) said:
“I’m very pleased with how today’s leg went. I managed to maintain a good rhythm throughout the stages. To be honest, I don’t think I could’ve done much more. I was expecting to have a hard time of it, given our position in the running order but the grip was actually pretty good this morning, when the mud cleaned a bit and you were left with the cobblestones. I think tomorrow should be even better, because the road conditions will be more even for all of us.”
Craig Breen (36th) said:
“I tried to keep it neat and tidy, but we started by losing a minute this morning, with a slow puncture. I hadn’t hit anything, so I was very disappointed to lose contact with the leaders so early in the rally. This afternoon, I spun the car and there was an enormous water hole. The front went in and we couldn’t get out. It was a very small, simple mistake but we didn’t get away with it. Thanks to the spectators for helping us!”
Khalid Al Qassimi (28th) said:
“It was a very tough day. I’m really not used to driving in conditions like these. Most of the time, it’s been like driving on ice. We are going to work with the engineers to see if it is possible to make it easier to drive the car.”
Mads Østberg (12th) really struggled through the first day. Setup issues and the challenging conditions left him outside the points. He said:
“We don`t really know what is wrong, except that the set-up on the car doesn`t work in these conditions. Regrettably we had technical issues during our test on Monday and managed only a few runs, and that meant we couldn`t test different set-ups. Today we have been guessing, but not found any answers. We tried a setup from Spain in the afternoon, but that made the car harder to drive. We shall analyse all data during the evening service and hopefully find a better solution for tomorrow”
Day two dawned cloudy and cooler. It was an earlier start as well for everyone with service at ten past six, a full hour earlier than Friday. Nine stages made this day the longest of the weekend, and with two held at night after service, it would really test the crews out.
Aberhirnant was first up, and Elfyn picked up where he had left off on Friday, taking the stage and increasing his lead over Ott to 30 seconds. Kris moved ahead of Latvala into fifth place. Andreas found some good pace as well, going third in the stage.
Stage nine, Dyfnant was next up and second placed Ott fell further behind Evans, but Seb was having a worse start after only setting the ninth fastest time. Thierry was closing on his rival for the championship. Elfyn was pulling away, the gap now 36 seconds.
Into stage ten, Gartheinog and Elfyn made it three from three, taking his lead to almost 40 seconds over Ott. Thierry also moved ahead of Seb into third. Latvala also closed a little on Kris. It was getting close behind our home leader!
Stage 11, Dyfi next and a lot happened in this one! Kris spun in the chicane losing time after a stall as well. The other news was that Thierry moved ahead of Ott and into second place. Further back, Dani Sordo was really struggling.
The rerun of Gartheiniog, stage 12 saw Elfyn extend his lead some more with his lead now 54 seconds over Thierry. The big news was that Kris lost part of his wing during the stage! I was stage-side, and he came past me with the top part missing! Andreas was also closing the gap to Jari-Matti in their fight for fifth place.
In stage 13, Dyfi, Thierry stopped Elfyn winning all the stages with a very good drive to take top spot, but Elfyn was still firmly in charge. The gap between Jari-Matti and Andreas was getting smaller and smaller, now just 1.6 seconds between them.
The short spectator stage at Cholmondeley Castle, stage 14, saw Juho Hanninen crash out of the event. His teammate, Jari-Matti also dropped behind Andreas in their battle over fifth place. With Thierry winning the stage from Dani and Ott, Elfyn kept it simple and set the ninth fastest time.
Now we just had two stages left, but they were run once the sun had gone down. The crews headed to the second run of Aberhirnant. It was going to be a much harder this time round though! The fog had descended, making everything much harder! Kris Meeke said, “It was completely crazy. You can’t see 10 metres off the start line. It was hellishly crazy.” Jari-Matti felt at home, setting the fastest time and moving back ahead of Andreas into fourth place overall. Ogier also moved back into second overall after Thierry only managed the ninth fastest time, a full 33.8 slower than Latvala.
The final stage of the day saw the crews return to Dyfnant and Elfyn returned to the top of the times with a very good time and extended his lead over Seb to 53 seconds. He had driven brilliantly all day, able to find the speed to pull away, and able to play it safe when it was needed.
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:32:39.2
Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +53.1
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +53.6
Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +57.7
Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:03.6
Tänak / Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:06.1
Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:27.6
Paddon / Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:04.0
Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:41.0
Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:35.8
Let’s catch up with the drivers after day two.
Six stage wins helped Elfyn pull away from his closest challengers, adding almost 30 seconds to his lead throughout the day.
Elfyn Evans (1st) said:
“It’s been a really good day for us and a really enjoyable one as well. I’ve always enjoyed these stages but I have to say that I was glad to get through the night stages!
“They really were tough. With the fog on Aberhirnant [SS15] you couldn’t even see the road in front of you so it was very, very challenging. But we made it through and actually managed to increase our lead.
“That’s given us a good cushion for tomorrow and there aren’t so many kilometres left, but they’re not easy. There are some very tricky stages coming up with a lot of big breaking areas into not a lot of run off and Gwydir [SS19] is massively technical and not been in use since 2013. There’s plenty in there tomorrow, so we need to keep focused and keep at it.”
Seb endured a puncture and then a failure on his brakes on the same wheel that he got a puncture, although it didn’t hold him back.
Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:
“It’s been a tricky day and we’ve been lacking some pace compared to yesterday. We need to understand why that was, but I’m just happy to be here after this evening’s night stages!
“When you drive in conditions as challenging as the ones we faced tonight, there is no way of making it risk free. Do that and you can easily lose a minute or more. The visibility really was terrible at times, but we just decided to go for it.
“It was so close between second and fifth that I had to try and it was working pretty well up until the last kilometre when I didn’t see an almost none existent corner. We hit the bank in the fog, damaged the front-left wheel, lost the brakes and honestly thought it would be difficult to finish the day.
“Without the brakes it would have been un-driveable but we managed to close the damaged system and carry on with only three brakes. Somehow, it was still possible to drive and we didn’t lose too much time.
“With only small gaps between a lot of drivers, and 40 kilometres left to complete, we’ll have to keep pushing if we want to stay on the podium.”
Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:
“Overall, it was a better day than Friday in terms of the driving, more consistent and we were able to make up a good chunk of time, although I am disappointed with the way our day has ended. We probably had the worst of the fog and honestly could not have gone any faster. We tried to push but it was impossible in those conditions. I expected poor conditions in the evening, but nothing like we experienced. I gave it all I had in the final stage but all our hard work was undone by the weather conditions.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (4th)
“Things started a bit slowly in the first stage this morning but they just kept improving after that. We had much better traction than we did on Friday, and although we have still been struggling with understeer, we kept playing with the dampers during the day and this helped the car to feel better and better, and the stage times became quicker. Tonight, in the dark and the fog I was quite happy with the performance. Sometimes you have to attack when the conditions are trickiest. The grip was quite good and the feeling with the car was good. I’m looking forward to tomorrow now.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (5th) said:
“On the whole, we have had a good day. The daylight stages were particularly positive. We benefitted from a better starting position today so we wanted to capitalise on that and regain some time. We were able to achieve that and were not far off the lead times. The car set-up was amazing. We knew the evening stages would be tough, with the fog, but we had nothing to lose so I drove as quick as I could. We set our light pods too high in the penultimate stage of the evening, and couldn’t see anything. We tried to modify those but with no fog in the final stage they were too low and visibility was worse. Still, there are a lot of good things to take from today’s running.”
Ott Tänak (6th) said:
“It has been a long, tricky day, but also a typical Wales Rally GB day. There was just one really foggy stage where we lost a lot of time. For sure it’s disappointing, but it’s done now and that’s how it is. The gaps behind Elfyn aren’t too big so let’s see what we can do tomorrow. Hopefully we can show more pace than today and be able to fight. It will be an interesting day for sure.”
Kris Meeke (7th) said:
“As we expected, it was a long day with a lot of time spent behind the wheel! I stayed in touch with the group fighting for the podium until I made a small mistake and stalled in a chicane: that cost me a good ten seconds or so. But I don’t think it made that much difference to our situation. Most of the time, we were able to match or get close to the performance level of our rivals and I enjoyed driving the Citroën C3 WRC today. Our position in the standings isn’t brilliant, but we’ll be ready to seize any opportunities if they come up tomorrow.”
Hayden Paddon (8th) said:
“There have been some positives and some problems today. On the positive side, the car has felt much better today and I have felt more confident. However, we have also encountered some trouble, which has set us back. We had a puncture at the start of the second stage and then hydraulic issues on the second run through Dyfi – the longest stage of the day. We had no gearbox or differentials for the entire stage, and it was an absolute handful if I’m honest. I was looking forward to the evening stages and felt that we got more out of ourselves. It’s the same conditions for everyone, but I am able to trust Seb implicitly on the pace notes, so we could push that bit more.”
Esapekka Lappi (9th) said:
“Today was certainly better than yesterday. It helped that we were the third car on the road. We made some big changes in service last night and the car started to feel good. I was still struggling for confidence but it has been a bit more enjoyable today. We made more changes in service before the night stages and I think these helped, as the grip felt better than on the previous stages.”
Dani Sordo (10th) said:
“There is nothing I can say. It has been a difficult day, and it ended with a poor stage where we lost a lot of time. The car has performed well, mostly, but we haven’t been able to make progress. I was struggling with the traction and grip this morning and the suspension was too soft for my preference. This rally is very special and unique, but so far, I haven’t been able to dial into it fully. I am definitely hoping to turn things around on the final day.”
Craig Breen (17th) said:
“On this rally, the handbrake really is the driver’s best friend. And today, I lost my best friend right at the start! The first runs on the stages were very difficult. It was a bit better on the second pass, because I could use the ruts to get the car to turn on the tight bends. It’s a shame we lost the handbrake, because the speed was definitely there today to set some very good times.”
Khalid Al Qassimi (23rd):
“It was one of the most difficult days in my WRC career! On the second pass, I was driving on a layer of mud just as slippery as ice. I wasn’t pushing at all, I was just trying to avoid going off the road. The night stages were also very tricky, with a lot of fog. I nonetheless enjoyed myself when there was a bit of grip.”
Mads Østberg had a troubling day. After four stages on Saturday, he retired his car. During stage eleven, the car stopped. He and his co-driver Emil got the car going again and they completed the stage.
Mads explains: “We had a couple of major high-speed “moments” that nearly sent us out among the trees. With no proper service during the day there was no other choice than to retire, and possibly have a chance to sort out the issues and restart on Sunday.”
“Something plays up with the centre differential and suddenly and without warning it stops functioning. We have also had the engine cut out completely at two different occasions on SS11. Both issues are really something that you don`t want to happen flat in sixth gear.”
Juho Hänninen (Ret) said:
“Things were better this morning than they were yesterday. We made some changes with the car that helped us compensate for all the mud that we are collecting on stages, so the rear was not sitting down so much meaning we could have better traction at the front. Unfortunately, on the Cholmondeley stage I braked a bit too late and hit a hay bale, broke a front damper and had to retire. There is also some damage to the chassis so we won’t be able to restart tomorrow.”
Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny like Friday. The crews faced five stages to complete the event. Elfyn had a 53 second lead over his teammate Seb, who was on the verge of his fifth world championship. M-Sport were also looking at winning their first manufacturers championship.
Stage 17, Alwen, fell to Ott, but the big news was that Thierry went three seconds faster than Ogier and with that moved his Hyundai back into second overall.
Next stage, Brenig, which would later be the powerstage, was won by Andreas. Elfyn was on cruise mode, just getting around the stage and using his advantage to his benefit.
Stage 19, Gwydir saw Jari-Matti and Thierry set exactly the same time! Kris was third fastest, which was excellent news for him and Citroen.
Just two stages to go now and history being made. Could Elfyn deliver the win that we had been waiting for at home for 17 years and also become the first driver from Wales to win a World Championship event?
The re-run of Alwen went to Andreas and with the pace he found, he climbed back into fourth overall at the expense of Jari-Matti who could only manage ninth, five seconds slower than the Hyundai driver. Our leader Elfyn was pretty comfortable with this one, going fourth!
Time for the powerstage then and just 6.43km! The top five positions were taken by Thierry, Kris, Jari-Matti, Seb and Andreas.
Seb and M-Sport had done it. Together they’d won the drivers and Manufacturers Championships. However, the big news was that Elfyn had taken his maiden victory at his home event! What a result! Just fantastic!
Let’s hear then from the drivers starting with our seventh different winner this year.
Elfyn Evans (1st) said:
“I’m feeling pretty good, and just about managed to keep the tears away at the podium. It’s been a really long and difficult weekend, so this one feels good and it was made all the more special when you combine it with everything the team has achieved today.
“Already after Shakedown, we knew if the conditions played into our hands then the speed was there to challenge for the victory. As the weekend went on, I felt that it was always in my reach, but this is an event you can never predict. A clean run with no punctures, spins or mistakes is very difficult. It’s all about finding the right balance and I think that’s what we managed to achieve this weekend.
“I’m definitely hungry for more wins now, so let’s wait and see what next year has in store. Now that I have felt this feeling, it’s one that I would like to repeat!”
Thierry Neuville (2nd) said:
“Our congratulations to Sébastien on his fifth WRC title, and to M-Sport. We got the message just before the start of the Power Stage that he had done enough. It has been a really exciting battle this year and although we have had our moments of misfortune, we have enjoyed some great fights along the way. Everyone in the team has worked incredibly hard this year, so we can be pleased with our performances and for playing our part in the Championship fight. We could not have done any more this weekend. Elfyn was on incredible form, so to finish second to him is a great achievement. Our five Power Stage points shows our performance level this weekend, and I have enjoyed the rally, despite having to concede the Championship. We will now aim to finish the season well in Australia and to secure second place ahead of Ott.”
Sébastien Ogier (3rd) said:
“Emotion is something you cannot control. There is something beautiful about that and I have to say that this was the strongest feeling of emotion that I have ever experienced in my professional life. It’s hard to explain the feeling, but it is most definitely a good one.
“Twelve months ago, we decided to take what could have been considered a risk. We decided to team up with Malcolm and set ourselves a challenge. Today, we have succeeded in that challenge and know that we made the right choice.
“I felt immediately proud and very happy for the team. A drivers’ title is something that has never happened for them and it was so well deserved. What they are able to do is amazing. Really, a big thanks to all of them.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (4th) said:
“We have done our absolute best this weekend, trying to go as fast as we could. We wanted to show progress from Spain and we definitely did that. The battle for the podium was really close and I am pleased that we could finish so close to Séb. Fourth place in our second event with Hyundai Motorsport is pretty good. We took a few stage wins this morning, but also made a few mistakes as well, so there is still room for improvement. Overall, I am happy. As a team, we must now prepare to finish the season in the best way possible in Australia, and then aim to make another improvement in the Championship in 2018.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (5th) said:
“I couldn’t have gone any quicker than I did on the Power Stage: I gave it absolutely everything! This has not been a perfect rally for us, but we’re happy to score some points, we know what we can do to improve, and it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that the Toyota Yaris WRC is the best car that I’ve ever driven. Conditions between the rally and the test were not exactly the same and that was one of the problems we experienced: on the polished stages today, it was impossible to get the car to turn, so that was frustrating. But I’ve still enjoyed the rally: it was fantastic to see so many spectators out on the stages. Wales is always one of the most difficult events of the year, but after Finland it is definitely my second home rally: I’m always very happy to be competing here.”
Ott Tänak (6th) said:
“Our weekend might not have played out as we had been hoping, but crossing the line and securing the manufacturers’ championship for the team was something very special. Malcolm, and everyone in the team, have done such an incredible job this year and we’ve achieved huge success together. They really do deserve everything this weekend.”
Kris Meeke (7th) said:
“Normally, I wouldn’t be happy with seventh place. But to be honest, Elfyn Evans was in a different class this weekend, he produced an exceptional performance throughout the rally. The battle was mainly for second place and for a long time, we were only thirty seconds or so back, among a group of drivers that were quite tightly bunched together. I dropped back slightly when I made a little mistake yesterday, but I’m still pleased with my rally. I felt good all weekend – it’s been a while since I felt that comfortable on this type of surface, throughout an entire rally.”
Hayden Paddon (8th) said:
“We have been in a bit of a no man’s land today, so we have concentrated on keeping things nice and smooth. The result isn’t what we wanted, of course, but we have started to regain our confidence in the car, and just enjoy ourselves a bit more. It has been hard to read the stages this weekend, but it’s been fun to get behind the wheel and to be part of the team again. We can now reset and refocus our efforts on Rally Australia, where we have our sights set much higher!”
Esapekka Lappi (9th)
“For me the most important thing was to get to the finish, so I made sure that I concentrated on that above everything else, in order to improve my experience of these challenging conditions. Today we had a good run through the first loop of stages and set some promising times, but on the second run when the roads were cleaner, it was more difficult and I struggled to find the grip. We learned a lot on this rally, so even though it wasn’t the result that we wanted, it was very valuable experience that will help us for the future. I’m learning all the time and so is the team.”
Dani Sordo (10th) said:
“It has been a challenging rally for everyone, with slippery and often unpredictable conditions. Unfortunately, we haven’t had the confidence that we needed to mount a stronger attack this weekend. It’s nice to extend our run of rally finishes this season but it isn’t the result we know we are capable of. We have had some positive results this year. Although I am not competing in Australia, we will be hoping for a competitive event for the team as we prepare to come back stronger in 2018.”
Mads Østberg and co-driver Emil Axelsson finished the event in 39th place after the problems inflicted on Saturday. He said:
“It`s just a bit comical to finish inside the top forty, but this has been the most difficult and frustrating rally this year. The team worked hard to find the source of the electronic “glitches” yesterday, but we haven`t been able to cure the problems. So today has been about driving through the five stages to collect further data and possibly find a solution.”
Mads won’t be driving in Rally Australia and there are no confirmed details as to what is happening with him next year.
“Finishing the season with the problems we have had here in Wales is of course very frustrating, but all in all there are many positive points from 2017. We have been able to fight for the lead in several rallies and I know my speed is very competitive, especially on the “loose”. Spain became a highlight with leading the rally on gravel the first day and securing a solid and good result after two days on tarmac.”
Sébastien Ogier – 215
Thierry Neuville – 183
Ott Tänak – 169
Jari-Matti Latvala – 136
Elfyn Evans – 118
Dani Sordo – 95
Juha Hänninen – 71
Kris Meeke – 70
Craig Breen – 64
Hayden Paddon – 59
M-Sport World Rally Team – 398
Hyundai Motorsport – 305
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC – 241
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team – 210
Well, what an amazing Wales Rally GB that was! A home winner and two world championships secured as well!
I hope you enjoyed my recap of the event, and now it’s just a couple of weeks to the last round of the championship.
Let’s see what happens when the teams head down-under!
It’s time for the UK round of this year’s championship. Twelve months ago, Ott Tanak took the fight to his future teammate Seb. It was one of the closest finishes for a long time.
M-Sport can wrap up the Manufacturers Title this weekend, which will be an amazing achievement for this privateer outfit run by Malcolm Wilson.
Here’s his thought’s ahead of the team’s home event.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s hard to find the words to describe just what a momentous achievement we are on the verge of securing this week.
“When we started developing the Ford Fiesta WRC, I knew we had the people to design a competitive, rally-winning car, and we always hoped to be in this sort of position. Now that it is a reality, it really is hard to find the words.
“But it’s not done yet and we cannot forget just what a challenging event Wales Rally GB can be. The changeable weather, unpredictable grip and long days make it one of the most demanding events of the year.
“All three of our drivers have proven what they are capable of in Wales, and I have no doubt that all three of them are capable of securing the best possible result. But anything can happen and we must remain at the top of our game to get the job done.”
Reigning champion Sébastien Ogier heads to Wales looking to take the championship for an amazing fifth time in a row.
Here’s his thoughts.
“This event is steeped in motorsport history and I think it’s fair to say that Wales Rally GB is one of the most iconic events on the calendar. It’s one that everyone wants to win and we’ll certainly be hoping to be in the battle for victory.
“It’s one of the most challenging rallies of the year and there is a real art to judging the grip levels through the forests. It’s an event that takes a while to get to grips with – quite literally – but I have to say that I now feel at home on the Welsh stages.
“Clearly, this could be a very special event for the team and it also provides us with our first mathematical chance of securing the drivers’ championship. But we can’t think too much about that. We just need to focus on enjoying the rally and delivering the best performance we can.”
Now, here’s the full details on the all the stages! There are twenty-one stages with a total of 304.36km of competitive, twisting muddy welsh roads!
THURSDAY 26 OCTOBER
8.00am: Shakedown – Clocaenog (3.32km)
6.57pm: Start (Tir Prince Raceway)
7.00pm: SS1 – Visit Conwy Tir Prince (1.49km)
8.00pm: Parc ferme (Deeside)
FRIDAY 27 OCTOBER
7.15am: Service A (Deeside – 15 mins)
10.20am: SS2 – Myherin 1 (20.28km)
11:00am: SS3 – Sweet Lamb 1 (4.24km)
11:15am: SS4 – Hafren 1 (35.14km)
1.27pm: Tyre and headlamp pod-fitting zone (Newtown – 15 mins)
2.31pm: SS5 – Myherin 2 (20.28km)
3.11pm: SS6 – Sweet Lamb 2 (4.24km)
3.26pm: SS7 – Hafren 2 (35.14km)
8.01pm: Flexi Service B (Deeside – 45 mins)
SATURDAY 28 OCTOBER
6.10am: Service C (Deeside – 15 mins)
7.55am: SS8 – Aberhirnant 1 (13..91km)
8.47am: SS9 – Dyfnant 1 (17.91km)
9.59am: SS10 – Gartheiniog 1 (12.61km)
10.28am: SS11 – Dyfi 1 (25.86km)
12.08pm: SS12 – Gartheiniog 2 (12.61km)
12.37pm: SS13 – Dyfi 2 (25.86km)
3.48pm: SS14 – Cholmondeley Castle (1.80km)
4.55pm: Service D (Deeside – 30 mins)
6.55pm: SS15 – Aberhirnant 2 (13.91km)
7.47pm: SS16 – Dyfnant 2 (17.91km)
10.26pm: Flexi Service E (Deeside – 45 mins)
SUNDAY 29 OCTOBER
7.00am: Service F (Deeside – 15 mins)
8.34am: SS17 – Alwen 1 (10.41km)
9.08am: SS18 – Brenig 1 (6.43km)
10.06am: SS19 – Gwydir (7.49km)
11.09am: SS20 – Alwen 2 (10.41km)
12.18pm: SS21 – Brenig 2 Power Stage (6.43km)
1.35pm: Finish (Llandudno)
Friday will see the #ElfynsCorner in Myherin! Very big support for D-Mack WRT driver Elfyn Evans has built up since I broke the story back in September. Stickers have been made and sent! Money will be raised for the Welsh Air Ambulance as well.
Saturday sees a mammoth 17-hour day! A very long day! There’s two-night stages as well. These will be very tricky indeed.
Now then what chance a home winner? Could Rally Spain victor Kris Meeke, Craig Breen or Elfyn Evans take victory in the welsh forests this weekend? It would be very popular, that’s for sure!
Here’s the thought’s then of the home-grown talent.
Kris Meeke said:
“Wales Rally GB is obviously a very special event for me. I competed in my very first rally here, almost twenty years ago! So, it’s the event that I know the best and the surface that comes most naturally to me. Our win in Spain was a great morale boost for the whole team. Having said that, it doesn’t guarantee anything for this event. We’ll see what sort of performance level we have in the Welsh forests. Obviously, a lot will depend on the weather. Running ninth on the road on Friday will be a handicap if it rains. In any case, I’m very motivated and will be doing everything I can to secure another good result for Citroën.”
Craig Breen said:
“Between my appearances in the British Rally Championship and the WRC, I feel like I know this event pretty well. I have a lot of good memories here, the highlight being when we won the Junior WRC title. That was in 2011 and it was all more special because my co-driver at the time, Gareth Roberts, was Welsh. After missing the last rally, I’m very happy to be back in the C3 WRC for the final two rounds of the season. As always, it’s pretty difficult to set a specific target, given how much the conditions can affect the standings. But after finishing fifth six times, I would certainly love to do a bit better!”
Elfyn Evans said:
“There’s nothing quite like rallying at home and we’re in for a classic Wales Rally GB this year. The iconic stages, the weather, the night stages, the long days – this year’s offering has it all and it’s that sort of challenge that I really enjoy. I’m looking forward to it and to playing my part in what could be a really historic event for the team.
“It’s always amazing to see the Welsh fans out on the stages, and it’s true that their enthusiasm gives you that little bit extra. We’ll have to wait and see how the conditions suit our package, but we’re hungry for a strong result before the end of the year and will be giving it our all this weekend.”
Now then, what of the Belgian challenger Thierry Neuville? He saw his challenge for the drivers crown really take a dive after a no score last time out in Spain.
He explains: “We were dealt something of a harsh blow in Spain, but we are ready to fight back in Wales. It is a unique event on the calendar, a rally where weather conditions can really dictate performance and confidence levels. If it’s raining, windy and muddy, the stages become incredibly slippery. It is without doubt a tough event, but one that I relish. I have finished on the podium a couple of times, and get a buzz from the fantastic atmosphere. Driving at high-speed through the forest stages, sometimes in the dark, is just incredible. I intend to keep pushing right to the end of the Championship.”
Last year’s runner up Ott Tanak in this rally, will be looking to cement his second position in the championship, with a strong run. Here’s what he had to say:
“Wales Rally GB is a classic in every sense of the word. The days are long and the conditions are unpredictable, but that is rallying and that’s what makes it one of the biggest challenges on the calendar. When you secure a strong result in Wales, you know that you have delivered.
“This will be my seventh time competing in Wales, and six of those were with the top-specification Fiesta. I’ve got good experience here, and the stages are fast and flowing which I really enjoy. They can get quite slippery and ‘polished’ over the second pass but, again, that just adds to the challenge that makes this rally so special.
“Obviously, this will be a very important weekend for the team. We’re on the verge of securing something really amazing and everyone will be working their hardest to secure that goal. If we could top the weekend off with a win, it would be even better!”
Hayden Paddon fans will be happy too. He returns to his i20 and after finishing 5th in 2015 and then 4th last year, perhaps he could stand on the podium this year? His thoughts for you.
“Wales Rally GB is an iconic rally with plenty of driving challenges. The event has always been run late in the season, so we can expect some rain and potentially foggy conditions. In many ways, it is like being back home in New Zealand. There are some very nice, fast stages, and it is a rally I enjoy. Hopefully we can put together a good result and build up to a positive conclusion to what has been a tough season.”
Now, what of Mads and his Adapta Motorsport run Fiesta WRC? He will not be driving in Australia, and that means he’ll be looking to end his season on a high. He has scored well in this event, having got top results in previous years.
He has another co-driver alongside him. Emil Axelsson who was his co-driver in an Norwegian rally last month will be working very hard to guide Mads through the welsh forests.
Here’s the thoughts from him then.
“I can`t see why I shouldn`t be positive. I have two podiums from before in this rally and I like the often-changing conditions and grip in the Welsh forests. This autumn has also been very “uplifting” and positive, with a very good first day on gravel in Spain where I led the rally after four stages. In September we ran the Norwegian Championship finale as a competition test, and managed to find a very good set-up for the car on quite similar roads and conditions as we are expecting in Wales. I feel I have the necessary speed to be among the lead drivers, and Wales is the place to show it.”
Talking about the conditions on these classic stages, he continues:
“I won`t say that this is my absolutely preferred conditions for rallying, but I like the challenge and the special character of this rally. It`s a classic gravel rally on roads with proper ditches and trees in the forest. To imagine Wales Rally in sunshine and dry roads feels completely wrong. Wales is rain, fog and mud, and that in itself is a great challenge.”
Finally, what of Toyota? It was recently announced that Ott Tanak will be with the team next year. Lead driver Jari-Matti has won this event twice in 2011 and 2012. It’s not been so kind lately though.
Here’s his thoughts then.
“Britain is a bit like my second home as it’s where I started my career and it was also my first world championship rally. There are some fantastic stages like Myherin and Dyfnant, which I’m looking forward to going back to. We obviously had a few technical issues in some of the recent rallies, but I feel confident that the team has got completely on top of those now and I just want to have two strong events to finish this incredible season. The first few rallies were challenging but maybe less demanding on the car than these events now at the end of the year, so we are learning more all the time as it is still only our first season as a team.”
Rumours abound that Juho Hanninen will not be driving in Australia as well, so this will be the last time I believe we’ll see him in the Yaris this year.
Here then are his thoughts.
“I’m happy with what we managed to do in Spain, so we go into Rally GB with a lot of confidence. This will be my last rally of the year, so most of all I just want to enjoy it. I’ve not actually competed there since 2014, but luckily most of the stages are still quite the same. Even though I don’t have a huge amount of experience in Wales I’ve always liked it, so I want to make sure that this rally is a nice one for us. We don’t have a particular plan: we just want to take it stage by stage and build on our pace. It’s a strategy that has worked well before.”
Finally, Finland winner, Esapekka says:
“Our pre-event test was good but it was very strange weather: I brought my winter jacket and my hat, but when I stepped out of the hotel it was 22 degrees! Still, I think what we worked on can still be useful if it’s wet and muddy, which is normally what happens on Rally GB. I just hope that there’s not too much fog, as that can be really difficult. We changed some suspension settings and there are a few other lessons that we learned from Spain that I was able to improve on, so we made a lot of progress during the test. Normally I have a good feeling with Rally GB, so now I’m looking forward to getting out on the stages and hopefully we can have a good result at the end.”
Well, this looks to be an amazing event this year! In addition to that, I will be stage side throughout the rally, having secured a guest pass from the ever-helpful Wales Rally GB media team.
I’ll be joining the Elfyns Corner crew in Myherin on Friday and will journey around with them throughout the rest of the weekend. I can’t wait! Make sure you’re following both @PitCrew_Online and my own twitter account @Warren_S_Nel.
Enjoy the rally and if you’re coming to watch, come and find me!
The foundations for Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle’s victory were laid on Friday’s gravel stages. After just two stages, Kris was in the lead and despite some mistakes in the afternoon, at the end of that first day’s action, he was just three seconds from the lead.
Overnight leader was Andreas Mikkelsen on his first outing for Hyundai. His fellow teammates, Dani and Championship challenger Thierry were in sixth and seventh position. The wrong tyre choices and hotter than expected conditions on the stages had meant that there was little that Thierry could do other than get through the day and see what he and Nicolas could do on the smooth wide tarmac on Saturday.
It was an impressive Friday for Seb Ogier that despite running at the front of the field on the loose gravel, he was just 1.4 seconds from the lead. Ott Tanak was also driving very well. Third on the road, he maintained top ten pace in each of the six stages and holding fourth overall.
Also setting a great pace in his Fiesta was Mads, although in the final stage of the day the heater in his car got stuck on! What with the high temperatures outside, plus the heater on, it quickly became unbearably hot inside the Fiesta WRC. The two Norwegians therefore did well to make in to the end of the stage, just five seconds from the lead.
The first retirement of the event was Jari-Matti in his Toyota. After a very solid start in the morning, he won the first stage of the afternoon, but later in stage five he noticed that the car was starting to lose oil. This was the result of a strong impact under the car which made the lubrication system fail. He would not start the final stage of the day, and the damage to the engine would prove to be too severe. The team would be looking to Juho and Esapekka to bring the team some good results.
Elfyn Evans, running on D-Mack tyres, would start well, but after struggling in the afternoon, it was a case of get around and see what he could do on Saturday.
Here’s the driver quotes for day one.
Andreas Mikkelsen said: (1st)
“We could not have asked for a better start to our Hyundai Motorsport career. It has been a good day and I have been pleased with our approach. We started this morning carefully, to understand the car’s behaviour and generally just finding our feet.”
“A few changes to the settings allowed us to gain some time through the first Terra Alta run. The car felt very stable and there were no surprises. In the afternoon, we became more and more confident in the car. The final stage wasn’t ideal; we thought we had a puncture so took it a bit easier. We made it to the end safely and it’s nice to be fighting at the very top. It’s really close but it has definitely been a positive start for Anders and myself.”
Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:
“I’m really happy with our day. It wasn’t easy, but our position this evening is really amazing. Being so close to the lead after a full day opening the road is not something we expected, but it’s a very nice surprise.
“The gaps are all so close so we’re all going to have to keep pushing tomorrow. For sure Andreas [Mikkelsen] and Kris [Meeke] will push hard, but I’ve always had a good feeling with the Fiesta on Tarmac so hopefully we can stay in the fight for the victory.
“But the most important thing for us was to stay ahead of Ott [Tänak] and Thierry [Neuville], which we have managed to do so far. Our target is clear, and we will keep our main focus on Ott, Thierry and the Championship fight.”
Kris Meeke (3rd) said:
“This morning, we didn’t make the right tyre choice. The soft tyres went off on Terra Alta, so I had to manage my pace a little and drop some time. It didn’t matter that much, because the gaps remained pretty small. On hard tyres, I was able to push almost from start to finish and I really enjoyed driving the C3 WRC. It’s a bit frustrating to have made a mistake on SS4; if it weren’t for that, I’d be leading. But in any case, I’m in a good position and am pleased with the day.”
Ott Tänak (4th) said:
“Overall I think the performance has been very good today. We expected to lose quite a lot with the loose gravel but actually the gaps are very small at the end of the day.
“It will definitely still be interesting tomorrow. It looks promising for the moment so let’s see how it goes in the morning and if we can find a good rhythm. These Tarmac roads are very unique but also very enjoyable, so we’ll try to find a good set-up with the car and see what we can do.”
Mads Østberg (5th) said:
“Really disappointing with the heater, and extremely hot and uncomfortable for us both with nearly 100 degrees Celsius inside the car. It`s hot enough inside these cars without hot air blowing into it, but we didn`t manage to turn it off.”
“As it was a very long stage we lost a bit of concentration and focus and of course we lost some time. Still I am happy with our performance this Friday, without the problems on the last stage we could have been in the lead. We also had some issues with dust coming into the, but that we could cope with.”
“In the preparation for the rally we have concentrated mainly on the tarmac set-up and driving. This will be the first time I drive the Fiesta “in anger” on tarmac, and we have much less experience with this than our competitors. A special challenge for me will be the much more advanced aerodynamics on the 2017-car than the car I have driven before. The aerodynamics plays a much bigger role on fast tarmac roads than on the loose.”
Dani Sordo (6th) said:
“It is great being back rallying at home, and I am so thrilled with the support of the fantastic spectators. We had a solid start today. The morning loop was tough for tyre selection, as the softs were a bit too soft, and the hard compounds were a bit too hard. However, we found a good compromise and it was a very close fight at the front. The grip levels were better in the opening afternoon stages, and I was pretty happy with the car. The repeat of Terra Alta was more slippery with not much traction, but we made it through the opening day in a respectable position – and with only ten seconds to the lead, I think it will be an exciting battle this weekend.”
Thierry Neuville (7th) said:
“We know what we need to do this weekend, and our sights are firmly set on achieving that. It wasn’t the easiest of starts after we opted for soft tyres on the opening loop. The temperatures were higher than we expected compared to our data from testing. We started to lose grip quite early in the long Terra Alta stage. It was a real pity because we had a good feeling in the car and we were pushing hard. In the afternoon, we were carrying six tyres, which slowed us a bit too much, particularly in the repeat of the long stage. It is very close on the timesheets, so although we are not in the position we would want to be, we are definitely in striking distance.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (ret) said:
“In the morning it was difficult and the car was oversteering a lot, but we made some changes and things were starting to get better. We won stage four. I made a couple of mistakes in stage five and then we noticed we were losing oil, and before we got to stage six the engine stopped and wouldn’t start again. At the time we didn’t know whether anything was damaged but sadly it will not be possible to restart tomorrow.”
Juho Hänninen (8th) said:
“Today was not as good as I had hoped; I lost too much time to the top guys. I wasn’t fully confident, I was hesitating in some places, and you can easily start to lose time with that. I was struggling a little with the rhythm when the grip was changing. Tomorrow we need to make it better. There are some really nice stages coming up so I’m looking forward to that.”
Esapekka Lappi (10th) said:
“This morning I was happy with the balance of the car but then on the last stage I overheated the brakes and lost them completely towards the end. In service we made some changes to the suspension and on the first stage this afternoon, which was really smooth, it helped us to set a good time. But I really struggled on the last one with the dampers in these settings. We were a bit unlucky today but at least we have done the stages twice, which is good experience, and tomorrow will be a new start for everybody on asphalt.”
Stéphane Lefebvre (9th) said:
“After a long break, it was difficult to come back and compete at event that is almost unknown to me. I took it easy in the trickier sections and pushed when I felt more confident. We didn’t make any mistakes and I managed to add to my experience. The two passes on Terra Alta showed that you really need time to understand this type of stage. We’ll have to reset in order to tackle tomorrow’s leg on tarmac in the best possible shape.”
Elfyn Evans (11th) said:
“The feeling in the first two stages was okay but it’s fair to say that we struggled after that. This just wasn’t our day, but we made it through and tomorrow is a completely new day with a completely new surface so let’s see what we can do.
Khalid Al Qassimi (19th) said:
“I had a good feeling this morning, although I felt the car lacked precision on occasions. I was cautious, especially on the tarmac section on Terra Alta. We made quite a lot of progress with the set-up during service and I was happy with the handling. I think the upgrades on the dampers are a definite improvement.”
Saturday morning dawned warm and sunny. The cars had been switched into tarmac spec and were ready for the day’s action.
Kris Meeke took the lead from overnight leader, Andreas, in the first stage of the day and then proceeded to pull away from his closest challengers.
The Hyundai’s all experienced problems throughout the day with Andreas and Dani both hitting rocks hidden at the edge of the road in stage 12. Thierry’s rally wasn’t going so well either, suffering hydraulics problems which affected his handling of the car. This lead to a spin before stage nine which resulted in damage to the rear of the car. The team did a good job to get the car fixed before the afternoon stages and this lead to a better afternoon for the Belgian driver.
M-Sport duo Seb and Ott were both driving well, with just minor issues holding them back through the morning, mainly being setup. With some tweaks, they Seb was able to push much harder and won all three afternoon stages. Ott heard a strange noise from the gearbox, so the team decided to change it during the midday service break.
The remaining Toyota drivers, Juho and Esapekka both enjoyed a very good day on the unique Spanish roads. Juho was third fastest on the opening stage before winning stage eight and nine. Lappi was focused on understanding the level of grip available, and with an imperfect setup on the car, struggled for confidence. However, after making a few changes in the service break, he felt more confident and this lead to a better afternoon.
Mads Østberg had a good day too. Despite hitting the same rock in stage twelve, that had put Andreas and Dani out, he got some luck and was able to finish. There were further technical issues with the car, but Mads made great progress throughout Saturday and completed the day in sixth.
Let’s hear from the drivers then.
Kris Meeke (1st) said:
“Today couldn’t have gone any better, to be honest. We’ve known about the potential of the C3 WRC on tarmac since the rounds in Corsica and Germany, but I was nonetheless a bit apprehensive because we hadn’t done any pre-event testing on this surface. The first stage looked like it would be tricky with the rain, but everything went well. The rest of day went much the same way, although it was pretty close with the other drivers. I’m very pleased to be leading and I obviously want to convert this first place into a win tomorrow. There are still six stages to go before we get there, the first of which will be contested in the dark. So, we won’t get ahead of ourselves: one step at a time!”
Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:
“The general picture is a positive one for us at the moment and, if we can secure this podium at the end of tomorrow, it will be another good step towards the championship.
“Of course, I always want to fight for the victory but, realistically, I think Kris [Meeke] is probably a bit too far ahead. We lost quite a lot of time to him this morning when I wasn’t super confident with the car. When you’re not perfectly committed you lose tenths everywhere and that can easily amount to ten seconds at the end of the stage.
“We worked hard on the set-up throughout the day and I had a much better feeling this afternoon. Hopefully we can start tomorrow morning with that same feeling as we will for sure still have to push.”
Ott Tänak (3rd) said:
“The podium is always the target, and we’re in a good position to secure that at the moment so it has been a good day. We weren’t so happy with the feeling in the car first thing [this morning], but we soon found a good balance and improved the times after that.
“The goal is to secure as many points as possible but, as we have already seen, everyone is pushing very hard and it’s difficult to make the difference. Even if you have the perfect stage, you can still miss out on the fastest time by a couple of tenths.
“Kris is very strong so it’s going to be hard to compete with him, but we’re still in a very competitive position and it will be important to get to the end and secure these points for the team and for ourselves. We’ll certainly keep the pressure on, so let’s keep it going and see what happens.”
Juho Hänninen (4th)
“It has been a really good day. I was a bit disappointed after yesterday but I knew that the asphalt would be better for me. Even still, I was a bit surprised with how good the stage times were this morning. I was really, really happy with the car and I didn’t need to change anything in service. I drove the afternoon the same as in the morning and it felt good. I haven’t really been looking at the overall classification and it could be difficult to catch the guys ahead, but I haven’t given up and I will push tomorrow for sure.”
Thierry Neuville (5th) said:
“I honestly think we deserved far better than we got today. We experienced hydraulic problems at the end of SS8, which we worked on at stage-end to keep the car going. Suddenly, the car wouldn’t start, and when we finally got going we had to move quickly to get to the next stage. Without hydraulics under braking we spun the car, which caused some rear damage. We checked into SS9 three minutes late, so we were given a time penalty. The team did an incredible job to get the car repaired at service in time for the repeat loop, where we were able to show good pace again. The rally is not over but it was another frustrating day and not representative of what we know we can achieve. We set some of the quickest times in the afternoon stages, and were much happier and confident with the car. It’s hard to keep up the fight when you lose so much time, but others can have problems, especially with a longer than usual Sunday with six stages. We won’t give up.”
Esapekka Lappi (6th) said:
“On the first stage this morning I was not confident enough, as the grip was much higher than in my test, but step-by-step during the morning I found the confidence. I wasn’t completely happy with the set-up but we managed to improve it during service and the car felt even better in the afternoon, especially on the penultimate stage: it was the best that the car has ever been on asphalt. So I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. We will try to carry on in the same way and maybe get some points on the Power Stage.”
Mads Østberg (7th) said:
“It really has been the best day at school ever! This is my first proper tarmac experience with the 2017 spec car, and I was very uncertain how we would manage and how fast we could expect to be. Yesterday we led the rally after four stages, but that was on gravel. Today we have lost some time to the leaders, but that was expected. I am learning on every stage and the progression from the start of the day, not to mention my understanding of the car, has been enormous. We started the day 1 second per km slower than the fastest guys, now we are down to 0.3 seconds”.
Speaking about the rock that he hit…
“There was a massive rock right on the driving line in a corner where we were cutting. I hit it hard, but for once I had some luck. The steering and a wheel was damaged, but I could continue and finish the stage without much loss.”
In the final stage, Mads suffered an additional problem with the hydraulics.
“The car became nearly impossible in the very tight corners. It was frustrating, but as it was a short stage the time loss wasn`t extensive.”
Finally, he explained how much fun the car was to drive on these roads.
“I feel we are getting more and more competitive, which hasn`t really been the case for some time on tarmac. The split-times on several stages shows that I am closing in on the fastest tarmac guys. I am also enjoying every moment as the driving experience with the 2017 Fiesta on these roads really is awesome.”
Stéphane Lefebvre (8th) said:
“The switch from gravel to tarmac between the first and second day is not easy at all, especially as this is the first time I have experienced this situation. I feel like I made progress throughout the day, without making any mistakes. The handling of the C3 WRC helped to give me confidence. On SS10, for example, I pushed and my time was about 2/10ths per kilometre off the pace of the stage-winning driver. I’ll be able to build on this experience to try and finish on positive note tomorrow.”
Elfyn Evans (9th) said:
“It’s been another pretty tough day for us. The pace isn’t there and we’ve just been struggling for grip. That’s the way it is and we need to focus on getting all the kilometres under our belts and collecting as much information as we can for the future.”
Khalid Al Qassimi (18th) said:
“This was my first competitive outing with the C3 WRC on tarmac. And I hadn’t driven on this surface for a year! I’m pleased with the day, I had a good feeling in the car. However, I opted to take it easier on the second pass, because the roads were very dirty. I preferred to stick to the lines.”
Sunday morning was much like Saturday- warm and sunny.
Could Kris take his and Citroen’s second victory of the year? Could Thierry score some points to stop Seb opening a big lead in the championship?
Six stages awaited the crews and no service break either. They all took spare tyres in their cars. One puncture could destroy all the hard work.
The first stage was held in darkness, but it didn’t trouble Kris. He took the first stage of the day and then added the other two, thus increasing his lead to almost 25 seconds over the M-Sport duo of Seb and Ott.
Stephane Lefebvre was also pushing hard through these stages, bringing him closer to Mads. Stage 16 would see Thierry retire from the event after hitting something out of sight and damaging his right front suspension. Esapekka would also retire after sliding on some slippery tarmac and hitting a barrier.
Setting some good times as usual were Seb and Ott, ultimately bringing their Fiesta’s to a double podium behind Spanish master Kris. Juho would also have a very Sunday morning, guiding his Yaris into fourth place overall- pretty impressive given that he’d not driven this event for six years!
Fifth place fell to privateer Mads in his Adapta Motorsport Fiesta. With Torstein Eriksen alongside him through the weekend, they found good consistency, even leading on Friday for a short while. The pre- event testing, they did on the tarmac clearly paid in off in spades.
Dani Sordo and Andreas Mikkelsen both had an up and down event, but Dani came through and won the power stage. Andreas would suffer a broken windscreen after his bonnet came loose and flipped up in front of him! It was all good learning for next year though, having never driven the i20 on these surfaces.
Elfyn Evans in his D-Mack shod Fiesta drove as best he could to seventh place, as his tyres couldn’t give him the consistent grip on the tarmac he needed. However, there were positives and it was the best result he’d scored in this event.
8 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta R5) +8m22.7s
9 Jan Kopecky/Pavel Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +8m54.5s
10 Ole Christian Veiby/Stig Rune Skjaermoen (Skoda Fabia R5) +9m04.8s
Here’s what the drivers had to say.
Kris Meeke (1st) said:
“This completes an exceptional weekend for me. Since our win at Rally Mexico, we’ve had some tough moments, but we’ve picked ourselves up each time by working hard. We always knew this car was terrific on asphalt and I think that we have demonstrated that since yesterday! This win shows the quality of the work done by the entire team and it gives us all a huge confidence boost for the rest of the season.”
Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:
“We’ve taken a really positive step towards the championship this weekend. I think we were on course to extend the lead anyway, but with Thierry’s mistake that changed the picture completely and we’ve been able to extend the gap even more.
“We were never really in a position where we had to take all the risks, but we still had to keep a good rhythm. There was no chance to fight with Kris [Meeke] as he was just on another level on the Tarmac, but we had a clean drive and it’s definitely been a positive weekend.
“It’s been good news for the team too as the manufacturers’ championship is now pretty much done and we can start to plan a bit of a party for their home event in a couple of weeks’ time.”
Ott Tänak (3rd) said:
“We feel good at the end of this one. This result was more or less the maximum we could do this weekend so a great result overall.
“I think our first day was particularly good. We were quite early in the running order and still managed to stay close to the lead. Then on Tarmac we had a couple of small issues but generally a good run and a good feeling with the car.
“For sure there will be a big fight for second place in the drivers’ championship now. Sébastien is pretty safe, but there is still something to fight for and two more exciting events ahead.”
Juho Hänninen (4th) said:
“I’m very happy with this result. Yesterday and today have been two of the most enjoyable days of rallying I’ve ever had. Yesterday was really good and today I tried to keep it quite steady because there was a big gap behind. On asphalt we have had a really, really good car. I have felt really confident with it and I haven’t had to take any big risks. It’s really important for me to see that I am able to fight for the leading positions even though I haven’t been here for a long time.”
Mads Østberg (5th) said:
“The team performed brilliantly. Its five years since we did a WRC rally with our own Adapta Motorsport crew, but it`s like they haven`t been away at all. I would also like to thank Torstein Eriksen, who did only his second WRC-event and really did a professional and great job.”
“The tarmac experience from Spain will be put to good use later, but not until next season as the championship finishes with gravel events. Already in less than three weeks the stage is set for fog, mud and possibly sleet and snow in Wales.”
“It`s one of my favourite rallies where I have been very competitive before. The gravel stages here in Spain gave us the answer that we are right on the mark on the loose stuff. My goal for Wales is to fight for a possible victory.”
Stéphane Lefebvre (6th) said:
“We tried to push and managed to claw back some time on Mads Østberg in the first loop. After that, it became more difficult with some hydraulics problems and then we lost the intercom. From that point onwards, I was just making sure I held position. Sixth place is pretty good, considering my limited knowledge of this event. I would say this result was more or less comparable with my top-five finish in Poland. Little by little, as I gain more experience, I’m improving and I hope to be able to confirm my progress in the future. Congratulations to Kris and Paul on winning again – it’s a morale-boosting result for everyone in the team!”
Elfyn Evans (7th) said:
“Everyone knows that this was a tough weekend for us, but we kept our heads down and got the job done. It’s not been easy, but we managed to get a lot of information from all of the kilometres and now we can start to focus on Wales Rally GB.”
Teemu Suninen (Fiesta R5) (8th) said:
“This has been a really good weekend for us and I think we have made a big improvement on Tarmac. We’ve had good pace on both surfaces and I think I can be really happy with the rally and what we have done.”
Khalid Al Qassimi (17th) said:
“It was a very good day. As the day wore on, I enjoyed driving the car more and more and I’m very pleased with the progress made by the Citroën C3 WRC. But I’m most pleased of all about Kris Meeke winning the rally. He had a fantastic race this weekend, it’s a great moment for us all and I’m very proud to see Abu Dhabi promoted by these performances.”
Well, there you go…. Two rounds left and M-Sport have almost secured the manufacturers championship. Also, it’s looking very likely that Seb will win the drivers crown after Thierry failed to score any points in Spain.
A great drive from Kris and Paul in the number 7 C3 WRC for Citroen’s 98 WRC victory and his fifth as well, puts to bed any worries about his abilities behind the wheel.
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after round 11:
1 Sebastien Ogier 198
2 Ott Tanak 161
3 Thierry Neuville 160
4 Jari-Matti Latvala 123
5 Dani Sordo 94
6 Elfyn Evans 93
7 Juho Hänninen 71
8 Craig Breen 64
9 Kris Meeke 60
10 Hayden Paddon 55
11 Esapekka Lappi 49
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after round 11:
A group of fans have come together through Twitter and Facebook to cheer on D-Mack driver and Welsh Wizard during Rally Wales GB this coming October. The rally takes place from the 26th to the 29th of October.
They’re going to gather together in Myherin, a stage that is very well known in the rally world. The stage is just under 20km’s in length and will be run twice on Friday.
Those currently joining the fun at the moment are, Phil, Kevin, Sam, Lee and Andrew. I asked them what for their hopes were for Elfyn. Here’s what they said to me.
Phil Duke said:
“To show our support for Elfyn, Daniel and D-Mack as they don’t get the acknowledgement they deserve. Hopefully #ELFYNSCORNER will bring the attention to ELFYN and co and to have a laugh and meet new and old friends. This is going to be the first time the whole group has got together so will great to meet them all in person and show our support. Hoping Elfyn and Daniel will have a full time full works backing for 2018 and to be fighting for the win at Wales Rally GB 2017 it’s what he has proved this year that can fight at the front and a win is just around the 6 left!”
Sam Walker adds:
“I for one, think the lad has done amazing to get where he is, he has worked his backside off and done everything asked of him within the BRC and WRC. I think next year, having gained experience with the car and knowing how it works, there is every chance he will be on the podium more often than not. Not sure he is capable of winning just yet, but give him a couple more years and I have high hopes for our very own Welsh lad.”
Kevin Pascoe said:
“My hopes are for a top 2 finish for Elfyn, but a wet Wales Rally GB, with the current tyres, doesn’t inspire confidence for supporters or for him. Taking a longer-term perspective, hopefully good results in Spain and Australia should secure a competitive car and critically tyres for next season. Probably still with Ford, but would not rule out any of the three factory teams. Team managers know the challenges he has faced this year – but he has delivered anyway on most events.”
“I hope Elfyn becomes a world champ and keeps flying our flag with pride” and he added, “he is a national hero to us and he deserves to be a champ.”
Peter Jones said:
“Followed him from his first rally, and seen him grow into what I believe is a driver who can now compete at the very top. Thankful to D-MACK for giving him the opportunity this year, but that has also brought with it some frustrations i.e. Tyres have in most rallies been a handicap, and have beyond doubt held him back from exhibiting his full potential. Hope tyres work well on GB and that he can give it a real go. Hopes for next year is for him to be on Michelins, in a strong car, and getting that first important win.”
“Elfyns’ corner, an opportunity for his fans to get together and show the support he has got, and a chance to meet the idiots I have been tweeting over the past 12 months, and have some fun. Here endeth the lesson.”
Now, let me take you back to last year.
Ott Tanak pushed Seb very closely for the win last year with the D-Mack tyres on his Fiesta WRC winning a number of stages and finishing second in the end. Well, Elfyn will be using D-Mack tyres this year. I’m not going to speculate, but my feelings are that he will certainly be running near the front and will definitely take some stage victories.
The conditions in the stages will largely dictate the overall finishing position, and at this point it’s impossible to say what the drivers will face at this point.
However, these fans will hope that their efforts to support Elfyn and Dan will spur the crew to a top result.
All I will say is you won’t miss this banner. It’s huge! Emma Duke, Phil’s wife did most of the work to get it looking so great! Look out for it!
Here’s the story as to how Esapekka Lappi took his maiden WRC victory, on only his fourth top tier start!
We were treated to an amazing Finnish Rally this year. Just like last year, it will go down in history, but for very different reasons. It all started as usual with shakedown on Thursday morning and once more it was very close.
Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:14.3
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:14.4
Tänak / Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:14.8
Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:14.9
Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:15.2
Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:15.3
Østberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:15.6
Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:15.6
Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:15.8
Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:16.0
Moving onto the first stage that evening and Ott won the stage from Thierry and Seb. The top ten looked like this.
1 Tanak 1m44.1s
2 Neuville +1.1s
3 Ogier 1.5s
4 Breen +1.6s
5 Latvala +2.2s
6 Paddon +2.5s
7 Hänninen +2.7s
8 Meeke +3.0s
9 Evans +3.1s
10 Sordo +3.5s
13 Lappi +5.7s
This was the full schedule that the drivers could look forward to on Saturday then and the day dawned bright and sunny, although there were reports that rain would be making an appearance later in the day.
FRIDAY JULY 28
6.05am: Service A (Jyväskylä – 15 mins)
7.12am: SS2 – Halinen 1 (7.65km)
7.45am: SS3 – Urria 1 (12.75km)
8.48am: SS4 – Jukojärvi 1 (21.31km)
10.06am: SS5 – Halinen 2 (7.65km)
10.38am: SS6 – Urria 2 (12.75km)
11.42am: SS7 – Jukojärvi 2 (21.31 km)
1.37pm: Service B (Jyväskylä – 30 mins)
3.00pm: SS8 – Äänekoski-Valtra 1 (7.39km)
4.13pm: SS9 – Laukaa 1 (11.76km)
5.11pm: SS10 – Lankamaa (21.68km)
6.09pm: SS11 – Äänekoski-Valtra 2 (7.39km)
7.22pm: SS12 – Laukaa 2 (11.76km)
8.30pm: SS13 – Harju 2 (2.31km)
9.00pm: Flexi Service C (Jyväskylä – 45 mins)
Just a short one to start the day, and Teemu would come out on top, showing all the drivers the way. Kris was just behind with Hayden just a few more tenths adrift. Overall, Ott still led with Thierry tumbling down the order to tenth. At the point Esapekka was 8.2 from first place.
SS2 – Halinen 1 (7.65km)
1 Suninen 3:39.7 (140kph)
2️ Meeke +0.1
3 Paddon +0.3
The news from Ogier at the end of stage 3 was not good. After a heavy landing, he started getting trouble from his throttle response, meaning that he’d lose just under 5 seconds and drop to sixth overall. The driver on the move was Teemu, who had slotted his Fiesta WRC into fifth overall. It was a Jari-Matti stage win, with Lappi admitting at the end of stage 2 that he’d been too cautious and deciding to let himself relax more. Top three quickest were all Finns. Incredibly, it wasn’t yet 9am in Finland at this point, but we’d had those stages completed already!
SS3 – Urria 1 (12.75km)
1 Latvala 5:56.4 (144kph)
2 Lappi +0.1
3 Suninen +0.4
Coming into stage four Seb was in sixth place, but after a heavy landing from a very big jump, much further on in the stage would see the car slide off the road and hit a tree, tearing the nearside rear wheel from the Fiesta. They were out for the day and would both visit hospital to be checked out. With the other M-Sport car of Ott, he’d get to the end of the stage with a puncture. He’d run wide and believes he’d caught a rock at the edge of the road. Sadly, Hayden would hit the same rock, but the damage was far worse and the number 4 Hyundai was out for the day. Through all this drama, came new flying Finn Esapekka. He won the stage and moved from tenth overall into second! All this despite stalling on the line at the start! Craig Breen also had a fright, after a heavy landing something not feeling right at the front and he was left hoping that there was nothing wrong with the suspension at the front.
SS4 – Jukojärvi 1 (21.31km)
1 Lappi 10:06.3 (126kph)
2 Latvala +1.3
3 Ostberg +5.6
Stage five then and it was another to go Lappi’s way, with his teammate just a tenth off, keeping his overall lead at 5.2 seconds. Kris also gained a place, passing Juho for sixth. The other Citroen was going well, fourth quickest in the stage and keeping third overall.
SS5 – Halinen 2 (7.65km)
1 Lappi 3:36.5 (140kph)
2 Latvala +0.1
3 Ostberg +0.5
Lappi was now really into the groove and completed stage six a full three seconds faster than Jari-Matti. Now the gap was just 2.2 seconds. In addition to that, Mads was closing on both Teemu and Craig, reducing the gap to them both by a second. He wanted third place.
SS6 – Urria 2 (12.75km)
1 Lappi 5:49.7 (144kph)
2 Tanak +1.8
3 Ostberg +2.2
Stage seven, and it was another fastest time for Esapekka, three now in a row. The gap was now 1.6 seconds! Mads was also very quick moving from fifth into third overall with Craig now in fourth and Teemu in fifth. A service break followed this stage, allowing time for the drivers to work on their note for the afternoon loop.
SS7 – Jukojärvi 2 (21.31km)
1 Lappi 9:57.2 (140kph)
2 Latvala +0.6
3 Ostberg +3.9
When they arrived for the start of stage eight at three in the afternoon, the rain had started. Also, with Seb out, Thierry would be first on the road. Mads didn’t remain in third for long, as Teemu was 1.3 faster setting the quickest time and did a Mads, jumping from fifth to third! Jari-Matti and Esapekka set the same time, meaning the gap between them remained 1.6 seconds.
SS8 – Äänekoski-Valtra 1 (7.39km)
1 Suninen 3:27.4 (140kph)
2 Hanninen +0.2
3 Latvala +1.1
Esapekka reduced the gap once more by half a second to Jari-Matti. Just incredible driving from the young Finn. Craig was also on the move, passing Mads, who was now back down into fifth place.
SS9 – Laukaa 1 (11.76km)
1 Lappi 5:51.0 (132kph)
2 Latvala +0.5
3 Suninen +2.4
Lappi took the next stage as well, and after pushing really hard, emerged in the lead! Once more, it was a Finn 1-2-3-4, with Juho fourth fastest, despite damaging his suspension on a stray rock in the road. With that time, Juho had moved past Craig into fourth. Mads had a nightmare dropping to seventh overall. Elfyn in his Fiesta made a very good move, going sixth fastest and moving up from eighth into sixth overall.
SS10 – Lankamaa (21.68km)
1 Lappi 10:21.4 (126kph)
2 Suninen +0.7
3 Latvala +1.4
Esapekka increased his lead to 3.5 seconds over Jari-Matti in stage eleven, with Teemu and Ott just behind him. Jari-Matti could only manage eighth fastest. Thierry passed Kris for eighth overall, but really for him, it had been a very quiet day, barely troubling the drivers at the front.
SS11 – Äänekoski-Valtra 2 (7.39km)
1 Lappi 3:23.4 (140kph)
2 Suninen +0.4
3 Tanak +0.7
At the front of the leaderboard, not much changed in stage twelve, but further back, Mads passed Elfyn for sixth place. Craig Breen was also 4 seconds faster than Juho, thus moving back ahead of the Toyota driver into fourth.
SS12 – Laukaa 2 (11.76km)
1 Lappi 5:44.9 (132kph)
2 Latvala +1.1
3 Ostberg +2.9
The final stage of the day then and Thierry was fastest, with Tanak and Breen just a few tenths behind.
SS13 – Harju 2 (2.31km)
1 Neuville 1:46.9 (120kph)
2 Tanak +0.1
3️ Breen +0.3
Top ten at the end of Friday
1 Lappi 1:11:36.4
2 Latvala +4.4
3 Suninen +19.0
4️ Breen +33.0
5 Hanninen +39.1
6 Ostberg +45.0
7 Evans +45.1
8 Neuville +58.0
9️ Meeke +1:07.6
10 Tanak +1:50.2
Let’s hear from the drivers then.
Esapekka Lappi 1st said:
“I could never have imagined I would be leading Rally Finland. Just competing here in a World Rally Car has been a dream I have had since I was a small boy. That I am leading is hard to comprehend. But it’s been a really clean run so far with no mistakes and the car has been perfect. I’ve given it my all. I won’t force myself to fight against Jari-Matti if it means I will take too many risks. It feels to special to be leading this rally, the spectators are amazing, you just can’t feel that anywhere else.”
Jari-Matti Latvala 2nd said:
“Of course, Esapekka was always going to be fast, but I didn’t think he was going to be such a hurricane and that we would be the top two in this position after the first full day. The car is working well; I’m very happy with the balance and generally my driving has been good. When you have no other issues and a good car, you can just focus on the driving. There’s a little bit of a home advantage I think, as our car has been developed in Finland on roads like these. My confidence is high, but at the same time I’m trying to avoid taking any big risks.”
Teemu Suninen 3rd said:
“I’m very happy to be sitting in third place today. This is my home rally and only my second time in a world rally car so it is special for sure. The Finnish fans have been amazing as always and I want to thank all of them for their support.
“I think we have driven well today and shown good pace with no mistakes, but there are still things to improve. I need to be more consistent and more precise with the driving lines as that is what brings the good times here with these cars.
“I would say that my main strength is that I seem to be improving quite quickly. Hopefully we can continue that and someday be fighting for the victory myself. That is not the objective this weekend – I just want to focus on myself and forget about my Finnish friends ahead.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
Craig Breen 4th said:
“It’s been a good day, even if everything wasn’t perfect. This morning, after a bit of a ‘big’ landing over a jump, I had the feeling that there was something wrong with the handling and it was getting worse as we progressed. The team did their magic in service and the C3 WRC they handed me back was like new, but I had a few minor problems on the second loop. My pace notes weren’t always perfect and I was a little too careful in places. Every tenth you give away is hard to get back, but there’s still a long way to go – we haven’t even reached halfway as yet.”
Kris Meeke 9th said:
“Obviously, it wasn’t quite the day I was hoping for. I just couldn’t find the feeling that I had here last year when I won the rally. Despite our efforts and the work done in service, I couldn’t place the car like I wanted to and I was struggling to feel the grip. And clearly, it wasn’t ideal to contest the last few stages with the damaged steering.”
Khalid Al Qassimi 20th said:
“It was a tough day, during which I lost a lot of time. I was constantly looking for traction and struggled to keep the car on the right line. We made a lot of changes to the set-up – the differential, the throttle, the springs – but I think there is still a lot we can improve.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Juho Hänninen 5th said:
“The general feeling here has been really good. The car has been working well. It is handling really well even on the high-speed sections and the jumps. This morning I wasn’t fully confident because the grip was changing, but things improved this afternoon and the times were good. Then I hit a rock and damaged the suspension. We were lucky to be able to finish the day without losing too much time. Tomorrow we will continue from where we left off before.”
Mads Østberg 6th said:
“This was really frustrating, but something electronic in the rear was playing up and started locking up the rear wheels and that is something you really don`t want on these fast roads. I was back up to speed on the last stages of the day, and gained back one position, but it is nearly impossible to regain 25-30 seconds from the leaders in a rally like this where the margins are so tight. Still I aim to fight for a possible podium position. It’s a long way to go and my speed is definitely there.”
“We have done a good job during testing before the rally, and I really hope that we can continue without technical issues tomorrow. This is my favourite rally and we are not too far away from the last podium position. Torstein has done a tremendous job. I can tell you, it`s really not simple to step into a car like this in the fastest rally of the season. Both Torstein and I are determined to push to the maximum tomorrow and Sunday.”
Elfyn Evans 7th said:
“With no pre-event test, we’ve had to discover the optimum set-up out on the stages. I was struggling with understeer throughout much of the morning and that hampered our confidence. On these roads – and at these speeds – that confidence makes all the difference.
“That said, we’re in seventh position with some very close gaps ahead. There’s still a long way to go so let’s see what tomorrow brings.”
Ott Tänak 10th said:
“The disappointment came early in the day so after that we just had to keep going. We ran slightly wide at the start of SS4 and picked up a puncture. We lost more than one and a half minutes which obviously ended our hopes of challenging for the victory. At these speeds, the gaps are so close, and it is very difficult to make up the time.
“Since then, we’ve just been focused on driving cleanly. There is still motivation as it’s important for the team that we score as many points as possible. But you know the motivation is different when you are not fighting for the win. There is still a long way to go and a lot can still happen in this rally, so we just need to continue as we are and see what happens.”
Sébastien Ogier said:
“There was a big jump about two kilometres before we crashed. The landing damaged the rear suspension and towards the end of the stage I got a bit distracted by it. I was too late on the brakes and we had an impact sideways into a tree.
“It’s a real shame because our pace was really good and now we have missed an opportunity to score some good points for the championship. We had already lost some seconds with a throttle problem that was coming and going, but without that we were fighting right at the front.”
Thierry Neuville 8th said:
“It has not been an easy day. We have been struggling to find the required rhythm for these incredibly fast stages. Following Ogier’s issue in the morning, we knew we had inherited an opportunity to close the gap in the Championship even further, but so far, we haven’t made as much progress as we’d have liked. We have been first on the road for much of the day, which is of course part of the game, but we have been losing a bit to the other guys. The Toyota’s are, as expected, much faster, but my focus now is on moving up the classification to the top-five, where a solid points haul will aid our Championship ambitions. This rally is not over yet, even if we are now on the back foot after a difficult Friday. There is plenty to play for.”
Dani Sordo 11th said:
“There is not a lot to say, at least nothing really positive. We have not found the confidence in the car to tackle the rally with full attack. In Finland, more than anywhere else, you need to have full commitment inside the car; the smallest of lifts can make a huge difference on the timesheets. We have been trying all we can to get the right feeling but the others just have more. We will look at the information we have with the engineers this evening to see what we can do to improve for the rest of the rally.”
Hayden Paddon said:
“There is no margin for error in Finland, and so that has proven today. We started well and showed some encouraging pace on the opening stages. Then, in SS4, we ran slightly wide on the same corner several other drivers did. Unfortunately, a rock hit back and we broke our suspension. It wasn’t a huge amount of damage but enough to end our day prematurely. Still, the speed of the car is good and we were competitive; when you go just a tiny bit too fast here in Finland, there can be a heavy price to pay. We’ll be back under Rally 2 on Saturday.”
SATURDAY JULY 29
7.20am: Service D (Jyväskylä – 15 mins)
8.58am: SS14 – Pihlajakoski 1 (14.90km)
10.06am: SS15 – Päijälä 1 (22.68km)
10.49am: SS16 – Ouninpohja 1 (24.38km)
12.02pm: SS17 – Saalahti 1 (4.21km)
1.27pm: Service E (Jyväskylä – 30 mins)
2.55pm: SS18 – Saalahti 2 (4.21km)
4.08pm: SS19 – Ouninpohja 2 (24.38km)
5.16pm: SS20 – Pihlajakoski 2 (14.90km)
6.24pm: SS21 – Päijälä 2 (22.68km)
8.39pm: Flexi Service F (Jyväskylä – 45 mins)
Saturday dawned cloudy, but it wasn’t raining. The roads in the first stage of the day were not as dry as you might expect. Latvala won the stage and his teammate, Esapekka was 3.8 seconds slower meaning that the gap was now six tenths of a second. At stage end, Jari-Matti said he pushed really hard, using the whole road. He had grass sticking out of his radiator- Evidence of how hard he’d pushed. Lappi said he wasn’t going to fight with Latvala. Elfyn was on the move as well, passing Mads for sixth place.
SS14 – Pihlajakoski 1 (14.90km)
1 Latvala 6:53.9
2 Hanninen +2.7
3 Suninen +3.2
Watching the cars through stage 15 was amazing. They were sideways out of the corners and flying from the top of the crests on the road. Jari-Matti pushed like crazy, going through corners in fifth gear! The outcome of all of this this was he took the lead emphatically! Now with Elfyn’s time being as good as it was and the spin that Craig suffered at a junction, the Welsh wizard climbed another spot into fifth!
SS15 – Päijälä 1 (22.68km)
1 Latvala 10:55.5 (124.6kph)
2 Evans +3.7
3 Lappi +5.4
Now it was time for the big one. It’s an unbelievable stage, Ouninpohja…… Run in the opposite direction compared to last year as well. A real rollercoaster, cornering at 170kph- That’s over 100mph! This stage does not have any straights, every part is either a left or a right-hand corner. They are blind as well. Only the ones that really know it, can push that hard. Jari-Matti was quicker again in this, increasing his lead to 7.3 seconds over Lappi. It was a Toyota 1-2-3 in this as well with Juho third through the stage and moving ahead of Teemu as well into third overall. Sadly, Mads went off and broke his suspension which dropped him down the field to eleventh place.
SS16 – Ouninpohja 1 (24.38km)
1 Latvala 10:56.9 (133.6kph)
2 Lappi +2.5
3 Hanninen +11.5
Stage seventeen saw Jari-Matti increase his lead to 7.8 seconds, through the shorter 4km stage, which was run again after afternoon service. He won it in the afternoon as well.
SS17 – Saalahti 1 (4.21km)
1 Latvala 1:58.4 (128kph)
2 Lappi +0.5
3 Tanak +0.5
At the end of stage 18, Jari-Matti had a 8.5 lead over Lappi with Juho just ahead of Teemu.
SS18 – Saalahti 2 (4.21km)
1 Latvala 1:56.4 (130.2kph)
2 Lappi +0.7
3 Suninen +1.0
It was time to run the big one again and the speeds would be even higher this time. Mads jumped over fifty metres! There would be drama in the Toyota of Jari-Matti though. Mid-way through the stage the car just stopped and there was nothing the Finn could do about it. He thumped the steering wheel in frustration. The dream was over again for another year. Esapekka passed the stricken Yaris WRC in the stage. When he reached stage end he was told he led again, but he sounded glum. He was disappointed he’d taken the lead in this way. Thierry finally found some pace and with everything, moved up into sixth position.
SS19 – Ouninpohja 2 (24.38km)
1 Lappi 10:49.8 (135.1kph)
2 Hanninen +2.8
3 Neuville +5.5
Final stage of the day, and there would be drama for Kris. A rock would puncture his tyre and the resulting damage would rip the front near-side of the car apart. Teemu won the stage, with Elfyn and Mads, giving us a Fiesta 1-2-3! With that time, it meant that Teemu was now in second overall! Just astonishing in only his second outing in a WRC car.
SS20 – Pihlajakoski 2 (14.90km)
1 Suninen 6:49.0 (131.1kph)
2 Evans +1.3
3 Ostberg +1.8
Top ten overall
1 Lappi 2:02:13.2
2 Suninen +54.4
3 Hanninen +55.4
4 Evans +1:01.9
5️ Breen +1:17.4
6 Neuville +1:34.1
7️ Meeke +2:09.6
8 Tanak +2:14.1
9 Sordo +3:48.0
10 Ostberg +4:21.4
So, here’s the views of all the drivers.
Esapekka Lappi 1st said:
“It is amazing to be leading at this moment, although I have mixed emotions as I am disappointed for Jari-Matti. He was driving really well. I could not keep up with him without taking big risks, which I did not want to do. When I passed him I slowed down a little bit. I am used to leading with a gap as it happened last year and I know how to manage a lead. I must now concentrate and keep my mind clear. I will sleep well tonight.”
Teemu Suninen 2nd said:
“I’m feeling good today. When I had a good feeling on the stages the times have been really good, but it was a disappointment to have lost so much time on Ouninpohja this morning. We lost about 20 seconds at a chicane and that has a big effect now as the fight is really tight.
“Tomorrow, I think all of us will have to keep the same pace as today if not more. I’ll continue to focus on my own driving – on keeping a good rhythm and on not making any mistakes.”
Juho Hänninen 3rd said:
“This morning was very good. It was a clear run. The afternoon was not so easy. I was a little bit too careful in the last stage, which was very narrow at the end, and I could have been a bit more brave. We are still in a good position, but it is very close with the cars around us. I will try to get second place, that’s the goal for tomorrow.”
Elfyn Evans 4th said:
“It will be an exciting day tomorrow. It’s fair to say that we were struggling yesterday, but it’s been a pretty positive day for us today.
“Everything seems to have come together and we’ve been happy with our performance on most of the stages.
“The conditions suited us a bit better today and we also found a better balance with the car which helped regain some of the confidence we had been lacking previously.
“It’s game on for tomorrow so let’s see what we can do.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
Craig Breen 5th said:
“It’s been something of an up and down day, a bit like the roads here in Finland! I thought I could have been a bit faster in places, but I had a bit of trouble with the set-up we chose for the morning. It was better this afternoon, when there was more grip, but it still wasn’t perfect. I feel like we’re further away from the podium, but we’re still only thirty seconds off second place. If luck is on our side tomorrow, we might be able to move up the standings.”
Kris Meeke 8th said:
“Every year it’s the same. Ouninpohja is simply one of the best rally stages, an incredible piece of road. The level of grip was good this afternoon and I was able to push because I had a good feeling in the car. We changed quite a few things on the set-up during the mid-leg service and we got some interesting information for the future, so that was pretty positive. On the final stage, we picked up a puncture after hitting a stone. I wanted to keep pushing but the tyre exploded, causing some fairly serious-looking damage. But it wasn’t all that serious.”
Khalid Al Qassimi 17th said:
“It was another tough day. We worked constantly with the engineers, and yet the car remains very sensitive and tricky to drive on these ultra-fast roads. I had a few moments, especially on the final stage, when we went wide into a ditch and hit some rocks. Fortunately, the damage wasn’t too substantial and we are still in the race.”
Thierry Neuville 6th said:
“Another dissatisfying day for us, but we have gained a few places since yesterday thanks, unfortunately, to others experiencing trouble. We need to pick up as many points as we can, to try and close the gap to Sébastien. The car performed better in the afternoon loop, although it wasn’t without its difficulties. In the final stage, I hit a rock in the narrow section and bent the steering. I had to back off a bit. We know that we need to rely on some luck to make up any more positions on the final day, but we’ll see what happens.”
Dani Sordo 9th said:
“These stages are fantastic and it is a privilege to drive them. The two runs through Ouninpohja were incredible, like a circuit inside the forest. Overall, we had a better afternoon loop when the stages had more grip, but it is just difficult to find motivation and enjoyment when the times are not there. We have not been in a position to fight for anything meaningful so we are just focused on getting through each stage – it is not an ideal way to approach a rally but we can do no more.”
Hayden Paddon (Ret) said:
“There was nothing we could do about our retirement today. We were going through a blind left, into a right, when all of a sudden, I caught sight of a big football-sized rock in the road. In the split-second it took to see it, and I knew it would do damage. We could not avoid it and it broke the suspension arm. The real shame is the lack of mileage from this rally. We will be back out on Sunday to try and end this weekend on a high note.”
Ott Tänak 7th said:
“The Finns have been quite dominant this weekend, but I think it would have been possible to be in that fight. After yesterday’s time loss, there was no opportunity to see if we could do that and it’s difficult to find the same confidence when you are not fighting for the win.
“We’ve just been trying to improve the feeling without taking too many risks. That said, it’s still been a decent day and you can’t help but enjoy yourself on these Finnish roads.”
Speaking about the spin on the first run through Ouninpohja-
Mads Østberg 10th said:
“It was nothing very dramatic, but we hit some rocks, was thrown off the road and damaged the suspension and brakes rear left on the car. We had to stop and check the damages and change a wheel, and continued on the stage without much effect from the brakes. That resulted in further time loss, and it really is quite scary to drive such a fast stage without brakes”.
“Yesterday I played with car, today I have had to fight with it. We have worked all day to improve the set-up, and it has been a little better, but not the same as Friday”.
The car still isn`t balanced as I would like, and we need a proper check-up during end of day service. We aim to go for some good stage times tomorrow and possibly some points on the “power stage”.
8.00am: Service G (Jyväskylä – 15 mins)
9.25am: SS21 – Lempää 1 (6.80km)
10.08am: SS22 – Oittila 1 (10.12km)
11.47am: SS23 – Lempää 2 (6.80km)
1.18pm: SS24 – Oittila 2 Power Stage (10.12km)
2.21pm: Service H (Jyväskylä – 10 mins)
Sunday morning, and Esapekka had a very healthy lead of nearly 50 seconds. It was bright and sunny. Who would complete the podium? We had Teemu, Juho and Elfyn covered by just seven seconds.
Stage 21 went to fourth placed Elfyn and with that, the gap came down. Further back Citroen pairing Khalid Al Qassimi and Kris Meeke both had damage, so they both returned to the service park.
SS21 – Päijälä 2 (22.68km)
1 Evans 10:42.3 (127.1kph)
2 Tanak + 0.6
3 Suninen +1.9
With the problem fixed on Jari-Matti’s Toyota, he returned to the top of the time sheets with a quickest time through stage 22. Incredibly, with Juho going through the stage faster than Teemu, they were both now on the same overall time, 49.4 seconds down from Lappi. Elfyn was also continuing his hunt for a podium finish.
SS22 – Lempää 1 (6.80km)
1 Latvala 3:08.4 (129.9kph)
2 Hanninen +1.1
3 Evans +1.8
Latvala was back in the groove and took the next stage, thus setting him up well for later, as this stage would be run again as the power-stage. Thierry didn’t do very well at all, after running wide twice and losing several seconds as a result. Evans was the one on the move however, passing Juho on the leaderboard and into third place. Juho had made a mistake, hitting something at the side of the road, losing time as a consequence.
SS23 – Oittila 1 (10.12km)
1 Latvala 4:52.1 (124.7kph)
2 Suninen +3.2
3 Evans +3.7
A combination of things happened in this stage that meant Juho would jump back into second overall. Firstly, he would set the same time as Jari-Matti and despite Elfyn being just 1.1 seconds slower than that, it was enough to put the Welsh wizard behind the Finn. The other thing was that Teemu dropped out of that battle completely after he spun in a very quick right-hander, which turned the car around and pulled the bumper into the hedge. Incredibly, Esapekka ran wide as well, damaging his rear wheel. Just shows how on the limit that they drive these cars.
SS24 – Lempää 2 (6.80km)
1 Hanninen 3:08.3 (130kph)
2 Latvala +0.0
3 Tanak +0.5
It was the last stage! The power-stage gives points for the top five best times. Jari-Matti wanted this one, and he had reason to be optimistic after being fastest earlier. However, his time would be beaten and he would ultimately be fourth quickest. Ott would win the stage and take max points from it. What would happen between Evans and Juho? Incredibly, with Juho only fifth fastest, 2.7 seconds slower, Elfyn was second fastest through the stage and it was enough to put him into second overall, just three tenths of a second faster after 25 stages! Just amazing.
Esapekka had won the rally and what a result for him in only his fourth event at this level.
SS25 – Oittila 2 (Power Stage) (10.12km)
1 Tanak 4:48.6 (126.2kph)
2 Evans +1.5
3 Neuville +2.0
1 Lappi 2:29:26.9
2 Evans +36.0
3 Hanninen +36.3
4 Suninen +1:01.5
5️ Breen +1:22.6
6 Neuville +1:33.1
7 Tanak +1:53.6
8️ Meeke +3:12.6
9 Sordo +4:11.5
10 Ostberg +4:21.2
Let’s hear from the drivers at the end of this amazing historic event.
Esapekka Lappi 1st said:
“I’m not normally an emotional person but this is amazing. What a rally. I could never have imagined that we could get a result like this, so it’s a very big surprise. I have to say a big thank you to the team because they have built such a great car in a very short period.”
Elfyn Evans 2nd said:
“We’re really chuffed to come away from Rally Finland with second place – especially as that wasn’t looking likely on Friday evening. We kept at it, kept pushing and managed to claw our way back up the leader board. It’s a really positive way to finish the weekend.
“Friday was a very difficult day for us. We started without a test and were really struggling with the balance of the car throughout that opening day. We made some changes which helped quite a lot and the longer stages and drier conditions helped too. We started making our way up the order and it all went from there.
“Going into this morning, it was a very difficult situation to be in. There was an element of wanting to push for the best result, but at the same time it was really important to secure good points for the team. It wasn’t an all-out attack, but it all worked out in the end.
“It’s not the win, but it’s still a strong weekend and we can be pleased with the job we have done this weekend.”
Juho Hänninen 3rd said:
“It’s been an amazing weekend and I’m very happy with this result. Of course, I tried to get second, but we made a few mistakes. I’m still very happy to be on the podium for the first time in my career. Thank you to the team and this fantastic car that made it possible.”
Teemu Suninen 4th said:
“Of course, it’s disappointing to have lost out on a podium in the final stages, but we had to try. This is our last planned rally in a world rally car, so I had to try. Unfortunately, I just ran a little bit wide and had a high-speed spin which dropped us out of that battle.
“I’m disappointed right now, but in the morning, I think I will feel better – knowing that I was fighting for a podium on only my second time in this car.
“We had really good pace all weekend – honestly more than we had expected before the rally – and I am happy with that. A big thanks also to all of the fans and the team for their support which has been pushing me to do my best.”
Ott Tänak 7th said:
“The Finns have been quite dominant this weekend but I think we had the pace to be in the fight. Unfortunately, we will never know what would have been possible – our disappointment coming quite early in the rally.
“To score the top times here in Finland you need to be fully confident, and it’s hard to find that when you’re not fighting for the best positions. But it’s still been a fairly decent weekend. Driving in Finland is always a lot of fun and we showed our speed with the fastest time through the Power Stage.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
Craig Breen 5th said:
“It wasn’t our best day in terms of pure performance. I knew that I couldn’t make up the ground on the leaders in normal racing conditions so I just focused on containing Thierry Neuville. For sure, it’s a good run of fifth places but I’d like to get back onto the podium before the end of the season!”
Kris Meeke 8th said:
“Although there weren’t many miles to cover, it was still a proper leg with some typically fast Finnish stages. As I had nothing to gain by taking risks and was low on confidence, I played it safely to bring the car home.”
Khalid Al Qassimi 16th said:
“Like yesterday, I was first on the road and that made my job a little more difficult. The roads were very slippery this morning and it wasn’t easy to read the level of grip. So I drove without any real feeling, but there wasn’t much else I could do.”
Thierry Neuville 6th said:
“We set out to score more than Ogier this weekend, and we were able to achieve that. We had a very difficult weekend so to salvage some points is crucial. The Power Stage was a key moment, as we scored three vital extra points to move to the top of the Championship. This levels the playing field with four events left of the season, so it has been an important result. We know everyone is pushing hard to keep us in contention, so we have to put this complicated rally behind us and look forward to Germany, the team’s home event, where we know from the past that we can perform well.”
Dani Sordo 9th said:
“I am relieved that this rally is over. I have never had the right feeling all weekend, and on these fast roads you need to be fully committed to perform at the highest level. It has been complicated, not only for me but also for the team, so we have to put this behind us and look forward to the next event. We cannot let this weekend affect us; we need to stay concentrated and push flat out for victory in Germany!”
Hayden Paddon said: “It has been one of those weekends for us. After our retirements on Friday and Saturday, we wanted to approach these final stages in a positive manner and to get some time behind the wheel. This rally has perfectly illustrated our season, where anything that can go wrong does go wrong. The Power Stage was another example, when the car unexpectedly went straight on at a third gear corner. Still, we got to the end of the rally and I am sure, one day in the future, we will look back and laugh at our bad luck this year. I am sure we could have fought for the podium this weekend, and that is the positive that we will take away.”
Mads Østberg and co-driver Torstein finished Rally Finland in 10th place, after a challenging but also positive weekend on the superfast Finnish roads.
Mads 10th said:
“I`m not thinking so much on the end result, because this has actually been my best rally this season. Except for some bad luck with the off-road excursion yesterday, we have been genuinely competitive this weekend with many top-three stage times. Torstein has also done a fantastic job jumping into the co-drivers seat on relatively short notice. We will just have to work with the positive experiences from this rally, and therefore I am really positive before the rest of the season”.
Thinking of the coming weeks ahead, Mads continued,
“It’s really tough with two WRC-rallies and one ERC-event in only 17 days. But also, very interesting and challenging with the chance to evaluate three different codrivers. I am looking for a permanent codriver to partner me further on and Torstein, Patrick and Emil are all possible candidates for this job”.
Well, the championship has just got very interesting indeed. With Seb not scoring any points at all and Thierry finishing in sixth place and scoring enough points to bring him level with Seb at the top. We have a four-event battle to look forward to for this year’s championship. It starts in two weeks in Rally Germany!
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round 9
1 T. Neuville 160
2 S. Ogier 160
3 O. Tanak 119
4 J.M Latvala 114
5 D. Sordo 84
6 E. Evans 79
7 C. Breen 53
8 H. Paddon 51
9 J. Hänninen 46
10 E. Lappi 45
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings