With just four stages totaling 74km, the startlist looked like this- Meeke, Katsuta, Ogier, Suninen, Evans, Latvala, Loeb, Tänak, Sordo, Neuville.
First up then was SS 14 – Riudecanyes 1 (16,35 km), and Ott Tänak had one goal. To pass Dani Sordo. The Spaniard was on it though, and whilst Thierry won the stage, Dani took the second fastest stage time and with the Estonian just a few tenths behind i20 pilot, the gap opened up a little. Elfyn was finding some pace as well, going fourth fastest and reducing the gap to Jari-Matti.
The first run through SS 15 – La Mussara 1 (20,72 km) was won by Dani, whilst Ott Tänak took the second fastest time and young Finn Teemu was third. Seb Ogier was eighth, complaining of wheelspin at the rear.
Into SS 16 – Riudecanyes 2 (16,35 km) and the Dani and Ott battle continued. The Hyundai pilot won the stage, and had increased the gap to Ott, whilst Seb Ogier’s changes to his car improved things, but made other things worse. Elfyn was finding some pace, and had reduced the gap to Latvala to fifteen seconds.
The final stage then, SS 17 – La Mussara 2 Power Stage (20,72 km) and there were some surprises. Elfyn had set the early benchmark time. Dani and then Thierry tried their best to beat it, and then Ott Tänak flew through, like he has on so many occasions this year and took the fastest time, and as a bonus, beat Dani Sordo’s time as well by six seconds, thus clinching second place overall. We have a new world champion crew, and the first from Estonia as well! What a drive from Ott Tänak and Martin Jarveoja in their Yaris WRC.
“What a weekend! We have been consistently quick on all three days, and we did absolutely everything we could. It wasn’t enough to keep the drivers’ championship alive until Australia but my congratulations go to Ott for securing the title. Our focus now moves fully onto the manufacturers’ battle. We have taken good points this weekend, and increased our lead but there’s now a crucial rally to come in Australia to get the job done. The car has proven itself to be quick on all terrains in recent rallies, and we can head to the season finale in a positive frame of mind.”
Dani Sordo (3rd)
“I am happy to finish on the podium in my home rally but of course we would have preferred to keep hold of second place. Ott was on a mission today, and we missed out by 0.4 seconds. A podium is always special but it’s even better with the support of the Spanish fans. We’ve had a competitive rally and for the team this has been an important result. Thank you to the team for giving us a car that has worked so well all weekend. These sorts of results don’t come just from the crews, it is a full team effort and they’ve all done a great job.”
Seb Loeb (4th)
“It has been a positive rally for the entire Hyundai Motorsport team. While our own performance has been a bit frustrating since Saturday, we took reassurance from Thierry and Dani’s pace. The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC is a fantastic car on all terrains, as we have seen this weekend. We pushed as hard as we could today, but we just could not set the sort of times we’d have wanted. However, this is a team effort and we leave Spain with a lot of valuable points for the manufacturers’ championship, which sets things up as nicely as possible for the final round.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Ott Tänak (2nd)
“It’s hard to know what to say in this moment. The pressure this weekend has been on another level. This has been the target of my life. I knew I couldn’t make any mistakes, but still I had to do a good result to make it happen. So, it was massive pressure and it was difficult to get used to it at the beginning. But in the end, I was somehow able to relax and do my normal driving. This morning I had a good feeling in the car and could drive with a good rhythm, but Dani [Sordo] was always a bit faster, so I knew it would be hard in the Power Stage to get the points we needed. I pushed hard and, in the end, it paid off. I’ve had to overcome a lot in my career, so it’s nice to finally achieve this. Thank you to the team; they have done a great job.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)
“I’m happy with my weekend. I think we had a consistent run and we didn’t really make any mistakes during the weekend, and the performance was overall at a good level. I was lacking some confidence at the start of this rally so I must be happy with the result and that we could score some good points for the team. Maybe we could have got fourth place today if I had pushed hard, but it would not have benefited us in the manufacturers’ championship and this was the most important thing, to keep it open going to the final round in Australia.”
Kris Meeke (29th)
“I enjoyed the rhythm back in the car today. We know that the Yaris WRC is really strong on asphalt, and I had a good feeling again this morning. We had to back off in the Power Stage because there was no way in which we could have helped Ott wrap up the championship, and it was important not to get in the mix and potentially take points away from him. We’ll go to Australia with something to fight for still in the manufacturers’ championship and we’ll give it our best.”
Elfyn Evans (6th)
“Sixth place isn’t the result we wanted this weekend. At times we were able to show the speed we were capable of, but unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that all the time and I was struggling with the general feeling. But we made a small change for the Power Stage and I was able to really push. We secured a good result there, and moved up again in the championship which is a positive.”
Teemu Suninen (7th)
“I was really pleased with my pace and consistency on Tarmac this weekend, and now we can focus on the next step which is to be even faster with that same consistency. On the Power Stage I knew I could be fast but I braked too late, touched the rock face, and lost a lot of time. Without that, I know I could have scored some really good points there. Still I am really pleased with my performance, and looking forward to the last rally in Australia.
Citroën Total WRT
Sébastien Ogier (8th)
“Clearly, this wasn’t the result that we were hoping for coming into this round. We were determined to fight right to the end but unfortunately, it was all over for us early in the weekend. After the issue on Friday, inevitably our adrenaline and motivation levels were never quite the same, but we did what we could to be as professional as possible, to work on the car’s tarmac set-up and still try to push hard. Congratulations to Ott and Martin for deservedly winning the titles. They have done it in style.”
Esapekka Lappi (DNF)
“I’m disappointed that my rally came to a premature end, especially as I had enjoyed a pretty solid and consistent opening leg up to that point, in terms of pace. The gaps were small and we were up for the fight, because I felt comfortable in my C3 WRC. I was looking forward to seeing how much progress we made on tarmac and the times set by Sébastien and Julien suggest that we have definitely moved in the right direction. I will now look forward to Australia and finishing the season on a high with the best possible result.”
DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Ott Tänak – 263 points
Thierry Neuville – 227 points
Sébastien Ogier – 217 points
Andreas Mikkelsen & Elfyn Evans – 102 points
Kris Meeke – 98 points
Jari-Matti Latvala – 94 points
Teemu Suninen & Dani Sordo – 89 points
Esapekka Lappi – 83 points
MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Hyundai WRT – 380 points
Toyota Gazoo Racing – 362 points
Citroën Total WRT – 284 points
M-Sport Ford WRT – 218 points
Well, it’s happened at last! We have a new world rally champion crew. Ott Tänak and Martin Jarveoja have secured their first world crown, and finally broken the run of fifteen consecutive French world champions. It’s the first drivers’ world championship for Toyota as well since Didier Auriol won in 1994.
Thierry and Nicolas did their best to hold them off, with a great drive in Spain to their third win of the year. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia started well on Friday, but after their problems, they really weren’t in the running. They will be back next year, even stronger to gain the title back before they retire.
Elsewhere in the service park, Dani Sordo and Seb Loeb put together some very good drives that have helped Hyundai in their fight for the manufacturer’s championship. Their lead over Toyota is eighteen points heading to Rally Australia.
In the M-Sport camp, Elfyn found some pace and came close to a stage victory, only being eclipsed by Ott Tänak right at the end. This result, plus the points that he scored for sixth position have lifted him back into fourth overall in the championship standings, equal with Andreas Mikkelsen. This battle to finish best of the rest in the standings will be decided at the final round next month down under.
We have one round left then, Rally Australia from the 14th to 17th of November. Pop back then for my preview.
With seven full tarmac stages today, the battle for the rally win and championship continued. The startlist looked like this – Ogier, Katsuta, Suninen, Evans, Latvala, Tänak, Meeke, Sordo, Neuville, Loeb.
We started with SS 7 – Savallà 1 (14,08 km) and straight away, Thierry who’d set the fastest time, moved into the lead, setting a time almost five seconds faster than overnight leader Loeb, who could only get the sixth best time. Meeke and Ogier were second and third in the stage with the result that the Toyota pilot now moved ahead of Dani and into third overall. Elfyn had the goal of getting ahead of Latvala, and was over two seconds quicker than the Finn.
The longer SS 8 – Querol 1 (21,26 km) saw the demise of Kris sadly, after hitting some Armco with the right-hand-side of his car. This put the Brit out for the day, and now we had a Hyundai 1-2-3 again, with everyone gaining a place. Latvala gapped Evans again, after going second fastest, and thus increased to thirteen or so seconds. Ogier was now in eighth place. Meaning he was in the points scoring positions.
Into SS 9 – El Montmell 1 (24,40 km) and there wasn’t much to separate the top three of Tänak, Ogier and Sordo covered by just 1.7 seconds, and the gap between the Estonian and Spaniard reduced to a little under ten seconds.
After lunchtime service the rerun of SS 10 – Savallà 2 (14,08 km) saw Ott top the times again, as he and Martin found their rhythm, and now the gap to Dani was a little over seven seconds. How would the Hyundai pilot react in the next one? Meantime Thierry was pulling away at the front from his illustrious teammate, the gap now more than fifteen seconds. In the battle between Elfyn and Jari-Matti, the Finn was winning, with the gap now almost twenty seconds.
Next up, SS 11 – Querol 2 (21,26 km) and the top three, Tänak, Latvala and Neuville were separated by just six tenths of a second. Super close! The gap was coming down bit by bit between Dani and Ott, as the Estonian looked for another podium.
The last big stage of the day, SS 12 – El Montmell 2 (24,40 km) and we had a change in the podium positions, but not who you might have expected! Dani passed Loeb, as the Frenchman could only manage the eighth fastest time, almost eight seconds slower than Ott. Further down the gap between Elfyn and Latvala remained around twenty seconds, despite the Welshman being a little faster than Jari-Matti.
Now it was time for the final stage of the day, SS 13 – Salou (2,24 km) and Thierry set the best time from Dani and Ott, and the Estonian was now ahead of Loeb and in third place, and just a few seconds behind second place as well.
“We have been fully motivated and confident with the car on these tarmac stages today. We had the perfect start to the day with two more stage wins and moving into the rally lead. From there, we were able to gradually increase our advantage stage by stage, adopting a clever approach to keep things smooth and clean. We took things a bit easier once we saw Kris (Meeke) have his issue this morning, especially in the big cuts to avoid punctures. Overall, we’re in the position we want – and need – to be. Nothing’s over until it’s over so we will keep pushing with our sights set firmly on securing victory tomorrow, and a good team result for the manufacturers’ championship.”
Dani Sordo (2nd)
“We have done our best to continue the 1-2-3 formation that we achieved yesterday but it’s been a more challenging day. We have pushed as hard as we could, even if we’ve been missing some time here and there. It has also been important to stay cautious at times, particularly in the cuts, as it is so easy to run into trouble. Tänak has been driving well, as we expected, so our job today has been trying to defend our position. There’s not a lot of time between three crews battling for second place, so tomorrow will be a critical day. We will keep fighting as hard as we can.”
Seb Loeb (4th)
“We started this morning’s loop almost like a completely new rally, swapping the gravel stages for tarmac. It doesn’t matter what surface we have, the stages in Spain are great and the atmosphere is incredible. We have had to adopt some caution at times today to avoid making mistakes. The feeling with the car and the balance has been nice but for some reason the times just haven’t been there. In the final stage, I stalled the engine which cost us some time and lost us third place. But overall, I don’t think we could have done much more. We will check this evening to understand where we’re losing out. Thierry has been going very fast and the team is still in a strong position overall, which is the positive we take into Sunday’s stages.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Ott Tänak (3rd)
“I’m really happy with how today turned out. This morning, I was really struggling and I couldn’t find any rhythm. The car was feeling good but I was a long way from being close to the limit. It was difficult to get used to the pressure of the situation. But I managed to reset for the afternoon and I could improve the rhythm. Tomorrow is another long day with some demanding stages, so there is still a big job to do.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)
“Overall, I must say that today has been good. At first this morning, I struggled with the brakes a bit after the change from gravel, but in the second stage already I had a very good feeling with the car. The afternoon started pretty well too. On El Montmell I ran wide, hit something and damaged the steering arm so we lost a bit of time there. But otherwise, it has been a positive day. Tomorrow I’m going to try to keep the pressure on and see what happens, as we need as many points as we can get.”
Kris Meeke (39th)
“When you transition from gravel to asphalt on this event, you’re always wondering what the car is going to feel like. The rhythm was really nice this morning and the car felt incredible. Not far into the second stage, I went to brake for a fast left that tightened. I knew the corner very well, but immediately I locked the rear wheels and I didn’t make the corner. I touched the barrier at the rear of the car and that was it. I’m really frustrated. I had to put it on the line today to try and get among our rivals for the manufacturers’ championship. I think we could have had the speed to do it but unfortunately that small mistake cost us.”
Elfyn Evans (6th)
“We’ve been trying hard all day but just weren’t able to find the pace as the day wore on. In terms of the balance of the car, the feeling was improving all the time but it just didn’t seem to affect the times at the end of the stage. It was always two or three seconds here and there, and that’s what makes the difference. Unfortunately, we just haven’t had an answer to the guys at the front today.”
Teemu Suninen (7th)
“I think it’s been a pretty good day for us and I had a good feeling with the car in the afternoon. I was able to really focus on my driving and I think we set some good times. But no matter what we did, or how long the stage was, we were always three seconds behind Sébastien [Ogier]! I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but hopefully one day we will be three seconds ahead! We know where the level is, and we’re not too far away so that it definitely a good thing.”
Citroën Total WRT
Sébastien Ogier (8th)
“Although it wasn’t easy to find motivation today, I did my best to remain very focused and push hard. We ended up setting some decent times. I’m pleased that my good feeling in testing has been confirmed here in the rally. The balance of the C3 WRC is better and I have more confidence in the front axle. We’re not quite there, however, there’s still a little something missing. We’re going to keep working hard to find the last few tenths, which are always difficult to get.”
Well, what an interesting day. Thierry had done everything right, moving into the lead at the start of the day and then pulling away, and keeping his title hopes alive. It had also been a very good day for Ott, who’d moved up the leaderboard and into the podium positions and is now just a few seconds from second place. Who’d bet against him getting past Dani Sordo tomorrow?
It was a shame that Kris and Seb ended their challenge in the second stage of the day, as they were going really well, having passed Dani Sordo in the stage before. A small mistake, that had big consequences for his hopes.
It was a surprise to see Elfyn and Scott not setting quick times. They just couldn’t set some quick times and drifted further back from the leading drivers, despite feeling that he was setting good times.
Sébastien and Julien drove well, setting good times and climbing the standings into eighth position. It’s hard to see them gaining anymore places though, unless one of the crews ahead suffer a problem.
Thinking ahead to Sunday’s stages, there is a total of 74km over four tests. Talking about the final stage, La Mussara, Miikka Anttila says “This is probably the one stage this weekend that none of the crews have much experience on. The first six kilometres were driven in 2016; the rest not for a long time in this direction. In the beginning, the road turns a lot, and once on top of the hill it’s very fast and flat-out in places. Then it’s back to a slower road down to the finish.”
Perhaps, we’ll know then if Ott Tänak will have won the crown.
The statistics will say that Dani Sordo won this event, but we know that it was Ott Tanak’s weekend. Here’s the story of how this all came to pass. The event started with a short stage on Thursday evening which was won by Seb. The real stages would follow on Friday.
It was a warm start to the day and there were eight stages facing the crews. Over a 140km in total as well, providing a big challenge, with a lunchtime service break in the middle. Starting positions looked like this- Ogier, Tänak, Neuville, Evans, Meeke, Suninen, Latvala, Mikkelsen, Sordo.
Starting first on the SS 2 – Tula 1 (22,25 km), a long technical stage, we saw straight away that being in the middle of the line up would allow a much faster pace, with more grip. Teemu starting sixth on the road gave him better grip and he set a very good time, winning the stage from Elfyn and Jari-Matti. Who were fourth and seventh in the lineup.
The following stage, SS 3 – Castelsardo 1 (14,72 km), saw Teemu again set the fastest time, the new co-driver partnership already paying off. Jari-Matti ensured it there were two Finns at the top, and with Elfyn only fifth fastest, the Welshman fell behind Jari-Matti to third. Championship leader Seb was now almost 30 seconds from the lead.
On then to SS 4 – Tergu – Osilo 1 (14,14 km) and Ott took a very good stage win from Latvala and Sordo, who set an identical stage time. Latvala now took the lead as Teemu lost 15 seconds in the stage and fell to second overall, whilst Ott’s pace now lifted him into third overall. But it was Lappi who had the worst stage, picking up a puncture and tumbling down to eleventh overall.
After the lunch service, there was both good and bad news for Citroen. Firstly, Seb hit a rock in the stage, SS 5 – Monte Baranta 1 (10,99 km), and they pulled over and stopped in the stage to attempt a fix, but unfortunately, they were unable to and retired for the day. There was some good news, as Esapekka Lappi won the stage from Ott, who edged a little closer to leader Latvala. Teemu fell back as he ended the stage ninth fastest, dropping to fifth overall.
The rerun of SS 6 – Tula 2 (22,25 km) saw lots of position changes! Teemu won the stage with Dani second fastest and Ott third. All of this meant that Ott and Dani held a joint lead, with Teemu just eight tenths off in third overall. Those falling from the top of the leaderboard included Latvala, who lost eight and a half minutes after a roll in the stage, whilst Thierry was passed by Kris Meeke, but still in the fight.
The following stage, SS 7 – Castelsardo 2 (14,72 km) saw three crews tackle the stage, before it was halted- The reason? Well, the first clue was that an ambulance had entered the stage, and it turned out that a spectator was taken ill.
Well, SS 8 – Tergu – Osilo 2 (14,14 km) saw Dani take another stage win, from Lappi and Latvala. With the previous stage having been cancelled, there was no official leaderboard, whilst the officials grappled with how best to deal with handing out notional times.
The final stage then, SS 9 – Monte Baranta 2 (10,99 km) and we were still waiting. The top three fastest were, Andreas, Esapekka and Dani.
When the leaderboard was finally updated, this is how it looked.
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:36:01.5
Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +10.8
Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +11.2
Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +20.2
Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +20.3
Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +29.5
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +57.7
Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:03.5
Hänninen / Tuominen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:38.0
Let’s hear then from the drivers.
Dani Sordo (1st)
“We have had a great start to this rally, but it is important to remember it is run over three days; we can’t win on Friday! Still, we have found some very competitive pace from the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, benefitting of course from our road position. We have had to make the most of this opportunity today in order to get the strongest road position for Saturday. It has required us to be very focused, especially in the afternoon loop, because we know the smallest mistake here can have big consequences. We sacrificed a bit of speed in the final stage to ensure we ended the day strongly. Leading the rally sounds good to me, but there’s a long way to go.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (4th)
“Our day got off to a bad start when we made the wrong tyre choice on the morning loop – it was clear from the start that it was going to be tough. There was nothing we could do and the car was all over the place. By the final stage, the rear tyres were slicks. We had a much better afternoon. The driving was good, the tyre strategy was correct and we had a great feeling from the car. Road order is going to be really important tomorrow so it’s a shame we couldn’t be even higher up the order, as I am sure we could have been without our morning issues.”
Thierry Neuville (7th)
“We’ve not had the greatest of days, but the important thing is that we’ve survived. This morning although we didn’t opt for the best tyre choice, it was enough to keep us close to the lead. The extra weight was the biggest disadvantage; there are a lot of stones on the outside where the car is dancing, and we struggled to keep the car straight. The afternoon started badly when we had a miscommunication on the pace notes and ended up in a ditch. There’s no one to be blamed, it’s just one of those things but we lost a lot of time. We used a lot of tyre performance on the next stage, which was ultimately cancelled for the other crews, and that left us at a disadvantage. We are going to face an uphill battle for the rest of the weekend, but we don’t give up. A podium is still not out of the question.”
Teemu Suninen (2nd)
“I have to say that I’m really happy with our performance today. I think we did a great job with the whole team, and it was just a shame that we did that one mistake in the morning – spinning and losing over 10 seconds.
“Jarmo has been teaching and coaching me all day and I have to say that I really enjoyed being the student again. I am still young and it’s great to be next to a really experienced co-driver like him.
“I think everyone will be really fast tomorrow, and we need to focus on our own performance. I would be happy with a podium, or even a top-four, but let’s try our best and see what happens.”
Elfyn Evans (5th)
“When the going was good, the speed was there, but we didn’t have the correct feeling with the car for some stages this morning – and that cost us quite dearly.
“Things were looking up in the afternoon but with the cancellation of the second stage [SS7] for the guys behind, we used a lot more tyres. I then made a little mistake in the next stage [SS8], and there was a massive cleaning effect in the last one [SS9].
“We dropped down the order a lot further than we would have liked, but it’s still incredibly close and we’ll fight our way forward tomorrow.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Ott Tänak (3rd)
“It has been a challenging day but I believe we did everything we could. This afternoon we had an extra challenge running first on the road: Some sections were OK but in the narrow sections the ruts were full of loose gravel and it was really hard to find traction. In the last stages it was difficult for us to compete with the guys whose tyres had done one less stage. But we had a good rhythm and I could just try to push on every stage. Tomorrow it will be a big fight but we will have a better road position and hopefully this will make all the difference.”
Kris Meeke (6th)
“These stages today were mostly new for me, and I struggled a bit this morning just to find my way. We maybe could have had a different tyre choice as well, as the temperatures were very high already by mid-morning which was tough on the medium tyres. This afternoon was stronger and we had a decent rhythm. The car’s been near perfect and I’m generally quite happy. Tomorrow’s stages are more traditional from this rally and I have knowledge of them from the past, so hopefully the feeling should be better and we’ll try to take every position we can.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (TBC)
“We had a really good morning. It was very hot and I knew the tyre wear would be high in those conditions, so I took five hard tyres and I think it was a great choice. Then in the first stage of the afternoon, at a hairpin I pulled the handbrake too early, we cut the inside of the corner and rolled. It was a stupid mistake. It took a lot of effort for Miikka and I to get the car back on its wheels. The car was driving fine in the next stage and we could set a good time. But on the last stage, accelerating out of a hairpin the steering locked to the left and we went off the road and couldn’t continue. It’s difficult to take at the moment but hopefully we can come back and enjoy it tomorrow.”
Citroën Total WRT
Esapekka Lappi (8th)
“We had a bit of an up-and-down leg, what with my puncture this morning and the sensor issue that meant we had no engine boost, so we had trouble putting it all together. But we finished the day better than we started it. Unfortunately, on gravel, the opening leg is always fairly decisive and our day means that we won’t have a good position in the running order tomorrow. We’ll have to rely more on endurance to have a chance of moving up the standings.”
Sébastien Ogier (DNF/Rally2)
“The retirement was clearly my mistake. I just cut a little too much on a very tight left-hand corner, hit a big rock and broke the steering arm. I knew exactly where the rock was, as we had passed it three times on the shakedown. There’s a slight crest, a bit blind and perhaps I turned in slightly too early. We tried to do some makeshift repairs, but we couldn’t manage and so we had no other option but to retire. There’s not very much for us to hope for from this weekend now. As one of the early runners, I don’t think we have any chance of scoring five points in the Power Stage, given how loose and sandy the roads are, so we’ll watch what our rivals do.”
This would be the longest day of action, with over 150km of stages, including two 28km stages back-to-back. The start list looked like this – Ogier, Latvala, Hänninen, Lappi, Neuville, Meeke, Evans, Mikkelsen, Tänak, Suninen, Sordo.
Straight away, there were changes to the leaderboard after SS 10 – Coiluna – Loelle 1 (14,97 km), with Ott winning the stage and moving ahead of Teemu into second overall. Elfyn started well, passing Andreas for fourth overall, but this battle was certainly not over.
There was more trouble for Seb, who’d damaged his rear suspension and stopped again to fix it in SS 11 – Monti di Ala’ (28,21 km). Ott won the stage, closing on Dani for the lead, the gap now just 2.6 seconds between them! Andreas repassed Elfyn in their fight over fourth place.
An inspired choice of medium tyres for Ott lead to another stage victory in SS 12 – Monte Lerno 1 (28,03 km) and with it the overall lead now by six seconds. Elfyn passed Andreas once more, whilst Thierry didn’t seem to be able to find any pace at all, firmly holding seventh overall, almost 50 seconds from Kris.
The afternoon stages started with SS 13 – Coiluna – Loelle 2 (14,97 km) and Ott continued to build a lead over Dani. Once more the fight between Elfyn and Andreas continued with them setting the exactly same time in the stage, with Elfyn holding fourth from the Norwegian.
SS 14 – Monti di Ala’ 2 (28,21 km) saw Ott open up an even bigger lead, winning the stage by almost seven seconds from Teemu, who was consolidating his podium challenging position of third. Dani remained in second overall.
The final stage of the day, SS 15 – Monte Lerno 2 (28,03 km) and the top three was Ott, Teemu and Thierry. Rally leader Ott had won every stage today, and increased his lead to almost half a minute over Dani Sordo. Thierry moved up as well, as Kris lost two and a half minutes after having to stop and change a tyre having got a puncture, so he fell to eighth.
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:04:10.3
Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +25.9
Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +42.9
Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:25.4
Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:33.3
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:32.4
Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:58.3
Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3:53.3
Hänninen / Tuominen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +7:23.2
Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:19:20.6
Let’s hear from the drivers.
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Ott Tänak (1st)
“We’ve had a very strong day, but it was really demanding. We had to fight hard to get into the lead and make the gap that we have now. This morning we had a very good tyre call, and I believe that gave us some advantage. The car was working well and I had the confidence to push. This afternoon the conditions were rough and it was hot in the car. It was tough to push while also managing the tyres, and it would have been easy to get a puncture. But we had a very clean run with a good rhythm. We’re in a great position but we still have a big job to do tomorrow with four tricky stages waiting for us.”
Kris Meeke (8th)
“This morning I had a decent rhythm but I was still hesitating a bit in places, as it had been four years since I’d last driven these stages. Still, we managed to maintain the gap to the two drivers in front of us even though they had an advantage with the road cleaning. This afternoon I improved my rhythm and the first two stages went really well. Then in a fast section we had an impact with something in the middle of the road and it damaged a rim. I always knew this rally would be one of my toughest of the year, so to have been fighting for fourth tomorrow would have been really nice, so it’s really disappointing. Now we just need to bring home some points tomorrow.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (22nd)
“The goal for today was to enjoy the driving, but it’s never easy to be first on the road. This morning was very good, I was actually very happy with the stage times for the road position that we had. The afternoon we tried something different with the setup and to have the car a bit stiffer, but it didn’t work for my driving style: I couldn’t feel the grip in the same way, so the times were not that great. But when I didn’t have that confidence, I knew to stay calm and not make mistakes. Tomorrow we’ll go back to the setup we had this morning with some fine tuning, and hopefully we can get some points from the Power Stage.”
Dani Sordo (2nd)
“We have had another good day but we just haven’t been able to match the pace of Tänak. We expected him to be fast based on his performance yesterday, and so it proved. I have been pleased with our own performance, though, as we’ve been able to hold onto second place quite comfortably. We have had to take it easy at times, in order to avoid picking up punctures, but the gap is still manageable to third place. We will try to push as much as we can tomorrow and secure our first podium finish of the season.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)
“The fight for fourth is well and truly on; it gives us all the motivation we need to keep pushing. It wasn’t always possible to find the best times today. We struggled to find confidence on the first pass, as we did on Friday, when the stage conditions are particularly slippery. There’s a fine line in this event because it’s so easy to pick up a puncture on the second pass. My tyres were gone by the end of the loop, so I had to take it super carefully. We lost some time to Elfyn as a result, but we’ll do all we can to get that back tomorrow.”
Thierry Neuville (6th)
“It’s definitely not been the sort of day we were expecting to have. We wanted to show improvements compared to yesterday but we’ve struggled. The morning loop was challenging and I didn’t feel confident in the car. Our tyre choice was again not ideal but we just had to persevere. In the past four or five events, we have really felt confident in the car but that is missing in this rally. Our pre-event test (PET) was obviously not good enough. We have spent today making adjustments to the settings and the differentials, we have learned some things but we’re not where we need to be.”
Teemu Suninen (2nd)
“I think we can be really happy with our performance today. The pace has been really solid all day and we were in the top-three on all of the stages.
“Dani [Sordo] is still some seconds away, but let’s see what we can do. We’ll try to catch him if we can, but I’ll still be happy with third position.
“Also, things with Jarmo are working really well – we have spent 14 hours together in the car today and we’re still smiling so that’s good!”
Elfyn Evans (4th)
“It’s been an okay day for us. I was a bit disappointed with the speed in some places, but overall, it’s been fairly positive and we’re back up to fourth place.
“It’s going to be a close fight with Andreas tomorrow so it was a shame to lose some time with the dust on the last stage. It was coming and going with light dust in some places and thick dust in others where we had to completely slow down.
“Everyone else had a clean run, so let’s see what happens with that. Whatever the outcome, it’s still going to be close, so we’ve got to keep pushing. It’s another tricky day tomorrow, but we’ll give it our best and hopefully come away with another strong result.”
Citroën Total WRT
Esapekka Lappi (7th)
“Apart from one stage where we lost a bit of ground, we more or less managed to keep pace with Neuville today, who was behind us in the running order, so that’s pretty pleasing. I was comfortable in the C3 WRC but we couldn’t hope to do much more with our road position.”
Sébastien Ogier (44th)
“Our mistake this morning was disappointing, because it then prevented us from really testing ourselves against our rivals on the second loop. We tried to do what we could, but without having driven the stages at full speed on the first run, it was clearly almost impossible to set fast times in the afternoon. SS13 is the only stage where I tried, because we had completed it in normal conditions on the first loop, and the time was okay. Obviously, you can count on me to try and grab some points in the Power Stage, even though it looks like it will be mission impossible. As the stage is rough, perhaps some crews won’t be flat out, but we’ll be pushing as hard as we can.”
Well, we had just four stages left totalling 42km’s of action. This was the start list – Ogier, Latvala, Hänninen, Meeke, Lappi, Neuville, Mikkelsen, Evans, Suninen, Sordo, Tänak.
Andreas won SS 16 – Cala Flumini 1 (14,06 km), with Elfyn just two tenths of a second behind him and holding fourth place very nicely from the Norwegian by seven seconds. Ott increased his lead a little more over Dani, who was looking good for his first podium of the year.
SS 17 – Sassari – Argentiera 1 (6,89 km) was also won by the Norwegian and with Elfyn five and a half seconds slower the gap in their battle for fourth was getting close! Ott was still holding the lead. Seb pushed in the stage, looking to get comfortable, ready for later, when the stage would be rerun.
A further stage win for Andreas in SS 18 – Cala Flumini 2 (14,06 km), took him closer to Elfyn, just six seconds separating them. Seb took it very easy through the stage, saving his tyres for a big push in the rerun of the stage, which would be the powerstage, his best hope for scoring points.
Finally, SS 19 – Sassari – Argentiera 2 Power Stage (6,89 km), and there were three surprises! Firstly, Seb set a great time, good enough for second fastest, behind Andreas who’s made it three out of three stage wins! Elfyn could only manage fifth fastest, losing the fight to Andreas, and then lastly with Dani Sordo having already finished, there was drama for Ott, who’d lost his powersteering in the first sector of the stage, the Estonian lost two minutes in the stage, falling to fifth place. All of this meant Dani had won, securing a popular win in the service park.
FINAL RALLY STANDINGS
Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:32:27.2
Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +13.7
Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +32.6
Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +33.5
Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:30.1
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:06.7
Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) + 2:59.6
Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4:40.1
Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:22:58.5
Well, that was a big surprise, with Dani Sordo scoring his second victory at the top level of rallying!
Let’s hear from the drivers!
Dani Sordo (1st)
“This is incredible. I have no words; it’s just an amazing feeling to take my first win for Hyundai and the second WRC win of my career. Of course, I am very sorry for Ott and Toyota to have experienced such bad luck on the Power Stage. At the same time, we knew we had to keep the pressure on in case this sort of situation occurred. I just can’t believe it happened. We have been quick and consistent all weekend. There was no chance to beat Ott on outright pace so we just did what we could and avoided mistakes. It wasn’t easy but we made it through to the end – and we now have this fantastic victory as a reward. Thanks to Carlos and to the team for the support and for sharing this result. I think it will take some time to fully sink in.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (3rd)
“We gave it a massive push on the final morning in an effort to cut the gap to Elfyn Evans. We had to dig deep but we were confident in our chances. The car felt really nice and we were properly in the zone. Taking all four stage wins was a fantastic feeling and we would have been content to take fourth. Unfortunately, Ott had his issues, which then handed us a podium finish, which was an unexpected but very welcome bonus. Although it has been achieved at one of our rival’s expense, we are grateful to score a 1-3 result this weekend.”
Thierry Neuville (6th)
“Absolutely not the weekend we were looking for. We have not been in the fight, so it’s been a case of damage limitation. A combination of incorrect tyre choice and other issues on Friday put us on the back foot from the start, and we’ve not been able to play a role since. We have to put it down to ‘one of those weekends’ and look to regroup and fight back in Finland. We pushed as hard as we could in the Power Stage but we could do no more. Congratulations to Dani; we have worked together at Hyundai for six years now and I am really pleased to see him and Carlos secure their first win for the team.”
Teemu Suninen (2nd)
“I am really pleased with our performance this weekend. We had good speed with some fastest times on Friday, and then we were extremely consistent after that – especially on Saturday where we set the second or third fastest time on every stage.
“Today was a lot more difficult. The plan was to bring the car home, but this car really doesn’t like being driven slowly and we had to pick up the pace to make it nicer to drive. It was really hard to judge the rhythm, but we made it and it’s nice to get my first podium of the year.
“Also, the partnership with Jarmo was working really well. I thought it would be a lot more challenging having a new voice in my ear, but actually this is the voice I heard whilst watching the rally on the TV as a kid – and that gave me some good memories and big smiles all weekend.”
Elfyn Evans (4th)
“It’s really disappointing to have missed out by such a small margin. Looking back, the first stage of the loop was okay but we gave far too much away in both passes of the Power Stage. It’s so rough in there and so easy to make a mistake – but also so easy to make the time if you’re willing to put it all on the line. I wouldn’t say that we didn’t push, but I was definitely too cautious in the hairpins and that’s where we lost it. It’s difficult right now, but it’s still a good result and we’ve strengthened our position in the championship.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Ott Tänak (5th)
“Very early in the final stage, something very strange happened with the steering and basically it was locked. We were stationary for some time, fighting to get the steering working. Somehow, we managed to get going again, but there was a lot of time lost and so was the victory. I’m frustrated, but I also feel very sad for the team. Everybody put so much effort in for this event and in the end to lose it in this way is really a shame. I’m sure that the team will work hard to solve the problem, and we will keep fighting. It’s been a tough season so far but the championship situation is much better than it was at the same time last year. Now it’s time to have some rest and be away from rallying for a bit, and then it’s back to business.”
Kris Meeke (8th)
“I was quite enjoying it yesterday afternoon: We were improving our rhythm and our speed. Then we had the issue in the final stage, and that meant that we didn’t have much to fight for today: We were just focusing on bringing it home to score some points for the team. I knew this would be a tougher event for me, but we can take some positives from yesterday. Now I’m looking forward to Rally Finland and the rest of the year: I know that the team was really strong over the second half of the season and I think everyone’s going to give everything from now until the end of the year.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (19th)
“Today the target for me was to score some points on the Power Stage. I wanted to get into a nice rhythm this morning and keep the speed up. Then, on the third stage, I was just saving the tyres. The Power Stage was always going to be hard with our road position, and I struggled a bit in the ruts, but we had a decent run and we were able to take some points away. Overall it has been a tough weekend for me after the positive start. It’s not been the rally that we were hoping for. But we need to look forward and keep fighting.”
Citroën Total WRT
Esapekka Lappi (7th)
“Obviously, it wasn’t quite the result that we were hoping for. The problems we had on the first leg went a long way to determining the rest of our weekend. We weren’t able to perform at our true level given our position in the running order. It was pretty much impossible to make up ground on these roads, where the grip increases so much with each passing car. We also weren’t helped by making the wrong call on tyres on Saturday morning. But at least we made it to the finish. We’ll now get back to work so that we’re in better form for our home round in Finland.”
Sébastien Ogier (42nd)
“Sometimes in motorsport, you have a weekend where things just don’t go your way and this weekend was clearly one of those. We’ll put it behind us and focus on the future. In running first on the road, the best we could have realistically hoped for would have been to finish around fifth, so my mistakes cost us a few points. But it is still incredibly close in the championship, even though I’m not the kind of person to take any pleasure from the misfortune of others, especially when it’s Ott. I’m now going to have a holiday and recharge my batteries. We’ll be back in Finland and try to do a lot better.”
DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Ott Tänak – 150 points
Sébastien Ogier – 146 points
Thierry Neuville – 143 points
Elfyn Evans – 78 points
Teemu Suninen – 62 points
Kris Meeke – 60 points
Andreas Mikkelsen – 56 points
Dani Sordo – 52 points
Esapekka Lappi – 40 points
Jari-Matti Latvala – 40 points
MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Hyundai WRT – 242 points
Toyota Gazoo Racing – 198 points
Citroën Total WRT – 170 points
M-Sport Ford WRT – 152 points
Well, what a remarkable round! It had everything! First of all, Ott Tänak showed once again that he with his co-driver Martin Järveoja in that Yaris WRC are a force to be reckoned with. The combination is devastatingly effective, just so fast, even when second on the road. They are now in the championship lead. He’ll have to open the road at the next round in Finland, like Thierry did last year. That will be an interesting event.
Dani Sordo drove brilliantly to head into the final day holding second place, and it would have been a well-deserved podium. His first win since 2013, when he was driving for Citroën at that years Rally Deutschland is well deserved! Andreas also found some good pace, and it was a good result for the Norwegian, who is still under pressure I believe to deliver strong results.
Teemu’s performance was really impressive as well, with Jarmo Lehtinen making his return to the co-driver’s seat at the top level for the first time since 2014. Thinking about Elfyn, and his performance over the weekend, he drove pretty well, but it was a surprise to see him lose some much time to Andreas. He’ll want to analyse with Scott, where they went wrong, as it could have been a podium, and to some degree, he was over shadowed by Teemu.
At Citroën, they had an event to forget, apart from a brilliant drive from Sébastien Ogier to second fastest time in the powerstage, despite being the first car. A strange mistake from the Frenchman saw his challenge end, but he’s still well in the fight, and he is a bit lucky that Ott didn’t win as well. Esapekka is still getting used to his C3, but he had a good event, with a stage victory, but a puncture didn’t help him.
We now have a seven week break before the next event, Rally Finland on the weekend of the first to the fourth of August. We’ll then have six events in five months to decide who wins this year’s championship!
This was the year that this team came closest to winning both the drivers and manufacturers. It didn’t work out in the end though. The team led both championships at certain points, but ultimately fell short. Here’s how the season went for this team in their fifth season.
Monte Carlo day one saw Thierry slide wide and lose a lot of time, finishing seventeen overall after Thursday. Andreas and Dani went well though and were second and third, less than 30 seconds from the leader. After Friday’s stages, Dani was still in third, whilst Thierry had improved to ninth. Andreas had retired after a problem with his car after the first stage of the morning loop. On Saturday, Dani’s good work came undone in stage nine when he slid wide into a ditch and had to retire from the event. Thierry had now climbed into seventh overall. Onto Sunday then and Thierry climbed a further two places by the end of the day’s action, into fifth place. The team could count that as a good result, after their troubles earlier in the weekend, and I think it’s fair to say that without his problems and subsequent pace, that Thierry would have made it onto the podium.
Moving onto Rally Sweden and with Thierry, Andreas and Hayden driving, the team had gone for its strongest line up. Boy, did it work! Thierry led a one-two-three, with Andreas in second and Hayden third at the end of day one. Thierry maintained a good lead at the end of Saturday’s stages, with Andreas and Hayden having fallen to third and fourth. Sunday saw Thierry take victory for the team, their first victory in this event, whilst Andreas picked up third place and a spin for Hayden saw the Kiwi fall to fifth place. Thierry’s victory moved him into the championship lead as well, eleven points ahead of Seb.
The following event, Rally Mexico, would be a completely different challenge of course! Joining Thierry and Andreas for this round would be Dani Sordo. He would be the early leader as well at the end of the Friday’s stages, with Andreas and Thierry in sixth and seventh respectively. The Belgian crew suffered with some technical problems, restricting their ultimate pace as well as being the first car on the road because of the championship positions. At the end of Saturday, Dani had fallen to third place after getting a puncture, whilst Andreas had moved up to fourth and Thierry was sixth after a stall and two punctures. Sunday saw Dani complete a good drive to second overall, whilst Andreas and Thierry finished in fourth and sixth. Seb moved back into the championship lead, with Thierry now four points behind.
Next up was the twists and turns of Tour de Corse! Dani started his third event of the year, lining up with Thierry and Andreas. At the end of day one, Thierry held second overall, thirty seconds behind Seb. Dani held seventh, after struggling with the handling of the car, whilst Andreas suffered an off and a spin and held ninth. At the end of day two, Thierry had fallen behind a fast charging Ott, but remained in the hunt for second place. After making some changes to their cars, Dani and Andreas both improved their positions to fifth and eighth. On the final day Thierry couldn’t catch Ott, and this meant he’d finish in third, whilst Dani was fourth and Andreas seventh. It was a troubling event for the Norwegian, where he was not on the pace.
With a starting line-up the same as the previous round, there was some consistency for the team for Rally Argentina, and after the first day Thierry, Dani and Andreas were in third, fourth and seventh. Andreas had led early on, but unfortunately a puncture put him out of the battle for the lead. After Saturday’s stages, each driver had moved up the standings, with Thierry and Dani holding second and third, whilst Andreas had moved into fifth overall after making some changes to the car which helped give him confidence. On the final day, the team secured a double podium, the second in a row whilst Andreas finished in fifth after a battle with Ogier who finished a few seconds ahead. The team had increased it’s lead in the manufacturer’s championship, whilst Thierry had reduced Ogier’s championship lead to just ten points.
Three weeks later, it was time for Rally de Portugal! Alongside Thierry and Andreas and Dani, Hayden Paddon would return to the team for this event. After day one, when the team took six stage victories Thierry held an almost twenty second lead over Elfyn, and Dani was also doing well, holding third. Sadly, Hayden and Andreas they would not finish the day. Andreas suffered some technical problems firstly with his powersteering and then oil pressure problems. Hayden went off the road unfortunately, after avoiding a rock that was hidden. The Kiwi wouldn’t restart as a precaution, after he and Seb were taken to hospital. Following Saturday’s stages, Thierry was holding a thirty-nine second lead over Elfyn, with Dani holding third after another good day for the Spaniard. Thierry continued his consistent pace through Sunday’s stages to take his second victory of the season and thus took the championship lead from Seb Ogier. Dani lost his third place due to a time penalty, which was gained after the final stage of Saturday, but fought back to within 13 seconds of third place, ultimately finishing in fifth. Andreas’ problems on Friday kept him in the lower parts of the standings, finishing in sixteenth place.
The following event, Rally Italia Sardegna saw Hayden, Thierry and Andreas line up, whilst Dani would sit this one out. Rain on day one helped championship leader Thierry, finish day one 18 seconds from Seb Ogier who led this event. Kiwi, Hayden tried lots of things to get on the pace, but just struggled, whilst Andreas saw his hopes for a good result disappear (he was the early leader), after his car developed a transmission issue, leaving it stuck in reverse. Day two saw Thierry close on the Frenchman for the lead after he took three stage victories, closing to just 3.9 seconds of the M-Sport driver, whilst Hayden improved to fourth overall. Andreas re-joined the action and set some good times, but was rueing the problems on Friday. The final day saw Thierry snatch victory from Seb in the final stage, winning by just seven tenths of a second and he also took the maximum power stage points too! Hayden completed the event in fourth place, having increased his lead over Mads throughout the day and Andreas took fourth in the power stage and two points.
After the summer break, the team came to Rally Finland and were leading both championships for drivers/co-drivers and team by a big margin. The drivers lining up were Thierry, Andreas and Hayden. This event had not been kind to Hyundai in the past. It would prove to be the same again, after Thierry, who was opening the road, was struggling for grip and then went off into a ditch during stage five finishing the day in tenth. Andreas made a mistake too, after a misheard note sent him into a small low speed roll and also a penalty after checking in late after lunchtime service. Best placed driver was Hayden, who finished day one in fourth. After Saturday’s stages, Hayden, who had driven consistently well, finished in fifth place, having been passed by 2017 winner Lappi. The Kiwi was just nine seconds from the Finn. Sadly, Thierry was still in tenth overall, after being second on the road, rueing the troubles from Friday and thus a poor starting position on Saturday. Andreas moved closer to the top ten, finishing in eleventh. The final day saw Hayden move into fourth, after Lappi went off the road. This also saw Thierry and Andreas move up a place, with the Belgian completing the event in ninth and Andreas getting tenth.
Next up was the all tarmac event of Rally Germany. Dani re-joined Thierry and Andreas. A good day one saw Thierry hold third overall behind his championship rivals, whilst Dani was sixth and Andreas ninth. The Norwegian was trying to change his driving style, but was struggling. Day two saw Dani take three stage victories and moved up into second, with Thierry now fourth after struggling with car handling and a better day for Andreas saw him move up into sixth. The last day saw Thierry finish in second, despite a mistake in the power stage. Dani’s hopes of a good result ended when he went and crashed his car into the vineyards that line the stages. Meanwhile, Andreas finished in sixth.
The return of Rally Turkey to the championship saw a completely new event for all the drivers. Hayden joined Thierry and Andreas. Day one saw Thierry hold an unexpected lead over Seb, despite opening the road. Andreas also had a good day too, holding third, just 2.6 from the lead, whilst Hayden was further back in sixth place. The stages got rougher, not smoother after each car. A dramatic Saturday saw Thierry retire from the lead, after his suspension broke and came through his bonnet! Then Andreas took the lead, only then the suffer from driveshaft failure, leaving him with only rear-wheel drive and struggling for pace therefore, but he was still in fifth place. Through all of this came Hayden finishing the day in third place after a considered drive in the exceptionally rough stages. The final day saw Hayden finish in third, taking his first podium of the year after a very good drive. Andreas finished in fifth, whilst Thierry struck back, taking the power stage win and was now holding a lead of 13 points from Ott who had passed Ogier in the championship.
Wales Rally GB followed, and was much earlier in the championship. Hayden once again was in the line-up with Thierry and Andreas. After Friday, Thierry held second place, from Ott. The Belgian had found the morning stages tricky, what with opening the road and his car not giving him that much confidence, but things improved in the afternoon. Hayden held seventh place, after sliding off briefly in one of the morning stages, whilst Andreas was all at sea, struggling with his car, and unable to set any good times. Saturday, saw a big twist in the championship! Second placed Thierry lost control of his car in the second stage of the day, and lost loads of time and places, falling to ninth, whilst Andreas found some improvements and moved up to sixth after winning three stages. Hayden drove well too, and was seventh. Thierry did improve by the end of the day, finishing in eighth, but was rueing his mistake, as without it, he would have been leading the event. The final day saw the drivers secure fifth, sixth and seventh, with Thierry leading home Andreas and Hayden.
Rally Spain followed and Dani re-joined the team for his last event of the year. At the end of Friday, Dani held a very strong second overall, whilst Andreas was sixth. As championship leader, Thierry opened the road and struggled with the gravel stages, completing the day in ninth. After day two, Thierry moved up into fifth, courtesy of two fastest stage times. Dani took the lead briefly, before falling behind in trickier conditions in the afternoon, ultimately completing the day in sixth, but still in touch. Andreas had an even worse day though, dropping down the order to tenth. Rain on the final morning stages changed things a bit, but ultimately when the stages dried out in time for the rerun, the finishing positions were Thierry in fourth, Dani sixth and Andreas tenth. Thierry was only half a second behind finishing on the podium, and was now three points behind Ogier in their championship battle.
It was the last round and both championships were up for grabs. The gap between Seb and Thierry was very small, whilst the gap between Hyundai and Toyota was twelve points. Hayden would start as well, looking to support Thierry with his championship bid in this title decider! After day one, Hayden was the best placed of the three crews, despite tyre coming off the rim on a jump, completing the day in fourth, just a few seconds behind third. Thierry had a mixed day, winning stage five and then also after a tyre came off having landed heavily from a jump in stage six and dropping to tenth. Andreas had another bad day, after having to avoid a tractor which was repositioning some bales for the chicane in stage six, he then went off and had to retire for the day. Hayden’s weekend got better on Saturday, as he took two stage victories and moved up into third overall. With Thierry second on the road, he’d struggle to set the stages on fire, and completed the day in eighth, whilst Andreas who was opening the road continued to struggle, and was way down the order, after having to re-join under Rally2. The last day saw Hayden take the teams eleventh podium and his second of the year. Sadly, there was no championship success for either the team or Thierry, who retired from the event after clipping a tree, thus breaking his suspension. Andreas finished in eleventh place.
Summing up the year for this team, they took three victories and led both championships for long periods as well but fell short in the end. Looking at the season, I’d say their bid for the titles started to unravel at Rally Finland, where they just were not on the pace. Thierry made his best bid to be champion though, and for him, the bid ended in Wales, when he slid off the road, losing 40 seconds. As we know, Seb Ogier came through to win there and put him in a good position in the end.
Andreas Mikkelsen’s season peaked in Rally Sweden and from there, what with reliability problems and lack of pace elsewhere he didn’t really shine. He will be under pressure to deliver in 2019.
Dani Sordo and Hayden Paddon did well with their part-seasons. The Spaniard showed good pace even leading some events, and that is why he has a deal for 2019.
However, despite Hayden picking up two podiums, after good drives in Turkey and Australia, he was only offered a single event. Very odd, considering Thierry and him are the only drivers to have won for the team
In the off season, we’ve found out that Seb Loeb will be driving for the team, signed to do six rounds per year in the next two years. The other news is that Andrea Adamo has become Team Director, after Michel Nandan stepped down from the team and company.