Rallye Monte Carlo 2020 Review.

The shakedown on Wednesday was interesting from the aspect of drivers acclimatizing to their new cars. The top three best times were sent by Seb, Thierry and Elfyn. Of the new drivers, Kalle and Gus, well the young Finn clearly showed why he is in that Toyota for the whole season.

With two stages on Thursday event, first up was SS1 Malijai – Puimichel – 17.47 km. Well, Seb was really on it, winning the stage from Ott Tanak, and Elfyn third, with less than 2 seconds covering the top three.

Into SS2 Bayons – Bréziers – 25.49 km, and well Seb was demoted to second place after Thierry set a blistering time to move from fourth place into the lead. The Belgian was a massive 25.5 seconds faster than Seb.

Friday

With six stages covering a total of 122.58km’s, it would be a very interesting day. The running order looked like this- 1. Suninen 2. Tänak 3. Neuville 4. Ogier 5. Evans 6. Lappi 7. Loeb 8. Rovanperä 9. Greensmith 10. Katsuta 11. Jocius

Elfyn won the SS3 Curbans – Venterol 1 – 20.02 km from Seb Loeb, with Ott Tanak going well now. The result of Elfyn’s great time was that he jumped from fourth into second place, just 5.4 seconds from the leader, Thierry.

The young Welshman continued his great form in SS4 St-Clément-sur-Durance – Freissinières 1 – 20.68 km, winning the stage from Seb Ogier and with Thierry third fastest and almost nine seconds slower, we had a new rally leader. However, there was a huge shock, with Ott Tanak having a massive crash. He’d slid wide on a flat out left hand kink, with the car skating along on the edge of the road before colliding with some trees at the side of the road and then the car flipped over end to end, before falling down the side of the hill, coming to rest on the road further down. The main structure of the car was intact incredibly. Ott and Martin were taken to hospital for checks.

The final stage of the morning loop, SS5 Avançon – Notre-Dame-du-Laus 1 – 20.59 km was won by Elfyn, going 4.2 seconds faster than Seb Ogier, and he increased his lead over Thierry who was now 8.9 seconds behind the Welsh ace. Further back Kalle was showing his quality and setting a great time in compared to Esapekka Lappi, just seven tenths between the two Finns at the end of the stage.

After the service break the battle between the three continued, with Seb Ogier winning SS6 Curbans – Venterol 2 – 20.02 km and he jumped ahead of Thierry into second place, and was now just 3.3 seconds behind Elfyn who was holding the lead.

Seb Ogier won SS7 St-Clément-sur-Durance – Freissinières 2 – 20.68 km from Elfyn who was only six tenths of a second behind, whilst Thierry lost a few seconds and was now ten seconds from rally leader Elfyn.

Thierry fought back though on SS8 Avançon – Notre-Dame-du-Laus 2 – 20.59 km, winning the stage from Seb, who was just one second behind, and then Elfyn who lost the lead to the charging Frenchman, but the gap between them was just a little over a second.

Day one standings

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC 1:43:31.5
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +1.2
3 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +6.4
4 S. Loeb D. Elena Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:06.9
5 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +1:57.2
6 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +2:19.2
7 T. Katsuta D. Barritt Toyota Yaris WRC +5:18.7

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“Overall, I am happy with the day. This morning I didn’t feel perfectly comfortable in the car and I was a little bit cautious, so I was not in the best rhythm. But for this afternoon we made some little adjustments to the setup and I felt more confident, and I could set some good times. We feared that the tyre choice was not optimal, but in the end, it was not that bad, as it was much drier than expected in the second stage of the loop. The gaps are still very small but it is nice to be in this position.”

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“It was a really good morning for sure. The conditions were not so easy and the grip was quite changeable, but the Yaris gave me good confidence, so I was able to relax and enjoy driving the car. The afternoon was not quite so good – the conditions in the last stage were deteriorating with every car that passed and we were probably a bit too brave on the tyre choice. But overall, it’s been a good day and hopefully it will be more of the same tomorrow.”

Kalle Rovanperä (6th)

“I’m happy with today as we’ve improved a lot from this morning, which was quite difficult for me. Again, the conditions were new, going with slick tyres on some icy sections, so it was quite a careful morning. But it was getting better with each stage and the middle stage of the loop was good on both occasions. I’ve still got a lot to learn but I’m getting more comfortable in the car all the time. Tomorrow will be a new challenge, with a different style of stages I think, and we need to see what the conditions will be like.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“It has been a bit of a frustrating day for us. We had a difficult morning, fighting to pick up the pace and to have a good clean run. We faced some challenging conditions, and I couldn’t find the right feeling to push hard. It got better towards the end of the day and we were improving constantly with Dani Sordo as my road note crew. In the end it worked quite well, and I was confident. Step by step we found our way forward and we also worked on the set-up of the car to make it feel more comfortable. We need to continue in this way. I am happy Ott and Martin are okay; it was a huge crash at high speed but most importantly they are doing well.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Rallye Monte-Carlo 2020
22-26 January 2020
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Seb Loeb (4th)

“I had a good day today. For sure, I think we had some more mud on the road, but also the drivers out front are very fast. I couldn’t match their speed. The gap to them is quite large so there’s no point to take risks. The running order will be different tomorrow; it may not make much difference, but we will see what the second half of the rally brings.”

Ott Tanak (Retired)

“First of all, Martin and I feel fine. We are recovering well and will be fit soon. In the early stages with the car we’ve been improving step by step. Last night, I really couldn’t understand everything that was happening. Overnight we managed to work quite a lot with the engineers and this morning the car already felt better. Still, of course, it would have been nice to continue for a bit longer to improve the feeling and to adapt again, but it is how it is. Yes, we had some moments already before the accident. Basically, in the first stage this morning, we were caught out by black ice where we had a spin. I must say it was proper Monte-Carlo; we really had some tricky conditions and it’s been challenging. I’m sure everyone had some moments and it’s normal in these kinds of conditions.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“It has been quite a tough day for us. We’re learning a lot of new things, but still we were expecting to be a bit closer. We wanted to close the gap, but we’ve been consistently losing the same amount to the top guys stage after stage. We’ll work with the team to understand where we’re losing and how to find a solution, and hopefully we can be better tomorrow.”

Teemu Suninen (16th)

“After what happened yesterday, today was just about driving through the stages and getting the experience. It was tricky with the conditions this morning as they had changed quite a lot from when the route note crews went through, but it was better this afternoon and we were able to make some different choices with the tyres which should give us good knowledge for the future.”

 

Saturday

The running order looked like this- 1. Greensmith 2. Suninen 3. Katsuta 4. Rovanperä 5. Lappi 6. Loeb 7. Neuville 8. Evans 9. Ogier

The first stage of the day, SS9 St-Léger-les-Mélèzes – La Bâtie-Neuve 1 – 16.87 km, was won by Thierry, whilst Seb Ogier was second fastest and Elfyn in third and less than six seconds covered the top three.

Elfyn hit back, setting the fastest time in SS10 La Bréole – Selonnet 1 – 20.73 km, 7.6 seconds faster than Seb Ogier and Thierry was a further 13.8 away from our new rally leader. Top M-Sport Ford was Esapekka Lappi was in fifth position.

After lunch service, SS11 St-Léger-les-Mélèzes – La Bâtie-Neuve 2 – 16.87 km, Thierry hit the front again, winning the stage from Seb Ogier, who moved into a joint lead with Elfyn who was third quickest. The gap that the two leaders had fallen to eleven seconds.

The final stage of the day, SS12 La Bréole – Selonnet 2 – 20.73 km was won by Thierry as well, but the big surprise was that Seb was third fastest and dropped to second overall, with Elfyn regaining the lead. The three of them had been battling all day and just 6.4 seconds separated them. Further back, young Finn Esapekka had been catching Seb Loeb, and the gap was now just 14.1 seconds between them. The even younger Finn Kalle Rovanperä had driven to a very good sixth overall. His debut event was going very well.

 

Standings at the end of Saturday.

1 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC 2:28:35.1
2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +4.9
3 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +6.4
4 S. Loeb D. Elena Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:24.3
5 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +2:38.4
6 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +3:27.3
7 T. Katsuta D. Barritt Toyota Yaris WRC 10:31.1

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“Overall it’s been a solid day and it feels good to be leading. I’m pretty happy with the weekend up to this point: the car has been giving me great confidence and the team has been working very well together. It was a very difficult afternoon loop, as we opted for the slick tyres like our rivals but there were still some icy sections out there. I was a bit too careful in the first stage of the loop, and then a bit too optimistic at the end of the last one on the final icy corner and we went off, but luckily, we didn’t hit anything. There’s a big fight on for tomorrow and we need to keep focused and not think about it too much.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 01 / Rallye Monte Carlo / Jan 23-26, 2020 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“It’s been a consistent day. The only regret we can have is being too cautious in the last stage on the tricky section on the ice. But I always prefer to be too cautious than in the ditch. This is always my strategy on this event and obviously it has paid off quite a few times. Taking risks can work, but not always. At the end of the day I’m not unhappy with today: It’s still very close and all is possible tomorrow. It’s a nice fight and now the plan is to be strong tomorrow and there is still a good chance to win this rally. We’ve had to push hard on these same stages in the last few years already, which is good experience to have.”

Kalle Rovanperä (6th)

“I’m not quite so happy with today, but it’s still OK: We’re doing exactly what we should do and driving without any mistakes. It was quite tricky conditions through the whole day, and we took it quite safe because we’re not fighting for any positions. I’m still learning how to use the car in the best way in all the different conditions. When you know these things, you can be faster. We have been going without taking any risks, so the times are quite OK when the road is clean.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“I am happy with what we have achieved today, and with the job of the whole team. We made a big improvement compared to yesterday and I am feeling more confident. Three stage wins out of a possible four and we’re in the fight for victory, that’s the positive we can take away from today. I am pleased with the performance we have delivered. Thanks to the corrections we got from the stages, we were able to push much harder without increasing the risks to go off. That was important and I was confident to give it everything. The plan for tomorrow is to go for the win but trying to be safe at the same time.”

Seb Loeb (4th)

“It has not been a good day for me; I have been struggling to get in the right rhythm. In these conditions, when you are not feeling at 100%, you lose time. The conditions have been difficult to read, with grip levels continuously changing. I made a small mistake in the final stage of the day, when I lost the car and spun on the final icy corner. But overall, we have just tried to stay secure. The three guys in front are flying so now my target to defend fourth place and hope for a better day tomorrow.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“Everything felt much better this afternoon. We made some changes to the car which delivered a lot more grip, and also the information from the route note crews was much more precise. That brought a lot more confidence, and we were able to set some much better times and get a lot closer to Loeb ahead. But still 14 seconds is a lot to find when you’re talking about the nine-time World Champion! I think he knows tomorrow’s stages better than anyone so I’ll just focus on myself and hopefully we can show another improvement.”

Teemu Suninen (11th)

“Our pace was pretty good on the sections that were dry, wet or muddy, and I set some top-three times through those splits. But I lost a lot of time on the icy sections – especially when on the slicks. Maybe it was because I know I have to bring the car home to the finish, but still we could have gone faster. Experience always helps though, and I think we made some good tyre choices throughout the day so I was pleased with that.”

Gus Greensmith (66th)

“Considering how much work went into the pre-season it’s fair to say that my confidence was pretty shattered yesterday. I think it was the lowest point in my career, so today was all about rebuilding that. I was in no mood to make any mistakes through the first stage, but then I got back into things and managed to set the fifth fastest time in the next one. Then after that, I became a bit of a slush plough for the guys behind – but you’ve just got to pick yourself, keep working hard, and one day it’ll all come good.”

Sunday.

Just 63km’s left and four stages remained then and the startlist looked like this – 1. Suninen 2. Katsuta 3. Rovanperä 4. Lappi 5. Loeb 6. Neuville 7. Ogier 8. Evans.

The day started well for Thierry, who won SS13 La Bollène-Vésubie – Peïra-Cava 1 – 18.41 km and with Elfyn second fastest, but five seconds slower meaning that his lead over the Belgian who was now up into second place at the expense of Ogier. Esapekka Lappi was also going well and catching Loeb, who was just thirteen seconds ahead now in fourth place and his teammate, Teemu had now climbed into tenth place as well.

Thierry was really after this win, taking SS14 La Cabanette – Col de Braus 1 – 13.36 km as well, and took the lead. There was a change in fourth overall, as Loeb dropped a massive 42 seconds after sliding off the road and now Esapekka was up to fourth place. Thierry said that it wasn’t a good stage for him, but the clock said otherwise. He was on the limit of what the car wanted to do. There were just eleven seconds between Thierry in the lead and Ogier who was holding third.

 

Well, SS15 La Bollène-Vésubie – Peïra-Cava 2 – 18.41 km fell to the quick Belgian as well, who was just 1.4 seconds faster than Ogier with Lappi going third fastest with a good time. Elfyn was left trying to work out where his pace had gone. He felt he’d had a good run, but was only fourth quickest.

 

Time then for the final stage, SS16 La Cabanette – Col de Braus 2 [Power Stage] – 13.36 km and it was four out of four, for Thierry who got the nod for the stage victory, even though Ogier had set exactly the same time. Teemu Suninen was third in the stage, getting some good extra points for the driver standings. Of course, with Elfyn just fourth quickest and 3.2 seconds from Ogier, the man that had led coming into today now fell to third place, just 1.7 seconds from second place. The biggest news though was Loeb, who had fallen behind Kalle Rovanperä, who had finished in fifth position on his debut.

 

The Belgian duo and Hyundai had taken their first Monte Carlo victory with a drive full of risk, and it had paid off. They’d also taken the powerstage, giving them a perfect start to their championship challenge and in total took nine stage victories. Seb Ogier had got second place on the final stage, but what a drive from the Welsh Wizard, Elfyn and Scott Martin to their first ever Monte Carlo podium. They’d taken four stage wins against Seb Ogier and Julien Ingrassia who took three.

Final Overall Classification – Rallye Monte-Carlo

1 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3:10:57.6
2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +12.6
3 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +14.3
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +3:09.0
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +4:17.2
6 S. Loeb D. Elena Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +5:04.7
7 T. Katsuta D. Barritt Toyota Yaris WRC +11:27.9
8 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +13:30.4
9 E. Camilli F.X. Buresi Citroën C3 R5 +13:42.2
10 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 R5 +14:21.8

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“This is an amazing way to start the season and a fantastic feeling. I am really pleased that we have finally taken victory in Monte-Carlo; it’s been something we’ve chased for a while. We’ve come close before but now we’ve done it. It has not been an easy weekend, but I have picked up confidence as the event progressed, working very closely with the team and my gravel crew, who have done a great job. We’ve really been able to increase our feeling and comfort in the car the past few days. I could really push, and we’ve seen the results from the stage times. We were also able to take maximum points in the Power Stage. Our 13th WRC win – such a lucky number! My thanks to the whole team, it’s the perfect way to start a new season.”

Seb Loeb (6th)

“This has certainly not been the rally we were hoping for; it has been a difficult one all weekend and it seems the planets were not aligned for us. We were going OK until the second day but then yesterday we were backed up. Today was all about our tyre choice, which was not the right one for the conditions. We were already struggling at the end of the first stage, and I made a mistake at a tight hairpin in the second stage because I had no front grip. We just had to complete the rally, conserving our tyres to make it to the end. It’s not nice to tackle stages in that way but it was all we could do. We never give up. Huge congratulations to Thierry, Nicolas and the entire Hyundai Motorsport team for the victory. It takes something to win Rallye Monte-Carlo, so just enjoy these moments.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“I feel good honestly, it’s a positive result. Of course, I had hoped to deliver even more and bring the team a win straight away. But it’s always such a huge challenge to adapt to a new environment, especially on such a challenging rally, so I think we can be happy. I tried to stay in my comfort zone the whole weekend, not overdo it. We missed it by just a little bit, but 22 points is very good for the championship. There were some good moments during the weekend where we felt good in the car, some where I didn’t have enough confidence to really push the limits, but I really feel this car’s potential. I really enjoyed to drive it and I’m sure with a little bit more time, we’ll make great things together.”

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

“Obviously I feel a little bit disappointed today because I think we had the potential to win the rally. It’s difficult now because when you lead the rally, your expectations are raised and the win becomes the target of course. But it’s generally been a positive weekend. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite the feeling that I needed today. I was pushing hard but the speed wasn’t coming so naturally. I wasn’t nailing every corner and that ultimately cost us the handful of seconds we missed out by. We still have a little bit of learning to do, but overall it’s not a bad start and we can build on it.”

Kalle Rovanperä (5th)

“It has been a nice weekend. It was really tricky learning a new car in these conditions – and I think the conditions were really tricky this year, as they were changing a lot. It was getting better all the time and when there were conditions, I was more familiar with, I could do a bit better. There were so many things I learned during the weekend. It really helps to have a clean rally at the start of the season and also some good points.”

Takamoto Katsuta (7th)

“I’m so happy to have reached the end of the rally with lots of experience. I can see that I made a lot of progress from the start to the end of the weekend. I learned a lot about how to drive in different conditions and with different tyre options. I’m also getting more understanding about the car. On Saturday morning the conditions were very difficult and I made a mistake, but after that I could reset my mind and I had a pretty good feeling. My times at the end were pretty fine compared to other drivers who’ve done the same stages many times. Thank you to my co-driver Dan, my gravel crew Juho and Craig and the whole team – they did a brilliant job.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

“This is my best result from Monte and I think the best we could have done this weekend, so I am really happy with that. I managed to concentrate only on myself and what we were doing, and that seemed to work pretty well. It was a very challenging event and not always so easy, but we improved stage by stage and learnt a lot over the course of the weekend – so I’d say it’s been a positive start to the season.”

Esapekka Lappi made a great debut in his M-Sport Fiesta WRC. Photo credit, M-Sport.

Teemu Suninen (8th)

“When the conditions were dry or wet, I was really pleased with my pace on those sections, and we showed that again on the Power Stage today – setting the third fastest time and two fastest splits. But on the icy sections we were losing a lot and I have some work to do to be more consistent there. It’s good that I can set strong times on an event like this, but I need more experience to do it all the time.”

Summary

Well, what an incredible opener we were treated to. Spellbinding driving from the top three. Some would have been surprised by the performance of Elfyn and Scott, who took the fight to two crews that have either won this rally, or have actually won it. They are also crews that have fought for the world championship for the last few years. Who knows if this is the start of a special year for them both?

For Thierry and Nicolas, who have come close to winning this rally for the last few years, they took a great victory. It was an impressive drive from them. What we don’t know is how Ott and Martin would have done should they have not crashed.

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo
23-26 Janvier 2020
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

The M-Sport team managed to get a good result after their troubles early on. Esapekka led their charge up the leader board, in the way you’d expect from the Finn, and was in a good position to benefit from the problems for Seb Loeb.

It was a very good debut from Kalle Rovanperä. He consistently set times which put him inside the top seven, including setting the fourth fastest time on stage seven. He and Jonne did what was expected of them and got to the finish.

Next time the championship will be heading to Rally Sweden.

Rallye Monte Carlo 2020 Preview

The 2020 season begins as ever in the ever iconic event that is Rallye Monte Carlo. Ott Tanak begins his title defence having made the switch from Toyota to Hyundai over the winter. He will, I am sure you know, will not however be running with the number one on his car, deciding instead to stick with number eight.

Rallye Monte Carlo has a reputation of being a super tricky event, and this year’s 88th edition is unlikely to be any different. Here are the stages that await the crews:

Thursday, January 23 2020

5 pm Official Start

Quai Albert 1er in Monaco

8:38 pm SS 1 – Malijai / Puimichel

17,47 km

10:26 pm SS 2 – Bayons / Bréziers

25,49 km

Friday, January 24 2020

8:36 am SS 3 – Curbans / Venterol

20,02 km

9:56 am SS 4 – Saint-Clément-sur-Durance / Freissinières

20,68 km

11:21 am SS 5 – Avançon / Notre-Dame-du-Laus

20,59 km

1:54 pm SS 6 – Curbans / Venterol

20,02 km

3:14 pm SS 7 – Saint-Clément-sur-Durance / Freissinières

20,68 km

4:39 pm SS 8 – Avançon / Notre-Dame-du-Laus

20,59 km

Saturday, January 25 2020

9:38 am SS 9 – Saint-Léger-les-Mélèzes / La Bâtie-Neuve

16,87 km

10:56 am SS 10 – La Bréole / Selonnet

20,73 km

2:08 pm SS 11 – Saint-Léger-les-Mélèzes / La Bâtie-Neuve

16,87 km

3:26 pm SS 12 – La Bréole / Selonnet

20,73 km

Stop at the Gap-Fontreyne Service Park

Sunday, January 26 2020

8:17 am SS 13 – La Bollène-Vésubie / Peïra-Cava

18,41 km

9:08 am SS 14 – La Cabanette / Col de Braus

13,36 km

10:55 am SS 15 – La Bollène-Vésubie / Peïra-Cava

18,41 km

12:18 pm SS 16 – La Cabanette / Col de Braus

13,36 km

 

Shakedown will take place on Wednesday afternoon from 4pm. There will be keen interest in the drivers that have switched teams over the winter to see what kind of times they set on the Route de la Garde 3.35 km stage. We’ll have to wait and see how many runs the crews decide to do, as they attempt to get a feel for their new cars in a competitive environment.

Look back to last year:

Last year Seb and Julien took a win with their return to Citroen, which was their sixth victory in this event. Ott Tanak took third. He was the early leader, but suffered a puncture early on day one, dropping him out of the fight for the lead. Between them, in second, was Thierry Neuville.

There are two drivers who are making their debut in full blooded WRC machinery this weekend. Kalle Rovanperä and Gus Greensmith will step into their respective cars from Toyota and Ford. Yes, I know that Gus drove in three events last year, but he and Edmund haven’t driven one of these cars in Monte before. Last year he drove to a very good win in the WRC Pro class.

Let’s hear from the drivers:

Hyundai Motorsport

Photo credit, Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tanak

“The start of a new year begins with probably the most demanding event of the season. To make it even more challenging, we have a new team and a new car to learn while tackling the tricky conditions. It will never be an easy job, but it is important to get a good start and to score some points. With the event held at the end of January, the conditions are normally inconsistent, and a lot depends on the altitude. In the lower conditions you can have dry tarmac, then the higher you go it starts to freeze. With the extreme conditions, its normal to find some unpredictability in this rally.”

Thierry Neuville

“Rally Monte-Carlo kicks off the season and we are straight into the dark stages. It’s a very tough event, and tyre choice is crucial. It’s a difficult event in which to compete; there’s a lot of hesitation and you need good pace notes, as well as accurate information from your weather crew. With different altitudes in the stages, high concentration is key. Conditions are constantly changing and the most dangerous thing for us is black ice. We have been competing in Gap for a few years now and we know which sections are in the shade all day and will be slippery, but there will always be some surprises waiting for us in Monte.”

Seb Loeb

“You never know what to expect at Rallye Monte-Carlo. It could be fully dry, wet or feature a lot of snow, which changes the driving conditions. It can even change between the stages and the road sections, which means tyre choice is even more important. You need to find the right rhythm to be fast without taking major risks. This rally you need to approach with your head; it’s not just flat out, it’s a question of reflection. My previous experience feels like a long time ago, so the rallies feel newer to me than other drivers. We only had one day in the car before Monte-Carlo last year, so hopefully with our current knowledge of the car we will be able to get an even better result than last year.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Photo credit, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“I’m excited to start my first rally in the Toyota Yaris WRC. Every car has different characteristics and it takes some kilometres to learn about them, but so far it has been good in the tests. We want to fight for a seventh title this year, and I believe we can have a good chance with this car. Rallye Monte-Carlo is an event with special emotions for me. I remember at the end of the 1990s, coming to spectate and Tommi was winning a lot – he was the first idol I had in rallying. Myself and Julien obviously have a very strong record too, and every year there is more and more pressure to try and continue that. It’s always a big challenge and one that I definitely enjoy.”

Elfyn Evans

“I’m looking forward to Rallye Monte-Carlo and my first event with Toyota. This is the first time in my WRC career that I’ve changed teams, but everybody’s been very welcoming and I’ve got a good feeling in the car, so I’m excited about the season ahead. My first time driving the Yaris WRC was in our test for the Monte in December, and quite quickly I was able to get a nice feeling and some good confidence. On this event the challenge is always the range of conditions you can possibly face. When you’re setting up the car, you need something that gives you confidence and I think we’ve got some good options with that in mind.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“Rallye Monte-Carlo will be a special event for me. It’s a big step up from an R5 car, with a lot more power and downforce, but so far, I’ve found the Yaris WRC to be quite easy to drive in the tests. Still, I have a lot to learn and I think it will take a few rallies to really adapt to the car and how everything works. I will need to think differently at the beginning of the season, and I hope that I will have the patience for this. I think Monte-Carlo is not the easiest place to start with a new car and a new team. The weather is changing all the time and you cannot always have the right tyre choice for the conditions. It will be a big challenge for us, but hopefully we can make it through.”

 

M-Sport WRT

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Ford Fiesta WRC 2020 Livery
January 2020
Photo: Drew Gibson

Esapekka Lappi

“Monte-Carlo is always a tricky start to the season, but I’m looking forward to getting started. Straight away the Fiesta felt very logical and easy to drive, and that always gives a driver a lot of confidence. I hope I’ll be able to use that confidence next week, but Monte is always a challenge and you never know what to expect.

“We had wet roads on the test and the car felt good in those changing conditions. But in Monte you can have wet roads, dry roads, icy roads, full snow, and sometimes all of that in the same stage! You have to give this rally a lot of respect, but that’s what we plan to do and we want to get this new partnership off to a strong start next week.”

Teemu Suninen

“I’m really looking forward to this season and straight away I could see that Esapekka and I would work well together. We had a very similar set-up on the test, and it looks like we want to take the car in the same direction.

“I tested on dry asphalt and had a really good feeling, but for the more tricky  sections where there is a lot of ice and snow I will have to rely on my experience. This is my fourth time in Monte so I’m starting to know the stages a bit better. The rally is always a lottery, but I have a very experienced gravel crew who I trust 100 percent – so anything is possible!”

Gus Greensmith

“Monte is a special one for me. It’s where I claimed my first victory (winning WRC Pro 2 last year), and there’s no other rally than gives me more satisfaction behind the wheel. Knowing that I will drive these amazing stages with the Ford Fiesta WRC this year is beyond my wildest dreams!

“Everyone wants to win here, and the changing conditions make it one of the biggest challenges on the calendar. The smallest mistakes pay a heavy price, but I do think this is a strong event for me. I’ve always relished tricky conditions, but experience is something you need here too. I’ll have to make up for that, and hope to produce a strong performance to kick off this 2020 season.”

Summary

Here we go then! Who will win the first round of this new season? Will we see another win going to Seb Ogier, or perhaps we’ll see a new winner this year? Thierry challenged in 2017, and was close last year, or perhaps we’ll see Ott Tanak take a first victory?

 

Podium challengers could be Elfyn Evans, Teemu Suninen and Seb Loeb. Finally, how will Kalle Rovanperä get on? The son of Harri Rovanperä has made his own name on his way up the ladder. There will be mistakes, that is expected. Still, expect to see him win some stages as well.

Enjoy!

Rally Spain, Day Three- Thierry Neuville wins Rally Spain, Ott Tänak wins the World Championship!

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.

 

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:07:39.6
  2. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +17.2
  3. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +17.6
  4. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +53.9
  5. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:00.2
  6. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:14.2
  7. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:47.6
  8. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +4:20.5
  9. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +8:24.6 (1st RC2 & WRC2Pro)
  10. Camilli / Veillas (Citroën C3 R5) +8:47.2 (2nd RC2 & 1st WRC2)

 

Driver Quotes.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“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.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 13, Rally de España
24-27 October 2019
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

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.”

FIA World Rally Championship / Round 13 / Rally RACC Catalunya/Rally de Espana / Oct 24-27, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

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.”

 

M-Sport WRT

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.”

Elfyn and Scott had a mixed weekend, but we did see more pace on the final day. Photo credit, M-Sport

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.”

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia used the rest of the weekend to test new ideas on the C3 WRC. Photo credit Citroën Racing

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

  1. Ott Tänak – 263 points
  2. Thierry Neuville – 227 points
  3. Sébastien Ogier – 217 points
  4. Andreas Mikkelsen & Elfyn Evans – 102 points
  5. Kris Meeke – 98 points
  6. Jari-Matti Latvala – 94 points
  7. Teemu Suninen & Dani Sordo – 89 points
  8. Esapekka Lappi – 83 points

 

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 380 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 362 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 284 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 218 points

 

Summary

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.

FIA World Rally Championship / Round 13 / Rally RACC Catalunya/Rally de Espana / Oct 24-27, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

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.

Rally Spain, Day Two- Hyundai Continue to Lead Rally Spain

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.

 

CLASSIFICATION DAY TWO

  1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:25:15.8
  2. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +21.5
  3. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +24.6
  4. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +25.2
  5. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +46.8
  6. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:09.2
  7. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:24.5
  8. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +4:09.9
  9. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +6:35.2 (1st RC2 & WRC2Pro)
  10. Camilli / Veillas (Citroën C3 R5) +6:38.2 (2ndRC2 & 1st WRC2)

 

The Driver Quotes

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“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.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 13 Rally de España
24-27 October 2019
Day 2, Action, Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

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.”

FIA World Rally Championship / Round 13 / Rally RACC Catalunya/Rally de Espana / Oct 24-27, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

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.”

 

M-Sport WRT

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.”

Teemu and Jarmo continued to learn together. Photo credit, M-Sport

 

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.”

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia did their best, despite lacking big motivation, given how things had turned out. Photo credit, Citroën Racing

Summary

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.

Rally Spain, Day One – Seb Loeb leads a One, Two, Three for Hyundai Motorsport

It was good day for Hyundai, but not so good for Citroën, who suffered two separate technical failures on their cars.

With six stages all on gravel today, the start list looked like this – Tänak, Ogier, Neuville, Meeke, Evans, Latvala, Lappi, Suninen, Sordo, Loeb.

 

It was a good start by Seb Ogier, who won SS 1 – Gandesa 1 (7,00 km) from Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville was right there as well. The short stage didn’t affect Ott Tanak too much either, with the championship leader only losing 1.8 seconds to the reigning champion.

 

With the longer SS 2 – Horta-Bot 1 (19,00 km), it started to unravel for Ogier. He started to lose time very early in the and the problem got worse and worse. By the end, he and Julien had lost 44 seconds and had fallen to fifteenth position. Is this the moment when the championship slipped away from the Citroën pilot? Thierry moved into the lead after winning the stage, with his Spanish teammate just a few tenths behind. Kris now held third, as the top Toyota at this point. Elfyn suffered a part spin, losing a few seconds and falling behind his Finnish teammate, but not by a big margin. Meantime, Ott had made his way up to fourth place.

 

The next stage, SS 3 – La Fatarella – Vilalba 1 (38,85 km), a really long and proper stage. Seb Ogier lost even more time on this long stage, losing almost three minutes, and was now three and a half minutes from the lead. His fellow multiple world champion Seb Loeb won the stage and moved up to sixth place. Meantime, Dani Sordo took the lead with championship hopeful Thierry now falling to second place. Elfyn had a better stage, setting the fourth fastest time and moving up the leaderboard to into fourth place. The drivers to fall behind were Kris, who was just a few tenths behind the Welshman and in fifth, whilst Esapekka was now in seventh place. The gaps were really quite small though, with only twelve seconds covering first and seventh.

 

After lunchtime service, SS 4 – Gandesa 2 (7,00 km), and Dani was quick out of the blocks once more, winning the stage from Teemu. Loeb also went well, making it a one-three for Hyundai in the stage and moving him above Kris and Elfyn and into fourth place. Thierry put a good stage together and continued to hold second overall. Hyundai had found a good set up for their cars, and were going well indeed.

 

Into SS 5 – Horta-Bot 2 (19,00 km) and Loeb won from Sordo, whilst Latvala was starting to feel more comfortable, setting the same time as Dani. Loeb’s pace moved him into third overall, with Ott now falling behind the former champion. Kris was also going well, passing Elfyn. Esapekka Lappi sadly dropped out of the standings with a technical problem. We now had a Hyundai one-two-three! Seb Ogier was well out of the running and despite his complete professionalism really struggling for motivation.

 

The final stage of the day then, and SS 6 – La Fatarella – Vilalba 2 (38,85 km) saw a massive push from Loeb, which gave him a superb stage victory, beating Kris and Thierry and was enough to give him and Daniel the rally lead, whilst Thierry and Dani completed a one-two-three for Hyundai. On the flip side, Elfyn had a terrible stage with an engine problem and he lost 38 seconds and fell to seventh. Not how he would have wanted to end the day, but at least he’s still in the running for the points and we know how fast he is on tarmac.

Driver Quotes at the end of Day One

Hyundai Motorsport

Seb Loeb (1st)

“An incredible day for the team! It is a wonderful feeling to be leading this rally, even if at this early stage of the weekend. There was a bit of a tyre strategy in the morning, and I was only able to get the hard compounds working to their optimum performance at the end of the loop. The conditions were just too slippery and greasy in the opening stages. The afternoon was better and I had a good feeling throughout. In the final stage, the car was perfect and I was just flying. We gave it a push and it was good enough to secure a 1-2-3 for the team to end the first day. We now have two long days of tarmac ahead of us.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 13 Rally de España
24-27 October 2019
Day 1, Action, Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“We have had a great start to this rally and the car has been working very well. We had a positive opening loop this morning and continued in the same direction for the afternoon. There were some tricky sections at times but we stayed focused and tried to be efficient. The final stage was particularly tough with some visibility issues, a combination of the sun being low and some fog, so we had to remain concentrated. Aside from losing a second or two at the last hairpin, it was a strong end to an almost perfect day.”

Dani Sordo (3rd)

“All in all, we have had a good day and things are looking good for the team on the standings with the top three positions. The car has been working very well, even with changeable grip levels. The only downsides were a puncture 5km before the end of the morning loop, which lost us some time, as well as a disappointing end to our afternoon. Some places were difficult to drive but there was nothing immediately wrong. I think we can still be happy with our performances today, as we now turn our attention the tarmac stages.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kris Meeke (4th)

“This morning I struggled a bit with the setup and so I wasn’t comfortable over the bumps, especially in the long stage, SS3. But everything came together in the afternoon. The car felt a lot different and I could trust it a lot more. I said beforehand that I needed to be within 10 seconds of the lead tonight and the gap is currently 13, so it’s not bad, we’re still there. My pace has been strong on asphalt this year and I know the Yaris WRC works really well, so I’m confident and looking forward to the rest of the rally.”

Ott Tänak (5th)

“It was a really tough and demanding day today. When you’re opening the road during the first loop, it’s constantly slippery, but in a way it’s still manageable. The conditions are always more difficult in the second loop and it can be really frustrating. I pushed as hard as I could and I couldn’t do any more, so we need to be happy with that. Tomorrow is very much a new day and a very different day, and hopefully it can be a stronger day for us.”

FIA World Rally Championship / Round 13 / Rally RACC Catalunya/Rally de Espana / Oct 24-27, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala (6th)

“This day on gravel was not as simple as last year. After the rain earlier in the week, the grip level was much lower, and it was more difficult this morning. Then in the afternoon, the grip was pretty consistent, but there were many ruts. I wasn’t confident enough this morning, but we made some changes with the suspension in service, and I fought back in the afternoon. I feel a lot more relaxed and confident now and I’m looking forward to the next two days on asphalt.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (7th)

“It was shaping up to be a pretty good fight, but it didn’t go our way in the end. We had some speed at times, but then we had a pretty bad misfire on the last stage. We managed to change a few things on the road section and get it going again so it’s just one of those things – and we’ll need to make sure we’re on it from the word go when the action moves to Tarmac tomorrow.”

Elfyn and Scott suffered an up and down day, which ended with an engine problem. Photo credit, M-Sport

Teemu Suninen (8th)

“We found a good rhythm this afternoon and I had a really good feeling with the car. I tried to set some good times, and I was happy that we managed to do that. But I wasn’t so good at managing the tyres on the long stage. On the first pass I pushed too hard, and on the second I didn’t push enough. It’s something I need to improve, but I know it’s a learning curve so I will make some good notes and do some good homework.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (17th)

“I lost the power steering pretty much at the start of SS2, then the gearshift paddles went and finally the central differential. It was so hard physically to drive the car without power steering, I ended up with blisters on my hands. Obviously, it’s disappointing because the intention was there. We made the right call on tyres and the time on the opening stage confirmed the good feeling we had. Everyone in the team is disappointed this evening, but obviously we’re professionals and our approach has always been to never give up and see where we are at the end of the rally.”

It wasn’t a good day for Seb and Julien. Photo credit, Citroën Racing

Esapekka Lappi (DNF)

“I’m disappointed that my rally has come to a premature end, especially as I had enjoyed a pretty solid and consistent day 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 will now look forward to Australia and finishing the season on a high with the best possible result.”

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY ONE

  1. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:21:24.7
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1.7
  3. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +7.6
  4. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +13.0
  5. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +21.7
  6. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +30.1
  7. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +44.0
  8. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +51.8
  9. Katsuta / Barritt (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:50.3
  10. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +2:59.8

 

Summary

Well, a very interesting first day on the gravel roads in Spain. It’s certainly not the day that the Citroën team would have wanted, and now it is looking very likely that we will see our first Estonian world champion.

At the front, Hyundai’s drivers are doing all they can to help Thierry take the fight to the final round, but with Ott Tänak sitting in fifth overall, he’s in a good position to take the title.

Toyota had a reasonable day, with Kris, Ott and Jari-Matti all setting pretty good times, and will look to move up the order tomorrow.

At M-Sport they had their moments, but with the problems that Elfyn had in the longest stage this afternoon, they’ll be wanting more from the weekend. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.

Now, tomorrow sees the crews attack seven stages totaling 121km. We’ll have a better idea if Ott Tänak is set for his first championship by the end of tomorrow.

Rally Spain 2019 Preview – The title battle moves to Spain.

The Championship Rivals

The championship fight between Ott, Seb and Thierry arrives at the dual surface challenge that is Rally Spain! The Belgian is on balance, given he is forty-one points behind Ott Tänak, the driver least likely to win this years’ championship. Very simply, he has to win this event and take the powerstage as well, and hope that neither Ott, or Seb actually finish to take the fight to the final round down under. Even then, he’d still be behind the Estonian. Seb though is closer, just twenty-eight from the leader, giving him the chance to lead the championship should he win and take the powerstage, assuming that Ott doesn’t finish. Now, the championship could be decided in Spain should Ott finish ahead of either of his rivals.

 

The Podium Challengers

There are a number of drivers who could finish on the podium. Now, think back to Tour de Corse, we saw a storming drive from Elfyn and Scott on the tarmac, which almost gave them victory. The M-Sport duo will almost certainly feature at the front, and last time out in Wales they made a great return. Kris and Seb will also be quick enough to take stage victories. Now in the Hyundai camp, we’ll have Dani returning to his i20 and last years’ Rally Spain winners, Seb and Daniel as support to Thierry and Nicolas.

Driver Quotes.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak

“I’m looking forward to Spain. As always, I will aim to do my best, but we need to be smart. We know that it could be tricky for us on the first day, as we’ll be running first on the road on gravel. The weather could change things too: We saw last year that we can easily get rain in Spain at this time of year. But I believe that our performance should be good on both surfaces: We were already fast on this event last year and hopefully that will be the case again this time, and we can get the result we need.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 12 / Rally Catalunya-Costa Daurada Rally de Espagna 2018 / October 25-28, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala

“The combination of gravel and asphalt in Spain is something I’ve always really liked. The gravel stages are quite smooth but very slippery, while the asphalt roads are best that we have in the championship: really smooth and fast. I had a test on asphalt in Spain last week and I had a really nice feeling in the car. I’m very motivated and looking forward to being back in the car, fighting for the best possible result as we try to win the manufacturers’ championship again.”

Kris Meeke

“Spain is one of my favourite events on the calendar. I’ve always enjoyed the mixed-surface challenge, and last time I did the rally in 2017, I managed to take the win. I’ve had a really good feeling with the Yaris WRC on asphalt so far, so I’m especially looking forward to that part of it. On gravel, we know there will be a couple of drivers who will have ideal road positions and can be very strong on this event. With the manufacturers’ championship being so close now, we’ve got a job to do and we’re certainly going to have to be on our game.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“I enjoy racing on different surfaces so I like this rally and I’m very determined to score big points here if I can. We don’t have any choice, really. We have to close the gap to Ott if we are to retain our hopes of retaining the title. Given the influence of road position, the first leg on gravel is bound to be difficult for us but I’m not going to worry about that any more than usual. I’m confident that we’ll be quicker on tarmac. The feeling in testing was much better than recently but only the times and those of our rivals will tell us whether or not the step forward we have made is big enough.”

Seb and Julien drove to a strong second place last year. Could they take the win this year? Photo credit, Citroën Racing

Esapekka Lappi

“I like the idea of racing on a mixed-surface rally, even though it’s a huge challenge. It’s especially tricky on Saturday morning when you have to switch from gravel to tarmac with no transition and be immediately on the pace from the first corner. I hope it will stay dry on Friday and I’ll be able to make the most of my position in the running order, particularly as we have now shown good pace on gravel. I love the tarmac stages here. The roads are smooth and flowing, very fast in places, and on the whole pretty clean if it doesn’t rain. They are the ones that remind me most of my track racing past. We should be more competitive than on the previous tarmac rounds, because we definitely pinpointed something during testing, but we’ll have to wait for the times on the first few stages on tarmac to see where we really stand.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“We are approaching a critical part of the season, where the championship really intensifies. Our aim is clear: to fight for victory and to outscore our rivals. At the same time, we know that Rally de España is a unique event due to the fact that we are running one day on gravel and two days on tarmac. It has very specific characteristics and it is truly the only one like this on the calendar. It poses challenges to which we all look forward. We have shown that we are strong contenders on both surfaces this year and we will keep pushing as hard as we can for the championship.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 12, Rally de Espa–a
25-28 Octobre 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo

“I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in Spain, my home rally. This is always a very special event as we compete on both gravel and tarmac in the same weekend. It’s nice to start on gravel. With our advantageous position, starting later on the road, we can hopefully gain some time. Then there’s a big fight on tarmac as there are fast crews in every team, so it promises to be an exciting event. As it is in Spain, it is also double motivation for me. The spectators come to see everybody but I think they support the Spanish drivers a little bit more than the others normally!”

Seb Loeb

“For me, Rally de España is a rally I’ve always enjoyed. I have won it a lot of times but what I like the most is the location: it’s a nice place close to the sea. The mixed surface is something I always enjoyed in the past and it’s the only event we completely change the set-up of the car in the middle of the rally. We are confident we can be on the pace and support the team to extend the lead in the manufacturers’ battle.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans

“It was great to be back in Wales, and to see that our pace was strong enough to challenge for the top results. We want to see that pace continue in Spain and I see no reason why we can’t do that. I feel as though we have some unfinished business this year, and I’m keen to deliver some strong results over these final events.

“As the only mixed-surface event on the calendar there’s nothing else quite like this rally. The gravel stages can be quite technical in places, and the asphalt roads are as close as we get to rallying on a race track in full Tarmac trim.

“We completed an asphalt test earlier this week and the feeling is good, so I’m really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel and seeing what we can do.”

There’s no doubting Elfyn and Scott’s pace on tarmac and gravel this year. Photo credit, M-Sport

Teemu Suninen

“We completed a three-day test with Elfyn last week, and got to experience three different types of Tarmac roads. We know that the car is very good on this surface, and on gravel as well, so I’m looking forward to showing what we can do next week.

“My aim is to secure a strong result, and it would be great if we were able to challenge for the podium. The battle between the three Finns in the championship is also really exciting, and I want to do well in that fight.

“We need to be focused, and I will try to find a good rhythm straight away. This is a rally that I have done every year since 2015, so it is quite familiar and if I can get everything right then I think we can challenge for a good result.”

 

Here’s the stages! There are 325km over seventeen stages, with six gravel on Friday. Once again, getting through the first day in a good position will help give the good start position for Saturday. This will be key, given that the lower that you run on the tarmac, the dirtier it will be, therefore harder to set a quick time.

THURSDAY 24 OCTOBER

9.01am: Shakedown (2,00 km on gravel)

7.00pm: Ceremonial Start (Salou)

 

FRIDAY 25 OCTOBER

8.00am: Start from PortAventura service park

9.23am: SS 1 – Gandesa 1 (7,00 km)

10.03am: SS 2 – Horta-Bot 1 (19,00 km)

11.13am: SS 3 – La Fatarella – Vilalba 1 (38,85 km)

1.23pm: Service A (PortAventura – 40 minutes)

3.26pm: SS 4 – Gandesa 2 (7,00 km)

4.06pm: SS 5 – Horta-Bot 2 (19,00 km)

5.16pm: SS 6 – La Fatarella – Vilalba 2 (38,85 km)

7.51pm: Flexi service B (PortAventura – 1 hr 15 minutes)

 

SATURDAY 26 OCTOBER

7.30am: Start & service C (PortAventura – 15 minutes)

9.00am: SS 7 – Savallà 1 (14,08 km)

9.41am: SS 8 – Querol 1 (21,26 km)

10.38am: SS 9 – El Montmell 1 (24,40 km)

12.10pm: Service D (PortAventura – 40 minutes)

2.01pm: SS 10 – Savallà 2 (14,08 km)

2.42pm: SS 11 – Querol 2 (21,26 km)

3.38pm: SS 12 – El Montmell 2 (24,40 km)

5.30pm: SS 13 – Salou (2,24 km)

6.00pm: Flexi service E (PortAventura – 45 minutes)

 

SUNDAY 27 OCTOBER

6.45am: Start & service F (PortAventura – 15 minutes)

7.41am: SS 14 – Riudecanyes 1 (16,35 km)

8.38am: SS 15 – La Mussara 1 (20,72 km)

9.48am: Service G (PortAventura – 30 minutes)

10.54am: SS 16 – Riudecanyes 2 (16,35 km)

12.18pm: SS 17 – La Mussara 2 Power Stage (20,72 km)

1.41pm: Service H (PortAventura – 10 minutes)

2.01pm: Podium (Salou)

 

Summary

There could be a new world champion by Sunday afternoon and the first not called Seb since Petter Solberg won in 2003. Who’d have thought in 2004 we would have so many years with French drivers dominating the championship? Now anyone could stand on the podium, and this will have a bearing on the manufacturer’s championship in which the fight between Hyundai and Toyota is really close, with just eight points between them. The Hyundai team are very keen to win this one. This is why they have Dani and Seb in the other two cars, giving them the best possible chance to score more points than Toyota. We really are set for a fascinating weekend.

Wales Rally GB 2019 Review – Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja and Toyota win in Wales!

The short Oulton Park Stage (3,58 km) on Thursday evening got the rally underway, with Kris Meeke winning it from Thierry Neuville and incredibly Petter Solberg in his Polo R5 just 3.3 seconds from the lead in third! The Norwegian had started his last ever Wales Rally GB in spectacular style.

Friday

With 116km over nine stages, with the first stage at 7:18am, it would be a tough day. The startlist looked like this – Tänak, Ogier, Neuville, Mikkelsen, Meeke, Latvala, Suninen, Lappi, Evans, Tidemand, Breen.

Well, it was like they’d never been away, with Elfyn and Scott getting their bid for the podium off to a great start, with the M-Sport pairing winning SS 2 – Elsi 1 (11,65 km) and jumping up to sixth place. Further down, both Andreas and Esapekka dropped down the leaderboard to ninth and tenth. Still leading though was Kris, who had an almost seven second lead over Thierry. Incredibly, just five seconds covered fourth to tenth place.

Elfyn and Scott made a great return! Photo credit M-Sport WRT

Well, into the longer SS 3 – Penmachno 1 (16,19 km), and it unravelled for Elfyn and Scott in this one. They dropped half a minute, believing they had some suspension damage after cutting a fast right-hander. It was business as usual, with Ott picking up his first stage win of the weekend and jumping into third place overall. Impressive as usual from the Estonian crew.

The longer SS 4 – Dyfnant 1 (19,36 km), saw Ott at the top again, moving ahead of Seb in the process and into second place overall, with just Kris Meeke ahead now. Elfyn was quick too, just seven tenths from Ott with the fourth fastest time. Just such a shame that all that time was lost in the previous stage. Also, in the wars was Teemu, who lost 15 seconds after a crash and having to reverse.

SS 5 – Aberhirnant 1 (10,26 km) saw nine cars complete the stage, before it was stopped. The reason? Some spectators who had decided to ignore the marshals’ requests to move to a safe place. They weren’t only asked once I gather. The stage was later cancelled, and the crews drove through slowly. Elfyn and Jari-Matti shared the stage win. Thierry and Jari-Matti were now up to second and third place behind new leader Kris.

The next stage after lunchtime service SS 6 – Elsi 2 (11,65 km), saw Seb set the best time, and this moved him into third place ahead of Jari-Matti, who had fallen to fifth place. Sadly, the Frenchman’s teammate didn’t have such a good stage, sliding off the road and being unable to get back on.

The next stage, SS 7 – Penmachno 2 (16,19 km) was also won by the Frenchman. Unfortunately, the stage was stopped after Teemu finished. Jari-Matti had crashed in a big way sadly. Kris continued to lead, with Seb now his closest challenger at just two and half seconds behind. The rest of the crews in the top ten would need to be given notional times, given that they couldn’t complete the stage at speed.

The short SS 8 – Slate Mountain (1,60 km) followed, and Thierry won the stage, with his teammate Andreas just behind, whilst Seb, Elfyn and Craig were all third fastest. Kris’ lead was now just one and a half seconds over Seb.

On to SS 9 – Dyfnant 2 (19,36 km), and Ott took 6.3 seconds faster than Kris, moving him up from fourth to second place, and just six tenths from his teammate. Seb and Thierry were now in third and fourth.

The final stage of the day, SS 10 – Aberhirnant 2 (10,26 km) and with Ott winning the stage and Kris only fifth fastest and falling to third overall, with Seb moving into second overall again. Thierry remained the only other driver in the top ten close enough to challenge for victory.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY ONE

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:14:30.8
  2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +3.4
  3. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3.6
  4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +8.4
  5. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +25.7
  6. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) +33.5
  7. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +37.4
  8. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +51.8

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It has been a really demanding day. This morning, the grip was generally higher than I was expecting, but it was changing a lot and difficult to predict. This afternoon, the stages were a bit rougher and I struggled with the visibility with the mud on the screen. But in the last two stages in the dark I had a good feeling with the car and we could set some good times. I think that tomorrow’s stages should suit us but I’m sure that it will be another intense fight.”

Kris Meeke (3rd)

“It’s been a good day. We led for most of it and then Ott just got past us in the dark. It was very wet this morning, and then the rain stopped and the grip levels were a bit more consistent in the afternoon. I seemed to lose a little bit of time this afternoon but there’s only three seconds between three of us, so I’m happy. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s stages. Dyfi was my first ever stage in a rally car, and Myherin and Sweet Lamb Hafren are classics too.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (Retired)

“At first this morning, I wasn’t in the right rhythm with my driving but then in Dyfnant and Aberhirnant it was definitely going much better, even though the grip was changing a lot. In SS7, I came over a crest and the car went light, I lost the rear immediately, we hit the bank and rolled. I just had a little bit too much speed and jumped a bit too far. It’s very disappointing to be out of the rally: not only for myself but also for the team, as it was my job to try to bring some good points for the championship.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“Obviously, we have had a good day today, even though we lost a bit of ground on the last two stages. It was difficult to read the grip and I probably hesitated a bit too much whereas in the end, the level of grip wasn’t that bad. When you look at how small the gaps are at the front, everything is still up for grabs, so we’ll keep pushing flat out tomorrow. The roads on Saturday’s stages are expected to be quicker and wider, and they are very beautiful too, but they will undoubtedly still be very tricky in places, depending on the conditions.”

Esapekka Lappi (Retired/Rally2)

“The morning went well for us, since we had gradually upped our pace and our rhythm was pretty good. At the second corner on the afternoon’s opening stage, I overestimated the level of grip, ran wide and as it was pretty narrow at that point, I hit the bank and broke the suspension wishbone. And that was that. For tomorrow, we need to talk about it properly with the team but I’m going to do whatever I can to help, possibly testing stuff that may be useful for Seb, whilst trying to keep driving quickly on stages that are faster and more flowing than the ones we tackled today.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“It’s been an OK start to the rally, although I don’t feel we were always on the pace we wanted. We struggled with the balance of the car during the morning stages, and couldn’t really find the confidence we needed. We made it to lunchtime service in second place overall and it was clear the fight for the lead of this rally would be incredibly close. We tried to improve the feeling in the car during the afternoon but it wasn’t straightforward with some tricky conditions. We have to make the most of the situation and see what tomorrow brings.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

“We ended the day in a reasonable position, in fifth, but we struggled in the final night stage because I adjusted my lights and couldn’t see everything in the distance. Overall, we have experienced some very typical and demanding conditions in the Welsh forests today. We lost a bit of time in the morning but made some changes to the car that helped us find better performance. It’s been a while since I’ve driven on muddy conditions like we have faced today. It took time to adjust and learn to trust the grip, which was better than I thought. It’s so easy to make a mistake. There is still room for improvement.”

Craig Breen (6th)

“A day of two halves for us, really, including a few things that we were out of our hands. We had a decent morning and it felt great to get back in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. We made it to lunchtime service relatively unscathed. There was a pretty big moment in SS4 where we became at one with the trees, but we had a lucky escape. SS5 was stopped due to spectator issues so we received a nominal time that dropped us down to sixth. We suffered from our road position in the afternoon, and lost time on SS6 as the stage became rutted. We were then given our second nominal time in SS7 before getting back on the pace at Slate Mountain. The day ended with really tough twilight conditions, including foggy parts, in SS9, and a night run through Aberhirnant without the benefit of the earlier daytime stage.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 12, Wales Rally GB
03-06 October 2019
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (7th)

“It’s been a tough day out there with lots of mud and changes in grip. I think we had pretty good pace, but unfortunately, I made a small mistake in the morning and we lost some time. We were battling with the guys at the front, but the mistake happened when I was trying to gain back the time that we lost with a wrong tyre choice last night. We need to learn from this and remember that we can’t get all that time back in one or two stages – and tomorrow we just need to continue doing our best and staying on our limits.”

Elfyn Evans (8th)

“It’s nice to be back behind the wheel – and a pretty long day at it too! There were a few frustrating moments – losing all that time with a mistake and a puncture this morning, and then this afternoon having a stage cancelled and running into darkness in Dyfnant when the guys at the front went through in the daylight. It’s tough to do anything in those conditions, but that’s the way it is and I think we can still be happy with the day and with the pace we’ve had.”

Pontus Tidemand (9th)

“This morning was one of the toughest in my career, but we made some changes for the afternoon and I felt a lot better and a lot more comfortable in the car. We had a spin early on in the afternoon which wasn’t what we wanted, but the pace was better and I hope to show some more improvement tomorrow.”

Saturday

The longest day, with 151km over seven stages and no service at lunchtime, just a tyre fitting zone in Newtown. Finding the right balance of speed, but looking after the car would not be easy. The startlist looked like this – Lappi, Tidemand, Evans, Suninen, Breen, Mikkelsen, Neuville, Meeke, Ogier, Tänak.

Well, it was Elfyn and Scott who were fastest out of the blocks, winning SS 11 – Dyfi 1 (25,86 km) and taking thirteen seconds out of Teemu who held seventh place. At the front, Ott was starting to open up a gap to his closet challenger, Seb who could only manage fifth quickest.

The following stage, SS 12 – Myherin 1 (22,91 km) saw a number of interesting things happen. First of all, Elfyn won the stage and secondly, Andreas lost almost ten seconds and was now just eight ahead of Elfyn who had passed Teemu. Craig rolled his car on a fast-left hander, and completed the stage with bits hanging off his car.

Elfyn and Scott pass #Elfynscorner in Myherin

Elfyn made it three in a row, winning SS 13 – Sweet Lamb Hafren 1 (25,65 km) as well! He’d reduced Andreas advantage in their fight for fifth place to just five seconds. Seb had a slide and hit a bank, but he only lost about a second to Ott. Thierry gained time on Seb though, reducing the gap to just two seconds.

The re-run of SS 14 – Myherin 2 (22,91 km) was won by Thierry from Ott and Kris, whilst Elfyn was now just half a second behind Andreas. Ott’s lead was now seven seconds and increasing over Seb and Thierry’s pace was closing the gap to the French champion.

Onto the second run of SS 15 – Sweet Lamb Hafren 2 (25,65 km), and Andreas took an important stage win, and increased the gap to Elfyn by four seconds. In fact, it was a good stage for Thierry as well, as he moved ahead of Seb and into second place. Up at the front, Ott had increased his lead now to ten seconds.

SS 16 – Dyfi 2 (25,86 km) saw Thierry take a second stage win and Ott was only a few tenths behind, thus keeping the Belgian over ten seconds behind. Meanwhile the ebb and flow between Elfyn and Andreas continued, with the Welshman closing again in their battle over fifth place. The gap was increasing between Seb and Kris as well.

The final stage of the day SS 17 – Colwyn Bay (2,40 km) was won by Ott with Thierry and Seb both within a second of their championship rival. It’s well known that Elfyn doesn’t like these stages, and so Andreas increased the gap between him and the Welshman to almost five seconds.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY TWO

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:42:02.7
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +11.0
  3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +17.3
  4. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +26.5
  5. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +46.9
  6. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +51.4
  7. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:07.9
  8. Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:59.6
  9. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) +9:16.0

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It has been a tough and challenging day. The stages were long and the conditions were tricky. In the last stages we started to have some quite bad fog and the roads were rough. We also lost our rear bumper so we had a lot of noise in the car, making it hard to hear the pace-notes. It’s still a fairly small gap so we can’t definitely relax, but it’s the biggest margin anyone has had this weekend. It’s hard to have confidence in Wales, as there’s always surprises and you’re always on the edge, but it’s nice to have this margin to take into tomorrow.”

Kris Meeke (5th)

“I’m content to be here tonight in fourth place. We’re not so far from third, so, there’s still a bit to play for tomorrow. We just struggled a little bit today. I gave it everything, and we only lost a couple of seconds on every stage, but that was enough. There are three guys in front fighting for the drivers’ championship and today they’ve just stretched their legs a little bit. I still have my job to do for the manufacturers’ championship, that’s the main target.”

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“It was a tough day, with constant changes in grip, some fog too. We literally gave everything today. I’m glad we made it to the end, but I would love to have been faster. We consistently lost a little bit of time without being able to bounce back. There are still some tricky sections to tackle tomorrow and although Ott is quite far ahead now, none of us is immune to making a mistake in slippery conditions like these.”

Seb and Julien make a splash in Sweetlamb Hafren! Photo credit, Citroën Racing.

Esapekka Lappi (20th)

“We had a decent day and it was interesting for me to experience what it’s like to be first on the road in muddy conditions. Sometimes, it was an advantage in terms of grip. At other times, it was definitely a handicap, with quite a lot of puddles and standing water that I was the first to come across and clear, but it was nonetheless a good learning experience.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“We have given everything today, and we are still in with a chance of pushing for victory. I’m pleased with what we’ve achieved. We were able to move into third place during the morning, trying really hard to minimise mistakes. In these conditions, it’s usual to lose the odd second here or there, but overall, we’ve had a positive Saturday. Two stage wins this afternoon helped move us up into second, and we’re now determined to reduce the gap, if we can, on Sunday. 11 seconds is not a lot on stages like these, when just the smallest issue can change things around: it’s still game on!”

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

“It’s been a long day but we have given it as much of a push as we could in some very tricky conditions. In many respects, it’s been a classic Wales Rally GB Saturday with familiar, beautiful stages, some typical wet weather, and challenging conditions. The car has been pretty good throughout the day. We have made some small mistakes here and there, but we were able to show some strong pace, including a stage win in SS15. We’re in a close battle with Elfyn for fifth place. He’s been driving really well today, so we’ll have to dig deep on the final morning to keep our noses in front.”

Craig Breen

“A day to forget for us. Thankfully, we were able to get ourselves out of trouble in SS12 after a pretty big accident. We approached a fast-left-hand corner that tightened a bit more than I expected. I ran out of road and ended up going over through some soft, boggy ground. I got out of the car and quickly realised that everything was pointing in the right direction, so we drove up the bank and completed the stage. The windscreen had cracked so I couldn’t see properly. We had to survive like this throughout the afternoon loop, with rainy, muddy conditions making it impossible to see. I was glad to get back to service, where we will now reset for the final day.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“It’s been a great day for us, especially this morning when I could pick my own lines and it was really, really nice out there. This afternoon was a bit more difficult with some more defined lines and quite slippery conditions, but we got through it okay. We had a bit of an annoying overshoot in the last stage [SS17], but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. The support has been great all weekend, and we’ll push as much as we can tomorrow.”

Pontus Tidemand (7th)

“It’s been a tough day, but a good day for us. The stages have been fantastic and I’m happy that we are making progress with a good feeling in the car. The trickiest thing to get right is braking late enough and going flat-out in the really fast sections. But we’re getting there and will definitely try to make the most of tomorrow’s final five stages.”

Teemu Suninen (DNF)

“It’s disappointing that we won’t be back out tomorrow, but there are still a lot of positives that we can take away from this weekend. I was really pleased with my pace on Friday, and it was good to see that we could battle with the guys at the front. We made a couple of little mistakes – but I can learn from this and come back stronger next year with more experience.”

Sunday

With 38km over the last five stages, there was still some potential for some changes in the leaderboard. The startlist looked like this – Lappi, Breen, Tidemand, Evans, Mikkelsen, Meeke, Ogier, Neuville, Tänak.

Well, SS 18 – Alwen 1 (10,41 km) was won by Ott with Thierry and Elfyn just a few tenths behind. Andreas lost a second and a half to the Welshman as well and Kris also closed the gap a little too to Seb.

Elfyn passed Andreas in SS 19 – Brenig 1 (6,43 km) after winning the stage, moving into fifth place. He’d driven brilliantly and made up places on the leaderboard with his great pace. Seb was dropping back from the lead two, and was now 14 seconds behind Thierry.

Elfyn and Scott take another stage victory in Brenig. Photo credit, Chris Seaward (@csracingphotos)

With SS20 – Great Orme getting cancelled, the crews went back to service. It was cancelled due to the stormy seas, meaning that the safety lifeboats couldn’t be positioned along the coast. It was one less stage for anyone to challenge Ott for the win.

Into SS 21 – Alwen 2 (10,41 km) then and the top three was Elfyn, Thierry and Seb. The Welshman was making fifth place his, extending the gap between them by almost two seconds. Ott’s lead was not huge over Thierry who was just nine and a half seconds.

The final stage then, SS 22 – Brenig 2 Power Stage (6,43 km) and Ott took the stage and five points that went with it. Second to fifth were, Seb, Esapekka, Evans and Neuville. In the end Ott’s winning margin over Thierry was just 10.9 seconds, but it was enough to take his first Wales Rally GB victory.

Ott and Martin complete the powerstage! Photo credit, Chris Seaward (@csracingphotos)

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:00:58.0
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +10.9
  3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +23.8
  4. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +35.6
  5. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +48.6
  6. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +58.2
  7. Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +5:23.8
  8. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 9:25.0

The driver’s thoughts at the end of the event!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It’s an amazing feeling to win. There’s a lot of people working behind us and with the effort they put it, it’s great to be rewarded like this with maximum points. On the Power Stage, I had full confidence in the car and I had to take the opportunity, as every point can be crucial. Our team slogan is ‘pushing the limits for better’ and I always try to do my best. We have two more rallies to come this season and certainly nothing is decided yet, so we need to keep pushing and keep focused.”

FIA World Rally Championship / Round 12 / Wales Rally GB 2019 / Oct 3-6, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Kris Meeke (4th)

“After leading the rally for most of Friday, to finish fourth is a little bit disappointing, but to be honest, I’m happy. It was a weekend full of challenging conditions. We weren’t so far off, we just lacked a bit of pace on Saturday, but it’s still very strong points for the team. I’m delighted to see Ott take the victory and we close the gap in the manufacturers’ championship, so it’s been a strong weekend for us. We have two rallies to go, I hope we can be strong in Spain and fingers crossed we can have a good end to the year.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“We could not have given any more this weekend. From the very first stage, it was a tough fight in some tricky conditions – and incredibly close. We can be happy with our own performance but I’m disappointed about the final result. We should have finished ahead of Tänak this weekend, and we did everything we could, but we couldn’t achieve it. The championship now moves onto Spain, where we know we have to outscore him to keep our own title hopes alive. Everything can happen in rallying, so we never give up.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (6th)

“Overall, the important thing is that we have taken some points away for the manufacturers’ championship. Looking back at the rally as a whole, we lost a bit too much time on Friday. Things improved and we had a good Saturday, especially in the afternoon with a stage win. Our aim for today was to defend fifth place from Elfyn, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. We made the wrong tyre choice. I tried to fight back in SS21 but made a mistake at a junction and from there it was too risky to try and make up the lost time. Sixth place might not score as many points as we would have liked, but at this stage of the season they are all extremely valuable.”

Craig Breen (8th)

“I would like to extend my thanks to the team for getting our car fixed and ready for today’s final stages after yesterday’s crash. I had been getting into my stride in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC so it’s been good to end the rally in a trouble-free manner, and to be back on it. Saturday was really disappointing; without that mistake I think we could have been fighting at the front this weekend. It has been a pleasure to be part of this rally with the Hyundai Motorsport team, with a fantastic car and on the incredible Wales Rally GB stages. We might wonder what could have been possible results-wise, but whatever has happened it’s certainly given me a lot of motivation.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“The Power Stage sums up our weekend in many ways: we have been a couple of tenths back throughout the rally. We tried our best and gave it absolutely everything, but we were just a bit short of performance whilst Ott had a super weekend. It’s not a great result for us in terms of the championship with just two rounds to go, but we’re going to keep fighting tooth and nail for as long as it remains possible mathematically to win the title.”

Esapekka Lappi (27th)

“For sure, it’s a shame to find yourself out of contention on the Friday. But there are some positives because I learned a lot here. I was pleasantly surprised by the level of performance we managed to show in the C3 WRC despite having had totally dry conditions for our pre-event test.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (5th)

“It’s been a pretty good weekend for us. Obviously, it would have been nice to have finished a bit higher up the leader board, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes and there’s no room for ‘what ifs’ at this level – not with the competition as close as it is at the moment.

“Our pace has been really good all weekend and the support was absolutely incredible. There really is nothing quite like rallying on home soil, and when you’re posting fastest times in front of all those Welsh flags, it’s a pretty good feeling and definitely gives us some confidence ahead of the next events.”

Pontus Tidemand (7th)

“We’ve taken some big steps forward this weekend and improved every day. I had a lot to learn, but it was getting better and better and, this morning especially, I really felt as though I had broken the code for driving one of these world rally cars. I found a good set-up with the car and was able to focus more fully on my driving. We set some pretty good times today and were a lot closer to the leaders so I was really pleased with that.”

 

Summary

Well, what a great rally it was for a few drivers. Ott Tänak was on it all weekend, taking seven stage victories, including the powerstage win meaning that he’d take the maximum points again. Elfyn Evans returned with a bang after his enforced absence, winning six stages, and it was the incident in stage three that really, I believe stopped the Welshman from challenging for victory. It was close in the end between Thierry and Seb for the runner up spot, but with three stage wins for the Belgian and two for the current champion, it was Thierry that took that position. Kris Meeke had a good event, winning one stage leading and finishing in fourth place. For Andreas Mikkelsen, it was a pretty good event, with one stage win, but just lacking that final bit of pace to hold off Elfyn in their battle. Both Craig Breen and Jari-Matti Latvala suffered big accidents, with Craig at least managing to keep going. Jari-Matti’s accident was much bigger, and it was good to see him walk away from it.

Well, next up is the dual surface Rally de Espana from the 25th to the 27th of October.

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Ott Tänak – 240 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 212 points
  3. Thierry Neuville – 199 points
  4. Andreas Mikkelsen – 102 points
  5. Kris Meeke – 98 points
  6. Elfyn Evans – 90 points
  7. Jari-Matti Latvala – 84 points
  8. Esapekka Lappi – 83 points
  9. Teemu Suninen – 83 points
  10. Dani Sordo – 72 points
FIA World Rally Championship / Round 12 / Wales Rally GB 2019 / Oct 3-6, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 340 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 332 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 278 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 200 points

Wales Rally GB 2019 Preview- The title battle continues!

The World Rally Championship arrives in the Welsh forests at a pivotal moment. There are three drivers still with a chance of winning the world title. As you know Ott is in the lead, with Seb seventeen points behind and Thierry a further thirteen points behind in third. There are still ninety points available, making every round remaining very important in terms of scoring good points and for the Belgian, scoring more points than his rivals.

 

Possible winners?

Well, there are three maybe four drivers that could win in Wales. Both Ott and Seb can, as can Elfyn who makes a return to the WRC after missing the last three rounds. Jari-Matti also has a chance of winning, having won two years in a row in 2011 and 2012. Seb has won this event five times in the last six years, with Elfyn winning in 2017. Last year Ott lead, before damaging his sump on a jump and it was the Estonian who challenged Seb in 2016.

 

Who else could feature at the front?

Possible challengers for the podium are all of them, plus Kris, Thierry, Esapekka and Teemu. Last year the young Finn, then driving for Toyota took an excellent third place. Could he repeat that this year for Citroën who last won in Wales in 2010? The French team had a great run last time out in Turkey, but the roads in Wales are very different. However, they do have last year’s winner, and this will certainly help!

 

Stage information.

Now there are twenty-two timed stages covering a total of 309.76 km. Saturday sees 151.24 km of timed stages on with no service period. The double run of Myherin on Saturday will once again feature Elfynscorner. Do look out for this annual event and the banner that they have! The stages are a big challenge for the teams and the crews in the cars. Here’s the full stage listing. Decent stage notes will be key, especially for Saturday’s stages. Any damage on their cars could put crews out for the day, leading to rally2 restarts and opening the road on Sunday.

#ElfynsCorner Banner

THURSDAY 3 OCTOBER

08h00: Shakedown Gwydir (4,68 km)

12h30: Départ du parc d’assistance (Llandudno)

16h00: Cérémonie de départ (Liverpool)

19h08: ES 1 – The Dayinsure Oulton Park Stage (3,58 km)

21h17: Parc fermé (Llandudno)

 

FRIDAY 4 OCTOBER

06h10: Départ et assistance A (Llandudno – 17’)

07h18: ES 2 – Elsi 1 (11,65 km)

07h46: ES 3 – Penmachno 1 (16,19 km)

09h56: ES 4 – Dyfnant 1 (19,36 km)

10h53: ES 5 – Aberhirnant 1 (10,26 km)

13h07: Assistance B (Llandudno – 42’)

14h40: ES 6 – Elsi 2 (11,65 km)

15h08: ES 7 – Penmachno 2 (16,19 km)

15h57: ES 8 – Slate Moutain (1,60 km)

18h11: ES 9 – Dyfnant 2 (19,36 km)

19h08: ES 10 – Aberhirnant 2 (10,26 km)

21h11: Flexi assistance C (Llandudno – 47′)

 

SATURDAY 5 OCTOBER

05h40: Départ et assistance D (Llandudno – 17’)

08h06: ES 11 – Dyfi 1 (25,86 km)

10h08: ES 12 – Myherin 1 (22,91 km)

11h02: ES 13 – Sweet Lamb Hafren 1 (25,65 km)

12h18: Zone de changement de pneus (Newtown – 15′)

14h08: ES 14 – Myherin 2 (22,91 km)

15h02: ES 15 – Sweet Lamb Hafren 2 (25,65 km)

16h19: ES 16 – Dyfi 2 (25,86 km)

19h13: ES 17 – Colwyn Bay (2,40 km) 

19h49: Flexi assistance E (Llandudno – 47’)

 

SUNDAY 6 OCTOBER

06h00: Départ et assistance F (Llandudno – 17’)

07h28: ES 18 – Alwen 1 (10,41 km)

08h08: ES 19 – Brenig 1 (6,43 km)

09h26: ES 20 – Great Orme (4,74 km)

09h42: Assistance G (Llandudno – 17’)

11h10: ES 21 – Alwen 2 (10,41 km)

12h18: ES 22 – Brenig 2 Power Stage (6,43 km)

13h32: Arrivée (Llandudno)

 

Right, lets’s hear from the crews!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak

“Rally GB is always something special. It’s a rally I like, as the roads are fast and they have a nice flow, but the conditions make it difficult, especially because the grip levels are constantly changing at every corner. You need confidence in your car on every rally, but it’s in these kinds of conditions where it can really help to make a big difference. The gap in the championship is closer now, but we have three rallies to go and we know that we were fast on each of them last year. Now we just have to finish the job, starting in Wales.”

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Rally GB is special for me and I’ve always enjoyed it. The main challenge, of course, is always the weather: Over the years I’ve been competing there I’ve seen snow, ice, horrendous wind, and rain from nearly every angle! If it’s raining while you’re in the stage, it can actually wash away the mud and give you better grip, but when it’s drying out it can be very greasy and slippery. I’m looking forward to it and to picking up where I left off in Finland and Germany when I had a good rhythm with the driving. Hopefully we can achieve another good result to help the team in the championship.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 11 / Wales Rally GB 2018 / October 4-7, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Kris Meeke

“This is as close as it gets to a home rally for me: My first ever rally was in some of the same Welsh forests that I’m now fortunate enough to drive a World Rally Car through. For me, the mud and rain you get there is a big part of why I love rallying. In early October the weather can certainly still be wet, but it’s usually less extreme than when the rally used to be held in November. We know that the Yaris WRC can work quite well in these sorts of conditions, even if it gets really slippery. So, I’m optimistic that we will go there with a quick car and can be confident of a top result.”

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“The target at Wales GB will be to keep up the momentum from Turkey and continue to put as much pressure on Ott as possible. I’ve always done well as this rally. I’m determined to really go for it and have a say in the outcome, especially as the running order isn’t an issue for those starting at the front. It’s all about reading the changes in grip and dealing with the conditions, which are often tricky, especially the low-grip sections. Although it took me a while to work out how to manage this unusual event, it’s now a rally that I really enjoy.”

Photo credit, Citroën Racing

Esapekka Lappi

“This rally is an iconic test. You’ve got it all, stages in the dark, fog, rain and wind – it’s always a serious challenge. You need guts too, because the stages are pretty fast and flowing. One of the key things will undoubtedly be having a car that isn’t too sensitive to the changes in grip, because they are non-stop. We worked well in testing, even though the roads were dry. Given our position in the running order, rain would clearly be something of a disadvantage. Having said that, in Turkey I had a good feeling with my C3 WRC when it started raining on Friday’s long stage.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Wales Rally GB can be one of the wettest rallies on the calendar, so we have to be prepared for an eventful weekend. It’s typically a very slippery event but one I enjoy. I’ve been on the podium a couple of times and I’m hoping to replicate that this year. The stages are quite flowing, very fast and we have some dark-light conditions too, which adds to the atmosphere. The itinerary is demanding with long days but it’s what Wales is known for and I’m ready for the challenge.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Wales Rally GB
04-07 october 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Wales Rally GB is where I started my WRC career, so always holds a special place on the calendar for me. At this time of the year, as we tend to have more inclement late autumn weather, the conditions are usually very slippery – lots of rain and fog. It’s one of the trickiest gravel rallies we do all season as the stages are fast paced but also very muddy. Hopefully, we can continue our momentum from our podium finish in Turkey.”

Craig Breen

“It’s great to be back in the car again for Wales Rally GB. It’s a rally that I really love. It’s obviously the closest I’ll get to a home event for the moment. I have great memories from over the years. Finland exceeded my expectations and definitely gave me a lot more confidence going forward. I know it’s going to be difficult and we need to do everything we can to provide good manufacturers’ championship points for the team.”

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans

“I’m really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel – especially as it’s on home soil in Wales. This event is the highlight of my year, every year, and when you get it right in front of all those Welsh flags it’s an incredible feeling.

“We have some of the best stages in the world in Wales, and it’s a proper challenge for the crews – especially if the Welsh weather has anything to say about it which I think it probably will next week. In those tricky conditions the grip levels are constantly changing and you have to be able to read the road if you want to push for the top results.

“We might have been away for a few months, but my motivation is as high as it ever was. We’ve had a good test, and I feel like we’re well prepared for the challenges ahead. And the goal, as always, is to push for the top results.”

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

Teemu Suninen

“I really like this rally and have done well there in the past. I didn’t have a lot of experience of the stages last year, but I was really pleased with my performance – setting some good times and running in podium position before having to retire. So, the goal this year will be to continue that performance, and see if we can challenge for the top positions.

“We completed a full day of testing in Greystoke and, even though the base there is a bit harder than what we’ll see in Wales, I think we managed to find a good set-up and will be able to deliver a good performance on these challenging stages.

“Maybe the biggest challenge though is the lack of sleep. Probably we will only get about four or five hours a night – and the road sections to the first stage can be pretty long. It will be physically and mentally challenging to stay alert in those first stages, but that is all part of the challenge in Wales.”

Pontus Tidemand

“I like Wales a lot and it’s a rally that suits me and my driving style quite well. I’ve done well there in the past which gives me more confidence, but I will still be competing against the best drivers in the world and am still continuing my own development.

“At the end of Rally Turkey, I felt as though I’d found the right set-up for me and that I could drive how I wanted. We had a great test with the team earlier this week, and I’m feeling more and more at home with the car. And since Wales Rally GB will be my second gravel rally with the Ford Fiesta WRC, I hope we can show some improvements.

“The biggest challenge in Wales is always the unpredictable weather. We need to be prepared for everything – rain, fog, mud and constant grip changes. The roads might not be technically tricky, but the conditions are really unpredictable and that’s what makes it so challenging. The stages also change their character depending on what area we are in, and we need to be able to adjust to all of these different surface changes.”

Running in two Fiesta R5 Mk2’s will be Gus and Hayden

Gus Greensmith

“It’s always a nice feeling to be back on home soil, and there are some truly legendary stages at this event. It’s a rally with some really tough days for the crews, and the weather can be really challenging too – it’s not a matter of if the fog comes, but when, and it’s that challenge that I’ve always enjoyed.

“It was great to secure the first victory for the Ford Fiesta R5 Mk2 in Turkey – albeit in somewhat surreal and dramatic circumstances! I had a big feeling of pride after that win because everyone had worked really hard. We proved our potential and the potential of the car, and have already made some further steps since then.

“Our goal is always to fight for the top positions, but the competition is going to be really strong next weekend. It will be tough, but I feel we have a good package and that we have what it takes to deliver another strong result for M-Sport and Ford.”

Hayden Paddon

“I can’t wait to get back in the driving seat, and I really enjoy Wales Rally GB. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of home and we’ll be hoping for a good run as we take to the wheel of M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta R5 MkII for the first time.

“It will be important to show the potential of the car which I’m sure we’ll quickly adapt to, but it’s also important that we get the miles under our belt. We’ve lacked too many rallies this year, so this will be the perfect warm up for Rally Australia when we’ll be back behind the wheel of a world rally car with the top-specification Fiesta.

“Although Wales is an event I’ve always enjoyed, the top results seem to have eluded us in the past. I’m confident of putting that right this year, and with the team behind us I’m sure we can deliver a strong result on their home soil.”

Summary

Well, here we go! Right now, there are reports that Hurricane Lorenzo will arrive in the area around Thursday. Quite what this will mean in terms of Friday’s stages, is unknown. It is currently a category 5 storm. We shall see what happens. Enjoy!

Rally Italia Sardegna Preview 2019

We come to this event with a very close battle between Seb Ogier, Ott Tanak and Thierry Neuville! Just ten points separate Seb on 142 and Thierry on 132. Now the French champion didn’t want to be leading the championship coming to this event, just because it is the hardest event of them all. The dust on the road makes everything so tricky.

Now, twelve months ago we were treated to an incredible final day when Thierry passed Seb in the final stage, winning by just seven tenths of a second! Could we see the same thing happen this year? We’ll see Ott Tanak fighting at the front as well. That is a dead cert. Who else will be there? Well, Jari-Matti and Kris will go well, although the Northern Irishman will likely be held back with the lack of knowledge, as he hasn’t competed in this event recently. Also there will be another car for Juho Hanninen run by Tommi Makinen Racing.

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

In the M-Sport WRT team, Elfyn and Teemu will look to score good points for themselves and their team. Last year was not a great event as the drivers finished way down the standings. If they can keep it on the road, which they have this year, then certainly a top result is on the cards for them. A big change again for Teemu is that he has Jarmo Lehtinen replacing Marko in the number 33 Fiesta.

Over at Hyundai, alongside Thierry, Dani and Andreas will be competing. Which Andreas will turn up this weekend? He is capable of being very fast, but by not being in the car will affect the pace he can run at. We shall see. We know what Dani is capable of doing, and he had a good rally last time out, only for car troubles to dent his challenge.

Well, here are the stages awaiting the crews. There are 19 in total, totalling 310km! Saturday is the longest day, with 142km in total of competitive stages.

THURSDAY 13 JUNE

9.00am: Shakedown Olmedo (3,92 km)

4.00pm: Start (Alghero)

5.00pm: SS 1 – Ittiri Arena Show (2,00 km)

6.00pm: Parc ferme (Alghero)

 

FRIDAY 14 JUNE

6.00am: Start & service A (Alghero – 15 mins)

8.03am: SS 2 – Tula 1 (22,25 km)

9.20am: SS 3 – Castelsardo 1 (14,72 km)

10.09am: SS 4 – Tergu – Osilo 1 (14,14 km)

11.18am: SS 5 – Monte Baranta 1 (10,99 km)

12.14pm: Service B (Alghero – 40 mins)

2.42pm: SS 6 – Tula 2 (22,25 km)

3.59pm: SS 7 – Castelsardo 2 (14,72 km)

4.48pm: SS 8 – Tergu – Osilo 2 (14,14 km)

6.04pm: SS 9 – Monte Baranta 2 (10,99 km)

6.33pm: Flexi service C (Alghero – 45 mins)

 

SATURDAY 15 JUNE

5.20am: Start & service D (Alghero – 15 mins)

8.08am: SS 10 – Coiluna – Loelle 1 (14,97 km)

9.11am: SS 11 – Monti di Ala’ (28,21 km)

10.03am: SS 12 – Monte Lerno 1 (28,03 km)

12.55pm: Service E (Alghero – 40 mins)

4.08pm: SS 13 – Coiluna – Loelle 2 (14,97 km)

5.11pm: SS 14 – Monti di Ala’ 2 (28,21 km)

6.03pm: SS 15 – Monte Lerno 2 (28,03 km)

8.35pm: Flexi service F (Alghero – 45 mins)

 

SUNDAY 16 JUNE

7.15am: Start & service G (Alghero – 15 mins)

8.15am: SS 16 – Cala Flumini 1 (14,06 km)

9.08am: SS 17 – Sassari – Argentiera 1 (6,89 km)

11.15am: SS 18 – Cala Flumini 2 (14,06 km)

12.18pm: SS 19 – Sassari – Argentiera 2 Power Stage (6,89 km)

1.15pm: Service H (Alghero – 10 mins)

1.25pm: Finish

3.00pm: Podium

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“Running first on the road in Sardinia means we can more or less write off our chances of winning from the word go, given how much the stages clean here. It looks like we won’t be getting any help to upset the odds from the weather, with no forecast for a repeat of the rain that fell last year. So I’m expecting a tough weekend but as ever, I’ll be giving it my absolute maximum, regardless of the circumstances, and we’ll see how many points we have at the end of the weekend. The C3 WRC has clearly progressed recently and I had a good feeling in Portugal. Our performance on day one will once again largely determine our overall result.”

Seb and Julien have finished on every podium so far this year. Can they do the same here? Photo credit Citroen Racing.

Esapekka Lappi

“Obviously, we have learned the lessons from Portugal. As regards Sardinia, it’s a rally where you can’t push flat out all the time, especially on the second runs, because you have to think about taking care of the car and looking out for loose rocks. Given that we are starting in ninth position in the running order on day one, we should in any event have an advantage. It’s up to us to make the most of that. If we keep the same speed we had in Portugal and we don’t make any mistakes during the three days, we should secure a good result. I’m determined to produce a solid, consistent performance in all three legs. That really is my number one priority this weekend.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Sardinia is one of my favourite events. It suits perfectly to my driving style and to our pace notes system. Nicolas and I have always felt comfortable there and we have had lots of success in the past. I hope we will be able to add to that in this year’s event. The championship is heating up nicely, so it will be another close battle I am sure. We will have the pleasure of driving against some really beautiful landscapes with some nice, technical stages – exactly what we enjoy!”

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

Andreas Mikkelsen

“I am excited to get back behind the wheel of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC after Thierry’s strong result in Portugal. Sardinia is a tricky rally, very technical with narrow roads that require precise pace notes and driving style. It’s important to have a predictable car for this event, one that gives you the confidence to push. Often there are rocks on the road and it becomes heavily rutted on the second pass. This puts extra focus on tyre management. Starting position is also a key factor with those running later benefitting from the cleaning effect. A tough but enjoyable rally awaits us.”

Dani Sordo

“We know that we missed an opportunity for a competitive result in Portugal but we have regrouped and our focus is now on Sardinia where our target is for a trouble-free, reliable weekend. It is, however, a difficult rally. The roads are narrow with stones on the side that can catch us unaware. The first pass is quite sandy so there is more grip on the repeat loop, which means we have to follow a clever tyre strategy. The hot conditions also make it a gruelling rally on the car, tyres and crew, so we have lots of things to monitor and manage over the whole weekend.”

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans

“I think every driver remembers the first time they got behind the wheel of a world rally car, and for that reason Sardinia will always be a really special place for me. It’s not an easy rally, but once you’ve been there a few times you really learn to enjoy the challenging nature of the stages.

“We haven’t done a pre-event test for this event, but I did join the guys at Red Bull UK for ‘Red Bull Cut It’ – which is basically a lawnmower race! I’m not sure how much it will help me out on the stages this week, but it was a lot of fun and a good chance to catch up with all of the other Red Bull UK Athletes.

“Looking ahead to Sardinia, our aim has to be the podium. It won’t be easy as the competition is extremely strong at the moment, but if we can deliver a clever rally, I see no reason why we can’t be up there challenging for the top results.”

Elfyn and Scott will want to show improved pace this weekend. Photo credit, M-Sport

Teemu Suninen

“I’ll have a new co-driver next week as Jarmo Lehtinen joins me for the rest of the season. I want to thank Marko [Salminen] because we achieved a lot together over the first half of the year. We won stages and led our very first rally. But I am still learning, and having the experience of someone like Jarmo will be really important if I am to achieve my goals over the second half of the season.

“Rally Sardinia is quite familiar to me. This will be my fourth time there and I hope that helps as I get up to speed with Jarmo. With only a week since the previous event we haven’t had long to prepare, but if everything goes to plan, I’m confident I can show the same pace I had in Portugal.

“We’ll need to be really focused, not only because this is a new partnership but also because this is a really tough rally. The stages can be quite rough so we’ll have to be careful to mark every stone on the recce. And it’s also a really hot rally so we’ll need to make sure we’re drinking enough and eating properly to keep our energy levels high.”

 

Well, here we go! Who will win, and perhaps we shall see a change in the championship leader!?

Rally de Portugal Review 2019- Ott Tanak makes it two in a row!

It was a another very strong victory for Toyota and Estonian Ott Tanak this year. Here’s the story of how he won Rally de Portugal! He was joined on the podium by Thierry Neuville and Seb Ogier.

 

Friday

This was going to be an interesting day, as there was no afternoon service. It was also very hot as well, with temperatures set to get higher! The crews faced seven stages, which had been last run in 2001. The start list looked like this – Ogier, Tänak, Neuville, Meeke, Evans, Loeb, Lappi, Latvala, Suninen, Sordo, Greensmith.

 

SS 1 – Lousa 1 (12,35 km) was won by Dani Sordo in his Hyundai, showing that the later you ran the better your grip, although Ott setting the second fastest time showed how good he and the Yaris were getting on. Ogier, who was opening the road, was way down in ninth with Thierry one place ahead. Teemu went well, sitting third at this point.

 

The longer SS 2 – Gois 1 (18,78 km) saw a number of changes to the top ten. Ott went fastest from Jari-Matti, and leader Sordo setting the third fastest time. Teemu was slower than both Kris and Jari-Matti, which saw him drop places down to fifth overall. Elfyn also gained a place, passing Thierry overall and staying ahead of Ogier.

 

The last morning stage, SS 3 – Arganil 1 (14,44 km) saw Ott take the lead after problems for Dani, whilst Esapekka suffered a puncture losing over a minute and tumbling down to eighth place. The top three was now a Toyota 1-2-3, with Jari-Matti and Kris slotting into the podium positions. Also going well were Teemu and Elfyn, who were around twenty seconds from the lead. Thierry did a great job in the stage to close the gap to Ogier by five seconds to just half a second.

 

The re-run of SS 4 – Lousa 2 (12,35 km) saw a more difficult surface for the crews to contend with. Dani Sordo won the stage, whilst Finns, Jari-Matti and Teemu set the same time and were equal second fastest. Thierry moved ahead of Ogier on the overall leaderboard as well. Further down, Gus Greensmith, who was making his maiden challenge in a full WRC car was finding his feet, setting the ninth fastest time, only a few tenths down from Lappi.

 

SS 5 – Gois 2 (18,78 km) saw the end of Elfyn’s challenge near the front after a problem that caused the car to just stop. The Welshman would lose around four minutes finding the problem and fixing it. What a shame. In the other Fiesta WRC, Teemu would set a great time, winning the stage and jumping ahead of Kris into third overall. Ott continued to lead, whilst Ogier, after going second fastest, jumped ahead of Thierry into fifth place. However, this battle was certainly not over.

 

Thierry won SS 6 – Arganil 2 (14,44 km), his first stage victory of the weekend and jumped straight back ahead of Ogier, plus with Teemu suffering a problem it put him in a net fourth place overall. Kris was now back into third place. Elfyn showed that without the problem in the previous stage, he’d still be in the fight for the final podium place, with a time good enough for seventh, only a few tenths from Jari-Matti.

 

The final stage of the day, SS 7 – Lousada (3,36 km) was won by Thierry who had just managed to shade Ogier’s’ time and staying ahead of the Frenchman. At the top, we still had a Toyota 1-2-3, but now Thierry was looming in the mirrors of those Toyota’s! Ogier was also right there as well, looking to move into a podium position.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:03:26.7
  2. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +17.3
  3. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +22.8
  4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +24.2
  5. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +25.8
  6. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:15.7
  7. Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:22.1
  8. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:23.7
  9. Veiby / Andersson (VW Polo R5) +3:45.2
  10. Kopecky / Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +3:49.3

 

The thoughts then after day one from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It was a very challenging day. It’s been really hot and the stages have been quite demanding. But, in the end, we had a very clean day. I’ve had a great feeling and confidence with the car, so I’ve been able to push. We wanted to get a good road position for the rest of the rally and we managed to succeed in that. In that sense we did everything we could and we should be happy with that. As a team we’re in a great position, but we’ve only completed a small part of the event so far and there is still a long way to go. Tomorrow will be tough: We saw during the recce that the stages are quite rough, so we need to keep our focus.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (2nd)

“Generally, I’m happy about today. The car was going fantastically, it was really enjoyable to drive. I was pleased with my driving this morning, and the speed was good this afternoon as well. I was just struggling with the tyre wear a little in these temperatures: It has never been as hot as this when I’ve been doing this rally in northern Portugal. That together with an aggressive driving style is not a good combination. So that’s going to be our focus tonight, to try and make it a bit easier to manage tomorrow. We’re in a good position, and now we need to try and defend it.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 07 / Rally Portugal / 30th May – 2nd June, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Kris Meeke (3rd)

“It’s been a great day for the team. It was tough out there, especially with the high temperatures. We had a problem with the intercom during the morning, so Seb had to make hand signals for me on one stage as I couldn’t hear the pace-notes. In the afternoon we had to manage a few small issues, but we’re in third place overall and I’m quite content with that. We have a couple of quick guys breathing down our necks, but we’ll get the car back in shape in service tonight and we’ll give it our all again tomorrow.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“It has been a tough start, no question. We struggled on the opening stage this morning due to the standing dust and we had to take things a bit too carefully. In SS2, I stalled the car at a junction and lost some time. We were back on track in SS3 and set the second fastest time, so it was a mix of feelings at lunchtime. Things weren’t perfect in the afternoon loop. The most frustrating thing is that we have been missing a bit of speed all day and haven’t had the chance to find the rhythm. To finish the first day with two stage wins and inside the top-four – only 1.4 seconds from the podium – is not too bad but we know we have more in the tank.”

Seb Loeb (39th)

“A disappointing day and certainly not what we wanted coming to this rally. Things started out OK but then about 20 metres into the third stage of the morning loop we picked up a mechanical issue. We had to complete the stage at a very slow pace and lost between 15 and 16 minutes. It was the start of what we had hoped to be a positive rally but now we are far back with nothing to play for. We had just to enjoy the afternoon loop as much as we could, have a bit of fun because we will be one of the first on the road tomorrow so it will be a long, tough day.”

Dani Sordo (43rd)

“We started the day well with a stage win on the opening run and getting a good feeling with the car. We conserved tyres on SS2 to prepare for the end of the loop. At the start of the final stage of the morning, the car just lost power and we lost a massive amount of time getting to the end. I was frustrated, not just for myself but also for the team. As we could see from our pace on other stages, we had a great opportunity to fight for the victory this weekend, and that’s been taken away from us.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“I’m pleased with what we managed to do in the really tough conditions we had today in opening the road, especially on the first stage of the loop. If you’d offered me fifth position at the end of day one before the start, I’d have bitten your hand off! The gap to Ott is already pretty big, but the second-placed crew is not that far ahead. We’re now going to try our very best to catch them. Day two will be very long and probably very rough but we’ll give it everything.”

Esapekka Lappi (8th)

“We were unlucky with the puncture but I’m pleased to see that we are a lot more competitive here than at the previous rounds. We’re moving in the right direction, especially as I’m now starting to feel that we can do even better. That’s our aim for the rest of the rally: focus on our race, undoubtedly fight with Teemu, whilst trying to keep out of trouble.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (6th)

“We had some problems with the brakes this afternoon and lost close to a minute on a single stage – I can tell you that these fast cars are not easy to drive without brakes! Apart from that, we had a really good day. I was setting good times and fighting for second position. Just before the problem I set a fastest time, and I had a really good feeling with the car. Everything was working well so it’s a shame that we lost the podium position. But tomorrow is another challenging day and anything can happen so we have to keep going.”

Gus Greensmith (7th)

“It’s been a mega day out there and I’m pretty happy with how things have gone. The morning was fairly clean – maybe not pushing enough on the second stage and losing a bit of unnecessary time – but in the afternoon we took a good step forward. We lost some time when the car cut out at the start of SS5 – costing us about 10-15 seconds as we waited for it to restart. Then out of frustration I drove way too aggressively and cooked the tyres for the next one. But overall everything has been good and we’re beating some pretty big names! The plan is to improve again tomorrow – I know those stages pretty well, so it would be nice to have a bit of a push!”

Elfyn Evans (16th)

“It’s obviously been a disappointing day for us. It hadn’t been the perfect morning, but the feeling was good after lunch and we were starting to make some ground on the guys in front. Then unfortunately there was just a loose connection on the throttle pedal and it took a while to track down the issue. We lost a fair bit of time, and our road position won’t be ideal tomorrow, but I think we just need to go out there, enjoy ourselves, and see what happens.”

 

Saturday

We would see the longest day’s action, with over 160km of stages, including a double run through the Amarante stage, which was the longest of the day at 37km’s. The startlist looked like this – Sordo, Loeb, Evans, Lappi, Greensmith, Suninen, Ogier, Neuville, Meeke, Latvala, Tänak.

 

After SS 8 – Vieira do Minho 1 (20,53 km), there were comments from Ogier and Lappi to have a longer time gap between the cars, saying three minutes was not long enough to allow the dust to settle. Kris Meeke, third to last on the road won the stage and what with Latvala second fastest and Ott fifth, but nine seconds down on Kris, his lead was now just 11.3 over Jari-Matti. Lappi moved ahead of Gus in their battle over seventh.

 

Latvala won SS 9 – Cabeceiras de Basto 1 (22,22 km), and Ott pretty much matched his time, the Estonian just three tenths slower than his Finnish teammate. Ogier moved ahead of Thierry as well. A battle for sixth place between Lappi and Suninen was starting to develop as well.

 

A second stage victory for Latvala in SS 10 – Amarante 1 (37,60 km), plus Ott only third fastest, but 5.8 seconds slower, meant the Finn was just 5.1 seconds from the lead. There were also a couple position changes, with Thierry moving back ahead of Ogier, who was now fifth and Lappi passing Suninen who was now in seventh. Showing how hard it is to open the road, Elfyn was half a minute slower than the stage winner.

 

SS 11 – Vieira do Minho 2 (20,53 km) saw Ott hit back with a stage win, with Kris just one second slower, whilst Thierry continued to increase his gap over Ogier. Latvala was now almost fifteen seconds behind Ott and the Finn had a broken damper to deal with. Meeke was going well and staying well out of Thierry’s reach.

 

SS 12 – Cabeceiras de Basto 2 (22,22 km) would see disaster for Jari-Matti, as his broken suspension continued to cause him problems. He lost over 50 seconds and dropped out of the podium fight, into fifth. Gus Greensmith suffered a puncture, falling a further 30 seconds behind Suninen, but still in eighth overall.

 

The last stage of the day, SS 13 – Amarante 2 (37,60 km) was won by Thierry, with Kris just 1.8 seconds behind the Belgian. Ott’s lead was now just 4.3 after he lost almost a full thirteen seconds to his teammate. He’d suffered the same problem as Latvala with a broken damper, costing him time. There was a spin as well at roughly half distance, a result of the handling imbalance.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:47:23.1
  2. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4.3
  3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +9.2
  4. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +21.0
  5. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:37.5
  6. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:02.7
  7. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 6:10.4
  8. Rovanperä / Haltunen (Skoda Fabia R5) + 8:33.8

The driver’s thoughts then after Saturday.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It’s been a really tough day. Already early in the first stage we lost the brakes. We had to work quite hard on the road sections but we managed to make the car OK for the long stage and then the team could fix it completely in service. The afternoon loop was definitely the most challenging of the rally. It was really rough with lots of rocks everywhere, so it was very demanding for the cars. Unfortunately, we got an issue on the last stage, and we were lucky to continue. But we are still in the lead and it’s all to play for tomorrow. We know the car has the speed and performance to win. Sunday drives can sometimes be quite boring but this time we will need to push, and I’m looking forward to the fight.”

Kris Meeke (2nd)

“It’s been a good day for me, probably my best yet in this car. I’ve really enjoyed driving the car and I

was able to find a good rhythm this morning, much better than yesterday. I’ve struggled on the second passes up to now, but I could have good pace this afternoon which I’m happy about. We had to push hard to defend our position, and I gave it everything. I feel sorry for Jari-Matti as he was doing a really strong rally. But it’s been a tough rally, especially for the cars: With it being so hot and dry, the roads were really broken on the second pass – the worst conditions I’ve seen them in. Now it’s important that Ott and myself try to bring home a Toyota one-two. We’ll need to do our maximum tomorrow.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (Retired/Rally2)

“I had a really good morning. I went for two hard tyres and they were working really well, and I was able to push hard. I was really happy with the speed. The car was feeling really good and I was in a good rhythm and enjoying it. Then in the first stage in the afternoon, I had a strange feeling at the front and knew that something wasn’t right. We tried to make a fix in order to continue but the road was so rough and it finally broke. It’s frustrating because I thought we had the chance to get back on the podium. At least the speed is there: That keeps me motivated, and I know we will keep fighting. Tomorrow we will try to take some points from this rally.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“It has been a strong day for us and I’m pleased to reaffirm our potential here this weekend. It’s been a first-class team effort. We made a strategic call to take six soft tyres for the morning loop, which was perhaps a mistake because of the extra weight. It wasn’t too bad and we were able to keep Ogier behind us. We had five tyres in the afternoon and looked to build a gap, which we did, as well as move closer to the podium. It wasn’t easy on the second pass with some rocks on the line and a far from trouble-free final stage. However, the speed has definitely been there with another two stage wins. We now have Meeke and Tanak in our sights; it promises to be an exciting battle for the win on Sunday.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07 Rally de Portugal
30 may – 02 June 2019
Portrait, Day 2, Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (24th)

“There’s not much to say after the disappointment from Friday but we never give up, particularly when our main job is to support the team’s championship ambitions. We weren’t able to match the times set by the frontrunners today; they were just out of reach. We have done our best and also used the opportunity to prepare a bit for Sardinia. We had a good feeling for much of the day and our job now is to complete the rally smoothly, to soak up the atmosphere from the amazing fans and to enjoy these wonderful stages.”

Seb Loeb (27th)

“It’s never as much fun when you are not fighting for the leading positions, but we acknowledge we have a team role to play and we’ve done that today. My situation doesn’t change much in the circumstances because our chances for a strong finish were over on the opening day. We have simply been concentrated on each stage as it comes. We didn’t drive anywhere near the limit, playing it safely so we can bring home some important points for the team.”

 

Citroën Total WRT driver

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“I’m pleased with my fourth place this evening. The morning went better than the afternoon. We made a call on the tyres and changed the set-up, and perhaps that wasn’t the best decision for the second loop. I am still learning the C3 WRC. It is still a positive result so far, because I feared the worst given the very loose conditions we saw in recce.”

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“It was a very good day for us. I really enjoyed driving the C3 WRC! We have done some good work with the team and the car suits my driving style much better now. In fact, you can see this in the times we set, despite our position in the running order. The aim is now to keep up the momentum tomorrow.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (6th)

“It was a difficult day running early on the road. The driving was on an okay level, but we still lost some time to the other drivers so it wasn’t as good as yesterday!”

Elfyn Evans (7th)

“Being first on the road for the majority of the day made it pretty difficult for us. Obviously, there was quite a lot of cleaning today so it was just a case of making it through without any problems. Tomorrow we just need to do more of the same and if the feeling is good, we can have a look at some points in the Power Stage.”

Gus Greensmith (15th)

“We wanted to be closer to the pace today, and that’s what we did – trading times with Elfyn and Teemu on only my second day in a world rally car. I felt as though we were getting better with every kilometre, so it was a shame about that last stage. I just missed my braking, slid wide and hit a tree with the rear. It was a silly mistake, but I can’t be too upset because at the end of the day I was still driving a world rally car – and that’s awesome!”

 

Sunday

Just a few stages then to decide the winner! The startlist looked like this – Greensmith, Latvala, Sordo, Loeb, Evans, Suninen, Lappi, Ogier, Neuville, Meeke, Tänak.

 

First stage then, SS 16 – Montim 1 (8,76 km) and Kris won the stage, beating leader Ott and reducing the gap to him as well. There was some swapping going on as well, with the two Hyundai drivers (Loeb and Sordo) not starting at their allotted times and going in just before Neuville. Interesting tactics. Meanwhile Lappi spun, and had a low speed roll at a hairpin. The Finn lost half a minute.

 

Now it was time for the first run through the spectacular SS 17 – Fafe 1 (11,18 km), with its jump! Ott hit back with the fastest time from Kris, but there was more drama further back, as Esapekka slid wide, hitting a bank. His car was looking a bit second hand, with damage to his aero after the roll and now suspension after this stage. Sadly, he retired from the event, as the damage was too much to fix.

 

Ott then also won SS 18 – Luilhas (11,89 km) and increased his lead over Meeke who certainly wasn’t giving up on victory. Thierry now had a very good gap to Ogier as well, adding another ten seconds just in this stage. Elfyn had now made it up to sixth overall as well, after a well-judged drive through the field.

 

Stage SS 19 – Montim 2 (8,76 km) and it was nearly disaster for Kris Meeke, who spun at the same hairpin as Lappi earlier! He lost 17 seconds and second place to Thierry who won the stage.

 

The last stage then, SS 20 – Fafe 2 Power Stage (11,18 km) and the drama wasn’t over. First up, Loeb who ran wide, damaging his suspension and he limped to the end of the stage. Then Gus crashed after landing from the jump. His suspension was broken before he took off, meaning he was always going to lose control when he landed. Finally, Kris cut a corner too much and broke his steering, the result that he slid off the road and was out! The top five in the stage were Ogier, Neuville, Tanak, Suninen and Sordo. With Ogier taking third place, he would now lead the championship as well. Not what he wanted at all.

 

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3h20’22’’8
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +15’’9
  3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +57’’1
  4. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2’41’’5
  5. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 7’08’’3
  6. Rovanperä / Haltunen (Skoda Fabia R5) + 10’34’’2
  7. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 11’28’’2
  8. Kopecky / Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) + 11’41’’9

 

Let’s hear then from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It feels great to stand on the top step of the podium today. It’s been a long and very tough weekend, definitely the hardest win I’ve ever had. From Friday, our performance was really strong, especially considering our road position. On Saturday we had to fight really hard, but today everything was working well and the speed was there. In the first stage I was a bit careful, as there was a lot of tricky dust and it was difficult to see anything, but after this we could safely push a bit more and build a bigger gap. The championship is looking really tight but I think we are in a good position going to Sardinia.”

Ott Tänak leaps for joy in celebration! Photo credit, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (7th)

“It was good to restart this morning, and our target was to get back into the top 10 and score some points. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go for a fast time on the Power Stage: My run was red-flagged because another car blocked the stage in front of us. But in the end, we were able to get back up into seventh position overall and take some important points, especially for the team. Personally, I can’t be satisfied with the result, as we were going very strongly yesterday. But the speed is there, that is very important, and we know that the car is fast. I’m looking forward and believe we can have some very positive rallies coming up.”

Kris Meeke (Retired)

“Today started well. We were able to increase the gap to behind us, and then we were just trying to hold it. Unfortunately, we had a spin on the penultimate stage and it cost us some time trying get going again. Going into the Power Stage, I didn’t have so much to fight for, the bonus points were not such a big concern for me. But in a right-hand corner there was a tree stump in the grass on the inside, I didn’t have it in my notes and I caught it with the steering wheel open. It was completely my mistake. I’m gutted for the team because we’d had such a strong rally. Now we have to move on and take the positives from this weekend: It’s been my strongest yet in this car and we have to look forward.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“After the big crash we had in Chile, it was important to come back fighting. It’s not been an entirely smooth weekend but we have shown some strong pace including several stage wins. Overall, I think we can be pleased with second place. The time we lost on Friday’s opening stages is more or less the time we were missing at the end. We were lacking a bit of precision today to give it more of a push, but on the whole it’s a good result. The championship is nicely poised as we reach the halfway point. We know there is no room for error when things are this close, so we have to keep pushing together.”

Dani Sordo

“We have tried to put the disappointment and frustration from Friday behind us, and to enjoy these great Portuguese stages. It’s a special feeling when you are pushing hard and flying through Fafe with all the spectators. We have put in a full team effort this weekend so I think we all share in the podium result, even if it would have been nicer to be standing on the podium ourselves. We’ll have to try and rectify that in Sardinia!”

Seb Loeb

“I enjoyed driving this morning’s stages with some new discoveries for me. It wasn’t without incident but overall it was nice to get the experience. The routes were fast and narrow, and the feeling with the car was pretty good.  It was particularly nice to get the buzz from all the fans. We were able to set some competitive times, which shows what might have been possible this weekend. I am happy for the team to get a podium finish after what has been a tough event.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“I didn’t think we could score twenty points this weekend. Although we never had a chance of winning the rally with our position in the running order, we gave it absolutely everything, regardless of the situation. So, to that extent, this result is just rewards. In truth, I was hoping not to be first on the road in Sardinia, but every point counts at the end of the season. I’m pleased to see that we were competitive on the Power Stage, which was more or less the only stage of the weekend where we had the same grip conditions as our rivals. That means we have also progressed in terms of performance although it was difficult to show it, given the circumstances.”

Seb and Julien stayed in the championship lead. Photo credit Citroen Racing

Esapekka Lappi (Retired)

“After our roll, the car wasn’t too badly damaged, it was just missing the rear spoiler. I thought I had a good rhythm on the following stage but I was slightly too optimistic on a right hander over a crest and I hit a bank, which caused a puncture and then damaged the suspension. There were too many kilometres left to cover with our makeshift repairs. I’m really very sorry for the whole team, who deserved better.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (4th)

“I can be quite happy with this result. It’s a shame that we had a problem on Friday afternoon because that meant we didn’t have a good road position for the rest of the weekend. But our pace was really good on Friday morning, and we took some points in the Power Stage today which was also really good.”

Elfyn Evans (5th)

“We made a pretty good start to the weekend. It wasn’t perfect, but the pace was there. Obviously, it was a shame to lose as much time as we did with the issue on Friday, but these things happen. There wasn’t much more we could do after that, and in all fairness fifth place is a lot more than we could have hoped for on Friday evening.

Elfyn and Scott didn’t let their troubles on Friday get to them and drove a good event. Photo credit M-Sport WRT

Gus Greensmith (Retired)

“It’s been a really good weekend for us. For some reason everything just seemed to click quite nicely and, to be honest, the speed came pretty quickly. We were battling with Elfyn and Teemu throughout most of the weekend – and that wasn’t something I was expecting from my first time in a world rally car!

“It was a different challenge opening the road today, but generally a really good experience. It was just a shame that we had the issue over the jump. To have our rally come to an end just 200 metres from the finish was a bit gutting, but overall it’s been a more than positive weekend.”

 

Summary

Well, another victory for Ott and Toyota! The combination is proving pretty amazing and consistent! Once he took the lead, he was never headed. Both his teammates went very well, and it was a shame that it ended with Kris retiring. Jari-Matti was right there, and set for a well-deserved podium before the suspension problem.

Thierry came back and got his head down to the task at hand. It was a good battle between him and Seb Ogier, before the Belgian moved clear, the result being very good with second place and keeping him in touch with his two rivals. Dani Sordo also drove incredibly well, running at the front until car troubles hit. Hyundai will be happy that they continue to lead the manufacturers standings.

Seb Ogier drove his C3 to a very good podium, given that the team are working to make it better. Being in the top five by the end of Friday was key to the result, and he did have some good fortune with the two Toyota’s hitting trouble to get him up onto his sixth podium of the year.

In the M-Sport camp, Elfyn and Teemu drove really well, and could have had a double podium result, with both of them. Sadly, their challenge was held back with car troubles. Brakes on Teemu’s car and electrics on Elfyn’s. Still the Welshman got up into fifth place and was rewarded with moving ahead of Kris Meeke into fourth in the drivers’ standings. Teemu didn’t lose so much time, and kept the car on the road well, given the problems. Finally, Gus drove a great event, his first in a WRC car, setting some good times, only to be derailed on the final stage, not far from the finish. It won’t be long before we see him in a top car again.

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Sébastien Ogier – 142 points
  2. Ott Tänak – 140 points
  3. Thierry Neuville – 132 points
  4. Elfyn Evans – 65 points
  5. Kris Meeke – 56 points
  6. Teemu Suninen – 44 points
  7. Sébastien Loeb – 39 points
  8. Jari-Matti Latvala – 38 points
  9. Andreas Mikkelsen – 36 points
  10. Esapekka Lappi – 34 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 202 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 182 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 158 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 122 points

We don’t have long now to wait for the next round with the next round, Rally Italia Sardegna on the weekend of the 13th to 16th of June. It will be the final round before the summer break for the championship.