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 Finland 2019 Review – Ott Tanak takes his second Rally Finland Victory in a row!

Ott Tanak and his co-driver Martin Jarveoja have taken their second victory on the incredible roads in Finland. Here’s the story of how it all came together for the young Estonian pairing.

Friday

With ten stages on day one and Ott Tänak opening the road, it would be interesting if his championship rivals could take advantage and get ahead of him on the leaderboard.  The start list looked like this – Tänak, Ogier, Neuville, Suninen, Meeke, Mikkelsen, Lappi, Latvala, Greensmith, Breen.

The first stage of the day, SS 2 – Oittila (19,34 km), and it was a stage victory for Jari-Matti, with Lappi and Meeke second and third fastest. Ott though was only nine tenths off his teammates pace and held the overall lead from his teammates. Ogier and Neuville held fifth and ninth at this point.

Into SS 3 – Moksi 1 (20,04 km) then and Kris set a great pace and, but you could argue Ott was even better with second fastest time, with Jari-Matti in third. In the Hyundai camp, Craig Breen, with Paul Nagle alongside him was going well and setting some great times and held sixth overall at the end of this stage, ahead of both Andreas and Thierry.

Jari-Matti won SS 4 – Urria 1 (12,28 km) from Craig, with Esapekka and Ott setting the same time to both go third fastest. Craig’s pace allowed him to pass Seb, taking fifth overall at this point. The M-Sport duo of Teemu and Gus were down in eighth and tenth, with Thierry between them. Incredibly, Ott still held the lead.

SS 5 – Ässämäki 1 (12,33 km) saw Ott take stage victory, 1.1 seconds ahead of Craig, who increased the gap to Seb. Esapekka and Andreas were equal third fastest. Kris was now 4.2 seconds from his teammate in second place. Further back, Thierry passed Teemu, moving into eighth position.

The final stage before the service break, SS 6 – Äänekoski 1 (7,80 km) and Jari-Matti took it by just a tenth of a second from Craig, who was clearly getting very comfortable in his Hyundai. Latvala’s pace lifted him above Kris, the Finn retaking second overall. It had been a good morning for Tommi’s team, winning every stage so far.

After lunchtime service, there was a change in the lead, after Jari-Matti won SS 7 – Moksi 2 (20,04 km) with Esapekka and Kris just one tenth of a second slower. Ott emerged in second overall, now just four tenths off the lead. The gap between Craig and Seb reduced a little in their battle over fifth position.

Andreas won SS 8 – Urria 2 (12,28 km), breaking the stranglehold that Toyota had held on stage victories, with Esapekka and Jari-Matti second and third fastest. The outcome of all of this was Jari-Matti held the lead by just six tenths of a second from Esapekka, Ott and Kris who were all on the same overall time. Andreas’ pace was enough to move him ahead of Seb and into sixth place. Incredibly, Craig was now just ten seconds from the lead, and feeling very comfortable.

Jari-Matti took SS 9 – Ässämäki 2 (12,33 km) from Esapekka, with Kris in third, and these were the top three as well. Craig lost a little time to Andreas, but still held fifth overall. Sadly, the two Fiesta’s were in ninth and tenth place, and it was a surprise to see Teemu so far off the pace.

It was an incredible SS 10 – Äänekoski 2 (7,80 km), with Jari-Matti and Kris sharing the fastest time, plus Seb and Andreas equal second fastest, and this had the result of Kris moving ahead of Esapekka, pushing the Finn down to third overall.

The final stage of the day then, SS 11 – Harju 2 (2,31 km) and it was a second stage victory for the Hyundai Motorsport team, with Thierry winning the stage from Seb and Kris, who set the same time. The top four were separated by just 2.6 seconds. Just incredibly close!

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

  1. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:04:01.1
  2. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1.2
  3. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +2.4
  4. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2.6
  5. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) +14.2
  6. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +14.6
  7. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +15.3
  8. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +30.9
  9. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +52.6
  10. Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:38.3

 

Here’s the thoughts of the drivers after day one.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (1st)

“It’s been a really good day. There were a couple of stages where the time was a little bit down, but generally I was able to have a strong performance. It has been so tight and the pressure has really been on, so it’s pleasing to be able to keep up the speed and not make mistakes when you’re trying to find the difference anywhere you can. Tomorrow I think the morning loop is going to be crucial because there are some new sections, and the profile of the road is generally a bit different: Wider with more crests and jumps.”

Kris Meeke (2nd)

“It’s been a good day I’ve really enjoyed it. In Finland it’s so important to make a good start and get away with the lead group, and we were able to do that this morning. The stages and the pace-notes were new to me on the first pass, so I could be a lot calmer this afternoon with that knowledge. I think there was a bit more road cleaning on the second pass but I think we made the most of our position. It’s so close between the top four, so it’s going to be exciting to see how it develops tomorrow.”

Ott Tänak (4th)

“Generally, I’m feeling pretty good at the end of the day. The conditions were challenging running first on the road, but in the morning, I had a good flow from the beginning, the car was working well and so I could focus on the driving. This afternoon the conditions were much tougher, and it was a bit frustrating as I was pushing hard and we lost a few places. But we are still very close, and tomorrow we should have a much better road position than we had today, so everything is to play for.”

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (3rd)

“It’s good to be back among the frontrunners and on the pace, especially at this rally, which means so much to us as Finns! My C3 WRC was perfect today and I really enjoyed driving on these stages. It’s crazy that the gaps are so small after such a long day. It looks like it will be a huge battle at the front tomorrow, but you can count on us to keep fighting!”

Esapekka Lappi on a charge. Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Sébastien Ogier (7th)

“I think we had a very good day. I was comfortable in the C3 WRC, but our position in the running order certainly didn’t make our lives any easier. I would’ve loved to end this first day in a better position so we could start further down the running order tomorrow, but I will at least have more cars ahead of me than today. It’s still very tight, so we have to keep pushing as hard as we can. We’re still in the fight to score some big points.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Craig Breen (5th)

“It has been an unbelievable day and it’s gone better than I could have ever imagined. I have missed the feeling of being back in the WRC so I’ve felt on top of the world. I won’t be completely happy until we’re banging in the quickest times but I have picked up confidence in the car as the day has gone on, and that is half the battle. I have not been getting carried away; my goal is to support the team as best I can, taking no risks. The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC is probably the finest car I’ve ever driven and to get the opportunity to drive on these Finnish roads is something very special. The times have been incredibly close; it’s really testament to the quality of the WRC that one second in a stage can make such a big difference on timesheets. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (6th)

“We’ve had a pretty good day and I’m happy with what we’ve achieved. The morning loop was clean and the times were incredibly close. I planned to ramp things up a bit in the afternoon, and we were able to take a stage win. The feeling inside the car has been really nice and it’s been highly enjoyable to drive. We’ve struggled on these high-speed gravel stages before so it’s nice to see our work taking steps in the right direction. I’d like to say thanks to everyone at Hyundai Motorsport who have worked so hard on the car for this event; there’s been no summer vacation there to get a perfect job done.”

Thierry Neuville (8th)

“We started the rally in a very positive frame of mind and with a stage win on Thursday evening. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to replicate that during Friday’s stages. The feeling with the car itself was not so bad and we kept pushing hard during the day but we should have been able to set faster stage times. We have tried a number of different things but something hasn’t quite clicked yet. The rally is still long so we’ll continue to give it everything we’ve got.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (9th)

“It’s really hard for a Finn when they’re not fast in Finland, and it’s been a really disappointing day for us. The driving feels good, but we are struggling to find the pace. In the past I have been beating Ogier and Tänak in the same car, so I know I can be fast here. But we are missing something this weekend, and need to do our homework and try to be faster.”

Gus Greensmith (10th)

“I can’t say today wasn’t enjoyable – it was amazing – but the learning curve was as big as the jumps – massive! Obviously, we started off quite cautiously in the morning and the times weren’t really where we wanted them to be. I managed to be there or thereabouts with my team-mate in the afternoon which was really good, but there seems to be a big gap to those further ahead. We’ll try a few different things tomorrow, and I’m sure the time will come to us.”

Saturday

Being the longest day, with eight stages totalling 133km. The startlist looked like this – Greensmith, Suninen, Neuville, Ogier, Mikkelsen, Breen, Tänak, Lappi, Meeke, Latvala. We found out that Seb had a bad night’s sleep as well, after he’d been sick throughout the night. It would make his day interesting indeed.

Ott took the first stage, SS 12 – Pihlajakoski 1 (14,42 km) and jumped straight into the lead. Esapekka was second fastest and Jari-Matti third. Andreas was also on the move, passing Craig for fifth position. Further down the field, Kalle Rovanpera was driving his Skoda Fabia R5 out of his skin, posting an almost four seconds faster time than Gus Greensmith.

Into SS 13 – Päijälä 1 (22,87 km) and it was a 1-2-3 for Toyota with Kris leading Jari-Matti and Ott. Ott fell to second overall, although just two tenths of a second from new leader and teammate Jari-Matti. Also, on the move was Craig, who repassed Andreas in their battle over fifth place.

Into SS 14 – Kakaristo 1 (18,70 km) and Ott retook the lead. It wasn’t a happy time though at Toyota, as Kris and Jari-Matti both damaged their cars. Kris was out for the day, after breaking his suspension, whilst Jari-Matti had a bit more luck only damaging a tyre. There were a few more changes on the leaderboard, with Esapekka, Andreas and Seb moving up ahead of Craig who was now in sixth place after the demise of Kris.

SS 15 – Leustu 1 (10,50 km) was won by Jari-Matti, beating Ott who continued to hold a strong 13 second lead over his remaining teammate. Esapekka had made third place his, and Seb closed a little on Andreas for fourth place.

Esapekka won SS 16 – Pihlajakoski 2 (14,42 km) and jumped ahead of Jari-Matti into second place. Seb backed up his younger teammate, going second fastest and passing Andreas as well and moving into fourth place. The gap between Andreas and Craig remained very small as well.

The status quo continued in SS 17 – Päijälä 2 (22,87 km), with Ott winning from Esapekka who increased the gap he had over Jari-Matti, whilst Craig edged closer to Andreas. Gus Greensmith was doing his best to learn the stages, but he was struggling out there, now over three and a half minutes off the lead.

SS 18 – Kakaristo 2 (18,70 km) saw Esapekka win, pipping Ott by just half a second, whilst Andreas moved ahead of Seb into fourth place, but only by four tenths of a second. Could Seb take back the position in the following stage? The two M-Sport Fiesta’s were two minutes and four minutes off the lead sadly, just down to the fact that they were opening the road.

The final stage of the day then, SS 19 – Leustu 2 (10,50 km) and it was a stage win for Andreas, thus increasing the gap between him and Seb, who had driven well given his lack of sleep, whilst Ott was only one tenth slower, thus maintaining a sixteen second lead over Esapekka.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:08:49.4
  2. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +16.4
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +28.8
  4. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +50.5
  5. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +53.1
  6. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) +59.1
  7. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:19.3
  8. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:05.3
  9. Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:09.7

 

Here’s the thoughts of the drivers then after day two.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It’s been a really good day. This morning it was really intense as everyone was pushing hard. It was good that we were able to build a bit of a gap to Esapekka [Lappi], as this afternoon he did a very good job, and we had to follow his pace. At the same time, I felt really comfortable in the car and it was working very well. In the very rough places, I was a bit more careful, but in the smooth and fast sections I really enjoyed it and we had a good rhythm. I think our advantage is good but there is still some way to go so there is still a lot of focus needed.”

Ott Tänak moved into the lead on Saturday. Photo credit, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd)

“We had a fantastic morning speed-wise, fighting for the lead with our team-mates, and I had a really good feeling with the car. But in Kakaristo I was too fast in a right-hander, ran wide into a ditch and hit a big rock. In the afternoon, I knew that I couldn’t afford to make any more mistakes so I tried to find a comfortable speed where I would be avoiding risks. At the same time Esapekka was able to raise his pace, so I couldn’t match that. I’m a bit disappointed that I couldn’t find the right rhythm, but to get the points is the most important thing: To be on the podium tomorrow would be a really important result for myself, but also for the team.”

Kris Meeke (Retired/Rally2)

“It had been an incredible fight from the beginning of the rally, and I was enjoying it again this morning: I was in a good rhythm and the car felt phenomenal. In Kakaristo, we came to a fast, fifth-gear right-hand corner, and I just dropped a wheel off the camber on the outside. Normally that wouldn’t be a big problem but there was a massive rock just sitting in the ditch, and I didn’t know it was there, so it was a big surprise. I’m gutted: When the battle is so close like that, and everyone’s trying to do their best for the team, it’s very disappointing to have to stop.”

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (2nd)

“Obviously, it’s been a very positive day for us! After what happened in the morning loop, I was expecting to suffer on the second runs on these wide and fast stages, but I really went for it and it has worked out pretty well for me so far. We found the right balance to push without overdriving the stages or drifting outside of the lines. I’m going to continue at the same pace tomorrow and am absolutely determined to secure the result.”

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“I’m pleased that it’s over because I was running really low on energy this afternoon. I can’t wait to get to bed, to be honest. I had to really push myself all day so I’m glad to have made it through the leg without making any mistakes because it was sometimes very difficult to keep up the concentration. Tomorrow will be another day and I hope that I will be able to recover sufficiently tonight so that I can do myself justice and fight all the way to the finish.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (4th)

“It has been an epic fight, with positions changing hands back and forth throughout the day. I’ve enjoyed it, competing with everything we have on some truly beautiful stages. It’s been really cool. The car has given me all the confidence I need on both loops. We made a few adjustments to our pace notes for the afternoon, specifically for the wider sections, and although it was rough at times we gave it our maximum. The second run through Kakaristo was just what we needed to keep hold of fourth place. Following that up with our second stage win of the weekend was perfect. A lot of fun!”

Craig Breen (6th)

“There were a few more struggles compared to yesterday, mainly on the narrower sections where I lacked confidence. I’ve never had such a stable car so it takes time to get used to committing fully. SS17 was a particular highlight today; there was not a millimetre left out on the stage and I think it was one of the best stages of my entire career. We didn’t end the day so positively, unfortunately. We lowered the ride height of the car for the last stage but the conditions were rougher than we expected so we lost a bit of time. We are still in a close battle and there are plenty of positives from today.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 09, Rally Finland
01-04 August 2019
Craig Breen, Paul Nagle, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (7th)

“A much better feeling and a more positive day overall. Of course, the road cleaning has made life far from perfect but we’re trying to enjoy ourselves and work within the confines of what is possible. We lost too much time yesterday but everyone is pushing really hard and we have to keep an eye on the championship, rather than a single stage result. I don’t think we could have done much more today. The only slight disappointment was picking up a bit of rear damage late in the afternoon loop. Even if we’re not in the position we would like to be, we have to accept where we can make a difference, and salvage what we can from the weekend.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (8th)

“We went a bit softer with the car this morning to try and find some more traction, but it makes the car quite unpredictable. We went back to the base set-up for the afternoon, and that felt better. Now we need to get the confidence to drive on the limits and get the most out of the car.”

Gus Greensmith (9th)

“It’s been pretty tricky for us out there today. We tried some big set-up changes this morning, but it didn’t work out. The car felt much better in the afternoon and I was really enjoying the driving, but we had to clear a line through the ruts left by the national crews. I know tomorrow’s stages pretty well, so I think I’ll give it bit of a push to see how good I am at cleaning the road – but not too much, because I promised Rich that I would bring the car back in one piece!”

Sunday

The final day beckoned, with four stages totalling 45km. The startlist looked like this – Meeke, Greensmith, Suninen, Neuville, Breen, Ogier, Mikkelsen, Latvala, Lappi, Tänak.

Ott picked up from where he left and won SS 20 – Laukaa 1 (11,75 km), with Seb, who was feeling much better, and Jari-Matti his closest challengers. Esapekka made it past through – last year this was the stage that saw him crash out. Kris restarted as well, setting the ninth fastest time. Ott now had a lead of twenty seconds over Esapekka.

Seb had problems in SS 21 – Ruuhimäki 1 (11,12 km), with something moving around in his footwell. Jari-Matti won the stage, going through seven tenths faster than Andreas who had really made fourth overall his own. Seb still managed to be third fastest in the stage, making us wonder how much faster he’d have been without his issues. Sadly, Gus retired from the rally on this stage.

Into SS 22 – Laukaa 2 (11,75 km), the penultimate stage, and Andreas was quickest, with Esapekka and Seb just a few tenths slower in second and third. The big news from this stage was that Craig had taken a twenty second penalty, thus allowing Thierry through into sixth place. Also, Kris broke his suspension, bringing his return to the action to a premature end.

The final stage then, SS 23 – Ruuhimäki 2 Power Stage (11,12 km) and you’d have forgiven the leader if he’d taken it easy. However, he flew through the stage and was almost seven tenths faster than Thierry, with Andreas, Seb and Jari-Matti finishing off the fastest five, and thus taking the powerstage points.

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:30.40.3
  2. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +25.6
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +33.2
  4. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +53.4
  5. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +56.1
  6. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:32.4
  7. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:38.2
  8. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:33.8

 

Let’s hear then from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It feels really good to get this victory. It was very important to get a good result here to help us in both championships. I would say that this is a perfect result to begin the second part of the season. I think it’s a great boost for the whole team and now we need to keep pushing. I focused on having a clean run through the first three stages today, and then on the Power Stage I pushed. I tried to have a fast and clean run with no mistakes, and we were able to get the maximum points. Now we need to continue in the same way, starting with Germany.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd)

“I’m really really Happy to be back on the podium here on Rally Finland. It has been almost nine months since I last had a podium, a really really long time. I think the opportunity was there to go for second place, but this time I think it was better not to take the risk. We really needed the points for the future, not just for myself but also for the team. Today I was more relaxed than yesterday afternoon and the performance was good. This result gives us more confidence to keep fighting for more podiums in the upcoming rallies.”

Kris Meeke (DNF)

“Restarting today, we didn’t have much to fight for with our road position, but I’m disappointed with myself for making a stupid error in the penultimate stage. On a long left-hander, I put car sideways and hesitated a little bit, and when I lifted off the throttle the car went more to the inside of the corner than I wanted it to. There was a big stone in the grass and we hit it. It’s really not been the weekend that I wanted, so we need to pick ourselves up before Germany.”

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (2nd)

“I’m very pleased for the team – they deserve this result for having been patient and supportive during the first part of the season, when things were difficult. We worked really hard – and well – together so that the C3 WRC suited my driving style more effectively, especially on the front diffs and I really felt full of confidence driving the car this weekend. I literally felt like I could do what I liked in it! From the first run in the shakedown, I knew that things were looking good. I now hope to keep up this level of performance for the rest of the season.”

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“It was a tough weekend for us. To be honest, I had higher expectations at the start. As always, I gave it absolutely everything. For sure, Saturday’s leg – when I was really low on energy – didn’t help matters, but even today, when I felt better, unfortunately I wasn’t able to do more.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (4th)

“Fourth place, even if it wasn’t quite a podium, means a huge amount to me. We have been involved in an incredibly close battle with Sébastien for much of the rally, and it has really come down every tenth of a second, fighting right to the very end. Thankfully, we had the speed and performance in the car, and the confidence in ourselves, to get the job done. It’s been a tough rally in the past, so it’s fantastic to have cracked the code this weekend. I have had a good feeling with the car all weekend and we’ve been able to set some competitive times. This is thanks to the efforts of the whole Hyundai Motorsport team over many months. We had some upgrades on the car for this rally, including some specifically to help my driving, which have worked wonders. I feel like my old self again!”

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“We gave it everything we had this weekend and it is important to focus on the positives. We were able to take away from really important points for both championships, including four from the Power Stage. We could not have done more. The car has shown an improvement in these fast gravel conditions, which is encouraging. We didn’t have the best of tests ahead of this rally, and I struggled to find the right feeling on Friday, which really dictated our weekend. We keep our heads high and look forward to the next one.

Craig Breen (7th)

“This has been an amazing rally I have to say. To have the opportunity to return to this level of rallying has been very special and I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has made it possible. I have enjoyed myself immensely as part of the Hyundai Motorsport team, and I was immediately comfortable in the car. We knew the job we had to do this weekend, and I think we’ve achieved that; it’s been a privilege to play our part in the team’s championship efforts.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (8th)

“It’s always fun driving in Finland, but it’s been frustrating to look at the times this weekend. We know that we have the pace, but this wasn’t our weekend. We weren’t able to challenge for the top positions, and have some homework to do before the next one”.

Teemu Suninen at speed. Photo credit, M-Sport WRT

Gus Greensmith (DNF)

“I thought I heard a pacenote that I knew I didn’t have in that stage [Ruuhimäki, SS21]. At that point I got distracted, tried to read the road, and then missed the braking for a sharp left. I tried to pull it round, but hit the tree and took the wheel off. It’s disappointing, but Elliott [Edmondson, co-driver] and myself are both okay which is obviously the most important thing.”

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Ott Tänak – 180 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 158 points
  3. Thierry Neuville – 155 points
  4. Elfyn Evans – 78 points
  5. Andreas Mikkelsen – 71 points
  6. Teemu Suninen – 66 points
  7. Kris Meeke – 60 points
  8. Esapekka Lappi – 58 points
  9. Jari-Matti Latvala – 56 points
  10. Dani Sordo – 50 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 262 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 236 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 198 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 158 points

Summary

An incredible drive then from Ott Tänak and co-driver Martin Jarveoja, who had kept his timeloss throughout Friday’s stages to a minimum, allowing him to get a great road position for the rest of the weekend. He didn’t panic as well, when his teammates started to challenge him at the top. Once they fell from the front, he made the event his own. Jari-Matti Latvala got away lucky I feel, after hitting the same rock as Kris Meeke, but only suffering a puncture and damage to the bodywork at the rear, rather than suspension damage. The Toyota team were looking at a 1-2-3 until that point.

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 09 / Rally Finland / 1-4 August, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Whether they’d have got that is a moot point, as Esapekka had his best event of the year, looking like he and the Citroen team had got the car to a point where he could show his considerable skills. The young Finns teammate and current world champion Seb suffered throughout Saturday, but came through to bag some important points for the defence of his world title.

Hyundai had an interesting event, with the regular drivers being overshadowed by Craig Breen throughout Friday, and the Irishman having to take a time penalty on Sunday to allow Thierry through into sixth place. Andreas drove really well to get up to fourth though, but if Seb and Kris had not had their problems, it’s fair to say would he have been behind them I suspect.

Finally, M-Sport didn’t have a great event. Teemu just couldn’t get on the pace, and after Hayden Paddon crashed during his test, they didn’t really have anyone to lead the team. Of course, they were missing Elfyn and Scott (who are the team leaders at the moment) as he recovers from the back injury sustained at last months Rally Estonia. Gus Greensmith did his best, given the circumstances – He’s still learning the way with the top spec WRC machine, plus had not competed in Finland before either – That’s a steep learning curve!

The next event is Rally Germany. It runs from the 22nd to the 25th of August. Look out for my preview in the days before.

Ott Tanak takes victory in Rally Sweden!

The young Estonian took his seventh victory of his career and has moved into the championship lead for the first time ever. Here’s the story of how it came together.

 

The first stage on Thursday evening saw Thierry take an early lead from Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen, whilst Ott was fourth, just 1.9 seconds after the short 1,9km opener.

 

Friday

It was a very early start on Friday morning, with service at six am! The start order looked like this- Ogier, Neuville, Tänak, Meeke, Loeb, Latvala, Suninen, Tidemand, Mikkelsen, Lappi, Evans, Gronhölm, Bertelli, Tuohino, Greensmith, Rovanperä, Ostberg.

 

First stage, SS 2 – Hof-Finnskog 1 (21,26 km) saw some changes to the leaderboard. The conditions were surprisingly warm, with temperatures hovering around seven to eight degrees. Conditions in the stage were not what you’d expect for the only snow rally on the calendar, with slush and not much of a disadvantage for Seb Ogier who opened the road, but still managed to set the fourth fastest time, just 4.1 seconds behind Ott who won the stage from Teemu and Jari-Matti.

 

The next stage, SS 3 – Svullrya 1 (24,88 km) saw very different conditions, with fresh snow and a little longer stage giving those further back an advantage. Teemu used this, to take the stage and move up into second overall. Seb Ogier and Andreas both fell down the leaderboard. Elfyn had a better stage as well, moving into the top ten.

 

There was more light snow in SS 4 – Röjden 1 (18,10 km) and Ott took another stage victory with his lead increased over Teemu, whilst Latvala’s second fastest time moved him ahead of Thierry. Elfyn showed improved pace and confidence, setting the third fastest time and moving closer to Loeb who was holding ninth place.

 

SS 5 – Hof-Finnskog 2 saw Elfyn take his first ever stage victory in Sweden, moving into eighth place as well, with Jari-Matti and Teemu second and third fastest, whilst Ott could only manage sixth fastest and he fell from the lead to third with Jari-Matti and Teemu now in first and second overall.

 

SS 6 – Svullrya 2 (24,88 km) saw the exit of Seb Ogier for the day, as he spun after hitting snowbank, and with no spectators nearby, there was no chance to get back on road. The C3 was stuck fast. Teemu won the stage, deposing Jari-Matti from the lead and Seb Loeb and Andreas were second and third, whilst Elfyn climbed another two places, after setting the fourth fastest time.

 

We didn’t have to wait long for another stage victory for Elfyn, as he took SS 7 – Röjden 1 (18,10 km) with Latvala and Loeb setting the same time, 4.4 seconds behind the Welshman who was now in fifth overall. Teemu was still in the lead with Jari-Matti and Ott his closest challengers.

Elfyn and Scott powered their Fiesta to two stage victories on Saturday, their first in Sweden. Photo credit, M-Sport

The final stage of the day was won by WRC2 Hyundai driver Jari Huttunen, beating Lappi and Tanak incredibly! Brilliant giant-killing performance, in a stage that rewards driver skill more than just having a faster car. Teemu was still leading, with Ott and Andreas having made it into second and third, with Elfyn having climbed now into fourth position.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

  1. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:11:05.3
  2. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2.0
  3. Mikkelsen / Jaeger-Amland (Hyundai i20 WRC) +17.8
  4. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +28.6
  5. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +42.0
  6. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +48.8
  7. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +52.7
  8. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +53.1
  9. Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:24.4

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (1st)

“To be leading my first rally is an amazing feeling. We didn’t make any big mistakes and had really good pace all day so we can be happy with that. It was just a shame that we made a small mistake with the lights on the last stage [SS8] – otherwise our lead could have been 10 seconds more than it is now!

“The car feels really good and I have really enjoyed the driving. We had a really good test in the lead-up to this event and the whole team was pushing the car to be better.

“Of course, everyone’s target is to be the fastest, but we need to remember that there are still two days to go with some very difficult conditions. We need to keep going and concentrate on the driving. For sure Ott will be fast tomorrow, but we are in front of him and we will try our best.”

Elfyn Evans (4th)

“We didn’t have the best of starts and it was a shame about the spin on the first stage of the morning [SS2]. By the third stage [of the day, SS4] we had started to get into it and it went pretty well from there with two stage wins. The afternoon was really good and we moved up to fourth, so let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”

Pontus Tidemand (9th)

“We had some problems this morning but the car was working well this afternoon and I am quite happy with my driving. The speed of the guys at the front is really quick and I know that I still have a lot to learn. This evening we will try to look at what we have been doing well and what we can do better. We’ll keep going tomorrow and try to find some more.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“I really enjoyed it this morning: we had great conditions and it was a pure joy to drive. This afternoon was then completely opposite, but it is often like this on Rally Sweden. It was just about surviving and getting through, and then on the last stage we gave it a push to get closer to the leader. It wasn’t an easy stage with deep snow and with not many studs left on the tyres: I had a couple of moments myself. I think we did all we could today, and tomorrow we should have similar conditions to the drivers we are competing with.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (Rally2)

“For the most part, today was a great day. The car has been really good to drive and I was enjoying a big fight with Teemu Suninen. I was using my tyres a lot which was OK when we had the gravel ruts, but then the last stage was icy with more snow on the top of the surface. I was pushing too hard for the conditions on my used tyres and it caught me out. Now it will be important to get back out there tomorrow and to try and get a good feeling with the driving.”

Kris Meeke (8th)

“We struggled for pace this morning but it got better during the afternoon loop. The conditions were really tough. At one moment it looked like Rally GB with all the mud, and the next you’re in deep slush. Unfortunately, a stall at the start of one stage has cost us three positions, and three positions in the road order for tomorrow. There’s still a long way to go though, and tomorrow will be complicated again with the conditions, so let’s see what happens.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 02 / Rally Sweden / February 14-17th, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (Rally2)

“We had had a good first loop this morning. But we knew that the second loops here are always very tricky, especially when you are first on the road. I only had a slight impact with a snow bank, but we ended up stuck. With no fans nearby, we had no chance of getting going again.”

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“It was a difficult day, with quite a few errors among the crews and unfortunately, I was of the ones to make a mistake. I am nonetheless pleased with the way in which I ended the leg and with the progress I made in the handling of my C3 WRC on these stages. In recce, there was less ice on tomorrow’s stages than those we contested today, so I expect there will be quite a bit of gravel and mud on the roads. I’ll need to look after the studs more, but I’m going to keep pushing like we have done so far.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (3rd)

“We have finished a tough opening day in third overall, which is a pretty satisfactory position to find ourselves all things considered. It has been hard to feel comfortable to push in these conditions. We were managing our tyres so we could go for a good final stage of the day, but we still lost a lot of studs. This morning we were making changes between every stage to find a better rhythm and make the most of our road position. As always, it was great to drive in Norway and to experience the fantastic home support. Tomorrow is a new day and we’ll focus on chasing down a podium finish.”

Seb Loeb (6th)

“It has been a day focused on finding improvements. I couldn’t get into a good rhythm this morning. These cars are very fast on these stages and you have to be completely confident. You need to trust the grip from the car to get the ideal entry speed for each corner, and to commit fully. We improved with each stage as our confidence was building inside the car. We have tried to regain some of the lost time, while also driving sensibly to make sure we don’t make any mistakes. Tomorrow, we will try to pick up our pace even more.”

Thierry Neuville (7th)

“We felt we were a bit too cautious this morning as one of the first cars on the road, and some of the guys behind us were able to go really fast. We made some good adjustments at lunchtime service but the afternoon did not get off to the start we had hoped. The conditions were more like a gravel rally than a snow one. Unfortunately, we hit a snowbank and spun the car, causing damage that then affected the rest of our day. Missing aero at the front of the car, we had to just drive gently and fluidly. We will aim for a more representative performance tomorrow and see what we can do to make up ground.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, Sweden Rally
14-17 February 2019
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Saturday

It was another early start, with service once again at six am! The start order was thus- Gronhölm Ogier, Latvala, Bertelli, Tuohino, Tidemand, Meeke, Neuville, Loeb, Lappi, Evans, Mikkelsen, Tänak, Suninen.

 

Stage SS9 – Rämmen 1 (23,13 km) was won by Jari-Matti from Tanak and Seb. Teemu slipped from the lead, with Ott now back at the top of the leaderboard. It was a good stage for Kris as well, as he moved up into sixth place, now ahead of Thierry and Seb Loeb.

 

Ogier won the following stage, SS 10 – Hagfors 1 (23,40 km), from Ott and Thierry. There was the dramatic exit of Teemu from second though, who slid off the road. The gap between third place, held by Elfyn and sixth place was now just eleven seconds.

 

Ogier also won SS 11 –  Vargasen 1 (14,21 km) from Thierry and Teemu. Thierry’s pace lifted him up into fourth place and was now just a second behind Elfyn. The gap from sixth closed a little more to third as well.

 

Ott Tanak continued his strong pace in SS 12 – Rämmen 2 (23,13 km), winning once more and taking his lead up to 40 seconds over Andreas. Esapekka was also on the move up, deposing Elfyn from third place and Thierry as well, who was now fifth.

 

SS 13 – Hagfors 2 (23,40 km) followed after service and it was another stage win for the ever-dominant Estonian in his Yaris, his lead now a little over fifty seconds. Lappi was also closing on second placed Andreas, whilst Thierry had passed Elfyn, moving into fourth place.

 

Top three in SS 14 – Vargasen 2 (14,21 km) was, Ogier, Neuville and Evans. Andreas lost more time to an ever closing Esapekka, with only two seconds between them on the leaderboard. Elfyn was keeping the pressure on Thierry as best he could, and had also increased the gap to Kris. Unfortunately, Teemu retired, after clipping a tree, which resulted in damage to the rollcage in his car.

 

Ott also won SS 15 – Super Special Stage Karlstad 2 (1,90 km), whilst Esapekka closed to within four tenths of a second of Andreas.

 

SS 16 – Torsby Sprint (2,80 km) was won by Thierry, thus increasing the gap to Elfyn and Lappi was second in the stage, bringing him level with Andreas on the leaderboard, now sharing second overall. Ott’s lead was standing at fifty-four and a half seconds, after a very strong day.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:19:31.7
    2. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) & Mikkelsen / Jaeger-Amland (Hyundai i20 WRC) +54.5
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 56.8
  3. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:08.7
  4. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:36.5
  5. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:38.1
  6. Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:08.0

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“I’m really happy with how today went. The conditions in the morning were really nice again, and it was just pure fun to drive. I wasn’t pushing to the maximum, I was just in a good rhythm. This afternoon was completely different to yesterday for me: the conditions were very smooth. It shows how important the job we did yesterday was, because today we have been able to take advantage of our good road position. Now we have quite a big margin behind and we just need to manage it through the first two stages tomorrow, and then hopefully it might be possible to get some points from the Power Stage.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (25th)

“It was good to restart this morning with the fastest time in Rämmen. It’s a stage I have very good memories of as it was where I celebrated my first win here in 2008. The conditions were really nice this morning but this afternoon it was very demanding, so we just tried to experiment with the setup in preparation for tomorrow. When the roads have been fast and flowing, the car has felt really good but we’ve been struggling in some of the more technical parts, so we’ve been trying to work on this with our sights set on the Power Stage.”

Kris Meeke (6th)

“It has been another mixed day for us. This morning when the roads were nice and frozen, we had good speed and we were moving into podium contention. The car felt good, I was getting more confidence and attacking a bit more. I expected that this afternoon would be difficult with our road position with the temperature going up and it proved to be. Now we just have to try and hold on to our position tomorrow.”

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (33rd)

“It’s always a different race when you rejoin after a retirement, but we tried to find a good rhythm and try out a few things with the set-up, especially as we had a wide variety of conditions again today. It also gave me the chance to gradually improve my knowledge of the C3 WRC and the times we set today confirm its potential. As one of the first on the road, I’m not sure I have a real chance on the Power Stage tomorrow, but we’ll at least give it a good go. “

Esapekka Lappi (equal 2nd)

“I think we can be pleased with our performance today! After a good morning, our afternoon was even more solid. I was comfortable in my C3 WRC in the ruts which had formed between the two loops. There are four of us that can realistically finish on the podium, so we’ll need to be wide awake tomorrow, especially as the Likenas stage, in particular, is so fast that you need to be fully committed. But as far as that is concerned, you can definitely count on us!”

Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm at speed! Photo credit, Citroen Total WRT

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (equal 2nd)

“It is developing into a very intense battle in some very complicated driving conditions, but I am really enjoying myself. We had a good morning loop, and moved up into second place, but we were still lacking some top speed. Changes we made at lunchtime service worked well but we had a moment midway through the loop. We lost grip and went into a snowbank that lost us a bit of time. The times are incredibly close so we will keep pushing on Sunday morning and do everything we can to finish this rally on the podium.”

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“We have made good progress today and second place is now firmly in our sights. It’s going to be a close battle between many crews, which sets up another exciting final day – perfect entertainment for the fans! I have tried to focus on finding grip and traction in the difficult conditions. I was missing a bit of confidence in the faster sections but overall, we have had a positive day. The afternoon loop was about managing tyres. We were pushing hard in SS14 (Vargåsen) when I got caught out off the line and had a spin. We lost four or five seconds there but we got straight back on it to minimise the time loss. It’s definitely game on for second tomorrow, and we’re right in the hunt.”

Seb Loeb (7th)

“It has been another day of two halves. It has been quite some time since I last competed in Rally Sweden, and we only had one day of testing, so considering those limitations it has been OK. The car has felt good; the question is just about finding the right rhythm. The afternoon loop was an improvement, even if we had to manage the tyres, and we now need to focus on our fight with Kris Meeke for sixth place.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (5th)

“There was more time to be found out there today and although we had some good stages it was disappointing to lose so much time on some of the others. Tomorrow is a new day and we’ll keep fighting and looking forward.”

Pontus Tidemand (8th)

“I started to feel very comfortable in the car this afternoon so I am happy for that. But with this road position it was not so easy to get close to the top times. Hopefully if we have some freezing temperatures tonight, tomorrow will be a bit better for us.”

Teemu Suninen (DNF)

“We made some mistakes today but I think this weekend has still been a positive one. Last year we were struggling quite a lot with the pace, but this year we were able to increase the speed and fight for the top positions.

“The pace has been really good all weekend. Of course, we shouldn’t have made these mistakes, but there were a lot of mistakes from a lot of drivers in these difficult conditions – and it is better to have the pace and improve the consistency.

“The performance has given me a lot of confidence and I need to push more and prepare even harder for the next rallies. I want to thank the team – not only for repairing the car today – but also because everyone is pushing in the right direction and the car feels really good.”

 

Sunday

Just three stages remained then to run on Sunday, and the start list looked like this – Gronhölm, Ogier, Latvala, Bertelli, Tuohino, Tidemand, Suninen, Loeb, Meeke, Evans, Neuville, Lappi, Mikkelsen, Tänak, Ostberg.

 

Jari-Matti won SS 17 – Likenäs 1 (21,19 km) from Seb Ogier and Esapekka, with the result that the young Finn was now in a clear second place, as Andreas fell to fourth place, now also behind Thierry. The gap had also closed between the Norwegian and Elfyn. The Welshman was not giving up on getting fourth place.

 

The re-run of – Likenäs 2 (21,19 km) as SS18 saw Elfyn take his third stage win in Sweden, taking 2.4 seconds out of Andreas in their continuing battle for fourth. Esapekka was widening the gap to Thierry, but up front, Ott Tanak was confirming his position at the top, whilst looking after his tyres for one final push in the powerstage.

 

The last stage then, SS 19 – Torsby 2 Power Stage (8,93 km) and the top five were, Tanak, Neuville, Evans, Ogier and Lappi and they picked up the points for their championship challenge. Ott Tanak moved into the lead of the championship for the first time ever.

 

The final standings for Rally Sweden

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:47:30.0
  2. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +53.7
  3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 56.7
  4. Mikkelsen / Jaeger-Amland (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:05.4
  5. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:08.2
  6. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:38.8
  7. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:49.7
  8. Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:37.7

 

Let’s hear then from all the drivers!

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“We have had a very good weekend. Friday was a key moment where we had to get through to minimise the time loss in the conditions, but after this we just drove with a good rhythm and as little risk as possible. Today it was about saving the tyres for the Power Stage and to give it a big push. We had a very good run and everything was working really well, so I was really comfortable in the car. We have a very strong team and it’s great for us to have this kind of result at the beginning of the season.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (21st)

“The first stage this morning was the best stage of the rally: nice, clean ice conditions with big snowbanks, and a fast, flowing road over the crests. It was really enjoyable to drive and nice to be back in a good rhythm. I hoped to get some points on the Power Stage and finish the rally on a high note, but the conditions there for me were very difficult, especially the last part where there was lots of snow and slush. Now we look forward to Mexico.”

Kris Meeke (6th)

“The conditions this morning were very nice with full ice: just what we really like to drive on. My objective today was to try and finish in front of Sebastien Loeb and we managed to increase the gap, so I’m happy with that. On the Power Stage I had a big impact on the front-left and I struggled after that. The mild temperatures this weekend have been so different to my pre-event test and I’ve lacked some speed as a result. But it’s good to get to the end and score some points for the team.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 02 / Rally Sweden / February 14-17th, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (2nd)

“I knew after testing that we had worked well and that was confirmed during this rally, which I really enjoy. The conditions this weekend were nonetheless quite a bit different so we gradually worked on improving the set-up of our C3 WRC, which helped us to feel increasingly confident in the car and to up our pace as we completed more of the stages. I’m delighted with this result. It kick starts our season and augurs really well for the rest of the year!”

Sébastien Ogier (29th)

“Obviously, I had hoped for a better result, but it’s always difficult to do well when you open the road here. A lot of the crews hit the snow banks, including us. We were also a bit unlucky in that we got stuck in one of the rare spots where there were no spectators. We did our very best on the Power Stage, even though once again the conditions were far from ideal for us. I’m already focused on Mexico. “

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“We are pleased to be on the podium again; we couldn’t have done any more here at Rally Sweden. It was a big battle in these tricky conditions and we were on the edge for a lot of it. When you are pushing so hard, it is easy to make mistakes, so we have to be content with our third place – as well as taking four extra points for second in the Power Stage. We are still at the start of a long season with lots more to come, so it is important to get as many points in the bag in these opening rounds. As a team, we are all focused on pushing for more performance, and we will continue to work in this direction as we prepare for Mexico.”

Andreas Mikkelsen

“We gave it all we could this weekend, and it was an exciting right to the end. Of course, we would have preferred to finish on the podium but congratulations to Thierry for his result. It is a pretty good team result for here; third and fourth gives us important points, but we know it could have been better. In conditions like we have faced, it is a high-risk strategy to push too hard. Today, we wanted to maintain a good pace but not do anything crazy to jeopardise our position. As a team, we have all three cars at the end of the rally and we can take a lot of lessons forward into future events. Thanks to all the fans for showing us such great support this weekend.”

Seb Loeb (7th)

“It has been a complicated weekend, with a lot of ups and downs. I am happy to have made it to the end of the rally. We have set some good times during the event and we have been able to learn a lot more about the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, which is very useful for the future. In the end, looking at these positives, it has been a satisfactory weekend but with room for further improvement.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (5th)

“We’ve had very good speed for the most part of this weekend. I would say that we can be happy with 75 percent of the stages we did, but I’m just kicking myself about the other 25 percent which didn’t go quite as well as they should have.

“We had the potential to be on the podium so we are left with a little bit of frustration, but there are still a lot of positives. We’ve made a massive step with the car compared to last year and we already know that we’re competitive on gravel so I’m really looking forward to the upcoming events.”

Pontus Tidemand (8th)

“It’s a dream to compete here on my home event with a world rally car. It has been amazing and I want to thank all of the fans and supporters and of course my sponsors as well as the whole M-Sport team and Ola who have done a fantastic job all weekend.

“It was a shame to have had the issues on Friday but these things happen and I have been improving a lot. I’m starting to feel quite comfortable with the aerodynamics and everything and I only wish this event could have been longer!

“I still need some time with this incredible car, and I really hope that we have an opportunity to do some more later in the year.”

Teemu Suninen (23rd)

“We had really good pace this weekend, and that gives me a lot of confidence. But there were a couple of mistakes and that means that we come away from this rally with no points.

“I have to work hard for the next event, but I still think there have been a lot of positives this weekend. I led a rally for the first time, and the car felt really good. A big thanks to the team who have been working really hard, and hopefully we can do better in Mexico.”

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Ott Tänak – 47 points
  2. Thierry Neuville – 40 points
  3. Sébastien Ogier – 31 points
  4. Kris Meeke – 21 points
  5. Esapekka Lappi – 19 points
  6. Sébastien Loeb – 18 points
  7. Elfyn Evans – 13 points
  8. Andreas Mikkelsen – 12 points
  9. Jari-Matti Latvala – 10 points

 

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 58 points
  2. Hyundai WRT – 57 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 47 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 30 points

 

Well, what we saw this weekend, confirmed what we believed after Monte-Carlo. Toyota really have the fastest car and the strongest team I believe.

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 02 / Rally Sweden / February 14-17th, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

The other teams expected to fight for the championships have a big battle ahead of them. What we won’t know is what would Seb Ogier have done if he’d not beached his C3. In the other Citroen, Esapekka Lappi scored a good podium finish.

 

Who else stood out? Well, the M-Sport team had its moments with Teemu leading at the end of day one, but what about Elfyn Evans? He certainly bounced back after Monte-Carlo with a very good drive, including three stage wins, his first in Sweden. A very good performance in other stages, included a number of top three times as well, including the all important powerstage where he went faster than Seb Ogier.

 

At Hyundai, the team started slowly, but they picked up time, and Thierry drove well, despite the 360 spin to a good podium finish. Not sure what to think of the others. Has Andreas turned a corner? Fourth for the Norwegian is a start, but still not amazing, and it’s a year since he last stood on a podium. Seb Loeb is a great driver, and he is still getting used to his Hyundai.

 

The next event is Rally Mexico, where we will see very different conditions. There’s a number of drivers who could win there and road position will be important. Put it in your diaries, March the 7th to 10th!

Rally Finland Review 2017- Esapekka Lappi takes his Maiden WRC Victory!

Here’s the story as to how Esapekka Lappi took his maiden WRC victory, on only his fourth top tier start!

 

We were treated to an amazing Finnish Rally this year. Just like last year, it will go down in history, but for very different reasons.  It all started as usual with shakedown on Thursday morning and once more it was very close.

 

SHAKEDOWN STANDINGS

Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC)          2:14.3

Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC)   2:14.4

Tänak / Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC)      2:14.8

Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC)    2:14.9

Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC)           2:15.2

Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC)          2:15.3

Østberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC)     2:15.6

Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:15.6

Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC)       2:15.8

Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC)             2:16.0

 

Moving onto the first stage that evening and Ott won the stage from Thierry and Seb. The top ten looked like this.

 

1   Tanak 1m44.1s

2   Neuville   +1.1s

3   Ogier          1.5s

4   Breen       +1.6s

5   Latvala     +2.2s

6   Paddon    +2.5s

7   Hänninen +2.7s

8   Meeke     +3.0s

9   Evans        +3.1s

10 Sordo       +3.5s

13 Lappi        +5.7s

 

This was the full schedule that the drivers could look forward to on Saturday then and the day dawned bright and sunny, although there were reports that rain would be making an appearance later in the day.

 

FRIDAY JULY 28

6.05am: Service A (Jyväskylä – 15 mins)

7.12am: SS2 – Halinen 1 (7.65km)

7.45am: SS3 – Urria 1 (12.75km)

8.48am: SS4 – Jukojärvi 1 (21.31km)

10.06am: SS5 – Halinen 2 (7.65km)

10.38am: SS6 – Urria 2 (12.75km)

11.42am: SS7 – Jukojärvi 2 (21.31 km)

1.37pm: Service B (Jyväskylä – 30 mins)

3.00pm: SS8 – Äänekoski-Valtra 1 (7.39km)

4.13pm: SS9 – Laukaa 1 (11.76km)

5.11pm: SS10 – Lankamaa (21.68km)

6.09pm: SS11 – Äänekoski-Valtra 2 (7.39km)

7.22pm: SS12 – Laukaa 2 (11.76km)

8.30pm: SS13 – Harju 2 (2.31km)

9.00pm: Flexi Service C (Jyväskylä – 45 mins)

 

Just a short one to start the day, and Teemu would come out on top, showing all the drivers the way. Kris was just behind with Hayden just a few more tenths adrift. Overall, Ott still led with Thierry tumbling down the order to tenth. At the point Esapekka was 8.2 from first place.

 

SS2 – Halinen 1 (7.65km)

1 Suninen 3:39.7 (140kph)

2️ Meeke        +0.1

3 Paddon     +0.3

 

The news from Ogier at the end of stage 3 was not good. After a heavy landing, he started getting trouble from his throttle response, meaning that he’d lose just under 5 seconds and drop to sixth overall. The driver on the move was Teemu, who had slotted his Fiesta WRC into fifth overall. It was a Jari-Matti stage win, with Lappi admitting at the end of stage 2 that he’d been too cautious and deciding to let himself relax more. Top three quickest were all Finns. Incredibly, it wasn’t yet 9am in Finland at this point, but we’d had those stages completed already!

 

SS3 – Urria 1 (12.75km)

1 Latvala 5:56.4 (144kph)

2 Lappi         +0.1

3 Suninen  +0.4

 

Coming into stage four Seb was in sixth place, but after a heavy landing from a very big jump, much further on in the stage would see the car slide off the road and hit a tree, tearing the nearside rear wheel from the Fiesta. They were out for the day and would both visit hospital to be checked out. With the other M-Sport car of Ott, he’d get to the end of the stage with a puncture. He’d run wide and believes he’d caught a rock at the edge of the road. Sadly, Hayden would hit the same rock, but the damage was far worse and the number 4 Hyundai was out for the day. Through all this drama, came new flying Finn Esapekka. He won the stage and moved from tenth overall into second! All this despite stalling on the line at the start! Craig Breen also had a fright, after a heavy landing something not feeling right at the front and he was left hoping that there was nothing wrong with the suspension at the front.

 

SS4 – Jukojärvi 1 (21.31km)

1 Lappi 10:06.3 (126kph)

2 Latvala    +1.3

3 Ostberg +5.6

 

Stage five then and it was another to go Lappi’s way, with his teammate just a tenth off, keeping his overall lead at 5.2 seconds. Kris also gained a place, passing Juho for sixth. The other Citroen was going well, fourth quickest in the stage and keeping third overall.

 

SS5 – Halinen 2 (7.65km)

1 Lappi    3:36.5 (140kph)

2 Latvala    +0.1

3 Ostberg +0.5

 

Lappi was now really into the groove and completed stage six a full three seconds faster than Jari-Matti. Now the gap was just 2.2 seconds. In addition to that, Mads was closing on both Teemu and Craig, reducing the gap to them both by a second. He wanted third place.

 

SS6 – Urria 2 (12.75km)

1 Lappi   5:49.7 (144kph)

2 Tanak      +1.8

3 Ostberg +2.2

 

Stage seven, and it was another fastest time for Esapekka, three now in a row. The gap was now 1.6 seconds! Mads was also very quick moving from fifth into third overall with Craig now in fourth and Teemu in fifth. A service break followed this stage, allowing time for the drivers to work on their note for the afternoon loop.

 

SS7 – Jukojärvi 2 (21.31km)

1 Lappi   9:57.2 (140kph)

2 Latvala  +0.6

3 Ostberg +3.9

 

When they arrived for the start of stage eight at three in the afternoon, the rain had started. Also, with Seb out, Thierry would be first on the road. Mads didn’t remain in third for long, as Teemu was 1.3 faster setting the quickest time and did a Mads, jumping from fifth to third! Jari-Matti and Esapekka set the same time, meaning the gap between them remained 1.6 seconds.

 

SS8 – Äänekoski-Valtra 1 (7.39km)

1 Suninen 3:27.4 (140kph)

2 Hanninen +0.2

3 Latvala       +1.1

 

Esapekka reduced the gap once more by half a second to Jari-Matti. Just incredible driving from the young Finn. Craig was also on the move, passing Mads, who was now back down into fifth place.

 

SS9 – Laukaa 1 (11.76km)

1 Lappi   5:51.0 (132kph)

2 Latvala  +0.5

3 Suninen +2.4

 

Lappi took the next stage as well, and after pushing really hard, emerged in the lead! Once more, it was a Finn 1-2-3-4, with Juho fourth fastest, despite damaging his suspension on a stray rock in the road. With that time, Juho had moved past Craig into fourth. Mads had a nightmare dropping to seventh overall. Elfyn in his Fiesta made a very good move, going sixth fastest and moving up from eighth into sixth overall.

 

SS10 – Lankamaa (21.68km)

1 Lappi  10:21.4 (126kph)

2 Suninen +0.7

3 Latvala   +1.4

 

Esapekka increased his lead to 3.5 seconds over Jari-Matti in stage eleven, with Teemu and Ott just behind him. Jari-Matti could only manage eighth fastest. Thierry passed Kris for eighth overall, but really for him, it had been a very quiet day, barely troubling the drivers at the front.

 

SS11 – Äänekoski-Valtra 2 (7.39km)

1 Lappi   3:23.4 (140kph)

2 Suninen +0.4

3 Tanak     +0.7

 

At the front of the leaderboard, not much changed in stage twelve, but further back, Mads passed Elfyn for sixth place. Craig Breen was also 4 seconds faster than Juho, thus moving back ahead of the Toyota driver into fourth.

 

SS12 – Laukaa 2 (11.76km)

1 Lappi   5:44.9 (132kph)

2 Latvala    +1.1

3 Ostberg +2.9

 

The final stage of the day then and Thierry was fastest, with Tanak and Breen just a few tenths behind.

 

SS13 – Harju 2 (2.31km)

1 Neuville 1:46.9 (120kph)

2 Tanak        +0.1

3️ Breen       +0.3

 

Top ten at the end of Friday

1    Lappi    1:11:36.4

2    Latvala        +4.4

3    Suninen    +19.0

4️   Breen         +33.0

5    Hanninen +39.1

6    Ostberg    +45.0

7    Evans          +45.1

8    Neuville    +58.0

9️   Meeke     +1:07.6

10  Tanak     +1:50.2

 

Let’s hear from the drivers then.

 

Esapekka Lappi 1st said:

 

“I could never have imagined I would be leading Rally Finland. Just competing here in a World Rally Car has been a dream I have had since I was a small boy. That I am leading is hard to comprehend. But it’s been a really clean run so far with no mistakes and the car has been perfect. I’ve given it my all. I won’t force myself to fight against Jari-Matti if it means I will take too many risks. It feels to special to be leading this rally, the spectators are amazing, you just can’t feel that anywhere else.”

Esapekka Lappi, Toyota Yaris WRC, Rally Finland 2017

Jari-Matti Latvala 2nd said:

 

“Of course, Esapekka was always going to be fast, but I didn’t think he was going to be such a hurricane and that we would be the top two in this position after the first full day. The car is working well; I’m very happy with the balance and generally my driving has been good. When you have no other issues and a good car, you can just focus on the driving. There’s a little bit of a home advantage I think, as our car has been developed in Finland on roads like these. My confidence is high, but at the same time I’m trying to avoid taking any big risks.”

 

Teemu Suninen 3rd said:

 

“I’m very happy to be sitting in third place today. This is my home rally and only my second time in a world rally car so it is special for sure. The Finnish fans have been amazing as always and I want to thank all of them for their support.

 

“I think we have driven well today and shown good pace with no mistakes, but there are still things to improve. I need to be more consistent and more precise with the driving lines as that is what brings the good times here with these cars.

 

“I would say that my main strength is that I seem to be improving quite quickly. Hopefully we can continue that and someday be fighting for the victory myself. That is not the objective this weekend – I just want to focus on myself and forget about my Finnish friends ahead.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

 

Craig Breen 4th said:

 

“It’s been a good day, even if everything wasn’t perfect. This morning, after a bit of a ‘big’ landing over a jump, I had the feeling that there was something wrong with the handling and it was getting worse as we progressed. The team did their magic in service and the C3 WRC they handed me back was like new, but I had a few minor problems on the second loop. My pace notes weren’t always perfect and I was a little too careful in places. Every tenth you give away is hard to get back, but there’s still a long way to go – we haven’t even reached halfway as yet.”

 

Kris Meeke 9th said:

 

“Obviously, it wasn’t quite the day I was hoping for. I just couldn’t find the feeling that I had here last year when I won the rally. Despite our efforts and the work done in service, I couldn’t place the car like I wanted to and I was struggling to feel the grip. And clearly, it wasn’t ideal to contest the last few stages with the damaged steering.”

 

 

Khalid Al Qassimi 20th said:

 

“It was a tough day, during which I lost a lot of time. I was constantly looking for traction and struggled to keep the car on the right line. We made a lot of changes to the set-up – the differential, the throttle, the springs – but I think there is still a lot we can improve.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

 

Juho Hänninen 5th said:

 

“The general feeling here has been really good. The car has been working well. It is handling really well even on the high-speed sections and the jumps. This morning I wasn’t fully confident because the grip was changing, but things improved this afternoon and the times were good. Then I hit a rock and damaged the suspension. We were lucky to be able to finish the day without losing too much time. Tomorrow we will continue from where we left off before.”

 

Jipocar WRT

 

Mads Østberg 6th said:

 

“This was really frustrating, but something electronic in the rear was playing up and started locking up the rear wheels and that is something you really don`t want on these fast roads. I was back up to speed on the last stages of the day, and gained back one position, but it is nearly impossible to regain 25-30 seconds from the leaders in a rally like this where the margins are so tight. Still I aim to fight for a possible podium position. It’s a long way to go and my speed is definitely there.”

 

“We have done a good job during testing before the rally, and I really hope that we can continue without technical issues tomorrow. This is my favourite rally and we are not too far away from the last podium position. Torstein has done a tremendous job. I can tell you, it`s really not simple to step into a car like this in the fastest rally of the season. Both Torstein and I are determined to push to the maximum tomorrow and Sunday.”

 

D-Mack WRT

 

Elfyn Evans 7th said:

 

“With no pre-event test, we’ve had to discover the optimum set-up out on the stages. I was struggling with understeer throughout much of the morning and that hampered our confidence. On these roads – and at these speeds – that confidence makes all the difference.

 

“That said, we’re in seventh position with some very close gaps ahead. There’s still a long way to go so let’s see what tomorrow brings.”

 

M-Sport WRT

 

Ott Tänak 10th said:

 

“The disappointment came early in the day so after that we just had to keep going. We ran slightly wide at the start of SS4 and picked up a puncture. We lost more than one and a half minutes which obviously ended our hopes of challenging for the victory. At these speeds, the gaps are so close, and it is very difficult to make up the time.

 

“Since then, we’ve just been focused on driving cleanly. There is still motivation as it’s important for the team that we score as many points as possible. But you know the motivation is different when you are not fighting for the win. There is still a long way to go and a lot can still happen in this rally, so we just need to continue as we are and see what happens.”

 

Sébastien Ogier said:

 

“There was a big jump about two kilometres before we crashed. The landing damaged the rear suspension and towards the end of the stage I got a bit distracted by it. I was too late on the brakes and we had an impact sideways into a tree.

 

“It’s a real shame because our pace was really good and now we have missed an opportunity to score some good points for the championship. We had already lost some seconds with a throttle problem that was coming and going, but without that we were fighting right at the front.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

 

Thierry Neuville 8th said:

 

“It has not been an easy day. We have been struggling to find the required rhythm for these incredibly fast stages. Following Ogier’s issue in the morning, we knew we had inherited an opportunity to close the gap in the Championship even further, but so far, we haven’t made as much progress as we’d have liked. We have been first on the road for much of the day, which is of course part of the game, but we have been losing a bit to the other guys. The Toyota’s are, as expected, much faster, but my focus now is on moving up the classification to the top-five, where a solid points haul will aid our Championship ambitions. This rally is not over yet, even if we are now on the back foot after a difficult Friday. There is plenty to play for.”

 

Dani Sordo 11th said:

 

“There is not a lot to say, at least nothing really positive. We have not found the confidence in the car to tackle the rally with full attack. In Finland, more than anywhere else, you need to have full commitment inside the car; the smallest of lifts can make a huge difference on the timesheets. We have been trying all we can to get the right feeling but the others just have more. We will look at the information we have with the engineers this evening to see what we can do to improve for the rest of the rally.”

 

Hayden Paddon said:

 

“There is no margin for error in Finland, and so that has proven today. We started well and showed some encouraging pace on the opening stages. Then, in SS4, we ran slightly wide on the same corner several other drivers did. Unfortunately, a rock hit back and we broke our suspension. It wasn’t a huge amount of damage but enough to end our day prematurely. Still, the speed of the car is good and we were competitive; when you go just a tiny bit too fast here in Finland, there can be a heavy price to pay. We’ll be back under Rally 2 on Saturday.”

Marcus Gronholm, Toyota service park, Rally Finland 2017

 

SATURDAY JULY 29

7.20am: Service D (Jyväskylä – 15 mins)

8.58am: SS14 – Pihlajakoski 1 (14.90km)

10.06am: SS15 – Päijälä 1 (22.68km)

10.49am: SS16 – Ouninpohja 1 (24.38km)

12.02pm: SS17 – Saalahti 1 (4.21km)

1.27pm: Service E (Jyväskylä – 30 mins)

2.55pm: SS18 – Saalahti 2 (4.21km)

4.08pm: SS19 – Ouninpohja 2 (24.38km)

5.16pm: SS20 – Pihlajakoski 2 (14.90km)

6.24pm: SS21 – Päijälä 2 (22.68km)

8.39pm: Flexi Service F (Jyväskylä – 45 mins)

 

Saturday dawned cloudy, but it wasn’t raining. The roads in the first stage of the day were not as dry as you might expect. Latvala won the stage and his teammate, Esapekka was 3.8 seconds slower meaning that the gap was now six tenths of a second. At stage end, Jari-Matti said he pushed really hard, using the whole road. He had grass sticking out of his radiator- Evidence of how hard he’d pushed. Lappi said he wasn’t going to fight with Latvala. Elfyn was on the move as well, passing Mads for sixth place.

 

SS14 – Pihlajakoski 1 (14.90km)

1 Latvala   6:53.9

2 Hanninen  +2.7

3 Suninen    +3.2

 

Watching the cars through stage 15 was amazing. They were sideways out of the corners and flying from the top of the crests on the road. Jari-Matti pushed like crazy, going through corners in fifth gear! The outcome of all of this this was he took the lead emphatically! Now with Elfyn’s time being as good as it was and the spin that Craig suffered at a junction, the Welsh wizard climbed another spot into fifth!

 

SS15 – Päijälä 1 (22.68km)

1 Latvala 10:55.5 (124.6kph)

2 Evans          +3.7

3 Lappi          +5.4

 

Now it was time for the big one. It’s an unbelievable stage, Ouninpohja…… Run in the opposite direction compared to last year as well. A real rollercoaster, cornering at 170kph- That’s over 100mph! This stage does not have any straights, every part is either a left or a right-hand corner. They are blind as well. Only the ones that really know it, can push that hard. Jari-Matti was quicker again in this, increasing his lead to 7.3 seconds over Lappi. It was a Toyota 1-2-3 in this as well with Juho third through the stage and moving ahead of Teemu as well into third overall. Sadly, Mads went off and broke his suspension which dropped him down the field to eleventh place.

 

SS16 – Ouninpohja 1 (24.38km)

1 Latvala   10:56.9 (133.6kph)

2 Lappi             +2.5

3 Hanninen  +11.5

 

Stage seventeen saw Jari-Matti increase his lead to 7.8 seconds, through the shorter 4km stage, which was run again after afternoon service. He won it in the afternoon as well.

 

SS17 – Saalahti 1 (4.21km)

1 Latvala 1:58.4 (128kph)

2 Lappi       +0.5

3 Tanak      +0.5

 

At the end of stage 18, Jari-Matti had a 8.5 lead over Lappi with Juho just ahead of Teemu.

 

SS18 – Saalahti 2 (4.21km)

1 Latvala 1:56.4 (130.2kph)

2 Lappi        +0.7

3 Suninen  +1.0

 

It was time to run the big one again and the speeds would be even higher this time. Mads jumped over fifty metres! There would be drama in the Toyota of Jari-Matti though. Mid-way through the stage the car just stopped and there was nothing the Finn could do about it. He thumped the steering wheel in frustration. The dream was over again for another year. Esapekka passed the stricken Yaris WRC in the stage. When he reached stage end he was told he led again, but he sounded glum. He was disappointed he’d taken the lead in this way. Thierry finally found some pace and with everything, moved up into sixth position.

 

SS19 – Ouninpohja 2 (24.38km)

1 Lappi    10:49.8 (135.1kph)

2 Hanninen  +2.8

3 Neuville    +5.5

 

Final stage of the day, and there would be drama for Kris. A rock would puncture his tyre and the resulting damage would rip the front near-side of the car apart. Teemu won the stage, with Elfyn and Mads, giving us a Fiesta 1-2-3! With that time, it meant that Teemu was now in second overall! Just astonishing in only his second outing in a WRC car.

 

SS20 – Pihlajakoski 2 (14.90km)

1 Suninen 6:49.0 (131.1kph)

2 Evans          +1.3

3 Ostberg    +1.8

 

Top ten overall

 

1   Lappi     2:02:13.2

2   Suninen     +54.4

3   Hanninen  +55.4

4   Evans       +1:01.9

5️  Breen        +1:17.4

6   Neuville   +1:34.1

7️  Meeke     +2:09.6

8   Tanak       +2:14.1

9   Sordo     +3:48.0

10 Ostberg +4:21.4

 

 

So, here’s the views of all the drivers.

 

Esapekka Lappi 1st said:

 

“It is amazing to be leading at this moment, although I have mixed emotions as I am disappointed for Jari-Matti. He was driving really well. I could not keep up with him without taking big risks, which I did not want to do. When I passed him I slowed down a little bit. I am used to leading with a gap as it happened last year and I know how to manage a lead. I must now concentrate and keep my mind clear. I will sleep well tonight.”

 

Teemu Suninen 2nd said:

 

“I’m feeling good today. When I had a good feeling on the stages the times have been really good, but it was a disappointment to have lost so much time on Ouninpohja this morning. We lost about 20 seconds at a chicane and that has a big effect now as the fight is really tight.

 

“Tomorrow, I think all of us will have to keep the same pace as today if not more. I’ll continue to focus on my own driving – on keeping a good rhythm and on not making any mistakes.”

 

Juho Hänninen 3rd said:

 

“This morning was very good. It was a clear run. The afternoon was not so easy. I was a little bit too careful in the last stage, which was very narrow at the end, and I could have been a bit more brave. We are still in a good position, but it is very close with the cars around us. I will try to get second place, that’s the goal for tomorrow.”

 

D-Mack WRT

 

Elfyn Evans 4th said:

 

“It will be an exciting day tomorrow. It’s fair to say that we were struggling yesterday, but it’s been a pretty positive day for us today.

 

“Everything seems to have come together and we’ve been happy with our performance on most of the stages.

 

“The conditions suited us a bit better today and we also found a better balance with the car which helped regain some of the confidence we had been lacking previously.

 

“It’s game on for tomorrow so let’s see what we can do.”

Elfyn Evans, Dan Barritt, D-Mack Fiesta WRC, Rally Finland 2017

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

 

Craig Breen 5th said:

 

“It’s been something of an up and down day, a bit like the roads here in Finland! I thought I could have been a bit faster in places, but I had a bit of trouble with the set-up we chose for the morning. It was better this afternoon, when there was more grip, but it still wasn’t perfect. I feel like we’re further away from the podium, but we’re still only thirty seconds off second place. If luck is on our side tomorrow, we might be able to move up the standings.”

 

Kris Meeke 8th said:

 

“Every year it’s the same. Ouninpohja is simply one of the best rally stages, an incredible piece of road. The level of grip was good this afternoon and I was able to push because I had a good feeling in the car. We changed quite a few things on the set-up during the mid-leg service and we got some interesting information for the future, so that was pretty positive. On the final stage, we picked up a puncture after hitting a stone. I wanted to keep pushing but the tyre exploded, causing some fairly serious-looking damage. But it wasn’t all that serious.”

 

Khalid Al Qassimi 17th said:

 

“It was another tough day. We worked constantly with the engineers, and yet the car remains very sensitive and tricky to drive on these ultra-fast roads. I had a few moments, especially on the final stage, when we went wide into a ditch and hit some rocks. Fortunately, the damage wasn’t too substantial and we are still in the race.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

 

Thierry Neuville 6th said:

 

“Another dissatisfying day for us, but we have gained a few places since yesterday thanks, unfortunately, to others experiencing trouble. We need to pick up as many points as we can, to try and close the gap to Sébastien. The car performed better in the afternoon loop, although it wasn’t without its difficulties. In the final stage, I hit a rock in the narrow section and bent the steering. I had to back off a bit. We know that we need to rely on some luck to make up any more positions on the final day, but we’ll see what happens.”

 

Dani Sordo 9th said:

 

“These stages are fantastic and it is a privilege to drive them. The two runs through Ouninpohja were incredible, like a circuit inside the forest. Overall, we had a better afternoon loop when the stages had more grip, but it is just difficult to find motivation and enjoyment when the times are not there. We have not been in a position to fight for anything meaningful so we are just focused on getting through each stage – it is not an ideal way to approach a rally but we can do no more.”

 

Hayden Paddon (Ret) said:

 

“There was nothing we could do about our retirement today. We were going through a blind left, into a right, when all of a sudden, I caught sight of a big football-sized rock in the road. In the split-second it took to see it, and I knew it would do damage. We could not avoid it and it broke the suspension arm. The real shame is the lack of mileage from this rally. We will be back out on Sunday to try and end this weekend on a high note.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 09, Rally Finland
27 – 30 July 2017
Hayden Paddon, Seb Marshall, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Sarah Vessely
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

M-Sport WRT

Ott Tänak 7th said:

 

“The Finns have been quite dominant this weekend, but I think it would have been possible to be in that fight. After yesterday’s time loss, there was no opportunity to see if we could do that and it’s difficult to find the same confidence when you are not fighting for the win.

 

“We’ve just been trying to improve the feeling without taking too many risks. That said, it’s still been a decent day and you can’t help but enjoy yourself on these Finnish roads.”

 

Jipocar WRT

Speaking about the spin on the first run through Ouninpohja-

Mads Østberg 10th said:

 

“It was nothing very dramatic, but we hit some rocks, was thrown off the road and damaged the suspension and brakes rear left on the car. We had to stop and check the damages and change a wheel, and continued on the stage without much effect from the brakes. That resulted in further time loss, and it really is quite scary to drive such a fast stage without brakes”.

 

“Yesterday I played with car, today I have had to fight with it. We have worked all day to improve the set-up, and it has been a little better, but not the same as Friday”.

 

The car still isn`t balanced as I would like, and we need a proper check-up during end of day service. We aim to go for some good stage times tomorrow and possibly some points on the “power stage”.

 

 

 

8.00am: Service G (Jyväskylä – 15 mins)

9.25am: SS21 – Lempää 1 (6.80km)

10.08am: SS22 – Oittila 1 (10.12km)

11.47am: SS23 – Lempää 2 (6.80km)

1.18pm: SS24 – Oittila 2 Power Stage (10.12km)

2.21pm: Service H (Jyväskylä – 10 mins)

3.00pm: Podium

 

Sunday morning, and Esapekka had a very healthy lead of nearly 50 seconds. It was bright and sunny. Who would complete the podium? We had Teemu, Juho and Elfyn covered by just seven seconds.

Esapekka Lappi, Toyota Yaris WRC, Rally Finland 2017

Stage 21 went to fourth placed Elfyn and with that, the gap came down. Further back Citroen pairing Khalid Al Qassimi and Kris Meeke both had damage, so they both returned to the service park.

 

SS21 – Päijälä 2 (22.68km)

1 Evans 10:42.3 (127.1kph)

2 Tanak +     0.6

3 Suninen  +1.9

 

With the problem fixed on Jari-Matti’s Toyota, he returned to the top of the time sheets with a quickest time through stage 22. Incredibly, with Juho going through the stage faster than Teemu, they were both now on the same overall time, 49.4 seconds down from Lappi. Elfyn was also continuing his hunt for a podium finish.

 

SS22 – Lempää 1 (6.80km)

1 Latvala 3:08.4 (129.9kph)

2 Hanninen  +1.1

3 Evans         +1.8

 

Latvala was back in the groove and took the next stage, thus setting him up well for later, as this stage would be run again as the power-stage. Thierry didn’t do very well at all, after running wide twice and losing several seconds as a result. Evans was the one on the move however, passing Juho on the leaderboard and into third place. Juho had made a mistake, hitting something at the side of the road, losing time as a consequence.

 

SS23 – Oittila 1 (10.12km)

1 Latvala 4:52.1 (124.7kph)

2 Suninen  +3.2

3 Evans       +3.7

 

A combination of things happened in this stage that meant Juho would jump back into second overall. Firstly, he would set the same time as Jari-Matti and despite Elfyn being just 1.1 seconds slower than that, it was enough to put the Welsh wizard behind the Finn. The other thing was that Teemu dropped out of that battle completely after he spun in a very quick right-hander, which turned the car around and pulled the bumper into the hedge. Incredibly, Esapekka ran wide as well, damaging his rear wheel. Just shows how on the limit that they drive these cars.

 

SS24 – Lempää 2 (6.80km)

1 Hanninen 3:08.3 (130kph)

2 Latvala         +0.0

3 Tanak           +0.5

 

It was the last stage! The power-stage gives points for the top five best times. Jari-Matti wanted this one, and he had reason to be optimistic after being fastest earlier. However, his time would be beaten and he would ultimately be fourth quickest. Ott would win the stage and take max points from it. What would happen between Evans and Juho? Incredibly, with Juho only fifth fastest, 2.7 seconds slower, Elfyn was second fastest through the stage and it was enough to put him into second overall, just three tenths of a second faster after 25 stages! Just amazing.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Finland (FIN) – WRC 26/07/2017 to 31/07/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Esapekka had won the rally and what a result for him in only his fourth event at this level.

 

SS25 – Oittila 2 (Power Stage) (10.12km)

1 Tanak   4:48.6 (126.2kph)

2 Evans        +1.5

3 Neuville  +2.0

 

1  Lappi    2:29:26.9

2  Evans          +36.0

3  Hanninen  +36.3

4  Suninen   +1:01.5

5️  Breen       +1:22.6

6  Neuville   +1:33.1

7  Tanak       +1:53.6

8️   Meeke    +3:12.6

9   Sordo      +4:11.5

10 Ostberg +4:21.2

 

Let’s hear from the drivers at the end of this amazing historic event.

Rally Finland Podium 2017

Esapekka Lappi 1st said:

 

“I’m not normally an emotional person but this is amazing. What a rally. I could never have imagined that we could get a result like this, so it’s a very big surprise. I have to say a big thank you to the team because they have built such a great car in a very short period.”

 

Elfyn Evans 2nd said:

 

“We’re really chuffed to come away from Rally Finland with second place – especially as that wasn’t looking likely on Friday evening. We kept at it, kept pushing and managed to claw our way back up the leader board. It’s a really positive way to finish the weekend.

 

“Friday was a very difficult day for us. We started without a test and were really struggling with the balance of the car throughout that opening day. We made some changes which helped quite a lot and the longer stages and drier conditions helped too. We started making our way up the order and it all went from there.

 

“Going into this morning, it was a very difficult situation to be in. There was an element of wanting to push for the best result, but at the same time it was really important to secure good points for the team. It wasn’t an all-out attack, but it all worked out in the end.

 

“It’s not the win, but it’s still a strong weekend and we can be pleased with the job we have done this weekend.”

 

Juho Hänninen 3rd said:

 

“It’s been an amazing weekend and I’m very happy with this result. Of course, I tried to get second, but we made a few mistakes. I’m still very happy to be on the podium for the first time in my career. Thank you to the team and this fantastic car that made it possible.”

 

M-Sport WRT

 

Teemu Suninen 4th said:

 

“Of course, it’s disappointing to have lost out on a podium in the final stages, but we had to try. This is our last planned rally in a world rally car, so I had to try. Unfortunately, I just ran a little bit wide and had a high-speed spin which dropped us out of that battle.

 

“I’m disappointed right now, but in the morning, I think I will feel better – knowing that I was fighting for a podium on only my second time in this car.

 

“We had really good pace all weekend – honestly more than we had expected before the rally – and I am happy with that. A big thanks also to all of the fans and the team for their support which has been pushing me to do my best.”

 

Ott Tänak 7th said:

 

“The Finns have been quite dominant this weekend but I think we had the pace to be in the fight. Unfortunately, we will never know what would have been possible – our disappointment coming quite early in the rally.

 

“To score the top times here in Finland you need to be fully confident, and it’s hard to find that when you’re not fighting for the best positions. But it’s still been a fairly decent weekend. Driving in Finland is always a lot of fun and we showed our speed with the fastest time through the Power Stage.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

 

Craig Breen 5th said:

 

“It wasn’t our best day in terms of pure performance. I knew that I couldn’t make up the ground on the leaders in normal racing conditions so I just focused on containing Thierry Neuville. For sure, it’s a good run of fifth places but I’d like to get back onto the podium before the end of the season!”

Craig Breen, Scott Martin, Rally Finland 2017, Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT.

Kris Meeke 8th said:

 

“Although there weren’t many miles to cover, it was still a proper leg with some typically fast Finnish stages. As I had nothing to gain by taking risks and was low on confidence, I played it safely to bring the car home.”

 

Khalid Al Qassimi 16th said:

 

“Like yesterday, I was first on the road and that made my job a little more difficult. The roads were very slippery this morning and it wasn’t easy to read the level of grip. So I drove without any real feeling, but there wasn’t much else I could do.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

 

Thierry Neuville 6th said:

 

“We set out to score more than Ogier this weekend, and we were able to achieve that. We had a very difficult weekend so to salvage some points is crucial. The Power Stage was a key moment, as we scored three vital extra points to move to the top of the Championship. This levels the playing field with four events left of the season, so it has been an important result. We know everyone is pushing hard to keep us in contention, so we have to put this complicated rally behind us and look forward to Germany, the team’s home event, where we know from the past that we can perform well.”

 

Dani Sordo 9th said:

 

“I am relieved that this rally is over. I have never had the right feeling all weekend, and on these fast roads you need to be fully committed to perform at the highest level. It has been complicated, not only for me but also for the team, so we have to put this behind us and look forward to the next event. We cannot let this weekend affect us; we need to stay concentrated and push flat out for victory in Germany!”

 

Hayden Paddon said: “It has been one of those weekends for us. After our retirements on Friday and Saturday, we wanted to approach these final stages in a positive manner and to get some time behind the wheel. This rally has perfectly illustrated our season, where anything that can go wrong does go wrong. The Power Stage was another example, when the car unexpectedly went straight on at a third gear corner. Still, we got to the end of the rally and I am sure, one day in the future, we will look back and laugh at our bad luck this year. I am sure we could have fought for the podium this weekend, and that is the positive that we will take away.”

 

Jipocar WRT

 

Mads Østberg and co-driver Torstein finished Rally Finland in 10th place, after a challenging but also positive weekend on the superfast Finnish roads.

 

Mads 10th said:

 

“I`m not thinking so much on the end result, because this has actually been my best rally this season. Except for some bad luck with the off-road excursion yesterday, we have been genuinely competitive this weekend with many top-three stage times. Torstein has also done a fantastic job jumping into the co-drivers seat on relatively short notice. We will just have to work with the positive experiences from this rally, and therefore I am really positive before the rest of the season”.

 

Thinking of the coming weeks ahead, Mads continued,

 

“It’s really tough with two WRC-rallies and one ERC-event in only 17 days. But also, very interesting and challenging with the chance to evaluate three different codrivers. I am looking for a permanent codriver to partner me further on and Torstein, Patrick and Emil are all possible candidates for this job”.

 

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Finland (FIN) – WRC 26/07/2017 to 31/07/2017 – PHOTO : @World

 

Well, the championship has just got very interesting indeed. With Seb not scoring any points at all and Thierry finishing in sixth place and scoring enough points to bring him level with Seb at the top. We have a four-event battle to look forward to for this year’s championship. It starts in two weeks in Rally Germany!

 

 

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 09, Rally Finland
27 – 30 July 2017
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Sarah Vessely
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

 

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings

After round 9

 

1              T. Neuville             160

2              S. Ogier                 160

3              O. Tanak                119

4              J.M Latvala          114

5              D. Sordo                 84

6              E. Evans                  79

7              C. Breen                 53

8              H. Paddon             51

9              J. Hänninen          46

10           E. Lappi                  45

 

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings

After round 9

 

1              M-Sport World Rally Team                                              285

2              Hyundai Motorsport                                                           251

3              Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team                  193

4              Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team            135

 

Warren Nel

3rd August 2017