Rallye Deutschland 2018 Preview

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

The battle for this year’s championship arrives on the sealed roads in Germany. Thierry Neuville holds a twenty-one-point lead over Sébastien Ogier, and he will be aiming to build on that, as his road position will give him an advantage.

2017 FIA World Rally Championship, Round 10, Rallye Deutschland 17 – 20 August 2017, Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, Photographer: RaceEMotion, Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Four years ago, he won on these roads, and will be looking to do the same this year. Thierry is joined by Andreas and Dani, back to the i20 for the first time since Portugal. Andreas scored a second place in this event last year and will be looking to get a strong result again, whilst Dani has taken two second places in 2014 and 2016.

 

Ott Tanak is trying to get back into the championship fight, and his win last time out in Finland has done him some favours. He won last year for M-Sport, and will want to do the same again. Jari-Matti took a podium here in 2015 when driving for Volkswagen.

 

M-Sport come here with three cars, Seb and Elfyn, with Teemu taking part in his first full tarmac event in a full-blooded WRC car. He’ll be looking to gain knowledge and experience on this very tricky event. Seb has won this event three times, whilst Elfyn came close to a podium in 2014, taking fourth in the end.

 

The rhythm of the event changes day by day, with roads around the famous vineyards, the Baumholder military roads and classic country lanes, making the recce and car set up crucial. Even Sunday is by no means easy, with almost 75kms of stages to run.

 

Here’s the full schedule for the rally.

 

ADAC RALLY DEUTSCHLAND SCHEDULE (GMT+2)

THURSDAY 16 AUGUST

8.00am: Shakedown St. Wendel (5,52 km)

2.45pm: Start (Bostalsee)

7.08pm: SS 1 – Super Special Stage St. Wendel (2,04 km)

7.48pm: Parc fermé

 

FRIDAY 17 AUGUST

9.00am: Service A (Bostalsee – 15 min)

10.11am: SS 2 – Stein und Wein 1 (19,44 km)

11.05am: SS 3 – Mittelmosel 1 (22,00 km)

12.53pm: SS 4 – Wadern-Weiskirchen 1 (9,27 km)

2.13pm: Service B (Bostalsee – 30 min)

3.39pm: SS 5 – Stein und Wein 2 (19,44 km)

4.33pm: SS 6 – Mittelmosel 2 (22,00 km)

6.21pm: SS 7 – Wadern-Weiskirchen 2 (9,27 km)

7.21pm: Flexi service C (Bostalsee – 48 min)

 

SATURDAY 18 AUGUST

7.35am: Service D (Bostalsee – 15 min)

8.48am: SS 8 – Arena Panzerplatte 1 (9,43 km)

9.15am: SS 9 – Panzerplatte 1 (38,57 km)

11.03am: SS 10 – Freisen 1 (14,78 km)

12.06pm: SS 11 – Römerstrasse 1 (12,28 km)

1.40pm: Service E (Bostalsee – 30 min)

3.08pm: SS 12 – Arena Panzerplatte 2 (9,43 km)

3.35pm: SS 13 – Panzerplatte 2 (38,57 km)

5.23pm: SS 14 – Freisen 2 (14,78 km)

6.26pm: SS 15 – Römerstrasse 2 (12,28 km)

7.40pm: Flexi service F (Bostalsee – 48 min)

 

SUNDAY 19 AUGUST

6.20am: Service G (Bostalsee – 15 min)

7.49am: SS 16 – Grafschaft 1 (29,07 km)

9.42am: ES 17 – Grafschaft 2 (29,07 km)

12.18pm: SS 18 – Bosenberg Power Stage (14,04 km)

1.00pm: Podium

 

Let’s hear from the drivers then.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“After four consecutive gravel events, it is going to be nice to get back onto tarmac. Rallye Deutschland is a great event. It is a home rally for the team, and it is also situated close to the Belgian border, so we see lots of travelling fans coming to support us. We have had some fantastic results here in the past – including our debut win in 2014 – as well as some more difficult ones. Still leading the championship after a frustrating weekend Finland, I am ready to get back to the front in Germany.”

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rallye Deutschland is one of my favourite tarmac events. It is a rally with plenty of variety and challenges, but one that I find highly enjoyable. I finished second in last year’s event, so it brings back good memories. I hope for a good result this time around with Hyundai Motorsport. We’ve not had the sort of results recently that we know we are capable of, so I am determined to rectify that in Germany.”

Dani Sordo

“I am pleased to be back in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC for Rallye Deutschland, which is a very nice event and a home rally for the team. It is not a straightforward event with lots of different stage profiles. We often see some rain over the weekend, which can leave the roads muddy and slippery, but who knows what we will face this year. We have been competitive in Germany in past seasons, with some happy memories of the podium. That’s got to be our target against tough competition from our rivals.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“After Rally Finland I am feeling relaxed and I have a good feeling about Rallye Deutschland. I hope we can continue where we left off and maintain a good rhythm until the end of the year. I think our car should be good in Germany: last year we were already quite competitive there. I really enjoy the small country roads through the fields, which are narrow but fast, and the military area which also has some nice sections. We just have to be prepared for everything when it comes to the weather, because it can be very changeable.”

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

Ott Tänak

“We will go to Germany with a high target after our win in Finland. I want to take it event-by-event, try to get the maximum out of each rally and see whether we can get back into the championship fight. I enjoy Germany every year. I like the challenge of having many different kinds of roads. We will need to keep an eye on the weather because when I won the rally last year, the tyre choice made a big difference. The Yaris WRC has been performing pretty well on asphalt so I hope we will have everything we need to fight for the top. We are feeling confident.”

Esapekka Lappi

“Rallye Deutschland is always such a challenging rally. Usually there is some rain and you often get different conditions during each day. This can make things tricky because there is a lot of corner-cutting and a lot of dirt on the road. It has been difficult for me in the past, but I actually really like the challenge. I’m looking forward to being back on asphalt, too. In Corsica we achieved a nice setup with the car and the speed was good. Germany is quite a different rally but hopefully we can repeat that.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen

“I’m longing to get back on the tarmac. It’s been a year since I last competed in a 100% tarmac rally. The Saturday stage will definitely be decisive again, with the two runs through the Baumholder military base, but before that, I really hope more than anything that it doesn’t rain on Friday, so that we can start the race in ideal conditions, despite being a long way down the running order. Since our Germany tests at the start of the summer, I have had an extra day of testing in Alsace to get back into the habits you need to drive on tarmac, and I’ll be giving it my all to rediscover the joys of the podium.”

Craig Breen, Scott Martin – Photo credit Citroen Racing

Mads Østberg

“Except last year, I have competed in this rally every year since 2010, so I know the course pretty well and I have always enjoyed the variety of the stages, even though it makes things difficult! I will have to get to grips with driving on this surface again, but I know I can count on the team’s immense experience on tarmac and at this rally in particular. I have had two days of testing with the C3 WRC to work through all the road profiles I will be facing, so a top-five finish would be a good result for me.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“We didn’t have the pace that we wanted in Finland, but next week’s Rallye Deutschland is a completely different event and we’ll be aiming to challenge for the leading positions once again.

“It’s always nice returning to asphalt, and we had the performance last time out in Corsica. But this is another difficult rally and everyone knows how big the challenge is to get everything right with all the varying stages.

“As always, the goal is to deliver our best and challenge for the victory. That’s what we’ll be aiming for – together with the target of reducing the gap to the championship leader.”

Seb Ogier, Julien Igrassia – Photo credit M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans

“Rallye Deutschland is a pretty challenging event, but I think that’s one of the reasons why I enjoy it so much. The stage characteristics and conditions are constantly changing, and you’ve really got to be on the ball.

“It’s all about finding the right rhythm and set-up for each of the different challenges; as well as staying fully focused as this is one of those events where second chances are few and far between!

“The weather can also play a crucial part and a wet rally would make things pretty interesting. But let’s see what gets thrown at us next week. The Fiesta felt really good last time out on Tarmac, and we’ll be aiming for a strong result.”

Teemu Suninen

“This will be my first time in a world rally car on asphalt and a big leap into the unknown. So far, I know nothing about driving these cars on this surface and I will have a lot to learn. I’m most curious about the tyre wear and how to use the brakes.

 

“This rally will be full of questions, and it’s always been one of the most challenging on the calendar. There is always a lot of dirt that gets dragged onto the stages, but I hope to find good confidence in the car and improve my driving in these tricky conditions.”

 

We really are heading to the end of the season, with just five rounds remaining, including this event. Who will win, and what will it mean for the championship?

We shall see! Enjoy!

 

Rally Finland 2018 Review – Ott Tanak takes it!

After a fight through Friday with Mads Ostberg for the lead of this rally, Ott Tanak opened up a good lead through Saturday and then controlled his pace and 15 years after the last Estonian to win Rally Finland, took a very well-deserved victory. The championship protagonists found themselves playing bit parts further down the standings.

 

Here’s the story of how Rally Finland played out.

 

After Thursday’s short evening stage, Ott held the lead from Thierry and Seb.

 

The start list looked like this for Friday’s stages, running in championship order – Neuville, Ogier, Tänak, Lappi, Mikkelsen, Evans, Latvala, Breen, Ostberg, Suninen, Paddon, Al Qassimi. Ten stages awaited the crews out there.

 

The first stage of the day, SS2, was won by Ott, with Mads just behind, 1.3 seconds slower than the Toyota driver, with Teemu Suninen a further few seconds behind in third, and this was now the overall top three with Seb and Thierry now in seventh and ninth respectively. Craig suffered a puncture seven km’s into the twenty km stage, losing 47 seconds and falling to 18th overall. We would see a fightback from him through the rest of the rally.

 

Stage 3, a shorter 12km stage was won by Jari-Matti and with that, he passed Teemu, moving into a podium position. Craig put the disappointment of the puncture behind him and drove to second fastest, just eight tenths slower, whilst Ott increased the overall lead over Mads a little. Further back, Seb and Thierry were still in seventh and ninth, their road position hurting them.

 

Stage 4 saw a couple of dramatic moments – Mads took the lead after setting a great time 4.8 seconds faster than Ott and now in the lead by just half a second. However, Hyundai driver, Andreas went off the road, losing more than three minutes. Craig’s pace in the last two stages had brought him up into tenth overall.

 

The following stage, number 5 saw greater pace from Ott and coupled with some little mistakes from Mads, he retook the lead, by just 1.1 seconds. A mistake from Thierry saw him drop behind Craig and the Belgian was now over a minute behind the leader. Hayden though was now the top Hyundai driver, just nine tenths slower and second fastest, meaning he was now in fourth overall.

 

Midday service followed this stage, and then it was time to tackle the remaining six stages.

 

Mads started off in a strong way, winning stage 6 and retaking the lead from Ott and with Teemu going several seconds quicker than Jari-Matti and Hayden, he moved back into third overall! Showing how competitive these cars are three different cars in the top three, just nineteen seconds between them.

 

Mads and Ott continued their fight for the lead in stage 7, with them both setting identical times through the stage, the lead remaining at one tenth of a second. Jari-Matti retook third overall. Further back, Thierry remained in tenth overall, now one minute 41 from the lead, whilst Seb was in seventh, 54 seconds from first place.

 

Top three in stage 8 was Craig, Esapekka and Jari-Matti, whilst the overall top two were fifth and ninth fastest. It was Mads who opened up a gap of 1.9 seconds over Ott. The Norwegian was driving to a safe pace, knowing Ott wasn’t as fast.

 

The lead swapped again in stage 9 after Ott was fastest and with Mads nearly three seconds slower, the Estonian retook the lead by a second. Mads was not letting him get away, driving a sensible but fast stage as his tyres were quite worn. The rest of the positions in the top ten were pretty static though.

 

Stage 10 was won by Ott and with Mads seventh fastest there was now a 4.3 second gap between them. Further back, Hayden repassed Teemu in their battle over fourth place and Seb passed Elfyn, the Frenchman now in sixth. Craig set the fifth fastest time in the stage, despite starting to suffer with brake problems near the end.

 

The final stage of the day, 11, saw Seb set the fastest time from Ott and Thierry, who set identical times. Craig and Kalid suffered with fuel pressure problems in their C3’s, with Craig losing 27 seconds, but didn’t drop out of the top ten at least. A real shame for him, after a very good drive through the day after the puncture.

 

So, what a day. Toyota and Citroen both shared out the stage wins and Ott ended the day in the lead. Mads had driven really well, and had kept a great pace, leading at times as well.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:02:26.0
  2. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 5.8
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 23.1
  4. Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 36.4
  5. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 46.1
  6. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 58.9
  7. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:01.1
  8. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:01.4
  9. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 1:34.1
  10. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:57.7

24. Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) +8:28.5

 

Let’s hear from the drivers. Top three first.

 

Ott Tänak

“I am really happy with my day. Everything has been working just perfectly. I have a lot of confidence in the car and it is really nice to drive on these roads. Except for one moment where I stalled the engine and lost a bit of time, I did everything that I could. The roads have been pretty slippery with a lot of cleaning. Tomorrow, we will have the same conditions as the guys we have been fighting with today, which will be good, but it still won’t be easy.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 08 / Rally Finland 2018 / July 26-29, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Mads Østberg

“I’m delighted for everyone in the team that I have managed to produce such a solid performance. We have all worked so hard together in order to make it happen. I really enjoyed driving my C3 WRC throughout the whole day. We are now going to try and keep it up tomorrow!”

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I think today has been pretty good. On the first stage it was difficult to get into the rhythm, but then I found it on the second stage. I also made the car a bit stiffer to have some more stability, and since that I’ve been happy. I was a bit too careful on the first stage this afternoon but I was able to fight back and claim third position. I am enjoying the driving and hopefully I can improve a bit more tomorrow.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (5th)

“It’s been a tough day. We were fighting for a podium position but then we had a few issues and dropped down to fifth. The driving has been on an okay level, but there is still some more to find and I hope that I can find that tomorrow.”

Sébastien Ogier (6th)

“If I’m honest, I expected things to happen the way they did today. With the roads being so dry, it was a tough day for us and we lost some time for sure. That said, I have to say hats off to Ott [Tänak] because he has been flying. Starting just behind us, he was setting times which were really impressive to watch.

“I think I did more or less what I could today. Of course, I could have gone a little faster – a few tenths here and there – but then I would have needed to take some big risks. Our road position will be a bit better tomorrow, and hopefully we can find some small things to be a bit faster. It’s not been an easy day, but we’ll keep trying tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans (7th)

“We can’t be completely satisfied as this isn’t really the position we were looking for. Although to be fair, it was pretty clear that the road evolution played a big part over the morning loop. With the exception of Ott [Tänak] who was just on a different planet, we were faster than everyone in front of us but the guys behind were faster than us.

“We then struggled on a few stages this afternoon so it was okay but not perfect. There’s still a long way to go, and Saturday was a really good day for us last year – so we have to try and let’s just see what happens.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (4th)

“I think we can be pretty happy with our opening day, even if we could have probably taken a few more risks. We didn’t want to overdo it, because we were focused on getting the set-up right for the whole weekend. In the morning loop, we had to adapt to the conditions and our pace notes were a bit slow in places. From there, we started to enjoy the car and the stages more. We’ve been consistent, had good pace and that’s allowed us to stay in touch with the leading three. We’ve now got to build on this over the next two days.”

Thierry Neuville (10th)

“Starting first on the road, particularly in this event, makes life really tough from the outset. There was not much more we could do, as we struggled for grip and consistency. Things weren’t helped by the mistake in SS5 when we were too optimistic with a pace note. I was thinking about correcting it, but then missed the next one and ended up going straight into a ditch. We had to take it a bit easier after that. The mechanics did a great job at midday service to fix the car. We are losing some positions compared to Ogier, so we can’t really be happy but we knew it would be hard. We can only do our best in these circumstances and minimise the damage.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 08, Rally Finland
26-29 July 2018
Day 1
Action
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“It has been a very challenging start to Rally Finland for us. We made a mistake in SS4 during the morning loop, but we’ve struggled for pace throughout the day. You never want to make a mistake but I misheard a pace note. I thought Anders had said five minus, when it should have been four, which is quite a difference. We had a slow roll but were pushed back onto the stage by the Finnish spectators, who were very helpful. Thanks to my mechanics for getting us ready for the afternoon. We still have some work to do to get the right feeling but we will aim for a fresh start on Saturday.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (9th)

“In terms of the times, we had a good rhythm and overall, it was a good day. Obviously, it’s frustrating to have picked up a puncture this morning and then to have had the fuel problem this evening, but that’s the way it goes, I guess. It’s gone now, so we’re already focusing on tomorrow’s leg. We’ll try to enjoy ourselves on these magnificent roads and do even better.”

Craig Breen, Scott Martin – Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Khalid Al Qassimi (24th)

“I really liked the fast, typically Finnish stages. Less so the stages that were very narrow and rough, but I adopted a cautious approach in these sections in order to keep out of trouble. I’m going to try and up my pace during the rest of the rally.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (8th)

“This morning was a bit of a struggle: I stalled in a junction in the first stage, which was very disappointing, and after that I was having difficulty finding a rhythm. In service the engineers found a small issue on the car and were able to fix it. After that, it started to go well and the speed was more like what I was expecting. Of course, I wanted to be fighting for the victory, but there are still two days to go and some good chances to gain positions.”

 

Saturday would see eight stages for the crews to tackle and the start order looked like this – Al Qassimi, Mikkelsen, Neuville, Breen, Lappi, Evans, Ogier, Suninen, Paddon, Latvala, Østberg, Tänak.

 

Starting with SS12, the top three was Ott, Mads and Jari-Matti and now Ott’s lead had increased over Mads and Latvala was now on a mission to catch Mads. Further down the leaderboard, Esapekka and Elfyn overtook Ogier, who was now down to eighth.

 

Into SS13 and Ott increased his lead over Mads, who in turn was doing enough to keep Jari-Matti at arm’s length. Further back, just 14 seconds covered the gap between 6th and 8th. Craig was driving well and enjoying the car on the stages and wishing for a better road position.

 

In SS14, Ott continued to make the most of his road position and increased his lead a further few seconds, his overall lead now over twenty seconds after Mads made a couple of mistakes. Seb also passed Elfyn for seventh place.

 

The shorter stage SS15 saw Ott still faster than Mads, whose tyres were not giving him the feel he wanted. Last years winner, Lappi set a great time, going fourth fastest and passing Teemu for fifth place.

 

After service, the same stage was run as SS16. Jari-Matti and Ott set the same time, whilst Mads was only fifth fastest, losing a little over three seconds to the charging Finn. He’d made some changes to the car during the service break, with the hope that these would give him the opportunity to push harder on the longer stages.

 

Lappi kept the stage wins in the Toyota team camp with a great time through SS17. Jari-Matti closed the gap to Mads by five seconds, just twelve seconds between them now. The reason for this was that he had two spare tyres in the car and was finding the car harder to drive on the limit with the extra weight.

 

Esapekka won the following stage too, SS18 and with that moved ahead of Hayden Paddon, deposing the Kiwi to fifth, whilst the gap between Mads and Jari-Matti came down another four seconds to eight between them now. The ruts in the stage were hindering Craig, plus a little change that he made to his car between the stages actually gave the car understeer, and not giving him confidence to push into the corners.

 

Lappi really was on a mission, winning SS19 and building a gap to Hayden too, with a nine second gap between them. The fight was still on between Mads in second and Jari-Matti who wanted that position, with the Toyota driver taking another three seconds out of the Norwegian and now just five seconds behind. They’d have to wait now till Sunday to continue their battle.

 

It had been a remarkably good day, with just one accident and no reliability issues either. We still had all of the top cars and drivers.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:13:18.2
  2. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 39.0
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 44.4
  4. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:20.6
  5. Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:29.6
  6. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:45.1
  7. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:07.6
  8. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:17.9
  9. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 2:56.4
  10. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:34.5

 

 

Let’s hear again then from the drivers after day two. Top three first

 

Ott Tänak

“Overall, it has been another a good day. In the morning we were in a good rhythm and our road position was so much better than yesterday, so we managed to increase the gap even though I was not pushing as hard. This afternoon I was a lot more cautious because the roads were pretty rough and we already had a good gap. It was not so enjoyable to drive like this, but we still managed to increase our lead, so I cannot complain. Tomorrow we have some pretty smooth and fast stages and I’m looking forward to it.”

Mads Østberg

“Once again, we gave it everything today on these magnificent and very demanding roads. With the warm conditions, in the afternoon we had to contend with high tyre wear. We also had extra weight from the two spares we took for the second loop, but I think we managed really very well to hang onto second place! I’m pretty confident about tomorrow. We’ve already shown that we can hold off Latvala.”

Jari-Matti Latvala

“It has been really enjoyable today. There was still a little bit of speed missing during the morning loop but we made some changes to the car in mid-day service and I started to get a better feeling and I could start to push more. This meant that I was wearing my tyres a lot, but it was amazing how fast we were still able to go. Of course, we need to try and attack tomorrow and try to get second place. But of course, if you do risks they need to be controlled risks and that’s important.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

“It has been a really strong day, particularly this afternoon. The morning was pretty enjoyable and we managed to gain three places already. Then during the afternoon, I pushed really hard, and didn’t save the tyres at all. This was a very risky game because we didn’t have much rubber left for the last stage, and yet we were still fastest! Now the target for tomorrow is to stay ahead of the guys behind us.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (5th)

“It has been a marginally better day compared to Friday being second on the road. I feel we’ve had a decent day, considering, taking no risks. We know we have nothing to play for. It’s a difficult situation but we absolutely accept that. Now, we need to keep the car on the road and get to the end of the rally. Having led the championship for a few events, we knew there would come a time when our job would be trickier – and this rally is that moment! Finland is a particular event; we just have to enjoy it and accept our limitations.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 08, Rally Finland
26-29 July 2018
Hayden Paddon, Seb Marshall, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (10th)

“It has been a marginally better day compared to Friday being second on the road. I feel we’ve had a decent day, considering, taking no risks. We know we have nothing to play for. It’s a difficult situation but we absolutely accept that. Now, we need to keep the car on the road and get to the end of the rally. Having led the championship for a few events, we knew there would come a time when our job would be trickier – and this rally is that moment! Finland is a particular event; we just have to enjoy it and accept our limitations.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (11th)

“It is always hard to be first on the road. Thierry had to manage yesterday and today it was my turn. We have had to use today’s stages effectively to get some mileage under our belts in an effort to improve the car. We are trying in all areas to find solutions but there’s not much we can do this weekend.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (6th) said:

“We made some good progress throughout the day and were able to make the car a bit faster during the midday service. In the second loop I had a much better feeling for the car and was able to set some much better times. We’re still missing a bit of pace compared to the guys at the front, but I was able to beat both of my team mates which means I can be happy with my day and my driving.”

Sébastien Ogier (7th) said:

“Performance wise, it’s not been the weekend we wanted – but we are ahead of Thierry [Neuville] which is always the main target. We’re still in a position to close the gap in the championship, and that is a positive.

“We all expected the Toyota’s to be the benchmark this weekend, but we were hoping to be closer too. We’re happy about the new package of parts, but with only one day of testing it was going to be a bit of a risk. We’ve used today as another test session, but we still have some work to do before we’re where we ultimately want to be.”

Elfyn Evans (8th) said:

“It’s not been a bad day and all three of us have been fighting quite closely together – although for sure we’d all like to have been fighting a bit higher up the leader board! We lost a bit of time this afternoon as I didn’t want to take the risks. We’ve got to play the team game and whatever happens we won’t be finishing ahead of Sébastien [Ogier] so it wasn’t worth taking the risks.”

Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt, Photo credit M-Sport

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (9th)

“Although it’s always frustrating for us as drivers to not be able to do any more, we had a decent day given our road position, setting similar times to those around us in the running order.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (Rally2)

“It’s a shame to have made a mistake in a technical section on the loose gravel, but these things can happen at events that are as difficult as this one. I have high hopes that I can make up some ground again tomorrow.”

 

Sunday would see four stages, totalling 45km, and they were all a little over 11km each in length. There was also the spectacular Ruuhimäki, with its huge jumps, including at the finish!

 

The running order was – Mikkelsen, Neuville, Breen, Evans, Ogier, Suninen, Paddon, Lappi, Latvala, Ostberg, Tänak, Al Qassimi.

 

The first stage of the day SS20, saw the demise of Esapekka Lappi, who crashed out. This promoted everyone up a position and now Andreas was in the top ten. Meantime Mads won the stage with Jari-Matti just nine-tenths of a second behind and second fastest.

 

This battle continued in SS21 and it was Jari-Matti who won the stage from Mads and the gap was now around five seconds again. Ott remained in control and in the lead, which was now thirty-three seconds.

 

Jari-Matti was really on a mission now, winning SS21 from Mads again, the overall gap between them now, just two and a half seconds. This was the only battle now, with the gaps between the others too big to overcome.

 

The final stage then, SS22 and Ott won it, taking maximum points from the weekend! Mads prevailed over a charging Latvala, scoring a great second place for him and Torstein would be standing on his first WRC podium too! We saw team orders come into play too, with Teemu slipping behind M-Sport team leader Ogier, allowing the reigning champion to take fifth place.

 

Well, Ott and Toyota had done it. They’d followed up Lappi’s victory from last year, and Jari-Matti had got a great podium with third. All three on the podium, had driven really well all weekend. None had been gifted their finishing position. The championship rivals were well down the field, Seb getting some assistance from Teemu and Elfyn to get fifth, whilst Thierry crossed the line in ninth place and keeping a good gap, if slightly reduced to Ogier.

 

Here’s the thoughts then of the drivers, starting with the top three.

 

Ott Tanak

“It has been a perfect weekend. Everything worked as we wanted. On Friday we had a really big job with our road position, and after that we could just increase our advantage. We had the perfect preparation and full support from the team. If you work together as one then these kinds of results are achievable. To win in Finland is definitely special. It’s kind of a home rally for me and it’s the home rally for the team. To win in front of all this support is incredible.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 08 / Rally Finland 2018 / July 26-29, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Mads Østberg

“I’m really, really happy to fighting at the front again on these incredible stages! It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my racing career. I’m also delighted for everyone at Citroën. The guys did a fantastic job to get us in this position and I’m proud to be a part of this team. I knew from our pre-event test that this C3 WRC was the best car that I’d ever had on this rally and I’m pleased that we managed to show it this weekend.”

Mads Østberg was overjoyed with second place! Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I gave everything today to try and get second place. It was a great fight. It really helps with the confidence when you fight as hard as this and you can keep everything together and not make mistakes. To be back on the podium after quite a long time feels really good, and especially to do it here in Finland. Together with the victory for Ott, this was a really important result for the team.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (4th)

“On the whole, I’m really happy with the weekend. We have been able to keep pace with some of the event favourites, maintaining a consistent performance. Naturally, we would have preferred to score a podium, of course, but we took a measured approach to secure important points for the manufacturers’ championship. The final morning was all about taking it easy to bring the car home with a comfortable gap behind us. I’ve really enjoyed the stages this weekend, the car has been a joy to drive and it has given me the confidence I need. We are back on the right track.”

Thierry Neuville (9th)

“Road position has really dictated a lot this weekend. Even without our mistake on Friday, when we misread a pace note, I don’t think we would have been any higher up the classification. We have had to accept our limits and focus on completing each stage with no further trouble. The main target was not losing too many points to Ogier, which we did to the best of our ability. We could only control what’s in our hands. We gave it everything we could in the Power Stage and it was good to take a couple of extra points. Overall, we have done our best, the team has done a good job and we can be proud of ourselves. We now look ahead to the team’s home event in Germany.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (10th)

“A difficult weekend for us. Any chance we might have had to feature further up the order was spoiled with our time loss on Friday morning’s loop. Losing three minutes due to a pace note error was just what we didn’t need, and it meant we were penalised as first on the road for Saturday and again this morning. We have had to avoid any unnecessary risks and use this event as a way of better understanding the car in these conditions but I’m sure we’ll be back on pace in Germany.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“For sure it was a difficult weekend for us and we expected to be a lot more competitive. The Fiesta performed really well here last year and every driver was able to set fastest times. That wasn’t the case this year and it was a bit of a bad surprise.

“We tried all we could, but there wasn’t a lot more we could do. That’s how it is and we just have to try and analyse why we were not able to keep up the pace this weekend. The positive is that we scored more points than Thierry [Neuville] – and that is anyways always our main target.”

Seb Ogier, Julian Ingrassia reduced the points lead after finishing four places ahead of Thierry and Nicolas. Photo credit M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (6th)

“It’s been a tough weekend for us. We wanted to challenge for the podium, but we were missing some pace and couldn’t fight with the fastest drivers. I was able to beat my team mates and I am happy with that, but we let Seb past just before the last stage as he’s the one fighting for the championship.”

Elfyn Evans (7th)

“It’s not been a terrible weekend driving wise and I don’t think anyone can say that they don’t enjoy driving these stages, but for sure seventh place wasn’t the result we wanted.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (8th)

“It was a difficult weekend for us, with the puncture on Friday that proved very costly, leaving us to clean the road for two days. We nevertheless managed to show our pace whenever the conditions enabled us to do so. It was nice, especially, to finish with a good time on the Power Stage, which means we can now look ahead to Germany with optimism.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (37th)

“Although it was a difficult rally for us, with our mistake yesterday morning, I’m pleased we were able to re-join the action today and enjoy these incredible stages. Above all, I’m delighted for the team, whose hard work has been rewarded by a great result.”

 

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2 :35:18.1
  2. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 32.7
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 35.5
  4. Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:35.6
  5. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:15.0
  6. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:19.2
  7. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:29.5
  8. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 3:08.4
  9. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:51.8
  10. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +8:37.4

 

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Thierry Neuville – 153 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 132 points
  3. Ott Tänak – 107 points
  4. Esapekka Lappi – 70 points
  5. Dani Sordo – 60 points
  6. Andreas Mikkelsen – 57 points
  7. Jari-Matti Latvala – 55 points
  8. Elfyn Evans – 52 points
  9. Mads Ostberg – 48 points
  10. Kris Meeke – 43 points
  11. Craig Breen – 39 points

 

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 228 points
  2. M-Sport Ford WRT – 202 points
  3. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 201 points
  4. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 153 points

Well, the next round is Rallye Germany, 16th to the 19th of August, the scene of Thierry’s first win in 2014 for Hyundai. It really will be battle on for the championship between the Belgian and M-Sport’s champion Seb. Who else can challenge there? We know Elfyn goes well on tarmac, and Seb took a tarmac win this year too. Clearly, Citroen are making progress with their car again and you can’t discount Toyota, as they have last years winner, Ott as well!

 

It’ll be a fascinating event!

 

Till then, bye!

Interview with Chris Roberts, M-Sport engineer.

Introduce yourself Chris

Well, I’ve been here five years. I started out in the customer engineering department, spent a couple of years there, I was working with Nassar Al Al-Attiyah, and we did WRC2 and we won that championship, did a couple of years in the Middle East. I then transferred over to the works team in 2015 and been there ever since. I worked with Elfyn these past years including last year in the D-Mack car and obviously this year as well, so that’s where we’re at really. With the works team, we actually quite a small team, we have a lot of responsibilities, not just the car, kind of spread out to other departments.

Chris Roberts is the furthest from the camera – M-Sport engineer to Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt / FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Monte Carlo (FRA) – WRC 24/01/2018 to 28/01/2018 – PHOTO : @World

Okay, well the reason for this call is to get a point from the safety aspects of the way the cars are constructed, how you tackle the events, from that safety aspect, keeping everything safe so they can go all out knowing it’s all safe.

Warren Nel

The first question is, in terms of the FIA, what kind of checks do they do on the cars, are there any inspections for the cars, before you enter each year?

Chris Roberts

Yes, the main inspections are during scrutineering at each event, so with the car being homologated the FIA expect you turn up with a design that is homologated, within the safety regulations. As a manufacturer, we actually self-scrutineer before the event.

The event scrutineers and the FIA technical delegate will arrive in the service park and will go to each manufacturer team and they will inspect simple things like fire extinguishers, they’ll look at the cut off switches and they’ll check the safety foam around seat and the doors, side impact structures, just very basic checks, but they expect us to self-scrutineer and present the car in a safe manner. Now one of my responsibilities is to liaise between the FIA and ourselves with regard to what we are going to seal at each event, be it engines, transmissions, whatever it is we are sealing and we present a scrutineering form for each car and that declares that part is safe to start the event.

If you then get caught at post event scrutineering, if that part of the car is found not to conform to the form, there can be penalties. There is a certain amount of trust from the FIA to the manufacturers as we present the car in a safe manner. Now, that is different for a customer team, so anybody who competes as a customer WRC or in the WRC2 or any of the support championships, they don’t self-scrutineer, they are inspected a bit more thoroughly, as I guess they have fewer resources, they maybe are not familiar with the regulations, so they have to present their car to the FIA and pass a series of tests before they start. In that respect, it’s easier for a manufacturer, but a lot goes into it, with homologating the car and so on.

W.N 

In terms of the construction of the car, were there many changes to the cars, compared to the previous generation, other than the obvious things?

C.R

Yes, there was a big drive in fact. The main concern from the FIA was looking back to the mid 2000’s, the cars hadn’t really progressed from then to 2015, 2016, so in that ten-year period the safety side hadn’t really developed, so there was a bit of a push from the FIA and also the Global Institute for motorsport safety, which is an independent body that sits inside the FIA. So, going back to when they presented the new regulations in 2015, the FIA came up with a safety road map for the WRC.

The first thing presented to the teams, a proposal for safety enhancements as part of the new for 2017 regulations. Now each car is fitted with an accident data recorder and using statistical analysis they were able to see the highest ‘G’ impacts on the cars could sustain without having any injuries and if there was a threshold above which there were injuries to the crews and then they would work to increase that threshold by improving various aspects of the safety that’s when they started to present a proposal for new equipment, to change the design of the cars that means that incorporated new seatbelts and new side impact, new regulations on seats as well.

That was all the effort to increase the safety. Now the safety road map is something that all the teams are working towards, for 2017 we had to as part of the new regulations, the cars were wider and that allowed us to add 20% extra impact foam and this was in the door the carbon structure along the sill as well. As well as that we were able to introduce new regulations for the fuel tanks and we had to fit a medical light to the windscreen so that in an impact of over 25g the light switches on and any marshal that arrives at the car, if this bright blue light is flashing, then the crew will need medical attention.

W.N

Thinking then during an event, if there is any damage to the car during an event what happens there, obviously you’d try to fix it, but would the FIA come a re-inspect the car before it goes back out?

C.R

If it’s an impact that damages the safety cage, the FIA will want to inspect that. If it’s an impact that we deem we car repair, we’ll have to get the car re-scrutineered again during the rally2 service, plus if it’s an impact that we deem we can’t repair then at that point the FIA remove the seals that are on the body shell and roll cage and then when that shell is repaired and brought back into circulation, it will have to be re-inspected and sealed again.

We always have the FIA technical delegates around and they’ll always be checking if there is any damage to the roll cage. Effectively the roll cage can be damaged and repaired during an event. We can change parts of the roll cage if we need to, but if we do that it has to be with a piece that’s already been pre-inspected at the start of the homologation process to the car, we will present pieces of roll cage that aren’t assembled to the FIA and they will fit seals to them and those will be the only parts we can fit into the car.

W.N

How many pieces would you therefore be transporting to each event?

C.R

Well, I think we carry three full kits to each event, actually and they take up a lot of space. Certainly, since this new generation of car that came in at the start of last year (2017) we’ve never had impacts there, we’ve not needed to replace roll cage parts, but we’ve only had one large accident, which was with Elfyn in Mexico, and in that case the shell had to be completely rebuilt and that car hasn’t come back into circulation yet, so when that does come back in we’ll have to get it re-inspected and sealed again.

W.N

Now thinking of the safety crews that go into the stages, when are they mainly used?

C.R

They are mainly for tarmac events, and each crew has a safety crew and they don’t have to be a qualified person, but they tend to be. Obviously in Elfyn’s respect, it’s his dad, ex-WRC driver Gywndaf and Phil Mills and these guys have a timetable they have to follow when they go through the stages and that can be as close as forty minutes before the stage actually goes live and those guys would call back to the crews and engineering as well and then if they correct the notes they will pass those through the team back to the rally crew.

W.N

Of course, we saw Phil Mills sit in alongside Elfyn after Dan’s concussion which was caused by that high-speed roll during Mexico, so I asked Chris about this.

C.R

It’s something that I feel quite strongly about, I have strong views personally. The issue with the crews, when they get concussion is it maybe that they feel okay within themselves, or they may not feel they have concussion, but say in Dan’s case, he felt ill, he wasn’t sure if he could continue, so in that case the first point of contact between the team and the crew is myself or the car engineer, so it’s possible if you don’t have immediate medical assistance to basically diagnose possible concussion, you can end up with the crew speaking directly to the engineer, I don’t know if we can continue, and for me I think someone who has not qualified and should not have an opinion on medical issues and it shouldn’t really fall to the team or the engineer to make a decision if they should continue or not.

With Dan, it was a case that he felt a bit ill, and obviously didn’t know he was concussed, and we took a view that he had to seek medical assistance, but he did one more stage after the accident, a little super special before coming into service – so he actually went through another stage, a small stage, and the kind that you wouldn’t expect them to have another accident, but because there hadn’t been any kind of medical assistance where he was checked out, it’s possible they could have had another accident there, so for me I think that was a bit of a failing there in the safety system. I think that’s something that needs to be looked at. (Chris made it clear this was his own personal opinion).

M-Sport mechanics hard at work. Photo credit Anna Rudd, M-Sport Ford

 

Chris also talked about Julian Ingrassia, who suffered concussion last year at Rally Finland.

C.R

They were both side impacts, which were between the head and the seat, which is an area the FIA are looking at, going forward and next year they are bringing in a new helmet standard for Formula One which is supposed to improve safety. We’ve not seen a rally version yet, but the intention of the FIA is back to the safety road map is that will be introduced next year. Hopefully that will reduce these concussions.

W.N

One more question for you then – When the recce is completed, do you sit down with Elfyn and Dan and discuss the stages?

C.R

Yes, we have a team debrief, and debrief just after the event with all the crews together, go through aspects of the cars performance, team performance as well. We’ll also give feedback to the team manager about how the event has been run, tend to do that as soon as possible after the event, so we’ll do that at four or five o’clock, Sunday afternoon.

Then after that we’ll conduct our test for the next event which tends to be a about a week later. Now with Elfyn in the UK, he sometimes comes up to the factory and we’ll sit down in the office and we’ll look at things in more detail, so in that respect it’s quite good that he’s only a few hours down the road, and we can get together and look at some things. Obviously, the relationship between the engineer and the crew is a close one. We are always in constant contact.

W.N

Finally, I asked Chris if there was anything he wanted to talk about additionally.

C.R

Well, we’ve got a few more safety things coming in the pipeline. Things being brought forward by the FIA. One area we’re working on with the FIA is the seat rails, integrating the seats into the bodyshell. We’re looking how these can bend and deform to take some of the impact away from the crew, and this is something which will be introduced for 2020 – that’s the seats themselves, the way they’re anchored into the shell.

For next year we’ll start using the Formula One biometric gloves, so basically the crew will wear these, and they’ll send real time data, actually measure blood oxygen levels, that will be sent to the FIA and the medical crew and if there’s been an accident, particularly an accident where the car has gone off the road and they can’t quite reach the crew, the medical crews will be able to assess the crew without being with the crew and this will be a good advancement.

One final thing which is being brought in is a high-speed camera, which is fitted into the cockpit and this means we can see the impacts and how the body is moving inside the car and that’s something that’s started being used in Formula One and we started testing that, with the intention to bring that in next year.

 

These are all good steps indeed to look after the crews and Chris said,

Rallying is a living environment, rather than a circuit, so has different safety requirements.

 

Finally, I’d like to say a big thank you to Anna at M-Sport for being so helpful in arranging this and to Chris a massive thank you for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions.

Look out during this week for more articles from my colleagues about safety in motorsport.

Rally Finland 2018 Preview

The summer break is over and there are six rounds left this year. Thierry Neuville leads the championship by twenty-seven points over the reigning champion, Sebastien Ogier. The Frenchman has also not finished this event for the last two years, but can be quick, having taken victory in 2013. His Belgian rival will want a decent haul of points from this event but opening the road will make it hard for him to fight for victory, particularly with the three Toyota’s having been honed to perfection on the very unique gravel roads that make this event so hard for non-Scandinavians to win.

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

Now, there’s a good chance that Toyota could sew up the whole podium, with former winners Jari-Matti and Esapekka Lappi in the team, plus a very quick Ott Tanak, but who could challenge this? Well, Elfyn Evans scored a brilliant second place last year, after being patient early on and getting the car in a good place, showed great pace on the Saturday and Sunday to score his best result ever on these roads.

 

Hoping to do well will be the Citroen squad. Two years ago, Kris Meeke took an incredible victory, the first for any British driver, beating Jari-Matti. Now Craig Breen and Mads Ostberg are the drivers the team are looking to, and both have scored podiums on this event. The key to their chances will be with whether they can take advantage of the road position on Friday, which if they can, will benefit them both on Saturday and Sunday.

 

Here’s the full schedule for the event. Sixty-five percent of the stages are new, and two that were run last year are being run in the opposite direction. Getting those pace notes correct during the reece which takes place today (Tuesday) and Wednesday will be so important.

 

RALLY FINLAND SCHEDULE (GMT+3)

 

THURSDAY 26 JULY

 

8.00am: Shakedown Vesala (4,26 km)

6.37pm: Start (Jyväskylä Paviljonki)

7.00pm: SS 1 – Harju 1 (2,31 km)

7.25pm: Parc fermé

 

FRIDAY 27 JULY

7.15am: Service A (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 15 min)

8.18am: SS 2 – Moksi 1 (20,04 km)

9.21am: SS 3 – Urria 1 (12,28 km)

10.13am: SS 4 – Ässämäki 1 (12,33 km)

11.36am: SS 5 – Äänekoski 1 (7,71 km)

12.51pm: Service B (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 30 min)

2.24pm: SS 6 – Oittila (19,34 km)

3.27pm: SS 7 – Moksi 2 (20,04 km)

4.30pm: SS 8 – Urria 2 (12,28 km)

5.22pm: SS 9 – Ässämäki 2 (12,33 km)

6.45pm: SS 10 – Äänekoski 2 (7,71 km)

8.00pm: SS 11 – Harju 2 (2,31 km)

8.30pm: Flexi service C (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 45 min)

 

SATURDAY 28 JULY

6.00am: Service D (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 15 min)

8.13am: SS 12 – Päijälä 1 (23,92 km)

9.29am: SS 13 – Pihlajakoski 1 (14,90 km)

10.38am: SS 14 – Kakaristo 1 (23,66 km)

12.13pm: SS 15 – Tuohikotanen 1 (8,95 km)

1.31pm: Service E (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 30 min)

2.55pm: SS 16 – Tuohikotanen 2 (8,95 km)

4.08pm: SS 17 – Kakaristo 2 (23,66 km)

5.36pm: SS 18 – Päijälä 2 (23,92 km)

6.54pm: SS 19 – Pihlajakoski 2 (14,90 km)

8.55pm: Flexi service F (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 45 min)

 

SUNDAY 29 JULY

7.30am: Service G (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 15 min)

8.38am: SS 20 – Laukaa 1 (11,74 km)

9.38am: SS 21 – Ruuhimäki 1 (11,12 km)

11.01am: SS 22 –  Laukaa 2 (11,74 km)

1.18pm: SS 23 – Ruuhimäki 2 Power Stage (11,12 km)

2.21pm: Service H (Jyväskylä Paviljonki – 10 min)

4.00pm: Podium

 

So, lets hear from the drivers.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Sardinia was an incredible weekend, we couldn’t have hoped for a better result heading into the summer break! Now I’m ready to carry the momentum forward into the second half of the season. Finland is one of those rallies that everyone looks forward to. It’s going to be tricky this year coming into it after the extended break and jumping straight in the car. For the second event in a row, we’ll be first on the road and won’t have the advantage of the sweeping effect to begin with. It will be tough as the speed is very high – but I can’t wait for the challenge.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship, Round 09, Rally Finland 27 – 30 July 2017, Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, Photographer: RaceEMotion, Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rally Finland is a really nice rally – it’s probably the event the drivers fear most, but also the one they really want to win! Because the grip is so low, you have to be very confident in the car to go fast on the stages. We were disappointed we couldn’t show our true potential in Sardinia, so hopefully we can find a good pace quickly and push hard to bring home a strong result.”

Hayden Paddon

“For me, Finland is the most incredible rally of the year. Not only are the roads, the jumps, and the pure speed impressive but also the atmosphere is electric. It really makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. I’m really looking forward to getting back into the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. We hope we can put the pieces together this year to bring home a strong result.”

 

M-Sport Ford

Sébastien Ogier

“It was nice to have a little break and spend some time relaxing with family and friends, but now the action is ready to resume and we’re fully focused on Rally Finland.

 

“For so many people this is the highlight of the year and it’s easy to see why. There is an atmosphere here that you don’t get anywhere else and the roads were tailor-made for rallying.

 

“This is the fastest event on the calendar and at those speeds its mere tenths of a second that you’re fighting for. The competition will be extremely strong, but the engineers and designers from M-Sport and Ford Performance have been working tirelessly to ensure we’re in the best possible position.

 

“We’ll have some aerodynamic updates on the rear of the car that we hope will give us that little bit extra in terms of performance, but we’ll still have to get absolutely everything right over the course of the weekend if we want to be in the fight for the top results.

These are the updates that will be run on Seb’s car.

“We know that the car was strong here last year and we had a good feeling on the test, but this is a rally that doesn’t forgive even the smallest of mistakes. We’ll certainly give it our best and the goal is always to come home with a strong haul of points.”

 

Elfyn Evans

“It feels like a long time since we were last in competition, but we’ve not been sitting idle! The team have been working extremely hard, we’ve had a good test, and I’ve also been doing a lot of PR work with Ford and Red Bull.

 

“I was involved in an advert for the new Fiesta ST – a great little road car – and also got behind the wheel of the Fiesta WRC to film some promotion with Red Bull ahead of Goodwood Festival of Speed. The festival itself was great, but now we’re ready to get back to business, and start the second half of the season with one of the highlights of the year – Rally Finland.

 

“I’d challenge anyone who said they didn’t enjoy driving Finland’s gravel roads in a world rally car! The high speed combined with the technical nature of the stages is incredible, and when you get into a good rhythm it’s a phenomenal feeling.

 

“We did well here last year and found a good feeling on the test; but the margins for error are so fine and the gaps so small that even the slightest of mistakes can be costly. The competition is going to be strong so we’ll need to be note perfect and deliver a very clean and precise drive. If we can do that, and get everything right, then I’d hope that we’ll be in with a good chance.”

Last year Elfyn drove his D-Mack shod Fiesta to second place. Photo credit, M-Sport

Teemu Suninen

“We had a really good test and are feeling ready and well prepared for the rally. We drove more than 200 kilometres on our test day – starting with the base set-up my team mates found earlier in the week. All three of us drive with a pretty equal set-up, so there were only some small confirmations to find and the car feels really fast.

 

“Having come so close last year, the top-three is my ultimate goal. It could be hard to achieve, but we will try our best. At the end it’s such a small margin that decides whether you finish third or sixth!

 

“Starting the first forest stage last year I was pretty nervous, but as soon as I saw the time and saw that my speed was enough I felt better straight away. This year the rally will be driven on similar roads and we have a very good feeling with the car in the high-speed sections. We’ll start the rally as we mean to continue – driving flat-out.”

 

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I am really looking forward to Rally Finland. It is a good opportunity to start the second half of the season in a positive way. I have always felt really good support on my home event, and this is even more the case now that we are driving a car that has been built here. I could really feel last year that everybody was behind the team and willing us on. One of the big challenges this year will be the changes to the route. I have driven some of the new roads before, but it was a long time ago and there are large sections that even I don’t know. Therefore, I think it will actually create a more level playing field.”

Ott Tanak

“Rally Finland is always one of my favourite events. It is quite a specific rally: really high-speed but also quite technical with the jumps. You really need to have some respect for the roads there. This year there will be a lot of new roads that we have not seen before, which will add to the challenge. I think we have had some really good preparation. As well as our pre-event testing, I took part in Rally Estonia last weekend and won it, which was quite nice in front of so many fans. I am sure that a few of them will go to Rally Finland as well, and I hope we can give them a good result there too.”

Esapekka Lappi

“Rally Finland is always a special event and even more so after our victory last year. I am really looking forward to it. There is more pressure this year. From my side, I am expecting a good result and I think everyone else is too, so we really need to perform. I think it will be tougher to win it this time, though. The competition will be tougher, both from inside our team and from the other teams as well. The new stages will also create a big challenge. We know that our car will be competitive so the focus will be on making good pace-notes and finding a nice flow with the driving.”

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

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Craig Breen

“Rally Estonia was excellent preparation for me. It gave us the opportunity to look at a few things and we also noted that with the new front geometry, the C3 WRC is even better balanced. I feel very confident coming into this round, especially as it’s one of the world championship events where I have the most experience. Experience is absolutely critical here, even though some of the stages have changed for this year’s rally.”

Craig Breen, Scott Martin will be hoping for a good result on these challenging roads. Photo credit Citroen Racing

Mads Østberg

“This really is one of my favourite events of the season. Although you need to make good pace notes in recce, afterwards it’s all-out attack! You don’t have to worry about tyre wear or the road surface breaking up. I have some very good memories from here, especially the podium secured when driving for Citroën in 2015, and I hope to take advantage of my two days of pre-event testing to get off to a good start and try to reproduce the same kind of performance.”

Khalid Al Qassimi

“This round is special for me because it’s where I made my debut in a works team in 2007. The feeling in the car during the stages, with the high speeds and never-ending crests, is also unique. It’s also what makes it such a difficult rally: you must be really comfortable and have good pace notes. As my last outing was in Argentina, I’ll need to get my bearings back first of all. I’ll then try to up the pace gradually whilst making sure I don’t make any mistakes.”

 

Well, can Hyundai score their first ever podium on these roads this year, or will we see a podium lockout for the Toyota team? What about Seb? Will he use the new aero on the back of his car to win? Can Citroen have a better event and challenge at the front?

 

Enjoy!

Rally Italia Sardegna 2018 Review – Thierry beats Seb in a straight fight!

Well, what an amazing rally we witnessed this weekend!

 

End of day one (Thursday): 
1 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2m02.7s
2 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +0.1s
3 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +0.7s

Friday morning saw rain arrive. Now this would see drama in each stage! This was the start list for the day – Neuville, Ogier, Tänak, Lappi, Mikkelsen, Evans, Latvala, Breen, Suninen, Ostberg, Paddon.

 

First stage of the morning, stage two, and Andreas would use his good road position to make a great start and take the lead from Seb and Mads slotted into second overall. Thierry remained in third, but Elfyn suffered a big problem and damaged his steering arm. He’d replace it in the stage very quickly and get back underway.

 

Stage three would see Andreas increase his lead to 15 and a half seconds after he won the stage, and with Mads dropping back with handling woes. Thierry, Ott and Teemu all moved ahead of the Norwegian.

 

Stage four would see Ott Tanak set the best time and he’d move into second overall, whilst Seb moved ahead of Mads after he put hard tyres on his car and with the heavy rain really struggled for grip! Andreas remained in the lead though, 14 seconds ahead of Ott.

 

Into stage five, the last of the morning before service and Thierry won it, moving ahead of Ott who fell to third. Seb set the second fastest time and closed to within one tenth of a second of his younger teammate. Further back, Jari-Matti and Miikka, making his 200th wrc top level start set the fourth fastest time, thus passing Mads into sixth overall.

 

The service break would allow M-Sport to fix Elfyn’s steering arm, but the timeloss with his problem would hamper his progress.

 

Stage six would have standing water and this would see Seb put an amazing time in, going from fifth place into the lead, with Andreas three and a half seconds now behind after he overshot at a tight left hander. Esapekka also moved ahead of Teemu into sixth place. Thierry suffered a spin and was now eight seconds behind our new leader.

 

Stage seven would see Andreas drop out of second place, 10km into the stage after he stopped with gearbox failure. Teemu won the stage from Seb and new second placed man, Thierry was third fastest. Just two stages remained and the top three was, Seb, Thierry and Ott, with just 15 seconds covering the top three!

 

Thierry won stage eight, reducing Seb’s lead to ten and a half seconds, whilst Ott remained in third place a further six seconds behind. Meantime, further back, Elfyn was climbing the leaderboard after setting the 7th fastest time bringing him into 23rd place.

 

The final stage of the day was won by Jari-Matti and with the demise of Ott Tanak after he broke his radiator on a jump and Teemu who’d gone off the road after losing control on a right-hander, he was now in third overall.

 

Classification after Day One

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 1:35:56.9
2 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +18.9
3 J.M. Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +37.2
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +41.6
5 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 WRC +58.3
6 H. Paddon S. Marshall Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:01.5
7 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +1:26.0

 

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

 

Sébastien Ogier

“It’s a perfect result at the end of the day and I’m really happy with our performance. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood to take all of the risks this morning, but I knew that I had to do a little bit more if I wanted a good position for tomorrow.

“The first stage of the afternoon was really demanding and in these conditions it’s so hard to estimate your rhythm. You never know if you are going to lose 20 seconds or gain 20 seconds, so to get to the end of the stage and see the time – let’s say that it was a happy surprise.

“If it stays dry tomorrow then we should have a good road position, but there is still a long way to go. It’s nice to be in the lead with a 19 second advantage, but for sure there is no time to relax.”

 

Thierry Neuville

“A challenging day, that’s for sure! Starting first on the road is never easy, irrespective of the conditions. The rain on the opening loop helped minimise the disadvantage, but we knew it would be a struggle. The car was working well, and I was pretty satisfied as we could fight for some stage wins and end the day second overall. We have had to be clever with our tyre strategy. It worked well in the morning, but by the final stage we had two new tyres left and opted to put them crossed on the car. Unfortunately, this created a big imbalance in the handling; the car was unstable and tentative with a lot of slipping. We tried to push hard but experienced some surprises. Tomorrow will continue to be hard but we’ll give it our best.”

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Today has been very positive. I was too cautious on the second stage this morning but then I started to find the rhythm and the speed. In the second run through Tula the conditions were more like Wales with the rain and the mud, and it was so slippery. I lost a lot of time at the end of that stage, but after that the conditions got better, I felt like I could push more and then in the final stage of the day I had the confidence to attack and we won the stage. It’s very close with Esapekka going into tomorrow. I like tomorrow’s stages and the most important thing will be to have a clean run. Then, if we can keep the speed up as well, we will be in a good position.”

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (Rally2)

“On the final stage of the day we had a bad landing which caused some damage to the car and forced us to stop. The impact caught us by surprise quite a bit because we have driven this section of road four times now, including the shakedown yesterday and the first pass this morning, and I always had the same approach. Therefore, it’s difficult to explain why it happened. It’s a tough moment and a big setback. Even though I hadn’t had a perfect feeling with the car today, we were doing OK and we were still in the fight, so it’s a big shame to have to retire from the day with this kind of issue. It makes our title chase really hard now, but we will try to win every other rally from here.”

 

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

“This morning was quite difficult. That car felt OK but we had a slow puncture in the first stage and our one spare tyre was a hard compound, and because it was raining it was not really a good tyre to put on. The conditions were crazy in the first stage this afternoon with a lot of mud and rain but we managed to do a good run there and gain some time back to most of the others. Then the weather dried up, and we made some small changes to the car before the last stage and we were close to the top time. I think we can just work to find a little more grip for tomorrow and fight for the podium.”

 

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (7th)

“It hasn’t been a very good day for us, especially due to the problems we had with the handbrake. On twisty stages like those we had today, we tend to use the handbrake a lot. I stalled three times on one of the stages and lost quite a bit of time. I’m going to be running second on the road tomorrow, which will probably be difficult, but I’ll do everything I can to try and make up the time lost.”

 

Mads Østberg (5th)

“This rally has never been easy, but today’s crazy weather undoubtedly made it even more difficult. We were a bit unlucky, especially with two mistakes on tyre choice for the Tergu-Osilo stage, but I’d rather focus on the second fastest time on the final stage, which means that we will have a pretty good road position for tomorrow.”

Mads Ostberg, Torstein Erikson – Rally Italia 2018. Photo credit Citroen Racing

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (6th)

“We can’t be happy with our performance or results today. Whatever we have tried just hasn’t worked. Nothing has been clicking. We took a bit of a gamble this morning with the tyre choice, expecting it to dry out more than it eventually did. Tyres aside, we haven’t had the rhythm we need, nor the confidence to push. We have had little choice but to play the sensible game and get to the end of the day without having any issues. We are in the top-six but that is little consolation. We need to let the times come more naturally, and there are some things you can’t shake a magic wand at. We’ll sleep on it tonight and start again on Saturday morning.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (Rally2)

“The ultimate day of two halves for us today. We started really positively and confidently. It was a great morning loop and we could really build a good lead. It was nice to show the results of the changes we had made to the car, which we weren’t able to demonstrate at the last rally. We wanted to keep that momentum going into the afternoon but it wasn’t to be.  An overshoot about 2km into SS6 lost us a lot of time, and then in SS7 we had some transmission problems, which left the car in reverse gear. The car was returned to service. We start under Rally 2 on Saturday but we’ve missed a good opportunity to assert our authority on this rally.”

 

 

Saturday would see seven stages run over a distance of 146km. The running order looked like this – Evans, Breen, Paddon, Ostberg, Lappi, Latvala, Neuville, Ogier, Tänak, Suninen, Mikkelsen

 

Ott won the first stage of the day. Despite not completing all the stages on Friday, he’d got a pretty decent position in the running order. In fact, so did Teemu and Andreas too. Meantime Elfyn, who had finished all the stages was first on the road – a very interesting situation. In the battle for the lead, Thierry took some time out of Seb’s advantage whilst Latvala and Lappi were separated by just nine tenths of a second in their inter-team battle for the final step on the podium.

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

In stage eleven, Seb was fastest resulting in the gap increasing again to Thierry. Further back, Citroen duo of Mads and Craig suffered with poor stages. Mads was hampered with speed sapping understeer, whilst Craig had a big impact on the front right. Latvala opened up a decent gap to his younger teammate after setting the fourth fastest time, opening up the gap by around five seconds.

 

The last stage of the morning loop, stage 12 saw a storming drive by our championship leader Thierry, who flew through it 14 seconds faster than Seb who suffered with understeer, bringing the lead down to just 4.9 seconds! Meantime, Hayden passed Mads gaining fifth place from the Norwegian.

 

The afternoon loop started with the short stage 13 and clearly any changes that had been made by M-Sport to Seb’s car hadn’t helped in this stage. The stage was won by Esapekka, but more significantly Thierry went third fastest and closed down Seb some more, the lead just 2.9 seconds.

 

Stage 14 saw Seb strike back, winning it and bringing the gap back up to nearly seven seconds. Hayden was now making fifth place his too, opening up the gap to Mads who was still the best placed Citroen.

 

Thierry wasn’t about to give up though in his pursuit of Seb, winning stage 15 and now the gap was just 4.3 seconds. In fact the battle between Latvala and Lappi continued to rage, with the younger Finn three seconds faster – now just two seconds separated them.

 

Well, the final stage of the day, and Thierry completed it just four tenths faster than Seb, but this meant there was just 3.9 seconds between the title protagonists. This was not over at all. Now, annoyingly for Jari-Matti and Miikka, they’d completed the stages and held a good lead of 6 seconds over Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm. Unfortunately, their car didn’t make it back to the service park after it stopped on the road section. Sadly, the alternator had packed up. Such is the way of motorsport.

 

Classification after Day Two

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 3:02:16.9
2 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +3.9
3 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +54.2
4 H. Paddon S. Marshall Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:01.8
5 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 WRC +2:03.9
6 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +3:13.6

 

Let’s hear then the thoughts of the drivers!

Sébastien Ogier

“Generally, I think it’s been a good day and it’s been really enjoyable driving these stages – there was just one that didn’t go to plan. I don’t know why, but on SS12 I didn’t have the rhythm and it’s actually in that one stage where we lost all the time.

“For sure it will be a big battle tomorrow and the pressure will be on; but to be honest it’s been like that all weekend with no time to relax at any point. Nobody likes to cruise to the finish on Sunday morning – we all like to fight – and it’s definitely not going to be a cruise tomorrow. If we want it, we will have to fight for it.”

Sébastien Ogier- Photo credit, M-Sport

Thierry Neuville

“We have had a good day and have really set up a great fight between Sébastien and me for the final morning. With just 3.9 seconds between us, it will be full attack for the win on Sunday. Generally, we’ve had a strong performance with three more stage wins and a good feeling inside the car. The mechanics did an amazing job to repair the small damage we picked up on Friday afternoon, and we could really feel immediately back ‘at home’ on the morning loop. We have taken fewer risks than we did yesterday but still been able to push and feel comfortable in the car. The afternoon wasn’t as smooth but we have kept out of trouble and can now look forward to an exciting end to the rally.”

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

Esapekka Lappi

“Today was quite fun. It was a really good fight with Jari-Matti. I was faster on one stage and then he would be quicker on the next. It was like that this morning and again in the afternoon. It is a shame how it ended with the problem for Jari-Matti. It means that we will start tomorrow with a big gap in front of us and a big gap behind, so we don’t need to push very hard. The car felt really good this afternoon, so I’m feeling pretty confident.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (4th)

“We have definitely enjoyed the conditions today more than we did on Friday. There has been a little bit of sweeping required, but nothing too detrimental. The grip was good on the morning loop and we recovered some of the positive feeling we had in shakedown. Rally Italia Sardegna certainly throws up a fair few surprises, as we’ve seen again today, so we played it smart and concentrated on clean runs. We tried to keep the pressure on Mads throughout the day, and it’s going to be a close-run final morning. There are important manufacturer points up for grabs, so we won’t be doing anything foolish but fourth is there for the taking, so we’ll do our best to defend it.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (20th)

“We knew that there wasn’t going to be much to challenge for today, as we restarted under Rally 2. Of course, it is a shame we weren’t able to push for a good result, especially after taking an early lead. Instead, we just wanted to find a good feeling from inside the car on today’s stages and carry out some learning for next year. There’s not much more we could have done in the circumstances. We still wanted to show our pace, which I felt we did in many of the stages. We had a spin in the first run through Monte Lerno and a puncture in the repeat stage, but otherwise it was a decent day for us. Let’s see if we can push for some Power Stage points tomorrow.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Mads Østberg (5th)

“Although we played it safe this afternoon by taking two spares, we managed to stay right in the mix for a good final position, and I really enjoyed today when the conditions were closer to those you expect at this round. Tomorrow looks set to be another exciting and close fight, and I can’t wait to get started!”

 

Craig Breen (6th)

“Despite our poor road position, some of our times were fairly encouraging, but we then broke the anti-roll bar mounting and that slowed us down a bit in the ruts on the afternoon’s two long stages.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 

Jari-Matti Latvala (8th)

“Overall, I would say that it was a good day, even though it ended this way. Looking just at the special stages, I’m really pleased with how they went. I took care when there were rough sections and I pushed harder when the conditions were better. Esapekka was doing really good times and getting closer and closer and I wanted to really attack on the last stage. I got to the end of the stage, but we had an alternator warning and eventually we ran out of battery on the road section. It’s very frustrating because I really wanted to get a podium from this event. Tomorrow we will carry on fighting and try to score as many points as possible.”

 

Ott Tänak (9th)

“After the frustration of yesterday it was important to get back behind the wheel today. We made a couple of changes to the car at lunchtime and this afternoon it was really enjoyable. The car was feeling almost perfect and I had a nice rhythm. Unfortunately, we picked up a puncture somehow on the last stage, which gives us a little bit more to do tomorrow because we are trying to gain one more position and now the gap is a bit bigger. But we are not giving up and we will start tomorrow with a big attack to try and get this one position.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (13th)

“It’s not been an easy day and it was difficult to find the rhythm. I think I was a bit too careful after yesterday, and that cost us a lot of time. But we were still able to take a lot of experience that will help in the future – and next year I believe I can be faster.”

Elfyn Evans (14th)

“It’s never an easy situation to be in when you’re opening the road and not in a fight. There were some tricky sections today, so we just had to focus on getting through without any mistakes.”

 

Sunday arrived and it was a sunny day! We had the amazing situation with a real battle for the win between Seb and Thierry. The Belgian had a great opportunity to beat Seb and increase his lead in the championship and just four stages covering 42km to do it in. This was the start list – Evans, Breen, Ostberg, Paddon, Lappi, Latvala, Neuville, Ogier, Tänak, Suninen, Mikkelsen.

 

Well, stage 17 saw the lead that Seb held over Thierry close by 8 tenths of a second. Now just 3.1 seconds separated the top two. The Belgian was delivering on what he said. He said at the end of the stage “I don’t know if it’s enough. It will be tight. Two small mistakes at a junction and I ended up in a bit of loose, so I lost a bit of time.” Seb said “It is okay, it is very narrow, so it is hard to push harder”. Ott completed the top three in this stage

 

Thierry continued his push in stage 18, taking 1.8 seconds out of Seb. The gap was just 1.3 seconds… wow. Thierry was asked how he felt after a dominant display. “I don’t know! I just try to keep it on the road and push as much as I can without making mistakes. At this level everyone is pushing hard and fighting with Ogier is the most difficult!”

 

Seb said “It is tight! We will have to push to the end. This stage is all about fighting with the car, and for sure you can be a lot more aggressive. I will have to push on the next one.” Andreas was third fastest and saving his tyres for the powerstage.

 

A short regroup before the final two stages, and which way was this going to go?

 

Well, we had the answer. Thierry went through and it may not sound much, taking half a second from Seb’s lead. That however meant just eight tenths of a second remained between these two…. One stage left.

 

Thierry said, “I made two mistakes. I overshot the ruts and I was once was a bit close to the wall so I lost a bit of speed. We are going to go for it to the end”. Seb didn’t say anything at all and left his timecard with a marshal at the end of the stage. Clearly the pressure was telling. Ott collected the timecard and returned it to Seb.

 

The last stage then, after a pretty epic event! Who would prevail? Thierry set the fastest time in the stage, beating Tanak’s benchmark. He said “I had to try. I gave it everything. I want to say thank you to the team for all their hard work this weekend.” Now, at first Seb was seven tenths up at the first split, but the middle split showed he’d lost that time and more, now two tenths down. Coming through the final split he was 2.2 down, therefore technically not in the lead and finally coming over the flying finish 1.4 down. Thierry had done it. He’d beaten Seb by just seven tenths. The Belgian said, “We gave it everything and it was a great fight. Such a small difference at the end.”

 

Seb had this to say, “I tried everything I could today. I was always losing a few tenths here and there. The last stage was very rough and I made two mistakes which cost me a few tenths. It is still good points for the championship. We lost the battle, but we haven’t lost the war. There are still six rounds to go, it isn’t time to panic. Thierry was lucky with the rain but there will be another rally where he loses time as the road opener.”

 

Summing up the event.

Thierry did benefit from the rain on Friday to a degree, but this will go down in history as I believe as his best drive to date. Just amazing. It was a shame for Jari-Matti and Miikka retiring on Saturday from a great third place on Miikka’s 200th WRC event.

 

Hayden Paddon and Seb Marshall drove well, getting a great fourth place. Elfyn can feel a bit annoyed with his position of first on the road, despite completing all the stages. Those to benefit from the rally2 regs had a far better positions, and I believe it’s something that needs to be looked at.

 

The Citroen pairing of Mads and Craig had solid events, but it’s fair to say the team have some work to do to make their car faster.

Let’s hear from the drivers’ then!

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“I can’t believe it! We knew we had to give it everything we had this morning, and it was a truly fantastic fight with Sébastien. The gap at the end was so small and we left absolutely nothing behind. We kept pushing as hard as we could without doing anything stupid. Battling against Séb is one of the most difficult things to do, so this is a precious victory. Nicolas and I send massive thanks to the whole Hyundai Motorsport team for giving us a great car this weekend. Without them we couldn’t have done this today. Starting first on the road on Friday put us at a disadvantage. The rain helped a bit but we never gave up and we can share in one of the finest wins of our career. Leading both championships heading into the break gives us all the motivation we need for the second half of the season.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07 Rally Italia Sardegna
07-10 June 2018
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“I don’t think I can be unhappy with this weekend. I did everything I could, but I have to say that I was not prepared to take as many risks as Thierry. We still have some work to do because we were losing some tenths here and there – especially in the slower, more technical sections – but it’s still a good result for the championship.

“We’re only at the halfway point with six more events to come, but for sure we will have to be consistently strong. It will be a nice challenge and we will enjoy that, but now it’s time to have a break and enjoy the holidays!”

 

Esapekka Lappi (3rd)

“Today was just about bringing the car to the finish and to the podium. This is a really important result, both for my confidence but also for the team as well. I think we deserved a podium. We had opportunities to do it earlier in the season but I made some mistakes. Both Portugal and Sardinia have been quite clean rallies for me with a consistent performance, so I hope I can take this forward to Finland.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (4th)

“A difficult weekend for us, but a positive end to the rally for the team. We wanted more from this rally, but to take fourth place gives us important confidence for the coming events. Things didn’t really click from the first stages, and we weren’t able to replicate the positive feeling we had from shakedown. Still, it’s nice to finish this event for the first time in three years, and to score important points for the team in the manufacturers’ championship. We will look to build from here, and to try and take a few more risks. Congratulations to Thierry, Nicolas and the whole team for a fantastic victory.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (19th)

“We gave it all we could in the Power Stage to try and salvage something from what has been a frustrating weekend. Since the last rally, we have found a much better feeling from inside the car but we haven’t had the results to match. On Friday morning, we could show the potential we have with some strong times and leading the rally. Unfortunately, the transmission problem ended our rally and we’ve spent the remaining stages just refining things and picking up useful information about the car on these tough gravel stages. It is all valuable learning but we leave Sardinia with a feeling of missed opportunity. We will regroup over the summer break and be ready for Finland. Finally, congratulations to Thierry and Nicolas on an outstanding win this weekend.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Mads Østberg (5th)

“Although we set competitive times on a number of occasions, we quickly found ourselves having to defend our position. We therefore didn’t take any unnecessary risks. That was true both on my side, in terms of driving, and also from a technical point of view, in carrying two spares for yesterday afternoon’s loop, for example. But I’m pleased to secure this fifth place for the team.”

 

Craig Breen

“The weekend didn’t go especially smoothly for us. Having started quite far down the running order on Friday in the rain, we struggled with the tricky road conditions. We then ended up opening the road for the next two days as the ground dried out. The roads, when dry, are renowned for cleaning a lot, meaning the early runners are at a real disadvantage. I nonetheless managed to improve my knowledge of this specific rally. My focus has already shifted to Finland.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (7th)

“It was good to be able to get back out on the stages today after the frustration of yesterday. The feeling in the car was good and the times were pretty good, even though we were saving the tyres. Unfortunately, on the Power Stage I stalled the engine in one corner: I went too quick into a left-hander and the ruts were quite deep. I really wanted a podium here but I will try to have a positive break and be ready to fight in Finland.”

 

Ott Tänak (8th)

“It was a tough weekend with many lessons learned. We still need to understand what happened and why, and we need to avoid the same things happening in the future. Generally, the feeling is good, we are really fast, now we just need a bit of consistency. I know we can do it. As a team we are still young but we are learning quickly. I have good faith in the team and I’m sure we can put these moments behind us and be stronger in the future.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT 

Teemu Suninen (10th)

“On Friday I was really happy with my speed. The feeling was good and the rhythm was coming quite easily – we were in the fight for the podium and weren’t taking any big risks. Then in the last stage I just pushed a little too hard on the old tyres and we went off.

“After that it was a difficult weekend. We were focused on getting through all of the kilometres and when you’re driving carefully you lose the rhythm and the times don’t come as easily. But we got to the end and I am sure that we will be faster here next year.”

 

Elfyn Evans (14th)

It’s been a frustrating weekend – especially as the feeling in the car was really good on Friday morning. A relevantly small error proved pretty costly, and when you drop 13 minutes there is very little to fight for. We managed to salvage a point from the Power Stage which was some consolation, and now we’ll have a few weeks off before getting fully focused ahead of the next one in Finland.”

 

We now have the summer holiday break and the WRC will return in the last weekend of July, a full six weeks from now for Rally Finland!

 

Final Overall Classification – Rally Italia Sardegna

1 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3:29:18.7
2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC +0.7
3 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +1:56.3
4 H. Paddon S. Marshall Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:55.2
5 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 WRC +3:10.9
6 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +4:31.7
7 J.M. Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +11:22.1
8 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC +12:38.2
9 J. Kopecky P. Dresler Škoda Fabia R5 +13:14.6
10 T. Suninen M. Markkula Ford Fiesta WRC +15:30.4

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings 
After round 7

1 T. Neuville 149
2 S. Ogier 122
3 O. Tanak 79
4 E. Lappi 70
5 D. Sordo 60
6 A. Mikkelsen 56
7 E. Evans 46
8 K. Meeke 43
9 J.M Latvala 37
10 C. Breen 34
11 M. Østberg 26
12 T. Suninen 24
13 H. Paddon 22

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 7

1 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 212
2 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 184
3 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 161
4 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 129

Rally Italia Sardegna 2018 Preview – Jumping in the dust!

It’s time for the really dusty rally! Last year, M-Sport won the rally, thanks to a superb drive from Ott Tanak. Thierry Neuville is the championship leader, currently 19 points ahead of the reigning champion Seb. Opening the road on Friday will make the event very tricky for him. Last year we saw Seb open the road and he finished in fifth place and kept the lead in the championship.

Rally Italia Sardegna – Photo credit – M-Sport World Rally Team

Here’s last year’s result.

Final  Overall Classification  -Rally Italia Sardegna

1 O. Tanak M. Jarveoja Ford Fiesta WRC 3:25:15.1
2 J.M Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +12.3
3 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:07.7
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +2:12.9
5 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC +3:25.3
6 J. Hänninen K. Lindstrom Toyota Yaris WRC +3:38.5
7 M. Østberg O. Floene Ford Fiesta WRC +6:31.8
8 A. Mikkelsen A. Jaeger Citroën C3 WRC +8:07.8
9 E. Camilli B. Veillas Ford Fiesta R5 +11:15.8
10 J. Kopecky P. Dresler Škoda Fabia R5 +11:21.4

 

Here’s the full schedule for this tricky event!

RALLY ITALIA SARDINIA SCHEDULE (GMT+2)

THURSDAY 7 JUNE

8.00am: Shakedown Olmedo (3,34 km)

5.00pm: Start (Alghero)

6.00pm: SS 1 – Ittiri Arena Show (2,00 km)

7.00pm: Parc fermé (Alghero)

 

FRIDAY 8 JUNE

6.30am: Service A (Alghero – 15 min)

8.33am: SS 2 – Tula 1 (21,99 km)

9.48am: SS 3 – Castelsardo 1 (14,52 km)

10.37am: SS 4 – Tergu – Osilo 1 (14,14 km)

11.48am: SS 5 – Monte Baranta 1 (10,78 km)

12.44pm: Service B (Alghero – 30 min)

3.02pm: SS 6 – Tula 2 (21,99 km)

4.17pm: SS 7 – Castelsardo 2 (14,52 km)

5.06pm: SS 8 – Tergu – Osilo 2 (14,14 km)

6.24pm: SS 9 – Monte Baranta 2 (10,78 km)

7.00pm: Flexi service C (Alghero – 45 min)

 

SATURDAY 9 JUNE

5.55am: Service D (Alghero – 15 min)

8.38am: SS 10 – Coiluna – Loelle 1 (14,95 km)

9.33am: SS 11 – Monti Di Ala’ 1 (28,52 km)

10.11am: SS 12 – Monte Lerno 1 (29,11 km)

1.03pm: Service E (Alghero – 30 min)

2.11pm: SS 13 – Citta’ Di Ittiri – Coros (1,40 km)

4.08pm: SS 14 – Coiluna – Loelle 2 (14,95 km)

5.03pm: SS 15 – Monti Di Ala’ 2 (28,52 km)

5.41pm: SS 16 – Monte Lerno 2 (29,11 km)

8.15pm: Flexi service F (Alghero – 45 min)

 

SUNDAY 10 JUNE

7.45am: Service G (Alghero – 15 min)

8.45am: SS 17 – Cala Flumini 1 (14,06 km)

9.38am: SS 18 – Sassari – Argentiera 1 (6,96 km)

11.12am: SS 19 – Cala Flumini 2 (14,06 km)

12.18pm: SS 20 – Sassari – Argentiera 2 Power Stage (6,96 km)

1.15pm: Service H (Alghero – 10 min)

2.15pm: Podium (Alghero)

 

Let’s hear from the driver’s!

 

 Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Portugal was the near-perfect weekend for us, as we took 29 out of a maximum 30 points. We now move onto Sardinia, which is one of the most technical events on the calendar, leading the championship. The roads are very narrow and become extremely rough on the second pass. The grip level is quite high on the repeat loop, but we often lack traction on the first run through. They are tricky conditions but the stages tend to suit my driving style and pace notes system. I am able to be very precise and I have been successful there many times in the past.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07, Rally d’Italia Sardegna
8-11 June 2017
Thierry Neuville – Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: RaceEMotion
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Hayden Paddon

“First of all, I am feeling fighting fit after the incident in Portugal and I’m ready to get back down to business. Up to that point, we were able to show a competitive level of performance, taking a stage win and battling for the lead. Rally Italia Sardegna is certainly one of the highlights of the year, located in the Mediterranean with sunny conditions and hot temperatures. The stages are very twisty and challenging. It is a rally I enjoy, and from where I have good memories. I scored my first WRC podium there in 2015 and led the rally in 2017. I would like to finish off what we started last year.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rally Italia Sardegna is a very warm event and it’s important to have high concentration; there are many rocks sticking out that can cause punctures or damage. You also need a stable car because the stages are quite narrow and rough with a lot of bumps. We have made improvements to the car on gravel, which has given me an improved feeling, and I felt really comfortable during Rally de Portugal. This is a positive sign for Sardinia where our aim is to catch up some points and improve our position in the drivers’ championship, while also helping the team to increase the manufacturers’ lead. It will be tough on mind and body, as well as the car and tyres, but we’re ready for it.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I always enjoy competing in Sardinia. I actually drove there for the first time in 2003 on the Rally Costa Smeralda, the year before the WRC started going there. The roads have a very hard base with a layer of sand on the top which can make it very slippery for the first cars on the road. The roads are narrow but you can go very fast if you can keep to the right line. I feel positive heading to Sardinia. I had two clean days of driving in Portugal without any mistakes and this helped my confidence a lot, and I am really enjoying driving this car.”

Jari-Matti and Miikka scored a podium last year on this event – Photo credit Toyota World Rally Team

Ott Tanak

“Sardinia is a special rally for me as it’s where I got my first win one year ago. Hopefully we can get another top result this time around. I think this will be a key rally for the championship. Portugal obviously didn’t go as well as we planned or hoped, so it will be really important to score some strong points. We are trying to be well prepared as possible, and I know that the team is working really hard. I am really happy with how the car has been performing: In Argentina it was fantastic and it felt good in Portugal as well. Now we just need to translate that speed into a good result before the summer holidays.”

 

Esapekka Lappi

“I am really looking forward to competing in Sardinia again. We had a pretty good result there already last year and my speed was good, as we won six stages. I think I have learnt a lot since then, and there has also been a lot of progress with the car. I have felt very comfortable over the last couple of rallies and I have had the confidence to push hard. Now that we are fifth in the championship, we will have to run quite early on the road on Friday. The road cleaning effect can be quite big there, but I got some good experience of this on the final two days in Portugal, so I am not worrying about this too much.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“Portugal was a shame as we had the speed to challenge for the win. It was a small mistake with big consequences, but we put it behind us and are now fully focused on giving it everything we’ve got in Sardinia.

“Having competed here many times before, I’ve learned to really enjoy these demanding stages. It’s a beautiful island, but not the easiest of rallies with some very rough and abrasive terrain. You need to keep a margin and stay focused from start to finish – which is exactly what we intend to do next week.

“We won’t be opening the road this year, but we’ll still have something of an uphill battle with many fast drivers benefitting from a cleaner road behind. Even so, I’m confident that we can challenge for a good result. If we can keep the lead in sight on Friday night then we’ll be in with a chance – and will push for the best possible result.”

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

Elfyn Evans

“Sardinia will always be a special place for me. It’s where I first got behind the wheel of a world rally car and I’ve come to really enjoy the challenging nature of the stages. It’s not an easy rally by all means, but I think that’s one of the reasons why I enjoy it so much.

“It’s such a demanding event and there are so many things that you need to keep in mind. The stages themselves are very rough and abrasive. You need to keep a margin within your driving otherwise your rally can be over before it’s even begun.

“Then there’s the heat. At this time of year, we can be looking at temperatures as high as 30C. That takes its toll on the cars, and the 50C plus temperatures inside the cockpit take their toll on the crew too!

“After our good result in Portugal we’re keen to keep that momentum going in Sardinia. We’ve completed two days of testing and we’ll have a fairly good road position on Friday that we’ll need to make the most of. If everything goes our way, I see no reason why we can’t be challenging for another strong result.”

 

Teemu Suninen

“I didn’t compete in Sardinia last year, but I did win the WRC 2 category in 2016 so hopefully that will help us this year. Every rally is difficult at this level and every minor detail has an effect on the end result – I’m sure Sardinia will be no different.

“We completed a one-day test last week which proved really useful. The road was quite slow, but that was good for me as it’s on these slower roads where I need to focus on improvements – where it’s slow and narrow and you need to take an advantage over every inch of the road.

“Even on the test I noticed how hot it will be next week. Normally I drink three litres a day but in Sardinia I expect to be drinking more than five litres a day! The stages are also quite rough and that means that we will have to get every stone marked in our notes.

“By focusing on my rivals my speed won´t improve. I’ll focus purely on my own driving and on improving stage by stage – then we’ll see where we are at the end of the rally.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT 

Craig Breen

“This is one of the WRC rallies where I have the least experience, but fortunately it hasn’t changed much since last year and so I have most of the pace notes already. It’s not necessarily my favourite event, because it’s never easy to adopt a fluid driving style on these really narrow, technical stages. But I have a good road position in eighth in the running order, because it’s one of the events where cleaning is most significant, so I’m going to try and make the most of it on the opening day.”

Mads Østberg

“It’s one of my favourite rallies. I’ve always been quick here. First of all, you need very good pace notes and then you need to find the right balance between pushing where you can and defending when there is a real risk of smashing the car. I learned a lot about the C3 WRC in Portugal and ended up by showing some pretty decent speed. The two days of pre-event testing held this week will help me to find the right pace, especially as I fully intend to take advantage of my good position in the running order.”

Mads Ostberg – Photo credit, Citroen Racing.

Just one team will be running two cars, with the removal of Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle from the Citroen team a few days ago. This will make it hard for them to make some good ground up in the manufacturers championship, but with Mads making his third start this year for this team and Craig in the other car looking to learn more about this tricky event for the future, they’ve got two drivers that can get to the end of the rally in the points.

Now, this is a special event for Miikka Antilla. He is making his 200th WRC start. A very special moment for Jari-Matti’s co-driver. The Toyota crew will want to get a great result, to mark this weekend.

Well, who do I think could win? Hayden Paddon and Seb Marshall will make their third start this year, and with his great road position, I would expect them to be in the mix for the podium at the very least, along with Andreas, Jari-Matti and Esapekka.

 

Don’t forget, all the action starts on Thursday morning with shakedown at 8am, that’s 6am BST here in the UK. The latest weather reports for the area on Friday are suggesting there will be thunderstorms. If there are stages that have rain, then Thierry will be a happy man.

 

Enjoy!

 

Rally Argentina 2018 Preview – Back to Gravel!

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

The WRC heads to Argentina for the fifth round of this year’s championship. Seb Ogier increased his lead over Thierry Neuville last time out with a dominant victory on the tricky roads that make the Tour de Corse. This year’s event features 18 stages and a very interesting twist at the end. El Condor, which is the Power Stage and is one of the most famous stages in the world will be tackled uphill this year.

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

Here’s the full stage schedule.

RALLY ARGENTINA SCHEDULE (GMT-3)

THURSDAY 26 APRIL

8.00am: Shakedown (Villa Carlos Paz – Cabalango)

6.30pm: Start (Villa Carlos Paz)

6.45pm: Regrouping (Villa Carlos Paz – 20 min)

7.08pm: SS 1 – Villa Carlos Paz (1,90 km)

7.33pm: Parc fermé (Villa Carlos Paz)

FRIDAY 27 APRIL

6.25am: Start and Service A (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)

8.10am: SS 2 – Las Bajadas – Villa Del Dique 1 (16,65 km)

9.00am: SS 3 – Amboy – Yacanto 1 (33,58 km)

10.13am: SS 4 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 1 (23,85 km)

12.08pm: SS 5 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 1 (6,04 km)

12.48pm: Service B (Villa Carlos Paz – 30 min)

2.51pm: SS 6 – Las Bajadas – Villa Del Dique 2 (16,65 km)

3.38pm: SS 7 – Amboy – Yacanto 2 (33,58 km)

4.51pm: SS 8 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 2 (23,85 km)

6.41pm: Flexi service C (Villa Carlos Paz – 45 min)

SATURDAY 28 APRIL

7.30am: Start and Service D (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)

8.23am: SS 9 – Tanti – Mataderos 1 (13,92 km)

9.08am: SS 10 – Los Gigantes – Cuchilla Nevada 1 (16,02 km)

9.35am: SS 11 – Cuchilla Nevada – Rio Pintos 1 (40,48 km)

11.38am: SS 12 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 2 (6,04 km)

12.15pm: Service E (Villa Carlos Paz – 30 min)

1.23pm: SS 13 – Tanti – Mataderos 2 (13,92 km)

2.08pm: SS 14 – Los Gigantes – Cuchilla Nevada 2 (16,02 km)

2.35pm: SS 15 – Cuchilla Nevada – Rio Pintos 2 (40,8 km)

4.35pm: Flexi service F (Villa Carlos Paz – 45 min)

SUNDAY 29 APRIL

7.45am: Start and Service G (Villa Carlos Paz – 15 min)

9.08am: SS 16 – Copina – El Condor (16,43 km)

9.55am: SS 17 – Giulio Cesare – Mina Clavero (22,41 km)

12.18pm: SS 18 – Copina – El Condor Power Stage (16,43 km)

2.21pm: Service H (Villa Carlos Paz – 10 min)

2.31pm: Finish

 

There’s 358km of stages this year. Last year, we saw welsh wizard Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt drive brilliantly throughout the event, only to be denied victory after some technical problems by Thierry Neuville who won by just seven tenths of a second.

Here’s the views from the drivers then.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Rally Argentina is a famous event and one that attracts an incredible crowd of passionate rally fans. It creates a fantastic atmosphere that we appreciate during the stages. We have good memories of last year’s rally, which we won in dramatic style in the Power Stage.  I hope we can pull off a similar result this time around. It is a highly demanding event, very tough on the car and the crew, so it’s not one that we can take lightly.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Argentina
27-30 April 2017
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rally Argentina is probably one of my favourite rallies of the entire season. It is a very special type of gravel event because the roads are sandier which suits my driving style a bit more; you can really create an angle, which helps to attack the corner. The stages can get quite rough on the second pass so it’s important to take care of the car, but all in all it is a beautiful rally. El Condor and Mina Clavero are two stages I particularly look forward to.”

Dani Sordo

“The huge number of spectators really makes this a special rally for everyone. It is always nice to see so many people lining the routes and cheering us on. It gives us a real boost regardless of how we are performing. Of course, our aim is to be fighting towards the front. We have had a couple of solid results in a row, so we want to use the momentum to add another gravel podium to the one we scored in Mexico.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Argentina is a place where I have had some very enjoyable moments in the past, including my win there in 2014. It is a really challenging event and that makes it very satisfying when things are going well. There is a nice mixture of different stages over the weekend, from the fast and sandy roads in the valley on Friday to the rougher mountain stages on Sunday, including the famous El Condor, which is the Power Stage again this year. It is always a very spectacular stage with all of the fans up on the hillsides cheering us on. Argentina is a very demanding rally for the cars, and we learned a lot there as a team last year. Together, we are working hard to constantly improve the car, and hopefully we can show some good progress. It would be good to get some more points on the board.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Miikka Antilla. Photo credit – Toyota Gazoo Racing

Ott Tanak

“Rally Argentina has always been a tough event. There are some nice smooth and fast stages but also some pretty technical roads, so it’s a rally where you get a bit of everything in one weekend. It’s also really demanding on the cars, as the stages can get pretty rough. I finished third there last year, and that gives me confidence that I can perform well this time. I’m also feeling good after our pre-event test in Sardinia: the roads went from wet to dry during the test and the surface can be just as rough there, so I think that we got just the right conditions that we needed for a good test for Argentina. I am pretty happy with the improvements that we were able to make to the car and now I am eager to see how we are going to compare against the others.”

Esapekka Lappi

“Although I haven’t competed in Argentina before, I have done the recce twice, so I have some picture of what the rally is like. I have heard that it can be the toughest round of the championship: the surface can get very rough in places, and there are a lot of rocks, so you need to take care sometimes. It looks as though on Friday the roads are going to be a little bit softer than on Saturday, and then on Sunday in the mountains there will be more loose gravel and rocks. I am really confident that we can do much better in Argentina than in our last gravel rally in Mexico, where I think I learnt quite a lot. It is usually a rally where a lot of things can happen, so it might be that my main target will be to just try and stay out of trouble, but let’s see how it goes.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“I come into this fifth round very determined to move back up the championship standings, but this rally is such a challenge, you have to treat it with respect it deserves. I’ll do my very best, as always, but the weather may be a factor. The condition of the roads is often determined by how much rainfall there has been over the previous six months. In any case, it’s a rally that I really love, both for the wide range of difficulties involved and the warm, very enthusiastic welcome we get from the local fans. Added to which, I have always been comfortable here: I’ve finished on the podium twice in my four appearances, including my first WRC win.”

Craig Breen

“Having only raced here once before, and even then, only for part of the rally, when the other guys have been driving on these stages for years, I fear that my lack of knowledge may hamper me a bit. But I really enjoyed the brief glimpse of the rally that I got here last season and I can’t wait to get started. Testing went really well. It had been a little while since I had last driven the C3 WRC on gravel and the car has clearly improved on this surface. So, my confidence has been given a serious boost coming into this rally, which is set to be pretty demanding.”

Craig Breen, Scott Martin. Photo credit Citroen Racing.

Khalid Al Qassimi

“I think this rally is going to be a real challenge for me because it has been some time since I last competed here, but I am very much looking forward to it. I’ll have to get my bearings again, review and revise the pace notes for the stages. My sole aim is to make it to the finish and enjoy myself, whilst also supporting the team.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“We’ve made a great start to the season and come to Argentina with the ambition of continuing this positive start. It’s the only event Julien and I are yet to win and, even though I won’t be fixated on a win this week, I would also love to stand on the top step of the podium in Argentina!

“We know that the win won’t be easy, but we have made a lot of progress this year and will certainly give it our best. The competition is strong, but if we can limit the time loss on Friday, which will be the key, I’m sure we’ll be in with a chance.

“The car felt great last time out on gravel, but the surface in Argentina is completely different. The roads are much softer and sandier here, but also quite rough in places meaning that a good result is dependent on a compromise between speed and endurance.

“We completed a development test in Portugal last week and everything continues to go in the right direction. We’re keen to see what we can do next week, and optimistic of delivering another strong result.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 -WRC Mexico (MEX) – WRC 08/03/2018 to 11/03/2018 – PHOTO : @World

Elfyn Evans

“It’s great to see Dan fully recovered and back at an event that holds a lot of special memories for the both of us. It’s where we secured our first podium in 2015, and where we came so close to victory last year. That was a hard defeat to take at the time, but it made us stronger and we’ll be hoping to challenge for the top results again this year.

“It’s fair to say that I’ve not had the best start to the season, but we’re determined to turn that around this week. With a solid result in Corsica, and Dan back by my side in Argentina, we’re looking forward to the challenge and focused on delivering a strong result.

“You have to take a fairly measured approach to an event like this as there is very little margin for error. There’s the potential for something to catch you out around practically every corner – so you have to have a clean rally and keep mistakes to a minimum.

“We completed some development testing in the lead-up to this event where we were able to get a feel for driving on gravel again. We will have a fairly good road position for the opening day and the car feels good – so let’s see what we can do.”

Teemu Suninen

“Argentina will be an interesting event in that sense that I have not competed here before. We did the recce in 2016 and from what I can remember there are quite a few rhythm changes on the stages – high-speed roads often turning into very narrow tracks with no room to run wide.

“The rhythm change is the biggest challenge, but the roads are also soft in places and the risk of punctures is increased by small stones bordering the road.

“We completed a development test in Portugal and got some good kilometres under our belt on gravel. It was really important to have that test. We have trust in the car but I know that the conditions will be a little different in Argentina.

“My aim this week is to continue to learn, continue to gain experience and continue developing my driving. If we can do that, the good results will come too.”

 

Well, we are set for a very good rally. All the ingredients are there, with Kris and Thierry who have conquered these very challenging stages in recent years. Also, let’s not forget that Elfyn and Dan led a large portion last year, only to miss out by such a small amount in the end. Perhaps Seb will take his first win here this weekend. He’s come pretty close before, but with him opening the road throughout Friday, he’ll need to ensure that the time loss to the leaders is kept small.

One driver missing, which is a shame, is 2016 winner Hayden Paddon. I’m surprised that Hyundai didn’t have him in the third i20 this weekend. Still, we’ll see him next time in Rally Portugal.

Enjoy the rally!

Tour de Corse, Day Two- Seb Ogier continues to lead.

Six stages today, and first up was stage five, a long stage at 35km to really wake up the drivers! The start list for each of the stage looked like this – Bouffier, Mikkelsen, Latvala, Sordo, Evans, Lappi, Tänak, Meeke, Neuville, Ogier, Loeb.

As the last car through, Loeb won the stage whilst Kris was happy with the start and end of the stage but lost his rhythm in the middle and had to pick it up. Elfyn lost some more time in the stage with a spin and a stall, caused when he used the handbrake on a corner. This allowed Dani to close on the Welshman, the gap at just three seconds between them! Meantime, Esapekka in his Yaris was really driving brilliantly, just a little off Loeb’s time and making fifth position his!

On to stage six, a shorter stage and the nine-time champion took this one as well. This time it was the Yaris peddled by Tanak who came closest to Loeb. Ogier and Lappi set exactly the same time to go third fastest. Our leader in the M-Sport Fiesta saw his lead open up a little more. His teammate, Elfyn and Dani Sordo were now tied on the same time on the overall leaderboard!

Final stage before the service break, and Ott Tanak took the win, closing the gap further in his pursuit of Kris for the final podium position. Ogier meantime was second fastest and now his lead over Thierry had gone above forty seconds. Elfyn had a scrappy stage, with lots of hesitations and fell behind Dani, into seventh place.

The afternoon stages started with Esapekka winning stage eight, with Loeb picking up another second fastest time. He really was on the pace! Elfyn also had a good stage, closing the gap to Dani in their fight over sixth and seventh! Unfortunately, we lost Jari-Matti in this stage. During service the Toyota team had worked on the balance and made it handle better. Jari-Matti was pushing hard and he lost the rear of the car and hit a tree. He completed the stage but retired afterwards. Kris had also made some changes, returning to last year’s setup that worked so well, and he had a car that responded to him. He used it to good affect closing a little to Thierry ahead.

Stage nine, the penultimate stage was won by Loeb and with Kris setting the fourth fastest time, he drew level on time with Thierry on the overall leaderboard. With the C3 WRC returned to the settings the team used last year, he felt much more at ease with how it responded to him. Elfyn was also on the pace but didn’t take much time out of Dani. The inter-team battle continued with Tanak and Lappi, who were battling over fourth position, with Lappi faster through the stage, but not by much.

The final stage of the day, would see Lappi and Tanak share the fastest time, but the big shock was the exit of Kris who miss heard a stage note and went too far off the road to regain and complete the test. A big shock and one that meant Tanak went from fourth to second with Thierry now in third place, but just one tenth of a second behind. Elfyn also had a good stage, closing a little to Dani again, feeling that the relationship with Phil Mills was starting to gel.

Summing up Saturday.

Whilst there was all that drama behind him, Seb Ogier continued to lead. There were different stage winners, with Loeb taking three more and Toyota teammates Ott and Esapekka sharing the other three between them. The demise of Kris from second overall was a big shame. It shows how little room for error there is in this sport. I do wonder why the team didn’t use the settings from last year from the off.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 04, Rallye de France, Tour de Corse 2018 / April 5-8, 2018 // (Ott Tanak) Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

There are only two stages tomorrow, but the first is the longest stage of the entire weekend, a monster of 55km! Anything can still happen.

 

End of day two (Saturday)

 

1 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2h43m07.7s

2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +44.5s

3 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +44.6s

4 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +54.9s

5 Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1m46.7s

6 Elfyn Evans/Phil Mills (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1m49.8s

7 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2m13.5s

8 Jan Kopecky/Pavel Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +8m22.9s

9 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) +10m41.4s

10 Fabio Andolfi/Simone Scattolin (Skoda Fabia R5) +11m27.2s

 

Let’s here from the drivers.

 

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It’s been a long, but good day for us. Whereas yesterday we were just driving flat-out, today has been a bit more difficult as we’ve had to think a bit more about our approach. I tried to keep a good rhythm of course, but at the same time I didn’t want to take too many risks. We still managed to extend our lead on every stage, and I’m really pleased with that.

“There’s still a long way to go with the longest stage of the whole rally to come. We’ve had a good feeling all weekend so I hope to finish like that tomorrow. We won’t push to the maximum as our target is to cross the finish line – but it’s never over until it’s over.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 -WRC Tour de Corse (FRA) – WRC Seb Ogier, M-Sport Ford 04/04/2018 to 08/04/2018 – PHOTO : @World

Ott Tanak (2nd)

“It will certainly be interesting tomorrow, with 0.1 seconds to the car behind and 10.4 seconds to Esapekka, who has been setting some really good times and seems to be confident. Overall our feeling in the car has been quite nice and the pace has been consistent. I haven’t been pushing to the maximum, just going at a good speed with a good rhythm. Let’s see how the feeling is tomorrow. The first stage is a really long one and I think the rhythm will be important there.”

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“There is very little to say after another very demanding day. We have pushed as much as we can in every stage – but a bit too much on the edge at times. It’s all we can do to try and defend our podium position. We have struggled with the set-up of the car at times, and some of the roads really didn’t suit our car. Like yesterday, we had to accept certain limitations to what we could achieve. It has been mission impossible to defend second place so all we can hope now is that we can keep third position, and minimise the damage after a difficult weekend so far for Hyundai Motorsport.”

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

“It has obviously been a really positive day. It’s really nice to be fastest over the day. We worked really hard yesterday to try and find a better setup, and today the car felt really good and easy to drive. For me, the times are coming really easily. I didn’t need to push too hard, it just came naturally. Tomorrow it’s good that both of the stages are new for everyone because it’s easier for me when that’s the case. I will just try to continue my pace and then we will see what happens. I will not force myself to do something crazy: I’m already happy with fourth place, although I wouldn’t mind if we can climb one or two more places!”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (5th)

“We made some modifications to the car for today’s stages, which gave us a bit more confidence and a very small improvement on the times. We have done all we can, pushing all the time, but there are still some settings issues that we have yet to resolve. It has been a similar issue for other crews. All we can do is adapt the car to find more front-end grip and aim to improve on tomorrow’s long stage. It might be a bit too late, but we won’t give up without a fight.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04 Rallye de France
05-08 April 2018
Action
Day 2
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen (7th)

“Running seventh on the classification is not where we want or expect to be. We have battled a lot with understeer, which has been made worse on the wider, racing-style stages today. We were able to close in a bit on the cars in front of us during the morning loop, but we don’t want to be relying on others’ misfortune to gain positions. We’d much rather be fighting at the front. I tried to change my driving style in the afternoon, but that didn’t deliver any improvement. It’s important for us to continue trying to improve the car and our pace until the very end of the rally.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“We didn’t have the best of mornings, and I felt as though I was a bit too hesitant in places. It wasn’t anything major, but it soon adds up. We made some improvements in the afternoon and I was feeling a lot more comfortable in the car. The relationship with Phil has gelled quite a lot better today too and we’ve seen some promising times which bodes well for tomorrow.”

Retired

Jari-Matti Latvala

“After we made some changes in mid-day service, the car felt fantastic, so thank you to the team for that. It really gave me the confidence to push, but I maybe pushed a little bit too hard, got too sideways on a left-hand corner and hit a tree with the rear of the car. Normally I would not be smiling after going off the road, but I have some reason to be happy: Ott and Esapekka are going really quickly here, while I had been struggling, but then I found the speed. I learned what we had done wrong with the setup and why I was not fast. Hopefully the guys can fix the car so we can restart tomorrow and show that speed.”

Kris Meeke

“We were fighting for second and pushing really hard, absolutely on the limit. Unfortunately, something happened that has never happened before between Paul and me. He got the pace notes a bit mixed up, but that’s rallying. It’s the very first time that this has happened. We’ve gone off several times together in the past when it’s been my fault and not his. Look, we win together and we lose together. I’m sure we’ll bounce back from this very quickly.”

Bryan Bouffier

“I’m disappointed for sure, but this is part of motorsport and we know it can happen. I was happy with my pace as this car is still quite new to me and I have a lot of things still to improve and understand. In this context it was very good to see some good times and I really hope that we can do some more kilometres with this amazing car.”

 

Tour de Corse, Day One-Seb Ogier Takes Control.

The day dawned sunny, but there had been rain in the days before, which was going to affect those running further down the standings. Four stages today- doesn’t sound like much, but with a double run of a 49km stage, anything could happen!

 

The first stage of the day, and the cars would start in championship order- Ogier, Neuville, Mikkelsen, Meeke, Latvala, Tänak, Lappi, Sordo, Loeb, Evans, and also just 2 minutes between the cars, instead of 3 which we see on gravel.

 

Ogier would make the most of his starting position winning the stage although he was almost certainly on the limit of grip as he nearly spun a few times in the stage. Loeb was his closest challenger, just 9.7 slower than his compatriot. The fastest Toyota was that driven by Ott Tanak who was a further nine seconds back. Of course, last years early rally leader, Kris found with being fourth he would come across dirty and a wet road, finishing 19 seconds down on the early leader. Elfyn also commented on the condition of the road, with the dirt being pulled out.

 

Stage two saw Ogier extend his lead over Meeke who was now in second place. Sadly, Loeb had gone out just 300 metres after starting. He lost control, running wide on a kink, which sent him sliding over the road onto the right-hand side and into a ditch, which he couldn’t get out of. The reason given – cold tyres. Both Hyundai drivers, Andreas and Thierry were suffering from cars not responding to them. Thierry’s main problem was no grip, whilst Andreas just slid into a ditch and then suffered with a vibration afterwards. Kris was still in second but having trouble with his intercom. Now imagine that you’re relying on details from your co-driver, but then the system that allows you to hear those keeps cutting out. Very frustrating indeed. Jari-Matti was having trouble with confidence under braking in his Yaris.

Seb Ogier, Leader of Tour de Corse. Photo credit M-Sport WRT

All the cars headed back to service at this point. Thierry would want to get his car sorted, whilst Kris would hopefully get his intercom problem fixed as well.

 

The second run of La Porta – Valle di Rostino, saw Ogier win again and Thierry go second fastest which saw Kris fall behind the Belgian. The Citroen driver was still getting problems with his intercom. During service, Kris had changed his helmet in a hope that would solve the problem but that didn’t help. Meantime, Andreas was still having problems with understeer, dropping 30 seconds to the leader just in this one stage. Jari-Matti was still having trouble with confidence under braking, but his teammate Lappi was in a great position to move up after closing the gap to Dani and Elfyn ahead.

 

The last stage of the day already and Ogier’s time was very good. However, Thierry then Jari-Matti and finally Esapekka Lappi went faster who leapfrogged both Dani and Elfyn into fifth overall. He was really in the groove through this one. Latvala’s pace was good enough to allow him to pass Andreas for eighth place, but he’ll almost certainly want better from Saturday’s stages.

 

Summing up Friday

Seb Ogier reigned supreme and has built a lead that he can use to his advantage. The question is, can Thierry or Kris get their problems resolved to allow them to express their pace and challenge the leader?

 

Standings at the end of Day One

1 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1h19m39.0s

2 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +33.6s

3 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) +38.7s

4 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +44.2s

5 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1m13.5s

6 Elfyn Evans/Phil Mills (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1m13.8s

7 Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1m14.4s

8 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1m25.0s

9 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1m29.2s

10 Bryan Bouffier/Xavier Panseri (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1m44.8s

 

Let’s hear from the drivers then.

 

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“We’ve had a great day. It’s always nice to be in the lead, but it’s even nicer to be leading on home soil. The car was very enjoyable to drive today and we’ve had a lot of fun out on the stages.

“We’ve made good progress since last year and in this sport you don’t achieve anything alone – it’s always a team effort. All the energy we’ve put into developing the car over the past year is really starting to pay off. We saw it already in Mexico with a good step forward on gravel, and so far I think we’ve improved on asphalt too which is very positive for the future.

“There’s still two days of rallying to come with a lot of new stages so there will be no time to relax. We’ll take the same approach that we had today into tomorrow and try to stay in a good rhythm. These new sections will be very challenging, but we have to keep pushing.”

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“It hasn’t been the best of starts to this rally for us, but we know there are some very long stages to come over the weekend so we have to remain positive. In this morning’s loop, we couldn’t find a good feeling with the car. We had no efficiency from the brakes missing some bite. Changes made during lunchtime service were in the right direction and we pushed very hard in the afternoon. Ogier has set a strong pace and we have had to accept we can’t match him so far, but we will keep attacking as best as we can. We are now in second place overall with a small margin to third, so our target is to consolidate our position.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04 Rallye de France
05-08 April 2018
Action
Day 2
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Kris Meeke (3rd)

“It was a pretty good day for us, I was pleased with my rhythm, even though it wasn’t quite enough to keep pace with the leader. I don’t know to what extent the road became ‘polluted’ as more cars came completed the stages. In any case, I was pleased with my C3 WRC. My intercom was playing up, which was a bit annoying at times. With a couple of totally new stages tomorrow, a lot can still happen but I’m very determined to fight to stay in the podium places.”

Kris Meeke- Photo credit Citroen Racing

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (4th)

“This was my first day competing on proper asphalt in this car, and I think we have learned quite a lot today. The general feeling in the car is quite nice. This morning the feeling was already positive: the car was handling well. At lunchtime service we did a couple of changes, and in some areas the feeling was improving and getting better. For tomorrow we have some more ideas of how we would like to improve a bit further to help us in the fight for the podium. We are still quite close to second and third: these places are ours to catch, so we will try our best tomorrow.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 04, Rallye de France, Ott Tanak, Tour de Corse 2018 / April 5-8, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“The morning and afternoon were quite similar for me today in terms of stage times. We lost quite a bit on the long stage, which is really twisty like a proper Tour de Corse stage. The shorter one is much faster and our car was working really well there. We ended the day with the fastest time, which is always positive. It would be better if we were stronger on the more twisty stages, but we will work on that tomorrow and try to improve the car. The plan will be to try and keep fifth place but there is still a long way to go and anything can happen.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (8th)

“It was good to finish today with a quick time on the last stage, after quite a disappointing morning. I went the wrong way with the setup, so I lacked confidence and I was driving badly. We made changes in service and the car definitely felt better on the braking and the rear was more predictable. I made another change before the final stage, and then the confidence came and I could improve my driving. The setup is now good for the dry conditions that we are expecting for the rest of the rally, so the plan now is to just focus on the driving: to be consistent and maintain that speed we had on the last stage. I think we can have a good fight with the guys who are just in front of us.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“We knew it wouldn’t be plain sailing for us today, but I think it’s gone as well as we could have hoped in the circumstances. To be fair, Phil has done a really good job. We’re building that trust, and hopefully we can keep improving as the weekend goes on.

“My notes aren’t the easiest if you don’t know them inside out. Obviously Phil knows them quite well from being a part of our Route Note Crew, but there are little tricks and ways that things have to be read to makes everything flow a hundred percent. If you’re not used to reading them day after day it’s extremely difficult, so he’s done a really good job.

“There are a lot of new sections coming up tomorrow and, honestly, I was finding the going a bit easier in the more familiar sections today. We have to keep going so let’s just give it our best and see what we can do.”

Bryan Bouffier (10th)

“It’s been a good day and I was happy with both of our passes through the short stage. We still had something to find in the long one – and I was finding it difficult to place the car. We’ll discuss everything this evening and hope to show another improvement tomorrow.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (7th)

“I haven’t been very happy with our stage times today, although there has not been anything particularly wrong with the car. In fact, the handling has been quite good during the day. The opening long stage was quite tricky and initially I didn’t have enough confidence. The second stage was better, although there was some gravel pulled onto the road in places. I tried to push a bit in the afternoon but again the times were not forthcoming. The speed at the front is very fast but we will try to find more pace tomorrow to try and get into a top five position.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (9th)

“Our day was compromised by one spin and a small off in the morning loop, one on each stage, which combined lost us about 50 seconds to the leader. A far from ideal way to start this rally! Still, the car itself performed better than expected, and we found some improvements for the afternoon loop. I drove the car to the limits and kept pushing as much as possible. Now we have found a better feeling since lunchtime service, I hope we can be in better shape tomorrow.”

 

Tomorrow sees six stages totalling 136km. Loeb will return under super rally 2 rules as well. The crews will travel to the northern part of the island.

Tour de Corse 2018 Preview- Time for Tarmac!

It’s time for round four, and just four points separate Seb Ogier and Thierry Neuville at the top of the points table!

 

This year’s edition of this classic event has twelve stages totalling 333.48km over the three days, the longest stage being the 55.17 km for Vero – Sarrola – Carcopino run on Sunday and the shortest being the Piedigriggio – Pont de Castirla 2 13,55 km on Friday afternoon.

 

Friday sees the crews tackle stages that are in the middle of the island, with four stages, but a mammoth 126 km’s. On Saturday, they head to the northern park of the island and tackle the coastal roads, totalling a huge almost 140km’s of stages and then Sunday sees them head south west and the longest stage run and then the power stage.

 

Last year Kris led until he suffered a mechanical failure with his engine on Saturday afternoon and Thierry came through to take the win.

 

Seb Loeb is driving again for Citroen, with the second of his outings for this year, but bigger than that is the news that Elfyn Evans’ co-driver Dan Barritt is sitting out this one as he’s still recovering from the high-speed roll that happened in Mexico. Phil Mills’ will be stepping into co-driver seat. Yes, world rally champion co-driver to Mr Hollywood, Petter Solberg. He has been part of Elfyns’ gravel crew for the past five years, which makes him the ideal man for the job!

Tour de Corse Map 2018- Credit to Tour de Corse

TOUR DE CORSE SCHEDULE (GMT+2)

 

THURSDAY 5 APRIL

8.00am: Shakedown (Sorbo Ocagnano)

6.30pm: Ceremonial start Bastia – Place Saint Nicolas

 

FRIDAY 6 APRIL

8.00am: Start in Bastia – Place Saint Nicolas

8.40am: Service A (Bastia airport – 15′)

9.50am: SS 1 – La Porta – Valle di Rostino 1 (49,03 km)

11.09am: SS 2 – Piedigriggio – Pont de Castirla 1 (13,55 km)

1.47pm: Service B (Bastia airport – 30′)

3.12pm: SS 3 – La Porta – Valle di Rostino 2 (49,03 km)

4.31pm: SS 4 – Piedigriggio – Pont de Castirla 2 (13,55 km)

7.01pm: Flexi service C (Bastia airport – 45′)

 

SATURDAY 7 APRIL

6.10am: Start of day 2 and service D (Bastia airport – 15′)

7.37am: SS 5 – Cagnano – Pino – Canari 1 (35,61 km)

9.18am: SS 6 – Désert des Agriates 1 (15,45 km)

11.08am: SS 7 – Novella 1 (17,39 km)

1.31pm: Service E (Bastia airport – 30′)

3.21pm: SS 8 – Cagnano – Pino – Canari 2 (35,61 km)

5.02pm: SS 9 – Désert des Agriates 2 (15,45 km)

6.39pm: SS 10 – Novella 2 (17,39 km)

8.10pm: Flexi service F (Bastia airport – 45′)

 

SUNDAY 8 APRIL

7.00am: Start of day 3 and service G (Bastia airport – 15′)

9.23am: SS 11 – Vero – Sarrola – Carcopino (55,17 km)

12.18pm: SS 12 – Pénitencier de Coti-Chiavari (16,25 km)

1.33pm: Finish (Ajaccio, avenue de Paris)

3.00pm: Podium (Ajaccio, place du Diamant)

Well, let’s hear from everyone!

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“We’ve had a really positive start to the season – three events and two victories already under our belts. It’s great to see the progress we’ve made, and we’re keen to see that continue with the return to asphalt next week.

“With a lot of mixed conditions in Monte-Carlo, the Tour de Corse is the first proper Tarmac event of the year, and it’s nice to be back. We all know that the competition will be strong, but we completed a good test last week – finding a good feeling and discovering the optimum set-ups to deliver a strong performance

“As a Frenchman, there is always added motivation to do well at the Tour de Corse. Known as the Rally of 10,000 Corners, the name alone says it all and many sections of this island are made for rallying. A lot of the route is new this year, but the stages remain very technical with corner after corner demanding total focus and precision.

“It’s a beautiful island that I always look forward to visiting, and it would be fantastic to secure another strong result on French soil.”

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

Elfyn Evans

“This is an event that I really enjoy, and we’ll be looking to maximise that next week. The speed is there, but I’ve not had the best start to the year and that’s something I’m determined to put right in Corsica.

“It won’t be easy without Dan, but his fitness comes first and it’s important that he has the time to make a full recovery for the rest of the season. Phil has stepped in, and I hope that we can push for a good result.

“Phil certainly knows his stuff. Other than Dan, he knows my pacenotes better than anyone and he’s certainly no stranger when it comes to winning rallies.

“This year’s route has a lot of new sections, but it’s still a technical challenge which is one of the things I really enjoy here. There’s quite a lot of variation amongst the stages – some are surprisingly smooth, but then there are those which are typically Corsican with abrasive Tarmac that twists through the mountains.

“It’s all about adapting to the conditions, and that will be the case even more so for us next week. We’ll have a fairly late running order which won’t be ideal, and we’ll need some time to get used to one another in the car as well.

“We’ll just have to see how it goes and do the best we can. I’ve had some good results here in the past, and I’m keen to see what we can do this year.”

Bryan Bouffier

“The Tour de Corse has long been one of my favourite events. The roads are amazing, but so is the island and so are the people who live there. It’s a fantastic rally and one that I look forward to every year.

“We had a good test last week where I found a good feeling with the balance of the car. Working together with the team, we were able to find some good solutions with the set-up, and I hope that hard work will show on the stages next week.

“Every time I return the FIA World Rally Championship the level is extremely high, but this year the competition is stronger than ever and there are so many drivers able to push for the top results.

“The specific challenge in Corsica is to be consistent through the long stages and to avoid mistakes. That is our goal and we hope to deliver some strong times so that I have the chance to do even more kilometres in this amazing car!”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Tour de Corse is one of my personal highlights of the season. We have some good memories from this rally across the years; we have won twice, including last year’s WRC victory so I am hoping for another competitive weekend. We had an accident towards the end of the pre-event test but that won’t change our approach to this rally. We know it will be a close contest again, as there are many quick drivers. The long stages that are a particular characteristic of Corsica mean we have to keep focused at all times. It is a really demanding event for crews and teams but we’re determined to strengthen our position in both championships.”

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

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Corsica is a very special event, and our first true tarmac rally of the season. As a crew, you never really get any break during the stages; it’s a continuous corner-to-corner challenge that requires utmost concentration. It’s equally tough on the car as it is for the driver and co-driver. It is easy for the brakes to get warm so we have to adapt our driving style to save them for the really long stages. Tour de Corse is a beautiful rally and one I really enjoy.”

Dani Sordo

“I was pleased with our result in Mexico and I hope we can continue with this level of performance as we move onto the tarmac challenge of Tour de Corse. It is a rally I always enjoy, and which requires a very specific approach. With long stages held in the mountains, Corsica really is a classic tarmac event. It’s corner after corner, so we are always turning the steering wheel during the stages, which makes it a very physical event. Precise pace notes are crucial for a good performance. I can’t wait to get started!”

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I have some good memories of Corsica from my win there in 2015. It is certainly an asphalt rally that I like. There’s a reason they call it the Rally of 10,000 Corners: if you find any straight that is longer than 100 metres, you know you are on the wrong island! You cannot really cut the corners so much and there is not so much gravel on the road, which makes it really enjoyable as you can just focus on the corners and the lines. We had a very, very positive pre-event test. The feeling was extremely good and I am very confident with the car. All of the teams should be quick in Corsica, but I really hope we are up there fighting for the podium places.”

Jari-Matti Latvala finished fourth last year on the roads around Corsica. Photo credit Toyota Gazoo WRT.

Ott Tänak

“We have been competitive on every surface so far this season. The team is working really hard to make sure that we can be reliable too. Now we just need to start taking some points back from our rivals. Last year my feeling in Corsica was quite good, so I want to have a strong result this time. The conditions on Rallye Monte-Carlo were very specific so it was difficult to take a lot, but we still went into our pre-Corsica test with some kind of idea which way we want to go. We had a proper two-day test and I think we went in the right direction: It feels like the car is performing well.”

Esapekka Lappi

“I have done Corsica a couple of times in the past in other categories, and I would say that it is completely different to any other rally. It is just corner after corner, without many straights to give us a rest. The schedule is also unique as we don’t have as many stages, but they are quite long. This will be my first time in Corsica in a World Rally Car, but I take confidence from the speed we showed in Monte Carlo. In fact, I am actually more confident this time because we managed to find a better set-up in the pre-event test. We tested in both damp and fully dry conditions so we should be ready whatever the weather.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“The Tour de Corse is one hell of a challenge, with many difficulties, but I’ve always enjoyed racing here. We were very competitive here last year, although we have seen since the start of the season that everyone has made progress, but I hope we can still get among the frontrunners. Our pre-event tests, held on a wide variety of roads, were very productive. I get the feeling that we have progressed further on the dirty and bumpy sections. In any case, I came away from my test sessions pleased with the work done and I can’t wait now to get started!”

Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle led last year until Saturday afternoon. They’ll want to make the finish this year. Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Sébastien Loeb

“Having recently driven the C3 WRC on gravel, I got my bearings very quickly during our tests in Corsica, even though the road surface was different. I started with Kris’ basic set-up and settled upon something very close to his settings pretty quickly, but which suited me. The feeling was pretty good at the end of my testing days. We’ll have to wait and see where we stand in relation to everyone else. After our performance in Mexico, I hope we will be on the pace again, especially as I’ve always been comfortable on tarmac, not least in Corsica. In any case, it’s a place and an event that I have always enjoyed, even if it’s certainly not the easiest rally. The roads are apparently faster than when I last competed here, although there are still plenty of narrow, technical and bumpy stages, but they are all going to be new for me so it won’t be easy to make pace notes for the entire route.”

As a nice tribute to Henry Hope-Frost, the M-Sport team will be running with the hashtag #Fever and also the names of his sons on their cars.

Just a few days now then to the start of this iconic event. Who will win this year? Enjoy!