Rally Mexico 2018 Review – Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia conquer the Mexican Gravel

Well, what an amazing rally we were treated to! Here’s the story of how Seb Ogier won, and took the championship lead back from Thierry.

 

On Thursday, last year’s winner Kris topped shakedown with Thierry in his Hyundai also going very well, just a little behind the Northern Irishman, whilst Seb Loeb was getting his bearings back, going ninth fastest on his return to competitive action.

 

The first stage, run that evening, was won by Thierry.

 

Friday morning dawned bright, if a little cool. It would certainly warm up, for sure and not just the temperature, as the fight for the lead started in earnest! Nine stages faced the crews, including the longest of the rally, El Chocolate 31km test and as always, run twice!

 

Stage two saw Kris and Paul take the lead, whilst Thierry tumbled down to ninth as he was opening the road, courtesy of being the championship leader. Dani Sordo also had a great run jumping from eighth to second and Loeb went brilliantly to go third in the stage and move into fourth overall.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03, Rally Mexico
8-11 March 2018
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

The following stage would see a big change around though! Kris found the balance of his car tricky and after being third fastest behind Elfyn and stage winner Dani, would fall to second overall, nine and a half seconds behind our new leader, Dani!

 

Stage four would see Elfyn and Dan roll multiple times, after losing control on a jump in sixth gear! The car wasn’t actually that damaged, but they were both taken to have medical checks done and Dan was found to have suffered concussion and they would withdraw from the event. A big shame after moving into third overall. Kris also had a big moment on a jump, but was still second overall, whilst Loeb had moved up to third after the demise of Elfyn and Dan.

 

The short street stage at Leon was won by Teemu in his M-Sport Fiesta, with Andreas and Loeb taking second and third. Thierry suffered from an engine issue in this stage, dropping twenty seconds as a result and dropping two places down to ninth, now more than a minute from his teammate Dani who was still leading.

 

Stage six started the afternoon loop, after the lunchtime service break and Kris fought back with a time four seconds faster than Dani who continued to lead the event, although it was now reduced to twelve seconds. Ott Tanak was faster than Loeb, and took third overall as a result, whilst Thierry moved back up one place after Hyundai fixed the problem with his car during service.

 

The second run of El Chocolate, stage seven, and the nine-time champion took it, and with Kris suffering a spin losing six or seven seconds he also moved into second overall! Further down the order, both Teemu and Esapekka went out of the event after sliding out and Andreas passed Ogier for fifth, after being almost three seconds faster.

 

The following stage saw Loeb and Ott set exactly the same time allowing the Estonian to pass Kris who spun again dropping to fourth and whilst that was happening, Loeb had closed to within eight seconds on the current leader, Dani. Sadly, Jari-Matti, who had been in seventh overall retired with alternator failure after this stage.

 

Stages nine and ten were run at the Autodromo de Leon, and honours were shared by Tanak and Ogier.

 

It had been a very interesting day, with Dani leading throughout and the Citroen duo of Meeke and Loeb being the closest challengers. Championship leader, Thierry was a full two minutes off the lead in seventh place whilst Seb Ogier lay just thirty seconds from the lead, fifth overall.

 

Here’s the thoughts of the drivers at the end of the day with the top three first.

Dani Sordo, Hyundai

“I have been happy with our pace and rhythm today, particularly on the morning loop when we could really set some good times, making the most of our road position. To be leading the rally at the end of the opening day is a great feeling but we know it is very close and we will have a fight on our hands tomorrow. I have to say thanks to the whole team for their hard work. They have given us the perfect car. The stage wins on Friday morning were very nice but we knew the repeat loop would be tricky. We thought the soft tyres might be a bit on the limit but it was a risk that did not really pay off; we didn’t generate enough lateral grip. We have been quick in Mexico before so we hoped to be in the fight, and we will do all we can to remain in the podium battle.”

Sébastien Loeb, Citroen

“Overall, clearly, it has been a very good opening leg! I didn’t know what to expect before coming but we are here in second, not far off the lead, so I’m delighted to be on the pace after six years away from Mexico. We’re now going to try and maintain the same pace, but I know it won’t be easy. Tänak is very close behind, in particular, and we know he’s very good in the quick stages!”

Ott Tanak, Toyota 

“All in all, it has been a good day. It is my first time on gravel in this car, so there have been many new things to learn. The temperatures have been very high. This morning we had to manage it as best as we could but the team did an extremely good job during the service and made some good improvements. This afternoon I was pushing really hard. Our road position was not as good as the leaders but still we managed to close on them. It has been a nice start and we can definitely build on that tomorrow.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 03, Rally Mexico 2018 / March 8-11, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“Without the less-than-perfect tyre choice this morning and my two silly mistakes this afternoon, we could have been right up there at the front, so it’s a bit frustrating. But that’s life. The main thing is that our speed is good and I really enjoyed driving my C3 WRC. There is still a long way to go. I’m certainly going to keep pushing and let’s see how things work out.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“We tried to push as hard as possible today. We had a small spin which cost us maybe six or seven seconds but, being second on the road, I think we can still be happy with our day. We made the best of it and were beating everyone around us. But for sure the guys starting further back were faster – as we expected.

“Tomorrow won’t be much better as we’ll still start very early on the road. It’s going to be difficult to catch the guys in front but you never know and we’ll try our best.”

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

Teemu Suninen

“I was struggling a bit with the rhythm this morning and wasn’t as fast as I wanted to be. I had a good road position and was hoping to be closer to the guys around me. But I was comparing myself to Loeb, and I need to remember that he is a nine-time World Champion!

“In the first stage of the second loop we were pushing a bit more. There was one easy right that narrowed towards the end and we ran a bit wide. We touched the fence and damaged some of the suspension parts.

“After that the car was really difficult to drive – which is normal if you break it! It was difficult to set the car for the corners and I was braking all the time and overheating the brakes. I ran wide and hit the barrier which forced us to retire for the day.

“But it was really good to win the super special stage as this is an area I have been working to improve. There are a lot of these stages on this rally and if you lose a couple of seconds on every one then it can be a lot of time at the end of the rally. We worked hard to improve on these kind of stages, so it was good to see that hard work paying off.”

 

Elfyn Evans

“We hit a series of bumps that were a lot worse than expected. We lost the rear – still in sixth gear – and didn’t have the power to pull out of the slide. We clipped the bank on the inside and rolled I don’t know how many times.

“I jumped out of the car immediately because I didn’t think there would be any way to continue. But when the dust settled we could see that the damage wasn’t too bad at all. We got our helmets back on and managed to finish the stage – which is incredible after a roll like that.

“We checked in with the medical team when we returned to service and Dan was advised to go for some further precautionary checks. We’re both okay, which is the main thing, and now we just need to focus on starting our season afresh in Corsica.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen

“We have tried to push as hard as we could today in the circumstances. I’ve been happy enough overall, but we know there is room for improvement. In the morning loop, our focus was on getting to grips with the car, and how to control it on the dusty mountain stages. In the afternoon, we opted for harder compound tyres, which felt very slippery at times. It was difficult to know where to push, and how hard, because you lose the line so easily. There were a few mistakes here and there but generally it’s been a solid first day. We’re involved in a close battle for the top-five, which gives us something to build on.”

Thierry Neuville

“Not the most positive day for us. Our motivation level was quite high even if we knew it would be difficult as first on the road. We did our best not to lose too much time on the morning loop. Before the start of the short SS5 we were in seventh overall. Unfortunately, we had an unforeseen over-consumption of fuel, which caused a loss of fuel pressure in the stage. We lost around 20 seconds and two positions. It was really disappointing. The afternoon didn’t really improve and we struggled again in SS8 (Ortega 2) with some power steering trouble losing another 40 seconds of time. Tomorrow will be another hard day but we’ll keep pushing to get the best that we can out of the weekend.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03, Rally Mexico
07-11 March 2018
Action
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“The car felt very good at the start of the first stage this morning but then we began to suffer from high engine temperatures. We were able to control it, but it affected our performance, and I was concentrating too much on the temperatures and not on the driving. The team worked on it during service and in the afternoon, it was getting better, so it was a shame that we had the problem with the alternator and had to retire. When we restart tomorrow, there is a good chance for some points so we just need to keep fighting.”

Esapekka Lappi

“It has been a really difficult day for me. This morning was quite disappointing and then I made a fairly stupid mistake this afternoon. On a 90-degree left-hander, I missed the line on entry and just slid wide and off the road. The car was not very badly damaged but we couldn’t get it back on the road. There were not so many positives for me from today but hopefully we can make something happen tomorrow.”

 

Saturday saw around 130km of stages. Loeb would draw first blood, winning stage 11 and with overnight leader Dani only fourth fastest and twelve seconds slower, Loeb moved into the lead, five seconds clear of the Spaniard in his Hyundai. Also, on the move was Kris, Ogier and Andreas who all passed Ott Tanak. He’d suffered turbo failure with seven km’s left of the stage, leaving him bereft of engine power. He retired after the stage.

Sébastien Loeb, Rally Mexico. Photo credit Citroen Racing

The following stage saw Loeb and Sordo set pretty much the same pace for fourth and fifth fastest, whilst Kris won the stage closing the gap to the top two by some ten seconds! Also going well was Ogier who had benefitted from Ott retiring plus also he’d brought the gap down to the leaders a full ten seconds, to under twenty.

 

The final stage of the morning saw Dani close the gap to the leader, whilst stage winner Ogier drew himself level on time with Kris, after the Northern Irishman suffered a scrappy stage with a stall and also running wide near the end of the stage.

 

After service, stage 14 saw our leader suffer a puncture after his tyre caught a stone on the line which saw him plummet to fifth position. Dani also lost time dropping thirty seconds and falling behind our new top two of Ogier and Meeke who were separated by just 3.8 seconds.

 

The next stage saw Kris spin and lose thirty seconds, giving Ogier a big lead of the same amount! Loeb was Ogier’s closest challenger, just six seconds down on his fellow country-man.

 

The second run of El Brinco saw Kris much closer to Ogier’s pace, just 2.6 slower through the 10km stage, whilst Dani was a similar amount further back, consolidating his third place overall.

 

The last two stages of the day were won by Meeke and Sordo, whilst Ogier’s lead stood at a remarkable 35 seconds! We’d had a super Seb Saturday, turning a thirty-second-time deficit, into a thirty-five second lead! Just astonishing! Dani Sordo had also driven a very clever day, minimising mistakes, and was well placed to take a deserved third place with a 45 second lead over Andreas, his teammate.

 

Let’s hear then from the top three once more.

 

Sébastien Ogier

“I am very happy to be in the lead at the end of the day. Our starting position was a bit better this morning and, in the afternoon, there was no cleaning left to do which is where we were able to make the biggest difference. We wanted to push – and I was pretty much on the limit most of the time – but we had a good feeling in the car.

“We didn’t always have a perfect run, but I was really happy with the morning loop where I made very few mistakes – especially in the second and third stages [SS12 and SS13] which were almost perfect.

“It was a bit tougher in the afternoon – still very slippery and very hot inside the car and for the engine and the brakes as well. It wasn’t an easy loop, but everything worked well and we can be really happy with the job we have done so far.”

Kris Meeke

“It was a good day for us in terms of rhythm, especially this morning when we were really comfortable. I then benefited from Seb’s puncture, but that’s part and parcel of rallying, and this stage was particularly tricky, with a lot of loose stones on the road. We now have to finish off the job tomorrow by making sure of second place, but it won’t be an easy task. The power stage might also be interesting, with temperatures that will have risen by lunchtime, whereas we’ll have to decide on tyre choice when it’s much cooler, early in the morning.”

Dani Sordo

“A podium in Mexico this weekend would be a great result and I am determined to keep this important position for me and the team. Things haven’t gone according to plan today. I struggled with confidence on the opening stage and lost some time compared to my nearest rivals. The feeling was better for the rest of the morning loop, but it was in the first stage of the afternoon when we lost most time. I hit a small stone at the start of SS14, so had to drive the 31km stage with a front-left puncture. With no spare tyres to rely on, I took the rest of the loop quite steady, not pushing hard. We didn’t want to risk anything. Meeke is not so far in front, so we have to make sure we remain focused and see what happens on Sunday morning.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Sébastien Loeb

“This morning, it was really nice to be able to confirm yesterday’s performance and hold the overall lead six years after my last Rally Mexico. To be honest, I hadn’t expected to be in this position before the start but it’s reassuring to know that I haven’t lost my driving skills! It was all set to be a good battle at the front until we got the puncture. There were two successive corners with stones on the inside of the bend. We went over them a little and one of them proved fatal. The mistake we made was to change the wheel. I wasn’t very familiar with how these tyres last and our instinct was the wrong one, probably from cross-country rallying, in fact! We would have lost a lot less time had we not stopped to change the tyre, but that’s just the way it goes. We’ll now try and make it to the finish and enjoy driving the car as much as possible.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen

“The morning was tough and our stage times were not so impressive. We were really struggling when the grip levels were low. Things were better in the afternoon and we were more competitive. On the plus side, we are up to fourth, which is not so bad. There is a big gap to Dani in third and to Loeb in fifth, so we have to really concentrate on our own rally. It’s very easy to make a mistake here, so I want to keep a steady pace and rhythm. It’s impossible to do anything about our position based on pure driving but let’s see what happens tomorrow.”

Thierry Neuville

“It has been another difficult day, but we’re still there and fighting. We have managed to gain one position today, and there are lots of things happening at the front of the pack. The morning didn’t get off to the best of starts after we got stuck in the water splash, losing over a minute of time. We also had two punctures during the day which made things very complicated. We learned a lot as first on the road, so we have to take some positives away despite the obvious frustrations. We have to look forward to Sunday and aim for some points to minimise the damage from this tough weekend.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen

“It’s been a bit difficult today. In the morning I was struggling to find the right rhythm and driving style. But in the end, it was getting better and the last few stages were okay. There is still some work to do, but the good thing is that I know where I can improve and be more precise with the driving.”

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I don’t think it’s ever been as hot in Mexico as it was this afternoon. For sure, it was asking a lot from the cars and the tyres. But overall it was a consistent day with no problems. Step by step we were improving. I hope the final day will be good for us because it has faster, more flowing stages which suits me and the car. These are my favourite stages in the rally. We will try to get eighth as the points could be very valuable for the championship, and of course there is a chance in the Power Stage too, so we have to keep attacking.”

Ott Tanak

“Everything was looking quite good this morning. I could feel more grip than yesterday, and that was suiting our car really well. I missed a junction early on and we lost close to 10 seconds there, but we were still trying to do a good stage. Then seven kilometres before the end the turbo failed and we had to retire from the day. Unfortunately, this is part of rallying, but I can be happy that our pace was competitive on our first gravel event with the team. We will try to do our best tomorrow: it would be nice to get some points from the Power Stage if possible”

Esapekka Lappi

“In general, it has been quite OK today and much better than yesterday. The mechanics did a good job to fix the car last night, so a big thank you to them. I was able to enjoy the driving this morning and the times were better. We were delayed after service because my seatbelt was stuck underneath a box that the TV crews had moved, so I had to wait half an hour for them to come and fix it. Once we got going we had some good splits before we got a puncture, and then on the next one I thought I had another puncture, but the time was actually quite decent. The Power Stage tomorrow gives us a chance to get some points.”

 

Sunday dawned dry and hot. Seb had a very good lead over Kris, but the gap to Dani was just eleven seconds. First stage was won by Jari-Matti, but it was not so good for Kris. The car slid wide, with the result that the wheels popped into a gulley and putting the car on its’ side. He lost 47 seconds, and with it any hope of second place and now Dani was in second place!

 

Stage 21 was won by Ott, returning to the fray with a new turbo under rally 2 rules, and with this stage doubling up as the power stage later it was one way to find out what would work later. Latvala and Neuville completed the top three.

 

Ott certainly knew the way with this stage, as he won it and the five points, with Seb second and Latvala third. There would be drama later though, with the French ace being given a ten second penalty for not correctly negotiating the chicane in that stage. This would drop him out of the top five, down to eighth place in the stage. Those to benefit were, Latvala, Neuville, Mikkelsen and Loeb.

However, Seb Ogier had given the field something to think about, after his amazing drive on Saturday, which had given him, Julien and the M-Sport team a consummate victory, tempered slightly with Elfyn and Dan not making the finish.

Sébastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia – 2018 Rally Mexico Winners

Dani Sordo had driven very well all weekend, keeping errors to a minimum, and ultimately benefiting from Kris’ mistakes. A well deserved second place. Last year’s winner, certainly had the pace to win, but for those errors that came along. He’ll hope for better things in Corsica, for sure.

 

Final Classification

  1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:54:58.0
  2. Dani Sordo / Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:03.6
  3. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen DS3 WRC) +1:19.2
  4. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:38.4
  5. Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena (Citroen C3 WRC) +2:24.6
  6. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +9:03.0
  7. Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +10:24.7
  8. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +15:37.1
  9. Gus Greensmith / Craig Parry (Ford Fiesta R5) +17:09.3
  10. Pedro Heller / Pablo Olmos (Ford Fiesta R5) +24:18.1

 

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings

After round 3

1              S. Ogier                56

2              T. Neuville           52

3              A. Mikkelsen      35

4              K. Meeke             32

5              J.M Latvala          31

6              O. Tanak               26

7              E. Lappi                 23

8              C. Breen               20

9              D. Sordo                18

10           H. Paddon            10

 

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings

After round 3

 

1              Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team                   84

2              M-Sport Ford World Rally Team                                 72

3              Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team            71

4              Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team                  67

 

Ogier’s win put him back in the lead of the championship, four points ahead of Thierry.

Let’s hear then from the drivers!

 

Sébastien Ogier

“I’m super happy today and this win is a fantastic way for me and Julien to celebrate our tenth-year anniversary in the FIA World Rally Championship. It started in 2008 with a win in the Junior category and so many great things have happened here since then – this win, I think, being one of the best.

“This weekend we really gave it everything. Julien was perfect, and the team were so strong as well. The victory is great of course, but it’s the performance that was really good. We’ve made such a big improvement from last year, and that is a big positive for the rest of the season.

“I was pretty much on the limit all weekend. When you’re early on the road you’re trying your best but the time is still far away from those starting behind. There’s always some frustration coming with that, but you have to keep going and not give up.

“That’s what we did, and on the second day – when our road position was a bit better – we kept pushing and were able to take the lead in the afternoon.

“We can be very proud this weekend, and there’s not a lot we could have done better. We gave it everything – right up until the final stage.”

Dani Sordo

“I am very happy to score this podium after what has been an enjoyable, competitive but tough weekend. We have shown good pace here in previous seasons, so I was optimistic that we would be able to fight for the top-three this weekend. It wasn’t entirely straightforward; even in the Power Stage there was a scary moment when we picked up a rear right puncture. With stones in the middle of the road, it was so easy for something to happen so we backed off and took it carefully to the end. A podium result is so important and we made the most of our road position in these really tricky gravel stages. It’s been a good team effort and I am particularly pleased to see us increase our lead in the manufacturers’ championship. Thanks to Carlos and to the whole team for this result.”

Kris Meeke

“Obviously, there are positives to take away from this weekend, starting with the fact that I secured my first podium of the year and picked up good points for the championship. But I can’t help but feel disappointed, not least for the team. I had everything you need to win here in Mexico – the pace, the car and road position – but I didn’t do the job. I made too many silly mistakes and you just can’t get away with that at this level. I need to tidy my game up, starting in Corsica where we were very competitive last year.”

Kris Meeke, Paul Nagle – Rally Mexico 2018 – Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen

“It has not been an easy rally for us, and we haven’t really been able to find the optimum pace or performance that we needed here. We made some changes to the car in service on Saturday evening, and I felt more comfortable in this morning’s final stages. We weren’t really in a position to improve, so we simply tried to keep things clean and tidy. There were definitely areas where we could have attacked more but finishing fourth gives us important points. As a team we have increased our lead in the manufacturers’ table, and I have also moved up to third in the drivers’ classification, which is a positive to take away.”

Thierry Neuville

“We approached the final morning of the rally determined to score as many points as possible for the drivers’ championship. I gave it all I could in the Power Stage, and I’m happy to take three extra points away from what has been a very tough weekend. Starting first on the road each day was far from ideal, but that’s part of the game. It was actually a useful experience to deal with those conditions, despite the obvious time disadvantage. We had some other issues over the weekend, so to come away with sixth place and to keep up the pressure in the championship is important. Thanks to everyone in the team. We have a never-give-up mentality, and Corsica will be another story.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Sébastien Loeb

“Coming into the rally, I felt that testing had gone well, but I obviously had no certainty about my level, bearing in mind that everyone is fighting over tenths of a second, and that it doesn’t take much to find yourself left behind a little bit. So, it was a nice surprise to be on the pace! I’m just a bit frustrated that I wasn’t able to test myself properly against the others right to the end because of the puncture. In any case, it was a very good weekend and that was the initial aim of this comeback. I hope I can now go on to get a good result in Corsica, even though I’ll still have quite a few things to refamiliarise myself with.”

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I had a fantastic feeling this morning and the car felt very good. We had a really big push and won the first stage. Then the second stage was also really good, even though we had to save the tyres a bit. In the Power Stage I gave it everything and I’m really happy to finish second fastest with my road position. It has been a difficult weekend but to retire from one day and still come back and score eight points is good. Overall, I know that the car performance is there, and now I am starting to find the performance in myself.”

Ott Tänak

“Today we were putting everything on the Power Stage. We had nothing to lose and just wanted to get these five points. The car was performing really well and I felt really comfortable in the car so I could give an extra push. Of course, I’m not happy with the overall result as we were in contention for the win, but we still have a long season ahead of us and the performance side has been good. It was my first time on gravel in the car, we learned a lot and we can see many places where we can improve.”

Esapekka Lappi

“Today we were concentrating on the Power Stage, so in the first two stages we just wanted to get through them, check the pace-notes and save the tyres. It has been a tough weekend for us. The highlight has actually been the spectator stages. In our pre-event test we did some work on a go-kart track and we managed to find some new things which seem to have worked, because last evening I almost did the fastest time on the street stage. Previously we had been losing a lot of time in those. We also gained a lot of experience and data, which we can use to improve next year.”

 

M-Sport Ford

Teemu Suninen

“It’s been a difficult rally for us, but we showed some improvement over the second loops and I was also fast on the city stages which is a big positive. These type of stages [city stages] had been my weakness and we worked really hard to improve, so that was a good.

“Of course, it would have been nicer to have been a bit faster on the gravel – and not to have made the mistakes on Friday – but we still learnt a lot and know where we can improve. I need to keep the car on the line and be a bit earlier on the throttle. It’s just some little things, but if you lose 0.1 seconds on every corner it will be a lot of time at the end of the rally!

“We need to analyse this event and then focus on our next one in Argentina. I did the recce there in 2016, so I know something about the stages but this will be my first time in a rally car. Because of this, we will need to prepare even more than normal.”

 

Gus Greensmith (2nd WRC 2) Fiesta R5

“I feel pretty good after this one. It’s a relief to get to the end to be honest as it was a rough rally – much rougher than I expected – so to walk away with second in WRC 2 and ninth overall is great.

“It was one of those rallies where you don’t want to drive conservatively but, with the attrition rate so high and the wise words of Malcolm and Dad, that’s what we did. I don’t want to have to do it again, but they’re a lot cleverer than me and we’re now fourth in the championship after just one rally.

“I also have to say a big thanks to the team as there wasn’t a single problem with the car all weekend. Everything was brilliant, just brilliant.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 -WRC Mexico (MEX) – WRC 08/03/2018 to 11/03/2018 – Gus Greensmith / Craig Parry Fiesta R5 – PHOTO : @World

Pedro Heller (3rd WRC 2) Fiesta R5

“I feel really, really happy after this rally. If you compare it to last year, it’s the complete opposite! Okay the gap to the winner was pretty big, but this is Mexico – it’s rough and we made it to the end with our first points in WRC 2 and also our first top-ten finish overall. Now, I’m looking forward to Argentina where we plan to do the same.”

The next round is on the weekend of the 5th to 8th of April on the Island of Corsica. Can Thierry get back winning ways, or will Seb prevail again? Perhaps Kris can follow up his speed from last year and take his first victory. Or will we see Jari-Matti follow up his victory from 2015 and take a win for Toyota?

 

See you then!

Rally Mexico 2018 Preview- Who will conquer the gravel?

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Mexico(MEX) – WRC 08/03/2017 to 12/03/2017 – PHOTO : @World

 

The WRC heads for much warmer climes in Mexico after the snow and ice of Monte and Sweden! Thierry Neuville leads the championship after a brilliant drive last month. Seb will want to fight back on the classic stages that make this incredible event. Its held at over 2,200 metres, and this has a very big effect on engine performance, with every 1000 metres leading to a 10% loss of engine power.

 

Big news is that a certain nine-time World Champion will be making his return with Citroen in Mexico, but this does mean that Craig Breen will not be competing, and that is a shame considering his drive to second in Sweden. Last year, Kris Meeke won this rally and he’ll be hoping he can do the same again to get his season going. Certainly, the car will go a lot better this year with the handling problems sorted.

 

Toyota suffered last year as well, but with a whole event completed and a year to work on their car will almost certainly feature near the front with the combined talents of Jari-Matti, Ott and Esapekka.

 

Here’s the details then of the stages that await them!

Stagelocal time (mexico)gmt
Thursday 8th March
shakedown (Llano Grande)9:0015:00
Start day 1 (Leon)18:150:15
SS 1 – Monster Street Stage GTO (2,53 km20:082:08
End of day 121:383:38
Friday 9th March
Start day 2 and Service A (Leon – 15 min)9:3015:30
SS 2 – Duarte – Derramadero 1 (26,05 km)10:3316:33
SS 3 – El Chocolate 1 (31,44 km)11:2117:21
SS 4 – Ortega 1 (17,23 km)12:4118:41
SS 5 – Street Stage Leon 1 (1,11 km)14:0220:02
Service B (Leon – 30 min)14:4220:42
SS 6 – Duarte – Derramadero 2 (26,05 km)16:0022:00
SS 7 – El Chocolate 2 (31,44 km)16:4822:48
SS 8 – Ortega 2 (17,23 km)17:4123:41
SS 9 – Autodromo de Leon 1 (2,30 km)20:062:06
SS 10 - Autodromo de Leon 2 (2,30 km)20:112:11
Flexi Service C (Leon – 45 min)21:263:26
Saturday 10th March
Start day 3 and Service D (Leon – 15 min)7:3013:30
SS 11 – Guanajuatito 1 (30,97 km)8:3314:33
SS 12 – Otates 1 (26,37 km)10:1116:11
SS 13 – El Brinco 1 (9,98 km)11:0817:08
Service E (Leon – 30 min)12:4818:48
SS 14 – Guanajuatito 2 (30,97 km)14:2120:21
SS 15 – Otates 2 (26,37 km)15:3421:34
SS 16 – El Brinco 2 (9,98 km)16:4822:48
SS 17 – Autodromo de Leon 3 (2,30 km)17:3823:38
SS 18 – Autodromo de Leon 4 (2,30 km)17:4323:43
Flexi Service F (Leon – 45 min)18:330:33
SS 19 – Street Stage Leon 2 (1,11 km)20:262:26
Sunday 11th March
Start day 3 and Service D (Leon – 15 min)7:3013:30
SS 11 – Guanajuatito 1 (30,97 km)8:3314:33
SS 12 – Otates 1 (26,37 km)10:1116:11
SS 13 – El Brinco 1 (9,98 km)11:0817:08
Service E (Leon – 30 min)12:4818:48
SS 14 – Guanajuatito 2 (30,97 km)14:2120:21
SS 15 – Otates 2 (26,37 km)15:5421:54
SS 16 – El Brinco 2 (9,98 km)16:3822:38
SS 17 – Autodromo de Leon 3 (2,30 km)17:3823:38
SS 18 – Autodromo de Leon 4 (2,30 km)17:4323:43
Flexi Service F (Leon – 45 min)18:270:27
SS 19 – Street Stage Leon 2 (1,11 km)20:262:26

Let’s hear from the drivers then!

Hyundai Motorsport

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 03, Rally Mexico
08-12 March 2017
Dani Sordo, Marc Marti, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Sarah Vessely
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville

“We head to Mexico on the back of our fantastic win in Sweden, so our motivation and morale could not be higher. Mexico is a nice event and one that brings back good memories. I got my first podium there in 2013, and then scored Hyundai Motorsport’s first ever podium just one year later. The rally has a more relaxed atmosphere, and it’s generally a lot calmer for the drivers. We arrive a bit earlier than normal in order to acclimatise and adjust to the time difference. It is the first event of the year with higher temperatures – and altitude – making it a unique and enjoyable challenge.”

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rally Mexico is an event I’ve done three times in the past. It’s a beautiful rally with stages that are similar from one season to the next, so we know them well. It is always a warm event, so we have to take extra care of the brakes. It is also quite a rough rally, which means it very easy to make a mistake. There is typically a lot of road cleaning, and with stages being held at altitude the engine is down on power, so it requires a slight change of driving style. After finishing on the podium in Sweden, our first one with Hyundai Motorsport, I’m ready to fight for another strong result.”

Dani Sordo

“I was pleased to see the team score its first win of the season in Sweden, and I am happy to be returning to the line-up for Rally Mexico. I have always enjoyed driving on the Mexican stages, which are lined with many passionate rally fans, who cheer and support us throughout the weekend. Road cleaning in Mexico can create a big difference between those first on the road and those behind. I hope we can benefit a bit from our position and compete near the front to help the team defend our manufacturers’ championship lead.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I always like going to Mexico and enjoying the warmth and the sun for the first time after the winter. The stages have sections that are very fast and sections that are very slow, and there are a lot of loose rocks off the line so you have to be precise with your driving. If we can finish on the podium that would be really good for the championship. It’s clear that the performance is there in the car. We had a good gravel test in Spain last week: of course, in Mexico it is going to be warmer but it is the best you can do in Europe at this time of the year. We had some updates to the suspension and I could feel that the traction and the grip under braking are better than what we had at the end of last year.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Mexico(MEX) – WRC 08/03/2017 to 12/03/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Ott Tänak

“Rally Mexico will be my first event on gravel in the Yaris WRC. I have many new things to learn, but we had two days of testing in Spain last week which were very useful. We tried as many different things as possible, just to understand how the car reacted. The early feeling with the car on gravel is quite good: there are still some things to get used to and some things that we can develop. In Mexico we will have a better road position, starting fifth. The road sweeping has a big effect there, so this should help us. I have quite a bit of experience in Mexico now, so I feel comfortable going there and I think we have a good chance to fight for the top positions.”

Esapekka Lappi

“This will be the first time that I have competed in Mexico, although I did do the recce last year so I have some idea of what to expect. The surface is similar to the gravel roads in Spain, where everybody has done their pre-event testing, but I think the stages will be much rougher on the second pass. The altitude will also make a big difference: I have never driven those kinds of conditions where the air is really thin. It means there is less power from the engine, so you may have to drive in a slightly different way. I am quite happy with how my season has started and hopefully we can continue that in Mexico. The main target for me though has to be to do every stage and gain that experience for the future.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“Mexico is a bit like Catalonia, one of the gravel rallies where we were pretty competitive last year. Since then, we have made further improvements to the C3 WRC, so I have high hopes that we can get among the frontrunners. Of course, a lot of our rivals had reliability issues related to the altitude last year and are bound to be a lot better prepared this time around. It’s definitely an event that I like: as the full power of the cars is not available, you have to be as clean as possible in your driving. I’m also pretty pleased with our recent tests. We seem to have made more progress, especially on the dampers in conjunction with Öhlins. That was Sébastien’s impression too. In any case, I’m really looking forward to it. We need to make the most of running seventh on the road on day one – that will be key in getting a good result.”

Kris Meeke, Paul Nagle during last years Rally Mexico. Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Sébastien Loeb

“This is a rally that I have always loved, so I have high hopes I will enjoy these stages in the C3 WRC, which is an exciting car to drive. Other than that, I have the same uncertainties as everyone else: although I hope to be more or less on the pace, I have no idea where I stand in relation to the other drivers, so I can’t wait to get started! You have to bear in mind that this is still the world championship! The other drivers haven’t stood still over the last few years… In any case, I’m pleased with the testing we did. I covered almost 500 kilometres in two days. I found the C3 WRC well balanced and I felt that it had improved again since my last test outing at the end of 2017. I have tried to give myself every chance by spending some time in a DS3 WRC beforehand to get the feeling and my reflexes back, and by watching some onboard video footage from previous rallies. 28% of the course is going to be new to me, compared with just 4% for the others, but that’s pretty positive because it is one of the events I still know best. However, my memories of the 72% that I have driven before go back six years, so I’ve done a little bit of work so that I don’t feel completely disorientated. I hope my position in Friday’s running order (11th) will help me to get my bearings because with the current regulations, you really need to have a good first day, otherwise your rally suffers.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier

There’s always a special feeling when we return to Rally Mexico – because it’s where everything started for me 10 years ago! It was our first event in the world championship, and the story started with victory in the Junior WRC.

“Since then we added a couple of podiums and victories at the highest level which means that I obviously have Rally Mexico in my heart! We’ll for sure do our best to continue this love story with another strong result and are looking forward to the great Mexican atmosphere!

“This might be the first gravel event of the year, but it has its own unique character which sets it apart from the more traditional gravel rallies. The altitude is higher than anything else we experience throughout the year and the thinner air means a lot less power than we’re used to.

“Those conditions – linked with the pretty high temperatures – are practically impossible to reproduce in Europe which means we are counting even more than usual on the job done by our engineers in the climatic chamber to get the maximum performance.

“The loose gravel can also pose something of a challenge for the early runners and, even though we won’t be the first car on the road next week, there will still be a lot of fast drivers behind us. We need to try and stay as close as we can on Friday morning. Then, we can see where we are and push for the best possible result.”

Seb Ogier, M-Sport Ford. Photo credit MFORN Studio.

Elfyn Evans

“Rally Mexico is an event that I really enjoy. It’s such a colourful rally with a great atmosphere and we’ve done well there in the past. It’s one of those events where a clever run can deliver the results. You need to get the balance between speed and risk just right, and that’s exactly what we’ll be aiming for next week.

“When you think about this event two things come to mind – the heat and the altitude. We’ve got to get quickly acclimatised to the environment – both in terms of our physical fitness and our driving style. The thinner air can see the power reduced by as much as 20 percent so you’ve got to be tidy and keep the momentum through the corners.

“We’ll have a good road position, but that’s not without its challenges as there’s an added risk of rocks being pulled onto the racing line. We’ll need to stay focused and hopefully we can deliver a strong result to kick-start our 2018 campaign.”

Teemu Suninen

“Mexico is one of the special events on the calendar where we face some really extreme conditions. The weather is always warm, and the high altitude means that we feel the lack of oxygen. It has an effect on the drivers, but also on the cars with 20 percent less power than the more traditional gravel events.

“It’s a shame that the winter weather prevented us from testing, but that’s the way it goes sometimes and we will have to make good use of the Shakedown to get accustomed to the feeling of driving here in Mexico.

“It’s difficult to estimate our chances next week. I won the WRC 2 class here a few years ago, but this year will be completely different and I expect the competition to be really tough. I’ll try to concentrate on my own driving and then we will see where we are.”

 

After two rounds and two different winners, who could win this event? Road position will have a big impact on the kind of pace that the drivers will able to produce on the stages. Then there’s the thin air…. All the teams have done a lot of work to minimize the effects of this on these unique stages!

Enjoy!

Rally Sweden- Thierry and Hyundai Triumph!

On Sunday, Thierry and Nicolas had a good gap and just three stages to clear before they could take their first Swedish victory. The gap to Craig stood at just under 23 seconds and that meant he’d be able to just manage his pace.

 

The first stage of the day, Likenäs, saw another stage victory for Ott Tanak, with Lappi second fastest and Jari-Matti third. This allowed Lappi to take fifth place from Mads. Meantime, Craig closed a few seconds down on the leader and the gap was now 14 seconds. Rejoining after his troubles after yesterday, Kris spun again after clipping the inside of a snowbank.

 

The same stage was run later and this time Lappi took the stage victory, with Thierry second fastest and Craig, having made some changes to his notes with Scott was third, and with that increasing the gap over Andreas on the overall leaderboard a further three seconds to almost fifteen seconds. After setting such a good time, Lappi had now closed to just three seconds of Hayden! Could he snatch fourth on the last stage?

 

We had a bit of a wait for the last stage, which was set to run just after midday. The re-run of Torsby as the power stage saw Lappi once more at the top, with Seb, Andreas, Thierry and Ott completing the top five in the stage and taking the points for those positions.

 

Well, we had or top three overall and taking his and Hyundai’s first Swedish victory was Thierry, with Craig Breen finishing second after a superb drive to second, his best result yet! Andreas made it a Hyundai 1-3 double podium! Not only that, but Thierry took the lead in the driver’s championship and Hyundai also now lead the manufacturers championship for the first time ever.

 

Overall Classification- Rally Sweden

  1. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 2:52:13.1
  2. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +19.8
  3. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +28.3
  4. Esapekka Lapp / Janne Ferme (Toyota Yaris WRC) +45.8
  5. Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +54.4
  6. Mads Østberg / Torstein Eriksen (Citroen C3 WRC) +1:15.3
  7. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:04.9
  8. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:52.2
  9. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3:44.4
  10. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +8:45.4

 

Let’s hear from the drivers starting with the top three.

 

Thierry Neuville

“An incredible result! We had a disappointing start to the season in Monte-Carlo, but we didn’t let that get us down. We kept focused and targeted a strong result here in Sweden. We knew the competition would be tough for the win but we came here with the objective to bounce back, and we did that perfectly. We didn’t expect to take the lead so early in the weekend, so we have had to be clever to defend the gap at times, and then increase it when we could. I felt we deserved the win last year, but perhaps even more so this weekend. I was never going to push in the Power Stage because the victory meant too much to risk, so to come away with two extra points is great. We’re now leading the championship, so our 2018 campaign is back on track. Thanks to everyone in the team. We have many people working tirelessly every day behind the scenes to give us a competitive car, one with which we can fight for victories like this. This win is for all of them; it’s been a fantastic weekend for us.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, Rally Sweden
15-18 February 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Craig Breen

“I’m absolutely on top of the world! It has been an incredible weekend. I have always really enjoyed this rally in the past, but I have to say that I surprised myself this weekend in that I was able to fight at the front throughout the race, without making any mistakes. I used to think that quick rallies weren’t suited to me, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. In any event, my C3 WRC was perfect here and it’s great to secure this result for the team – the guys have worked really hard for this.”

Craig and Paul scored their best ever result finishing second in Sweden. Photo credit Citroen Racing

Andreas Mikkelsen

“It is a fantastic feeling to be standing on the podium for the first time with Hyundai Motorsport. We have had a pretty solid weekend and enjoyed a clean final morning. I wanted to give a push in the Power Stage but it’s always a fine line as we definitely didn’t want to risk our podium. In the end, we took three points and third place overall, which is very encouraging. More than that, it has been an excellent weekend for the team as a whole, and our congratulations go to Thierry and Nicolas on a tremendous result.  It’s wonderful to be able to share in this success, and to see the team at the top of the championship, even at this early stage in the season.”

 

Here’s the rest of the drivers.

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“It has been a very hard weekend for me. We just lost so much time on the first day with our high starting position in the fresh snow and the heavy ruts. We changed the transmission for the final day and this improved the feeling compared to yesterday. The team did a very good job and the car was handling very well. It is both quick and reliable and that is important.”

 

Ott Tänak

“This has been a tough weekend. On Friday we faced some bad conditions and couldn’t have done much more. On Saturday our road position was slightly better, the pace was better as a result and we could win quite a few stages. Then today when the conditions were in our favour we could do some more good times. This was my first rally in the Toyota Yaris WRC with a gravel-style setup and we have learned a lot of things.”

 

Esapekka Lappi

“To get the Power Stage win and gain two places today has been very good. I’m really happy for the team as well: at least we got some kind of good result from this weekend. It means I’m not so disappointed anymore about what happened to me on Friday. It’s so easy to make a mistake here. Overall the whole rally was quite strong. I wasn’t expecting this kind of speed from my side, so I’m really looking forward to coming back here next year.”

Esapekka Lappi, Toyota Gazoo WRT. Photo credit Toyota

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon

“An annoying end to what had been a generally positive weekend for us. It was just a small mistake in the Power Stage, which stalled the car and lost us too much time to defend our fourth place. It is what it is. We’re not in the championship hunt this season so whether it’s fourth or fifth doesn’t really matter greatly. We have plenty of positives to take away from the event and I am looking forward to continuing this trend in my next WRC event in Portugal. I’m happy to have been part of this competitive rally for the team and I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Mads Østberg

“I’m delighted with my return to the team. I wasn’t expecting to be able to fight for such a good position with the limited amount of miles we covered in testing. I hope that the team is pleased with what we have done with this first experience together. I know that with more time in the car, I can be even more competitive with the C3 WRC. In any case, I would love to drive it again soon!”

 

Kris Meeke

“It was a difficult rally for us. With our less than ideal position in the running order on Friday, I had trouble finding any confidence, which meant that we ended up being one of the first on the road on Saturday. I was nonetheless working hard to secure the point for tenth place when we nosed into a snow bank at low speed and damaged the turbo. It was really unlucky. I’m determined to bounce back, starting in Mexico. Out of the next four rallies, I have already won three of them and I was leading in Corsica last year as well.”

 

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen

“It’s been a difficult rally, but we’ve been improving a lot and learning a lot about how to drive these cars on this surface – because it’s quite different from the R5 cars. The target before the rally was to be somewhere between fifth and eighth, and we’re eighth so it’s okay. But of course, I was hoping for a bit more. We just need to improve the driving and learn more about how to be fast in these conditions.”

 

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 -WRC Sweden (SWE) – WRC 15/02/2018 to 18/02/2018 – PHOTO : @World

Sébastien Ogier

“For years now, I have been fighting for different rules regarding the starting order. In the end, this is a World Championship and everyone tries to do their best and take every chance that there is to win points.

“At least on this stage [the Power Stage] we had the chance to score some points. I would have preferred to have come here with a realistic chance of fighting for the win or even a podium, but that was not possible from the beginning of this weekend.”

 

Elfyn Evans

“It’s not been the easiest of weekends. It’s probably fair to say that we were struggling for some pace through the early stages, but then when the puncture set us back we didn’t have any chance with the road position. It’s certainly not the weekend we wanted, so we just need to put it behind us and look forward to Mexico.”

Conclusion.

Well, what an amazing rally we were treated to! A maiden victory for Thierry and Hyundai in Sweden, plus Craig Breen’s best ever result with second place. Also, Esapekka making up for his slip in Monte’s last stage with a very good drive to fourth!  It was great to see Hayden out there for the first time this year.

We’ve now got a break with Rally Mexico on the first weekend of March where Thierry and Seb will continue to battle. Will it just be them, or can Kris produce a drive like last year and bring himself into a title fight?

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, Rally Sweden
15-18 February 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Drivers Championship Standings

  1. Thierry Neuville – 41
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 31
  3. Jari-Matti Latvala – 23
  4. Esapekka Lapp – 23
  5. Ott Tänak – 21
  6. Andreas Mikkelsen – 21
  7. Craig Breen – 20
  8. Kris Meeke – 17
  9. Hayden Paddon – 10
  10. Elfyn Evans – 8

 

Manufacturers Championship Standings

  1. Hyundai Motorsport – 54
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC – 53
  3. Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team – 46
  4. M-Sport Ford World Rally Team – 43

Rally Sweden- Thierry makes Saturday his.

Saturday morning dawned cloudless and cold! Eight stages awaited the crews today including Vargasen which included Colins Crest and would be run twice. Three stages were run in the morning followed by service at 11:40 and then the remaining five in the afternoon and evening.

 

First stage of the day Torntorp was won by Tanak, which allowed him to close a little on Jari-Matti in the overall positions. The big surprise was the pace that Craig showed and he was just four seconds slower than Ott in the 19km stage and this pace lifted him into third deposing Hayden.

 

In the following stage, Hagfors, the two leading Hyundai drivers suffered spins and Craig was the chief beneficiary from this, moving ahead of Andreas and now the lead was just four seconds. Hayden also moved ahead of Andreas into third. Ott won the stage, making it two out of two.

 

Now it was time for the big stage of the day, the first run through Vargasen, and Thierry won the stage by just nine tenths of a second from Ott, with Ogier showing some pace at last in third. Mads was seventh fastest, but managed a huge 42 metre jump over Colins Crest! Craig ran a very good stage, fourth fastest keeping the gap to Thierry as close as he could, just 5.9 away from the Belgian.

 

After that stage, the crews headed for service.

 

The second run of Torntorp saw Craig take the stage victory, beating Thierry by 1.3 seconds and reducing the gap to the leader! Hayden lost third to Andreas and Ott closed the gap to Jari-Matti to just five tenths of a second in their battle

 

Into Hagfors for the second time and Thierry struck back with a great time beating Andreas by 6.6 seconds with Craig sticking a good time on the board and staying in second overall, but the gap was now just 14 seconds. He was managing the tyres, as there was gravel appearing through the snow and ice. Kris unfortunately retired from the stage and the rally after he went off into a snowbank which clogged up the front of his car with snow, seriously affecting the cooling of the engine. After he cleaned the snow out, he got going, but then Ott tried to pass him and there was contact, resulting in the Toyota driver going off. This meant that the battle between him and Jari-Matti was over.

 

The second run of Vargasen was won by Thierry who was 4 seconds faster that Craig, thus increasing his lead to 18 seconds over Craig. The Belgian also took a very interesting line and landed on two wheels, the car at a 45-degree angle in the air at one point!

 

Mads Ostberg took the biggest jump though this year over Colins Crest going 42 metres, living life on the edge!

The penultimate stage, back at Karlstad was won by Ott from Mads, with Latvala in third. Craig had also set a good time, consolidating second overall, ahead of the two Hyundai pilots, Andreas and Hayden.

Moving to the last stage of the day the Torsby Sprint stage, a short one to complete day two. Thierry won the stage and increased his lead to 22.7 seconds over Craig Breen. Hyundai duo Andreas and Hayden remain in third and fourth, although the young Kiwi lost time in the final stage, after getting stuck in a snowbank.

Overall Standings- End of Saturday

  1. Neuville/Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:23:23.8
  2. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 22.7
  3. Mikkelsen/Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 32.0
  4. Paddon/Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 48.6
  5. Ostberg/Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 56.8
  6. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:05.8
  7. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 2:03.3
  8. Suninen/Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:20.5
  9. Tänak/Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 3:41.3
  10.  Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 4:24.9

 

Let’s hear then from the drivers.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Things have gone pretty much to plan today and we can be pleased with our day overall. We had a bit of a stressful start this morning after a technical issue in the first stage and a spin in the second, which cost us some time. After that, though, we were able to increase the gap stage by stage. In the afternoon, we took six tyres compared to Craig’s five so we knew we’d lose a bit initially with the extra weight, but we then had fresher tyres for later in the loop. We gave a big push through SS13 and SS14, as we’re involved in a very close fight. We scored more stage wins, which was a nice reward for our efforts. I actually touched the inside bank of the Colin’s Crest jump, which created some exciting images for the fans. I think Colin himself would have called that ‘a little moment’ but we were still able to register the fastest time. We took things a bit steadier in the final stages and we are now prepared to fight for victory on Sunday morning.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, Rally Sweden
15-18 February 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“It has been a day of two halves. The morning loop could have been better. We had a spin in SS10, the second stage of the day, and lost around 15 seconds. We touched a bank and had to reverse out, which was easier said than done, as it was a narrow section of road. We made some set-up adjustments at lunchtime service to find a similar feeling to yesterday, making the car less stiff in a bid to find more traction. The afternoon was a lot cleaner as a result with some improved times. Hayden has been pushing, so we have done the same to try and defend our third place. There is an almost ten-second time deficit to Craig, with three stages left on Sunday, but we’ll give it a good go. It’s not impossible.”

 

Hayden Paddon

“Not quite the day we wanted but we are still enjoying ourselves and doing the best we can. We started the morning loop knowing that we would be playing a waiting game. The way that the car has been set up for my driving meant we had to find a compromise between my own confidence and the outright performance in those first stages. The wider lines on the roads in the afternoon played more to my strengths, so we had to be patient and wait for the stages to come to us. We were definitely more comfortable to push in the repeat loop. It was fantastic to see so many fans enjoying the stages, especially through Colin’s Crest. Unfortunately, we lost a little time stuck in a snow bank on the final stage, but we are still in a good position to push on tomorrow.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Craig Breen

“I’m over the moon with my day and delighted with the pace we’ve shown. It’s something new for me to be fighting at the front in the world championship but you quickly get a taste for it! The afternoon was incredible for us, even though I couldn’t keep pace with Thierry right to the end. You can count on me to fight every step of the way to hold onto this second place.”

 

Mads Østberg

“Given that I’m still working out how best to set up the C3 WRC, I have to be pleased with what we have done so far. Rather than attempting to change everything in the middle of the race, which is always risky, we kept to the basic set-up defined in testing. I’m now trying to improve in my handling of the car as we complete more stages.”

Mads Ostberg and Torstein Erikson, are currently fifth for Citroen.

Kris Meeke

“Initially, I thought I was only going to lose about twenty seconds in this snow bank, but when I got going again, the car had no power. Snow had got into the engine and damaged the turbo. We had been focusing on getting tenth place up to that point and it seems like a heavy price to pay for such a minor mistake. Fresh snow forecast for tomorrow and we’ll be opening the road, so unfortunately, we don’t even have a realistic chance of getting any points on the Power Stage.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen

“I tried to change my driving style a bit this morning but it didn’t work out so well. The afternoon was better, but we still have some more to learn before we can be on the pace of the guys at the front. The main thing for us is to drive cleanly and get the experience, and there are still three more stages where we need to keep doing that tomorrow.”

 

Sébastien Ogier

“We can be satisfied with what we’ve done in the car today as we’ve made no mistakes and driven pretty cleanly all day. I tried to be as fast as I could with the conditions I had, but that’s all we could do from this position on the road.

“If you have a look at the top-three in the championship and where they are this weekend, it’s clear that none of us had a chance. There’s nothing wrong with the cars, it’s just that in these conditions it is impossible to compensate as the disadvantage is too big.”

Teemu Suninen is M-Sport Ford’s top runner in 8th position.

Elfyn Evans

“It’s been a pretty tough weekend for us and it wouldn’t go amiss to salvage some Power Stage points tomorrow. Our road position won’t make it easy as the stages are getting faster and faster with every car, but we’ll give it our best shot.”

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala  
“This morning was going well: I felt good and was enjoying the driving. This afternoon however the car was not behaving well at all. The front differential was not working correctly and I was losing a lot of time, but we are changing the transmission in service so this should be sorted out for tomorrow. Then I’m sure the confidence will come, and if I am feeling good on the start line before the Power Stage then there’s a chance we can score some points there.”

Ott Tänak  
“Overall the pace was quite good today and it was quite a lot more enjoyable. This morning the grip was much more consistent: more like a rally should be. The car was working perfectly in these conditions and it felt good to drive. This afternoon it was as tricky as I expected: it was more or less the same as yesterday, but we had a few more cars ahead of us so a few more lines to follow. We will try to do our best tomorrow and see what is possible on the Power Stage.”

Esapekka Lappi 
“It’s been a good day. We continued the same pace as yesterday, managing to do top five times on almost every stage, which is quite good, and it has been pretty consistent. We made some small changes in service which made the car better for the rutted roads. I don’t think I could have done better times because the road was getting cleaner car-by-car. We have a good fight going on with Östberg: for sure I want to pass him tomorrow.”

 

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 02, Rally Sweden 2018 / February 15-18, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

 

Well, tomorrow sees three stages and 51km of action. Can Thierry win? It’s certainly his to lose. Craig has driven superbly all weekend, and which of the other Hyundai drivers will finish on the podium?

 

Rally Sweden- Hyundai make Friday their Own.

Well, what a day! At the start of the day, we saw more snowfall, which would lead to lots of problems for championship leader Seb in his Fiesta WRC as he acted as a snow plough.

 

Overnight leader Ott increased his lead by winning the first stage of the day, Hof-Finnskog, 21km of really tricky snow-covered stages, whilst Latvala, who started the day in second place would drop down into fifth place.       Those to benefit were Mads, Andreas (who lost his rear bumper in the stage) and Thierry. Just ten seconds covered the top six positions.

 

The following stage, Svullrya, was won by Thierry and this moved him from fourth into first place with Lappi also jumping ahead to third overall.

 

Röjden, the final stage of the morning loop saw some drama for Kris and Elfyn. They both hit something at the edge of the stage and suffered damage to wheels, with Kris getting a broken wheel and Elfyn suffering a puncture. Andreas won the stage and moved into second overall, whilst Citroen duo, Mads and Craig both moved up as well. Tanak dropped right back to seventh place after a disastrous stage. He was pretty angry about it.

Elfyn Evans suffered a puncture during stage four. Photo credit Colin Clark

The crews headed back to service for the midday break, with Seb and Elfyn looking to get some settings that would make the cars handle better.

 

The afternoon stages got underway with Hof-Finnskog just before 2pm and Hayden won it, with Craig second and Lappi in the Toyota third, which meant that the young Finn displaced Andreas from second overall. Also, with such a good time in the stage, Hayden lifted himself into sixth and was now just twelve seconds from the lead currently held by Thierry.

 

The following stage, Röjden was won by Craig who said it wasn’t a perfect run, but clearly good enough not only to win the stage, but also to move into third overall at the expense of Mads in the other Citroen.

 

Last stage then, Torsby, and Hayden flew though setting such a good time that it meant he and Seb jumped into third overall ahead of Craig and Mads, and we now had a Hyundai one-two-three!

 

So, what a day! Two different leaders and multiple changes in the top positions as well, Friday had it all.

Here’s the comments from the drivers.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“What a day! We have just tried to stay focused on the job and doing what we can from our middle road position. We set ourselves the goal being consistent and fast, not making any mistakes. The car has felt good, the settings were spot on and I have felt comfortable. The cars at the front have suffered a bit in the snowy conditions. Every time I pushed I felt that I was creating faster lines for the guys behind to follow, so it was a tricky balance. To have finished the day with all three Hyundai i20 Coupe WRCs in the top-three is a good morale boost, but we know there is a long way to go. We are trying to fight for victory here, but we’ll have to see what we can do tomorrow.”

Thierry Neuville, Rally Sweden leader. Photo credit Jarno Saari.

Andreas Mikkelsen

“We have made a good start and for sure it’s great to see all three Hyundai Motorsport crews in the top-three at the end of Friday. We used the morning loop to build our confidence and rhythm. We were able to get better stage-by-stage, culminating in a stage win before lunchtime service. I have been really pleased with our progression. Of course, there is no question that the guys first on the road have a disadvantage, but it’s still tricky even for us running later. We took things a bit carefully in places. We have one notch in reserve if we need it, but that brings its own risks. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed driving at home with the stages in Norway today, and I hope that support can see us to a good result come Sunday afternoon.”

 

Hayden Paddon

“It is great to be back for our first WRC event of 2018. Our objective today was to get the rhythm back. The conditions were not easy. We had to be conscious of keeping the car in the lines, and adapting both the car and my driving to suit the stages. The ruts became really pronounced in the afternoon loop. If you go outside of the lines, you become a passenger in your own car, so we had to pull back a bit at times. The road position has helped but we wanted to have a sensible approach to the day, and a clean run, which we have had. There is room for improvement, but the positions are encouraging and there’ll be more to give tomorrow.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“It was a very difficult day for us, but we made it to the end. We weren’t very far off the pace of Tänak and Latvala, but I wasn’t comfortable enough nor prepared to risk everything, so I didn’t try to overcompensate. We won’t have a great road position tomorrow either, but we’ll try and adopt a sensible approach and keep any eye on what happens ahead of us. We’ll be ready to take advantage, if an opportunity to move up the leaderboard presents itself.”

 

Craig Breen

“I knew that I had a good road position today, but I’m really pleased that it went so well for me. My C3 WRC worked really well. Tomorrow will be an interesting day! We’ll have to see what happens with the weather, because there was already quite a lot of gravel showing through the ice this afternoon. When we did recce, tomorrow’s stages were in poorer condition than those we did today, so the conditions may be more difficult on the second pass.”

Craig Breen, Scott Martin. Photo credit Citroen Racing

Mads Østberg

“It wasn’t an easy day, but I’m very happy. When we got here, I didn’t expect to be on the pace so quickly. This afternoon, the road conditions were really different to those we had in testing, and my set-up wasn’t ideal. But I fought hard and I also learned a lot about the C3 WRC. I have high hopes that this will help me to be more competitive for the rest of the rally. Especially as I have always been more comfortable on the Swedish stages than the ones in Norway, so I can’t wait to get back out there tomorrow!”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen

“I’ve been quite happy with our performance today. There are still some things that we need to improve for tomorrow as we’re still not on the pace to fight with the leading cars. It’s been okay, and I need to get the experience, but I would still like to show an improvement and do a bit better tomorrow.”

Teemu Suninen, placed sixth overall. Photo credit M-Sport Ford WRT

Elfyn Evans

“It’s not been the best of days out there. I think it’s fair to say that we were struggling for some pace this morning, but we were pretty unfortunate to pick up the puncture. Quite a few of the top cars hit the same stone, so it was just our bad luck. But to be honest, we were still struggling after that so we’ll make some changes tonight and see what we can do tomorrow.”

 

Sébastien Ogier

“It’s been a difficult day, but one that we couldn’t do anything about. Opening the road, we knew that the conditions would be a challenge – especially on the second pass – but it was worse than any of us had expected.

 

“We tried to push a couple of times, but in these conditions it’s a fight just to stay on the road. And behind, everyone is taking the same line and it’s getting faster and faster with every car.

 

“We know that the conditions will not be any easier tomorrow, but we’re so far behind that there’s nothing more to lose – we just have to go out there and see what happens.”

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“It has been a really demanding day. Firstly, we had the fresh snow this morning and then on the second pass through the stages we had to follow the narrower lines of the historic cars and it was extremely slippery outside of those lines. I could not really push any more than I did, but that’s the way it is. I have been quite happy with the car and tomorrow will hopefully be a more positive situation for us.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 02, Rally Sweden 2018 / February 15-18, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Ott Tänak

“Today has been really tough. There were some extremely difficult conditions, with a lot of snow. It looks nice from the outside but on the road it’s quite a struggle and it is difficult to find any grip. It would be nice if we could be last on the road tomorrow but unfortunately the road position will be the same as today, so it will be a similarly hard job. I think in the end we need to survive and to collect as many points as possible. Let’s do the best we can.”

 

Esapekka Lappi

“The conditions were quite tricky. The second loop was even tougher than the first: it was very easy to make a mistake because the ruts were very deep and there was a lot of loose snow. I kissed a snow bank with the front of the car and got too much snow in the air filter, so I was lacking power in the last five kilometres and we lost half a minute. We are still in the game with two days to go though, and I think that there were also many positives today. I was a bit surprised with how good my speed was, so I just need to take that feeling with me for tomorrow and enjoy it.”

 

Overall Classification- Friday

  1. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 1:16:13.1
  2. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +4.9
  3. Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +12.1
  4. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +12.6
  5. Mads Østberg / Torstein Eriksen (Citroen C3 WRC) +13.2
  6. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +29.6
  7. Esapekka Lapp / Janne Ferme (Toyota Yaris WRC) +38.5
  8. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:06.2
  9. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:29.0
  10. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen DS3 WRC) +1:43.6
  11. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:41.3
  12. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:48.8

 

Tomorrow sees eight stages and the amazing Colins Crest which is in Vargasen and someone will try I believe to beat the record distance, which is currently 45 metres!

 

Enjoy!

Rally Sweden- Day One, Shakedown and Stage One Report.

It was an early start for the teams with shakedown at 8am! Beautiful conditions awaited them all. A real winter wonderland!

Kris and Paul during Rally Sweden shakedown this morning. Photo credit Citroen Racing

Shakedown was saw a welcome return for Mads Ostberg in a Citroen C3, and for a while, he was fastest of all, finally finishing just behind Thierry who emerged fastest by just 3 tenths of a second on the 6.8km stage held on the roads around Skalla. Elfyn Evans suffered some problems with the electrics, but once those had been solved, set a very good time.

Shakedown Standings

Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 4:17.3

Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) 4:17.6

Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4:18.1

Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) 4:18.3

Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 4:18.7

Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) 4:18.8

Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 4:19.0

Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) 4:19.1

Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4:19.2

Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4:19.3

 

As usual, it was a really close-run thing.

Moving onto the first stage, we saw the cars go head-to-head around the 1.9km Karlstad stage. Emerging fastest, was young Estonian, Ott Tanak with Jari-Matti just three tenths off in second and Mads showing he’s right on the pace a further three tenths behind.

 

End of day one (Thursday):

1 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1m32.7s

2 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +0.3s

3 Mads Ostberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroen C3 WRC) +0.6s

4 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) +0.9s

5 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +0.9s

6 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1.0s

7 Hayden Paddon/Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2.1s

8 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2.2s

9 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2.5s

10 Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +2.9

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 02, Rally Sweden 2018 / February 15-18, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Tomorrow’s sees seven stages held, of which two are run fully in Norway and one which crosses the border. Let’s see what the day brings us!

Friday’s stages

6.00am: Start day 2 and Service A (Torsby – 15 mins)

7.55am: SS 2 – Hof-Finnskog 1 (21,26 km)

9.07am: SS 3 – Svullrya 1 (24,88 km)

9.54am: SS 4 – Röjden 1 (19,13 km)

11.31am: Service B (Torsby – 30 mins)

1.41pm: SS 5 – Hof-Finnskog 2 (21,26 km)

3.03pm: SS 6 – Svullrya 2 (24,88 km)

3.50pm: SS 7 – Röjden 2 (19,13 km)

4.56pm: SS 8 – Torsby 1 (9,56 km)

5.31pm: Flexi Service C (Torsby – 45 mins)

Rally Sweden 2018 Preview!

Its time for Round Two! The WRC heads for the amazing snow-covered roads of Sweden, one of the fastest rallies of the year! Helping the drivers keep a grip will be the special tyres that Michelin bring.

 

Two centimetres narrower that their gravel equivalent, and a full five centimetres narrower than the tarmac version, Michelin’s “Sweden” tyre mainly stands out due to the 384 studs glued into drilled holes on the tyre tread. The studs provide such a high level of grip that at equivalent speeds, the braking distances are the same as on dry tarmac! The challenge in Sweden therefore consists of taking great care of these twenty-millimetre-long spikes, which protrude around seven millimetres from the tread blocks. The Scandinavian rally is also one of the few events where taking two spare wheels, especially on the second pass when gravel begins to appear and lines form, actually helps performance. The challenge is to switch tyres at the right moment, so that the studs wear out evenly, and avoid having an uneven tyre set-up.

 

This year there are 19 stages and a total of 314,25 competitive km’s.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Sweden (SWE) – WRC 09/02/2017 to 12/02/2017 – PHOTO : @World

 

Here’s the full details of the stages!

 

THURSDAY 15 FEBRUARY

8.00am: shakedown (Skalla)

8.04pm: Start day 1 (Karlstad)

8.08pm: SS 1 – Karlstad (1,90 km)

9.54pm: End of day 1

 

FRIDAY 16 FEBRUARY

6.00am: Start day 2 and Service A (Torsby – 15 mins)

7.55am: SS 2 – Hof-Finnskog 1 (21,26 km)

9.07am: SS 3 – Svullrya 1 (24,88 km)

9.54am: SS 4 – Röjden 1 (19,13 km)

11.31am: Service B (Torsby – 30 mins)

1.41pm: SS 5 – Hof-Finnskog 2 (21,26 km)

3.03pm: SS 6 – Svullrya 2 (24,88 km)

3.50pm: SS 7 – Röjden 2 (19,13 km)

4.56pm: SS 8 – Torsby 1 (9,56 km)

5.31pm: Flexi Service C (Torsby – 45 mins)

 

SATURDAY 17 FEBRUARY

7.05am: Start day 3 and Service D (Torsby – 15 mins)

7.54am: SS 9 – Torntorp 1 (19,88 km)

9.12am: SS 10 – Hagfors 1 (23,40 km)

10.08am: SS 11 – Vargasen 1 (14,21 km)

11.40am: Service E (Torsby – 30 mins)

12.44pm: SS 12 – Torntorp 2 (19,88 km)

2.12pm: SS 13 – Hagfors 2 (23,40 km)

3.08pm: SS 14 – Vargasen 2 (14,21 km)

5.45pm: SS 15 – Karlstad 2 (1,90 km)

7.26pm: SS 16 – Torsby Sprint (3,43 km)

7.56pm: Flexi Service F (Torsby – 45 mins)

 

SUNDAY 18 FEBRUARY

6.30am: Start day 4 and Service G (Torsby – 15 mins)

7.50am: SS 17 – Likenäs 1 (21,19 km)

9.51am: SS 18 – Likenäs 2 (21,19 km)

12.18pm: SS 19 – Torsby 2 (9,56 km)

 

1.00pm: Podium (Torsby)

 

 

Here’s the views of all the teams then!

M-Sport Ford

Sébastien Ogier

“It looks as though we are in for a true winter rally next week with everything needed for a classic Rally Sweden. Reports from the region suggest that there’s a good ice base and high snow banks which is everything a driver wants to hear ahead of this event.

“In those conditions, we can reach incredible speeds and lean the cars on the snow banks to help guide us through the corners. It’s an amazing feeling, but it’s not without its challenges.

“There’s certainly an art to driving on snow and you need to be precise. You have to judge the strength of the snow banks perfectly and – with more snow than previous years – there could be a lot of work to do on the Pacenotes.

“As the first car on the road, we’ll also have to wait and see what the conditions are like and we’re certainly not hoping to see any fresh snow on Friday.

“We got the season off to a great start last month, but we all know how strong the competition is and we’re expecting it to be even stronger next week. The Scandinavians are always strong here, but we plan to give them a hard time and secure another strong haul of points for our championship defence.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Sweden (SWE) – WRC 09/02/2017 to 12/02/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Elfyn Evans

“Rally Sweden is an event that everyone looks forward to. On a classic Rally Sweden – like what we’re expecting this year – we can reach incredible speeds and if you get it right it’s easily one of the most enjoyable rallies on the calendar.

“The feeling on snow isn’t a million miles away from driving on gravel, but there are certain techniques that we’ll need to adapt and it can take a bit of getting used to at first.

“Vision can often be a challenge – particularly if there is a lot of fresh snow making it difficult to read the road ahead. Our Pacenotes and recce are going to have to be spot on, but we’re ready for it and really looking forward to it.

“There’s something of a score to settle after Monte where we were capable of achieving more than we did, so let’s see what we can do in Sweden.”

 

Teemu Suninen

“We’ve just completed some good test kilometres in Northern Sweden which went really well. I’ve not driven the Fiesta WRC since last year’s Rally Finland, so that gave us a chance to get familiar with the car and we’re now feeling well prepared for the start of the rally.

“It would be amazing to challenge for a podium again. Perhaps that is a realistic goal, but we would have to deliver the perfect rally to achieve it. With eight events this year, we also have to consider a slightly different approach. In 2017, we were solely focused on our future and showing what we could do, but this time we also have to think about the team and scoring points for the manufacturers’ championship.

“In terms of the weather, there have been talks of freezing temperatures and high snow banks but we’ll have to wait for the recce before we can see for ourselves. Whatever the conditions, the speed is always high. On a rally as fast as this the seconds are harder to gain, and we will have to be on the pace from the very first stage.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“It looks like we going to get perfect winter conditions this year and like all the WRC drivers, I can’t wait to get started! In the last few seasons, with a limited amount of snow, you had to be very cautious or risk getting stuck in a snow bank after the slightest impact. The snow banks seem to be bigger and more compact this time around, so we’ll undoubtedly be able to drive more aggressively and use the banks more, although we may need a bit of time to get used to that. In any event, it’s an exciting challenge that I’m going to try and tackle with the same sensible approach as in Monte-Carlo.”

Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle, Rally Sweden 2017. Photo Credit, Citroen

Craig Breen

“Between the start and end of last season, the C3 WRC made a lot of progress on gravel, so I hope it’ll be the same on snow and ice. Especially as Sweden is one of my favourite rallies, and one where I feel really confident. In fact, I had my very first race in a WRC here in 2014 and also made my maiden appearance in Sweden with Citroën Racing in 2016. After a difficult Monte, I’d love to get decent points on the board. And it looks like the road conditions will be perfect for this year’s rally, with really solid snow banks that are forgiving if you make a relatively minor mistake.”

 

Mads Ostberg

“Rally Sweden is a special event for me and I have always been quick here, so I’m very happy to have this opportunity to rejoin the team. I’m hoping to make the most of the shakedown at Satory and then the day of pre-event testing to adapt quickly to the C3 WRC. In any case, I’m already up to speed in these conditions, having contested two winter rallies in Norway, the second of which I won. With the bigger snow banks this year, the roads are likely to be narrower and more technically demanding, so perhaps we Scandinavians may be able to take advantage of our greater experience in conditions like these.”

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Sweden is one of my favourite rallies and actually the place where I took my first WRC victory 10 years ago – although it really doesn’t feel like so long ago! Compared to last year I think we have a better car: we concentrated on improving it on the slower and more technical sections during our test, and we definitely made a step forward in this area. Having said that, the competition is even tougher this year: within our own team as well. It’s going to be a really nice challenge in proper winter conditions and that of course helps me raise my own game; I’m confident we can fight for the win again. This weekend I’m also taking part in a local rally on snow in Finland with Juho Hänninen in my historic Toyota Celica, so this will be a lot of fun and the perfect way to prepare.”

Last years winners for Toyota Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Antilla tackle Colins Crest. Photo Credit, Toyota Gazoo WRT

 

Ott Tänak

“I’m still learning about the Yaris WRC, but after driving it on snow during the test I’m beginning to understand why Jari-Matti won in Sweden last year. For the first part of the rally we’ll just have to see how everything goes, but of course I’m hoping that we can fight for the podium and even the win. If the snow is heavy on the stages, which seems to be the case, our start position of second on the road won’t be ideal, but of course the weather can change. I’m just going to enjoy the weekend and do my best. There’s a lot more still to come.”

Esapekka Lappi

“It took me a few days to get over the disappointment of losing fourth place in Monte-Carlo on the last stage, but in the end, there were more positives than negatives. Up to that point, we had driven a very consistent rally, and my aim is to do the same in Sweden. We had a good test and did around 400 kilometres in two days, which was enough for me to get a good feel. Our car should be well-suited to Sweden but it’s a very different type of rally to Monte-Carlo: in Monte, sometimes you have to be brave by going slow enough, whereas in Sweden you need a different type of commitment. I didn’t compete on the rally last year, so I am missing a bit of experience, but snow is a surface I always feel comfortable on.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rally Sweden is a very special event for me because of the opportunity we have to go rallying across the border into my home country of Norway. We have a lot of support from fans, family and friends. It’s a beautiful event and the only one we get to tackle completely on snow and ice with proper studded tyres. They give amazing grip and the feeling is unbelievable. We expect a good number of snow banks this year, so we will be able to explore the limits.”

Thierry Neuville

“We had good speed on the Swedish and Norwegian stages last year but unfortunately things didn’t end well when we were forced to retire on the penultimate day. This year, I am aiming to challenge once again for the win but with a far better outcome. Sweden is truly a unique event; the only one where we can compete with fully studded tyres for the complete rally. As one of the fastest rallies of the season, it’s an exhilarating one from inside the cockpit and for the fans lining the stages. We want to put on a good show and, most importantly, deliver a good result.”

Hayden Paddon

“I can’t wait to get my 2018 season underway finally. It feels like a long time since we were competing in Australia.  Sweden will be a fresh start for us. I have good memories from finishing on the podium two years ago, and I will be trying to repeat some of that performance. It was great to get re-acquainted with the car in testing recently. We were able to enjoy some outstanding winter driving conditions. More of that in the rally, as well as a decent result, would be the perfect start to my season.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, WRC, Sweden
06-12 February 2017
Hayden Paddon, John Kennard, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Action
Day 1
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

 

Now, there are lots of spectacular stages in this event, none more so than Vargasen, which features Colins Crest! Lots of fans base themselves there, just to see these amazing cars fly through the air and last year, Mads got the biggest jump of the event.

This year looks to be just as amazing! There has been a lot of snow, which means the snow banks are of very good quality!

We’ve got the returning Hayden and Mads, plus a good battle between Ott and Seb. What chance we have seeing a different driver leading the championship on Sunday afternoon?

 

Enjoy!

Seb Ogier takes his fifth Rallye Monte Carlo win!

Day One, Thursday evening

 

First stage of the event and there was lots of drama in the Thoard – Sisteron 36km opener! There was no snow and ice in the first 12km and then broken ice for a couple of km’s.

 

Seb Ogier was first in, and spun in the stage! Ott stopped 11km into stage, but got going again and Thierry was another to stop, but got going again as well. Both had slid wide into snow banks. Another to spin was Jari-Matti and he managed to spin twice! Elfyn picked up a puncture at about 12km into the stage, so they had to change the tyre. The Citroen duo of Kris and Craig both spun as well, Kris losing a minute or so.

 

Esapekka completed the stage third fastest, with a good run though, whilst Andreas was the closest challenger to Ogier, just 7.7 seconds off the Fiesta WRC pilot!

Seb Ogier, Rallye Monte Carlo leader. Photo credit M-Sport Ford

Stage two, Bayons – Breziers 25,49km stage which includes a rise of 1184 metres above sea-level to the summit of Col de Sagnes! Ogier won the stage with a very good clean run through with Thierry going second fastest and Ott third. There were a few changes in the leaderboard with Dani moving ahead of Esapekka and into third. Kris and Thierry are a long way off the lead sadly, over two minutes away for the Citroen pilot and over four for the Belgian. That’s a big ask for them.

 

Classification after Day One

1              S. Ogier                 J. Ingrassia          Ford Fiesta WRC                            38:09.8

2              A. Mikkelsen      A. Jæger              Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC                 +17.3

3              D. Sordo               C. del Barrio        Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC                +25.6

4              E. Lappi                J. Ferm                   Toyota Yaris WRC                               +37.4

5              O. Tänak              M. Järveoja          Toyota Yaris WRC                                +42.4

6              J. M. Latvala        M. Anttila            Toyota Yaris WRC                                 55.4

7              C. Breen               S. Martin               Citroën C3 WRC                                +1:02.3

8              B. Bouffier          X. Panseri            Ford Fiesta WRC                                +1:51.0

9              K. Meeke            P. Nagle                  Citroën C3 WRC                                +2:12.7

10           E. Camilli              B. Veillas               Ford Fiesta R5                                     +2:42.2

17           T. Neuville           N. Gilsoul              Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC                +4:18.2

 

Day two, Friday

Well, what a day! Where to start my round up of Friday’s six stages? Seb in his Fiesta was our leader all day, but there were different stage winners and the person leading to fight to the Frenchman changed as well.

 

Andreas Mikkelsen was the man who was closest at the start of the day, but after dropping behind Dani in stage three, he then retired in stage four with alternator failure. There was more pain for Thierry as well, who suffered another puncture in stage three.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo
25-28 Janvier 2018
Andreas Mikkelsen, Anders Jaeger, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

The lead grew in stage four, but Ott Tanak was feeling at home in his new car, moving up the leaderboard and closing the gap to second placed Dani. Meantime, Craig was having a nightmare in his Citroen, with a stone breaking part of the caliper and meaning he’d suffer from brake failure and he was not enjoying that one bit. The good news though was that after stage five, the cars headed for service and the problem was fixed.

 

The afternoon loop began with the 26km and Ott took the fight to Seb, winning the stage and taking six and a half seconds out of erstwhile leader Seb’s lead. Craig was feeling a lot more comfortable now he had working brakes!

 

Elfyn Evans took the long stage seven when the heavens opened, but Seb lost 14 seconds to Ott and the lead was down to 19 seconds after a spin put the Fiesta into a ditch! Craig was increasingly comfortable, setting the fourth fastest time in the stage, whilst Dani, Esapekka and Jari-Matti continued their battle for third overall.

 

The final stage of the day fell to Thierry who after his puncture had been fighting back and closed the gap to Elfyn to just a little over three seconds.

 

Leaderboard at the end of Friday

 

1              S. Ogier                 J. Ingrassia          Ford Fiesta WRC                          2:07:15.4

2              O. Tänak               M. Järveoja        Toyota Yaris WRC                                  +14.9

3              D. Sordo               C. del Barrio        Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC                +59.7

4              E. Lappi                J. Ferm                   Toyota Yaris WRC                           +1:09.9

5              J. M. Latvala        M. Anttila            Toyota Yaris WRC                            +1:10.1

6              K. Meeke              P. Nagle                Citroën C3 WRC                            +2:45.5

7              B. Bouffier          X. Panseri            Ford Fiesta WRC                            +3:34.6

8              E. Evans                D. Barritt              Ford Fiesta WRC                            +4:01.7

9              T. Neuville           N. Gilsoul             Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC           +4:04.1

 

Day three, Saturday

The second full day of Rallye Monte Carlo started with snow falling, which we had been waiting for! Boy, did it come down!

 

Craig Breen was first into stage nine, the first of the day. At the end, he referred himself as a snowplow! Sadly, Dani went off the road and so one of the teams that we expected to see standing on the podium, now will be nowhere near it. The stage was won by Andreas, but clearly the team could do with some luck. Seb made a great start, increasing the gap to former M-Sport teammate, Ott by a full minute who now found himself in second and Jari-Matti a further 21 or so seconds in third. Elfyn Evans in the number 2 Fiesta WRC, gapped Thierry by 20 seconds in their battle for seventh overall.

 

Stage 10 saw Ott close down 15 seconds to Seb, with the French champions advantage a little over a minute at the end of the 16km stage. The Toyota’s were running well, all three in the top four overall positions.

 

The following stage saw Esapekka Lappi pick up a puncture, so Kris Meeke picked up fourth place, despite sliding off into a field. Elfyn also picked up a position, moving ahead of Bryan Bouffier into sixth place. Ogier’s lead was now down to 48 seconds.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship, Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo 2018, January 25-28, 2018.
Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

The next stage, number twelve, was won by Thierry, and this edged him a little closer to seventh placed Bouffier’s Fiesta, the gap just 12 seconds! Kris also was just hanging onto fourth place, with Lappi in the Yaris setting the third quickest time.

 

The last stage of the day was won by Thierry and Elfyn was just two seconds slower than the Belgian keeping the gap between them above 30 seconds. Kris lost fourth place to young Finn, Esapekka Lappi after the Irishman spun in a hairpin, losing a couple of seconds.

 

Heading into the final day , Seb Ogier leads Ott by just a little over half a minute. Just four stages and a total of 64km. It’s certainly possible for something to happen!

 

Leaderboard at the end of Saturday

 

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 3:30:30.9
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC +33.5
3 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +1:32.7
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +4:38.5
5 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +4:40.1
6 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +5:00.2
7 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +5:33.6
8 B. Bouffier X. Panseri Ford Fiesta WRC +5:43.4
9 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +8:49.0

 

Day four, Sunday

Sunday morning was cold and a bit cloudy. We had four stages covering 64km before it was all decided! First up was stage 14 and it was won by Seb and the gap opened up between him and Ott by 11 seconds.

 

The next stage would be the power stage later and at 13km being quick from the off would be key.  Citroen drivers Craig and Kris were surprised how tricky it was, Kris commenting on how there was black ice on gravel! Thierry won the stage, but Seb’s closest challenger, Ott set pretty much the same time and the gap to the front remained pretty static.

 

Stage 16, the penultimate stage was won by Thierry as he was targeting Elfyn who was just a few seconds up the road and holding sixth overall. However, the Welshman was just a second and a half slower meaning the gap was still seven seconds with just one stage to go.

 

The power stage beckoned and there were a could more twists to come…. Despite his surprise earlier in this stage with black ice on gravel, Kris flew through the stage and took all five points for winning it, ending up 2.3 seconds faster than Thierry. Further back there was more drama! Esapekka slid wide and lost a bundle of time which meant he would lose fourth and drop behind Thierry and Elfyn into seventh. Meanwhile, Elfyn would keep sixth place, despite losing out to Thierry who went from seventh to fifth and of course Kris would claim fourth overall! So much drama!

Kris Meeke & Paul Nagle, Rallye Monte Carlo – Photo credit Citroen Racing

In the midst of all of that, Seb Ogier had taken his fifth Rallye Monte Carlo victory and the new Toyota driver, Ott would finish one better than last year in second place and in third, Jari-Matti.

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier 

“We always face tough conditions at Rallye Monte-Carlo but this year they were really extreme. I don’t think I’ve ever struggled so much with the tyre choices, so to have come out on top is fantastic.

“I think everyone made mistakes this weekend – myself included – but it was almost impossible to have the perfect drive. Luckily we only had some small mistakes and once we had a good gap it was just a case of trying to manage it – but that is never easy in these conditions either!

“It’s the best way to start the season and I need to congratulate the team because everyone has worked really hard and I know that they will also be super happy with this result. The competition is going to be stronger than ever and we’ve made a strong start which is really important.”

Elfyn Evans

“It’s been a tough edition of the rally this year and we had an especially tough start losing so much time on the very first stage. Over the next few days I think we were there or there about’s in terms of outright speed, but overall there were just too many little errors.

“When it came to making the smart choices at the right time, we weren’t quite there and that’s what cost us a really good result today. The comforting thing is that the speed is there, but we still need to be better.”

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Rallye Monte-Carlo is never easy. We had difficult conditions once again today, particularly with the ice on the Col du Turini that came since the recce. I’m really relieved to get to the finish and to be on the podium. The team has done an excellent job and the car is performing really well so I’m excited for the season ahead. It’s going to be about staying cool and to think about the championship and about the points. This has been a good start.”

 

Ott Tänak

“It’s really nice to start the season like this. It looks like I have joined a very strong team! The car has been amazing and I’ve felt really comfortable in it since the start of the rally. It was an extremely tough rally with such difficult conditions, but we managed to get through without any serious problems. We were expecting easier conditions today, but it was still really icy. We were able to take it steady because we were in a strong position. I’m now really looking forward to the coming rallies.”

 

Esapekka Lappi

“Today started really well with some good speed and the plan was to keep up the rhythm, including on the Power Stage. Unfortunately, I went wide on one corner and then I couldn’t get reverse, so we lost a lot of time and three positions. At the moment I am quite disappointed but at least I completed every kilometre, gaining experience and learning many things, so there are also a lot of positives. It has been a good rally for the team and Sweden should suit me better.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“It was the hardest Monte-Carlo that I have ever experienced. We had everything: sheer ice on slick tyres on Thursday evening, rain on Friday, snow on Saturday and frost on the Col de Turini today. I’m surprised to finish the rally with seventeen points, but I’ll certainly take them! We now have to stay humble and keep working hard to try and improve.”

 

Craig Breen

“The weekend got off to a difficult start, with our mistake on Thursday evening. And then things went from bad to worse with the brake problems on Friday, which left us opening the road as something of a snow plough on Saturday. But we produced some good performances on a good few occasions, and did so again today on the dry tarmac. We now need to keep working in more changeable conditions, like those you typically get in Monte-Carlo.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“On balance, I think we have had a good rally, despite the various issues we have encountered along the way. Thursday was the biggest factor, when we lost over four minutes getting stuck through my own fault. We have fought back from those early problems, and a few others, and tried to regain as many positions as we could. The places we have made up today – right to the end of the Power Stage – show how important it is to push right to the finish. Without the puncture and tricky snow conditions yesterday, a podium would still have been possible. That’s Monte-Carlo, though. I would like to say thanks to the team for doing an incredible job in hard circumstances this weekend, and together we look ahead to Sweden.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Our rally was over on Friday when we stopped after SS3 with the alternator problem. The focus shifted to salvaging as many points as possible from the Power Stage, which was our aim for today. With no tyre zone or service, we adopted a compromised strategy taking five soft tyres for both loops. We knew that the run up to Col de Turini would be tough, so we took it carefully and accepted we would be slow. SS15 was a good practice for the Power Stage and it was nice for the team to take a 1-2. I was happy with my run, considering we were first on the road and it was still drying in places. It’s my best drive feeling-wise so far with the car on dry tarmac, which is encouraging.”

 

Final Overall Classification – Rallye Monte-Carlo

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 4:18:55.5
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC +58.3
3 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +1:52.0
4 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +4:43.1
5 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +4:53.8
6 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +4:54.8
7 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +4:57.5
8 B. Bouffier X. Panseri Ford Fiesta WRC +7:39.5
9 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +9:06.7

 

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

 

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 1

1 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 33
3 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 33
3 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 18
4 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 14

Rallye Monte Carlo- Day Three, Seb steers clear of trouble

The second full day of Rallye Monte Carlo started with snow falling, which we had been waiting for! Boy, did it come down!

Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle, Photo credit Citroen Racing.

Craig Breen was first into stage nine, the first of the day. At the end, he referred himself as a snowplow! Sadly, Dani went off the road and so one of the teams that we expected to see standing on the podium, now will be nowhere near it. The stage was won by Andreas, but clearly the team could do with some luck. Seb made a great start, increasing the gap to former M-Sport teammate, Ott by a full minute who now found himself in second and Jari-Matti a further 21 or so seconds in third. Elfyn Evans in the number 2 Fiesta WRC, gapped Thierry by 20 seconds in their battle for seventh overall.

 

Stage 10 saw Ott close down 15 seconds to Seb, with the French champions advantage a little over a minute at the end of the 16km stage. The Toyota’s were running well, all three in the top four overall positions.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship, Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo 2018, January 25-28, 2018.
Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

The following stage saw Esapekka Lappi pick up a puncture, so Kris Meeke picked up fourth place, despite sliding off into a field. Elfyn also picked up a position, moving ahead of Bryan Bouffier into sixth place. Ogier’s lead was now down to 48 seconds.

 

The next stage, number twelve, was won by Thierry, and this edged him a little closer to seventh placed Bouffier’s Fiesta, the gap just 12 seconds! Kris also was just hanging onto fourth place, with Lappi in the Yaris setting the third quickest time.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo
24-28 January 2018
Day 2
Action
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

The last stage of the day was won by Thierry and Elfyn was just two seconds slower than the Belgian keeping the gap between them above 30 seconds. Kris lost fourth place to young Finn, Esapekka Lappi after the Irishman spun in a hairpin, losing a couple of seconds.

 

Heading into the last day tomorrow, Seb Ogier leads Ott by just a little over half a minute. Just four stages and a total of 64km. It’s certainly possible for something to happen!

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

Leaderboard at the end of Saturday

 

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 3:30:30.9
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC +33.5
3 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +1:32.7
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +4:38.5
5 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +4:40.1
6 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +5:00.2
7 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +5:33.6
8 B. Bouffier X. Panseri Ford Fiesta WRC +5:43.4
9 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +8:49.0

Rallye Monte Carlo, Day Two- Seb Ogier continues to lead.

Well, what a day! Where to start my round up of today’s six stages? Seb in his Fiesta was our leader all day, but there were different stage winners and the person leading to fight to the Frenchman changed as well.

 

Andreas Mikkelsen was the man who was closest at the start of the day, but after dropping behind Dani in stage three, he then retired in stage four with alternator failure. There was more pain for Thierry as well, who suffered another puncture in stage three.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo
25-28 Janvier 2018
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

The lead grew in stage four, but Ott Tanak was feeling at home in his new car, moving up the leaderboard and closing the gap to second placed Dani. Meantime, Craig was having a nightmare in his Citroen, with a stone breaking part of the caliper and meaning he’d suffer from brake failure and he was not enjoying that one bit. The good news though was that after stage five, the cars headed for service and the problem was fixed.

 

The afternoon loop began with the 26km and Ott took the fight to Seb, winning the stage and taking six and a half seconds out of erstwhile leader Seb’s lead. Craig was feeling a lot more comfortable now he had working brakes!

2018 FIA World Rally Championship, Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo 2018, January 25-28, 2018.
Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Elfyn Evans took the long stage seven when the heavens opened, but Seb lost 14 seconds to Ott and the lead was down to 19 seconds after a spin put the Fiesta into a ditch! Craig was increasingly comfortable, setting the fourth fastest time in the stage, whilst Dani, Esapekka and Jari-Matti continued their battle for third overall.

Elfyn Evans, Dan Barritt, Day two. Photo credit, M-Sport

The final stage of the day fell to Thierry who after his puncture had been fighting back and closed the gap to Elfyn to just a little over three seconds.

 

Tomorrow sees the crews tackle five stages and a total of 117 km. One thing that could have a big impact to the standings is the snow that has been predicted all week. It will make tyre choices very hard!

Craig Breen, Scott Martin. Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Here’s the standings at the end of day two.

 

1              S. Ogier                 J. Ingrassia          Ford Fiesta WRC                           2:07:15.4

2              O. Tänak              M. Järveoja          Toyota Yaris WRC                                 +14.9

3              D. Sordo               C. del Barrio        Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC                +59.7

4              E. Lappi                 J. Ferm                  Toyota Yaris WRC                           +1:09.9

5              J. M. Latvala        M. Anttila            Toyota Yaris WRC                             +1:10.1

6              K. Meeke              P. Nagle                 Citroën C3 WRC                             +2:45.5

7              B. Bouffier          X. Panseri               Ford Fiesta WRC                           +3:34.6

8              E. Evans                D. Barritt                 Ford Fiesta WRC                           +4:01.7

9              T. Neuville           N. Gilsoul                 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC          +4:04.1

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