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

With just four stages totaling 74km, the startlist looked like this- Meeke, Katsuta, Ogier, Suninen, Evans, Latvala, Loeb, Tänak, Sordo, Neuville.

First up then was SS 14 – Riudecanyes 1 (16,35 km), and Ott Tänak had one goal. To pass Dani Sordo. The Spaniard was on it though, and whilst Thierry won the stage, Dani took the second fastest stage time and with the Estonian just a few tenths behind i20 pilot, the gap opened up a little. Elfyn was finding some pace as well, going fourth fastest and reducing the gap to Jari-Matti.

The first run through SS 15 – La Mussara 1 (20,72 km) was won by Dani, whilst Ott Tänak took the second fastest time and young Finn Teemu was third. Seb Ogier was eighth, complaining of wheelspin at the rear.

Into SS 16 – Riudecanyes 2 (16,35 km) and the Dani and Ott battle continued. The Hyundai pilot won the stage, and had increased the gap to Ott, whilst Seb Ogier’s changes to his car improved things, but made other things worse. Elfyn was finding some pace, and had reduced the gap to Latvala to fifteen seconds.

The final stage then, SS 17 – La Mussara 2 Power Stage (20,72 km) and there were some surprises. Elfyn had set the early benchmark time. Dani and then Thierry tried their best to beat it, and then Ott Tänak flew through, like he has on so many occasions this year and took the fastest time, and as a bonus, beat Dani Sordo’s time as well by six seconds, thus clinching second place overall. We have a new world champion crew, and the first from Estonia as well! What a drive from Ott Tänak and Martin Jarveoja in their Yaris WRC.

 

FINAL STANDINGS

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

 

Driver Quotes.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“What a weekend! We have been consistently quick on all three days, and we did absolutely everything we could. It wasn’t enough to keep the drivers’ championship alive until Australia but my congratulations go to Ott for securing the title. Our focus now moves fully onto the manufacturers’ battle. We have taken good points this weekend, and increased our lead but there’s now a crucial rally to come in Australia to get the job done. The car has proven itself to be quick on all terrains in recent rallies, and we can head to the season finale in a positive frame of mind.”

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

Dani Sordo (3rd)

“I am happy to finish on the podium in my home rally but of course we would have preferred to keep hold of second place. Ott was on a mission today, and we missed out by 0.4 seconds. A podium is always special but it’s even better with the support of the Spanish fans. We’ve had a competitive rally and for the team this has been an important result. Thank you to the team for giving us a car that has worked so well all weekend. These sorts of results don’t come just from the crews, it is a full team effort and they’ve all done a great job.”

Seb Loeb (4th)

“It has been a positive rally for the entire Hyundai Motorsport team. While our own performance has been a bit frustrating since Saturday, we took reassurance from Thierry and Dani’s pace. The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC is a fantastic car on all terrains, as we have seen this weekend. We pushed as hard as we could today, but we just could not set the sort of times we’d have wanted. However, this is a team effort and we leave Spain with a lot of valuable points for the manufacturers’ championship, which sets things up as nicely as possible for the final round.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“It’s hard to know what to say in this moment. The pressure this weekend has been on another level. This has been the target of my life. I knew I couldn’t make any mistakes, but still I had to do a good result to make it happen. So, it was massive pressure and it was difficult to get used to it at the beginning. But in the end, I was somehow able to relax and do my normal driving. This morning I had a good feeling in the car and could drive with a good rhythm, but Dani [Sordo] was always a bit faster, so I knew it would be hard in the Power Stage to get the points we needed. I pushed hard and, in the end, it paid off. I’ve had to overcome a lot in my career, so it’s nice to finally achieve this. Thank you to the team; they have done a great job.”

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)

“I’m happy with my weekend. I think we had a consistent run and we didn’t really make any mistakes during the weekend, and the performance was overall at a good level. I was lacking some confidence at the start of this rally so I must be happy with the result and that we could score some good points for the team. Maybe we could have got fourth place today if I had pushed hard, but it would not have benefited us in the manufacturers’ championship and this was the most important thing, to keep it open going to the final round in Australia.”

Kris Meeke (29th)

“I enjoyed the rhythm back in the car today. We know that the Yaris WRC is really strong on asphalt, and I had a good feeling again this morning. We had to back off in the Power Stage because there was no way in which we could have helped Ott wrap up the championship, and it was important not to get in the mix and potentially take points away from him. We’ll go to Australia with something to fight for still in the manufacturers’ championship and we’ll give it our best.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“Sixth place isn’t the result we wanted this weekend. At times we were able to show the speed we were capable of, but unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that all the time and I was struggling with the general feeling. But we made a small change for the Power Stage and I was able to really push. We secured a good result there, and moved up again in the championship which is a positive.”

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

Teemu Suninen (7th)

“I was really pleased with my pace and consistency on Tarmac this weekend, and now we can focus on the next step which is to be even faster with that same consistency. On the Power Stage I knew I could be fast but I braked too late, touched the rock face, and lost a lot of time. Without that, I know I could have scored some really good points there. Still I am really pleased with my performance, and looking forward to the last rally in Australia.

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (8th)

“Clearly, this wasn’t the result that we were hoping for coming into this round. We were determined to fight right to the end but unfortunately, it was all over for us early in the weekend. After the issue on Friday, inevitably our adrenaline and motivation levels were never quite the same, but we did what we could to be as professional as possible, to work on the car’s tarmac set-up and still try to push hard. Congratulations to Ott and Martin for deservedly winning the titles. They have done it in style.”

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

Esapekka Lappi (DNF)

“I’m disappointed that my rally came to a premature end, especially as I had enjoyed a pretty solid and consistent opening leg up to that point, in terms of pace. The gaps were small and we were up for the fight, because I felt comfortable in my C3 WRC. I was looking forward to seeing how much progress we made on tarmac and the times set by Sébastien and Julien suggest that we have definitely moved in the right direction. I will now look forward to Australia and finishing the season on a high with the best possible result.”

 

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

 

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

 

Summary

Well, it’s happened at last! We have a new world rally champion crew. Ott Tänak and Martin Jarveoja have secured their first world crown, and finally broken the run of fifteen consecutive French world champions. It’s the first drivers’ world championship for Toyota as well since Didier Auriol won in 1994.

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

Thierry and Nicolas did their best to hold them off, with a great drive in Spain to their third win of the year. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia started well on Friday, but after their problems, they really weren’t in the running. They will be back next year, even stronger to gain the title back before they retire.

Elsewhere in the service park, Dani Sordo and Seb Loeb put together some very good drives that have helped Hyundai in their fight for the manufacturer’s championship. Their lead over Toyota is eighteen points heading to Rally Australia.

In the M-Sport camp, Elfyn found some pace and came close to a stage victory, only being eclipsed by Ott Tänak right at the end. This result, plus the points that he scored for sixth position have lifted him back into fourth overall in the championship standings, equal with Andreas Mikkelsen. This battle to finish best of the rest in the standings will be decided at the final round next month down under.

We have one round left then, Rally Australia from the 14th to 17th of November. Pop back then for my preview.

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

With seven full tarmac stages today, the battle for the rally win and championship continued. The startlist looked like this – Ogier, Katsuta, Suninen, Evans, Latvala, Tänak, Meeke, Sordo, Neuville, Loeb.

 

We started with SS 7 – Savallà 1 (14,08 km) and straight away, Thierry who’d set the fastest time, moved into the lead, setting a time almost five seconds faster than overnight leader Loeb, who could only get the sixth best time. Meeke and Ogier were second and third in the stage with the result that the Toyota pilot now moved ahead of Dani and into third overall. Elfyn had the goal of getting ahead of Latvala, and was over two seconds quicker than the Finn.

 

The longer SS 8 – Querol 1 (21,26 km) saw the demise of Kris sadly, after hitting some Armco with the right-hand-side of his car. This put the Brit out for the day, and now we had a Hyundai 1-2-3 again, with everyone gaining a place. Latvala gapped Evans again, after going second fastest, and thus increased to thirteen or so seconds. Ogier was now in eighth place. Meaning he was in the points scoring positions.

 

Into SS 9 – El Montmell 1 (24,40 km) and there wasn’t much to separate the top three of Tänak, Ogier and Sordo covered by just 1.7 seconds, and the gap between the Estonian and Spaniard reduced to a little under ten seconds.

 

After lunchtime service the rerun of SS 10 – Savallà 2 (14,08 km) saw Ott top the times again, as he and Martin found their rhythm, and now the gap to Dani was a little over seven seconds. How would the Hyundai pilot react in the next one? Meantime Thierry was pulling away at the front from his illustrious teammate, the gap now more than fifteen seconds. In the battle between Elfyn and Jari-Matti, the Finn was winning, with the gap now almost twenty seconds.

 

Next up, SS 11 – Querol 2 (21,26 km) and the top three, Tänak, Latvala and Neuville were separated by just six tenths of a second. Super close! The gap was coming down bit by bit between Dani and Ott, as the Estonian looked for another podium.

 

The last big stage of the day, SS 12 – El Montmell 2 (24,40 km) and we had a change in the podium positions, but not who you might have expected! Dani passed Loeb, as the Frenchman could only manage the eighth fastest time, almost eight seconds slower than Ott. Further down the gap between Elfyn and Latvala remained around twenty seconds, despite the Welshman being a little faster than Jari-Matti.

 

Now it was time for the final stage of the day, SS 13 – Salou (2,24 km) and Thierry set the best time from Dani and Ott, and the Estonian was now ahead of Loeb and in third place, and just a few seconds behind second place as well.

 

CLASSIFICATION DAY TWO

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

 

The Driver Quotes

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“We have been fully motivated and confident with the car on these tarmac stages today. We had the perfect start to the day with two more stage wins and moving into the rally lead. From there, we were able to gradually increase our advantage stage by stage, adopting a clever approach to keep things smooth and clean. We took things a bit easier once we saw Kris (Meeke) have his issue this morning, especially in the big cuts to avoid punctures. Overall, we’re in the position we want – and need – to be. Nothing’s over until it’s over so we will keep pushing with our sights set firmly on securing victory tomorrow, and a good team result for the manufacturers’ championship.”

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

Dani Sordo (2nd)

“We have done our best to continue the 1-2-3 formation that we achieved yesterday but it’s been a more challenging day. We have pushed as hard as we could, even if we’ve been missing some time here and there. It has also been important to stay cautious at times, particularly in the cuts, as it is so easy to run into trouble. Tänak has been driving well, as we expected, so our job today has been trying to defend our position. There’s not a lot of time between three crews battling for second place, so tomorrow will be a critical day. We will keep fighting as hard as we can.”

Seb Loeb (4th)

“We started this morning’s loop almost like a completely new rally, swapping the gravel stages for tarmac. It doesn’t matter what surface we have, the stages in Spain are great and the atmosphere is incredible. We have had to adopt some caution at times today to avoid making mistakes. The feeling with the car and the balance has been nice but for some reason the times just haven’t been there. In the final stage, I stalled the engine which cost us some time and lost us third place. But overall, I don’t think we could have done much more. We will check this evening to understand where we’re losing out. Thierry has been going very fast and the team is still in a strong position overall, which is the positive we take into Sunday’s stages.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (3rd)

“I’m really happy with how today turned out. This morning, I was really struggling and I couldn’t find any rhythm. The car was feeling good but I was a long way from being close to the limit. It was difficult to get used to the pressure of the situation. But I managed to reset for the afternoon and I could improve the rhythm. Tomorrow is another long day with some demanding stages, so there is still a big job to do.”

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)

“Overall, I must say that today has been good. At first this morning, I struggled with the brakes a bit after the change from gravel, but in the second stage already I had a very good feeling with the car. The afternoon started pretty well too. On El Montmell I ran wide, hit something and damaged the steering arm so we lost a bit of time there. But otherwise, it has been a positive day. Tomorrow I’m going to try to keep the pressure on and see what happens, as we need as many points as we can get.”

Kris Meeke (39th)

“When you transition from gravel to asphalt on this event, you’re always wondering what the car is going to feel like. The rhythm was really nice this morning and the car felt incredible. Not far into the second stage, I went to brake for a fast left that tightened. I knew the corner very well, but immediately I locked the rear wheels and I didn’t make the corner. I touched the barrier at the rear of the car and that was it. I’m really frustrated. I had to put it on the line today to try and get among our rivals for the manufacturers’ championship. I think we could have had the speed to do it but unfortunately that small mistake cost us.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“We’ve been trying hard all day but just weren’t able to find the pace as the day wore on. In terms of the balance of the car, the feeling was improving all the time but it just didn’t seem to affect the times at the end of the stage. It was always two or three seconds here and there, and that’s what makes the difference. Unfortunately, we just haven’t had an answer to the guys at the front today.”

Teemu Suninen (7th)

“I think it’s been a pretty good day for us and I had a good feeling with the car in the afternoon. I was able to really focus on my driving and I think we set some good times. But no matter what we did, or how long the stage was, we were always three seconds behind Sébastien [Ogier]! I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but hopefully one day we will be three seconds ahead! We know where the level is, and we’re not too far away so that it definitely a good thing.”

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

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (8th)

“Although it wasn’t easy to find motivation today, I did my best to remain very focused and push hard.  We ended up setting some decent times. I’m pleased that my good feeling in testing has been confirmed here in the rally. The balance of the C3 WRC is better and I have more confidence in the front axle. We’re not quite there, however, there’s still a little something missing. We’re going to keep working hard to find the last few tenths, which are always difficult to get.”

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

Summary

Well, what an interesting day. Thierry had done everything right, moving into the lead at the start of the day and then pulling away, and keeping his title hopes alive. It had also been a very good day for Ott, who’d moved up the leaderboard and into the podium positions and is now just a few seconds from second place. Who’d bet against him getting past Dani Sordo tomorrow?

It was a shame that Kris and Seb ended their challenge in the second stage of the day, as they were going really well, having passed Dani Sordo in the stage before. A small mistake, that had big consequences for his hopes.

It was a surprise to see Elfyn and Scott not setting quick times. They just couldn’t set some quick times and drifted further back from the leading drivers, despite feeling that he was setting good times.

Sébastien and Julien drove well, setting good times and climbing the standings into eighth position. It’s hard to see them gaining anymore places though, unless one of the crews ahead suffer a problem.

Thinking ahead to Sunday’s stages, there is a total of 74km over four tests. Talking about the final stage, La Mussara, Miikka Anttila says “This is probably the one stage this weekend that none of the crews have much experience on. The first six kilometres were driven in 2016; the rest not for a long time in this direction. In the beginning, the road turns a lot, and once on top of the hill it’s very fast and flat-out in places. Then it’s back to a slower road down to the finish.”

Perhaps, we’ll know then if Ott Tänak will have won the crown.

Rally Germany Review 2019 – Ott Tanak leads a Toyota 1-2-3

Toyota locked out the podium as Ott and Martin took another step towards this year’s world championship. Here’s the story of their third win in a row on the unique German roads.

It all started with a short stage on Thursday evening. SS 1 – St. Wendeler Land (5,20 km) saw Ott win and open a small lead over Dani and Seb, giving us three different cars in the top three.

Friday

With six stages totaling 101km, this day would be key in getting a good position for Saturday. The start list looked like this – Tänak, Ogier, Neuville, Mikkelsen, Suninen, Meeke, Lappi, Latvala, Sordo, Greensmith, Katsuta.

It was battle on for the lead immediately between Ott and Thierry, with the Belgian winning SS 2 – Stein und Wein 1 (19,44 km) and moving into the lead. Seb was third, but struggling with understeer. The other two Toyota’s passed Dani, pushing the Spaniard down to sixth. M-Sport lost a crew, with Teemu dropping out after a problem with his car.

Into SS 3 – Mittelmosel 1 (22,00 km) and the swap between the title rivals happened again, with Ott moving back to the top and Thierry back into second. Ogier could only manage sixth fastest, after stalling his car in a junction. Dani Sordo gained one place, moving ahead of Jari-Matti into fifth place. Kris Meeke gained time on Seb, closing to within a second of the world champion.

It seemed that Ott was now hitting his stride, winning SS 4 – Wadern-Weiskirchen 1 (9,27 km) but Thierry wasn’t giving up by any means, with just one and a half seconds separating them though. Further back, Seb’s decent time meant that he gapped Kris, just as the Toyota driver was coming under pressure from Dani.

After service, the rerun of SS 5 – Stein und Wein 2 (19,44 km), saw Thierry half the gap between him and Ott, reducing the lead to just one and a half seconds. The changes that Seb had made in service had made his C3 WRC better to drive and as a result he maintained a good gap to Kris. There was a swap further down the field, with Andreas getting past Esapekka after the Finn spun.

Into SS 6 – Mittelmosel 2 (22,00 km) and Ott increased his lead over Thierry, but the action was happening further back after Dani passed Kris for fourth place. The remaining M-Sport car was bringing up the rear, with Gus now in ninth place, over a minute from the lead. The young brit was learning many things.

There was drama of all kinds in SS 7 – Wadern-Weiskirchen 2 (9,27 km), with Seb sliding off into a field, but was still able to set a time good enough for fifth fastest. The surprise came as Gus set the same time as the Frenchman some 4.2 seconds slower than Ott. The biggest drama was for Dani who lost a load of time, dropping to a minute and fifteen seconds behind Ott.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY ONE 

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 59:12.4
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2.8
  3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +22.1
  4. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +25.6
  5. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +27.8
  6. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +40.0
  7. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +52.9
  8. Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:05.5
  9. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:15.1

Let’s hear from the drivers after day one.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It has been a good day. Everything is very tight, just as we expected: Everyone was pushing hard and it’s hard to make big differences. But it’s nice to be in this kind of fight. This morning my rhythm was not perfect from the first corner, but I managed to improve with every kilometre and the driving was getting more clean and tidy. This afternoon I think we had a very clean loop: No crazy risks but still quite close to the limit and pushing quite hard. Tomorrow will be a tough day but we need to continue the same way as we were today and still give a big push.”

Kris Meeke (4th)

“I’ve enjoyed my day. I’m happy to be three seconds from a podium position tonight. I had a decent morning, just a little overshoot here and there, and this afternoon was good in the vineyard stages. Unfortunately, on the last stage of the loop I seemed to be missing something and we lost a lot of time on both runs. There’s a long way to go, today was just the starter. Tomorrow will be a big day, especially the afternoon and Panzerplatte, as it looked exceptionally rough on the recce. We just need to keep driving to our rhythm and see how it goes.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)

“Generally, I’m happy with my day. This morning the feeling was good but I needed to work more on the braking, as I was maybe braking too late sometimes and then struggling to get a good exit. The afternoon was good, we improved the car and it was turning better. I was really happy with the performance on the second time through the Mittelmosel stage. The confidence was growing and then on the last stage I was pushing too much. But I’m looking forward to tomorrow, we have some nice stages and Panzerplatte should be interesting in the opposite direction to the last 10 years.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“We have had a great opening day. I have felt very comfortable in the car, especially during the afternoon loop. It has been difficult to keep up the fight with Ott but we’ve done the maximum we could without taking any unnecessary risks. I tried to be fast and clean in all stages, and we’re not far off. We will have to see what more there is to come. Tomorrow will be a very challenging and long day with the mighty Panzerplatte. Anything can happen in this rally so it is important to keep calm and focused.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (6th)

“It has been an OK day considering it is our first tarmac WRC event of the season. I wish we had been able to fight further up the field but we aren’t too far off the guys in front, which gives us motivation. I have been struggling mainly with understeer at the entry of corners, so we have tried to adjust the car during the day to keep a higher entry speed. We’re not quite there but we will keep working on it. This is just the start of what will be a long rally and I am sure we have more performance to come.”

Dani Sordo (9th)

“What can I say? A hugely disappointing end to what had been a satisfactory performance up to that point. We showed at times that we had the speed to fight for the podium even if we struggled in some parts. The afternoon started out well, and we were on the verge of moving closer to the top-three, but in the final stage of the day we experienced a transmission problem that lost us a lot of time. All we can do is try to reclaim some time over the next two days but it’s going to be an uphill battle from here.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“Clearly, I’m not happy with first leg. We had quite a bit of understeer today.  I was driving over the limit but was still slower than our two rivals. Unfortunately, I also made some small mistakes which cost us time. There is still a very long way to go on this rally, with a very difficult leg ahead tomorrow. We’ll keep giving it everything and try to find some solutions.”

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

“It was a tough day, with understeer and a general lack of grip in the car. The afternoon wasn’t much better for me. We’re now going to try and understand what is causing our issues with the technical team.”

 

M-Sport

Gus Greensmith (8th)

“It’s been a really good day for us and the speed of this car on Tarmac is just awesome! The pace wasn’t great in the morning but that was to be expected and the plan was always to build into it. That’s what we did and we reduced the gap to the leaders by quite a big margin over the afternoon loop.

“To be just a few tenths of a kilometre off Ott [Tänak] on my first day in a world rally car on Tarmac is pretty good; but we’ve still got a lot to improve and that’s what we’ll work on tomorrow.”

Gus and Elliott at speed. Photo credit M-Sport

Teemu Suninen (DNF / Restart tomorrow)

“The first kilometres felt really good, but that’s as far as we got – picking up an electrical issue and having to stop. We found the problem, but didn’t have the parts to fix it in the stage and had to retire. The car is now fully repaired, and I’m looking forward to getting back out there and showing what we can do tomorrow.”

 

Saturday

With eight stages on this day totaling 157km, Saturday would be the toughest day. The start list looked like this – Suninen, Katsuta, Sordo, Greensmith, Lappi, Mikkelsen, Meeke, Latvala, Ogier, Neuville, Tänak.

Dani Sordo’s good start position, meant that he came out of the blocks really fast, winning SS 8 – Freisen 1 (14,78 km) and in fact the best time from the leading drivers was Thierry, who reduced the gap to Ott. The fight was on for the lead.

Into the shorter SS 9 – Römerstrasse 1 (12,28 km) and Ott struck back, flying through to go fastest by half a second from Esapekka, but a full 5.2 seconds faster than Thierry, the gap now 6.7 between the top two. Seb was fighting his car through this one, but doing enough to maintain third overall, ahead of Kris.

Thierry won SS 10 – Freisen 2 (14,78 km), but was only 2 tenths faster that Ott, meaning the gap remained at six and a half seconds. Kris narrowed the gap to Seb as well, but there was action further back, with Dani’s great second fastest time, plus Esapekka sliding into a ditch meant that the Spaniard moved ahead of the Finn into seventh.

Thierry continued to put together some good times, winning SS 11 – Römerstrasse 2 (12,28 km) and reducing Ott’s lead by 1.5 seconds. It was still nip and tuck between Seb and Kris in their battle over third place. Dani, meantime, was showing how he would have been near the top, closing the gap to his teammate Andreas.

The ebb and flow between Ott and Thierry continued with SS 12 – Arena Panzerplatte 1 (10,73 km), with the Estonian winning the stage from Thierry who was six tenths behind. Kris took a couple of seconds out of Seb, the gap now just 1.4 seconds between them.

Ott won SS 13 – Panzerplatte 1 (41,17 km), with Dani the closest challenger. In fact, it was a good stage for Toyota as both Kris and Jari-Matti moved past Seb into the podium places. Also, Thierry tumbled down the timesheets and was now behind Dani and Andreas.

It was another stage win for Toyota, except this time Jari-Matti set the best time in SS 14 – Arena Panzerplatte 2 (10,73 km). Ott’s lead over his teammates was a very big 43 seconds. Seb stalled his car as well – Saturday was not going well for him.

It would get worse for the world champion in SS 15 – Panzerplatte 2 (41,17 km) when he got a puncture and lost a huge one and a half minutes, tumbling down to eighth place. Kris won the stage, continuing Toyota’s domination. Dani was now up to fourth place, the highest placed Hyundai driver.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY TWO

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:27:21.9
  2. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +32.4
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +41.8
  4. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:10.8
  5. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:35.2
  6. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:37.3
  7. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:43.1
  8. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:09.7
  9. Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +6:02.6

 

Let’s hear from the driver’s after day two’s action.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“This morning I was really trying to be close to the limit, but the main thing was to avoid the mistakes and to be clean. In the afternoon, the Baumholder stages were really tricky this year, especially on the second loop when we just had to manage our position. It was so rough, with so many rocks, it was a big challenge to avoid everything. But I tried my best and, in the end, we managed, but it was a lot of pressure. As a team we have good control of things now, so I believe we just need to work together tomorrow and bring this result home.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 10 / Rallye Deutschland / 22-25 August, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Kris Meeke (2nd)

“I was a bit apprehensive this morning because I didn’t know those stages so well, so I was happy to be able to maintain the gap to third place at three seconds. Going to Panzerplatte I knew everything could change, and it was nice to have the pace there. The car felt fantastic this evening. We didn’t change the setup at all for the second loop but the road just cleaned up a bit and I was able to trust the grip a bit more. We still have work to do tomorrow. It’s sitting perfectly for the team but it’s a relatively long loop for a Sunday so we have to be on our game to hold position.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd)

“It was a very good day overall. The morning was a bit frustrating as I was thinking too much about the braking, but we had a very good phone call from Tommi after the second stage. He said ‘relax, take it easy, there is no panic, just drive and it will come’ and eventually it happened. Step by step we were improving, my engineer Taavi was giving me tips to get a bit more grip in the car, and in the afternoon, I had a really good feeling. The most important thing now is to focus on securing the maximum points for the team.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (4th)

“We have had a pretty good day, making up a lot of positions and setting some competitive times. It was important for us to put up a strong fight and keep pushing. I have done my best on all stages and the car has been working well. We wanted to keep the pressure on because you never know what can happen in Germany. We now have to continue in this way on the final morning, to do all we can to support the team for the championship.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 10, Rallye Deutschland
22-25 August 2019
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (5th)

“The rally is not yet over, and that is the most important thing for us to keep in mind. We have to remain motivated and keep our heads held high. We always know there is a risk of puncture in the Panzerplatte stages; it’s a complete lottery and unfortunately this time our numbers did not come up. It’s part of the game. We lost a lot of time – 1m24s – changing the left-rear tyre but before that drama we were just five seconds from the rally lead. Fortune changes quickly but we showed good performance today, including two more stage wins, so that’s what we will take away from today. Anything can still happen.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (6th)

“It has been another satisfactory day for us, although very tough with some long and exhausting stages. We have given it absolutely everything we could, even if the times were still not where we wanted them to be. In the morning loop, we went off a few times which really showed how much we were trying. It can always be better, but we were working hard to make up the time deficit. We made some changes to the car for the afternoon Baumholder stages in a bid to step things up a level. We’re not quite there yet but I’ve spent valuable time today focusing on my driving style so let’s see what tomorrow brings.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

“It was a long and hard day, but we managed to improve the car on this surface, even though we had trouble with the grip on Panzerplatte. It was nevertheless better on the second loop. It’s not enough just yet but we are going to keep moving in this direction.”

Sébastien Ogier (8th)

“Obviously, it’s been a frustrating day. We all knew that the Baumholder military base was something of a lottery and unfortunately, over the last couple of years, I haven’t picked the winning numbers. It’s even more of a shame because the car had improved and I was managing to get it to turn into the corners better.”

Esappeka Lappi drove well, working to make the car better. Photo credit, Citroen Racing.

M-Sport

Gus Greensmith (9th)

“I’m here, which is the main thing! It was a long day and I didn’t make it easy for myself with a mistake on the first stage. We damaged the steering but were able to make a repair on the road section and were back up to pace pretty quickly after that.

“But I wasn’t able to carry that same pace into the Panzerplatte stages. We didn’t have a test there and it was nothing like I remembered from the R5 – so it was a bit of a shock! The second pass was a lot better and we saw some good progress, but there’s still a lot to learn.”

Teemu Suninen (35th)

“We can be really happy with our performance today. We didn’t have anything to gain so we were just driving for fun and wanted to show what we could do. The first pass of Panzerplatte was quite dusty, but other than that it was all good and the car was working really well. I enjoyed the driving a lot today, and now I’m looking forward to tomorrow – after a good night’s sleep!”

Sunday

This would be a longer than usual final day with 79.5km over just four stages. The start list looked like this – Suninen, Katsuta, Greensmith, Ogier, Lappi, Mikkelsen, Neuville, Sordo, Latvala, Meeke, Tänak.

Thierry set the fastest time in SS 16 – Grafschaft 1 (28,06 km), with Dani and Kris second and third fastest. With the issues they’d experienced in the Citroen team, Seb just set about getting through the day, working to make it better. Esapekka in his C3 was finding some pace and passed Andreas who was in sixth place.

The first run of SS 17 – Dhrontal 1 (11,69 km), which would be run as the power stage, and the top three were Jari-Matti, Dani and Thierry. Further back, Andreas repassed Esapekka, moving back into sixth place.

Thierry won SS 18 – Grafschaft 2 (28,06 km), showing he and Nicolas certainly knew their way through this one, with Dani and Teemu second and third. Ott remained in the lead, with Kris and Jari-Matti still looking good to complete a podium lockout for the Toyota team. Esapekka retook sixth place from Andreas once again, as their battle continued!

Well, the final stage, SS 19 – Dhrontal 2 (11,69 km), was also won Thierry, giving him maximum points for the stage win, with Teemu, Jari-Matti, Kris and Seb rounding out the top five fastest times. The final stage saw Esapekka move further away from Andreas, a fine drive from the Finn to score good points for Citroen. Later though Esapekka took a penalty to drop behind Seb into eighth place, giving Andreas sixth place and letting the Citroen team leader some crucial championship points. Also moving aside for Thierry, was Dani, who also took a penalty and allowed the Belgian through into fourth.

 

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:15:29.8
  2. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +20.8
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +36.0
  4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +58.5
  5. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:16.6
  6. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:46.2
  7. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:56.3
  8. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:02.2
  9. Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +6:22.2

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It’s an amazing result for the team, so I’m sure there will be big celebrations tonight, and also when we go to visit the team at TMG here in Germany tomorrow. We still have four more rounds to go and we need to stay focused and give our maximum. The championship is still tight, and we’ve seen this weekend that nothing is coming easy. We were not always the fastest but we were more consistent, and in the end, we managed to get the victory. The main job was done yesterday and today we just had to bring home the 1-2-3.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 10 / Rallye Deutschland / 22-25 August, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Kris Meeke (2nd)

“I’m delighted. I could have had four or five, maybe six podiums already this year, and through different issues and my own mistakes, we never got there. To be on the podium and to bring a big haul of points to Toyota with a perfect score, a 1-2-3, it’s special to be part of this weekend. To take maximum points for the manufacturers’ championship is really important. I felt good in the Yaris all weekend, it gave me great confidence, and I definitely was able to drive at a good speed and be comfortable.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd)

“If you finish 1-2-3, you cannot ask for more. This is the most perfect of perfect results. We had a really nice weekend without any problems, and the car worked perfectly. And even though there were some stages that did not go so well for me, I was able to bounce back on the next one. I was slightly too cautious on the first stage this morning, but I realised that I needed to give a bit more attack and after that it was fine. After Finland, it’s a great feeling to be on the podium again.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“We have given absolutely everything possible this weekend. We have tried our hardest and I think we extracted the full performance from the car and ourselves. To be honest, we could have fought for the win this weekend but we were just unlucky with the puncture in Baumholder yesterday. It wasn’t just us to suffer with misfortune; it is part of the game and we have to accept it, however hard it is to take. I am happy to have completed the rally today. I had a good feeling in the car so I could give it a push in the Power Stage to add important points for our championship.”

Dani Sordo (5th)

“Unfortunately, our rally was affected by the mechanical issue that we had on Friday. We could do nothing about that, and the team is very disappointed, but we have to look at the positive aspects of this weekend. The most important thing is the improvements made to the car performance on tarmac; we are now competitive and this is thanks to the hard work of the team. We were able to set leading times, including all stages on the final morning, which should give us plenty of optimism for future rallies.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (6th)

“For our first tarmac event of the season, it was never going to be an easy one but we have made progress. We have worked a lot on improving our feeling with the car, the driving style and adapting to the varied tarmac stages that we face here in Germany. We have taken some steps over the course of this weekend but it’s still not perfect. On the Power Stage, we just took it at a comfortable pace, making no mistakes and just doing what we needed to keep Ogier behind us on the overall classification.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (7th)

“Obviously, it was not the weekend we were hoping for, but I gave it everything. I was flat out a lot of the time, but it wasn’t enough. The times just weren’t there and the punctures certainly didn’t help. We had hoped to buck the trend here, but unfortunately, our situation in the championship hasn’t improved. I’m still going to keep fighting, like I have always done.”

Esapekka Lappi (8th)

“It was a very difficult weekend for us. We had difficulty finding confidence in the car and the speed to fight with the leading crews. We managed to make some small steps during the weekend but it wasn’t enough. We need more. I have faith in our ability to find the right solutions together for the future.”

 

M-Sport

Gus Greensmith (9th)

“It’s been an awesome weekend, and I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly we were able to get on the pace. We were never right at the front, but we were mixing it with the likes of Mikkelsen and Lappi. They have a lot more experience, so for our first time on Tarmac I’d say that was pretty good.

“The time was there, but we still need to improve the consistency – and once we do that it will make our lives a lot easier. It was a really positive weekend and the only real negative was clipping a tree on Saturday – but that did give me some practice at changing a steering arm!”

Teemu Suninen (Restarted/ 29th)

“It’s not the result we wanted, but I’m still really pleased with our performance and my pace was even better than I had expected. My aim was to finish in the top-five, but actually it looks as though it could even have been enough to fight for the podium.

“The technical issue on Friday means we don’t take any strong points away from this weekend, but I think our second fastest time on the Power Stage says a lot about our pace. I was really pleased with that and really enjoyed my driving – so that’s a big positive for the future.”

 

Summary

The continued pace from Toyota has really put the team in a strong place, with Ott and Martin making a strong case for their first world championship crown. Two wins in a row has put them in a strong place. Now, Kris and Jari-Matti really drove well to achieve second and third, with Kris and Seb taking their first podium together, plus his Finnish teammates getting their second podium in a row.

The Hyundai team were lucky to pick up those higher points paying places, after the punctures that caused Citroen problems. Dani in particular drove well after his problems early on Friday. Thierry benefitted from Dani, but did show some good pace in some stages. Andreas showed some good pace at times, but not really where you’d expect him to finish.

Citroen didn’t really have the pace all weekend, and then Seb really suffered badly with his puncture on the long final stage at the end of Saturday. Esapekka had a good battle with and then at the end, moved over for his teammate.

At M-Sport, Teemu would have fought for the top places, but an electrical problem hobbled his car, and with it any hopes of a good result. Gus in the other car is still learning so much about how to drive these cars and driving these cars on tarmac will really give him a lot to learn.

 

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Ott Tänak – 205 points
  2. Thierry Neuville – 172 points
  3. Sébastien Ogier – 165 points
  4. Kris Meeke – 80 points
  5. Andreas Mikkelsen – 79 points
  6. Elfyn Evans – 78 points
  7. Jari-Matti Latvala – 74 points
  8. Teemu Suninen – 70 points
  9. Esapekka Lappi – 62 points
  10. Dani Sordo – 62 points
FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 10 / Rallye Deutschland / 22-25 August, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 289 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 281 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 216 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 168 points

 

Next round is in Turkey, from the twelfth to the fifteenth of September.

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

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

Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

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

 

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (1st)

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

Kris Meeke (2nd)

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

Ott Tänak (4th)

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

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (3rd)

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

Esapekka Lappi on a charge. Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Sébastien Ogier (7th)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Craig Breen (5th)

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

Andreas Mikkelsen (6th)

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

Thierry Neuville (8th)

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

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (9th)

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

Gus Greensmith (10th)

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

Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

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

 

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

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd)

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

Kris Meeke (Retired/Rally2)

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

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (2nd)

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

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (4th)

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

Craig Breen (6th)

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

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

Thierry Neuville (7th)

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

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (8th)

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

Gus Greensmith (9th)

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

Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

FINAL STANDINGS

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

 

Let’s hear then from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd)

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

Kris Meeke (DNF)

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

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (2nd)

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

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (4th)

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

Thierry Neuville (6th)

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

Craig Breen (7th)

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

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (8th)

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

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

Gus Greensmith (DNF)

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

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

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

 

The thoughts then after day one from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (2nd)

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

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

Kris Meeke (3rd)

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (4th)

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

Seb Loeb (39th)

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

Dani Sordo (43rd)

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

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

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

Esapekka Lappi (8th)

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

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (6th)

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

Gus Greensmith (7th)

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

Elfyn Evans (16th)

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

 

Saturday

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

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

The driver’s thoughts then after Saturday.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

Kris Meeke (2nd)

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

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (Retired/Rally2)

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

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

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

Dani Sordo (24th)

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

Seb Loeb (27th)

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

 

Citroën Total WRT driver

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

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

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

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

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (6th)

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

Elfyn Evans (7th)

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

Gus Greensmith (15th)

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

 

Sunday

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

FINAL STANDINGS

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

 

Let’s hear then from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

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

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (7th)

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

Kris Meeke (Retired)

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

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

Dani Sordo

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

Seb Loeb

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

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

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

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

Esapekka Lappi (Retired)

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

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (4th)

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

Elfyn Evans (5th)

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

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

Gus Greensmith (Retired)

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

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

 

Summary

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

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

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

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

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

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

Rally Australia Review 2018 – Jari-Matti Latvala wins as Seb Ogier takes his sixth title!

The decider down under had it all! Here’s the story of how the title was won, while Jari-Matti took victory!

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 13 / Rally Australia 2018 / November 15-18, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Shakedown took place on Thursday, with these results.

SHAKEDOWN STANDINGS

  1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:53.8
  2. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:54.0
  3. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:54.0
  4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:54.1
  5. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:54.6
  6. Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:54.7
  7. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:54.9
  8. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:55.0
  9. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:55.1
  10. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:55.2
  11. Østberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:55.4

 

Friday

There would be 52km’s of stages on Friday with runs through Orara East, Coldwater and Sherwood run twice and a double run of Destination NSW spectator special at the end of the day. There were rumours of rain developing adding to the anticipation. The start list looked like this – Ogier, Neuville, Tänak, Lappi, Latvala, Mikkelsen, Evans, Breen, Paddon, Suninen, Ostberg, Serderidis. There would be a service break after the first three stages.

 

With Seb opening the road, he was hoping it would rain, thus giving him an advantage. However, this didn’t happen. The rain did arrive, but only in the service park, thus not affecting the stages.

 

The short SS1, Orara East stage, saw Esapekka go fastest, and therefore lead from his Toyota teammates, Ott and Jari-Matti. On such a short stage, Ogier was not losing too much time, completing the stage just 2.6 seconds slower in eighth place, just half a second behind Thierry who held fifth place. Craig Breen hit a kangaroo, but the car wasn’t badly damaged, allowing him to continue.

 

The longer SS2, 14km Coldwater stage would shake things up a bit more with the rain holding off. It was certainly very dry out there, and starting to warm up too as the final cars completed. Jari-Matti took the stage victory and moved into a shared lead with his younger teammate, Esapekka. Craig said his car was understeering, but he still was on the move up the leaderboard anyway, moving to sixth from eleventh. Meanwhile, Mads was just 2.4 seconds behind the overall leaders. Those to lose time were Ogier, who fell to eleventh, but still keeping Thierry in sight who was one place ahead.

 

The final stage before service, SS3 Sherwood, at 26km’s did see some drama! Sixth on the road, Andreas came across a tractor on the stage, and whilst taking avoiding action, crashed out damaging his radiator and putting him out for the rest of the day. Now there has been a lot of debate as to why it was there. One thing I know, is that it was there to help manage the chicane that was in this stage. Anyway, the stage was won by Mads and Craig was second fastest despite believing he had a cracked brake disc, and this speed moved him up to fourth! The top two in the championship were rounding out the top ten.

After service, the re-run of Orara East, SS4, was won by Ott, thus moving the Estonian into fourth overall. Ogier also went well, setting the third fastest time and keeping Thierry insight. Mads was still leading overall, now 4.5 seconds ahead of Lappi.

 

It was all change in Coldwater, SS5. Thierry won the stage and moved up to seventh place overall, almost ten seconds ahead of Ogier. Lappi lost time, dropping almost 23 seconds and falling to ninth. Our top three was now Mads, Jari-Matti and Ott.

 

There was more drama in the longer SS6, Sherwood stage though! After setting the fastest time, Craig moved up to third from fifth, now just 7.5 seconds from the lead that Mads still had. However, it was one of the championship contenders that suffered misfortune. Thierry had a tyre come off after landing from a jump, losing close to a minute and severely denting his hopes of winning the championship as he was now thirty seconds behind Ogier.

 

After the double run in the spectator friendly stage, Destination NSW, which completed the first days action, the only change in the leaderboard was that Craig had brought himself into second overall, giving Citroen a one-two at the end of the first day.

 

Here’s the day one standings then.

 

  1. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) 53:37.4
  2. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) +6.8
  3. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +8.7
  4. Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +12.5
  5. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +16.9
  6. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +28.3
  7. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +38.2
  8. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +45.2
  9. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +47.2
  10. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:11.9

 

Here’s the drivers views then….

 

Mads Østberg

“I thought I would need time to get used to the car again, having not driven it since Wales but I felt confident in the car very quickly. I gradually got my bearings again and adjusted my driving stage by stage. In the end, I really enjoyed it. For sure, we pushed but without risking everything. Obviously, we are right in the mix and I’m really determined to stay there!”

Mads and Torstein led a Citroen Racing 1-2 at the end of Day One. Photo credit, Citroen Racing.

Craig Breen

“Other than the first stage of the loop, where I wasn’t quite on it a couple of times, I had a good opening leg. We were right on the pace all day, which you can see with our win on the longest stage. Importantly, that helped us to gain a place in tomorrow’s running order. I can’t wait to get out there again, because the second leg looks like it will be the best day of the weekend!”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Today has mostly been very good. This morning I did some mistakes and lost a little bit of time, but in the afternoon loop in the forest stages I was really satisfied with how it went: the driving was very consistent and clean. I did lose some time on the super specials, as I had the hard tyres and I was missing some traction. Still, everything remains close and tomorrow we will have a good road position, which is going to be important.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (4th)

“We have had a nice clean day and find ourselves involved in a close fight at the front. The feeling inside the car has been pretty good on all stages. I have spent Friday just trying to get the natural rhythm back, learning to push in the car and gaining confidence. Our approach was right. We had an issue midway through the afternoon when a tyre came off the rim; we were forced to use a worn soft tyre for the second run through Sherwood. I was surprised not to lose more time than we did. We can definitely go faster, and we have to keep pushing for the team. There’s no other option.”

 

Thierry Neuville (10th)

“We can’t lose our hopes despite what’s happened. It’s still only the first day and although our championship chances are now reduced, we don’t know what’s going to happen over the next two days. It had been going quite well. Even from second on the road this morning, the cleaning was huge and our aim was just to stay in front of Sébastien, which we were able to do. A stage win in the afternoon was nice but then, in SS6, we were on a long right-hander with a few bumps, and on the landing of a jump we took the tyre from the rim, which lost us a lot of time. We will continue to drive and see where we end up on Sunday.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (Retired/Rally2)

“What happened today pretty much sums up my season, to be honest. We approached a crest and saw a marshal waving us down. Anders told me to stop so I slowed right down and saw a tractor driving out of the chicane. We kept going but my head was in a different place rather than the pace-notes that were coming up and we went off. I am disappointed and angry. This situation has destroyed a really important rally for us, and it should never have happened. It’s a shame because we were feeling comfortable and doing well up to that point. We will be back on Saturday but there’s not much we can do now.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (5th)

“Overall, the morning loop was good and we were in a nice rhythm. This afternoon there were some mistakes from my side, which I cannot be happy about. On the first stage of the afternoon loop I hit a gate, which did some damage to our suspension. Then on the second stage, in a big watersplash we lost the front bumper so we had a lot less aero than usual. The car wasn’t easy to drive but we did all we could, and we are still in the game and everything is possible.”

 

Esapekka Lappi (6th)

“Everything went really well and smoothly this morning. I was quite surprised: I expected to lose more time as we were running quite early on the road. Unfortunately, one watersplash this afternoon ruined our day. I tried to approach it the same as I did on the first pass, but it didn’t work out at all. We lost a lot of time but thankfully we could continue. I have been really enjoying the driving and everything on the car is working nicely, so I am looking forward to tomorrow.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier (7th)

“Every stage has been like a Power Stage for us today. Opening the road is really tough here and we had to push really hard through every stage. It’s always a little frustrating when you’re not in a position to fight for the top results, but that’s the way it is.”

 

“Unlike our rivals, we didn’t make any mistakes and we’re in a good position for the championship which is the main objective this weekend. A big thanks to my team mates also for their help this afternoon which should make our road position better for tomorrow.”

 

Elfyn Evans (8th)

“We focused on delivering a clean and tidy drive through today’s stages. The competition was really close and I think we did a pretty good job – not far from the lead before the last gravel stage of the day.”

Elfyn and Dan let Seb and Julien go ahead of them in the standings, helping the French duo with their championship defence. Photo credit, M-Sport

“But this is a team sport as well as an individual one and we had to play our part to give Seb the best possible position going into the weekend. We’re all competitors and we all want to compete, but we’re also here to do a job for the team and we have to respect that.”

 

Teemu Suninen (9th)

“I think we’ve had a good day. The pace has been good and we were able to improve a lot over the second pass – just 0.1 seconds away from a stage win on the middle one this afternoon [SS5]. On the next stage we had to give the position to Seb, but that’s part of the game – he’s fighting for the championship and we need to play our part to help him.”

 

 

Saturday

 

Day two would see the crews tackle much more stages, adding up to 133km’s of action. The starting line up looked like this – Serderidis, Neuville, Evans, Suninen, Ogier, Lappi, Tänak, Paddon, Breen, Latvala, Ostberg, Mikkelsen.

 

A much longer day featured four stages run in the morning, with the loop repeated in the afternoon and then a double run at the end of the day in the spectator friendly stage.

 

Into SS9, Argents Hill Reverse then, quite literally run in the opposite direction to last year and Hayden started well, winning it from Latvala and Andreas. Craig dropped behind Jari-Matti who was now Mads closest rival for the lead. Thierry was also finding things hard, second on the road again and losing more time to Ogier.

The second stage of the day, SS10, Welshs Creek reverse was won by Ott from Latvala and Hayden. Mads lead was reduced by a little over three seconds and he revealed that he was not happy with his tyre choice. Meantime, Craig was suffering from a throttle that was sticking open when he was on the brakes, making the car push on and very tricky to drive indeed, and he dropped to fifth overall! Hayden moved into third as a result of this. Ogier was still in the box seat for the championship, with Thierry now 43 seconds behind the Frenchman.

 

Onto SS11, Urunga. It was all change in this one. Mads lost 13 and a half seconds, falling from the lead, to third overall. Those to benefit were Jari-Matti and Ott who were now first and second respectively. The gap widened even further for Thierry, now almost fifty seconds from Seb in tenth. Craig was suffering with his tyres and this led to a spin, which then resulted in damage to his left rear suspension.

 

SS12, so named Raleigh, saw Elfyn and Ott share honours with the fastest time. Breen however picked up a time penalty after arriving late for the stage. He and Scott worked on their car between the stages, fixing the broken suspension as best they could and they were now in tenth place.

 

After service, came the second run of Argents Hill, SS13, which saw Hayden take another stage victory, thus consolidating fourth overall and keeping him and Seb Marshall close to the podium positions, with Mads in third still, only three seconds ahead of the Kiwi. Thierry needed a mistake from Ogier to bring himself back into the fight, but it was hard to see him taking the title now. In fact, Ott had a more realistic chance given how close he was to the leader, who was his teammate, Jari-Matti.

 

The longer Welshs Creek followed, SS14, and Ott moved ahead of Jari-Matti into the lead. Also, on the move was Thierry who moved ahead of Teemu, but had actually lost a further few seconds to Ogier, who was now in sixth overall. The Belgian was going to need a miracle now, as he was almost two and a half minutes from the leader.

 

The second run of Urunga, SS15 saw Hayden set the third fastest time and with Mads only tenth fastest the Kiwi was now in third overall, behind Ott and Jari-Matti. Thierry was doing his best to keep the gap to Ogier under a minute, and he was a second faster than the Frenchman.

 

The short Raleigh, SS16 stage followed, with Ott, Elfyn and Seb the top three. Ott’s lead was now almost ten seconds from his teammate, Jari-Matti.

 

After the double run of Destination NSW, during which the rain came, causing all sorts of mayhem, the Estonian had widened the gap to Latvala giving him a lead of twenty seconds, whilst Hayden had consolidated his third place overall, a full twenty seconds ahead of Mads. Thierry was in eighth place, fifty seconds behind Ogier. The chance to win the title was getting more remote.

 

So, let’s hear then from the drivers at the end of day two.

 

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:07:52.0
  2. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +21.9
  3. Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +26.3
  4. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) +46.6
  5. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +50.4
  6. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:44.8
  7. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:04.6
  8. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:35.2
  9. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:49.0
  10. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) +6:26.8

 

 

 

 

Ott Tänak

“It has been a good day. This morning, we were back in our normal rhythm and the car was feeling good. I tried to attack a bit and we managed to take some time back. This afternoon we continued to push to make more of a margin to the drivers behind. Tomorrow we know there will be some tricky stages and maybe some tricky weather too, so it won’t get any easier. But for the moment everything is going in the right direction and we are doing everything that is in our control.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 13 / Rally Australia 2018 / November 15-18, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala  

“I had a really good morning. The car was working really well, I was enjoying the driving and we were able to gain some places. The afternoon started well but I was probably too aggressive with the tyres. They became very worn, so I had to back off and I started to lose some time. Then in the super specials we were unlucky with the conditions. Still, we are in second place and we just need to bring that to the end: this would be really important for the manufacturers’ championship and for myself and to finish the season with a good feeling.”

 

Hayden Paddon

“It has been nice to get back onto some of my favourite stages of the year. I have really enjoyed myself out there. There’s still more pace to be found, but we set ourselves the minimum target of a podium and we’re looking in good shape for that so far. The weather might still have a role to play tomorrow so we have to keep pushing. I’ve had a great feeling from inside the car and started to really get into the groove. Winning the repeat of the Argents Hill stage was probably the most fun I’ve had in a rally car all year. We now have one final day to see what more we can do – it’s still pretty close up top.”

 

Citroen Racing

Mads Østberg (4th)

“We struggled a bit more today to find the right rhythm and balance, especially on the second loop of stages, then we were really hampered by the sudden rainfall on this evening’s super special stage. But together, we fought hard and gave a good account of ourselves. We didn’t give up at any point, and that’ll be our mindset tomorrow as well.”

 

Craig Breen (10th)

“It just wasn’t our day today. I was unlucky this morning with a minor mistake that proved to be a very costly one. It’s especially disappointing because we still had the speed to do well. Although we’ll be first on the road tomorrow, we’re going to enjoy these magnificent stages as much as possible right to the end.”

 

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“I think we have done a good job today. The gaps were quite big in front and behind me so I was a little bit in no-man’s land, and it’s hard to keep the concentration when you don’t need to push so much. In the second stage of the afternoon I tried to back off a bit and immediately I started to make mistakes, so I decided to push again and we were fastest on the next stage. That helped bring us quite close to fourth, but tomorrow the main aim is to bring the car to the finish.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier (6th)

“The loose gravel has made it a difficult rally for us so far, but it’s been a positive day in terms of the championship and I’m very happy with that.”

“First on the road yesterday was really tough. Fifth on the road today was a little bit better, but we still lost a lot of time compared to the guys starting further back.”

“It was a bit frustrating sometimes, but the main target is the championship and scoring the points we need. That’s what we’re doing at the moment, but tomorrow’s final kilometres will feel pretty long and we’ll need to be focused.”

Seb and Julien at speed. Photo credit M-Sport

Elfyn Evans (7th)

“We all knew it would be difficult being early on the road today. The gravel was really loose and you could see how much it was cleaning and how much faster the road was getting with every car. Still, we delivered a clean and tidy drive and it was nice to show some speed through both passes of the Raleigh stage.”

 

Teemu Suninen (9th)

“Today has been more difficult for me and I still have a lot to learn about how to drive in this loose gravel. I didn’t have the best rhythm, but we got a bit better in the afternoon and now there is just one more day to go.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (8th)

“Starting from second on the road here in Australia, you know it’s going to be tough. We had to try and give it everything, to minimise the time loss but there’s only so much you can do. Despite the slippery conditions, I really enjoyed the stages and we had a reasonable run all things considered. There was a small moment towards the end of the morning loop when we broke the rear wishbone after clipping a bank, but we were able to fix that. We have had no choice but to keep pushing, focusing on our driving and have an eye on what’s happening in front in case anyone encounters any trouble. It’s a frustrating situation but it’s not over until it’s over.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 13, Rally Australia
15-18 November 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen (Rally2)

“Today we’ve been able to enjoy ourselves very much. It is always a pleasure to drive these beautiful Australian stages. Unfortunately, we are no longer fighting for a podium but we’ve tried to get into a good rhythm nonetheless. We haven’t been taking those final risks, which enable you to compete for stage wins but I’ve been happy with our pace and performance in the i20 Coupe WRC today.”

 

Sunday

The final day then. Normally, the stages are short, but we had a very large almost 84km’s to go, over six stages. To fit it all in, it was another early start, with the first stage starting before seven in the morning. The start list looked like this – Serderidis, Breen, Suninen, Neuville, Evans, Ogier, Lappi, Ostberg, Paddon, Latvala, Tänak, Mikkelsen.

 

The rain had arrived and the first stage, SS19 Coramba was very muddy. Jari-Matti won the stage from Andreas and Thierry. These conditions were helping the Belgian, but how much? The gap to the leaders was still big and on balance, Ott had a better chance of the title, as he was ahead of Seb. Elfyn was doing a very good job, shadowing Ogier.

 

So, to SS20, Sapphire then and Hayden took this one from Latvala and Mads. Ott dropped to second place, five seconds behind new leader, Jari-Matti, after suffering a spin! In fact, Craig had spun at precisely the same place earlier and he suffered another spin as well later in the stage too!

 

Last stage before service then, SS21 Wedding Bells, and Craig suffered another spin after clipping something that was on the line. Lappi took the stage victory from a very quick Neuville with Toyota twins, Latvala and Tanak sharing the third fastest time.

 

After service, the re run of Coramba, SS22 and Thierry was going for it while the rain was pouring down. After reaching the 1km board, he spun after hitting a bank! He did get going again, however a light came on the dashboard. He found somewhere to stop and retired from the rally. Jari-Matti won the stage from Lappi and Tanak was third.

 

The re run then of SS23 Sapphire saw more drama. Ott stopped in the stage after an off, which he had got going after earlier in the stage, and was pushed to the side of the road by some spectators. Latvala was holding the lead now from Hayden and Mads was now in third after the demise of the Estonian. This confirmed Seb and Julien as this year’s world champions, with their closest rivals now out.

 

The final stage then of the rally and the entire year…. SS24, Wedding Bells and the power stage. Top five was, Ogier, Lappi, Ostberg, Evans and rally winner Latvala, taking his first victory since Rally Sweden 2017.

 

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:59:52.0
  2. Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +32.5
  3. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) +52.2
  4. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:02.3
  5. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:30.8
  6. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:05.1
  7. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) +8:59.1

What an amazing rally. Seb and Julien emerged as champions again after a thrilling battle throughout the year. In their second year back, Toyota have taken the manufacturers world title. Very impressive indeed.

 

Let’s hear then from the drivers, top three first.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I am so happy to win again. It was quite a relief after such a long time! The conditions today were incredibly demanding, and it would have been very easy to go off the road. Everything went my way today, and I am sorry for Ott that his rally ended in the way it did. I was very excited and nervous at the start of the final stage, but we managed to do it. To win the manufacturers’ title is fantastic. I am so proud of the team and what they have created. Everybody has worked so hard and they deserve this reward!”

 

Hayden Paddon

“A great weekend for us! I’m really pleased to be back on the podium and to take our best result of the season. This feels like a proper podium. I felt the last few we’ve benefitted from others’ misfortune but we’ve definitely earned this one. Each year we’ve been getting one place better in Australia, so I must be on to win it next year! We’ve made good strategy calls all weekend and I’ve felt comfortable in the car. Thanks to the team and to the travelling Kiwi fans who have come out in their droves to support us. It makes all the difference. We have to see what happens next season but I hope this result helps our cause.”

 

Mads Østberg

“It really has been a weekend of ups – particularly on Friday’s leg when we were leading the rally – and downs, especially yesterday when we were a little bit less comfortable on the stages. It wasn’t easy to come back after two months on the sofa and such a long break since Wales Rally GB. But we kept on fighting, we never gave up and continued to put pressure on our rivals today. Our consistency and strength today on the extremely slippery stages were rewarded in the end!”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

“Today was definitely one of the toughest days of the season: the conditions were very tricky and that meant you couldn’t enjoy the driving quite as much. It is nice to end this part of my career in this way, by helping the team to win the manufacturers’ title. I really wanted to finish on top but at least we had a good rally where we were back on the pace. Thank you to everyone in the team for their support.”

 

Ott Tänak (Retired)

“Congratulations to everybody in the team. They have done a great job. Personally, I can be disappointed about how it ended for me today, but in general I am really happy: I have the strongest car in the championship and strong people around me. It was a great battle all year; we were always trying our best. I went off in a really tricky stage with a lot of muddy places. I think it didn’t change too much in either championship though. I am really happy with my season and we will keep pushing next year.”

 

M-Sport Ford

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“It’s been an incredible season and the fight has been so close. Not so long ago we thought it was going to be difficult to take the title again, but we never gave up. We gave it everything and had such an amazing team around us. I am so proud of all of them and of course I want to thank Malcolm for another amazing job. What we achieved together over the past two years has been really special, and I am very proud of that.”

 

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“Congratulations to Seb, Julien and the whole team. I’m glad they were able to secure this one and – even though it wasn’t always easy – I’m glad we were able to help them where we could. Obviously for various reasons our season didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but the speed was there and hopefully we’ll have a chance to prove that again next year.”

 

Teemu Suninen (DNF)

“It was a shame not to have finished this rally, but I am really happy for the team and for Seb and Julien who really deserved this Championship. Everyone has worked really hard and it’s nice to see this result for them.”

 

“For me, I think I showed some good improvement this weekend and was able to set some good times on Friday. On the weekend I learnt a lot about how to drive in the loose gravel, and I’m looking forward to next year when I can build on everything, I learnt this season.”

 

Citroen Racing

Craig Breen (7th)

“It’s been a really tough event for us, especially since our mistake yesterday meant we had to open the road on these very tricky stages today. Saying that, the positive for me is that once again we had really good pace in the C3 WRC, especially during the first leg.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“We gave it everything and had to take some risks today to try and capture the title. Even it was only a small chance, we had nothing to lose. In SS22, the conditions were really bad, and we simply went wide and clipped a tree. That was it, championship over. It has been a difficult and tricky weekend, and not the way we wanted the season to end but it’s part of the game. I would like to say thanks to the team and everyone at Hyundai Motorsport in Alzenau for giving us the car to fight for the title this year. Congratulations to Sébastien and Julien; it has been great to fight with them this year. We knew there would be one winning crew and that two would go home empty handed. It’s unfortunate we are the unlucky ones on this occasion. It’s been a great season for WRC and we’ve attracted some new fans, so now we have a short break and we can look ahead to another season.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen

“In many ways I am pleased that the 2018 season has come to a close. It has been a troublesome year for me. This weekend is a perfect example; we’ve been quick and competitive at times but our event has been overshadowed by pure bad luck. Throughout the year we have made improvements and felt increasingly comfortable with the car, we just haven’t been able to translate that into results. Still, it has been a great season for the fans and it has been a pleasure to be part of it. We have had great support from the team and we’re all pushing in the right direction. We now look forward to a bit of time off, and then some proper testing ahead of Monte when we’ll go again in good spirits.”

 

Well, what an event! Look out soon for my season review.

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 13 / Rally Australia 2018 / November 15-18, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Sébastien Ogier – 219 points
  2. Thierry Neuville – 201 points
  3. Ott Tänak – 181 points
  4. Jari-Matti Latvala – 128 points
  5. Esapekka Lappi – 126 points
  6. Andreas Mikkelsen – 84 points
  7. Elfyn Evans – 80 points
  8. Hayden Paddon – 73 points
  9. Dani Sordo – 71 points
  10. Mads Ostberg – 70 points

 

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 368 points
  2. Hyundai WRT – 341 points
  3. M-Sport Ford WRT – 324 points
  4. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 237 points

Rally Finland 2018 Review – Ott Tanak takes it!

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

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

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

 

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

 

Ott Tänak

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

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

Mads Østberg

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

Jari-Matti Latvala

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

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (5th)

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

Sébastien Ogier (6th)

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

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

Elfyn Evans (7th)

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

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (4th)

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

Thierry Neuville (10th)

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

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

Andreas Mikkelsen

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

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (9th)

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

Craig Breen, Scott Martin – Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Khalid Al Qassimi (24th)

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (8th)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

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

 

 

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

 

Ott Tänak

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

Mads Østberg

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

Jari-Matti Latvala

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (5th)

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

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

Thierry Neuville (10th)

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

Andreas Mikkelsen (11th)

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

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (6th) said:

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

Sébastien Ogier (7th) said:

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

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

Elfyn Evans (8th) said:

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

Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt, Photo credit M-Sport

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (9th)

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

Khalid Al Qassimi (Rally2)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Ott Tanak

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

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

Mads Østberg

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

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

Jari-Matti Latvala

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (4th)

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

Thierry Neuville (9th)

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

Andreas Mikkelsen (10th)

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

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

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

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

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

Teemu Suninen (6th)

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

Elfyn Evans (7th)

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

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (8th)

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

Khalid Al Qassimi (37th)

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

 

FINAL STANDINGS

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

 

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

 

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

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

 

It’ll be a fascinating event!

 

Till then, bye!