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 Chile Preview 2019- The WRC ventures to new territories!

This is going to be interesting! The first ever WRC round in Chile. Totally new notes need to be written during the even more important reece days. This makes everything a much more level playing field, and we may see an upset as a result.

Almost certainly at the top will be Seb Ogier, Ott Tanak, Kris Meeke, Elfyn Evans and Thierry Neuville. Looking to impress on the stages will be Teemu Suninen and Esapekka Lappi. Making another appearance this season are nine-time champions Seb Loeb and Daniel Elena.

Looking to get a good run of results will be Andreas Mikkelsen who scored his first podium for over a year last time out in Argentina. Can he repeat this in Chile? Kris Meeke also scored his best result of the season so far and will hope that he can go one better and get his first podium, whilst Elfyn Evans will want to put the accident behind him and bring home another podium for M-Sport and himself.

A total of sixteen stages lie ahead of the crews and a total of 304,81km of competitive stages over the three days will offer a interesting challenge. I suspect the second run of the stages that are run twice will see much faster run times, as the crews learn more about each stage on their first runs.

Friday is the longest day as it features the longest stage of the whole event at just over 30km. The stages are run four hours behind GMT, therefore five hours behind current BST. There are six stages run each day on Friday and Saturday, with four on Sunday. Having seen some photos of the area, there seems to be a lot of similarity to stages in Wales. One thing is for sure, discovering what it’s really like is going to be part of the fun!

Full stage schedule

THURSDAY 9 MAY

10.00am: Shakedown (6,45 km)

 

FRIDAY 10 MAY

6.30am: Start day 1

8.00am: SS 1 – El Pinar 1 (17,11 km)

9.33am: SS 2 – El Puma 1 (30,72 km)

10/36am: SS 3 – Espigado 1 (22,26 km)

12.51pm: Service A (Talcahuano – 40 mins)

3.24pm: SS 4 – El Puma 2 (30,72 km)

4.27pm: SS 5 – Espigado 2 (22,26 km)

6.40pm: SS 6 – Concepcion – Bicentenario (2,20 km)

7.15pm: Flexi service B (Talcahuano – 45 mins)

 

SATURDAY 11 MAY

6.30am: Start & service C (Talcahuano – 15 mins)

8.08am: SS 7 – Rio Lia 1 (20,90 km)

9.08am: SS 8 – Maria Las Cruces 1 (23,09 km)

10.20am: SS 9 – Pelun 1 (16,59 km)

12.05pm: Service D (Talcahuano – 40 mins)

2.08pm: SS 10 – Rio Lia 2 (20,90 km)

3.08pm: SS 11 – Maria Las Cruces 2 (23,09 km)

4.20pm: SS 12 – Pelun 2 (16,59 km)

5.45pm: Flexi service E (Talcahuano – 45 mins)

 

SUNDAY 12 MAY

7.00am: Start & service F (Talcahuano – 15 mins)

8.08am: SS 13 – Bio Bio 1 (12,52 km)

9.30am: SS 14 – Lircay (18,06 km)

10.20am: SS 15 – San Nicolàs (15,28 km)

12.18pm: SS 16 – Bio Bio 2 Power Stage (12,52 km)

1.15pm: Finish (Talcahuano)

Let’s hear from the crews.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“For everyone, Rally Chile will be a step into the unknown. It’s hard to set too many expectations when it promises to be a rally of surprise. We are only going to discover the stages for the first time during the recce but it will be a nice challenge, and it’s good to have a new event on the calendar. We are still in a positive frame of mind following our two recent victories, and an important period of progress for the team. Leading the championship means we will be first on the road; a lot of work awaits us but I am looking forward to it.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Argentina
25-28 April 2019
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“I was so pleased with our performance and our result in Argentina, I am ready for more of the same in Chile! It will be a fresh challenge for everyone but from what I have seen in videos it looks like we are in for some beautiful stages. We know what we can achieve with the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, as we showed at the last rally, so our target is to repeat that level of performance and build some momentum.”

Seb Loeb

“The fact that it’s a gravel event is one of the only things I really know about Rally Chile. Like the rest of the WRC community, I am looking forward to finding out more. Chile is not a country I have been too often, in fact only once to watch the Dakar. From what I have seen, the roads appear to be quite flowing, in the forest and on smooth gravel. There’s no question that it will be an interesting experience and a nice event to have on the calendar, but we’ll have to wait until we are out there to learn all about it.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“From what I can tell by watching the videos available, the roads do seem really quite different to those we had in Argentina. The stages seem to be fairly flowing and fast, somewhat reminiscent of the ones you get at Wales Rally GB with all these sections through the undergrowth. I hope we’ll have slightly better performance here. There is still a significant layer of fine gravel on the road surface, which may make life complicated for the early runners. We’ll have to see whether the rain that has fallen recently limits the extent to which the roads clean or not.”

Esapekka Lappi

“After a tough start to the season, I’m determined to get back on track in Chile and come away with a decent result, and regain confidence behind the wheel step by step. I hope that the weather will be kind to us on Friday. If it stays dry, the roads are likely to clean. That would enable us to make the most of being down the running order and get off to the ideal start. The stages look really nice and interesting. The road surfaces look good, or at least they did when they were filmed for the videos provided by the rally organisers.”

Photo courtesy of Citroen Racing

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans

“This is going to be a brand-new experience for everyone. It’s rare to have to write completely new pacenotes like what we’ll have to do next week, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

“Logistically, it’s also a massive challenge for the team – especially when someone damages the car on the previous event! A big thanks to the mechanics who have been working to repair the car – and hopefully we can repay them with a strong result next week.

“Looking at the video, the stages don’t look too dissimilar to Wales – medium width, flowing and technical. They look really nice to be fair, but we’ll be better placed to judge after the recce.

“Before then, we’re spending some time in Santiago with Pedro [Heller]. We’ve been up to the Andes and we’ve also been out on the bike. It’s a really beautiful landscape and I look forward to learning more about the country – hopefully Pedro can give us a few tips about the rally as well!”

Elfyn and Scott. Photo courtesy of M-Sport

Teemu Suninen

“Looking at the recce videos from the organisers, Rally Chile appears to be a very smooth event. We’ll have to wait for our own recce before we have a chance to see the stages in more detail, but to me it looks really interesting. I think I will like this event, but we will have to wait and see how things go.

“I think we can assume that the top three drivers will be fighting at the front, but after that the results can be very mixed. As we saw on Corsica, anything can change the game and make it more equal. So, I am really looking forward to next week where I want to continue to show my performance.”

 

Gus Greensmith (WRC2 Pro)

“I’ve heard a lot of different things about this new rally and only the Heller brothers have been able to give me a clear insight on what to expect. But it will still be a huge unknown for everyone.

“The organisers provided some onboard videos that I have spent a lot of time studying, but it’s hard to get an exact feel for how the stages will be – especially in terms of how wide or narrow they will be.

“They look quite fast and flowing which I believe will suit the Fiesta, but we won’t get a clear indication until we recce them for the very first time – and for sure it won’t be exactly how we thought.

“I just have to do my part as well as I can to try and bring home the first victory in Chile!”

Gus and Elliot continue their WRC2 Pro title bid. Photo courtesy of M-Sport

Summary

We are set for a great event. Who from our group of elite rally drivers will be standing on the top step? You can follow the event on the WRC app, with live timing. On Monday the 13th there are highlights on 5 Spike at seven in the evening.

Rally Argentina Review 2019- Thierry Neuville Takes Victory!

Thierry Neuville took a remarkable victory in Argentina with Andreas Mikkelsen and Seb Ogier completing the podium. Here’s the story of how it happened. In the days before the event, there had been a lot of rain and thunderstorms before and this would make things very interesting!

 

After the short SS 1 – Super Especial Villa Carlos Paz (1,90 km) on Thursday night the top ten was covered by just three and a half seconds, with Ott holding the lead and Teemu Suninen in tenth place.

 

Friday

With seven stages due to run, including a double run of SS 3 – Amboy – Yacanto 1 (29,85 km), the longest stage of the day, plus very different conditions since the reece, getting through the first full day would be a big challenge.

 

The start list looked like this, with the cars entering in championship order – Neuville, Ogier, Tänak, Evans, Meeke, Lappi, Sordo, Latvala, Suninen, Mikkelsen, Greensmith, Ostberg.

 

First up then was SS 2 – Las Bajadas – Villa Del Dique 1 (16,65 km), and it was Kris who set a great pace, winning and closing on his teammate for the lead. The big loser was Ogier, who could only manage eighth fastest and fell down to seventh overall. However, Thierry was doing really badly, now 14 seconds from early leader Ott.

 

Sadly SS 3 – Amboy – Yacanto 1 (29,85 km) was cancelled for safety reasons, so it was a long wait for the next one, SS 4 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 1 (23,44 km). It was a drama filled stage, with Thierry hitting back and winning the stage from Meeke and Ogier and Ott, who lost 10 seconds and fell to second overall. However, the worst happened to Esapekka Lappi, who had been in sixth, picked up a puncture and fell down to ninth! Elfyn was also on the move, going fifth fastest and climbing from eighth to sixth overall.

 

The short SS 5 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 1 (6,04 km) was won by Andreas, with Seb and Thierry setting identical times for equal second fastest. The Norwegians pace saw him move up into sixth overall. Thierry was now Kris’ closest challenger, just five seconds separating them at the top of the leaderboard.

 

After service, SS 6 – Las Bajadas – Villa Del Dique 2 (16,65 km) saw more changes. Ott won the stage from Dani Sordo, with Andreas third. Kris could only manage sixth in the stage and now his lead was just seven tenths of a second! Thierry had now dropped a place, but was still in podium contention.

 

SS 7 – Amboy – Yacanto 2 (29,85 km) next up and with conditions better than expected, Ott moved into the lead after Kris dropped 20 seconds, falling to fourth overall, now behind Thierry and Ogier.

 

The final stage of the first day then, SS 8 – Santa Rosa – San Agustin 2 (23,44 km) and there was drama once more for Lappi who crashed after sustaining another puncture. It was a scary crash, as there were some spectators far too close to the road. The outcome could have been so different. Thierry won the stage and with Ott only sixth fastest the Belgian took the lead, whilst Ogier was now second, ahead of Ott, who was now third. Further back, Elfyn moved up to sixth overall after setting the third fastest time in the stage.

Well, the first day had produced lots of drama, and it’s fair to say that it was a surprise to see Belgian pairing Thierry and Nicolas in the lead. The standings looked like this.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

  1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:11:13.9
  2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +11.9
  3. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +13.4
  4. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 28.1
  5. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 29.4
  6. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 38.2
  7. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +41.1
  8. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:13.6
  9. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:59.2
  10. Østberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +6:11.1

 

Here’s the thoughts of the drivers at the end of day one.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“We didn’t really expect to be leading this rally at the end of the first day, especially considering our starting position as first on the road. It’s a pleasant surprise but it has been a complicated day with tricky conditions. We know things will be equally challenging as the weekend continues. Even with the wet weather, there were times when it was better to be earlier on the road and other stages when it was not. The car has performed well today and we are in the fight, so we will do what we can to defend our lead on Saturday.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

“We had a good morning loop and were able to set some encouraging times. The only issue was a puncture in SS4. Anders noticed we had a front-left issue after 5km into the stage so we took it carefully after that so we didn’t lose the tyre off the rim. We were lucky, and were able to remain in the fight. I was happy not to lose more time to be honest. It’s been a bit of an up and down day, and by the end of the afternoon loop I really felt that our starting position was hurting us. Saturday we will be more in the middle of the pack, so we will hopefully fare better.”

Dani Sordo (7th)

“The day had been going quite OK and we were having more fun on the stages than I thought we would be able to in these conditions. Some of the stages were so difficult to read; you didn’t really know what speed was possible. We tried to push a bit harder in the afternoon and the times were good until the final stage. We went into a ditch in a slow corner and had to reverse out, so we lost some time there. Not the greatest way to end but tomorrow’s another day.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“The opening leg at Rally Argentina is always very complicated and rough. I’m pleased to finish the day in this position. It was all the more difficult because we did recce on these stages before the rain fell. We fought as hard as possible, and although the car isn’t running perfectly as yet, we’re still in contention for victory and it’s still open at the front. The second leg looks like it will be very difficult again, probably with fog early on, as is often the case on these stages.”

Seb and Julien in flight! Photo credit, Citroën Racing

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (3rd)

“It has been a tough day with conditions that were very hard for the cars. With the engineers we were able to make some changes in service, and that improved things for the afternoon so that I could have a bit more confidence. I was quite enjoying it and some good stage times were coming. We had the issue with the driveshaft on the last stage, but we could make it back to service to get it fixed tonight. I believe we should have a good car for tomorrow’s stages, and we’ll push hard. There’s a long way to go so everything is still to play for.”

 

Kris Meeke (4th)

“It has been a challenging day for everyone in these conditions. I really enjoyed it this morning. It wasn’t about ultimate pace it was a case of reading the road and trying to work out where it would be really slippery. For most of the stage it would be fine with good grip, and then there were some really deep patches of mud that you had to try and anticipate before you hit them. The afternoon was tough. We had a couple of issues with the car that slowed us a little bit, but I simply didn’t have the pace anyway. Hopefully tomorrow will be better and we can still challenge for the podium.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala (8th)

“This morning was quite good, it was consistent and we were up there, not far from the leaders. This afternoon was much tougher. It started well but I was too fast in one corner in the ruts and pushed a tyre off the rim, so we had to finish the stage with a flat tyre. That made me a bit cautious on the next stage, and then on the final stage of the loop I had a spin and lost some more time there. We still have two days left and a lot can happen, especially in these conditions, so we will stay positive.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“Obviously it’s not where we wanted to be at the end of the day, but we’re not a million miles away and there is still a long way to go. I felt that we were driving quite well at points, but I didn’t always have the feeling to push that little bit more – just struggling with the balance here and there. The midfield battle is pretty close, so we have to keep fighting for the best possible position tomorrow.”

Teemu Suninen (9th)

“Today has been quite difficult. The conditions have changed a lot from the recce with a lot more mud and a lot of surprising places. This made it difficult to get into a good rhythm as I was always expecting some tricky conditions. But then on the second loop when I had a bit more knowledge, I was able to improve my times – except on the last stage where the engine took in some water and we lost some time.”

 

Saturday

With 146.52km of competitive stages, Saturday would be the longest day of this event. The start list looked like this- Suninen, Latvala, Sordo, Evans, Mikkelsen, Meeke, Tänak, Ogier, Neuville. The rally leader was in a good position to move further ahead of his competitors, but this event was certainly not decided.

 

SS 9 – Tanti – Mataderos 1 (13,92 km) first up, and Thierry won the stage from Ott, and with Ogier only fifth fastest as well, the Frenchman dropped to third. Elfyn also started well, going fourth quickest and closing on Andreas in their battle for fourth overall.

 

SS 10 – Mataderos – Cuchilla Nevada 1 (22,67 km), saw the battle between the Hyundai and Toyota drivers continue with Ott winning the stage, but Thierry keeping the timeloss down to just two and a half seconds. There was drama though for Elfyn and Scott. Approaching a quick right-hander, the Welshman lost the rear of the Fiesta, and all was well until the front hit a huge boulder, which had the effect of spinning the car around, which then caused the tyres to dig in and the car to roll off the road, coming to rest back on it wheels. They were out, bringing an end to a good start.

SS 11 – Cuchilla Nevada – Characato 1 (33,65 km) was won by Ott, and he took six seconds out of Thierry as well, thus reducing the gap to just five seconds between them. However, Ogier lost a huge amount of time- over half a minute after his powersteering failed- falling behind Kris as well into fourth place. Any hopes for victory had now almost evaporated as he was 46 seconds from the leader.

 

SS 12 – Super Especial Fernet Branca 2 (6,04 km) was won by Andreas from Dani and Jari-Matti, whilst Kris fell from third to fourth and Ogier lost more time due to his powersteering problem, falling to sixth overall, over a full minute from the lead.

 

After service, SS 13 – Tanti – Mataderos 2 (13,92 km) Ogier with his problem fixed flew through the stage, setting the fastest time. Andreas continued his good form, with the second quickest time, keeping himself ahead of Kris.

 

SS 14 – Mataderos – Cuchilla Nevada 2 (22,67 km) saw drama for two drivers. Ogier continued his scorching pace by winning this stage and passing Dani Sordo. This would have been good enough for fifth overall, but the Yaris piloted by Ott suffered a failure, making him retire for the day.

 

SS 15 – Cuchilla Nevada – Characato 2 (33,65 km), the final stage of the day saw Andreas set the fastest time, with Thierry and Seb second and third. The Norwegian had had one of his best days in his car. There would be drama away from the stages though. Seb talked about the road book, and about their being changes to the results later.

 

This statement from Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal sheds some light on it –

“”It wasn’t an easy day for Sébastien and Julien. They lost a lot of time this morning when the power steering broke, after they were confused by the gate left open, which should have been closed. We are therefore expecting the rally organisers to take the appropriate decisions for those crews that didn’t follow the route indicated in the roadbook.”

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2 

  1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:37.23.6
  2. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 45.7
  3. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:03.2
  4. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:06.0
  5. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:12.0
  6. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:28.3
  7. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:48.4
  8. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +12:04.5

 

Here’s the thoughts of the drivers.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“We are in a very strong position but we still can’t take anything for granted. It has been an excellent day. We have enjoyed a good feeling in the car on all stages. We knew it would be tough to defend but we were able to maintain our lead and then saw that increase when Ott unfortunately retired. Knowing we had a margin, we were able to take it easier on the last stage, avoiding rocks and punctures. Even then the confidence we had in the car allowed us to set a competitive time. We have three iconic stages tomorrow, but the aim is clear: we have to keep it clean.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (2nd)

“I am incredibly happy with how we have ended today’s stages. I wasn’t overly pleased with the morning loop, and I struggled in the opening two stages. I felt a lack of grip from the rear of the car and it was hard to push without sliding. However, we made some suspension changes at lunchtime service that improved my feeling and we could generate some excellent performance. We drove cleanly and precisely, finishing the day with a fantastic stage win. Bring on Sunday – and a push for the podium!”

Dani Sordo (5th)

“The battle for the podium is very close and it is pleasing to see all three of our cars featuring strongly on the classification. I lost some time on the first stage but we were able to bring ourselves back into contention. I enjoyed the stages a lot. There was a bit of cleaning in the morning but we were still able to make up ground. We find ourselves in a strong situation now with Thierry and Andreas 1-2, and what promises to be a fun and interesting fight for third place on Sunday.”

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Kris Meeke (3rd)

“I was enjoying the driving this morning: the rhythm was good and the speed was quite OK, we were taking some seconds from Ogier in the fight for the podium. On SS11 I had a brake problem after a watersplash, which caused me to slide wide in a later corner and I touched the rear which punctured two tyres, so we had to do the super special with one flat. This afternoon, our setup wasn’t perfect, with the stages having dried out quite a bit. Ogier took a little bit of time out of us, but we’re still in the battle and tomorrow is going to be an intense fight.”

Kris Meeke and Seb Marshall, Photo credit, Toyota Gazoo Racing

Jari-Matti Latvala (6th)

“I was satisfied with how the morning went. I hadn’t done this group of stages for two years and some sections were completely new, but I enjoyed them. I knew I could improve doing them for the second time, so I was really confident going into the afternoon. The first two stages went well. On the last one, the engine took on some water in a watersplash, but I managed to get it restarted. Then I did a mistake myself, so in all we lost five or six seconds in our fight for fifth place, but I want to keep fighting tomorrow and let’s see what we can do.”

 

Ott Tänak (Retired/Rally2)

“We had a good start this morning. The roads today were very different to what we had yesterday: really smooth and fast in places. There were still a few slippery places, so the grip was inconsistent. We were looking forward to having a big push in the afternoon, but we knew in the first stage that we had a problem, that the battery voltage was going down, and in the second stage we had to retire. Of course, it’s disappointing. With the performance we have I believe we are capable of winning any rally, but we still have some work to do. Tomorrow we’ll do what we can, and we’ll keep pushing: it’s a long season.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“We had an up and down day. After dropping a lot of time this morning, I had very little to lose this afternoon, so I pushed hard with the C3 WRC. There was also a bit more grip and that appeared to help us. I’m expecting to move up a position or two this evening, after the rally organisers look at what happened at the gate this morning. Tomorrow, the goal will be to keep out of trouble on these rough roads and score as many points as possible.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (7th)

“Today was a difficult day for us. We were first on the road where the conditions were a bit more slippery and we couldn’t match the times of the fastest drivers. Then in the afternoon the intercom was cutting and I couldn’t hear all of the notes from Marko. He had to give me the instructions by hand which took away some of the confidence.”

Elfyn Evans (DNF)

“I’ve used these notes for quite a few years and not had a problem before, but when I arrived at the corner, I felt I was carrying just a little bit too much speed. I threw it in, and we made the corner to be fair, but I couldn’t recover the oversteer. I planted the throttle but couldn’t get the car straight and we hit a fairly massive boulder that was lining the road.”

Sunday

Well, just three stages left, and the start list looked like this – Tänak, Suninen, Latvala, Sordo, Ogier, Meeke, Mikkelsen, Neuville. Also, the classification had changed, with Ogier now in third, ahead of Dani and Kris who had been given a time penalty.

 

Kris hit back with the best answer to this situation, winning SS 16 – Copina – El Condor (16,43 km) and moving into fourth place, just half a second from Seb who was struggling for traction. Thierry remained in the lead, now 36 seconds ahead of Andreas.

 

SS 17 – Mina Clavero – Giulio Cesare (20,30 km) was won by Thierry, but the big news was that Kris had passed Seb on the overall leaderboard and was now third. Also, on the move was Jari-Matti who passed Dani Sordo.

 

The final stage then, SS 18 – Power Stage El Condor (16,43 km) and Ogier flew through and won the stage, taking all five power stage points. His pace, plus a problem for Kris saw the Frenchman regain third overall. In the Toyota, Kris got a warning that his tyre pressures were low. It was enough to lose the third place that he had so convincingly gained. Still, it marked a great result, the best yet this year.

What a victory though for Thierry, Nicolas and Hyundai? Retained the championship lead in both the drivers, co-drivers and manufacturer tables. Impressive stuff.

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Argentina
25-28 April 2019
Hyundai Motorsport President Scott Noh
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Anders Jaeger, Andreas Mikkelsen
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:20:54.6
  2. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +48.4
  3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:04.8
  4. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:06.2
  5. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:21.1
  6. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:26.7
  7. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:57.3
  8. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +14:24.8
  9. Østberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +14:28.5

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“This is a really great feeling! The car has been absolutely perfect all weekend and I have felt comfortable, quick and in control throughout the event. We have taken some strong stage wins and shown the performance of our i20 Coupe WRC in some very challenging conditions. It has been an amazing team result, not only at the rally, but also everyone working tirelessly in Germany. I am so thankful to everyone for their hard work, dedication and professionalism. We have scored some important points for the championship and I am really proud of what we have achieved this weekend.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (2nd)

“It’s been a really tough really so I am overjoyed with this result. We have had to wait a long time for this, and we’ve certainly battled through some frustrating times. It might be second place but it really feels like a victory to me. We have been working so hard and I am incredibly thankful to the team for their support. We found great pace from the car this weekend and finally been able to show what we – and the car – are capable of. To finish 1-2 gives us such important points for the championship, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Dani Sordo (6th)

“I am really happy for the team, and pleased that our manufacturers’ position has been strengthened. I really wanted to push for third place today but I just didn’t have the pace that was needed. I have done my best all weekend but ultimately the 1-2 result for Thierry and Andreas gives the team maximum points, which is the most important thing. There are some things I can learn from this weekend personally, and I will aim to return stronger next time.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“It’s a pretty good result in terms of points, but we can’t be pleased with our out-and-out performance level. There are some conditions, like those we saw in Mexico or here on the second runs, where we are fairly competitive. But we have to improve when there is less grip or when the road is more technical. I’m pleased to see our persistence rewarded, because once again this weekend we pushed as hard as possible right to the end.”

Esapekka Lappi (DNF)

“Despite not knowing the roads here particularly well, I was obviously hoping for a better outcome from this round. But after we had picked up a puncture, I was caught out when the tyre suddenly came loose. This caused the car to understeer, we hit a bank at the side of the road and rolled the car. Obviously, I’m sorry for the team, but after a few days’ rest with my family, Janne and I will back raring to go and have the best Rally Chile possible, where we’ll all be on an equal footing in terms of experience.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kris Meeke (4th)

“The time penalty last night dropped us back to fifth, but everything was still there to fight for. The car was working really well this morning and I enjoyed it. The rhythm was good and we continued that into the Power Stage, but about six kilometres from the end, I got a warning light to say the tyre pressures were going down. I have no idea where it happened. I tried my best, and sometimes it’s like this. It’s a bit frustrating, because in the last three rallies we could have had a top result. I’m really enjoying driving this car, and I enjoyed today even though it didn’t quite work out. I have to keep doing what I’m doing, I know it’s going to come right.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)

“Honestly, I’m feeling happy at the end of the rally. The season has been difficult for me so far, and we had a bad start here on Friday. But step-by-step we started to come back on Saturday, and today I felt I was back on the level where I was at the end of last year. I’m really happy about that. I wanted to attack a lot on the Mina Clavero stage: it’s a stage where you can make big differences if you’re confident. This strategy worked out, which gave me an extra boost for the Power Stage, where we had a really good fight for the fastest time. Now I’m looking forward to Chile and the fast and flowing stages we’re expecting there.”

Ott Tänak (8th)

“It was pretty demanding for us today. We were early on the road so we really struggled to set any good times. The positive was that we just managed to catch and take eighth place. It’s been a very frustrating weekend with the issues we had. We had good performance but no big result, so there is a lot to improve. We will keep doing our best, so let’s see in Chile how we can fight back.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (7th)

“This has been a difficult rally for me and I’m sorry for the team that we didn’t perform as well as we wanted. We know that we have a good car and we want to be pushing for better results. But at least we finished the rally and got some good experience for the future. Now, I’m looking forward to Chile and to seeing what we can do there.”

Teemu and Marko, Photo credit M-Sport

M-Sport team principle, Richard Millener had this to say as well;

“Teemu has done a solid job this weekend. It’s only his second time here and he had to contend with some really challenging conditions. Anticipating those conditions when the rally is so different to the recce requires a certain level of experience, and he’s gained some good knowledge for the future whilst keeping our points scoring record intact.

“But overall it’s been a pretty frustrating rally for the team as we had the potential to secure another really strong result this weekend. But that’s the way it goes sometimes, and we’re already focused on the next event in Chile.

“The technicians started the re-prep on Elfyn’s car yesterday afternoon and it’s already starting to look like a proper rally car again! It’s been stripped and washed, the chassis has been repaired, and most of the rear has already been rebuilt.

“We’ll continue the re-prep on both cars over the next two and a half days, and then the technicians are going to have a couple of days holiday before flying to Chile on Saturday. We’ve actually got some mountain biking planned on El Condor which should be good fun!”

 

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Thierry Neuville – 110 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 100 points
  3. Ott Tänak – 82 points
  4. Kris Meeke – 54 points
  5. Elfyn Evans – 43 points
  6. Andreas Mikkelsen – 30 points
  7. Jari-Matti Latvala – 28 points
  8. Esapekka Lappi – 26 points
  9. Dani Sordo – 26 points
  10. Sébastien Loeb – 22 points

 

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 157 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 120 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 117 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 78 points

 

Summary

Well, what a great rally! Those Thierry Neuville fans out there will be very happy indeed! He has a small lead in the championship over Seb, with Ott right there too. Kris moved up another position into fourth, after Elfyn Evans’ non finish. Andreas Mikkelsen drove well, scoring his first podium since last year’s Rally Sweden, and he was pretty pleased with that. Dani also went well, helping the team retain a good lead over Toyota in their battle for the manufacturer crown.

Next up is the first ever Rally Chile, held from the 10th to 12th of May.

Tour de Corse 2019 Review – Heartbreak for Elfyn, Joy for Thierry!

History will record that Thierry, Nicolas and Hyundai won this rally. Those that followed it, will know it should have been M-Sport duo Elfyn and Scott on the top step in Bastia.

We were treated to a fantastic fourth round of this year’s championship. Here’s the story of how it all unfolded.

Friday

With 86km’s of stages on Friday, including a double run of the long Valinco and just a tyre fitting zone as well in the middle of the day, just getting to the end of day one would be tough. The start list looked like this – Tänak, Ogier, Neuville, Meeke, Evans, Lappi, Loeb, Latvala, Sordo, Suninen.

 

SS 1 – Bavella 1 (17,60 km) saw Elfyn set a great time, with Thierry and Dani a few seconds behind. Ogier spun in a hairpin and was already 12.5 from the lead. Kris however had a terrible stage, getting a puncture and losing almost a minute.

 

SS 2 – Valinco 1 (25,94 km), saw Kris go fastest from Ott and Dani. Elfyn could only manage fifth fastest and so Ott was now in the lead, but only by six tenths of a second. Dani’s pace saw him pass Thierry into an early third place. Esapekka also moved past Teemu, for the battle to be the top Finn.

 

SS 3 – Alta-Rocca 1 (17,37 km) Ott also took the next stage with Kris and Elfyn less than a second behind him. Elfyn may have been passed by the Estonian, but he was keeping him in-sight, with just a little over a second between the top two. Thierry also moved past Dani who could only manage ninth fastest. Also moving up the leaderboard were Teemu and Jari-Matti, who both passed Esapekka Lappi who spun in a hairpin.

 

After the midday tyre change, we had the rerun of SS 4 – Bavella 2 (17,60 km). Once again, Elfyn struck back and took stage victory number two for the weekend, and deposed Ott once more from the lead after the Estonian was 2.7 seconds slower. Esapekka Lappi lost seventh place to his teammate, Seb. Thierry also increased the gap to Dani.

 

Elfyn’s great Friday continued in SS 5 – Valinco 2 (25,94 km), where he took another stage victory and increased his lead further over Ott. Jari-Matti had a problem and dropped right the way down from sixth and into tenth having lost three minutes. A big shame for the 2015 winner.

 

The final stage, SS 6 – Alta-Rocca 2 (17,37 km) and Ott Tanak forced himself back into the lead, with Thierry winning the stage and Ott just 1.3 seconds behind with Elfyn losing time after getting stuck behind Kris Meeke in the stage. Kris did let the young Welshman past, but he’d lost a lot of time and the lead at this point. The organisers did the right thing and gave Elfyn the same time as Ott, meaning he’d retain the lead.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

  1. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:09:39.6
  2. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4.5
  3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +9.8
  4. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +26.1
  5. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +30.9
  6. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +36.3
  7. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +46.3
  8. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:27.9
  9. Camilli / Buresi (VW Polo R5) +2:46.4
  10. Bonato / Boulloud (Citroën C3 R5) +3:06.4

 

An interesting first day then! Let’s hear from the drivers.

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“It’s been a positive day and the car has felt really good. This is the type of rally where you have to be smart and efficient, and I felt like we drove well. We were able to carry the speed through the corners, and keep a smoothness in the driving which seems to be doing the trick.

“There’s going to be a big battle tomorrow and our plan is to stay in this position. Ott [Tänak] and Thierry [Neuville] will both be pushing hard, but we know when everything is working that we can be faster. I’m really looking forward to the day. There’s quite a mix of stages with a bit of everything. It’s all about being adaptable.”

Elfyn and Scott at speed. Photo credit, M-Sport

Teemu Suninen (5th)

“It’s been a really good day for us and the pace has been good. I could go faster for sure, but I have this monkey on my shoulder holding me back. I have made some mistakes in the last rallies and I need to bring the car home this weekend. But the driving has still been on a good level so we can be happy with that.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“I am quite happy with my day. In the morning I was not actually in the best rhythm, as my notes were not perfect on these new stages. This afternoon it was definitely better in that sense, and we had a good feeling. We haven’t been pushing the limits yet, but the car is performing well and I quite enjoyed it. Our closest rivals have been setting good times, so it’s clear that we will need to push quite hard tomorrow if we want to beat them. The long stage will be the key stage of the rally: It’s very tricky so it won’t be easy, but I believe it will be possible for us to make a big difference there.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (13th)

“The middle stage of the loop was difficult for me today. In the morning my notes were not working well there and we lost a lot of time. We did a lot of work on that over lunch and I was really confident that we could make a good time in the afternoon pass. Two kilometres into the stage there were quite a lot of cuts where gravel had come onto the road, and I think a sharp stone went through the tread. Slowly caused the tyre to started to slowly going down – it was just one of those unfortunate things that can happen., We decided to try and carry on but eventually we had to stop and change it. The car has been feeling good, I’ve really enjoyed the driving. We will keep going and see where we are at the end of the rally.”

Kris Meeke (16th)

“It’s been a difficult day to be honest. On the first stage, in a long fast left-hander, I had ‘keep to the inside’ in my pace-notes, and we hit something that I obviously hadn’t seen in the recce. After that the pace was good and we were trying to make up some places. In the afternoon, there was a fast left with a cut, I caught some gravel and we touched the kerb on the outside and broke a suspension arm, which I had to carry through the last stage. I’m very happy that Elfyn has been given a fair time: In no way did we intend to hold him up. Today just hasn’t been good enough. We had a package capable of winning this rally: The Yaris has been incredible to drive. We will continue to enjoy driving the car and try and keep it clean for the rest of the weekend.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“I think we have had a pretty satisfactory day today, and we’ve done a good job with the car since shakedown. The feeling has not been 100% perfect, and our pace notes were a bit too slow on the first stage, but we’ve made some good progress. To be in contention for the lead of the rally at the end of this opening day is all we could have hoped for. We are perhaps missing some grip to go ever faster, but it’s a solid base from which we can build tomorrow.”

Dani Sordo (4th)

“It has not been a straightforward day, although we have had some positive moments. The first stages were really nice and I was able to set some encouraging and fast times. It was more difficult in the afternoon loop as the speed was not there. We have to look at the areas where we can find improvements for Saturday, which is an incredibly gruelling schedule. We have a big distance to cover tomorrow so it will be a crucial day for the rally result.”

Seb Loeb (8th)

“Things have got increasingly better as the day has progressed, and I ended the afternoon loop feeling quite confident in the car. We lost a lot of time at the beginning of the first stage this morning. I made a small mistake and on the exit of a corner and broke something on the suspension, which we had to fix. With no lunchtime service, we had to do what we could to keep going. We changed the settings during the day and found some good improvements, which we hope to carry over into Saturday.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (6th)

“It was a difficult day, where we struggled with understeer. We made a few minor adjustments mid-leg and that helped us to limit the time lost in the afternoon, but it wasn’t enough. We have a few ideas about how to change the set-up in order to resolve the issues, so I have high hopes that we can move in the right direction tomorrow. We’ll certainly be doing everything we can to move back up the standings.”

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

“I pushed hard on the wide, fast sections of today’s stages but I had the same issues on the corners as Seb. And we also had a spin, which didn’t help matters. I have faith in the team to put things right and obviously on my side, I’m going to give it everything.”

 

Saturday

It was a bright morning at the start of the longest day of this event. The start list looked like this – Meeke, Latvala, Loeb, Lappi, Ogier, Suninen, Sordo, Neuville, Tänak, Evans. 

First stage, SS 7 – Cap Corse 1 (25,62 km) went to Ott, closing the gap a little to Elfyn who was second fastest and Loeb getting into the groove at last. The changes that the Citroen team made to their C3 weren’t really making much of a difference other than making the car feel more comfortable to drive, just still no speed.

 

SS 8 – Désert des Agriates 1 (14,45 km) next up and Ott flew through, taking 3.7 seconds from Elfyn’s 3.9 second lead and further back, Kris passed Jari-Matti into ninth place. The fight was on between Ott and Elfyn.

 

SS 9 – Castagniccia 1 (47,18 km) saw a Hyundai driver finally win a stage, with Dani setting the fastest time from Ott and Ogier who found some pace as well and climbed into fifth. Elfyn was fourth fastest, but 3.3 seconds slower, which meant that he’d dropped behind Ott in their battle for the lead.

 

After the lunchtime service, SS 10 – Cap Corse 2 (25,62 km) was won by Kris Meeke, with Elfyn and Thierry second and third. It was Ott’s turn to be fourth, and now the gap between the top two was just 1.6 seconds. Ogier was now closing on Dani Sordo for fourth place.

 

SS 11 – Désert des Agriates 2 (14,45 km) saw Elfyn retake the lead, after Ott had a puncture which he stopped to change losing two minutes and dropping to seventh overall. Thierry won the stage and was now in second overall, 11.5 seconds behind Elfyn.

 

Another fastest time for Thierry in SS 12 – Castagniccia 2 (47,18 km) and the last stage of the day saw the Belgian go 16 seconds faster than Elfyn and would assume the lead over the Welshman. Ogier had a shock, nearly going off the road after his anti-lag system which had stopped working, suddenly started working again further into the stage! Despite all this, the Frenchman moved another place up the overall leaderboard and was now ahead of Dani in third place. Further back, Ott was moving up as well, now ahead of Esapekka into sixth place.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

  1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:56:50.0
  2. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 4.5
  3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +44.8
  4. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +49.9
  5. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:32.1
  6. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:54.5
  7. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:59.3
  8. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:21.4
  9. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3:55.9
  10. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +6:35.4

 

Well, what a great day Saturday was. Changes in the lead, drama with tyre failures and engine problems, and Thierry in the lead! Let’s hear from the drivers.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“We have had a really good day and I am delighted we can finish Saturday in the lead of the rally. Anything can happen when people are driving on the edge. This is a long and demanding rally so it’s important to stay focused. This morning, during the long stage particularly, we couldn’t really find the feeling we wanted, but things came good in the afternoon. When you have the right rhythm in the car, it’s possible to set fast times without taking risks. That’s exactly what we could do and we now need to defend our lead on Sunday. It won’t be easy but we’ll certainly give it our best shot!”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04 Rallye de France
28-31 March 2019
Rallye de France
Day 2, Action, Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (4th)

“We had a very strong opening loop this morning. My pace notes were very clear and we showed our potential with the fastest time in the long Castagniccia stage. I had a great feeling and the car was very nice to drive. We didn’t manage the same advantage in the repeat loop, as others seemed to make up more time, but we are pleased to enter the final morning in a close fight for the podium. Ogier made up a lot of time on us in the final stage today but we know we can also find some gains, so it promises to be a big battle tomorrow. We’ll try our best.”

Seb Loeb (8th)

“We are not in the same rally as everyone else after our issues on Friday, so we have used today to improve our feeling with the car. Things started well but on the long stage in the morning loop we had a tricky moment. I understeered in a left-hander, which tightened, and I couldn’t turn which then sent us into a ditch. We lost a lot of time getting going again. The afternoon followed the same strategy to make adjustments to the car. Things were not perfect all the time but for the majority of stages we had a good car and a nice feeling. We will continue in this way tomorrow and aim to finish on a positive note.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“It had been a good day for us and the pace was really strong, so it was a real shame about that last stage. Honestly it was a bit of a shock to lose that much. We didn’t feel that we had a bad stage – maybe not a perfect stage – but to lose that much time was disappointing.

“But we have to forget about it now. Four and a half seconds isn’t too much and we can fight for that tomorrow. We know that we have the pace to win this rally, and that’s what we’ll be focused on. We came here to challenge for the win, and that’s what we plan to do.”

Teemu Suninen (5th)

“I think we can be quite happy with the day. We didn’t make any mistakes, and the driving started to be on a good level through the clean stages. There is still some work to do in places where there is a lot of gravel on the road, but this is only my first time here with this car and I need the experience.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“It’s a shame that we lost a lot of engine power about ten kilometres from the end of the last test, because otherwise I think we would have claimed our first stage win this weekend. Fortunately, it only lasted for two or three kilometres and then normal power came back. I’m pleased to be back in the top three. I hope that the slightly better feeling we had this afternoon will be confirmed tomorrow and we can keep improving. Because it looks like we’re going to have to fight right to the end if we want to hold onto third place. We have been losing most time on the wider, circuit-like roads but tomorrow’s stages are less like that, so I hope that they are more suited to us.”

Seb Ogier and Julien Ingrassia tackle one of the many corners! Photo credit Citroen Total Racing

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

“Although we’re still not where we had hoped to be, the main thing is that we improved today. Our rhythm was better. Seb also set some good times, so that would suggest that we are moving in the right direction. We’re going to give it our all to finish the rally on a high tomorrow.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (6th)

“We were having a good day: The car was feeling good and we had a nice clean rhythm with no mistakes. It’s still difficult to understand what happened on SS11. It’s really disappointing. The team has done a great job, the car has been incredible this weekend and I did everything I could myself. I knew this is one of the hardest events for us, so I prepared really hard. After the work we’ve done it’s difficult to accept this. We still have some points to score tomorrow, and whatever happens, we can still take some positives away because we’ve been performing very well.”

Kris Meeke (9th)

“I enjoyed it today, particularly this afternoon. Being first on the road this morning was maybe not ideal – the surface felt quite slippery with no rubber having been laid down. We made a few adjustments in mid-day service and the car was working very well. To do a fastest time when the leaders are fighting hard shows the rhythm was pretty good. I’m still annoyed that I wasn’t able to translate the car we had this weekend into fighting at the front, but now we will focus on the Power Stage tomorrow and see what we can do there.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (10th)

“It has been a difficult day my driving has not been good enough. This morning I was missing some performance, while this afternoon I tried to push more, but we had to stop and change a flat tyre. That was down to my mistake: On a right-hand corner there was a hole on the edge of the road and I hit it. I will try to have a good drive tomorrow: That would give us a boost at the end of the rally.”

Sunday

Just two stages remained totalling a little over 50km’s. The start list looked like this – Latvala, Meeke, Loeb, Lappi, Tänak, Suninen, Sordo, Ogier, Evans, Neuville. With the gap so small between Thierry and Elfyn, we’d be treated to a really amazing battle.

 

That’s exactly what we got! Elfyn flew through SS 13 – Eaux de Zilia (31,85 km), a full 16 seconds faster than Thierry, and incredibly the same time difference that Thierry had been faster than Elfyn in the final stage on Saturday. He now had an 11.5 second lead over the Belgian with one stage left. It marked the fourth stage that the Welshman had won this weekend. Impressive stuff.

 

Just one stage left then, the SS 14 – Calvi Power Stage (19,34 km). Second into the stage, Kris Meeke set the fastest time as a gauntlet to the others… As rally leader now, Elfyn would be the last driver through. Loeb, Lappi and the others tried, but couldn’t get close to Meeke’s time. Finally, Elfyn came through and the first split looked okay, but then he lost time in the second split to Thierry, and quite a bit. What had happened? Well, he’d hit a loose rock with his right-front wheel, and it just fell apart! He lost so much time, that he fell to third place, over a minute from the winner, Thierry. Elfyn, Scott and M-Sport were gutted. The top five in the stage were, Meeke, Tanak, Suninen, Neuville and Ogier. 

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:22:59.0
  2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +40.3
  3. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:06.6
  4. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:18.4
  5. Suninen / Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:24.6
  6. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:40.0
  7. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:09.1
  8. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:39.2
  9. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +5:06.3
  10. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +6:44.6

 

What a drive then from Elfyn and Scott! They’d really shown the doubters out there, with a fantastic drive. Once more, Toyota confirmed what we all knew, that their car is great on all surfaces and the Hyundai team, when their car worked, it worked well, but that clearly it needs some improvements. Finally, Citroen didn’t show the kind of pace you’d expect here, with neither of their drivers winning a single stage. Here then are the thoughts of the drivers.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“What an incredible rally and a fantastic result! I would like to extend my thoughts to Elfyn and Scott; I am really disappointed for them. It had been a great battle and they were undoubtedly the quicker crew this weekend. We didn’t really know what had happened until we saw our mechanics at the end. I pushed hard in the Power Stage and the points we’ve scored this weekend are hugely important for the championship. It is testament to the hard work of everyone at Hyundai Motorsport. We may not have been the fastest in outright pace, but there has been a significant improvement in our tarmac performance and this victory is perfect thanks for all their efforts. We made a big difference on Saturday afternoon’s stages to put ourselves in contention, and that enabled this result to be possible. It’s never over until it’s over!”

Dani Sordo (4th)

“We came to Corsica with a target of taking a good amount of championship points for the team, and we have achieved that. We have shown some positive pace this weekend, most notably on Saturday’s long stage, but we’ve also struggled at times. We didn’t have the consistency we needed to fight for the podium but finishing fourth is not so bad. Congratulations to Thierry, Nicolas and the team for taking the victory. I am pleased to see us back on top of the manufacturers’ standings. I look forward to the next rally in Argentina.”

Seb Loeb (8th)

“A great result for the team today. Unfortunately, our own rally was effectively over after our issues in the opening stage on Friday. We lost so much time; we were on the back foot from then onwards.  The motivation is not quite the same when there’s nothing really to fight for. We tried instead to work on the car set-up, making adjustments that will benefit us for the future. Despite our challenges, it has still been an enjoyable rally, the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC has been nice to drive and I’ve had fun on the stages. Hopefully I can do better next time.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“In terms of points, it’s a good result, scoring nineteen points at a difficult round. On the other hand, we really suffered in terms of pure performance. We need to understand why, so that we don’t have the same problem again on this surface, on which the C3 WRC had performed well previously. In any case, I’m pleased to have managed to get the most out of the car I had and also that I don’t have to open the road on gravel in Argentina.”

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

“We all had high hopes coming into this round, so obviously we can’t be satisfied with this result. We were short on performance and suffered quite a lot of understeer throughout the weekend. We’re going to work hard to put things right for the next rounds on tarmac, in Germany and then in Spain. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to getting back on gravel in Argentina.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

“It’s disappointing right now, but overall it’s been a really positive weekend and we know that we had the speed to win. The first stage this morning felt really good, and we had a good rhythm going into the Power Stage. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but it felt like we were in the middle of the road and just unfortunate to hit a stone or something in the line. Straight away I knew it didn’t sound good, and sure enough a couple of hundred metres later we got the puncture alarm. We had 11 kilometres to go and I knew that if we stopped to change it we would lose a lot of positions. We decided to continue, and thankfully made it to the end to salvage a podium. “Perhaps it’s not the result we wanted, but the pace is there and I think we can all take confidence from that moving forward. We’ve had a pretty strong start to the season so far and I’ve been really happy with the Fiesta on all four of the opening rounds. The guys back at M-Sport are working exceptionally hard and making improvements all the time so I see no reason why we can’t continue this form into the coming events.”

Teemu Suninen (5th)

“This weekend was really good for us and I can be happy with the job we have done. Before the rally I thought that this would be the hardest on the calendar. It’s the only event I’ve not done in a world rally car and there were also a lot of slow corners where I have been struggling a bit. But on the clean sections like today I have been able to be really fast and set some top times. We still have some work to do in the dirty sections. But we finished the rally in a good position and with three points from the Power Stage. That was good.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tanak (6th)

“Generally, it has been a good event for us: We had a strong performance and I actually quite enjoyed this year’s Tour de Corse. Of course, the final result is disappointing, but this was a rally I didn’t enjoy at all a couple of years ago, and we are now right on the pace and driving with a good rhythm, so there is something for us to smile about. Today was just about collecting some points from the Power Stage, and we had a clean run with no risks. The fight continues.”

Kris Meeke (9th)

“We went for it in the Power Stage today and came away with the full five points. Of course, I don’t really like to have to do it like this, as I would rather be fighting for the rally win. But we had a luxury of a time gap, which allowed us to protect our tyres in the first stage this morning. That gave us good tyres for the Power Stage so we went for it, keeping in mind to bring the car home. The Yaris WRC has been incredible all weekend, I’ve really enjoyed driving it right from shakedown. I just have to keep the confidence and I’m sure a big result will come.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 04 / Tour de Corse, Rallye de France / 28th-31st March, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala (10th)

“We were closing to scoring one or two points on the Power Stage, which I would have been happy with because I didn’t have the confidence in myself to take any risks. I have been missing some speed all weekend, so it was important to just bring the car to the finish. I know that I have some things to think about to improve on asphalt, but that is for the future. For now, I will put this event behind us, and try to go to the next events in South America with some new energy.”

Here’s the points standings. Thierry takes over at the head of the championship, with pre event leader Ott falling to third. Elfyn’s podium lifts him into fourth overall, which ironically, he would have been in even if he’d won, but missing the extra ten points which would have put him closer to the top three.

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04 Rallye de France
28-31 March 2019
Rallye de France
Day 3, Podium, Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Seb Ogier, Julien Ingrassia, Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Next event, round five Rally Argentina runs from 25th to 28th of April. Pop back then for my preview.

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Thierry Neuville – 82 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 80 points
  3. Ott Tänak – 77 points
  4. Elfyn Evans – 43 points
  5. Kris Meeke – 42 points
  6. Esapekka Lappi – 26 points
  7. Sébastien Loeb – 22 points
  8. Dani Sordo – 16 points
  9. Jari-Matti Latvala – 15 points
  10. Teemu Suninen – 14 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 114 points
  2. Citroën Total WRT – 102 points
  3. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 98 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 70 points

Rally Sweden Preview 2019

It’s time already for round two of this year’s championship! Rally Sweden is super spectacular, with snow and ice covering the stages, and the Michelin tyres being super skinny and fitted with studs to cut through and find the grip! The forests of Varmland will see the crews battle for the victory, and keeping out of trouble will be key!

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, WRC, Sweden
06-12 February 2017
Atmosphere
Day 1
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Opening the road on Friday morning, Seb Ogier will be at a disadvantage, and last year we saw him and Julien finish in eleventh place. This year will see him in the same position, and we’ll have to wait and see how he fares in the Citroen.

 

Thierry Neuville won last season and with that, took the championship lead. Also, for Hyundai, there is Seb Loeb in the car, competing for the first time since 2013, at which point he and Daniel had taken five podiums including one win, plus Andreas Mikkelsen, who took his only podium in last year’s campaign in Sweden.

 

The team run by Tommi Makinen is very strong, and they won most of the stages in Monte-Carlo. Ott Tanak has to be favourite, but you can’t discount Jari-Matti who won in 2017, and Kris Meeke, who will almost certainly on the pace, as he becomes more familiar with the Yaris and Seb Marshall next to him.

 

The M-Sport team will have Elfyn, Teemu and Pontus in three cars. Elfyn will be looking to get a good result there, having picked up two sixth places in 2015 and 2017. It’s also worth mentioning that Scott guided Craig Breen to the second step of the podium last year, giving an extra dimension to the hopes within the team. Finally, there is Marko who guided last year’s WRC2 winner Takamoto Katsuta. What could he and Teemu do this year?

 

The stages that they face are very fast. Here is what awaits them. Nineteen stages totalling 316km, with just a minor change from 2018 with Rammen replacing Torntop on Saturday.

 

THURSDAY 14 FEBRUARY

9.00am: Shakedown (Skalla)

8.08pm: SS 1 – Super Special Stage Karlstad 1 (1,90 km)

9.58pm: Parc ferme (Torsby)

 

FRIDAY 15 FEBRUARY

6.00am: Start day 1 and service A (Torsby – 15 mins)

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

9.08am: SS 3 – Svullrya 1 (24,88 km)

9.59am: SS 4 – Röjden 1 (18,10 km)

11.34am: Service B (Torsby – 40 mins)

1.54pm: SS 5 – Hof-Finnskog 2 (21,26 km)

3.17pm: SS 6 – Svullrya 2 (24,88 km)

4.08pm: SS 7 – Röjden 1 (18,10 km)

5.14pm: SS 8 – Torsby 1 (8,93 km)

5.50pm: Flexi service C (Torsby – 45 mins)

 

SATURDAY 16 FEBRUARY

6.00am: Start day 2 and service D (Torsby – 15 mins)

7.44am: SS 9 – Rämmen 1 (23,13 km)

8.35am: SS 10 – Hagfors 1 (23,40 km)

9.37am: SS 11 –  Vargasen 1 (14,21 km)

10.53am: Service E (Torsby – 40 mins)

1.02pm: SS 12 – Rämmen 2 (23,13 km)

1.53pm: SS 13 – Hagfors 2 (23,40 km)

3.08pm: SS 14 – Vargasen 2 (14,21 km)

5.45pm: SS 15 – Super Special Stage Karlstad 2 (1,90 km)

7.30pm: SS 16 – Torsby Sprint (2,80 km)

8.00pm: Flexi service F (Torsby – 45 mins)

 

SUNDAY 17 FEBRUARY

6.30am: Start day 3 and service G (Torsby – 15 mins)

7.50am: SS 17 – Likenäs 1 (21,19 km)

9.51am: SS 18 – Likenäs 2 (21,19 km)

12.18pm: SS 19 – Torsby 2 Power Stage (8,93 km)

12.38pm: Finish – Torsby, service park

1.00pm: Podium – Torsby, service park

 

Here’s the thoughts from the drivers.

Citroen Total Racing

Sébastien Ogier

“It’s a rally that I have always really enjoyed. You get a really nice feeling driving the WRCs here. I hope that we have good conditions so we can enjoy ourselves, although I’m aware that running first is very often a significant disadvantage, due to the layer of snow covering the ice. We’ll have to see how the roads evolve for the second passes, but I fear that with the layer of ice currently on the roads, the gravel will start to appear quite quickly. In testing, the feeling gradually improved as we covered more kilometres and as always, we are going to try and do our best.”

Seb and Julien come to Rally Sweden as championship leaders.

Esapekka Lappi

“If the conditions stay the same as those, we had in testing this week, then the layer of ice is so thin that it is likely to leave the gravel exposed pretty quickly, which means we’ll have to manage the studs on the second runs. Whatever happens, we have a good road position. The stages are fast, which I like and I feel that we worked well in testing. I just hope we’ll have a bit of luck on our side this time and our hard work will pay off.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Monte-Carlo was a good sign of potential for us and we can’t wait to get in the car again in Sweden. It has been a nice event for us in the past. We’ve had some pretty competitive performances in previous years, including our victory last season. It is a rally we enjoy as a crew. Our car has always worked well, allowing us to set fast times on the frozen roads and use the snow banks to push to the limit. We know our rivals will be strong, as they will be at all rallies, so we have to focus on ourselves and do the best job we can.”

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

Seb Loeb

“Rallye Monte-Carlo was a solid start in our new relationship with Hyundai Motorsport, particularly with our limited pre-event testing. We were in the fight for the podium all weekend, and we are ready to build from that. Rally Sweden is a very different challenge. It can be the most exciting rally of the season if it’s full ice with good conditions and sun, yet it can be very difficult if the snow is melting with rain – so naturally, we’re hoping to have good conditions.”

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rally Sweden is a highlight in our calendar as we spend one day in Norway, so it is kind of a home rally for us. It’s the only event that is fully snow on ice. Driving with studded tyres on the stages gives you an incredible feeling, like you are floating. We were disappointed to retire from Monte but we had found a good rhythm with the car and we are confident we can be fighting at the front throughout the season.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Ott Tänak

“We are feeling well prepared for Sweden, but it’s always difficult to know exactly what conditions we are going to face during the event. Last year we had a lot of snow and big snow banks, which is usually what you want on a winter rally. It was hard for us to compete with our road position though, because there wasn’t a lot of grip available in the fresh snow. I’m hoping that we’ll have a better chance this year to fight at the front. When the conditions are in your favour, it can be a really fun event with such fast and flowing stages, and we know that our car can be really good there.”

Jari-Matti Latvala  

“This year’s Rally Sweden is going to be very special for me. It’s where I became the youngest ever winner of a WRC round, and now I am set to become the most experienced WRC driver, on the same event, just 11 years later. At the moment we have a good amount of snow here in Finland and I am expecting the conditions to be similar in Sweden, so we should have a really nice winter rally. Hopefully we can be fighting for another great result like we had in Sweden in 2017 with the first win for the Yaris WRC. I just need to get the feeling for the driving that I was missing in Monte Carlo.”

Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Antilla took victory in 2017.

Kris Meeke

“Monte Carlo was a positive beginning for me but it doesn’t change my immediate focus, which is on learning the car and enjoying my driving on the three very different events we have to start the season. I had a great three days of testing in Finland last week to prepare for Rally Sweden. It was really nice to experience the car for the first time with a snow setup. I came away with a really good feeling, but I’m keeping in mind that the conditions on the rally could be very different, depending on the temperatures. Hopefully we’ll have nice, consistent conditions and a rally everyone can enjoy.”

 

M-Sport

Elfyn Evans

“As the only winter rally on the calendar, Rally Sweden is pretty special. We had a good test last week and it was important to get the sensation of driving on snow again. We reach incredible speeds and it’s an amazing feeling – making this one of the most enjoyable events of the year when the conditions are good.

“We’ll certainly be hoping that the conditions work in our favour next week and it will be important to make the most of the advantage if that is the case. We’ll have to wait and see what it’s like when we get there, but we have our fingers crossed for a classic Rally Sweden with plenty of snow.

“Monte didn’t end the way we wanted it to, and we need to remain focused and make good on our potential next week. We know that we have the package to achieve a strong result and both myself and Scott have had strong results at this event in the past.

“If everything works in our favour, there’s no reason why we can’t challenge for the top results and that’s what we’re all working towards delivering.”

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

Teemu Suninen

“Last week we drove a good test day with more than 200 kilometres in Finland. We actually had a lot more set-up changes to work through this year, and I could feel we’d taken a step forward.

“Our competitiveness in Rally Sweden will of course depend a bit on the weather. There is always a chance to minimise the time loss when someone else is cleaning the road for the drivers behind. The key is to stay on the clean line for as long as possible.

“The speed in Sweden is close to the figures we reach in Rally Finland. Sometimes we may lean on the snowbanks as well, but it is not always intentional.

“We start this rally with the notes I made last year, and I expect the competition to be just as tough as it was in Monte. Everyone wants the top positions, and we will have to work hard to ensure we are also in the hunt.”

Pontus Tidemand

“Rally Sweden is the highlight of my year – the big one that I always look forward to and I feel one hundred percent ready to take on the challenge of my home event. And what makes it even better is that I’m behind the wheel of the most amazing car I’ve ever driven.

“To speed through the snowy forests and see all the fans, the bonfires and the Swedish flags waving is an amazing feeling that beats everything. And to know that I have family, friends and supporters out there really gives me a boost.

“I’m starting to feel very comfortable with the car and I already feel at home in the team. When we came to Monte-Carlo last month, more or less everything was new and it was all about learning. It was an extremely important experience for both me and Ola and it gave us a chance to get used to it all.

“I’ve said all along that Rally Sweden is where I want to be competitive and on top performance. This is my home event, I know it very well and I have a great feeling about it this year. It will still be very demanding and challenging, and we will have to step up our game and quickly find a good rhythm that we can hopefully keep throughout the weekend.”

Also competing for M-Sport are Gus Greensmith and Lukasz Pieniazek in WRC2 Pro.

Gus Greensmith

“It took a while for my first win to sink in and I’ll admit to having to pinch myself a few times after being called a Monte winner! But this sport doesn’t wait for you to savour the moment and my mind quickly turned to Rally Sweden where I hope to go for another strong result.

“I have very little experience of this event and the driving style needed for winter rallying, so our pre-event test will be particularly important for our preparation. We’ve only got one day so we will have to be really focused and productive to try and get everything done.

“The route is pretty similar to last year so I have also spent countless hours studying the onboard videos to make sure that I am as prepared as I can be. I still don’t have a lot of experience on snow, but hopefully that will go some way to making up for it and I am definitely going to give it my all.

“It will be tough against the guys who have grown up on snow, but I have a great team around me and I feel at the top of my game – so we have every chance of continuing to challenge at the top.”

Gus Greensmith and Elliott Edmondson took WRC2 Pro victory at Rallye Monte-Carlo. Photo credit, M-Sport

Łukasz Pieniążek

“This will be my second start in Sweden and only my third with a four-wheel-drive car on snow. I don’t have a lot of experience in these conditions, but I really enjoy them.

“To prepare, we had a good three-day test in Estonia where we completed around 450 kilometres and got a good feeling with the Fiesta and a good understanding of how it handles in these snowy conditions. We’ll have another test with the team on Monday and I’m really looking forward to the rally.

“I really like driving on snow. The studded tyres give great grip but it does take some getting used to which is pretty challenging. Then there are the snowbanks. You don’t want to get stuck in one of them so it’s important to be really precise – especially in the narrow sections.

“My number one goal is to give my best and go as fast as we can. It will be our first rally with the new team and with a new car so let’s see what we can do.

“The recce will be very important to understand the conditions and choose the right setup. If we do that, then I’m sure we’ll have lots of fun on some of the most beautiful stages on the calendar.”

 

Don’t forget, there’s lots of coverage on WRC+ and BT Sport showing every stage live. Who will win? It’s going to be fun finding out! Enjoy!

Featured image courtesy of M-Sport.

Seb and Julien make it Six – Rallye Monte-Carlo 2019 Review

Not only did they take their sixth victory, it was Citroen’s 100th WRC victory. Poignant given the manufacturer is celebrating it’s 100th year since their first car was released.

Here’s the story of how it all came together.

Thursday evening after shakedown, saw two-night stages and they totalled just over 40km’s. There were some really tricky ice-covered parts, which meant that studded tyres were the way to go.

 

SS 1 – La Breole – Selonnet (20,76 km) was first up and we saw the world champion take care, setting the third fastest time, with Ott and Kris ahead in their Yaris WRC cars. Ten seconds covered the top three, with Loeb a further thirteen seconds back in fourth, making his first start in the i20. Elfyn also was going well, with Scott Martin alongside him sitting in sixth, it’s great to see two drivers from the UK going so well near the head of the field. Sadly, Teemu and Marko slid out on the first stage, after around three kilometres, but with overnight service, they would be able to return to the action on Friday.

 

SS 2 – Avançon – Notre Dame du Laus (20,59 km), saw some changes, with Thierry setting the fastest time and jumping up to third overall. Just behind him were the usual suspects of Ogier and Tanak, his rivals from last season. Sadly, Kris lost a minute in the stage, falling to seventh overall after he got a puncture. Elfyn maintained his sixth place, despite Lappi and Latvala passing him and moving into fourth and fifth.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1 (Thursday)

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 26:33.0
  2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +9.1
  3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +14.3
  4. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +45.2
  5. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +46.4
  6. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +48.2
  7. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +53.8
  8. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 55.2
  9. Mikkelsen / Jaeger-Amland (Hyundai i20 WRC) +59.6
  10. Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:41.1

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It was a tough start to the rally tonight, as we were expecting. There were some extremely tricky and changeable conditions on the first stage, but I had a really good feeling in the car. It was still quite easy to feel the grip changes and this gave me good confidence. The second one was mostly dry asphalt which was a challenge with a mix of tyres, but we had a good run. Overall, I still think our tyre choice was the right one. Tomorrow will be a long day and we will be expecting more of the usual Monte challenges.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)

“It was very challenging conditions this evening, in the darkness with a mix of ice and damp patches. When the conditions are difficult like this the time differences can be quite big. In the first stage I lost a lot of time as I wasn’t that confident. I didn’t have those type of conditions in my test, so I was missing the feeling. But we got through and that’s the most important thing. Tomorrow is another day and things can change very quickly in this event, so we need to be patient.”

Kris Meeke (7th)

“It was a tricky start to the rally with changing conditions, but I felt really confident with the car, I had a good feeling. On the second stage it was drier but it still felt nice to drive. Then for some reason we got a puncture. I don’t believe we hit anything. But we can’t let that get us down so early on a Rallye Monte-Carlo. I’m enjoying it and I’m confident in the car, so let’s see what the rest of the weekend brings.”

Citroen Total Racing

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“For my first two stages in the C3 WRC, clearly I’m pleased with the outcome, especially in these conditions. Perhaps I was bit too cautious on the first stage, but it’s difficult to really go for it when you are driving a new car competitively for the first time. But I certainly produced a decent time with the studded tyres on the second stage. I think that I made an intelligent start to the rally.”

Image courtesy of Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

“It was easy to make a mistake on tonight’s opening two stages, especially on SS1. I probably thought about that prospect a little too much and ended up being too cautious. We played it safe on the set-up as well. It was perhaps a little too soft. However, the confidence gradually came on SS2 and although there are already big gaps between the crews, I’m right in the mix, especially as there’s still a long way to go and plenty of things can happen yet!”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“We have started our season with the right mentality, trying to find our own direction and going with our feelings. The tyre choice this evening was a compromise. With the information we had, we felt we made a good choice, and at the end it was OK. I was perhaps expecting to gain more time on the second stage in the dry conditions but we didn’t, which was a shame. But it’s not too bad considering it’s so early in the rally. We will see what the weather does tomorrow and aim to stay in the fight for the win.”

Seb Loeb (8th)

“It has been good to make our debut as a Hyundai Motorsport crew, even if it was a tricky start. The opening has not been too bad, even if it is not easy to start in the night and in icy conditions. The first stage went OK but we didn’t select the best tyres for the second one and we suffered as a result of that. We perhaps underestimated the performance gap between the slick tyres and four snow tyres. We made it to the end and that’s the most important thing. Tomorrow, our aim is to get into a good rhythm on the slicks and take it from there.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (9th)

“A typically tricky start to Rallye Monte-Carlo! In the opening stage, about 1km from the finish, I thought the stage had ended and I started to back off. It was a silly mistake that cost us time. Other than that we just took things cautiously. The second stage was completely dry and we were on four winter tyres: we were sliding everywhere. We could have opted for crossed tyres but I don’t have much experience with this car in such conditions. We did the best we could.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“It’s been a typical start to Rallye Monte-Carlo with some really challenging conditions. We could have gone harder for sure, and I was kicking myself in a few places, but we delivered a clean run and are in a reasonably good position going into tomorrow – which is always the most important thing.”

Pontus Tidemand (10th)

“This car is amazing to drive, so I have to be clever and stop myself from pushing too hard! I really want to take the maximum, but I have to be careful as I need the experience from this rally and want to learn as much as I can.”

Also going well was Gus Greensmith.

Gus Greensmith (1st WRC 2 Pro)

“That was a proper start to Rallye Monte-Carlo and I now understand why Malcolm [Wilson, M-Sport Managing Director] kept telling me to come and do this rally! The conditions were extremely tricky and even though we weren’t fully committed, we made it through. We’ll step it up tomorrow and aim to get back on the good pace we showed in shakedown.”

 

Friday would see the longest day, but unfortunately the problem with spectators in the wrong places on stage, meant that stage three – Valdrome – Sigottier 1 (20,04 km), the first on Friday morning, would be cancelled. These individuals should really think about what they are doing, as they are really spoiling the event for those who are doing the right thing.

 

The action therefore would start on SS 4 – Roussieux – Laborel 1 (24,05 km), and Seb Loeb took his first stage victory for Hyundai, with Thierry and Seb Ogier in second and third, rueing the fact he was on studded tyres. The Belgian was now leading and its fair to say that Hyundai had made the best tyre choice, with Loeb and Mikkelsen moving up the leaderboard as well.

 

Seb Ogier hit back in SS 5 – Curbans – Piegut 1 (18,47 km), winning the stage and passing Ott and moving into second place again, whilst further back Andreas and Jari-Matti jumped up to fifth and sixth, passing Lappi, Evans and Meeke, who were now in seventh, eighth and ninth overall.

 

Ogier also won SS 6 – Valdrome – Sigottier 2 (20,04 km), despite his tyre choice meaning he’d struggle with the car. In fact, Latvala set exactly the same time, so they shared the stage victory. By contrast, Esapekka hit trouble unfortunately breaking his suspension on a rock. This would result in the Finn having to retire from the rest of the day’s action. Thierry’s lead over the Frenchman was now just 1.4 seconds. Loeb, dropped a lot of time, with the result he’d fall from fourth to seventh, with Andreas, Jari-Matti and Kris all benefitting, moving ahead of the nine-time world champion.

 

Loeb won SS 7 – Roussieux – Laborel 2 (24,05 km), from Evans and Ogier and with Thierry a further 14 seconds behind, and Ogier took the overall lead. Loeb’s fastest time moved him up to third place as well, whilst Evans’ great time, meant he moved up into sixth place. Both Tanak and Meeke suffered drama’s losing huge time to the leaders and now Toyota’s best placed driver was Jari-Matti in fifth place, just seven seconds behind Mikkelsen.

 

The final stage of the day, SS 8 – Curbans – Piegut 2 (18,47 km), saw Thierry throw caution to the wind, winning from Tanak and Latvala, and with Ogier taking it carefully, after having no studs left in his tyres, and a super slippery stage, the Belgian reduced Ogier’s lead by twelve seconds! Also going well were Andreas and Jari-Matti who both moved up ahead again of Loeb, with Andreas now in third overall.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2 (Friday)

  1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) 1:37:17.3
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2.0
  3. Mikkelsen / Jaeger-Amland (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:17.7
  4. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:25.1
  5. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:25.9
  6. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:47.5
  7. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:34.9
  8. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +5:33.0

 

 

Citroen Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“Obviously, I’m pleased to end the day leading the rally after another really difficult day, where there were some really significant changes in the conditions and the rhythm from one stage to the next. We perhaps didn’t have the ideal tyre set-up for this afternoon, but we nonetheless managed to cope with that. I’m driving with confidence in the C3 WRC and our strategy of taking an intelligent approach to the rally has paid dividends thus far, since we haven’t made any mistakes at all. I’m going to try and keep it up, especially as tomorrow’s leg looks set to be very tricky again, particularly on Saint Léger Les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve.”

 

Esapekka Lappi (Rally2)

“Like several other crews, our tyre strategy was seriously compromised this morning when the first stage was cancelled as it had more or less dictated our choice of going with four studded tyres. Then at the start of the afternoon, I hit something hard on a corner, probably a rock. It immediately broke the suspension wishbone and we were unable to repair it. It’s obviously a shame but we’ll now look to use the rest of the rally to continue to get used to the C3 WRC. We might even try out a few set-up options that we wouldn’t have dared to attempt under normal circumstances.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“What a day! We had a good morning loop. The first stage was cancelled but we made the right tyre choice, and could catch some time back. Everything worked well: I was happy with my driving the pace notes were really good and I was confident in the car. Tyre choice has been key all day, as is to be expected at this rally. The start of the afternoon loop didn’t go as planned, as we approached a corner too fast and had to use the escape road. We lost around 19 seconds of time, which was frustrating because that mistake cost us the chance to hold the lead. We kept pushing hard and finished the day with a stage win to reduce the gap to Ogier. It certainly makes for an exciting rally! Thanks to our gravel crew for a great job today, which has allowed us to attack with full confidence. There’s still room for improvement.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (3rd)

“I am pleased to be in the provisional podium positions after another tough day. It is easy to make mistakes in these conditions so I am pleased to have had a clean and relatively competitive day. Tyre choice has been tough for everyone. We were helped with the cancelled stage first thing this morning but in the end, things turned out well. In the afternoon, it was hard to tell where we would compare with so many tyre variations being deployed. It’s a bit of cat and mouse in this rally, where you have to work out where you can find the advantage, or minimise the disadvantage. I think we’ve done that well today. We’re only halfway through the stages, so there’s a lot of hard work still ahead of us.”

Seb Loeb (5th)

“It has been good to secure my first stage wins in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. It’s not so easy to win stages in the World Rally Championship so this is a nice feeling. We’ve had a pretty good day overall. We are at least still in the game, even if it’s not for the victory. In the opening loop, we opted for slick tyres, so we were helped by the first stage being cancelled. In the afternoon, it was a similar situation where we knew we would lose time on the first stage but then gained back in the others. The feeling in the car has been encouraging so we aim to continue with this rhythm on Saturday.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo
24-27 Janvier 2019
Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Jari-Matti Latvala (4th)

“Overall, I must say it was quite a positive day. I think we had a good strategy for this morning, but when they cancelled the first stage it affected us quite significantly. Still, I started to get a good feeling with the driving. This afternoon we played it safe and ran with four snow tyres on two of the stages. On SS7 we had a mix of tyres and I was maybe a bit too careful, but SS6 and SS8 on the snow tyres both went well and in general I’m happy. It’s good to be in the fight for the third place on the podium.”

Ott Tänak (7th)

“It has generally been quite a challenging day. This morning our strategy was based mainly on the first stage, so the cancellation meant that we no longer had a good tyre choice for the loop. This afternoon, the first stage was quite tricky with a mix of snow, slush, and dry road. Then on the next one we had a puncture, so we had to stop and change the tyre. The last stage was more of a consistent run for us. There is still a long way to go and we will do everything we can.”

Kris Meeke (8th)

“Our road position today was not ideal the drivers ahead were pulling lots of mud out onto the road, which was making it very slippery for me but we could still set some good times and gain some positions. Unfortunately, we then had the damaged wheel rim and we had to stop and change it. Nonetheless, I am really enjoying the driving after nine months away, and with a bit more luck we could be sitting in a podium place. Now we’re relying on others having problems, but we’re looking forward to what’s to come.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“We had a pretty good day behind the wheel, but were maybe just a little bit too brave on the tyre choice this afternoon. It’s all part of the game and it was certainly nice to get a feeling for the car on pure Tarmac with full Tarmac tyres again [on SS7]. The rest of the day has been pretty tricky and we lost a bit too much time on the icy sections, but that’s what this rally is all about. We’re still here, and we’ll keep at it tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin. Photo credit M-Sport

Teemu Suninen (22nd / Rally 2)

“Of course, I always want to be faster, but I think we have had a good day getting through all of the kilometres and learning a lot about this rally. We took four slick and two studded tyres this afternoon which might have been a bit of a risk. On the first stage there was a long snow section – about seven or eight kilometres – and we lost a lot of time there; but on the other hand we were fourth fastest on the next stage where I would say we had the best possible tyre choice.”

Pontus Tidemand (40th / Rally 2)

“On the inside of a corner I was just following the line, but there was something there and it broke the wishbone. I don’t know what it was, but it was the same corner where Esapekka [Lappi] also had some damage. Before that the pace was getting better and better. It will take some time to get there, but I felt like everything was going in the right direction. For sure we are just here to learn, and we plan to continue that tomorrow.”

Gus Greensmith (1st WRC 2 Pro and 1st RC2)

“We had a bit of a tricky morning with some overheating issues which meant that we couldn’t always run in full stage mode. We lost a bit of time there, but we were still able to reduce the gap to class-leader Bonato. “This afternoon we decided to take quite a risky tyre choice with four slick and two snow tyres. We knew we would lose time on the first stage [SS6] and we lost 22 seconds to Bonato in there. But on the next one [SS7] we were able to take back 36 seconds, and on the last one [SS8] we pulled back 29 which means that we now have a six second class lead going into tomorrow. “The car feels really good, I feel really good, and we just need to keep doing the same thing tomorrow.”

 

Saturday

 

Saturday started much better, with no cancelled stages. SS 9 – Agnières en Devoluy – Corps 1 (29,82 km) was won by Ott with Kris setting a great time, just four tenths slower and confirming he was feeling comfortable in the Yaris and with Seb Marshall doing a great job alongside him. Ogier increased his lead over Thierry to 5.6 seconds. Loeb moved back into third as Andreas was thirty seconds off the pace and Elfyn dropped one place to seventh, after getting a puncture, now behind Ott. Unfortunately, Esapekka retired with a mechanical problem. There was a huge accident for Andreas though after he lost control of his car, powering out of a corner and ripping the entire wheel and suspension from the left-rear. He was out.

 

Ott Tanak set a great time, taking his second stage win in a row in SS 10 – St Léger les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve 1 (16,87 km), but it was the retirement of Elfyn which was such a shame. He lost control of the car on black ice, that pulled the car to the edge of the road and after that he and Scott were just passengers. He tried to power the car back onto the road, but ended up hitting a tree, which had the effect of spinning the car round and taking a wheel off as well. Jari-Matti passed Loeb, moving up into third place overall.

 

SS 11 – Agnières en Devoluy – Corps 2 (29,82 km) saw Ott take his third stage victory in a row, whilst the battle between Loeb and Latvala, saw the Frenchman move back into third overall, but there was only two seconds between them – This was certainly not over. Also, the gap between Neuville and Ogier remained very close at just around four seconds separating them.

 

Ott confirmed that the combination of him and the Toyota was now the best out there, winning SS 12 – St Léger les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve 2 (16,87 km). He’d won every stage on Saturday, and Kris was second fastest again, just half a second from his teammate. Not only that, he’d reduced the gap to the front by sixteen seconds and was just a further sixteen seconds from third place.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 3 (Saturday)

  1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:38:30.0
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +4.3
  3. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:58.7
  4. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:01.0
  5. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:16.0
  6. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +5:26.8
  7. Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta R5) +10:12.0
  8. Bonato / Boulloud (Citroën C3 R5) +11:43.4

 

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“I’m pleased with my day, because once again today we had to find the right balance between pushing when it was dry and being cautious where it was icy and more slippery. But there’s still a long way to go. I’m expecting the final leg to be really close, but perhaps the conditions won’t be so tricky, although the top of the Col du Turini always throws up a few surprises. The C3 WRC has proven it is a competitive car on these roads, so I have high hopes that it will work well on tomorrow’s stages. Obviously, I’m going to try to win this rally, which means so much to me.”

 

Esapekka Lappi (DNF)

“Obviously, it’s a shame that we had this terminal issue with the engine, but it’s just part and parcel of racing. I hope to have a bit more luck in Sweden. In any case, I’m going to try and make the most of my two days of testing, so that I’m fully prepared and ready to fight on the fast stages of this event. It’s a rally that I really like.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“Overall it has been a good day and the game is still very much on. We have lost 2.3s compared to Ogier over four stages, which is not too bad. It was difficult to know what rhythm was best on these stages. I know I could have gone faster in some places, especially this morning, but if you push too much it’s easy to make a mistake. I didn’t want to take any risks but at the same time we had to keep the pressure on Ogier. It is his home rally so he knows the area very well. We will, of course, try to win tomorrow but we also have to be clever and think about the bigger picture.”

 

Seb Loeb (3rd)

“We have been in a great battle with Jari-Matti today, one time he was ahead and then it was me, things were constantly changing over the four stages. I’ve enjoyed it. This morning I wasn’t completely comfortable with the set-up of the car, so we made some adjustments at lunchtime service, which gave me a better feeling. The Toyotas have shown good pace today so the battle for third place will be tough. I will do whatever I can to push for the podium on Sunday, but we’ll have to see if that’s enough. I hope we will have less ice and more dry tarmac so we can get the slicks on the car for the final stages!”

Andreas Mikkelsen (DNF)

“I am really disappointed but there are positives to take away. It had been such a good start to the rally, and the feeling with the car has been fantastic. Unfortunately, at the end of the opening stage I lost the rear in a right-hand corner and the impact damaged the left-rear wheel. Game over for us and not the result we were going for. I’m really sorry for that on behalf of the team. Now we have to look ahead. We have been on the pace, fighting for the podium and that’s what we will bring with us to Rally Sweden.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (4th)

“It’s been a great fight with Sebastien Loeb over third place today. At first, he was ahead, then I was ahead, and now he’s ahead again, but the gap is very small. I was hoping that I could have kept him behind, but when the conditions were mixed, I was maybe not so strong. It looks as though tomorrow’s stages could be drier: I’ve been doing a lot of testing on dry roads so I’m quite comfortable with the car in those conditions. Hopefully that works in our favour and we can be on the podium in Monte Carlo tomorrow.”

 

Ott Tänak (5th)

“It’s been a good day today: a normal day in the office. This afternoon we did something a bit different with the tyres compared to the others to try and gain some more time. In the end we gained a little bit, not much, but every bit helps. Thanks to my gravel crew who pushed me to do something different, because it paid off. The car has been nice to drive and it’s giving me confidence. We didn’t need to change the setup at lunchtime, and everything’s been working as it should. We’ve gained almost a minute back compared to the two guys in front, and I will keep pushing tomorrow.”

 

Kris Meeke (6th)

“Even though the conditions were tricky, I really enjoyed it today. The Yaris just seems natural to drive, it does what you want. I’m gradually building in confidence. We were really close to Ott’s times on a couple of the stages: Over 30 kilometres of snow, ice, greasy, slippery conditions there were only a few tenths of a second in it, so I’m happy to be there or there about already. I’ve still got a bit to learn about the car, but when it comes so naturally, it bodes well for the future. When we get to the powerstage we’ll give it a go and see what we can do.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (DNF)

“The first stage this morning [SS9] started off okay, but we picked up a puncture which was pretty unlucky. It was on the rear in a cut that everyone else had been in. It was just one of those things, and we made the decision to continue which I think was right in terms of time. “Then on the next stage [SS10] there was a pretty straight forward left-hander that’s been around for a number of years. I didn’t approach it any differently to how I usually would, but it seems as though the grip levels were particularly low. “Maybe there was some black ice as a few cars got caught out, but they were a lot luckier than us. There was quite a steep bank with some trees on the outside, the car got dragged down, and that’s where our Rallye Monte-Carlo came to the end. “Everyone comes to a rally with the best intentions, and it definitely wasn’t part of the plan to start the year on the bad note. All of our attentions are now fully focused on the next event and we’re looking forward to getting back on it in Sweden.”

Teemu Suninen (14th)

“Today was a pretty good day for us and we didn’t make any mistakes. We showed good pace this morning, but in the afternoon, I was too careful. I was concentrated on looking after the studs, but actually the ice layer had become so thin that the studs didn’t give any extra grip. But I think I can be happy with my day and how my pace has improved throughout the weekend.”

 

Pontus Tidemand (24th)

“We have seen some very tricky conditions today so I’m glad to be here. We had a slow puncture after six kilometres in the first stage this morning [SS9] and, as we only had one spare, we took it really carefully after that. “It’s so easy to make a mistake in these conditions so I tried to be on the safe side this afternoon as well. We need time in the car to learn, and it was important to make sure that we continue to get more experience tomorrow.”

 

Gus Greensmith (1st WRC 2 Pro and RC2) said:

“Three out of four stage wins, so I would call that a good day. I’ve had this calm, quiet confidence with the car today I’ve never had before; and I’ve felt as though I can control the pace exactly as I want to. “I took the first two stages quite easy as I knew that they were tricky, but I was still able to open the lead from six to twenty seconds. We had a bit of a blip in the first stage of the afternoon [SS11] where I lost five seconds, but we were back on it for the last one [SS12]. “After Bonato made a mistake the lead went up to over a minute and a half so we’ve given ourselves a nice buffer for tomorrow. We don’t need to do anything silly. We can be conservative with the tyre choices and bring it home for the win.”

Gus Greensmith and co-driver Elliott Edmondson had a good lead by the end of Saturday. Photo credit M-Sport

Sunday

The first stage, SS 13 – La Bollène Vésubie – Peira Cava 1 (18,41 km) saw Ott continue to fly, winning the stage from Thierry who was starting to apply some pressure to Ogier as the gap between them at the top was now 3.3 seconds. Were we about to witness a similar result to last years Rally de Italia…? Loeb was losing time as well, as the gap to Ott was now just five seconds after the Frenchman lost eleven and a half seconds.

 

Ott conquered SS 14 – La Cabanette – Col de Braus 1 (13,58 km) as well, winning again and moving ahead of Loeb into third place from fifth! He’d jumped both Jari-Matti and Loeb in one stage! Ogier was driving with a problem with his throttle, and pretty much held off Thierry in this one, but how would he fare in the longer stage that followed?

 

Thierry won SS 15 – La Bollène Vésubie – Peira Cava 2 (18,41 km), bringing Ott’s run to an end and cutting Ogier’s lead to just four tenths of a second. The gaps behind were pretty static now, with Ott over two minutes behind Thierry, Loeb a further seven seconds behind and Jari-Matti three seconds behind Loeb. Despite having to restart under Rally2 regs, Suninen and Tidemand were in the points as well.

 

The final stage then, SS 16 – La Cabanette – Col de Braus 2 – Power Stage (13,58 km), and Kris set the best time from Ogier and Neuville. Seb and Julien had done it, with the gap between them and Thierry and Nicolas just 2.2 seconds!

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 01 / Monte Carlo Rally / January 24-27, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

  

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:21.15.9
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2.2
  3. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:15.2
  4. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:28.2
  5. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:29.9
  6. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +5:36.2
  7. Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta R5) +13:04.6
  8. Bonato / Boulloud (Citroën C3 R5) +13:56.5

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“We certainly weren’t taking anything for granted. The final leg, in particular, was really stressful and difficult with our minor throttle issue, which meant the car kept on accelerating, even under braking. We got some good advice from the team and were able to perform some makeshift repairs on the road section. We then pushed really hard and, in the end, it worked out! It was an incredibly intense weekend. It was a non-stop battle, but we managed to come away with the win. Obviously, we’re very proud of this result in our first race with the C3 WRC, especially because, as I’ve often said, this rally is the one that is the most special for me. And it also means we can celebrate Citroën’s centenary in style. In other words, we couldn’t have hoped for a better start on our first race back with the team!”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“What an incredibly close fight! We can be pleased with this result, which gets our 2019 campaign off to a very positive start. Of course, when you are in with a chance of fighting for Monte-Carlo victory, you want to push for it but it wasn’t to be on this occasion. We gave it everything we had but a small mistake on Friday cost us the lead and we weren’t quite able to catch it back. That’s part of the game. We enjoyed the weekend a lot even if it wasn’t easy. We can now look ahead to Sweden, where we will be second on the road, ready for another nice battle. Thanks to the whole team for a great weekend in tricky conditions at times.”

Seb Loeb (4th)

“It has been an exciting weekend for WRC with an incredible battle for the victory and the podium. Fourth place is not so bad. I struggled with the set-up of the car on occasions, which is to be expected with such little time to test before the event. We made adjustments in between each loop in an effort to find our way, and we made good progress. We have to continue like this and see what we can achieve in Sweden. To be fighting for the podium in my first event for Hyundai Motorsport gives us all the motivation we need for the next rally. It’s a pleasure to be part of this team, and a positive way to start a new relationship.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (3rd)

“I am very pleased with this podium. After Friday I didn’t have such high hopes. I’m surprised we could catch all this time back on asphalt in relatively dry conditions. We had a good run this morning and then we just had to maintain our position to the finish. I’m really happy with the team, with my gravel crew and with the car. We did a perfect job on Saturday and Sunday and we should all feel proud of ourselves.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)

“It was a close fight for the whole weekend, but I wasn’t at my best, I must say. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t take fourth place today. But I realise now that I made a mistake in our test and I developed the wrong sort of setup for the rally. Because of that, my car was understeering too much for my driving style, and the confidence wasn’t there to go faster. But we had a clean weekend with no errors and we have scored some good points, which is important to start the season. We know that the car is capable of winning.”

Kris Meeke (6th)

“To win the Power Stage was an incredible way to finish our first rally with Toyota. We only set one fastest time this weekend but we did it when it counted. Other drivers were still fighting for their positions until the end, so to put it on the line and come away with the five points is great. We had technical issues this weekend that affected our result – fourth might have been possible – but to show our speed is really nice. The feeling with the car is really good. Finally, everything seems to be coming together for me, but we’re only one rally in, so we have to stay concentrated now and look forward to Sweden.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (11th)

“It’s a shame that we went off on the first stage because the rest of the rally has been really good. But we got a lot of good experience and I had some pace on the snow sections. The more we learnt, the more we were able to build our pace and I was happy to get a Power Stage point today – beating Latvala and Loeb who were both fighting for position.”

Pontus Tidemand (20th)

“This car is amazing to drive and I have had a lot of fun this weekend. I’ve learnt a lot and need to thank the team and my route note crew for a really good job. We’ll analyse where we were good and where we weren’t quite so good. On the slippery sections we set some really fast splits, but on the dry Tarmac we weren’t on the pace and I need more time behind the wheel to use the full potential of the car.  But it was good to get the kilometres and the experience. And we’ll have a good test before Rally Sweden where I hope to show another improvement.”

 

WRC 2 Pro Winner

Gus Greensmith

“I’m pretty sure this is the best day of my life so far! It took us a while to get here, but it’s an amazing feeling and there are so many people I need to thank. It was almost a perfect rally from beginning to end and we did everything we needed to do. When we needed to push and build a gap, we did. And when we needed to control it, we did. It’s definitely been my best ever performance behind the wheel, and now I’m just looking forward to a beer and letting it all sink in!”

Elliott Edmondson

“It’s been a brilliant rally back with Gus and we couldn’t have asked for any more. Monte is always a challenge so I can’t say it was easy, but we managed the whole weekend really well. We showed speed when we had to, and were more cautious when we could afford to be. We couldn’t have asked for a better start and here’s hoping for more good results as the season continues!”

Just incredible. Clearly, 2019 has picked off from where 2018 ended. The three fastest crews are the same. Also, we can see how that group could grow, with Kris Meeke/Seb Marshall and Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin looking comfortable in their cars.

Next up is Rally Sweden, from the 14th to 17th of February.

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Sébastien Ogier – 29 points
  2. Thierry Neuville – 21 points
  3. Ott Tänak – 17 points
  4. Kris Meeke – 13 points
  5. Sébastien Loeb – 12 points
  6. Jari-Matti Latvala – 10 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 30 points
  2. Citroën Total WRT – 25 points
  3. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 25 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 14 points