For the second year in a row, the World Rally Championship came to The NEC Birmingham. The only difference was that instead of just the Thursday media day, it was held on the first public day, Saturday the 12th of January.
There was massive interest around the display of full-blooded cars from M-Sport, Toyota WRC Team, Hyundai Motorsport and Citroen Racing ahead of the launch, with the cars all covered up. Then the teams arrived and the cars were unveiled. First the Fiesta WRC, followed by the Yaris WRC, i20 WRC and finally the C3 WRC.
Afterwards, I got to speak to the new co-drivers for Kris Meeke, Teemu Suninen and Elfyn Evans. They are, Seb Marshall, Marko Salminen and Scott Martin.
First up, Scott. I asked him how he came to join Elfyn in the car?
He said, well Dan and Elfyn weren’t going to continue in 2019, so the opportunity came about. Unfortunately, Craig didn’t have anything organised, no programme to offer, so yeah it wasn’t easy a difficult situation to be in, ultimately an opportunity to have a full season in the WRC and Craig didn’t have something solid, so that’s how it came all about. Since then we’ve been working hard to work together and look forward to the year, to try and put as much preparation in as we can going into Monte-Carlo.
In terms of preparing for the season and in particular Monte-Carlo, you’ve been testing?
Well, that was great to get in the car that we’ll be rallying, and I’ve never competed with Elfyn before, never sat in the car with him before. We’d done some pace note work, around my home in the UK, you know just to understand the notes a bit, we watched on board videos, I watched a lot of Dan and Elfyn from last year, just to try and understand a little bit, but until you actually sit in the car with him and actually go through the motions and get the feelings of how he drives to the notes, that’s when you really get to learn, you get areas I need to get more familiar with and then you go from there. Now there are loads of things we can be doing now and now we’ve actually done the test a lot of things work well and there’s some areas we need to work on to understand each other, so it’s a work in progress and we’ll keep working hard at it and try and be in the best possible way when we start Monte Carlo Rally.
What are your hopes for Monte?
I hope we have a clean rally, I hope we work well together and hope we have a good result.
In terms of preparation for Monte, how many kilometres have you done?
We were sharing the car both days with Teemu, but we probably got about 300km over the two days as a crew, and as a team maybe six to seven hundred. We had all the conditions you’d probably expect to get at Rallye Monte-Carlo, so this was really good. I feel like we had a good test on that point. It was always changing, we were able to do a lot of tyre work and just make sure the car felt comfortable in these tricky conditions, so I think that’s key to have a good result in Monte-Carlo. Yeah, we had a good two days. Now we’ve got to work with the gravel crew, that’s the unique thing about Monte-Carlo, that’s a relationship that Elfyn already has, need to build that up, so that when it comes to Thursday night, we know what we’re all doing.
Is Phil Mills still in the gravel car with Elfyn’s dad?
Actually, there’s been a bit of a change there. Phil Mills is a bit tied up with work, so Elfyn’s got a friend of his that’s co-drove for him before, (it’s not Dan Barritt, Scott said whilst laughing), so I’m working with him and we’re all working together and will continue that right up to the rally. Looking forward to it!
Next up was Seb Marshall.
I asked him testing and preparations have gone for Rallye Monte-Carlo?
Yes, it’s gone well. We’ve had two days before Christmas, and it was the first time that myself and Kris had been in the car together at speed and the first time with the team as well. The first day was on a road that we know quite well, absolutely bone-dry conditions perfect for feeling your way into the car in a very consistent environment. The second day, we were on a new road that in the morning had five kilometres of sheet black ice, that melted throughout the day to get the slush and mud, so it was difficult but, in some ways, it was perfect Monte testing. The feeling as good, it’s one of those events so much is down to tyre choice, that’s it’s not all down to set up, but feeling comfortable in the car.
Do you know how many kilometres you covered over the couple of days?
Something like 350km’s I would have thought. About par for a testing day.
How did the switch from Hayden come about?
Well, towards the last year Kris was in talks with Toyota, managed to sign his deal and felt he wanted to have a change of things in the car. So, he approached me, and asked what I was up to this year, if it something I’d be interested in, so kept talking across the weeks and went from there. So, its wasn’t that I was looking to leave or jump ship, it was just case that an opportunity presented itself. For me, despite I’d been around the championship for a while, I’d never done a full season. Now it’s great to compete at this level, doing anything but of course the chance to do the full championship is quite a big thing, so that was quite a big draw, you know a driver of his calibre, it’s a good opportunity!
Marko Salminen was next.
I asked how good it was that it would be that he would be doing a full season in his debut year?
Ah, well that has been my dream for many years, and now it’s coming true and I’m really looking forward to it and working with Teemu, it’s so good too. He’s a good guy and easy to work with, and I’m just enjoying it and waiting for the season to start.
Now, you were testing this week and sharing the car with Elfyn and Scott?
Yeah, we did two day’s with Teemu and luckily there were some snowy conditions and ice, that kind of stuff, so it really helped to prepare and understand ahead of the rally.
Okay, give us your first impressions of the car.
Of course, the first time, it was amazing but after a few runs you get used to the speed, but I can say that they really go fast!
Now, speaking to Teemu I asked him how his relationship with Marko, his new co-driver was?
Yes, it’s been good at the moment. I know him from 2014 when I was driving against him in the Finnish Championship, and the last two years he’s been driving with Takamoto, who has been driving in WRC2, he has good experience from WRC cars. After the season, I just had a phone call to him, would you be interested to come and co-drive me, as I felt that he had something to give me in the car.
Now, you’ve also got a new suspension partner, in the team. How has that integration gone so far?
The challenge is to change one part of the car because to see how it works with the other parts, so it’s not so easy to find a good balance in the car immediately, but I see it holds good possibilities to improve the car, but we just need the time.
Elfyn next up!
How are things going with Scott?
So far, it’s been really good, we have a lot of preparation now to do before we head to Monte Carlo, it’s probably one of the most complex events to start a new partnership just because there’s the integration of the gravel notes, the way you process the weather information, means everything is much more complex. There’s a lot to get through before Monte Carlo and we’ve only had two half days testing, so it’s a relatively short time to prepare. We’re doing a lot of recce outside of rally, just on normal roads to try and get used to one-another and so far, so good. I’m confident it will turn out okay.
I asked him about the return of Kris to the championship.
Yes, it’s great, I think Kris’ speed is unquestioned, and for the UK it’s a massive thing to have another Brit back full time. Really pleased for Kris and Seb to be there.
I asked Andreas Mikkelsen about if he felt any pressure heading into his second full season, after just one podium in 2018.
Ah, no not chilled. We know we need to deliver, we cannot have another year like 2018, it was a difficult year, the luck was definitely not on our side on many occasions as well but we feel like we’ve taken some steps and we feel confident that we will be back to where we belong, where we normally are. But we know what an important season this is.
I asked Thierry Neuville about his lack of pace in Rally Finland and what he could do to improve it?
We have tried everything in the last five years and in particular the last three years to improve. We come back from testing with the feeling we are fast and then obviously we are not. It’s difficult to say now because now Toyota has clearly a big advantage with their test area in the Finnish woods and knowing that the testing, they benefit from it. The speed is extremely high, but even compared to Citroen which doesn’t test so much over there, they were faster than us there, which was a bit of a surprise.
Part two of my interviews will be up soon, so do pop back and check in.
We found out this afternoon that Kris and Paul have been dropped by Citroen. In their statement they say;
“Due to an excessively high number of crashes, some of which were particularly heavy and could have had serious consequences with regard to the crew’s safety and given that the risks involved were unjustified by the sporting stakes at play, Citroën Racing WRT has decided to terminate the participation of Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle in the 2018 WRC.
The decision becomes effective from the 2018 Rally Italia Sardegna and we will shortly be announcing the team’s line-up of crews for the remainder of the 2018 season. The entries of C3 WRCs for Craig Breen / Scott Martin and Mads Ostberg/Torstein Eriksen still stand for Sardinia.
Pierre Budar: “This wasn’t an easy decision to make because it effects a driver and a co-driver, but it is largely founded on safety issues which come under my preoccupations as Team Principal. We have consequently chosen to make this decision as a preventive measure.”
Already there has been a big reaction to this decision online, especially as it seems that Kris and Paul were not aware of it.
It’s certainly true that the C3 has been a tricky car to drive, and the team, including Kris had done a lot of work to make it friendlier to drive. When I spoke to the pairing at the start of the year, they talked about the change to the suspension and the latest change was the new rear axle that was brought to the car for Rally Argentina.
There have been a number of incidents which have led to this situation, but is it the correct decision? Kris took his first victory in Rally Argentina during the 2015 season. He then, during the part season that followed in 2016 won in Portugal and followed that up with an amazing win in Finland, the first ever British driver to do so.
In 2017 with the new C3, he took wins in Mexico and Spain, but missed Poland mid-season after the team rested him for that event, but he did lead in Corsica before the engine cried enough.
He’s definitely a driver that takes the car to the edge, like Colin. The crash that put Kris and Paul out on Saturday came after a puncture on Friday that led to the car running second on the road on the very loose gravel. Yet, earlier on Friday he’d taken some great stage victories and was running near the front.
Well, what an amazing rally we were treated to! Here’s the story of how Seb Ogier won, and took the championship lead back from Thierry.
On Thursday, last year’s winner Kris topped shakedown with Thierry in his Hyundai also going very well, just a little behind the Northern Irishman, whilst Seb Loeb was getting his bearings back, going ninth fastest on his return to competitive action.
The first stage, run that evening, was won by Thierry.
Friday morning dawned bright, if a little cool. It would certainly warm up, for sure and not just the temperature, as the fight for the lead started in earnest! Nine stages faced the crews, including the longest of the rally, El Chocolate 31km test and as always, run twice!
Stage two saw Kris and Paul take the lead, whilst Thierry tumbled down to ninth as he was opening the road, courtesy of being the championship leader. Dani Sordo also had a great run jumping from eighth to second and Loeb went brilliantly to go third in the stage and move into fourth overall.
The following stage would see a big change around though! Kris found the balance of his car tricky and after being third fastest behind Elfyn and stage winner Dani, would fall to second overall, nine and a half seconds behind our new leader, Dani!
Stage four would see Elfyn and Dan roll multiple times, after losing control on a jump in sixth gear! The car wasn’t actually that damaged, but they were both taken to have medical checks done and Dan was found to have suffered concussion and they would withdraw from the event. A big shame after moving into third overall. Kris also had a big moment on a jump, but was still second overall, whilst Loeb had moved up to third after the demise of Elfyn and Dan.
The short street stage at Leon was won by Teemu in his M-Sport Fiesta, with Andreas and Loeb taking second and third. Thierry suffered from an engine issue in this stage, dropping twenty seconds as a result and dropping two places down to ninth, now more than a minute from his teammate Dani who was still leading.
Stage six started the afternoon loop, after the lunchtime service break and Kris fought back with a time four seconds faster than Dani who continued to lead the event, although it was now reduced to twelve seconds. Ott Tanak was faster than Loeb, and took third overall as a result, whilst Thierry moved back up one place after Hyundai fixed the problem with his car during service.
The second run of El Chocolate, stage seven, and the nine-time champion took it, and with Kris suffering a spin losing six or seven seconds he also moved into second overall! Further down the order, both Teemu and Esapekka went out of the event after sliding out and Andreas passed Ogier for fifth, after being almost three seconds faster.
The following stage saw Loeb and Ott set exactly the same time allowing the Estonian to pass Kris who spun again dropping to fourth and whilst that was happening, Loeb had closed to within eight seconds on the current leader, Dani. Sadly, Jari-Matti, who had been in seventh overall retired with alternator failure after this stage.
Stages nine and ten were run at the Autodromo de Leon, and honours were shared by Tanak and Ogier.
It had been a very interesting day, with Dani leading throughout and the Citroen duo of Meeke and Loeb being the closest challengers. Championship leader, Thierry was a full two minutes off the lead in seventh place whilst Seb Ogier lay just thirty seconds from the lead, fifth overall.
Here’s the thoughts of the drivers at the end of the day with the top three first.
Dani Sordo, Hyundai
“I have been happy with our pace and rhythm today, particularly on the morning loop when we could really set some good times, making the most of our road position. To be leading the rally at the end of the opening day is a great feeling but we know it is very close and we will have a fight on our hands tomorrow. I have to say thanks to the whole team for their hard work. They have given us the perfect car. The stage wins on Friday morning were very nice but we knew the repeat loop would be tricky. We thought the soft tyres might be a bit on the limit but it was a risk that did not really pay off; we didn’t generate enough lateral grip. We have been quick in Mexico before so we hoped to be in the fight, and we will do all we can to remain in the podium battle.”
Sébastien Loeb, Citroen
“Overall, clearly, it has been a very good opening leg! I didn’t know what to expect before coming but we are here in second, not far off the lead, so I’m delighted to be on the pace after six years away from Mexico. We’re now going to try and maintain the same pace, but I know it won’t be easy. Tänak is very close behind, in particular, and we know he’s very good in the quick stages!”
Ott Tanak, Toyota
“All in all, it has been a good day. It is my first time on gravel in this car, so there have been many new things to learn. The temperatures have been very high. This morning we had to manage it as best as we could but the team did an extremely good job during the service and made some good improvements. This afternoon I was pushing really hard. Our road position was not as good as the leaders but still we managed to close on them. It has been a nice start and we can definitely build on that tomorrow.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
“Without the less-than-perfect tyre choice this morning and my two silly mistakes this afternoon, we could have been right up there at the front, so it’s a bit frustrating. But that’s life. The main thing is that our speed is good and I really enjoyed driving my C3 WRC. There is still a long way to go. I’m certainly going to keep pushing and let’s see how things work out.”
M-Sport Ford WRT
“We tried to push as hard as possible today. We had a small spin which cost us maybe six or seven seconds but, being second on the road, I think we can still be happy with our day. We made the best of it and were beating everyone around us. But for sure the guys starting further back were faster – as we expected.
“Tomorrow won’t be much better as we’ll still start very early on the road. It’s going to be difficult to catch the guys in front but you never know and we’ll try our best.”
“I was struggling a bit with the rhythm this morning and wasn’t as fast as I wanted to be. I had a good road position and was hoping to be closer to the guys around me. But I was comparing myself to Loeb, and I need to remember that he is a nine-time World Champion!
“In the first stage of the second loop we were pushing a bit more. There was one easy right that narrowed towards the end and we ran a bit wide. We touched the fence and damaged some of the suspension parts.
“After that the car was really difficult to drive – which is normal if you break it! It was difficult to set the car for the corners and I was braking all the time and overheating the brakes. I ran wide and hit the barrier which forced us to retire for the day.
“But it was really good to win the super special stage as this is an area I have been working to improve. There are a lot of these stages on this rally and if you lose a couple of seconds on every one then it can be a lot of time at the end of the rally. We worked hard to improve on these kind of stages, so it was good to see that hard work paying off.”
“We hit a series of bumps that were a lot worse than expected. We lost the rear – still in sixth gear – and didn’t have the power to pull out of the slide. We clipped the bank on the inside and rolled I don’t know how many times.
“I jumped out of the car immediately because I didn’t think there would be any way to continue. But when the dust settled we could see that the damage wasn’t too bad at all. We got our helmets back on and managed to finish the stage – which is incredible after a roll like that.
“We checked in with the medical team when we returned to service and Dan was advised to go for some further precautionary checks. We’re both okay, which is the main thing, and now we just need to focus on starting our season afresh in Corsica.
“We have tried to push as hard as we could today in the circumstances. I’ve been happy enough overall, but we know there is room for improvement. In the morning loop, our focus was on getting to grips with the car, and how to control it on the dusty mountain stages. In the afternoon, we opted for harder compound tyres, which felt very slippery at times. It was difficult to know where to push, and how hard, because you lose the line so easily. There were a few mistakes here and there but generally it’s been a solid first day. We’re involved in a close battle for the top-five, which gives us something to build on.”
“Not the most positive day for us. Our motivation level was quite high even if we knew it would be difficult as first on the road. We did our best not to lose too much time on the morning loop. Before the start of the short SS5 we were in seventh overall. Unfortunately, we had an unforeseen over-consumption of fuel, which caused a loss of fuel pressure in the stage. We lost around 20 seconds and two positions. It was really disappointing. The afternoon didn’t really improve and we struggled again in SS8 (Ortega 2) with some power steering trouble losing another 40 seconds of time. Tomorrow will be another hard day but we’ll keep pushing to get the best that we can out of the weekend.”
Toyota Gazoo WRT
“The car felt very good at the start of the first stage this morning but then we began to suffer from high engine temperatures. We were able to control it, but it affected our performance, and I was concentrating too much on the temperatures and not on the driving. The team worked on it during service and in the afternoon, it was getting better, so it was a shame that we had the problem with the alternator and had to retire. When we restart tomorrow, there is a good chance for some points so we just need to keep fighting.”
“It has been a really difficult day for me. This morning was quite disappointing and then I made a fairly stupid mistake this afternoon. On a 90-degree left-hander, I missed the line on entry and just slid wide and off the road. The car was not very badly damaged but we couldn’t get it back on the road. There were not so many positives for me from today but hopefully we can make something happen tomorrow.”
Saturday saw around 130km of stages. Loeb would draw first blood, winning stage 11 and with overnight leader Dani only fourth fastest and twelve seconds slower, Loeb moved into the lead, five seconds clear of the Spaniard in his Hyundai. Also, on the move was Kris, Ogier and Andreas who all passed Ott Tanak. He’d suffered turbo failure with seven km’s left of the stage, leaving him bereft of engine power. He retired after the stage.
The following stage saw Loeb and Sordo set pretty much the same pace for fourth and fifth fastest, whilst Kris won the stage closing the gap to the top two by some ten seconds! Also going well was Ogier who had benefitted from Ott retiring plus also he’d brought the gap down to the leaders a full ten seconds, to under twenty.
The final stage of the morning saw Dani close the gap to the leader, whilst stage winner Ogier drew himself level on time with Kris, after the Northern Irishman suffered a scrappy stage with a stall and also running wide near the end of the stage.
After service, stage 14 saw our leader suffer a puncture after his tyre caught a stone on the line which saw him plummet to fifth position. Dani also lost time dropping thirty seconds and falling behind our new top two of Ogier and Meeke who were separated by just 3.8 seconds.
The next stage saw Kris spin and lose thirty seconds, giving Ogier a big lead of the same amount! Loeb was Ogier’s closest challenger, just six seconds down on his fellow country-man.
The second run of El Brinco saw Kris much closer to Ogier’s pace, just 2.6 slower through the 10km stage, whilst Dani was a similar amount further back, consolidating his third place overall.
The last two stages of the day were won by Meeke and Sordo, whilst Ogier’s lead stood at a remarkable 35 seconds! We’d had a super Seb Saturday, turning a thirty-second-time deficit, into a thirty-five second lead! Just astonishing! Dani Sordo had also driven a very clever day, minimising mistakes, and was well placed to take a deserved third place with a 45 second lead over Andreas, his teammate.
Let’s hear then from the top three once more.
“I am very happy to be in the lead at the end of the day. Our starting position was a bit better this morning and, in the afternoon, there was no cleaning left to do which is where we were able to make the biggest difference. We wanted to push – and I was pretty much on the limit most of the time – but we had a good feeling in the car.
“We didn’t always have a perfect run, but I was really happy with the morning loop where I made very few mistakes – especially in the second and third stages [SS12 and SS13] which were almost perfect.
“It was a bit tougher in the afternoon – still very slippery and very hot inside the car and for the engine and the brakes as well. It wasn’t an easy loop, but everything worked well and we can be really happy with the job we have done so far.”
“It was a good day for us in terms of rhythm, especially this morning when we were really comfortable. I then benefited from Seb’s puncture, but that’s part and parcel of rallying, and this stage was particularly tricky, with a lot of loose stones on the road. We now have to finish off the job tomorrow by making sure of second place, but it won’t be an easy task. The power stage might also be interesting, with temperatures that will have risen by lunchtime, whereas we’ll have to decide on tyre choice when it’s much cooler, early in the morning.”
“A podium in Mexico this weekend would be a great result and I am determined to keep this important position for me and the team. Things haven’t gone according to plan today. I struggled with confidence on the opening stage and lost some time compared to my nearest rivals. The feeling was better for the rest of the morning loop, but it was in the first stage of the afternoon when we lost most time. I hit a small stone at the start of SS14, so had to drive the 31km stage with a front-left puncture. With no spare tyres to rely on, I took the rest of the loop quite steady, not pushing hard. We didn’t want to risk anything. Meeke is not so far in front, so we have to make sure we remain focused and see what happens on Sunday morning.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
“This morning, it was really nice to be able to confirm yesterday’s performance and hold the overall lead six years after my last Rally Mexico. To be honest, I hadn’t expected to be in this position before the start but it’s reassuring to know that I haven’t lost my driving skills! It was all set to be a good battle at the front until we got the puncture. There were two successive corners with stones on the inside of the bend. We went over them a little and one of them proved fatal. The mistake we made was to change the wheel. I wasn’t very familiar with how these tyres last and our instinct was the wrong one, probably from cross-country rallying, in fact! We would have lost a lot less time had we not stopped to change the tyre, but that’s just the way it goes. We’ll now try and make it to the finish and enjoy driving the car as much as possible.”
“The morning was tough and our stage times were not so impressive. We were really struggling when the grip levels were low. Things were better in the afternoon and we were more competitive. On the plus side, we are up to fourth, which is not so bad. There is a big gap to Dani in third and to Loeb in fifth, so we have to really concentrate on our own rally. It’s very easy to make a mistake here, so I want to keep a steady pace and rhythm. It’s impossible to do anything about our position based on pure driving but let’s see what happens tomorrow.”
“It has been another difficult day, but we’re still there and fighting. We have managed to gain one position today, and there are lots of things happening at the front of the pack. The morning didn’t get off to the best of starts after we got stuck in the water splash, losing over a minute of time. We also had two punctures during the day which made things very complicated. We learned a lot as first on the road, so we have to take some positives away despite the obvious frustrations. We have to look forward to Sunday and aim for some points to minimise the damage from this tough weekend.”
M-Sport Ford WRT
“It’s been a bit difficult today. In the morning I was struggling to find the right rhythm and driving style. But in the end, it was getting better and the last few stages were okay. There is still some work to do, but the good thing is that I know where I can improve and be more precise with the driving.”
Toyota Gazoo WRT
“I don’t think it’s ever been as hot in Mexico as it was this afternoon. For sure, it was asking a lot from the cars and the tyres. But overall it was a consistent day with no problems. Step by step we were improving. I hope the final day will be good for us because it has faster, more flowing stages which suits me and the car. These are my favourite stages in the rally. We will try to get eighth as the points could be very valuable for the championship, and of course there is a chance in the Power Stage too, so we have to keep attacking.”
“Everything was looking quite good this morning. I could feel more grip than yesterday, and that was suiting our car really well. I missed a junction early on and we lost close to 10 seconds there, but we were still trying to do a good stage. Then seven kilometres before the end the turbo failed and we had to retire from the day. Unfortunately, this is part of rallying, but I can be happy that our pace was competitive on our first gravel event with the team. We will try to do our best tomorrow: it would be nice to get some points from the Power Stage if possible”
“In general, it has been quite OK today and much better than yesterday. The mechanics did a good job to fix the car last night, so a big thank you to them. I was able to enjoy the driving this morning and the times were better. We were delayed after service because my seatbelt was stuck underneath a box that the TV crews had moved, so I had to wait half an hour for them to come and fix it. Once we got going we had some good splits before we got a puncture, and then on the next one I thought I had another puncture, but the time was actually quite decent. The Power Stage tomorrow gives us a chance to get some points.”
Sunday dawned dry and hot. Seb had a very good lead over Kris, but the gap to Dani was just eleven seconds. First stage was won by Jari-Matti, but it was not so good for Kris. The car slid wide, with the result that the wheels popped into a gulley and putting the car on its’ side. He lost 47 seconds, and with it any hope of second place and now Dani was in second place!
Stage 21 was won by Ott, returning to the fray with a new turbo under rally 2 rules, and with this stage doubling up as the power stage later it was one way to find out what would work later. Latvala and Neuville completed the top three.
Ott certainly knew the way with this stage, as he won it and the five points, with Seb second and Latvala third. There would be drama later though, with the French ace being given a ten second penalty for not correctly negotiating the chicane in that stage. This would drop him out of the top five, down to eighth place in the stage. Those to benefit were, Latvala, Neuville, Mikkelsen and Loeb.
However, Seb Ogier had given the field something to think about, after his amazing drive on Saturday, which had given him, Julien and the M-Sport team a consummate victory, tempered slightly with Elfyn and Dan not making the finish.
Dani Sordo had driven very well all weekend, keeping errors to a minimum, and ultimately benefiting from Kris’ mistakes. A well deserved second place. Last year’s winner, certainly had the pace to win, but for those errors that came along. He’ll hope for better things in Corsica, for sure.
Pedro Heller / Pablo Olmos (Ford Fiesta R5) +24:18.1
2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round 3
1 S. Ogier 56
2 T. Neuville 52
3 A. Mikkelsen 35
4 K. Meeke 32
5 J.M Latvala 31
6 O. Tanak 26
7 E. Lappi 23
8 C. Breen 20
9 D. Sordo 18
10 H. Paddon 10
2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 3
1 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 84
2 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 72
3 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 71
4 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 67
Ogier’s win put him back in the lead of the championship, four points ahead of Thierry.
Let’s hear then from the drivers!
“I’m super happy today and this win is a fantastic way for me and Julien to celebrate our tenth-year anniversary in the FIA World Rally Championship. It started in 2008 with a win in the Junior category and so many great things have happened here since then – this win, I think, being one of the best.
“This weekend we really gave it everything. Julien was perfect, and the team were so strong as well. The victory is great of course, but it’s the performance that was really good. We’ve made such a big improvement from last year, and that is a big positive for the rest of the season.
“I was pretty much on the limit all weekend. When you’re early on the road you’re trying your best but the time is still far away from those starting behind. There’s always some frustration coming with that, but you have to keep going and not give up.
“That’s what we did, and on the second day – when our road position was a bit better – we kept pushing and were able to take the lead in the afternoon.
“We can be very proud this weekend, and there’s not a lot we could have done better. We gave it everything – right up until the final stage.”
“I am very happy to score this podium after what has been an enjoyable, competitive but tough weekend. We have shown good pace here in previous seasons, so I was optimistic that we would be able to fight for the top-three this weekend. It wasn’t entirely straightforward; even in the Power Stage there was a scary moment when we picked up a rear right puncture. With stones in the middle of the road, it was so easy for something to happen so we backed off and took it carefully to the end. A podium result is so important and we made the most of our road position in these really tricky gravel stages. It’s been a good team effort and I am particularly pleased to see us increase our lead in the manufacturers’ championship. Thanks to Carlos and to the whole team for this result.”
“Obviously, there are positives to take away from this weekend, starting with the fact that I secured my first podium of the year and picked up good points for the championship. But I can’t help but feel disappointed, not least for the team. I had everything you need to win here in Mexico – the pace, the car and road position – but I didn’t do the job. I made too many silly mistakes and you just can’t get away with that at this level. I need to tidy my game up, starting in Corsica where we were very competitive last year.”
“It has not been an easy rally for us, and we haven’t really been able to find the optimum pace or performance that we needed here. We made some changes to the car in service on Saturday evening, and I felt more comfortable in this morning’s final stages. We weren’t really in a position to improve, so we simply tried to keep things clean and tidy. There were definitely areas where we could have attacked more but finishing fourth gives us important points. As a team we have increased our lead in the manufacturers’ table, and I have also moved up to third in the drivers’ classification, which is a positive to take away.”
“We approached the final morning of the rally determined to score as many points as possible for the drivers’ championship. I gave it all I could in the Power Stage, and I’m happy to take three extra points away from what has been a very tough weekend. Starting first on the road each day was far from ideal, but that’s part of the game. It was actually a useful experience to deal with those conditions, despite the obvious time disadvantage. We had some other issues over the weekend, so to come away with sixth place and to keep up the pressure in the championship is important. Thanks to everyone in the team. We have a never-give-up mentality, and Corsica will be another story.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
“Coming into the rally, I felt that testing had gone well, but I obviously had no certainty about my level, bearing in mind that everyone is fighting over tenths of a second, and that it doesn’t take much to find yourself left behind a little bit. So, it was a nice surprise to be on the pace! I’m just a bit frustrated that I wasn’t able to test myself properly against the others right to the end because of the puncture. In any case, it was a very good weekend and that was the initial aim of this comeback. I hope I can now go on to get a good result in Corsica, even though I’ll still have quite a few things to refamiliarise myself with.”
Toyota Gazoo WRT
“I had a fantastic feeling this morning and the car felt very good. We had a really big push and won the first stage. Then the second stage was also really good, even though we had to save the tyres a bit. In the Power Stage I gave it everything and I’m really happy to finish second fastest with my road position. It has been a difficult weekend but to retire from one day and still come back and score eight points is good. Overall, I know that the car performance is there, and now I am starting to find the performance in myself.”
“Today we were putting everything on the Power Stage. We had nothing to lose and just wanted to get these five points. The car was performing really well and I felt really comfortable in the car so I could give an extra push. Of course, I’m not happy with the overall result as we were in contention for the win, but we still have a long season ahead of us and the performance side has been good. It was my first time on gravel in the car, we learned a lot and we can see many places where we can improve.”
“Today we were concentrating on the Power Stage, so in the first two stages we just wanted to get through them, check the pace-notes and save the tyres. It has been a tough weekend for us. The highlight has actually been the spectator stages. In our pre-event test we did some work on a go-kart track and we managed to find some new things which seem to have worked, because last evening I almost did the fastest time on the street stage. Previously we had been losing a lot of time in those. We also gained a lot of experience and data, which we can use to improve next year.”
“It’s been a difficult rally for us, but we showed some improvement over the second loops and I was also fast on the city stages which is a big positive. These type of stages [city stages] had been my weakness and we worked really hard to improve, so that was a good.
“Of course, it would have been nicer to have been a bit faster on the gravel – and not to have made the mistakes on Friday – but we still learnt a lot and know where we can improve. I need to keep the car on the line and be a bit earlier on the throttle. It’s just some little things, but if you lose 0.1 seconds on every corner it will be a lot of time at the end of the rally!
“We need to analyse this event and then focus on our next one in Argentina. I did the recce there in 2016, so I know something about the stages but this will be my first time in a rally car. Because of this, we will need to prepare even more than normal.”
Gus Greensmith (2nd WRC 2) Fiesta R5
“I feel pretty good after this one. It’s a relief to get to the end to be honest as it was a rough rally – much rougher than I expected – so to walk away with second in WRC 2 and ninth overall is great.
“It was one of those rallies where you don’t want to drive conservatively but, with the attrition rate so high and the wise words of Malcolm and Dad, that’s what we did. I don’t want to have to do it again, but they’re a lot cleverer than me and we’re now fourth in the championship after just one rally.
“I also have to say a big thanks to the team as there wasn’t a single problem with the car all weekend. Everything was brilliant, just brilliant.”
Pedro Heller (3rd WRC 2) Fiesta R5
“I feel really, really happy after this rally. If you compare it to last year, it’s the complete opposite! Okay the gap to the winner was pretty big, but this is Mexico – it’s rough and we made it to the end with our first points in WRC 2 and also our first top-ten finish overall. Now, I’m looking forward to Argentina where we plan to do the same.”
The next round is on the weekend of the 5th to 8th of April on the Island of Corsica. Can Thierry get back winning ways, or will Seb prevail again? Perhaps Kris can follow up his speed from last year and take his first victory. Or will we see Jari-Matti follow up his victory from 2015 and take a win for Toyota?
The foundations for Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle’s victory were laid on Friday’s gravel stages. After just two stages, Kris was in the lead and despite some mistakes in the afternoon, at the end of that first day’s action, he was just three seconds from the lead.
Overnight leader was Andreas Mikkelsen on his first outing for Hyundai. His fellow teammates, Dani and Championship challenger Thierry were in sixth and seventh position. The wrong tyre choices and hotter than expected conditions on the stages had meant that there was little that Thierry could do other than get through the day and see what he and Nicolas could do on the smooth wide tarmac on Saturday.
It was an impressive Friday for Seb Ogier that despite running at the front of the field on the loose gravel, he was just 1.4 seconds from the lead. Ott Tanak was also driving very well. Third on the road, he maintained top ten pace in each of the six stages and holding fourth overall.
Also setting a great pace in his Fiesta was Mads, although in the final stage of the day the heater in his car got stuck on! What with the high temperatures outside, plus the heater on, it quickly became unbearably hot inside the Fiesta WRC. The two Norwegians therefore did well to make in to the end of the stage, just five seconds from the lead.
The first retirement of the event was Jari-Matti in his Toyota. After a very solid start in the morning, he won the first stage of the afternoon, but later in stage five he noticed that the car was starting to lose oil. This was the result of a strong impact under the car which made the lubrication system fail. He would not start the final stage of the day, and the damage to the engine would prove to be too severe. The team would be looking to Juho and Esapekka to bring the team some good results.
Elfyn Evans, running on D-Mack tyres, would start well, but after struggling in the afternoon, it was a case of get around and see what he could do on Saturday.
Here’s the driver quotes for day one.
Andreas Mikkelsen said: (1st)
“We could not have asked for a better start to our Hyundai Motorsport career. It has been a good day and I have been pleased with our approach. We started this morning carefully, to understand the car’s behaviour and generally just finding our feet.”
“A few changes to the settings allowed us to gain some time through the first Terra Alta run. The car felt very stable and there were no surprises. In the afternoon, we became more and more confident in the car. The final stage wasn’t ideal; we thought we had a puncture so took it a bit easier. We made it to the end safely and it’s nice to be fighting at the very top. It’s really close but it has definitely been a positive start for Anders and myself.”
Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:
“I’m really happy with our day. It wasn’t easy, but our position this evening is really amazing. Being so close to the lead after a full day opening the road is not something we expected, but it’s a very nice surprise.
“The gaps are all so close so we’re all going to have to keep pushing tomorrow. For sure Andreas [Mikkelsen] and Kris [Meeke] will push hard, but I’ve always had a good feeling with the Fiesta on Tarmac so hopefully we can stay in the fight for the victory.
“But the most important thing for us was to stay ahead of Ott [Tänak] and Thierry [Neuville], which we have managed to do so far. Our target is clear, and we will keep our main focus on Ott, Thierry and the Championship fight.”
Kris Meeke (3rd) said:
“This morning, we didn’t make the right tyre choice. The soft tyres went off on Terra Alta, so I had to manage my pace a little and drop some time. It didn’t matter that much, because the gaps remained pretty small. On hard tyres, I was able to push almost from start to finish and I really enjoyed driving the C3 WRC. It’s a bit frustrating to have made a mistake on SS4; if it weren’t for that, I’d be leading. But in any case, I’m in a good position and am pleased with the day.”
Ott Tänak (4th) said:
“Overall I think the performance has been very good today. We expected to lose quite a lot with the loose gravel but actually the gaps are very small at the end of the day.
“It will definitely still be interesting tomorrow. It looks promising for the moment so let’s see how it goes in the morning and if we can find a good rhythm. These Tarmac roads are very unique but also very enjoyable, so we’ll try to find a good set-up with the car and see what we can do.”
Mads Østberg (5th) said:
“Really disappointing with the heater, and extremely hot and uncomfortable for us both with nearly 100 degrees Celsius inside the car. It`s hot enough inside these cars without hot air blowing into it, but we didn`t manage to turn it off.”
“As it was a very long stage we lost a bit of concentration and focus and of course we lost some time. Still I am happy with our performance this Friday, without the problems on the last stage we could have been in the lead. We also had some issues with dust coming into the, but that we could cope with.”
“In the preparation for the rally we have concentrated mainly on the tarmac set-up and driving. This will be the first time I drive the Fiesta “in anger” on tarmac, and we have much less experience with this than our competitors. A special challenge for me will be the much more advanced aerodynamics on the 2017-car than the car I have driven before. The aerodynamics plays a much bigger role on fast tarmac roads than on the loose.”
Dani Sordo (6th) said:
“It is great being back rallying at home, and I am so thrilled with the support of the fantastic spectators. We had a solid start today. The morning loop was tough for tyre selection, as the softs were a bit too soft, and the hard compounds were a bit too hard. However, we found a good compromise and it was a very close fight at the front. The grip levels were better in the opening afternoon stages, and I was pretty happy with the car. The repeat of Terra Alta was more slippery with not much traction, but we made it through the opening day in a respectable position – and with only ten seconds to the lead, I think it will be an exciting battle this weekend.”
Thierry Neuville (7th) said:
“We know what we need to do this weekend, and our sights are firmly set on achieving that. It wasn’t the easiest of starts after we opted for soft tyres on the opening loop. The temperatures were higher than we expected compared to our data from testing. We started to lose grip quite early in the long Terra Alta stage. It was a real pity because we had a good feeling in the car and we were pushing hard. In the afternoon, we were carrying six tyres, which slowed us a bit too much, particularly in the repeat of the long stage. It is very close on the timesheets, so although we are not in the position we would want to be, we are definitely in striking distance.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (ret) said:
“In the morning it was difficult and the car was oversteering a lot, but we made some changes and things were starting to get better. We won stage four. I made a couple of mistakes in stage five and then we noticed we were losing oil, and before we got to stage six the engine stopped and wouldn’t start again. At the time we didn’t know whether anything was damaged but sadly it will not be possible to restart tomorrow.”
Juho Hänninen (8th) said:
“Today was not as good as I had hoped; I lost too much time to the top guys. I wasn’t fully confident, I was hesitating in some places, and you can easily start to lose time with that. I was struggling a little with the rhythm when the grip was changing. Tomorrow we need to make it better. There are some really nice stages coming up so I’m looking forward to that.”
Esapekka Lappi (10th) said:
“This morning I was happy with the balance of the car but then on the last stage I overheated the brakes and lost them completely towards the end. In service we made some changes to the suspension and on the first stage this afternoon, which was really smooth, it helped us to set a good time. But I really struggled on the last one with the dampers in these settings. We were a bit unlucky today but at least we have done the stages twice, which is good experience, and tomorrow will be a new start for everybody on asphalt.”
Stéphane Lefebvre (9th) said:
“After a long break, it was difficult to come back and compete at event that is almost unknown to me. I took it easy in the trickier sections and pushed when I felt more confident. We didn’t make any mistakes and I managed to add to my experience. The two passes on Terra Alta showed that you really need time to understand this type of stage. We’ll have to reset in order to tackle tomorrow’s leg on tarmac in the best possible shape.”
Elfyn Evans (11th) said:
“The feeling in the first two stages was okay but it’s fair to say that we struggled after that. This just wasn’t our day, but we made it through and tomorrow is a completely new day with a completely new surface so let’s see what we can do.
Khalid Al Qassimi (19th) said:
“I had a good feeling this morning, although I felt the car lacked precision on occasions. I was cautious, especially on the tarmac section on Terra Alta. We made quite a lot of progress with the set-up during service and I was happy with the handling. I think the upgrades on the dampers are a definite improvement.”
Saturday morning dawned warm and sunny. The cars had been switched into tarmac spec and were ready for the day’s action.
Kris Meeke took the lead from overnight leader, Andreas, in the first stage of the day and then proceeded to pull away from his closest challengers.
The Hyundai’s all experienced problems throughout the day with Andreas and Dani both hitting rocks hidden at the edge of the road in stage 12. Thierry’s rally wasn’t going so well either, suffering hydraulics problems which affected his handling of the car. This lead to a spin before stage nine which resulted in damage to the rear of the car. The team did a good job to get the car fixed before the afternoon stages and this lead to a better afternoon for the Belgian driver.
M-Sport duo Seb and Ott were both driving well, with just minor issues holding them back through the morning, mainly being setup. With some tweaks, they Seb was able to push much harder and won all three afternoon stages. Ott heard a strange noise from the gearbox, so the team decided to change it during the midday service break.
The remaining Toyota drivers, Juho and Esapekka both enjoyed a very good day on the unique Spanish roads. Juho was third fastest on the opening stage before winning stage eight and nine. Lappi was focused on understanding the level of grip available, and with an imperfect setup on the car, struggled for confidence. However, after making a few changes in the service break, he felt more confident and this lead to a better afternoon.
Mads Østberg had a good day too. Despite hitting the same rock in stage twelve, that had put Andreas and Dani out, he got some luck and was able to finish. There were further technical issues with the car, but Mads made great progress throughout Saturday and completed the day in sixth.
Let’s hear from the drivers then.
Kris Meeke (1st) said:
“Today couldn’t have gone any better, to be honest. We’ve known about the potential of the C3 WRC on tarmac since the rounds in Corsica and Germany, but I was nonetheless a bit apprehensive because we hadn’t done any pre-event testing on this surface. The first stage looked like it would be tricky with the rain, but everything went well. The rest of day went much the same way, although it was pretty close with the other drivers. I’m very pleased to be leading and I obviously want to convert this first place into a win tomorrow. There are still six stages to go before we get there, the first of which will be contested in the dark. So, we won’t get ahead of ourselves: one step at a time!”
Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:
“The general picture is a positive one for us at the moment and, if we can secure this podium at the end of tomorrow, it will be another good step towards the championship.
“Of course, I always want to fight for the victory but, realistically, I think Kris [Meeke] is probably a bit too far ahead. We lost quite a lot of time to him this morning when I wasn’t super confident with the car. When you’re not perfectly committed you lose tenths everywhere and that can easily amount to ten seconds at the end of the stage.
“We worked hard on the set-up throughout the day and I had a much better feeling this afternoon. Hopefully we can start tomorrow morning with that same feeling as we will for sure still have to push.”
Ott Tänak (3rd) said:
“The podium is always the target, and we’re in a good position to secure that at the moment so it has been a good day. We weren’t so happy with the feeling in the car first thing [this morning], but we soon found a good balance and improved the times after that.
“The goal is to secure as many points as possible but, as we have already seen, everyone is pushing very hard and it’s difficult to make the difference. Even if you have the perfect stage, you can still miss out on the fastest time by a couple of tenths.
“Kris is very strong so it’s going to be hard to compete with him, but we’re still in a very competitive position and it will be important to get to the end and secure these points for the team and for ourselves. We’ll certainly keep the pressure on, so let’s keep it going and see what happens.”
Juho Hänninen (4th)
“It has been a really good day. I was a bit disappointed after yesterday but I knew that the asphalt would be better for me. Even still, I was a bit surprised with how good the stage times were this morning. I was really, really happy with the car and I didn’t need to change anything in service. I drove the afternoon the same as in the morning and it felt good. I haven’t really been looking at the overall classification and it could be difficult to catch the guys ahead, but I haven’t given up and I will push tomorrow for sure.”
Thierry Neuville (5th) said:
“I honestly think we deserved far better than we got today. We experienced hydraulic problems at the end of SS8, which we worked on at stage-end to keep the car going. Suddenly, the car wouldn’t start, and when we finally got going we had to move quickly to get to the next stage. Without hydraulics under braking we spun the car, which caused some rear damage. We checked into SS9 three minutes late, so we were given a time penalty. The team did an incredible job to get the car repaired at service in time for the repeat loop, where we were able to show good pace again. The rally is not over but it was another frustrating day and not representative of what we know we can achieve. We set some of the quickest times in the afternoon stages, and were much happier and confident with the car. It’s hard to keep up the fight when you lose so much time, but others can have problems, especially with a longer than usual Sunday with six stages. We won’t give up.”
Esapekka Lappi (6th) said:
“On the first stage this morning I was not confident enough, as the grip was much higher than in my test, but step-by-step during the morning I found the confidence. I wasn’t completely happy with the set-up but we managed to improve it during service and the car felt even better in the afternoon, especially on the penultimate stage: it was the best that the car has ever been on asphalt. So I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. We will try to carry on in the same way and maybe get some points on the Power Stage.”
Mads Østberg (7th) said:
“It really has been the best day at school ever! This is my first proper tarmac experience with the 2017 spec car, and I was very uncertain how we would manage and how fast we could expect to be. Yesterday we led the rally after four stages, but that was on gravel. Today we have lost some time to the leaders, but that was expected. I am learning on every stage and the progression from the start of the day, not to mention my understanding of the car, has been enormous. We started the day 1 second per km slower than the fastest guys, now we are down to 0.3 seconds”.
Speaking about the rock that he hit…
“There was a massive rock right on the driving line in a corner where we were cutting. I hit it hard, but for once I had some luck. The steering and a wheel was damaged, but I could continue and finish the stage without much loss.”
In the final stage, Mads suffered an additional problem with the hydraulics.
“The car became nearly impossible in the very tight corners. It was frustrating, but as it was a short stage the time loss wasn`t extensive.”
Finally, he explained how much fun the car was to drive on these roads.
“I feel we are getting more and more competitive, which hasn`t really been the case for some time on tarmac. The split-times on several stages shows that I am closing in on the fastest tarmac guys. I am also enjoying every moment as the driving experience with the 2017 Fiesta on these roads really is awesome.”
Stéphane Lefebvre (8th) said:
“The switch from gravel to tarmac between the first and second day is not easy at all, especially as this is the first time I have experienced this situation. I feel like I made progress throughout the day, without making any mistakes. The handling of the C3 WRC helped to give me confidence. On SS10, for example, I pushed and my time was about 2/10ths per kilometre off the pace of the stage-winning driver. I’ll be able to build on this experience to try and finish on positive note tomorrow.”
Elfyn Evans (9th) said:
“It’s been another pretty tough day for us. The pace isn’t there and we’ve just been struggling for grip. That’s the way it is and we need to focus on getting all the kilometres under our belts and collecting as much information as we can for the future.”
Khalid Al Qassimi (18th) said:
“This was my first competitive outing with the C3 WRC on tarmac. And I hadn’t driven on this surface for a year! I’m pleased with the day, I had a good feeling in the car. However, I opted to take it easier on the second pass, because the roads were very dirty. I preferred to stick to the lines.”
Sunday morning was much like Saturday- warm and sunny.
Could Kris take his and Citroen’s second victory of the year? Could Thierry score some points to stop Seb opening a big lead in the championship?
Six stages awaited the crews and no service break either. They all took spare tyres in their cars. One puncture could destroy all the hard work.
The first stage was held in darkness, but it didn’t trouble Kris. He took the first stage of the day and then added the other two, thus increasing his lead to almost 25 seconds over the M-Sport duo of Seb and Ott.
Stephane Lefebvre was also pushing hard through these stages, bringing him closer to Mads. Stage 16 would see Thierry retire from the event after hitting something out of sight and damaging his right front suspension. Esapekka would also retire after sliding on some slippery tarmac and hitting a barrier.
Setting some good times as usual were Seb and Ott, ultimately bringing their Fiesta’s to a double podium behind Spanish master Kris. Juho would also have a very Sunday morning, guiding his Yaris into fourth place overall- pretty impressive given that he’d not driven this event for six years!
Fifth place fell to privateer Mads in his Adapta Motorsport Fiesta. With Torstein Eriksen alongside him through the weekend, they found good consistency, even leading on Friday for a short while. The pre- event testing, they did on the tarmac clearly paid in off in spades.
Dani Sordo and Andreas Mikkelsen both had an up and down event, but Dani came through and won the power stage. Andreas would suffer a broken windscreen after his bonnet came loose and flipped up in front of him! It was all good learning for next year though, having never driven the i20 on these surfaces.
Elfyn Evans in his D-Mack shod Fiesta drove as best he could to seventh place, as his tyres couldn’t give him the consistent grip on the tarmac he needed. However, there were positives and it was the best result he’d scored in this event.
8 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta R5) +8m22.7s
9 Jan Kopecky/Pavel Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +8m54.5s
10 Ole Christian Veiby/Stig Rune Skjaermoen (Skoda Fabia R5) +9m04.8s
Here’s what the drivers had to say.
Kris Meeke (1st) said:
“This completes an exceptional weekend for me. Since our win at Rally Mexico, we’ve had some tough moments, but we’ve picked ourselves up each time by working hard. We always knew this car was terrific on asphalt and I think that we have demonstrated that since yesterday! This win shows the quality of the work done by the entire team and it gives us all a huge confidence boost for the rest of the season.”
Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:
“We’ve taken a really positive step towards the championship this weekend. I think we were on course to extend the lead anyway, but with Thierry’s mistake that changed the picture completely and we’ve been able to extend the gap even more.
“We were never really in a position where we had to take all the risks, but we still had to keep a good rhythm. There was no chance to fight with Kris [Meeke] as he was just on another level on the Tarmac, but we had a clean drive and it’s definitely been a positive weekend.
“It’s been good news for the team too as the manufacturers’ championship is now pretty much done and we can start to plan a bit of a party for their home event in a couple of weeks’ time.”
Ott Tänak (3rd) said:
“We feel good at the end of this one. This result was more or less the maximum we could do this weekend so a great result overall.
“I think our first day was particularly good. We were quite early in the running order and still managed to stay close to the lead. Then on Tarmac we had a couple of small issues but generally a good run and a good feeling with the car.
“For sure there will be a big fight for second place in the drivers’ championship now. Sébastien is pretty safe, but there is still something to fight for and two more exciting events ahead.”
Juho Hänninen (4th) said:
“I’m very happy with this result. Yesterday and today have been two of the most enjoyable days of rallying I’ve ever had. Yesterday was really good and today I tried to keep it quite steady because there was a big gap behind. On asphalt we have had a really, really good car. I have felt really confident with it and I haven’t had to take any big risks. It’s really important for me to see that I am able to fight for the leading positions even though I haven’t been here for a long time.”
Mads Østberg (5th) said:
“The team performed brilliantly. Its five years since we did a WRC rally with our own Adapta Motorsport crew, but it`s like they haven`t been away at all. I would also like to thank Torstein Eriksen, who did only his second WRC-event and really did a professional and great job.”
“The tarmac experience from Spain will be put to good use later, but not until next season as the championship finishes with gravel events. Already in less than three weeks the stage is set for fog, mud and possibly sleet and snow in Wales.”
“It`s one of my favourite rallies where I have been very competitive before. The gravel stages here in Spain gave us the answer that we are right on the mark on the loose stuff. My goal for Wales is to fight for a possible victory.”
Stéphane Lefebvre (6th) said:
“We tried to push and managed to claw back some time on Mads Østberg in the first loop. After that, it became more difficult with some hydraulics problems and then we lost the intercom. From that point onwards, I was just making sure I held position. Sixth place is pretty good, considering my limited knowledge of this event. I would say this result was more or less comparable with my top-five finish in Poland. Little by little, as I gain more experience, I’m improving and I hope to be able to confirm my progress in the future. Congratulations to Kris and Paul on winning again – it’s a morale-boosting result for everyone in the team!”
Elfyn Evans (7th) said:
“Everyone knows that this was a tough weekend for us, but we kept our heads down and got the job done. It’s not been easy, but we managed to get a lot of information from all of the kilometres and now we can start to focus on Wales Rally GB.”
Teemu Suninen (Fiesta R5) (8th) said:
“This has been a really good weekend for us and I think we have made a big improvement on Tarmac. We’ve had good pace on both surfaces and I think I can be really happy with the rally and what we have done.”
Khalid Al Qassimi (17th) said:
“It was a very good day. As the day wore on, I enjoyed driving the car more and more and I’m very pleased with the progress made by the Citroën C3 WRC. But I’m most pleased of all about Kris Meeke winning the rally. He had a fantastic race this weekend, it’s a great moment for us all and I’m very proud to see Abu Dhabi promoted by these performances.”
Well, there you go…. Two rounds left and M-Sport have almost secured the manufacturers championship. Also, it’s looking very likely that Seb will win the drivers crown after Thierry failed to score any points in Spain.
A great drive from Kris and Paul in the number 7 C3 WRC for Citroen’s 98 WRC victory and his fifth as well, puts to bed any worries about his abilities behind the wheel.
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after round 11:
1 Sebastien Ogier 198
2 Ott Tanak 161
3 Thierry Neuville 160
4 Jari-Matti Latvala 123
5 Dani Sordo 94
6 Elfyn Evans 93
7 Juho Hänninen 71
8 Craig Breen 64
9 Kris Meeke 60
10 Hayden Paddon 55
11 Esapekka Lappi 49
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after round 11: