Rallye Monte Carlo 2020 Preview

The 2020 season begins as ever in the ever iconic event that is Rallye Monte Carlo. Ott Tanak begins his title defence having made the switch from Toyota to Hyundai over the winter. He will, I am sure you know, will not however be running with the number one on his car, deciding instead to stick with number eight.

Rallye Monte Carlo has a reputation of being a super tricky event, and this year’s 88th edition is unlikely to be any different. Here are the stages that await the crews:

Thursday, January 23 2020

5 pm Official Start

Quai Albert 1er in Monaco

8:38 pm SS 1 – Malijai / Puimichel

17,47 km

10:26 pm SS 2 – Bayons / Bréziers

25,49 km

Friday, January 24 2020

8:36 am SS 3 – Curbans / Venterol

20,02 km

9:56 am SS 4 – Saint-Clément-sur-Durance / Freissinières

20,68 km

11:21 am SS 5 – Avançon / Notre-Dame-du-Laus

20,59 km

1:54 pm SS 6 – Curbans / Venterol

20,02 km

3:14 pm SS 7 – Saint-Clément-sur-Durance / Freissinières

20,68 km

4:39 pm SS 8 – Avançon / Notre-Dame-du-Laus

20,59 km

Saturday, January 25 2020

9:38 am SS 9 – Saint-Léger-les-Mélèzes / La Bâtie-Neuve

16,87 km

10:56 am SS 10 – La Bréole / Selonnet

20,73 km

2:08 pm SS 11 – Saint-Léger-les-Mélèzes / La Bâtie-Neuve

16,87 km

3:26 pm SS 12 – La Bréole / Selonnet

20,73 km

Stop at the Gap-Fontreyne Service Park

Sunday, January 26 2020

8:17 am SS 13 – La Bollène-Vésubie / Peïra-Cava

18,41 km

9:08 am SS 14 – La Cabanette / Col de Braus

13,36 km

10:55 am SS 15 – La Bollène-Vésubie / Peïra-Cava

18,41 km

12:18 pm SS 16 – La Cabanette / Col de Braus

13,36 km

 

Shakedown will take place on Wednesday afternoon from 4pm. There will be keen interest in the drivers that have switched teams over the winter to see what kind of times they set on the Route de la Garde 3.35 km stage. We’ll have to wait and see how many runs the crews decide to do, as they attempt to get a feel for their new cars in a competitive environment.

Look back to last year:

Last year Seb and Julien took a win with their return to Citroen, which was their sixth victory in this event. Ott Tanak took third. He was the early leader, but suffered a puncture early on day one, dropping him out of the fight for the lead. Between them, in second, was Thierry Neuville.

There are two drivers who are making their debut in full blooded WRC machinery this weekend. Kalle Rovanperä and Gus Greensmith will step into their respective cars from Toyota and Ford. Yes, I know that Gus drove in three events last year, but he and Edmund haven’t driven one of these cars in Monte before. Last year he drove to a very good win in the WRC Pro class.

Let’s hear from the drivers:

Hyundai Motorsport

Photo credit, Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tanak

“The start of a new year begins with probably the most demanding event of the season. To make it even more challenging, we have a new team and a new car to learn while tackling the tricky conditions. It will never be an easy job, but it is important to get a good start and to score some points. With the event held at the end of January, the conditions are normally inconsistent, and a lot depends on the altitude. In the lower conditions you can have dry tarmac, then the higher you go it starts to freeze. With the extreme conditions, its normal to find some unpredictability in this rally.”

Thierry Neuville

“Rally Monte-Carlo kicks off the season and we are straight into the dark stages. It’s a very tough event, and tyre choice is crucial. It’s a difficult event in which to compete; there’s a lot of hesitation and you need good pace notes, as well as accurate information from your weather crew. With different altitudes in the stages, high concentration is key. Conditions are constantly changing and the most dangerous thing for us is black ice. We have been competing in Gap for a few years now and we know which sections are in the shade all day and will be slippery, but there will always be some surprises waiting for us in Monte.”

Seb Loeb

“You never know what to expect at Rallye Monte-Carlo. It could be fully dry, wet or feature a lot of snow, which changes the driving conditions. It can even change between the stages and the road sections, which means tyre choice is even more important. You need to find the right rhythm to be fast without taking major risks. This rally you need to approach with your head; it’s not just flat out, it’s a question of reflection. My previous experience feels like a long time ago, so the rallies feel newer to me than other drivers. We only had one day in the car before Monte-Carlo last year, so hopefully with our current knowledge of the car we will be able to get an even better result than last year.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Photo credit, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“I’m excited to start my first rally in the Toyota Yaris WRC. Every car has different characteristics and it takes some kilometres to learn about them, but so far it has been good in the tests. We want to fight for a seventh title this year, and I believe we can have a good chance with this car. Rallye Monte-Carlo is an event with special emotions for me. I remember at the end of the 1990s, coming to spectate and Tommi was winning a lot – he was the first idol I had in rallying. Myself and Julien obviously have a very strong record too, and every year there is more and more pressure to try and continue that. It’s always a big challenge and one that I definitely enjoy.”

Elfyn Evans

“I’m looking forward to Rallye Monte-Carlo and my first event with Toyota. This is the first time in my WRC career that I’ve changed teams, but everybody’s been very welcoming and I’ve got a good feeling in the car, so I’m excited about the season ahead. My first time driving the Yaris WRC was in our test for the Monte in December, and quite quickly I was able to get a nice feeling and some good confidence. On this event the challenge is always the range of conditions you can possibly face. When you’re setting up the car, you need something that gives you confidence and I think we’ve got some good options with that in mind.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“Rallye Monte-Carlo will be a special event for me. It’s a big step up from an R5 car, with a lot more power and downforce, but so far, I’ve found the Yaris WRC to be quite easy to drive in the tests. Still, I have a lot to learn and I think it will take a few rallies to really adapt to the car and how everything works. I will need to think differently at the beginning of the season, and I hope that I will have the patience for this. I think Monte-Carlo is not the easiest place to start with a new car and a new team. The weather is changing all the time and you cannot always have the right tyre choice for the conditions. It will be a big challenge for us, but hopefully we can make it through.”

 

M-Sport WRT

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Ford Fiesta WRC 2020 Livery
January 2020
Photo: Drew Gibson

Esapekka Lappi

“Monte-Carlo is always a tricky start to the season, but I’m looking forward to getting started. Straight away the Fiesta felt very logical and easy to drive, and that always gives a driver a lot of confidence. I hope I’ll be able to use that confidence next week, but Monte is always a challenge and you never know what to expect.

“We had wet roads on the test and the car felt good in those changing conditions. But in Monte you can have wet roads, dry roads, icy roads, full snow, and sometimes all of that in the same stage! You have to give this rally a lot of respect, but that’s what we plan to do and we want to get this new partnership off to a strong start next week.”

Teemu Suninen

“I’m really looking forward to this season and straight away I could see that Esapekka and I would work well together. We had a very similar set-up on the test, and it looks like we want to take the car in the same direction.

“I tested on dry asphalt and had a really good feeling, but for the more tricky  sections where there is a lot of ice and snow I will have to rely on my experience. This is my fourth time in Monte so I’m starting to know the stages a bit better. The rally is always a lottery, but I have a very experienced gravel crew who I trust 100 percent – so anything is possible!”

Gus Greensmith

“Monte is a special one for me. It’s where I claimed my first victory (winning WRC Pro 2 last year), and there’s no other rally than gives me more satisfaction behind the wheel. Knowing that I will drive these amazing stages with the Ford Fiesta WRC this year is beyond my wildest dreams!

“Everyone wants to win here, and the changing conditions make it one of the biggest challenges on the calendar. The smallest mistakes pay a heavy price, but I do think this is a strong event for me. I’ve always relished tricky conditions, but experience is something you need here too. I’ll have to make up for that, and hope to produce a strong performance to kick off this 2020 season.”

Summary

Here we go then! Who will win the first round of this new season? Will we see another win going to Seb Ogier, or perhaps we’ll see a new winner this year? Thierry challenged in 2017, and was close last year, or perhaps we’ll see Ott Tanak take a first victory?

 

Podium challengers could be Elfyn Evans, Teemu Suninen and Seb Loeb. Finally, how will Kalle Rovanperä get on? The son of Harri Rovanperä has made his own name on his way up the ladder. There will be mistakes, that is expected. Still, expect to see him win some stages as well.

Enjoy!

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 Spain, Day One – Seb Loeb leads a One, Two, Three for Hyundai Motorsport

It was good day for Hyundai, but not so good for Citroën, who suffered two separate technical failures on their cars.

With six stages all on gravel today, the start list looked like this – Tänak, Ogier, Neuville, Meeke, Evans, Latvala, Lappi, Suninen, Sordo, Loeb.

 

It was a good start by Seb Ogier, who won SS 1 – Gandesa 1 (7,00 km) from Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville was right there as well. The short stage didn’t affect Ott Tanak too much either, with the championship leader only losing 1.8 seconds to the reigning champion.

 

With the longer SS 2 – Horta-Bot 1 (19,00 km), it started to unravel for Ogier. He started to lose time very early in the and the problem got worse and worse. By the end, he and Julien had lost 44 seconds and had fallen to fifteenth position. Is this the moment when the championship slipped away from the Citroën pilot? Thierry moved into the lead after winning the stage, with his Spanish teammate just a few tenths behind. Kris now held third, as the top Toyota at this point. Elfyn suffered a part spin, losing a few seconds and falling behind his Finnish teammate, but not by a big margin. Meantime, Ott had made his way up to fourth place.

 

The next stage, SS 3 – La Fatarella – Vilalba 1 (38,85 km), a really long and proper stage. Seb Ogier lost even more time on this long stage, losing almost three minutes, and was now three and a half minutes from the lead. His fellow multiple world champion Seb Loeb won the stage and moved up to sixth place. Meantime, Dani Sordo took the lead with championship hopeful Thierry now falling to second place. Elfyn had a better stage, setting the fourth fastest time and moving up the leaderboard to into fourth place. The drivers to fall behind were Kris, who was just a few tenths behind the Welshman and in fifth, whilst Esapekka was now in seventh place. The gaps were really quite small though, with only twelve seconds covering first and seventh.

 

After lunchtime service, SS 4 – Gandesa 2 (7,00 km), and Dani was quick out of the blocks once more, winning the stage from Teemu. Loeb also went well, making it a one-three for Hyundai in the stage and moving him above Kris and Elfyn and into fourth place. Thierry put a good stage together and continued to hold second overall. Hyundai had found a good set up for their cars, and were going well indeed.

 

Into SS 5 – Horta-Bot 2 (19,00 km) and Loeb won from Sordo, whilst Latvala was starting to feel more comfortable, setting the same time as Dani. Loeb’s pace moved him into third overall, with Ott now falling behind the former champion. Kris was also going well, passing Elfyn. Esapekka Lappi sadly dropped out of the standings with a technical problem. We now had a Hyundai one-two-three! Seb Ogier was well out of the running and despite his complete professionalism really struggling for motivation.

 

The final stage of the day then, and SS 6 – La Fatarella – Vilalba 2 (38,85 km) saw a massive push from Loeb, which gave him a superb stage victory, beating Kris and Thierry and was enough to give him and Daniel the rally lead, whilst Thierry and Dani completed a one-two-three for Hyundai. On the flip side, Elfyn had a terrible stage with an engine problem and he lost 38 seconds and fell to seventh. Not how he would have wanted to end the day, but at least he’s still in the running for the points and we know how fast he is on tarmac.

Driver Quotes at the end of Day One

Hyundai Motorsport

Seb Loeb (1st)

“An incredible day for the team! It is a wonderful feeling to be leading this rally, even if at this early stage of the weekend. There was a bit of a tyre strategy in the morning, and I was only able to get the hard compounds working to their optimum performance at the end of the loop. The conditions were just too slippery and greasy in the opening stages. The afternoon was better and I had a good feeling throughout. In the final stage, the car was perfect and I was just flying. We gave it a push and it was good enough to secure a 1-2-3 for the team to end the first day. We now have two long days of tarmac ahead of us.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 13 Rally de España
24-27 October 2019
Day 1, Action, Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“We have had a great start to this rally and the car has been working very well. We had a positive opening loop this morning and continued in the same direction for the afternoon. There were some tricky sections at times but we stayed focused and tried to be efficient. The final stage was particularly tough with some visibility issues, a combination of the sun being low and some fog, so we had to remain concentrated. Aside from losing a second or two at the last hairpin, it was a strong end to an almost perfect day.”

Dani Sordo (3rd)

“All in all, we have had a good day and things are looking good for the team on the standings with the top three positions. The car has been working very well, even with changeable grip levels. The only downsides were a puncture 5km before the end of the morning loop, which lost us some time, as well as a disappointing end to our afternoon. Some places were difficult to drive but there was nothing immediately wrong. I think we can still be happy with our performances today, as we now turn our attention the tarmac stages.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kris Meeke (4th)

“This morning I struggled a bit with the setup and so I wasn’t comfortable over the bumps, especially in the long stage, SS3. But everything came together in the afternoon. The car felt a lot different and I could trust it a lot more. I said beforehand that I needed to be within 10 seconds of the lead tonight and the gap is currently 13, so it’s not bad, we’re still there. My pace has been strong on asphalt this year and I know the Yaris WRC works really well, so I’m confident and looking forward to the rest of the rally.”

Ott Tänak (5th)

“It was a really tough and demanding day today. When you’re opening the road during the first loop, it’s constantly slippery, but in a way it’s still manageable. The conditions are always more difficult in the second loop and it can be really frustrating. I pushed as hard as I could and I couldn’t do any more, so we need to be happy with that. Tomorrow is very much a new day and a very different day, and hopefully it can be a stronger day for us.”

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 (6th)

“This day on gravel was not as simple as last year. After the rain earlier in the week, the grip level was much lower, and it was more difficult this morning. Then in the afternoon, the grip was pretty consistent, but there were many ruts. I wasn’t confident enough this morning, but we made some changes with the suspension in service, and I fought back in the afternoon. I feel a lot more relaxed and confident now and I’m looking forward to the next two days on asphalt.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (7th)

“It was shaping up to be a pretty good fight, but it didn’t go our way in the end. We had some speed at times, but then we had a pretty bad misfire on the last stage. We managed to change a few things on the road section and get it going again so it’s just one of those things – and we’ll need to make sure we’re on it from the word go when the action moves to Tarmac tomorrow.”

Elfyn and Scott suffered an up and down day, which ended with an engine problem. Photo credit, M-Sport

Teemu Suninen (8th)

“We found a good rhythm this afternoon and I had a really good feeling with the car. I tried to set some good times, and I was happy that we managed to do that. But I wasn’t so good at managing the tyres on the long stage. On the first pass I pushed too hard, and on the second I didn’t push enough. It’s something I need to improve, but I know it’s a learning curve so I will make some good notes and do some good homework.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (17th)

“I lost the power steering pretty much at the start of SS2, then the gearshift paddles went and finally the central differential. It was so hard physically to drive the car without power steering, I ended up with blisters on my hands. Obviously, it’s disappointing because the intention was there. We made the right call on tyres and the time on the opening stage confirmed the good feeling we had. Everyone in the team is disappointed this evening, but obviously we’re professionals and our approach has always been to never give up and see where we are at the end of the rally.”

It wasn’t a good day for Seb and Julien. Photo credit, Citroën Racing

Esapekka Lappi (DNF)

“I’m disappointed that my rally has come to a premature end, especially as I had enjoyed a pretty solid and consistent day 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 will now look forward to Australia and finishing the season on a high with the best possible result.”

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY ONE

  1. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:21:24.7
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1.7
  3. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +7.6
  4. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +13.0
  5. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +21.7
  6. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +30.1
  7. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +44.0
  8. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +51.8
  9. Katsuta / Barritt (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:50.3
  10. Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +2:59.8

 

Summary

Well, a very interesting first day on the gravel roads in Spain. It’s certainly not the day that the Citroën team would have wanted, and now it is looking very likely that we will see our first Estonian world champion.

At the front, Hyundai’s drivers are doing all they can to help Thierry take the fight to the final round, but with Ott Tänak sitting in fifth overall, he’s in a good position to take the title.

Toyota had a reasonable day, with Kris, Ott and Jari-Matti all setting pretty good times, and will look to move up the order tomorrow.

At M-Sport they had their moments, but with the problems that Elfyn had in the longest stage this afternoon, they’ll be wanting more from the weekend. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.

Now, tomorrow sees the crews attack seven stages totaling 121km. We’ll have a better idea if Ott Tänak is set for his first championship by the end of tomorrow.

Rally Spain Review 2018 – Seb Loeb takes his ninth victory in Spain!

Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena celebrate their victory! Photo credit Citroen Racing

In the middle of a titanic battle for this year’s championship between Thierry, Seb and Ott, nine-time world champions Seb and Daniel took Citroen’s first victory of the year. Here’s the story of how it all happened.

 

On Thursday evening, the short SS1 was won by Seb Ogier, with his title rivals, Thierry and Ott just a few seconds behind. Seb Loeb meanwhile had a spin and was 15.9 seconds off the lead. As always it seems during these short stages, there were three WRC2 cars inside the top ten, with Eric Camilli giving the Polo GTi R5 a first stage win in that class.

 

Friday

Friday would dawn a nice warm and sunny day. The first day always features gravel only stages, and there would be six stages in total, the longest being 38km’s. The starting order looked like this – Neuville, Ogier, Tänak, Lappi, Latvala, Mikkelsen, Sordo, Breen, Suninen, Evans, Loeb, Al Qassimi, Block.

 

Ott Tanak put a charge on in SS2, winning the stage from Jari-Matti, with the welsh wizard Elfyn third. Seb Ogier was 4.1 seconds slower than Ott, the gap reduced to just a tenth of a second at the end of the seven-kilometre test. In the WRC2 class, it was another very good time from Eric in the Polo, keeping him in the lead of that class.

 

Into SS3 then and Jari-Matti set the fastest time, with Ott and Elfyn second and third fastest. Seb Loeb was quick too, with fifth fastest and climbing into the top ten as a result, despite being a bit nervous with the wet parts of the stage. Seb Ogier had fallen to sixth overall after only being tenth fastest in the stage, with the loose gravel not giving him the chance to really challenge. The top three was now Ott, Jari-Matti and Elfyn, with the young Welshman showing when things go well, he’ll be right at the front.

 

Into the longest stage of the day then, SS4 and Jari-Matti lost time, dropping down the order to tenth. Andreas set the fastest time, with Ott and Seb Loeb just behind, meaning he’d passed Craig and moved into sixth overall.

 

After the service break, SS5 was won by Dani Sordo and Jari-Matti started his climb up the leaderboard, moving into eighth at the expense of Esapekka Lappi. Meantime, in the Citroen camp, Craig closed on Seb Loeb, in their battle for sixth. Ott remained in the lead, with Elfyn and Dani second and third.

 

Into SS6 then and Jari-Matti won it, with Craig and Ott sharing the second fastest time, four seconds behind the Finn. Seb Loeb and Craig were moving up too, moving into fourth and fifth at the expense of Andreas and Ogier who were now in sixth and seventh.

 

After SS7, there were a few position changes. Jari-Matti again won, with Loeb and Tanak sharing second fastest. Dani Sordo moved ahead of Elfyn into second overall, whilst Loeb was now in fourth overall. Jari-Matti moved up from eighth into fifth too!

Here’s the top ten then after Friday’s stages.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:34:27.4
  2. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +26.8
  3. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +29.7
  4. Loeb / Elena (Citroën C3 WRC) +30.2
  5. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +37.6
  6. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +39.1
  7. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +39.4
  8. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) +44.7
  9. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +59.7
  10. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:07.4

 

The thought’s then of the drivers- top three first.

Ott Tanak

“Overall, I would say we have had a very good day, particularly from our position on the road as everybody starting behind us in the order had better conditions. I had a good rhythm this morning, particularly the first two stages which were quite nice and flowing. In the beginning of the afternoon I had a really good feeling with the car. We lost that feeling a bit in the middle stage, but I was still able to keep pushing and now we have a good gap. Nothing is finished yet though: Tomorrow we have a new rally and it looks like it will be wet.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 12 / Rally Catalunya-Costa Daurada Rally de Espagna 2018 / October 25-28, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Dani Sordo

“I am very happy to be back with the team for my home rally. It is always a pleasure for us to compete in front of the Spanish crowds. I am quite satisfied with my day and to be in a position to fight for the podium. It’s very competitive and there are lots of crews who are fighting for the top-three. If we want to remain in the battle, we have to push hard and show what we are capable of. The feeling inside the car has been good today but we will see what we can do when we move onto tarmac on the final two days.”

 

Elfyn Evans

“It’s been a pretty strong day for us but I was disappointed to have given so much time away on that last stage – I would have preferred not to have done that! But tomorrow is another day and the gaps are so close that you could almost start a new rally – it’s going to be interesting for sure.

“It looks as though the weather could be fairly challenging and coming from Wales I’m used to a bit of rain, but we don’t have so much Tarmac so let’s wait and see what happens. The gaps are really small throughout the field so nothing can be taken for granted and it’s all to play for.”

Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt in flight! Photo credit M-Sport WRT

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Sébastien Loeb (4th)

“After suffering a bit of understeer this morning, we made some changes to the set-up of my C3 WRC, and I felt full of confidence this afternoon and could really express myself. That meant we were able to close in on the battle for the podium, and now everything’s to play for. I haven’t driven on tarmac stages in the wet for six years so if we do get rain, that’ll be quite a big challenge!”

Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena show they still have the pace. Photo credit Citroen Racing

Craig Breen (8th)

“It’s been a bit of an up and down day. We set several good times but we also had a fair bit of misfortune. We lost almost twenty seconds with a spin this morning, then we lost part of the spoiler this afternoon. Without those issues, we’d be a lot closer to the fight for the podium. I love tarmac and I’m determined to make the most of one of the rare opportunities that we have in the year to drive on it and try and make up some ground.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (23rd)

“After not being comfortable this morning, we managed to find the solution with the technical team so that I could drive with confidence in the afternoon and really enjoy myself in the car. With very little competitive experience on wet tarmac, I’m expecting tomorrow to be a massive challenge for me!”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen (6th)

“In the opening stages this morning, I struggled to find any control from our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. Each time braking into a corner I lost the rear and you really need to position the car at the right angle. We made a few changes, including the roll bar position, and the feeling was then suddenly there. I could push and we were fastest in the long stage before lunch, which was a nice feeling.  We took a gamble in the afternoon with six tyres, but the conditions were cooler and the tyre wear was a lot less so it didn’t really pay off. It’s very close in the podium fight so we’ll aim to get ourselves further up the order tomorrow.”

Thierry Neuville (9th)

“We have been absolutely on it all day, and could not have given any more. We have gone as fast as we could but it has been hugely disappointing to struggle so much in the loose conditions, especially as first on the road. This morning, we just couldn’t find the rhythm and also made a mistake towards the end of the loop; it’s difficult to do much more from that starting position. A tricky day but we are not too far behind Ogier, so have to remain positive. Tomorrow we will face different conditions on tarmac. We’ll keep pushing.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 12, Rally de Espa–a
25-28 Octobre 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)

“I had a very good feeling with the car and with the driving from the very beginning today. The first two stages went well, and the third one was going really nicely too, even on the asphalt where I’ve struggled in the past. Unfortunately, we then got the puncture, which was incredibly frustrating. But we were able to keep the same speed in the afternoon, and this is the most important thing. The driving has been easy and I haven’t had to think about it too much.”

Esapekka Lappi (10th)

“It has been a really challenging day to be honest. We had some little issues here and there, but at least we were able to keep going. On the last stage we showed that when everything is right we can do a nice time, but we need to try and improve. Now we switch to asphalt and I am looking forward to that. Rain would obviously make it very challenging, as I haven’t driven in those kinds of conditions on these roads before, but let’s see.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier (7th)

“It’s been a tough day for us as there was a lot of cleaning out there. I tried everything I could, but it was so difficult running near the front of the field. The only one who made a difference out there today was Ott – he managed to set some incredible times!

“I gave it everything and only made one very small mistake this morning when I ran a little wide into a field and lost a couple of seconds. I wasn’t in full attack mode first thing this morning which probably cost us another couple of seconds, but other than that we have pushed very hard all day.

“The positive is that we are only 12 seconds behind second place which is definitely what we need to fight for tomorrow when it will be a completely new rally.”

Teemu Suninen (11th)

“It’s been a really tough day for us and we were struggling to get into the right rhythm. I was struggling to stay on the line and carry the speed through the corners. We have a good idea what the problem was, and the afternoon was a bit better, but there wasn’t so much we could do after one service. Tomorrow will be like a new rally so we will focus on setting some better times on the Tarmac.”

 

Saturday

It was raining on Saturday morning, giving the crews a lot to think about. The cars had been changed into tarmac mode with major changes to suspension and brakes. The start list looked like this – Al Qassimi, Suninen, Lappi, Neuville, Breen, Ogier, Mikkelsen, Latvala, Loeb, Evans, Sordo, Tänak. Seven stages would make up Saturday’s action. Unfortunately, the first stage of the day, SS8 was cancelled due to safety reasons.

 

The day would therefore start with SS9. Ott would pick up from Friday and win the first stage of the day from Latvala and Sordo. With such a fast time from the Finn, he moved ahead of Loeb into fourth place, just a couple of seconds from Elfyn. Andreas was the biggest loser though, dropping to tenth overall. He just struggled with confidence in the super slippery stage. Showing how remarkable rallying can be, Craig spun in the stage, losing part of his rear wing, yet he gained one position. Ott Tanak set a great time and his lead an incredible 32.9 seconds

 

It was all change though at the top come the end of SS10. Jari-Matti won the stage from Lappi and Neuville, but Ott picked up a puncture in the stage, and lost 1 minute 43 seconds! He was now in ninth place. Dani was the new leader, with Latvala in second place, just three tenths off the lead. Elfyn was now back into third, showing great composure.

 

Following the service break, Latvala took the lead from Dani who could only manage the ninth fastest time in SS11, but it was Thierry who won the stage from Ott who was now eighth overall and a minute from the lead and Esapekka.

 

Into SS12 and the wet conditions were challenging indeed, with Craig suffering a spin. Loeb though showed great pace, winning the stage and passing Elfyn for third overall. Thierry also drove a great stage, a full seven seconds faster than Ogier and halving the gap as such.

 

Neuville and Ogier were hard to separate at the end of SS13, just nine tenths of a second between them and they both moved up the overall leaderboard as a consequence, with Ogier moving into second and Thierry into fifth place.

 

The short SS14 stage completed the day and the top three was Ott, Kalle Rovanperä and Ogier. Yes, the WRC2 Skoda Fabia was just one tenth of a second behind the Yaris!

 

It was all to fight for then, with just ten seconds covering the top four going into Sunday’s stages.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

  1. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:35:01.8
  2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4.7
  3. Loeb / Elena (Citroën C3 WRC) +8.0
  4. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +9.8
  5. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +12.7
  6. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +16.5
  7. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +46.5
  8. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:00.7
  9. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:37.9
  10. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:07.3

 

Here’s the thoughts of the drivers after day two – Top three first.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala

“To be leading after our issue yesterday is a great feeling and shows why you should never give up. The conditions were very demanding all day with the rain and lots of mud coming onto the road. The car was working well though and I think our tyre choices were good. In the last two stages I was a little bit cautious and we lost some time but we are still leading. It is going to be a big fight tomorrow. I have a five-time champion and a nine-time champion right behind me, but I will just focus on my own driving and keeping it relaxed: this will be the key.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 12 / Rally Catalunya-Costa Daurada Rally de Espagna 2018 / October 25-28, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Sébastien Ogier

“It’s been a tough day with the conditions and I don’t think we made the right tyre choices, but we did the best with what we had. I tried to minimize the time loss as much as I could, but it was difficult. Some stages this afternoon were very dirty and really tricky. It’s all very close now, and we’re still in a position to fight for the victory tomorrow. It’s going to be a really close battle, but our main target is to stay ahead of Thierry.”

Sébastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia. Photo credit M-Sport

Sébastien Loeb

“Obviously, I’m pleased with my day, even though it was stressful and pretty complicated because we had expected the roads to dry out more. But, I’m pleased with my driving, although it took me a bit of time to get back into the swing of things this morning. I gave it my all throughout the leg, without making any mistakes despite the really tricky conditions. We’re still right in the mix and that’s the main thing. We’re going to keep pushing because it’s so tight at the front that anything can happen.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Elfyn Evans (4th)

“It’s been another challenging but rewarding day. The conditions made for some fairly tricky stages, but we delivered a clean and tidy drive and are in a good position going into the final day. It’s so close out there and it really is anyone’s for the taking. We’re still in the hunt and we’ll keep pushing to bring home a strong result.”

Teemu Suninen (11th)

“It’s been another difficult day for us. This was our first time driving on wet Tarmac with this car and there were a lot of new things for me to learn. We also had some issues with the brakes in the middle stage this afternoon [SS12]. But then on the last long one [SS13] I was able to set quite a good time and I was happy with that. Of course, there are still some seconds to find, but we showed some improvement which was good.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (5th)

“It has been a very strong Saturday for us. We have had a great feeling from within the car and we have been able to really push throughout the entire day. The tyre choice this morning was not easy with the wet conditions but we had to find a compromise. It was perhaps not the fastest but we made it through. We took two stage wins this afternoon and have climbed up to fifth place overall, just 12.7 seconds from the lead. It’s really close, and anything is possible. I can say for sure that we will continue to fight hard. There’s all to play for on Sunday.”

Dani Sordo (6th)

“I would summarise the day as one of two halves – a positive morning and a trickier afternoon. We had a promising Friday and we continued in that way on the opening loop today. We could set some good stage times and moved into the lead of the rally by lunchtime service. It’s always nice to lead a rally but even more so in front of our home fans. Sadly, we couldn’t maintain that pace on the muddier stages this afternoon, losing time to the leaders. However, we are still in touch and there are four stages on Sunday to get ourselves back towards the podium.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 12, Rally de España
25-28 October 2018
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen (10th)

“Not a good day for us. We didn’t really understand why we struggled to get a good feeling. It is the first time we’ve really tackled competitive stages with this car in such conditions. The afternoon loop didn’t go much better so we will have to analyse what we’ve done today to see if there’s anything we can do before the final stages on Sunday morning.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

“I am pretty happy with today. We had a good tyre strategy in the morning, and it wasn’t too bad in the afternoon either. On the long stage, SS13 this afternoon we had a small mistake on a really muddy corner and that lost us a lot of time. But otherwise the speed was there. Overall it was definitely more positive than yesterday. Tomorrow we can’t really catch those ahead but we will try to reach the finish and enjoy it.”

Ott Tänak (8th)

“Obviously it has been a tough day. It started fine but then we got the puncture and lost a lot of time.

This afternoon we had the worst position with all the dirt on the road. I made a mistake myself – we had a spin in the long stage, SS13 – but otherwise we did all we could. Let’s see what the weather brings tomorrow, as it looks like it will be another challenging day. In the drivers’ championship there is not much we can do now, but we are also fighting for the manufacturers’ championship and this is still looking good, so I will give my best for this.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (9th)

“We haven’t had the day we were hoping for, even though the pace was there again. Unfortunately, our two spins have proven very costly. But I’m going to give it everything to try and finish on a positive note tomorrow.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (19th)

“It was quite tricky this morning, driving in the wet on soft slicks. I was more comfortable this afternoon with rain tyres, even though the mud in places didn’t make my job any easier. I’m pleased to have avoided making any mistakes and I feel like I have learned more things today.”

 

Sunday

We had just four stages to complete the event, totalling 61.70km’s of action. The start list had been changed again – Al Qassimi, Suninen, Mikkelsen, Breen, Tänak, Lappi, Sordo, Neuville, Evans, Loeb, Ogier, Latvala.

 

The first stage of the day was damp, but drying. Loeb won SS15 from Dani and Thierry and this was good enough for him to take the lead from Latvala! This was after deciding to change to the hard compound Michelin. Thierry also closed the gap to Elfyn in their battle for fourth overall.

 

Into SS16 and Loeb increased his advantage over Latvala to 7.1 seconds. After going second fastest in the stage, Ott passed Esapekka for seventh overall. Meanwhile, Elfyn had found that he got passed by both Thierry and Dani and dropped to sixth overall.

 

Just two to go then and Ogier won SS17 from Evans and Sordo. Loeb suffered a spin, but maintained his lead over new second placed man, Ogier. What had happened to Jari-Matti? He’d clipped some Armco in the stage and broken his wheel. He lost 48 seconds as a result and was now in sixth place. Evans was now just two seconds behind Neuville and M-Sport wanted him to get the podium to take more points away from him.

 

Well, the final stage then and the power stage too. Who would fill the top five places and gain those points? Well, the top five looked like this. Tanak, Ogier, Loeb, Evans, Sordo. No power stage points for Neuville.

Well, Seb Loeb had won his first world rally championship event since Argentina 2013! Meantime, Seb Ogier had finished in second and Elfyn Evans secured third place, beating Thierry Neuville by just half a second! All of this meant that Thierry had lost the championship lead and was now three points behind Ogier.

Sébastien Loeb, Sébastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans celebrate! Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Here’s final finishing positions.

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Loeb / Elena (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:12:08.0
  2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2.9
  3. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +16.5
  4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +17.0
  5. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +18.6
  6. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:03.9
  7. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:16.6
  8. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:26.4
  9. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:07.0
  10. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:48.2

 

The final thoughts then – Top three first.

Sébastien Loeb

“It was an almighty scrap, right to the bitter end. When I saw that I had won on the display at the end of the final stage, it was a truly incredible feeling! It’s really nice to have managed to be on the pace again after all these years, because the guys haven’t stood still whilst I’ve been away and they really pushed hard every inch of the way. I couldn’t afford to drag my heels in getting my bearings back on the gravel on Friday, or on the wet tarmac yesterday either. We were quick this morning after making the right call on tyres and then we held on, despite a minor error on the penultimate stage. Right now, given how the rally panned out, I’d be tempted to say it’s perhaps my greatest win and I’m delighted to secure what is a richly- deserved result for the team.”

 

Sébastien Ogier

“It’s been an eventful weekend but we’re feeling good at the end of it. We knew that it would be difficult starting second on the road and the wet conditions made it really challenging as well. But we never gave up and gave it everything we had. You’re always a little frustrated when you miss the victory by such a small margin, but we tried everything we could and it’s still been a positive weekend as we regained the lead of the championship. Starting first on the road in Australia will be difficult, but I prefer to have the points in hand. It will be a tough rally and we will have to give it everything we have if we want to regain the title.”

Elfyn Evans

“We came here to secure a good result and that’s what we got. The speed has been up there for the past few rallies now, but for various reasons we’ve come away empty handed. It’s good to finally see that speed rewarded and to show that we had the pace on both surfaces here in Spain.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“This has been a crazy and intense rally, which summarises the highly competitive nature of this entire championship. I am obviously disappointed not to have had the chance to finish on the podium today and to score valuable extra points in the Power Stage. We were unlucky; there was a stone in the road that I couldn’t avoid and it damaged the right rear wheel rim. Yesterday, we caught back up with the front- runners by taking some risks. Today we had hoped to compete with the Fords but we just weren’t able to manage it. The title fight is wide-open heading to Australia – both drivers and manufacturers – which is a great advert for WRC! We won the rally from second on the road last season so everything is possible.”

Dani Sordo (5th)

“I am not entirely happy with the weekend or the result but at the same time I’m not too disappointed. We have lost some time over the rally due to difficult tyre choices but it’s not been an easy event to read from a strategy point of view. I have done my best and also set some competitive stage times too, so it’s not all bad. We were in the fight right until the end and it was definitely an exciting rally for all of the fans. As always, it’s a pleasure to compete in my home rally and I hope we have given the spectators the entertainment they have become used to watching.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (10th)

“Once again, we have not come away with the result we were expecting or know we are able to achieve, but we’ve tried our hardest. I can’t quite explain why the feeling or the pace is not there. Today’s final stages allowed me to get some drier running and to try out a set-up that worked well in testing. It still wasn’t perfect so we just have to keep working to unlock whatever is missing. It’s been a tough rally with changing weather conditions, as well as gravel and tarmac stages, so not at all straightforward. We have to keep our heads up and put our full effort into the final round of the season in Australia, and to support the team and Thierry as best we can.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (6th)

“Today the driving was very enjoyable. After the tricky conditions yesterday, these were really the typical Catalunya asphalt roads which we had been looking forward to. In the Power Stage I had more or less nothing to lose. OK, we still needed to finish but I pushed very hard as it was my only chance to stay mathematically in the championship fight. I did all I could and we will not give up. We also still have a strong position in the manufacturers’ championship.”

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

“It has been a tough weekend, but it is nice to finish this rally for the first time, which is important, and I think I learned a lot during the weekend. Today I didn’t have much to fight for in the overall standings: I just needed to bring the car to the finish and secure the points for the manufacturers’ championship, and in this sense, everything went well.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (8th)

“We were too soft with the tyres and with the setup this morning, but the second stage was a lot better and the fight for the win was still on. The car felt really good and everything was going well. Unfortunately, in one corner I turned too quickly and I touched a pillar that was supporting the barrier. It damaged the tyre immediately so we had to drive half the stage with a punctured tyre. I am really sorry for my mistake, but this can happen when you are fighting for every tenth of a second. The result was not what we wanted but I am very happy with the performance this weekend, and I am really looking forward to Australia.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (9th)

“It was a difficult weekend for us, even though we had great speed at times, especially on the gravel. But we lost a lot of time with our spins. We had nothing to play for today, but we enjoyed ourselves behind the wheel and that was the aim, so we can head for Australia in the best possible frame of mind.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (21st)

“With the unpredictable weather, it wasn’t an easy race for me. We improved gradually on gravel, on tarmac, I wasn’t comfortable on the wet roads yesterday, but I had more confidence today.”

 

What an amazing rally! Five different leaders, and a 79th win for Seb Loeb and Daniel Elena. The other standout performance was Elfyn Evans. He and Dan Barritt put together a really great drive, shading some drivers who have factory seats.

 

Well, there it is! What a championship finish we are going to have in Australia! The favourites have to be the top two, but I think it’s safe to say, we cannot discount Ott Tanak. Seb will have to open the road on Friday, and to keep the gaps small, will need to push hard. Thierry will want to win the rally and take the championship as well! We only have 16 days to go!

 

Here’s the championship standings;

 

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Sébastien Ogier – 204 points
  2. Thierry Neuville – 201 points
  3. Ott Tänak – 181 points
  4. Esapekka Lappi – 110 points
  5. Jari-Matti Latvala – 102 points
  6. Andreas Mikkelsen – 84 points
  7. Dani Sordo – 71 points
  8. Elfyn Evans – 70 points
  9. Craig Breen – 61 points
  10. Hayden Paddon – 55 points

 

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 331 points
  2. Hyundai WRT – 319 points
  3. M-Sport Ford WRT – 306 points
  4. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 216 points

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Dani Sordo, Hyundai

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

Sébastien Loeb, Citroen

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

Ott Tanak, Toyota 

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

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

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

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

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier

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

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

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

Teemu Suninen

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

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

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

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

 

Elfyn Evans

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

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

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen

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

Thierry Neuville

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

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

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

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

Esapekka Lappi

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

 

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

Sébastien Loeb, Rally Mexico. Photo credit Citroen Racing

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Sébastien Ogier

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

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

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

Kris Meeke

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

Dani Sordo

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

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Sébastien Loeb

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen

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

Thierry Neuville

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

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen

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

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

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

Ott Tanak

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

Esapekka Lappi

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Sébastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia – 2018 Rally Mexico Winners

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

 

Final Classification

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

 

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings

After round 3

1              S. Ogier                56

2              T. Neuville           52

3              A. Mikkelsen      35

4              K. Meeke             32

5              J.M Latvala          31

6              O. Tanak               26

7              E. Lappi                 23

8              C. Breen               20

9              D. Sordo                18

10           H. Paddon            10

 

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings

After round 3

 

1              Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team                   84

2              M-Sport Ford World Rally Team                                 72

3              Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team            71

4              Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team                  67

 

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

Let’s hear then from the drivers!

 

Sébastien Ogier

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

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

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

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

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

Dani Sordo

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

Kris Meeke

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

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen

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

Thierry Neuville

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

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Sébastien Loeb

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

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

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

Ott Tänak

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

Esapekka Lappi

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

 

M-Sport Ford

Teemu Suninen

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

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

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

 

Gus Greensmith (2nd WRC 2) Fiesta R5

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

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

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

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

Pedro Heller (3rd WRC 2) Fiesta R5

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

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

 

See you then!

Rally Mexico 2018 Preview- Who will conquer the gravel?

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Let’s hear from the drivers then!

Hyundai Motorsport

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

Thierry Neuville

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

Andreas Mikkelsen

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

Dani Sordo

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

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

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

Ott Tänak

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

Esapekka Lappi

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

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

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

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

Sébastien Loeb

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

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elfyn Evans

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

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

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

Teemu Suninen

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

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

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

 

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

Enjoy!