Phil’s 2019 Tour de Corse Diary

‘6 notes per line, 3 lines per page, 2 pages per kilometre… 347km. That is about twelve and a half thousand pieces of information delivered, to split second accuracy, over the Tour de Course – at a conservative guess.

It’s a hell of a challenge for a co-driver.

It is also one of the most rewarding challenges. Tour de Corse is my favourite event on the WRC calendar not just because of the epic roads and incredible views, but also because there is a huge amount of satisfaction to be gained in completing it.

Phil Hall. Photo credit, M-Sport

Recce itself is requires huge attention to detail, not just from the driver – noting every bend and hazard – but also the sheer logistics of it; we stayed in three different hotels on each of the three recce days as the stages are so spread out across the island. Food stops, petrol opportunities, and long days all had to be taken into account weeks before the rally started.

Likewise, the ceremonial start was held at the opposite end of the island, and so hotels had to be booked for that, as well as coordination of our team to meet there.

This all adds to the adventure and flavour of undertaking the Tour de Corse, it’s not like any other rally.

And when we reach the competition itself, you have to be totally focused on delivering the notes exactly on time – there are so many corners, all coming so quickly, that you cannot think about anything other than the task at hand. I find it quite a nice place to be, in the car on those stages. Obviously, you have to be focused on every stage of every rally… but Corsica is another level.

We had a great rally, we finished 5th in JWRC which puts us 6th overall in the Championship. All the time we are learning and building, and the JWRC is such a great place to be. I’m really enjoying everything about this championship and can’t wait for Sardinia in June.’

Tom Williams and Phil Hall. Photo credit, M-Sport.

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

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

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

Friday

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

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

 

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

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

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

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

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

Teemu Suninen (5th)

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (2nd)

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (13th)

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

Kris Meeke (16th)

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

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

Dani Sordo (4th)

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

Seb Loeb (8th)

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

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (6th)

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

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

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

 

Saturday

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

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

 

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

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

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

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

Dani Sordo (4th)

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

Seb Loeb (8th)

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

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

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

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

Teemu Suninen (5th)

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

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

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

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

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (6th)

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

Kris Meeke (9th)

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (10th)

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

Sunday

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

 

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

 

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

FINAL STANDINGS

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

 

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

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

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

Dani Sordo (4th)

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

Seb Loeb (8th)

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

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

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

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

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

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

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

Teemu Suninen (5th)

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

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tanak (6th)

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

Kris Meeke (9th)

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

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

Jari-Matti Latvala (10th)

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

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

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

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

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

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

Phil Hall’s Tour de Corse Diary.

Hello rally fans. This is the first in a series of Rally Diaries that Phil Hall, Co-Driver to Tom Williams will be providing for you to enjoy. Here, Phil shows the whole week dedicated to Tour de Corse. Enjoy!

 

Reece Day One

Monday the 4th of April

Phil Hall – Photo courtesy of M-Sport.

Recce on Corsica is a challenge in itself. Writing down a seemingly endless stream of pacenotes whilst trying to navigate (including turning pages in the pacenote and road books independently) requires no small amount of multitasking and coordination. Because of the sheer number of corners, I actually use 50% more pages of paper in Corsica than a ‘normal’ rally.

Today was the first day of recce and saw us cover 3 incredible stages in the north of the island. In Sweden we found Elk, in Mexico we found goats, and today we found a herd of cows. We are certainly discovering plenty of wildlife this year.

Reece Day Two.

Tuesday the 5th of April

This is where we see the full breadth of road types on the island; from race track smooth 2 lane winding up the valleys, to slimy and gravely ‘barely there’ slivers of asphalt clinging to mountain sides.

The pinnacle of today is a 49km stage that covers everything this rally has to throw at you. And it takes so many pages of pacenotes, I started an entirely new book for this stage just to be sure I had enough.

You have to really focus on the pacenotes here, there are so many variables. It’s a great challenge.

Reece day Three.

Wednesday the 4th of April

The final day of Recce, on paper, looks simple enough. Just 2 stages. But when one of them is a Monster 55km Corsican legend, the day continues the challenging theme of the event.

72 pages; concentrating on making quality notes for nearly an hour and a half straight, reading the road and writing it down, page after page. It’s a real team effort.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 -WRC Tour de Corse (FRA) – WRC 04/04/2018 to 08/04/2018 – PHOTO : @World

An incredible stage to (almost) finish the rally, as the penultimate test of the event it will make Sunday an exciting prospect to say the least!

Friday, 6th of April – Day One of Competition.

Only two stages repeated sounds quite simple. Except this is Corsica. A 50km monster followed by a fast and flowing test was a true challenge.

Reading pace notes for 40 minutes nonstop is a work of concentration and endurance. Especially as the car is moving around so much on the twisty roads.

The conditions today saw a lot of gravel on the roads and some damp and wet patches in places that only added to the difficulty. However, we had a good clean day and I’m looking forward to tomorrow (Saturday).

Saturday, 7th of April- Day Two

Saturday was a huge day of the rally, an early start and a late finish. Though only covering two loops of 3 stages, the day was a complex challenge. We had three very different stages to contend with; the opening test was long and narrow through mountainous terrain with a lot of bridges and big drops (!), the second was more like a race track, wide and flowing with smooth and consistent tarmac, the final stage was possibly the trickiest with a lot of gravel and dirt on the road whilst still being fast.

We got a front puncture on the first stage of the day and had to change it, we are well practised at changing the wheels but we still lost quite a lot of time. The rest of the days stages went smoothly, or as smoothly as any Corsican stage can go.

Sunday, 8th of April- Day Three

Sunday had only two stages, the first being over 55km in length! We had a really good run over both stages, we had learnt a lot over the rally and were starting to get everything to work really well. Reading pacenotes flat out for nearly 40 minutes is a challenge and shows why co-drivers have to be fit as well as drivers. We had no straight longer than 150m in the whole rally, and corner after corner had to be delivered exactly on time. That’s a lot of processing power being used!

Tom Williams – Photo courtesy of M-Sport.

Corsica is one of my favourite rallies, and I can’t wait to be back next year. Our next JWRC event is WRC Portugal.

Phil Hall and Tom Williams – Junior WRC – Photo courtesy of Phil Hall

A huge thanks to Tom for a great drive, M-Sport for a great car and team, and my supporters ITSMYMOTORSPORT and the Royal Air Force.

Tour de Corse – Day Three

The final day then, and even though there were only two stages, we had the prospect of the longest stage of the whole weekend, the monster 55km stage!

The start list looked like this – Mikkelsen, Evans, Sordo, Lappi, Neuville, Tänak, Ogier, Meeke, Loeb.

Sadly, Latvala wouldn’t start. His Toyota was too damaged.

The stage start was slightly delayed, but once started, Andreas launched his car. He’d been battling understeer all weekend and was not able to show the pace that you’d expect from him. He set the benchmark at 34 minutes and 9 seconds. In the end, his time was beaten by several other drivers and our top three was Tanak, Meeke and Neuville. Ogier was fourth fastest and held a lead of 31 seconds over second placed Tanak going into the twelve and final stage.

The powerstage followed a couple of hours later. Who would top the times? Citroen and Toyota had provided the cars most likely since the start of Saturday.

It was Lappi who emerged fastest, with Loeb, Ogier, Meeke and Tanak completing the top five in the stage. Thierry suffered a mechanical problem with his Hyundai’s engine. He was not happy and didn’t even give an interview at the end of the stage.

 

Summing up the final day and the weekend as a whole.

Ogier had taken victory, thus extending his championship lead over the Belgian to 17 points. He’d been fast out of the blocks on Friday morning, building a lead whilst Thierry, Kris and Jari-Matti all struggled with their cars.

Loeb’s return to Corsica had promised so much and probably left more unanswered questions than before. If he returned to the championship, I believe he’d be right at the front. He’s lost none of his speed.

What of Thierry then? He had a frustrating weekend but finished on the podium. The consistency he craves is there, it’s just that the man he wants to beat is also getting good results.

Next up is Kris. He’d driven well on the whole with a car that wasn’t doing what he wanted and then on Saturday when the car was put back to the settings they used last year he was on the pace we expect from him. Such a shame then that he slid off on the final stage of Saturday and couldn’t get back on the road.

Finally, Jari-Matti. He won this event three years ago, but Toyota just didn’t have the right settings for any of its drivers to show their pace early on, but once they’d got the car where they wanted, we saw Lappi and Tanak both come forwards. Jari-Matti was starting to benefit from these settings when he had his off that led to his retirement. Hopefully this will lead to better things in Germany, the next all tarmac rally.

Looking ahead to the next event, Rally Argentina, later this month, a place that has seen first time winners in recent years. Perhaps we’ll see the Hyundai, Citroen and Toyota teams take the fight to M-Sport?

 

Let’s hear from the drivers then.

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It’s been a really good weekend for us and I am very happy with the performance. We had great pace on Friday and then just had to manage the gap after that.

“It was really satisfying to show this kind of speed – especially after last year where it was a bit more difficult. Now it seems like everything is going in the right direction – we have made some developments and I am feeling better and better in the car.”

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia win the 2018 Tour de Corse! Photo credit M-Sport WRT

Ott Tänak (2nd)

“Overall it has been a very nice weekend. Corsica has always been the event which I maybe enjoy the least: I have really struggled here in the past. This year I worked really hard to be consistently on the pace. We were never pushing to the maximum but we were always setting a good rhythm. On the penultimate stage, I had a really clean run and I tried to be close to the maximum all the time, and it looked like it paid off. On the Power Stage, I took no risks: I just wanted to make sure we finished in second position, which was very important. For my first time on proper asphalt with Toyota, I’m happy with that.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 04, Rallye de France, Tour de Corse 2018 / April 5-8, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“It’s good to finish on the podium but there has been a bit of frustration over the weekend. We haven’t been able to match the times of the front-runners, even if we tried really hard. We have to be content with the results we have achieved, securing a podium and important points for the manufacturers’ championship. In general, I am pleased with the final result but in terms of outright performance we were just not on the pace this weekend.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04 Rallye de France
05-08 April 2018
Action
Day 3
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (4th)

“Our end result is not too bad considering the disappointing weekend we have had in Corsica. We have just not been able to find the speed and performance needed to tackle these roads. It was a similar story today; we have pushed as hard as we can but the times have not been there. Still, fourth place gives us important points for the championship so that’s something positive we can take away. Now we need to work together as a team to get more speed on tarmac for later in the season.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (7th)

“Absolutely not the result we wanted and a very difficult weekend overall. We made some more set-up changes for this morning’s two stages but unfortunately, we couldn’t find the breakthrough that we needed. It has been a challenging rally but we know that we have to do to gain more experience with this car on tarmac. We need more mileage to understand where we can find more performance from ourselves and from the car. We have some time before the next asphalt event in Germany, so we have to put in lots of effort to make the improvements we need. That’s the homework we are taking from this weekend.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Elfyn Evans (5th)

“It was never going to be an easy weekend for us, but Phil has done an incredible job – jumping in at the last minute and getting us through without incident. We’ve collected some solid points which is what we came here to do. There is still a lot of work to do as far as the championship is concerned, but at least we can go to Argentina in a positive frame of mind and try to push for a strong result.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Esapekka Lappi (6th)

“I think we have learned a lot here both as drivers and as a team. We have been able to find a good setup for the car. Yesterday was really perfect, and the speed was good on the final day as well. Unfortunately, I made a small mistake, which I take full responsibility for. I guess the rear tyres were still a bit cold and I lost the rear a bit and hit a kerb on the outside. We broke part of the rim and the tyre started to come off so we had to stop and change it. After that it was good to win the Power Stage: there was actually more grip than I was expecting, so I just pushed harder and harder.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke (9th)

“Obviously, it’s frustrating to have dropped out of contention yesterday when a top three place was clearly within our reach, but we had to get back at it today and I think we have proven our ability to do just that. We are already looking ahead and we’ll be trying and get back on the podium and turn our speed into good results at the next few races.”

Kris Meeke, Paul Nagle – Citroen Racing

 Sébastien Loeb (14th)

“It’s a real shame that we went off on Friday. We would have undoubtedly been right in the mix otherwise. In any case, I’m delighted to have been on the pace again this weekend for our second one-off appearance of the season. I prefer to focus on the enjoyment we have had throughout the weekend in the C3 WRC. It is a really formidable car on tarmac and I really enjoyed driving it on these magnificent Corsican roads. It was also very nice to feel all the love and support from the French fans at our home event.”

 

Final Overall Classification – Tour de Corse

1              S. Ogier                 J. Ingrassia                                 3:26:52.7

2              O. Tänak              M. Järveoja                                          +36.1

3              T. Neuville           N. Gilsoul                                         +1:07.5

4              D. Sordo               C. del Barrio                                   +2:02.6

5              E. Evans                P. Mills                                               +2:06.1

6              E. Lappi                 J. Ferm                                              +2:33.5

7              A. Mikkelsen      A. Jæger                                           +2:43.4

8              J. Kopecky           P. Dresler                                      +10:34.8

9              K. Meeke            P. Nagle                                           +10:40.5

10           Y. Bonato             B. Boulloud                                    +12:26.0

 

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings

After round 4

 

1              S. Ogier                 84

2              T. Neuville           67

3              O. Tanak               45

4              A. Mikkelsen      41

5              K. Meeke             36

6              E. Lappi                36

7              J.M Latvala          31

8              D. Sordo               30

9              C. Breen               20

10           E. Evans                18

11           S. Loeb                  15

12           H. Paddon           10

 

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings

After round 4

1              Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team                       111

2              M-Sport Ford World Rally Team                                    107

3              Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team                     93

4              Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team                81

Tour de Corse, Day Two- Seb Ogier continues to lead.

Six stages today, and first up was stage five, a long stage at 35km to really wake up the drivers! The start list for each of the stage looked like this – Bouffier, Mikkelsen, Latvala, Sordo, Evans, Lappi, Tänak, Meeke, Neuville, Ogier, Loeb.

As the last car through, Loeb won the stage whilst Kris was happy with the start and end of the stage but lost his rhythm in the middle and had to pick it up. Elfyn lost some more time in the stage with a spin and a stall, caused when he used the handbrake on a corner. This allowed Dani to close on the Welshman, the gap at just three seconds between them! Meantime, Esapekka in his Yaris was really driving brilliantly, just a little off Loeb’s time and making fifth position his!

On to stage six, a shorter stage and the nine-time champion took this one as well. This time it was the Yaris peddled by Tanak who came closest to Loeb. Ogier and Lappi set exactly the same time to go third fastest. Our leader in the M-Sport Fiesta saw his lead open up a little more. His teammate, Elfyn and Dani Sordo were now tied on the same time on the overall leaderboard!

Final stage before the service break, and Ott Tanak took the win, closing the gap further in his pursuit of Kris for the final podium position. Ogier meantime was second fastest and now his lead over Thierry had gone above forty seconds. Elfyn had a scrappy stage, with lots of hesitations and fell behind Dani, into seventh place.

The afternoon stages started with Esapekka winning stage eight, with Loeb picking up another second fastest time. He really was on the pace! Elfyn also had a good stage, closing the gap to Dani in their fight over sixth and seventh! Unfortunately, we lost Jari-Matti in this stage. During service the Toyota team had worked on the balance and made it handle better. Jari-Matti was pushing hard and he lost the rear of the car and hit a tree. He completed the stage but retired afterwards. Kris had also made some changes, returning to last year’s setup that worked so well, and he had a car that responded to him. He used it to good affect closing a little to Thierry ahead.

Stage nine, the penultimate stage was won by Loeb and with Kris setting the fourth fastest time, he drew level on time with Thierry on the overall leaderboard. With the C3 WRC returned to the settings the team used last year, he felt much more at ease with how it responded to him. Elfyn was also on the pace but didn’t take much time out of Dani. The inter-team battle continued with Tanak and Lappi, who were battling over fourth position, with Lappi faster through the stage, but not by much.

The final stage of the day, would see Lappi and Tanak share the fastest time, but the big shock was the exit of Kris who miss heard a stage note and went too far off the road to regain and complete the test. A big shock and one that meant Tanak went from fourth to second with Thierry now in third place, but just one tenth of a second behind. Elfyn also had a good stage, closing a little to Dani again, feeling that the relationship with Phil Mills was starting to gel.

Summing up Saturday.

Whilst there was all that drama behind him, Seb Ogier continued to lead. There were different stage winners, with Loeb taking three more and Toyota teammates Ott and Esapekka sharing the other three between them. The demise of Kris from second overall was a big shame. It shows how little room for error there is in this sport. I do wonder why the team didn’t use the settings from last year from the off.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 04, Rallye de France, Tour de Corse 2018 / April 5-8, 2018 // (Ott Tanak) Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

There are only two stages tomorrow, but the first is the longest stage of the entire weekend, a monster of 55km! Anything can still happen.

 

End of day two (Saturday)

 

1 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2h43m07.7s

2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +44.5s

3 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +44.6s

4 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +54.9s

5 Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1m46.7s

6 Elfyn Evans/Phil Mills (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1m49.8s

7 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2m13.5s

8 Jan Kopecky/Pavel Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +8m22.9s

9 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) +10m41.4s

10 Fabio Andolfi/Simone Scattolin (Skoda Fabia R5) +11m27.2s

 

Let’s here from the drivers.

 

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It’s been a long, but good day for us. Whereas yesterday we were just driving flat-out, today has been a bit more difficult as we’ve had to think a bit more about our approach. I tried to keep a good rhythm of course, but at the same time I didn’t want to take too many risks. We still managed to extend our lead on every stage, and I’m really pleased with that.

“There’s still a long way to go with the longest stage of the whole rally to come. We’ve had a good feeling all weekend so I hope to finish like that tomorrow. We won’t push to the maximum as our target is to cross the finish line – but it’s never over until it’s over.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 -WRC Tour de Corse (FRA) – WRC Seb Ogier, M-Sport Ford 04/04/2018 to 08/04/2018 – PHOTO : @World

Ott Tanak (2nd)

“It will certainly be interesting tomorrow, with 0.1 seconds to the car behind and 10.4 seconds to Esapekka, who has been setting some really good times and seems to be confident. Overall our feeling in the car has been quite nice and the pace has been consistent. I haven’t been pushing to the maximum, just going at a good speed with a good rhythm. Let’s see how the feeling is tomorrow. The first stage is a really long one and I think the rhythm will be important there.”

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“There is very little to say after another very demanding day. We have pushed as much as we can in every stage – but a bit too much on the edge at times. It’s all we can do to try and defend our podium position. We have struggled with the set-up of the car at times, and some of the roads really didn’t suit our car. Like yesterday, we had to accept certain limitations to what we could achieve. It has been mission impossible to defend second place so all we can hope now is that we can keep third position, and minimise the damage after a difficult weekend so far for Hyundai Motorsport.”

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

“It has obviously been a really positive day. It’s really nice to be fastest over the day. We worked really hard yesterday to try and find a better setup, and today the car felt really good and easy to drive. For me, the times are coming really easily. I didn’t need to push too hard, it just came naturally. Tomorrow it’s good that both of the stages are new for everyone because it’s easier for me when that’s the case. I will just try to continue my pace and then we will see what happens. I will not force myself to do something crazy: I’m already happy with fourth place, although I wouldn’t mind if we can climb one or two more places!”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (5th)

“We made some modifications to the car for today’s stages, which gave us a bit more confidence and a very small improvement on the times. We have done all we can, pushing all the time, but there are still some settings issues that we have yet to resolve. It has been a similar issue for other crews. All we can do is adapt the car to find more front-end grip and aim to improve on tomorrow’s long stage. It might be a bit too late, but we won’t give up without a fight.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04 Rallye de France
05-08 April 2018
Action
Day 2
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen (7th)

“Running seventh on the classification is not where we want or expect to be. We have battled a lot with understeer, which has been made worse on the wider, racing-style stages today. We were able to close in a bit on the cars in front of us during the morning loop, but we don’t want to be relying on others’ misfortune to gain positions. We’d much rather be fighting at the front. I tried to change my driving style in the afternoon, but that didn’t deliver any improvement. It’s important for us to continue trying to improve the car and our pace until the very end of the rally.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“We didn’t have the best of mornings, and I felt as though I was a bit too hesitant in places. It wasn’t anything major, but it soon adds up. We made some improvements in the afternoon and I was feeling a lot more comfortable in the car. The relationship with Phil has gelled quite a lot better today too and we’ve seen some promising times which bodes well for tomorrow.”

Retired

Jari-Matti Latvala

“After we made some changes in mid-day service, the car felt fantastic, so thank you to the team for that. It really gave me the confidence to push, but I maybe pushed a little bit too hard, got too sideways on a left-hand corner and hit a tree with the rear of the car. Normally I would not be smiling after going off the road, but I have some reason to be happy: Ott and Esapekka are going really quickly here, while I had been struggling, but then I found the speed. I learned what we had done wrong with the setup and why I was not fast. Hopefully the guys can fix the car so we can restart tomorrow and show that speed.”

Kris Meeke

“We were fighting for second and pushing really hard, absolutely on the limit. Unfortunately, something happened that has never happened before between Paul and me. He got the pace notes a bit mixed up, but that’s rallying. It’s the very first time that this has happened. We’ve gone off several times together in the past when it’s been my fault and not his. Look, we win together and we lose together. I’m sure we’ll bounce back from this very quickly.”

Bryan Bouffier

“I’m disappointed for sure, but this is part of motorsport and we know it can happen. I was happy with my pace as this car is still quite new to me and I have a lot of things still to improve and understand. In this context it was very good to see some good times and I really hope that we can do some more kilometres with this amazing car.”

 

Tour de Corse, Day One-Seb Ogier Takes Control.

The day dawned sunny, but there had been rain in the days before, which was going to affect those running further down the standings. Four stages today- doesn’t sound like much, but with a double run of a 49km stage, anything could happen!

 

The first stage of the day, and the cars would start in championship order- Ogier, Neuville, Mikkelsen, Meeke, Latvala, Tänak, Lappi, Sordo, Loeb, Evans, and also just 2 minutes between the cars, instead of 3 which we see on gravel.

 

Ogier would make the most of his starting position winning the stage although he was almost certainly on the limit of grip as he nearly spun a few times in the stage. Loeb was his closest challenger, just 9.7 slower than his compatriot. The fastest Toyota was that driven by Ott Tanak who was a further nine seconds back. Of course, last years early rally leader, Kris found with being fourth he would come across dirty and a wet road, finishing 19 seconds down on the early leader. Elfyn also commented on the condition of the road, with the dirt being pulled out.

 

Stage two saw Ogier extend his lead over Meeke who was now in second place. Sadly, Loeb had gone out just 300 metres after starting. He lost control, running wide on a kink, which sent him sliding over the road onto the right-hand side and into a ditch, which he couldn’t get out of. The reason given – cold tyres. Both Hyundai drivers, Andreas and Thierry were suffering from cars not responding to them. Thierry’s main problem was no grip, whilst Andreas just slid into a ditch and then suffered with a vibration afterwards. Kris was still in second but having trouble with his intercom. Now imagine that you’re relying on details from your co-driver, but then the system that allows you to hear those keeps cutting out. Very frustrating indeed. Jari-Matti was having trouble with confidence under braking in his Yaris.

Seb Ogier, Leader of Tour de Corse. Photo credit M-Sport WRT

All the cars headed back to service at this point. Thierry would want to get his car sorted, whilst Kris would hopefully get his intercom problem fixed as well.

 

The second run of La Porta – Valle di Rostino, saw Ogier win again and Thierry go second fastest which saw Kris fall behind the Belgian. The Citroen driver was still getting problems with his intercom. During service, Kris had changed his helmet in a hope that would solve the problem but that didn’t help. Meantime, Andreas was still having problems with understeer, dropping 30 seconds to the leader just in this one stage. Jari-Matti was still having trouble with confidence under braking, but his teammate Lappi was in a great position to move up after closing the gap to Dani and Elfyn ahead.

 

The last stage of the day already and Ogier’s time was very good. However, Thierry then Jari-Matti and finally Esapekka Lappi went faster who leapfrogged both Dani and Elfyn into fifth overall. He was really in the groove through this one. Latvala’s pace was good enough to allow him to pass Andreas for eighth place, but he’ll almost certainly want better from Saturday’s stages.

 

Summing up Friday

Seb Ogier reigned supreme and has built a lead that he can use to his advantage. The question is, can Thierry or Kris get their problems resolved to allow them to express their pace and challenge the leader?

 

Standings at the end of Day One

1 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1h19m39.0s

2 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +33.6s

3 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) +38.7s

4 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +44.2s

5 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1m13.5s

6 Elfyn Evans/Phil Mills (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1m13.8s

7 Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1m14.4s

8 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1m25.0s

9 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1m29.2s

10 Bryan Bouffier/Xavier Panseri (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1m44.8s

 

Let’s hear from the drivers then.

 

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“We’ve had a great day. It’s always nice to be in the lead, but it’s even nicer to be leading on home soil. The car was very enjoyable to drive today and we’ve had a lot of fun out on the stages.

“We’ve made good progress since last year and in this sport you don’t achieve anything alone – it’s always a team effort. All the energy we’ve put into developing the car over the past year is really starting to pay off. We saw it already in Mexico with a good step forward on gravel, and so far I think we’ve improved on asphalt too which is very positive for the future.

“There’s still two days of rallying to come with a lot of new stages so there will be no time to relax. We’ll take the same approach that we had today into tomorrow and try to stay in a good rhythm. These new sections will be very challenging, but we have to keep pushing.”

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“It hasn’t been the best of starts to this rally for us, but we know there are some very long stages to come over the weekend so we have to remain positive. In this morning’s loop, we couldn’t find a good feeling with the car. We had no efficiency from the brakes missing some bite. Changes made during lunchtime service were in the right direction and we pushed very hard in the afternoon. Ogier has set a strong pace and we have had to accept we can’t match him so far, but we will keep attacking as best as we can. We are now in second place overall with a small margin to third, so our target is to consolidate our position.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04 Rallye de France
05-08 April 2018
Action
Day 2
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Kris Meeke (3rd)

“It was a pretty good day for us, I was pleased with my rhythm, even though it wasn’t quite enough to keep pace with the leader. I don’t know to what extent the road became ‘polluted’ as more cars came completed the stages. In any case, I was pleased with my C3 WRC. My intercom was playing up, which was a bit annoying at times. With a couple of totally new stages tomorrow, a lot can still happen but I’m very determined to fight to stay in the podium places.”

Kris Meeke- Photo credit Citroen Racing

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (4th)

“This was my first day competing on proper asphalt in this car, and I think we have learned quite a lot today. The general feeling in the car is quite nice. This morning the feeling was already positive: the car was handling well. At lunchtime service we did a couple of changes, and in some areas the feeling was improving and getting better. For tomorrow we have some more ideas of how we would like to improve a bit further to help us in the fight for the podium. We are still quite close to second and third: these places are ours to catch, so we will try our best tomorrow.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 04, Rallye de France, Ott Tanak, Tour de Corse 2018 / April 5-8, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“The morning and afternoon were quite similar for me today in terms of stage times. We lost quite a bit on the long stage, which is really twisty like a proper Tour de Corse stage. The shorter one is much faster and our car was working really well there. We ended the day with the fastest time, which is always positive. It would be better if we were stronger on the more twisty stages, but we will work on that tomorrow and try to improve the car. The plan will be to try and keep fifth place but there is still a long way to go and anything can happen.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (8th)

“It was good to finish today with a quick time on the last stage, after quite a disappointing morning. I went the wrong way with the setup, so I lacked confidence and I was driving badly. We made changes in service and the car definitely felt better on the braking and the rear was more predictable. I made another change before the final stage, and then the confidence came and I could improve my driving. The setup is now good for the dry conditions that we are expecting for the rest of the rally, so the plan now is to just focus on the driving: to be consistent and maintain that speed we had on the last stage. I think we can have a good fight with the guys who are just in front of us.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“We knew it wouldn’t be plain sailing for us today, but I think it’s gone as well as we could have hoped in the circumstances. To be fair, Phil has done a really good job. We’re building that trust, and hopefully we can keep improving as the weekend goes on.

“My notes aren’t the easiest if you don’t know them inside out. Obviously Phil knows them quite well from being a part of our Route Note Crew, but there are little tricks and ways that things have to be read to makes everything flow a hundred percent. If you’re not used to reading them day after day it’s extremely difficult, so he’s done a really good job.

“There are a lot of new sections coming up tomorrow and, honestly, I was finding the going a bit easier in the more familiar sections today. We have to keep going so let’s just give it our best and see what we can do.”

Bryan Bouffier (10th)

“It’s been a good day and I was happy with both of our passes through the short stage. We still had something to find in the long one – and I was finding it difficult to place the car. We’ll discuss everything this evening and hope to show another improvement tomorrow.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (7th)

“I haven’t been very happy with our stage times today, although there has not been anything particularly wrong with the car. In fact, the handling has been quite good during the day. The opening long stage was quite tricky and initially I didn’t have enough confidence. The second stage was better, although there was some gravel pulled onto the road in places. I tried to push a bit in the afternoon but again the times were not forthcoming. The speed at the front is very fast but we will try to find more pace tomorrow to try and get into a top five position.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (9th)

“Our day was compromised by one spin and a small off in the morning loop, one on each stage, which combined lost us about 50 seconds to the leader. A far from ideal way to start this rally! Still, the car itself performed better than expected, and we found some improvements for the afternoon loop. I drove the car to the limits and kept pushing as much as possible. Now we have found a better feeling since lunchtime service, I hope we can be in better shape tomorrow.”

 

Tomorrow sees six stages totalling 136km. Loeb will return under super rally 2 rules as well. The crews will travel to the northern part of the island.

Tour de Corse 2018 Preview- Time for Tarmac!

It’s time for round four, and just four points separate Seb Ogier and Thierry Neuville at the top of the points table!

 

This year’s edition of this classic event has twelve stages totalling 333.48km over the three days, the longest stage being the 55.17 km for Vero – Sarrola – Carcopino run on Sunday and the shortest being the Piedigriggio – Pont de Castirla 2 13,55 km on Friday afternoon.

 

Friday sees the crews tackle stages that are in the middle of the island, with four stages, but a mammoth 126 km’s. On Saturday, they head to the northern park of the island and tackle the coastal roads, totalling a huge almost 140km’s of stages and then Sunday sees them head south west and the longest stage run and then the power stage.

 

Last year Kris led until he suffered a mechanical failure with his engine on Saturday afternoon and Thierry came through to take the win.

 

Seb Loeb is driving again for Citroen, with the second of his outings for this year, but bigger than that is the news that Elfyn Evans’ co-driver Dan Barritt is sitting out this one as he’s still recovering from the high-speed roll that happened in Mexico. Phil Mills’ will be stepping into co-driver seat. Yes, world rally champion co-driver to Mr Hollywood, Petter Solberg. He has been part of Elfyns’ gravel crew for the past five years, which makes him the ideal man for the job!

Tour de Corse Map 2018- Credit to Tour de Corse

TOUR DE CORSE SCHEDULE (GMT+2)

 

THURSDAY 5 APRIL

8.00am: Shakedown (Sorbo Ocagnano)

6.30pm: Ceremonial start Bastia – Place Saint Nicolas

 

FRIDAY 6 APRIL

8.00am: Start in Bastia – Place Saint Nicolas

8.40am: Service A (Bastia airport – 15′)

9.50am: SS 1 – La Porta – Valle di Rostino 1 (49,03 km)

11.09am: SS 2 – Piedigriggio – Pont de Castirla 1 (13,55 km)

1.47pm: Service B (Bastia airport – 30′)

3.12pm: SS 3 – La Porta – Valle di Rostino 2 (49,03 km)

4.31pm: SS 4 – Piedigriggio – Pont de Castirla 2 (13,55 km)

7.01pm: Flexi service C (Bastia airport – 45′)

 

SATURDAY 7 APRIL

6.10am: Start of day 2 and service D (Bastia airport – 15′)

7.37am: SS 5 – Cagnano – Pino – Canari 1 (35,61 km)

9.18am: SS 6 – Désert des Agriates 1 (15,45 km)

11.08am: SS 7 – Novella 1 (17,39 km)

1.31pm: Service E (Bastia airport – 30′)

3.21pm: SS 8 – Cagnano – Pino – Canari 2 (35,61 km)

5.02pm: SS 9 – Désert des Agriates 2 (15,45 km)

6.39pm: SS 10 – Novella 2 (17,39 km)

8.10pm: Flexi service F (Bastia airport – 45′)

 

SUNDAY 8 APRIL

7.00am: Start of day 3 and service G (Bastia airport – 15′)

9.23am: SS 11 – Vero – Sarrola – Carcopino (55,17 km)

12.18pm: SS 12 – Pénitencier de Coti-Chiavari (16,25 km)

1.33pm: Finish (Ajaccio, avenue de Paris)

3.00pm: Podium (Ajaccio, place du Diamant)

Well, let’s hear from everyone!

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“We’ve had a really positive start to the season – three events and two victories already under our belts. It’s great to see the progress we’ve made, and we’re keen to see that continue with the return to asphalt next week.

“With a lot of mixed conditions in Monte-Carlo, the Tour de Corse is the first proper Tarmac event of the year, and it’s nice to be back. We all know that the competition will be strong, but we completed a good test last week – finding a good feeling and discovering the optimum set-ups to deliver a strong performance

“As a Frenchman, there is always added motivation to do well at the Tour de Corse. Known as the Rally of 10,000 Corners, the name alone says it all and many sections of this island are made for rallying. A lot of the route is new this year, but the stages remain very technical with corner after corner demanding total focus and precision.

“It’s a beautiful island that I always look forward to visiting, and it would be fantastic to secure another strong result on French soil.”

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

Elfyn Evans

“This is an event that I really enjoy, and we’ll be looking to maximise that next week. The speed is there, but I’ve not had the best start to the year and that’s something I’m determined to put right in Corsica.

“It won’t be easy without Dan, but his fitness comes first and it’s important that he has the time to make a full recovery for the rest of the season. Phil has stepped in, and I hope that we can push for a good result.

“Phil certainly knows his stuff. Other than Dan, he knows my pacenotes better than anyone and he’s certainly no stranger when it comes to winning rallies.

“This year’s route has a lot of new sections, but it’s still a technical challenge which is one of the things I really enjoy here. There’s quite a lot of variation amongst the stages – some are surprisingly smooth, but then there are those which are typically Corsican with abrasive Tarmac that twists through the mountains.

“It’s all about adapting to the conditions, and that will be the case even more so for us next week. We’ll have a fairly late running order which won’t be ideal, and we’ll need some time to get used to one another in the car as well.

“We’ll just have to see how it goes and do the best we can. I’ve had some good results here in the past, and I’m keen to see what we can do this year.”

Bryan Bouffier

“The Tour de Corse has long been one of my favourite events. The roads are amazing, but so is the island and so are the people who live there. It’s a fantastic rally and one that I look forward to every year.

“We had a good test last week where I found a good feeling with the balance of the car. Working together with the team, we were able to find some good solutions with the set-up, and I hope that hard work will show on the stages next week.

“Every time I return the FIA World Rally Championship the level is extremely high, but this year the competition is stronger than ever and there are so many drivers able to push for the top results.

“The specific challenge in Corsica is to be consistent through the long stages and to avoid mistakes. That is our goal and we hope to deliver some strong times so that I have the chance to do even more kilometres in this amazing car!”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Tour de Corse is one of my personal highlights of the season. We have some good memories from this rally across the years; we have won twice, including last year’s WRC victory so I am hoping for another competitive weekend. We had an accident towards the end of the pre-event test but that won’t change our approach to this rally. We know it will be a close contest again, as there are many quick drivers. The long stages that are a particular characteristic of Corsica mean we have to keep focused at all times. It is a really demanding event for crews and teams but we’re determined to strengthen our position in both championships.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04, Tour de Corse – Rallye de France
06-09 April 2017
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Sarah Vessely
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Corsica is a very special event, and our first true tarmac rally of the season. As a crew, you never really get any break during the stages; it’s a continuous corner-to-corner challenge that requires utmost concentration. It’s equally tough on the car as it is for the driver and co-driver. It is easy for the brakes to get warm so we have to adapt our driving style to save them for the really long stages. Tour de Corse is a beautiful rally and one I really enjoy.”

Dani Sordo

“I was pleased with our result in Mexico and I hope we can continue with this level of performance as we move onto the tarmac challenge of Tour de Corse. It is a rally I always enjoy, and which requires a very specific approach. With long stages held in the mountains, Corsica really is a classic tarmac event. It’s corner after corner, so we are always turning the steering wheel during the stages, which makes it a very physical event. Precise pace notes are crucial for a good performance. I can’t wait to get started!”

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I have some good memories of Corsica from my win there in 2015. It is certainly an asphalt rally that I like. There’s a reason they call it the Rally of 10,000 Corners: if you find any straight that is longer than 100 metres, you know you are on the wrong island! You cannot really cut the corners so much and there is not so much gravel on the road, which makes it really enjoyable as you can just focus on the corners and the lines. We had a very, very positive pre-event test. The feeling was extremely good and I am very confident with the car. All of the teams should be quick in Corsica, but I really hope we are up there fighting for the podium places.”

Jari-Matti Latvala finished fourth last year on the roads around Corsica. Photo credit Toyota Gazoo WRT.

Ott Tänak

“We have been competitive on every surface so far this season. The team is working really hard to make sure that we can be reliable too. Now we just need to start taking some points back from our rivals. Last year my feeling in Corsica was quite good, so I want to have a strong result this time. The conditions on Rallye Monte-Carlo were very specific so it was difficult to take a lot, but we still went into our pre-Corsica test with some kind of idea which way we want to go. We had a proper two-day test and I think we went in the right direction: It feels like the car is performing well.”

Esapekka Lappi

“I have done Corsica a couple of times in the past in other categories, and I would say that it is completely different to any other rally. It is just corner after corner, without many straights to give us a rest. The schedule is also unique as we don’t have as many stages, but they are quite long. This will be my first time in Corsica in a World Rally Car, but I take confidence from the speed we showed in Monte Carlo. In fact, I am actually more confident this time because we managed to find a better set-up in the pre-event test. We tested in both damp and fully dry conditions so we should be ready whatever the weather.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“The Tour de Corse is one hell of a challenge, with many difficulties, but I’ve always enjoyed racing here. We were very competitive here last year, although we have seen since the start of the season that everyone has made progress, but I hope we can still get among the frontrunners. Our pre-event tests, held on a wide variety of roads, were very productive. I get the feeling that we have progressed further on the dirty and bumpy sections. In any case, I came away from my test sessions pleased with the work done and I can’t wait now to get started!”

Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle led last year until Saturday afternoon. They’ll want to make the finish this year. Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Sébastien Loeb

“Having recently driven the C3 WRC on gravel, I got my bearings very quickly during our tests in Corsica, even though the road surface was different. I started with Kris’ basic set-up and settled upon something very close to his settings pretty quickly, but which suited me. The feeling was pretty good at the end of my testing days. We’ll have to wait and see where we stand in relation to everyone else. After our performance in Mexico, I hope we will be on the pace again, especially as I’ve always been comfortable on tarmac, not least in Corsica. In any case, it’s a place and an event that I have always enjoyed, even if it’s certainly not the easiest rally. The roads are apparently faster than when I last competed here, although there are still plenty of narrow, technical and bumpy stages, but they are all going to be new for me so it won’t be easy to make pace notes for the entire route.”

As a nice tribute to Henry Hope-Frost, the M-Sport team will be running with the hashtag #Fever and also the names of his sons on their cars.

Just a few days now then to the start of this iconic event. Who will win this year? Enjoy!