Wales Rally GB 2019 Review – Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja and Toyota win in Wales!

The short Oulton Park Stage (3,58 km) on Thursday evening got the rally underway, with Kris Meeke winning it from Thierry Neuville and incredibly Petter Solberg in his Polo R5 just 3.3 seconds from the lead in third! The Norwegian had started his last ever Wales Rally GB in spectacular style.

Friday

With 116km over nine stages, with the first stage at 7:18am, it would be a tough day. The startlist looked like this – Tänak, Ogier, Neuville, Mikkelsen, Meeke, Latvala, Suninen, Lappi, Evans, Tidemand, Breen.

Well, it was like they’d never been away, with Elfyn and Scott getting their bid for the podium off to a great start, with the M-Sport pairing winning SS 2 – Elsi 1 (11,65 km) and jumping up to sixth place. Further down, both Andreas and Esapekka dropped down the leaderboard to ninth and tenth. Still leading though was Kris, who had an almost seven second lead over Thierry. Incredibly, just five seconds covered fourth to tenth place.

Elfyn and Scott made a great return! Photo credit M-Sport WRT

Well, into the longer SS 3 – Penmachno 1 (16,19 km), and it unravelled for Elfyn and Scott in this one. They dropped half a minute, believing they had some suspension damage after cutting a fast right-hander. It was business as usual, with Ott picking up his first stage win of the weekend and jumping into third place overall. Impressive as usual from the Estonian crew.

The longer SS 4 – Dyfnant 1 (19,36 km), saw Ott at the top again, moving ahead of Seb in the process and into second place overall, with just Kris Meeke ahead now. Elfyn was quick too, just seven tenths from Ott with the fourth fastest time. Just such a shame that all that time was lost in the previous stage. Also, in the wars was Teemu, who lost 15 seconds after a crash and having to reverse.

SS 5 – Aberhirnant 1 (10,26 km) saw nine cars complete the stage, before it was stopped. The reason? Some spectators who had decided to ignore the marshals’ requests to move to a safe place. They weren’t only asked once I gather. The stage was later cancelled, and the crews drove through slowly. Elfyn and Jari-Matti shared the stage win. Thierry and Jari-Matti were now up to second and third place behind new leader Kris.

The next stage after lunchtime service SS 6 – Elsi 2 (11,65 km), saw Seb set the best time, and this moved him into third place ahead of Jari-Matti, who had fallen to fifth place. Sadly, the Frenchman’s teammate didn’t have such a good stage, sliding off the road and being unable to get back on.

The next stage, SS 7 – Penmachno 2 (16,19 km) was also won by the Frenchman. Unfortunately, the stage was stopped after Teemu finished. Jari-Matti had crashed in a big way sadly. Kris continued to lead, with Seb now his closest challenger at just two and half seconds behind. The rest of the crews in the top ten would need to be given notional times, given that they couldn’t complete the stage at speed.

The short SS 8 – Slate Mountain (1,60 km) followed, and Thierry won the stage, with his teammate Andreas just behind, whilst Seb, Elfyn and Craig were all third fastest. Kris’ lead was now just one and a half seconds over Seb.

On to SS 9 – Dyfnant 2 (19,36 km), and Ott took 6.3 seconds faster than Kris, moving him up from fourth to second place, and just six tenths from his teammate. Seb and Thierry were now in third and fourth.

The final stage of the day, SS 10 – Aberhirnant 2 (10,26 km) and with Ott winning the stage and Kris only fifth fastest and falling to third overall, with Seb moving into second overall again. Thierry remained the only other driver in the top ten close enough to challenge for victory.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY ONE

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1:14:30.8
  2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +3.4
  3. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3.6
  4. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +8.4
  5. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +25.7
  6. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) +33.5
  7. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +37.4
  8. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +51.8

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It has been a really demanding day. This morning, the grip was generally higher than I was expecting, but it was changing a lot and difficult to predict. This afternoon, the stages were a bit rougher and I struggled with the visibility with the mud on the screen. But in the last two stages in the dark I had a good feeling with the car and we could set some good times. I think that tomorrow’s stages should suit us but I’m sure that it will be another intense fight.”

Kris Meeke (3rd)

“It’s been a good day. We led for most of it and then Ott just got past us in the dark. It was very wet this morning, and then the rain stopped and the grip levels were a bit more consistent in the afternoon. I seemed to lose a little bit of time this afternoon but there’s only three seconds between three of us, so I’m happy. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s stages. Dyfi was my first ever stage in a rally car, and Myherin and Sweet Lamb Hafren are classics too.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (Retired)

“At first this morning, I wasn’t in the right rhythm with my driving but then in Dyfnant and Aberhirnant it was definitely going much better, even though the grip was changing a lot. In SS7, I came over a crest and the car went light, I lost the rear immediately, we hit the bank and rolled. I just had a little bit too much speed and jumped a bit too far. It’s very disappointing to be out of the rally: not only for myself but also for the team, as it was my job to try to bring some good points for the championship.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“Obviously, we have had a good day today, even though we lost a bit of ground on the last two stages. It was difficult to read the grip and I probably hesitated a bit too much whereas in the end, the level of grip wasn’t that bad. When you look at how small the gaps are at the front, everything is still up for grabs, so we’ll keep pushing flat out tomorrow. The roads on Saturday’s stages are expected to be quicker and wider, and they are very beautiful too, but they will undoubtedly still be very tricky in places, depending on the conditions.”

Esapekka Lappi (Retired/Rally2)

“The morning went well for us, since we had gradually upped our pace and our rhythm was pretty good. At the second corner on the afternoon’s opening stage, I overestimated the level of grip, ran wide and as it was pretty narrow at that point, I hit the bank and broke the suspension wishbone. And that was that. For tomorrow, we need to talk about it properly with the team but I’m going to do whatever I can to help, possibly testing stuff that may be useful for Seb, whilst trying to keep driving quickly on stages that are faster and more flowing than the ones we tackled today.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“It’s been an OK start to the rally, although I don’t feel we were always on the pace we wanted. We struggled with the balance of the car during the morning stages, and couldn’t really find the confidence we needed. We made it to lunchtime service in second place overall and it was clear the fight for the lead of this rally would be incredibly close. We tried to improve the feeling in the car during the afternoon but it wasn’t straightforward with some tricky conditions. We have to make the most of the situation and see what tomorrow brings.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

“We ended the day in a reasonable position, in fifth, but we struggled in the final night stage because I adjusted my lights and couldn’t see everything in the distance. Overall, we have experienced some very typical and demanding conditions in the Welsh forests today. We lost a bit of time in the morning but made some changes to the car that helped us find better performance. It’s been a while since I’ve driven on muddy conditions like we have faced today. It took time to adjust and learn to trust the grip, which was better than I thought. It’s so easy to make a mistake. There is still room for improvement.”

Craig Breen (6th)

“A day of two halves for us, really, including a few things that we were out of our hands. We had a decent morning and it felt great to get back in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. We made it to lunchtime service relatively unscathed. There was a pretty big moment in SS4 where we became at one with the trees, but we had a lucky escape. SS5 was stopped due to spectator issues so we received a nominal time that dropped us down to sixth. We suffered from our road position in the afternoon, and lost time on SS6 as the stage became rutted. We were then given our second nominal time in SS7 before getting back on the pace at Slate Mountain. The day ended with really tough twilight conditions, including foggy parts, in SS9, and a night run through Aberhirnant without the benefit of the earlier daytime stage.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 12, Wales Rally GB
03-06 October 2019
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (7th)

“It’s been a tough day out there with lots of mud and changes in grip. I think we had pretty good pace, but unfortunately, I made a small mistake in the morning and we lost some time. We were battling with the guys at the front, but the mistake happened when I was trying to gain back the time that we lost with a wrong tyre choice last night. We need to learn from this and remember that we can’t get all that time back in one or two stages – and tomorrow we just need to continue doing our best and staying on our limits.”

Elfyn Evans (8th)

“It’s nice to be back behind the wheel – and a pretty long day at it too! There were a few frustrating moments – losing all that time with a mistake and a puncture this morning, and then this afternoon having a stage cancelled and running into darkness in Dyfnant when the guys at the front went through in the daylight. It’s tough to do anything in those conditions, but that’s the way it is and I think we can still be happy with the day and with the pace we’ve had.”

Pontus Tidemand (9th)

“This morning was one of the toughest in my career, but we made some changes for the afternoon and I felt a lot better and a lot more comfortable in the car. We had a spin early on in the afternoon which wasn’t what we wanted, but the pace was better and I hope to show some more improvement tomorrow.”

Saturday

The longest day, with 151km over seven stages and no service at lunchtime, just a tyre fitting zone in Newtown. Finding the right balance of speed, but looking after the car would not be easy. The startlist looked like this – Lappi, Tidemand, Evans, Suninen, Breen, Mikkelsen, Neuville, Meeke, Ogier, Tänak.

Well, it was Elfyn and Scott who were fastest out of the blocks, winning SS 11 – Dyfi 1 (25,86 km) and taking thirteen seconds out of Teemu who held seventh place. At the front, Ott was starting to open up a gap to his closet challenger, Seb who could only manage fifth quickest.

The following stage, SS 12 – Myherin 1 (22,91 km) saw a number of interesting things happen. First of all, Elfyn won the stage and secondly, Andreas lost almost ten seconds and was now just eight ahead of Elfyn who had passed Teemu. Craig rolled his car on a fast-left hander, and completed the stage with bits hanging off his car.

Elfyn and Scott pass #Elfynscorner in Myherin

Elfyn made it three in a row, winning SS 13 – Sweet Lamb Hafren 1 (25,65 km) as well! He’d reduced Andreas advantage in their fight for fifth place to just five seconds. Seb had a slide and hit a bank, but he only lost about a second to Ott. Thierry gained time on Seb though, reducing the gap to just two seconds.

The re-run of SS 14 – Myherin 2 (22,91 km) was won by Thierry from Ott and Kris, whilst Elfyn was now just half a second behind Andreas. Ott’s lead was now seven seconds and increasing over Seb and Thierry’s pace was closing the gap to the French champion.

Onto the second run of SS 15 – Sweet Lamb Hafren 2 (25,65 km), and Andreas took an important stage win, and increased the gap to Elfyn by four seconds. In fact, it was a good stage for Thierry as well, as he moved ahead of Seb and into second place. Up at the front, Ott had increased his lead now to ten seconds.

SS 16 – Dyfi 2 (25,86 km) saw Thierry take a second stage win and Ott was only a few tenths behind, thus keeping the Belgian over ten seconds behind. Meanwhile the ebb and flow between Elfyn and Andreas continued, with the Welshman closing again in their battle over fifth place. The gap was increasing between Seb and Kris as well.

The final stage of the day SS 17 – Colwyn Bay (2,40 km) was won by Ott with Thierry and Seb both within a second of their championship rival. It’s well known that Elfyn doesn’t like these stages, and so Andreas increased the gap between him and the Welshman to almost five seconds.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY TWO

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:42:02.7
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +11.0
  3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +17.3
  4. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +26.5
  5. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +46.9
  6. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +51.4
  7. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:07.9
  8. Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:59.6
  9. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) +9:16.0

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It has been a tough and challenging day. The stages were long and the conditions were tricky. In the last stages we started to have some quite bad fog and the roads were rough. We also lost our rear bumper so we had a lot of noise in the car, making it hard to hear the pace-notes. It’s still a fairly small gap so we can’t definitely relax, but it’s the biggest margin anyone has had this weekend. It’s hard to have confidence in Wales, as there’s always surprises and you’re always on the edge, but it’s nice to have this margin to take into tomorrow.”

Kris Meeke (5th)

“I’m content to be here tonight in fourth place. We’re not so far from third, so, there’s still a bit to play for tomorrow. We just struggled a little bit today. I gave it everything, and we only lost a couple of seconds on every stage, but that was enough. There are three guys in front fighting for the drivers’ championship and today they’ve just stretched their legs a little bit. I still have my job to do for the manufacturers’ championship, that’s the main target.”

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“It was a tough day, with constant changes in grip, some fog too. We literally gave everything today. I’m glad we made it to the end, but I would love to have been faster. We consistently lost a little bit of time without being able to bounce back. There are still some tricky sections to tackle tomorrow and although Ott is quite far ahead now, none of us is immune to making a mistake in slippery conditions like these.”

Seb and Julien make a splash in Sweetlamb Hafren! Photo credit, Citroën Racing.

Esapekka Lappi (20th)

“We had a decent day and it was interesting for me to experience what it’s like to be first on the road in muddy conditions. Sometimes, it was an advantage in terms of grip. At other times, it was definitely a handicap, with quite a lot of puddles and standing water that I was the first to come across and clear, but it was nonetheless a good learning experience.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“We have given everything today, and we are still in with a chance of pushing for victory. I’m pleased with what we’ve achieved. We were able to move into third place during the morning, trying really hard to minimise mistakes. In these conditions, it’s usual to lose the odd second here or there, but overall, we’ve had a positive Saturday. Two stage wins this afternoon helped move us up into second, and we’re now determined to reduce the gap, if we can, on Sunday. 11 seconds is not a lot on stages like these, when just the smallest issue can change things around: it’s still game on!”

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

“It’s been a long day but we have given it as much of a push as we could in some very tricky conditions. In many respects, it’s been a classic Wales Rally GB Saturday with familiar, beautiful stages, some typical wet weather, and challenging conditions. The car has been pretty good throughout the day. We have made some small mistakes here and there, but we were able to show some strong pace, including a stage win in SS15. We’re in a close battle with Elfyn for fifth place. He’s been driving really well today, so we’ll have to dig deep on the final morning to keep our noses in front.”

Craig Breen

“A day to forget for us. Thankfully, we were able to get ourselves out of trouble in SS12 after a pretty big accident. We approached a fast-left-hand corner that tightened a bit more than I expected. I ran out of road and ended up going over through some soft, boggy ground. I got out of the car and quickly realised that everything was pointing in the right direction, so we drove up the bank and completed the stage. The windscreen had cracked so I couldn’t see properly. We had to survive like this throughout the afternoon loop, with rainy, muddy conditions making it impossible to see. I was glad to get back to service, where we will now reset for the final day.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (6th)

“It’s been a great day for us, especially this morning when I could pick my own lines and it was really, really nice out there. This afternoon was a bit more difficult with some more defined lines and quite slippery conditions, but we got through it okay. We had a bit of an annoying overshoot in the last stage [SS17], but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. The support has been great all weekend, and we’ll push as much as we can tomorrow.”

Pontus Tidemand (7th)

“It’s been a tough day, but a good day for us. The stages have been fantastic and I’m happy that we are making progress with a good feeling in the car. The trickiest thing to get right is braking late enough and going flat-out in the really fast sections. But we’re getting there and will definitely try to make the most of tomorrow’s final five stages.”

Teemu Suninen (DNF)

“It’s disappointing that we won’t be back out tomorrow, but there are still a lot of positives that we can take away from this weekend. I was really pleased with my pace on Friday, and it was good to see that we could battle with the guys at the front. We made a couple of little mistakes – but I can learn from this and come back stronger next year with more experience.”

Sunday

With 38km over the last five stages, there was still some potential for some changes in the leaderboard. The startlist looked like this – Lappi, Breen, Tidemand, Evans, Mikkelsen, Meeke, Ogier, Neuville, Tänak.

Well, SS 18 – Alwen 1 (10,41 km) was won by Ott with Thierry and Elfyn just a few tenths behind. Andreas lost a second and a half to the Welshman as well and Kris also closed the gap a little too to Seb.

Elfyn passed Andreas in SS 19 – Brenig 1 (6,43 km) after winning the stage, moving into fifth place. He’d driven brilliantly and made up places on the leaderboard with his great pace. Seb was dropping back from the lead two, and was now 14 seconds behind Thierry.

Elfyn and Scott take another stage victory in Brenig. Photo credit, Chris Seaward (@csracingphotos)

With SS20 – Great Orme getting cancelled, the crews went back to service. It was cancelled due to the stormy seas, meaning that the safety lifeboats couldn’t be positioned along the coast. It was one less stage for anyone to challenge Ott for the win.

Into SS 21 – Alwen 2 (10,41 km) then and the top three was Elfyn, Thierry and Seb. The Welshman was making fifth place his, extending the gap between them by almost two seconds. Ott’s lead was not huge over Thierry who was just nine and a half seconds.

The final stage then, SS 22 – Brenig 2 Power Stage (6,43 km) and Ott took the stage and five points that went with it. Second to fifth were, Seb, Esapekka, Evans and Neuville. In the end Ott’s winning margin over Thierry was just 10.9 seconds, but it was enough to take his first Wales Rally GB victory.

Ott and Martin complete the powerstage! Photo credit, Chris Seaward (@csracingphotos)

FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:00:58.0
  2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +10.9
  3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +23.8
  4. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +35.6
  5. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +48.6
  6. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +58.2
  7. Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +5:23.8
  8. Breen / Nagle (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 9:25.0

The driver’s thoughts at the end of the event!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“It’s an amazing feeling to win. There’s a lot of people working behind us and with the effort they put it, it’s great to be rewarded like this with maximum points. On the Power Stage, I had full confidence in the car and I had to take the opportunity, as every point can be crucial. Our team slogan is ‘pushing the limits for better’ and I always try to do my best. We have two more rallies to come this season and certainly nothing is decided yet, so we need to keep pushing and keep focused.”

FIA World Rally Championship / Round 12 / Wales Rally GB 2019 / Oct 3-6, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Kris Meeke (4th)

“After leading the rally for most of Friday, to finish fourth is a little bit disappointing, but to be honest, I’m happy. It was a weekend full of challenging conditions. We weren’t so far off, we just lacked a bit of pace on Saturday, but it’s still very strong points for the team. I’m delighted to see Ott take the victory and we close the gap in the manufacturers’ championship, so it’s been a strong weekend for us. We have two rallies to go, I hope we can be strong in Spain and fingers crossed we can have a good end to the year.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (2nd)

“We could not have given any more this weekend. From the very first stage, it was a tough fight in some tricky conditions – and incredibly close. We can be happy with our own performance but I’m disappointed about the final result. We should have finished ahead of Tänak this weekend, and we did everything we could, but we couldn’t achieve it. The championship now moves onto Spain, where we know we have to outscore him to keep our own title hopes alive. Everything can happen in rallying, so we never give up.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (6th)

“Overall, the important thing is that we have taken some points away for the manufacturers’ championship. Looking back at the rally as a whole, we lost a bit too much time on Friday. Things improved and we had a good Saturday, especially in the afternoon with a stage win. Our aim for today was to defend fifth place from Elfyn, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. We made the wrong tyre choice. I tried to fight back in SS21 but made a mistake at a junction and from there it was too risky to try and make up the lost time. Sixth place might not score as many points as we would have liked, but at this stage of the season they are all extremely valuable.”

Craig Breen (8th)

“I would like to extend my thanks to the team for getting our car fixed and ready for today’s final stages after yesterday’s crash. I had been getting into my stride in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC so it’s been good to end the rally in a trouble-free manner, and to be back on it. Saturday was really disappointing; without that mistake I think we could have been fighting at the front this weekend. It has been a pleasure to be part of this rally with the Hyundai Motorsport team, with a fantastic car and on the incredible Wales Rally GB stages. We might wonder what could have been possible results-wise, but whatever has happened it’s certainly given me a lot of motivation.”

 

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“The Power Stage sums up our weekend in many ways: we have been a couple of tenths back throughout the rally. We tried our best and gave it absolutely everything, but we were just a bit short of performance whilst Ott had a super weekend. It’s not a great result for us in terms of the championship with just two rounds to go, but we’re going to keep fighting tooth and nail for as long as it remains possible mathematically to win the title.”

Esapekka Lappi (27th)

“For sure, it’s a shame to find yourself out of contention on the Friday. But there are some positives because I learned a lot here. I was pleasantly surprised by the level of performance we managed to show in the C3 WRC despite having had totally dry conditions for our pre-event test.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans (5th)

“It’s been a pretty good weekend for us. Obviously, it would have been nice to have finished a bit higher up the leader board, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes and there’s no room for ‘what ifs’ at this level – not with the competition as close as it is at the moment.

“Our pace has been really good all weekend and the support was absolutely incredible. There really is nothing quite like rallying on home soil, and when you’re posting fastest times in front of all those Welsh flags, it’s a pretty good feeling and definitely gives us some confidence ahead of the next events.”

Pontus Tidemand (7th)

“We’ve taken some big steps forward this weekend and improved every day. I had a lot to learn, but it was getting better and better and, this morning especially, I really felt as though I had broken the code for driving one of these world rally cars. I found a good set-up with the car and was able to focus more fully on my driving. We set some pretty good times today and were a lot closer to the leaders so I was really pleased with that.”

 

Summary

Well, what a great rally it was for a few drivers. Ott Tänak was on it all weekend, taking seven stage victories, including the powerstage win meaning that he’d take the maximum points again. Elfyn Evans returned with a bang after his enforced absence, winning six stages, and it was the incident in stage three that really, I believe stopped the Welshman from challenging for victory. It was close in the end between Thierry and Seb for the runner up spot, but with three stage wins for the Belgian and two for the current champion, it was Thierry that took that position. Kris Meeke had a good event, winning one stage leading and finishing in fourth place. For Andreas Mikkelsen, it was a pretty good event, with one stage win, but just lacking that final bit of pace to hold off Elfyn in their battle. Both Craig Breen and Jari-Matti Latvala suffered big accidents, with Craig at least managing to keep going. Jari-Matti’s accident was much bigger, and it was good to see him walk away from it.

Well, next up is the dual surface Rally de Espana from the 25th to the 27th of October.

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Ott Tänak – 240 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 212 points
  3. Thierry Neuville – 199 points
  4. Andreas Mikkelsen – 102 points
  5. Kris Meeke – 98 points
  6. Elfyn Evans – 90 points
  7. Jari-Matti Latvala – 84 points
  8. Esapekka Lappi – 83 points
  9. Teemu Suninen – 83 points
  10. Dani Sordo – 72 points
FIA World Rally Championship / Round 12 / Wales Rally GB 2019 / Oct 3-6, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 340 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 332 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 278 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 200 points

Wales Rally GB 2019 Preview- The title battle continues!

The World Rally Championship arrives in the Welsh forests at a pivotal moment. There are three drivers still with a chance of winning the world title. As you know Ott is in the lead, with Seb seventeen points behind and Thierry a further thirteen points behind in third. There are still ninety points available, making every round remaining very important in terms of scoring good points and for the Belgian, scoring more points than his rivals.

 

Possible winners?

Well, there are three maybe four drivers that could win in Wales. Both Ott and Seb can, as can Elfyn who makes a return to the WRC after missing the last three rounds. Jari-Matti also has a chance of winning, having won two years in a row in 2011 and 2012. Seb has won this event five times in the last six years, with Elfyn winning in 2017. Last year Ott lead, before damaging his sump on a jump and it was the Estonian who challenged Seb in 2016.

 

Who else could feature at the front?

Possible challengers for the podium are all of them, plus Kris, Thierry, Esapekka and Teemu. Last year the young Finn, then driving for Toyota took an excellent third place. Could he repeat that this year for Citroën who last won in Wales in 2010? The French team had a great run last time out in Turkey, but the roads in Wales are very different. However, they do have last year’s winner, and this will certainly help!

 

Stage information.

Now there are twenty-two timed stages covering a total of 309.76 km. Saturday sees 151.24 km of timed stages on with no service period. The double run of Myherin on Saturday will once again feature Elfynscorner. Do look out for this annual event and the banner that they have! The stages are a big challenge for the teams and the crews in the cars. Here’s the full stage listing. Decent stage notes will be key, especially for Saturday’s stages. Any damage on their cars could put crews out for the day, leading to rally2 restarts and opening the road on Sunday.

#ElfynsCorner Banner

THURSDAY 3 OCTOBER

08h00: Shakedown Gwydir (4,68 km)

12h30: Départ du parc d’assistance (Llandudno)

16h00: Cérémonie de départ (Liverpool)

19h08: ES 1 – The Dayinsure Oulton Park Stage (3,58 km)

21h17: Parc fermé (Llandudno)

 

FRIDAY 4 OCTOBER

06h10: Départ et assistance A (Llandudno – 17’)

07h18: ES 2 – Elsi 1 (11,65 km)

07h46: ES 3 – Penmachno 1 (16,19 km)

09h56: ES 4 – Dyfnant 1 (19,36 km)

10h53: ES 5 – Aberhirnant 1 (10,26 km)

13h07: Assistance B (Llandudno – 42’)

14h40: ES 6 – Elsi 2 (11,65 km)

15h08: ES 7 – Penmachno 2 (16,19 km)

15h57: ES 8 – Slate Moutain (1,60 km)

18h11: ES 9 – Dyfnant 2 (19,36 km)

19h08: ES 10 – Aberhirnant 2 (10,26 km)

21h11: Flexi assistance C (Llandudno – 47′)

 

SATURDAY 5 OCTOBER

05h40: Départ et assistance D (Llandudno – 17’)

08h06: ES 11 – Dyfi 1 (25,86 km)

10h08: ES 12 – Myherin 1 (22,91 km)

11h02: ES 13 – Sweet Lamb Hafren 1 (25,65 km)

12h18: Zone de changement de pneus (Newtown – 15′)

14h08: ES 14 – Myherin 2 (22,91 km)

15h02: ES 15 – Sweet Lamb Hafren 2 (25,65 km)

16h19: ES 16 – Dyfi 2 (25,86 km)

19h13: ES 17 – Colwyn Bay (2,40 km) 

19h49: Flexi assistance E (Llandudno – 47’)

 

SUNDAY 6 OCTOBER

06h00: Départ et assistance F (Llandudno – 17’)

07h28: ES 18 – Alwen 1 (10,41 km)

08h08: ES 19 – Brenig 1 (6,43 km)

09h26: ES 20 – Great Orme (4,74 km)

09h42: Assistance G (Llandudno – 17’)

11h10: ES 21 – Alwen 2 (10,41 km)

12h18: ES 22 – Brenig 2 Power Stage (6,43 km)

13h32: Arrivée (Llandudno)

 

Right, lets’s hear from the crews!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak

“Rally GB is always something special. It’s a rally I like, as the roads are fast and they have a nice flow, but the conditions make it difficult, especially because the grip levels are constantly changing at every corner. You need confidence in your car on every rally, but it’s in these kinds of conditions where it can really help to make a big difference. The gap in the championship is closer now, but we have three rallies to go and we know that we were fast on each of them last year. Now we just have to finish the job, starting in Wales.”

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Rally GB is special for me and I’ve always enjoyed it. The main challenge, of course, is always the weather: Over the years I’ve been competing there I’ve seen snow, ice, horrendous wind, and rain from nearly every angle! If it’s raining while you’re in the stage, it can actually wash away the mud and give you better grip, but when it’s drying out it can be very greasy and slippery. I’m looking forward to it and to picking up where I left off in Finland and Germany when I had a good rhythm with the driving. Hopefully we can achieve another good result to help the team in the championship.”

FIA World Rally Championship 2018 / Round 11 / Wales Rally GB 2018 / October 4-7, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Kris Meeke

“This is as close as it gets to a home rally for me: My first ever rally was in some of the same Welsh forests that I’m now fortunate enough to drive a World Rally Car through. For me, the mud and rain you get there is a big part of why I love rallying. In early October the weather can certainly still be wet, but it’s usually less extreme than when the rally used to be held in November. We know that the Yaris WRC can work quite well in these sorts of conditions, even if it gets really slippery. So, I’m optimistic that we will go there with a quick car and can be confident of a top result.”

Citroën Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“The target at Wales GB will be to keep up the momentum from Turkey and continue to put as much pressure on Ott as possible. I’ve always done well as this rally. I’m determined to really go for it and have a say in the outcome, especially as the running order isn’t an issue for those starting at the front. It’s all about reading the changes in grip and dealing with the conditions, which are often tricky, especially the low-grip sections. Although it took me a while to work out how to manage this unusual event, it’s now a rally that I really enjoy.”

Photo credit, Citroën Racing

Esapekka Lappi

“This rally is an iconic test. You’ve got it all, stages in the dark, fog, rain and wind – it’s always a serious challenge. You need guts too, because the stages are pretty fast and flowing. One of the key things will undoubtedly be having a car that isn’t too sensitive to the changes in grip, because they are non-stop. We worked well in testing, even though the roads were dry. Given our position in the running order, rain would clearly be something of a disadvantage. Having said that, in Turkey I had a good feeling with my C3 WRC when it started raining on Friday’s long stage.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Wales Rally GB can be one of the wettest rallies on the calendar, so we have to be prepared for an eventful weekend. It’s typically a very slippery event but one I enjoy. I’ve been on the podium a couple of times and I’m hoping to replicate that this year. The stages are quite flowing, very fast and we have some dark-light conditions too, which adds to the atmosphere. The itinerary is demanding with long days but it’s what Wales is known for and I’m ready for the challenge.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Wales Rally GB
04-07 october 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Wales Rally GB is where I started my WRC career, so always holds a special place on the calendar for me. At this time of the year, as we tend to have more inclement late autumn weather, the conditions are usually very slippery – lots of rain and fog. It’s one of the trickiest gravel rallies we do all season as the stages are fast paced but also very muddy. Hopefully, we can continue our momentum from our podium finish in Turkey.”

Craig Breen

“It’s great to be back in the car again for Wales Rally GB. It’s a rally that I really love. It’s obviously the closest I’ll get to a home event for the moment. I have great memories from over the years. Finland exceeded my expectations and definitely gave me a lot more confidence going forward. I know it’s going to be difficult and we need to do everything we can to provide good manufacturers’ championship points for the team.”

M-Sport WRT

Elfyn Evans

“I’m really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel – especially as it’s on home soil in Wales. This event is the highlight of my year, every year, and when you get it right in front of all those Welsh flags it’s an incredible feeling.

“We have some of the best stages in the world in Wales, and it’s a proper challenge for the crews – especially if the Welsh weather has anything to say about it which I think it probably will next week. In those tricky conditions the grip levels are constantly changing and you have to be able to read the road if you want to push for the top results.

“We might have been away for a few months, but my motivation is as high as it ever was. We’ve had a good test, and I feel like we’re well prepared for the challenges ahead. And the goal, as always, is to push for the top results.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Wales Rally GB (GB) – WRC 26/10/2017 to 29/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Teemu Suninen

“I really like this rally and have done well there in the past. I didn’t have a lot of experience of the stages last year, but I was really pleased with my performance – setting some good times and running in podium position before having to retire. So, the goal this year will be to continue that performance, and see if we can challenge for the top positions.

“We completed a full day of testing in Greystoke and, even though the base there is a bit harder than what we’ll see in Wales, I think we managed to find a good set-up and will be able to deliver a good performance on these challenging stages.

“Maybe the biggest challenge though is the lack of sleep. Probably we will only get about four or five hours a night – and the road sections to the first stage can be pretty long. It will be physically and mentally challenging to stay alert in those first stages, but that is all part of the challenge in Wales.”

Pontus Tidemand

“I like Wales a lot and it’s a rally that suits me and my driving style quite well. I’ve done well there in the past which gives me more confidence, but I will still be competing against the best drivers in the world and am still continuing my own development.

“At the end of Rally Turkey, I felt as though I’d found the right set-up for me and that I could drive how I wanted. We had a great test with the team earlier this week, and I’m feeling more and more at home with the car. And since Wales Rally GB will be my second gravel rally with the Ford Fiesta WRC, I hope we can show some improvements.

“The biggest challenge in Wales is always the unpredictable weather. We need to be prepared for everything – rain, fog, mud and constant grip changes. The roads might not be technically tricky, but the conditions are really unpredictable and that’s what makes it so challenging. The stages also change their character depending on what area we are in, and we need to be able to adjust to all of these different surface changes.”

Running in two Fiesta R5 Mk2’s will be Gus and Hayden

Gus Greensmith

“It’s always a nice feeling to be back on home soil, and there are some truly legendary stages at this event. It’s a rally with some really tough days for the crews, and the weather can be really challenging too – it’s not a matter of if the fog comes, but when, and it’s that challenge that I’ve always enjoyed.

“It was great to secure the first victory for the Ford Fiesta R5 Mk2 in Turkey – albeit in somewhat surreal and dramatic circumstances! I had a big feeling of pride after that win because everyone had worked really hard. We proved our potential and the potential of the car, and have already made some further steps since then.

“Our goal is always to fight for the top positions, but the competition is going to be really strong next weekend. It will be tough, but I feel we have a good package and that we have what it takes to deliver another strong result for M-Sport and Ford.”

Hayden Paddon

“I can’t wait to get back in the driving seat, and I really enjoy Wales Rally GB. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of home and we’ll be hoping for a good run as we take to the wheel of M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta R5 MkII for the first time.

“It will be important to show the potential of the car which I’m sure we’ll quickly adapt to, but it’s also important that we get the miles under our belt. We’ve lacked too many rallies this year, so this will be the perfect warm up for Rally Australia when we’ll be back behind the wheel of a world rally car with the top-specification Fiesta.

“Although Wales is an event I’ve always enjoyed, the top results seem to have eluded us in the past. I’m confident of putting that right this year, and with the team behind us I’m sure we can deliver a strong result on their home soil.”

Summary

Well, here we go! Right now, there are reports that Hurricane Lorenzo will arrive in the area around Thursday. Quite what this will mean in terms of Friday’s stages, is unknown. It is currently a category 5 storm. We shall see what happens. Enjoy!

Wales Rally GB 2018 Preview

Photo credit, M-Sport

The championship arrives in Wales finely balanced. With Ott Tanak’s third win in a row last time out in the dramatic Rally Turkey, taking the Estonian into second place in the standings, we have essentially a three round title fight between Thierry, Ott and Seb.

This round is being held a lot earlier this year, and this may lead to a very fast event, plus running further down the order will help those drivers should those stages remain dry. Home favourite, and last year’s winner Elfyn Evans comes here, after not having a great season in terms of results, but having certainly shown good pace throughout the year. He’ll be hoping to secure a good drive to at least a podium, and I’m certain he would love to repeat last year’s victory.

Looking at the other drivers that have done well in this event in the past, there’s Jari-Matti who has scored well here too, and he’d love to follow up his podium from last time out with another here. Then there’s Craig Breen, who has suffered badly with problems on the first day of each event this year, leaving him in a bad road position for the rest of the event. Last time out he led for a short while, before his curse returned, so let see how he gets on this time. He’ll have a whole new car of course, after the fire that destroyed his C3 in Turkey. Don’t forget, he went really well in Sweden this year, scoring a podium! Then there’s Hayden Paddon, who scored a his first podium of the season last time out and is fired up to do well this year.

 

Right, now here are the details of the stages that make up this year’s event. You’ll notice some changes, with the introduction of some new stages, Penmachno (16.95km) and Slate Mountain (1.63km) on Friday, plus some new sections to Brenig and Sweet Lamb and Hafren connected together with a road section.

 

Saturday sees the longest stages being run and in fact, the longest day of action with nine stages, two held as the sun goes down. Also, worth a mention is ElfynsCorner, in Myherin, where the fans of Elfyn will gather with their huge banner to cheer on the Welsh wizard.

Finally, Sunday will see a stage run around Llandudno and the Great Orme as the final, but interestingly, the Power Stage isn’t around there, it’s a stage with some changes called Gwydir and held as the second stage of Sunday. A very different ending to normal.

 

WALES RALLY GB SCHEDULE (GMT+1)

THURSDAY 4 OCTOBER

8.00am: Shakedown Clocaenog (3,37 km)

3.15pm: Start (Deeside)

7.00pm: SS 1 – Tir Prince (1,70 km)

8.05pm: Parc fermé (Deeside)

 

FRIDAY 5 OCTOBER

6.45am: Service A (Deeside – 15 min)

7.56am: SS 2 – Clocaenog 1 (7,67 km)

8.32am: SS 3 – Brenig 1 (29,13 km)

9.47am: SS 4 – Penmachno 1 (16,95 km)

10.40am: SS 5 – Slate Mountain 1 (1,63 km)

10.47am: SS 6 – Slate Mountain 2 (1,63 km)

1.11pm: Service B (Deeside – 30 min)

2.37pm: SS 7 – Clocaenog 2 (7,67 km)

3.13pm: SS 8 – Brenig 2 (29,13 km)

4.28pm: SS 9 – Penmachno 2 (16,95 km)

7.02pm: Flexi service C (Deeside – 45 min)

 

SATURDAY 6 OCTOBER

5.30am: Service D (Deeside – 15 min)

8.35am: SS 10 – Myherin 1 (20,28 km)

9.15am: SS 11 – Sweet Lamb Hafren 1 (19,95 km)

10.28am: SS 12 – Dyfi 1 (19,48 km)

11.02am: SS 13 – Gartheiniog 1 (11,26 km)

12.08pm: SS 14 – Dyfnant (8,30 km)

1.51pm: Tyre and headlamp pod-fitting zone (Newton – 15 min)

2.52pm: SS 15 – Myherin 2 (20,28 km)

3.32pm: SS 16 – Sweet Lamb Hafren 2 (19,95 km)

4.45pm: SS 17 – Dyfi 2 (19,48 km)

5.19pm: SS 18 – Gartheiniog 2 (11,26 km)

7.37pm: Flexi service E (Deeside – 45 min)

 

SUNDAY 7 OCTOBER

5.25am: Service F (Deeside – 15 min)

7.22am: SS 19 – Elsi (10,06 km)

8.08am: SS 20 – Gwydir 1 Power Stage (14,76 km)

9.16am: SS 21 – Great Orme Llandudno 1 (8,03 km)

9.57am: Tyre fitting zone (Dolgarrog – 15 min)

10.29am: SS 22 – Gwydir 2 (14,76 km)

12.18pm: SS 23 – Great Orme Llandudno 2 (8,03 km)

12.29pm: Finish (Llandudno)

 

Now, let’s hear from the drivers!

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Wales Rally GB is really enjoyable and has different characteristics to the other gravel rallies on the calendar. The past few editions of the event have been run in wet, rainy conditions but we are there a bit earlier this year so let’s see if the weather is kinder.”

“Whatever happens, it will be a tricky rally, particularly on the second pass. The schedule is also tough with very early starts and late finishes; it’s an extra physical challenge. I have had two podiums in a row in Wales, so it would be nice to continue that streak. After the disappointment of Turkey, the championship fight is definitely on!”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship, Round 12, Wales Rally GB 26-29 October 2017, Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, Photographer: RaceEmotion, Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Although Turkey was ultimately a frustrating result, having led the rally by 40 seconds, it is important to take away the positives. Everything was a bit more relaxed and we had a good feeling inside the car. That’s what we take with us onto Wales Rally GB, an event I enjoy greatly.”

“It is where I started my career, so it is always good to go back. It was my second event with Hyundai Motorsport last season and we came away with a solid fourth place, fighting near the front. I hope we can do that again this year and recreate the level of competitiveness we showed for most of Rally Turkey.”

Hayden Paddon

“After our podium in Turkey, we are looking forward to Wales Rally GB, which is Seb’s home event. There is often rain, mud and fog to contend with in this event, which adds character to a very enjoyable, but taxing rally.”

“The characteristics of the roads match our style, and I think they will also be suited to our i20 Coupe WRC. Although I have had a couple of top-five finishes in the past few seasons, we’ve never really achieved our full potential in Wales. I’m going to set out to correct that this time around.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tanak

“Normally, Rally GB is an event that I like. In an ideal world, I would like to have dry conditions and fast roads, but everybody knows that you cannot expect anything when it comes to the weather in Wales. During our test last week, it was raining quite a lot so we had a nice amount of mud, which was perfect for testing really.”

“We were able to do quite a lot of work to try and further develop the car and get more performance. I believe we did a good job and I’m looking forward to seeing how we compare against our rivals. Everything is possible now in the championship and I have a good feeling about what we can do in Britain.”

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Rally GB is one of those events I have always enjoyed, partly because it was my first ever WRC round back in 2002: This year will be my 17th start in Wales. We had a very good test last week. I was delighted that we had a lot of rain and muddy conditions, because this is normally what you get in Wales, yet in the previous two years it was dry during testing and I ended up with the wrong setup for the rally.”

“In the test the car was working really well in the muddy conditions, and we managed to improve the traction, which was our weakness last year. All in all, I got a good feeling with the driving and with the car, so I’m looking forward to the event.”

Jari-Matti Latvala – Miikka Antila. Photo credit Toyota WRT

Esapekka Lappi

“Our result on this event last year wasn’t great, and the car wasn’t really performing how we expected, but hopefully we have found something on our pre-event test that is going to help us to be much more competitive this year.”

“Unlike for my team-mates, it was actually fully dry for my test day, so I would prefer it if the rally is dry. With the earlier date I hope that could be possible, but the weather is always unpredictable, so let’s see. I really like the rally itself so I’m really looking forward to it: It would be great to have a good result, both for myself and to help the team in the championship.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“Wales Rally GB is one of the classics and an event that everyone wants to win. The stages are steeped in motorsport history and the early starts and late finishes make it a true test of focus and endurance. Win in Wales, and you know that you have mastered the challenge.”

“It’s one of the most challenging rallies on the calendar and there is a real art to judging the grip through the forests. The demanding weather conditions can take a bit of getting used to, but we could see a dry rally this year which would be interesting for sure!

“This time 12 months ago, the Welsh forests played host to an incredible story as we claimed all three championships with Malcolm and his team. The title fight could not be closer this year, but the team can rest assured that we will give our very best in pursuit of the strongest possible result to keep our championship hopes alive!”

 

Elfyn Evans

“Competing at home always brings special motivation. We have some of the best stages in the world in Wales, and when you see all the Welsh flags and fans cheering you on you can’t help but feel a real sense of pride.

“The win last year is something that we will never forget. There’s always something special about that first victory, but doing it on home soil with all of our family and friends there was really special and something we definitely want to replicate again this year.

“The aim is to be in the fight for another win, but we know it won’t be easy. This is an event that everyone wants to win and the three guys up front will all be pushing extremely hard. The stages are fast, and mistakes aren’t easily forgiven, but we will give it our best. Experience counts for a lot, and we’ll be looking to put all of our local knowledge to good use.”

Twelve months ago Elfyn and Dan drove to a first ever victory on home soil. FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Wales Rally GB (GB) – WRC 26/10/2017 to 29/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Teemu Suninen

“This will be my first time in Wales with a World Rally Car, but I am looking forward to the challenge and will give it my very best for the team. The car feels good, and hopefully we’ll be able to challenge for a good result.

“We had a one-day test last week where we were able to experience a lot of different conditions. We drove a full day with muddy conditions in the morning before it become dry in the afternoon. Then in the closing hours we also had some heavy rain which meant we were able to experience all kinds of conditions.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen

“This is as near as it gets to a home rally for me, so it’s obviously a special event, especially as I have some very good memories here. I know the roads well and I had a very good feeling during our pre-event test. So, I’m very keen to get a good result here.”

“The real difficulty here is trying to assess the level of grip as quickly as possible. You have to trust your feeling, look at the colour of the dirt and gravel, and also rely on your experience from previous years. If the stages are dry, then the ground tends to be pretty rough and you need to look after your tyres.”

Mads Østberg

“It’s an event that I really like. I’ve had quite a few good experiences here. The C3 WRC was comfortable on these roads last year and our pre-event test here last week was very productive. So, I’m feeling confident before the start.”

“At a rally like this, where you are pushing really hard, you need to be at one with your car and completely spot on with your pace notes. You then you have to try and not get caught out by one of the very slippery sections where there is a sudden change in grip.”

 

Now, there’s a lot of teams running R5 cars in this event as well. Citroen, Hyundai and M-Sport all have a number of these cars running in the WRC2 category.

 

Gus Greensmith (WRC 2)

“It’s always nice competing on home soil, but I have to admit that I’ve never really felt fully comfortable on the Welsh stages. But I will certainly do my best to change that this year.

“The biggest challenge is the fog that can appear at any point. You have to commit to your notes and pray you got them right – it’s a real buzz.

“The plan is just to drive as fast as I can and hope for a good result to finish my season. Then we can look at our options for 2019 and start preparing.”

Gus Greensmith and Alex Gelsomino – Photo credit M-Sport.

Éric Camilli (WRC 2)

“Wales Rally GB is one of my favourite events and I’m always looking forward to competing there. My last gravel rally was a year ago now, but I’m really motivated to come back strongly and I have a lot of good memories from this event – it’s a special place for me.

“It’s a truly unique event with specific conditions for rally magic! Mud, fog, fast roads, early mornings, long days – Wales Rally GB is an adventure through some of the most beautiful landscapes! The colours in the Welsh forests at this time of year really are fantastic and this event has all the elements needed for a challenging, beautiful and passionate rally.

“We’ve come close to victory a few times in Wales. We want to be in the fight at the front again, and if we could reach the top step of the podium it would be amazing.”

 

Matt Edwards (BRC)

“I am really looking forward to this year’s Wales Rally GB. I’m a lot more prepared than I was last year, and looking forward to competing on home soil again.

“I’m trying not to think too much about the [British Rally] Championship, but it is difficult. We’re just trying to focus on preparing as well as we have all year and not change the approach that has served us so well this season. But if I can achieve this amazing achievement on home soil, it really would be amazing.

“The nature of Friday and Sunday’s stages will be the biggest challenge. They’re a lot narrower than the traditional Wales Rally GB stages, but that provides great variation and another challenge despite what could potentially be better weather and road conditions this year.

“My one and only goal is to secure the British Rally Championship and I will do whatever is required to make that possible. But we also need to enjoy the opportunity as that’s what we have set out to do on each event this year and the times have followed.”

Matt Edwards / Darren Garrod – Ford Fiesta R5

Alex Laffey (BRC)

“I am really excited as this is my first FIA World Rally Championship event. I can’t wait to tackle this challenge and everything it represents – and to be fighting right at the sharp end of the British Rally Championship makes it even more exciting.

“There is no other event likes Wales Rally GB. To drive some of the best stages in the world that have hosted some of the most amazing WRC title battles over the years makes it such a special place.”

“The whole event is a challenge and it’s a very tough event on the cars and crews alike. The conditions are very changeable, and the whole scale of the event will be so different from what we’re used to.”

“I will give it everything. The battle for the final podium places is so close and I really want to end the season in the top-three. I am looking forward to challenging myself and can’t wait to get started.”

Rhys Yates / Alex Lee – Skoda Fabia R5

Stéphane Lefebvre (WRC2)

“Since Germany, I’ve had the opportunity to get my feeling back on gravel in the C3 R5 during a development test session around Mazamet. I’ll also be doing some more specific testing in Wales just before the start, to refamiliarise myself with the countless changes in grip.”

“The difficulty of the roads here is being able to judge the level of grip and distinguish, for example, between mud that’s slippery and mud that offers grip. But I am determined to turn our undeniable potential into a strong result.”

Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau – Photo credit Citroen Racing

Jari Huttunen (WRC2)

“I am pleased to be back in WRC 2 action with our i20 R5, following our ERC podium in Poland. We have had some ups and downs this season, some good results and some bad luck. Our goal for Wales Rally GB is to put all our learning into practice, and to register stage times on par with the front-runners. We didn’t have much fortune in Wales last year, retiring after just four stages. We have a lot more experience now, and I am feeling confident.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 08, Rally Finland
26-29 July 2018
Day 3
Jari Huttunen, Antti Linnaketo, Hyundai i20 R5
Photographer: Jordi Rierola
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Well, what a tantalising event we are set for. There are so many factors that could decide who wins this year’s Wales Rally GB, but I believe that whoever wins it, may be the driver who takes the title. A non-finish for any of the title contenders would probably spell the end of their challenge. There are still many twists and turns left this year!

The making of Skydriver

Photo credit – Sky Cam Wales

Awards, beers, eBay, clones, drones, a big yellow crane plus a crash landing – the full story and secrets behind the jaw-dropping #Skydriver viral video have been revealed in a short follow-up film released today (Tuesday).

What started life as some bar-room bravado banter ended up, more than two years later, with a livered car flying down one of Zip World’s adventure tourism wires at Slate Mountain, Blaenau Ffestiniog in north Wales – an incredible stunt that has already been watched by many hundreds of thousands of online viewers in the first few days since being released on Wednesday 1 August.

Matt Edwards (@MERallysport ) drove the car – Photo credit Wales Rally GB

Although some of the more eagle-eyed browsers did spot that two different look-a-like Dayinsure liveried cars had been used for the rally driving and sky driving elements (the clue was in the wheels), what the cameras didn’t reveal was the car’s somewhat unplanned bumpy landing at the end of its dramatic, high speed flight down Zip World Titan.

The full story is now disclosed in a special behind-the-scenes #InsideSkydriver film. The edit includes yet to be seen footage of the spectacular stunt plus interviews with key members of the ambitious #Skydriver team who were not only responsible for dreaming up such a crazy proposition but also for actually accomplishing the eye-catching feat.

Summing Up #ElfynsCorner on Friday, on Day One of Wales Rally GB

Well, that was fantastic. #ElfynsCorner went down well indeed! The banner had gone up on Thursday afternoon in very foggy conditions! However, we woke on Friday morning to a beautiful morning. Having driven into the stage very late on Thursday night, we camped out in our cars. This was true rally life!

#ElfynsCorner, Myherin, Wales Rally GB, Thursday Afternoon Photo By Warren Nel
Friday morning, Myherin Stage. Photo by Warren Nel

Up on the hill, looking down on ElfynsCorner we positioned ourselves for the double running of Myherin. The crowd grew until there were hundreds of excited rally fans. There were ElfynsCorner stickers to sell, with the proceeds going to The Welsh Air Ambulance.

The members of the #ElfynsCorner group. Photo credit, Warren Nel
Just a few spectators overlooking #ElfynsCorner!! Photo credit, Warren Nel

During the afternoon, WRC TV came and interviewed Peter Jones, who had become the spokesman for the group. The second run of the stage was about to start, so they stayed and filmed the group when Elfyn and Dan were coming past. The excellent news of course, was that they had increased their overall lead at the end of the stage. The group were very happy indeed!

Peter Jones being interviewed by WRC TV Photo credit, Warren Nel
Neal Parry, Elfyns Cafe, #ElfynsCorner Photo credit, Warren Nel
The #ElfynsCorner group. Photo Credit, Warren Nel

Of course, Elfyn and Dan went on to take their first WRC victory!

Elfyn and Dan hold the Peall Trophy!
Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt. Photo credit, Warren Nel

Fast forward a couple of weeks and the money collected was handed over to The Welsh Air Ambulance. With the sales of the #ElfynsCorner stickers both before and during Friday, £400.63 was raised!

It was given to them yesterday when Sam Walker visited their base.

Wales Air Ambulance. Photo credit, Sam Walker
Just some of the #ElfynsCorner group, Phil, Sam, Lee and Steve. Photo credit, Warren Nel

Next year, ElfynsCorner will be run again at Wales Rally GB! I suspect it will be even bigger!

 

Wales Rally GB Review- Elfyn breaks the drought for a British winner at home.

After coming so close earlier this year in Argentina, Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt took their maiden wrc victory driving a D-Mack shod Fiesta WRC. It had been 17 years since we had last had a British winner.

 

A record number of fans flocked to the event, numbering more than 100,000, after an amazing season of these new generation cars. What they witnessed was a supreme drive by the 28-year-old. Here’s the story of how it happened.

 

In shakedown, Elfyn set the pace leading Dani Sordo and Ott Tanak in third. This was looking good. The first stage of the rally was held that evening with Seb winning and continuing his amazing run. Elfyn was sixth, but only 1.1 seconds away.

The view over #ElfynsCorner in Myherin. Photo by Warren Nel

Friday morning dawned a sunny day with light winds. Stage two was the Myherin test. The cars would head onto the stage in championship order meaning that Seb would be first on the road all day. His time would be good enough for third quickest, but it was the home boys that would be top with Elfyn leading Kris in the stage and the welsh wizard moving into the lead as well. Thierry would go wide in this stage, gathering some grass in his wing!

 

Out on stage, the ElfynsCorner crew were pretty happy! Top three at this point was Elfyn, Seb and Ott- an M-Sport 1-2-3.

 

Stage three in Sweet Lamb would see Ott and Thierry separated by just a tenth of a second with Elfyn in sixth, the gap was reduced by a second to 2.2 seconds.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Wales Rally GB (GB) – WRC 26/10/2017 to 29/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

The next stage in Hafren was the longest of the whole event at 35.14 km. Elfyn would emerge quickest again, and increased his lead over Ott to 6.7 seconds. Seb fell from second to fourth, now 16.4 behind the leader. Further back, Craig suffered a puncture, but it wasn’t clear how it happened.

 

With no service, the cars headed for Newtown to change tyres and fit light-pods.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Wales Rally GB (GB) – WRC 26/10/2017 to 29/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

The second run started at half past two. It was getting quite warm out there, and the road had really dried a lot, so much so, that the cars were kicking up a dust trail as they came through! Evans won the stage from Ogier by 4.3 seconds. His closest challenger for the lead, Ott could only manage eighth fastest, and 8.4 slower, meaning that he was now 15.1 behind Elfyn. Seb also moved ahead of Kris, back into third overall.

 

Seb would win the second run of Sweet Lamb, and closed the gap to Ott as well. This was going well for Elfyn indeed as he was second fastest and his lead was 16.1 seconds with one stage to go, this was looking good!

 

The second run of Hafren, saw Thierry take his first stage win of the weekend and he would climb into fourth overall, moving ahead of Latvala and Meeke. Ott was slower again than Elfyn, meaning that the lead was now an incredible 24.6 seconds. Further back, Craig had made a mistake and slid off the road, but he managed to get going again and completed the stage.

 

It was the first time that Elfyn and Dan had led at home ever, and the first time we had a Briton pairing lead at home since 2001!

OVERALL CLASSIFICATION- Day One

  1. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:09:20.9
  2. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +24.6
  3. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +26.8
  4. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +37.1
  5. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +41.9
  6. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) +42.0
  7. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ander Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +52.0
  8. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:13.9
  9. Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:22.9
  10. Juho Hänninen / Kaj Lindstrom (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:43.5

 

Here then are the thoughts of all the drivers, starting with the leader.

 

Elfyn won three stages today, to become the first Briton to lead since Colin Mcrae in 2001 and the first Welshman since David Llewellin in 1989.

 

Elfyn Evans (1st) said:

“It feels pretty good to be in this position at the end of the day. We’ve had a solid run with no problems and no mistakes so, so far, so good.

“It’s definitely not been an easy day – especially this morning when the grip was changing so often through the stages.

“Finding the balance between pushing just enough and over-driving was pretty difficult as the grip was changing from corner to corner. We just tried to concentrate on using the traction we had as best we could, but it wasn’t easy for sure.

“Tomorrow’s stages really are fantastic and so enjoyable to drive. They’re real home territory for me so the plan is just to go out there and enjoy it.”

 

One stage win combined with good consistency in the other stages means that Ott was in a good position overall.

 

Ott Tänak (2nd) said:

“It’s not been a bad day for us and it’s been really nice out on the stages. The sun has been shining and I think it’s the first time I’ve actually seen the Myherin stage without the fog!

“It’s still a really close battle behind Elfyn so we’ll have to wait and see what we can do. Tomorrow’s stages are completely different but they’re also really enjoyable.

“I’m sure it’s going to be another exciting day, but it will be difficult to make any big-time differences. We’ll keep fighting and keep pushing as always.”

Rounding out the top three was Seb, only a couple of seconds behind Ott, meaning that M-Sport filled the top three positions. He’d taken two stage wins and set some very consistent times.

Ott Tanak, Wales Rally GB

Sébastien Ogier (3rd) said:

“I feel good at the end of the day. Some sections were quite tough and I struggled to read the grip through the first pass of Hafren. I was a bit disappointed at the end of that one, but other than that it has been a good day for us.

“I took my 500th stage win today, at exactly the same place where I took my very first stage win in 2008, so that is a nice story and it seems that I like Sweet Lamb! Actually, the profile of today’s whole loop is really nice – nice flowing stages and nice corners which are really enjoyable to drive.

“So long as you can read the grip, you can have a lot of fun out there and for sure Elfyn has had a lot of fun today. We knew he could do well here and, even though the tyres are working well for him, it was still a very strong performance. No matter what tyres you have, you still have to drive the car and he deserves to be where he is tonight.

“All three championship contenders are really close now and if I want to stay in the fight I have to push. That will be the plan for tomorrow – to enjoy, to push, and to see the fight continue.”

 

Thierry Neuville (4th) said:

“We have made improvements during the day and can be satisfied with where we are considering our time penalty from Thursday. The pace is there and we would have liked to be fighting at the top but that put us behind before we’d even really started. I struggled with the settings of the car on the first stage this morning, stalling the engine after running wide and losing some seconds. We changed the differential settings midway through the loop and found some improvements, which have allowed us to move up. Finishing the day with a stage win is encouraging and gives us the motivation we need to keep pushing on Saturday.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (7th) said:

“It is always a pleasure to come back to Wales. I started my career here and it’s fun to be driving this year with Hyundai Motorsport. Although the weather conditions have been fine today, the stages are still incredibly slippery and that has made things quite difficult. From our road position, there hasn’t been much more we could do today. We are still learning about the car in these gravel conditions, and doing all we can to adapt and learn. That is our objective also for the rest of the weekend, and we hope to make up a few more positions on the way, as well.”

 

Dani Sordo (8Th) said:

“The stages this morning were a lot more slippery than I anticipated which I wasn’t expecting. The grip in SS4 (Hafren) was better, so we hoped to push more in the repeat loop, after the remote tyre fitting zone. Unfortunately, the grip changed again in the afternoon, which prevented us from doing much more. The stages were really fast at times, and I remain hopeful that we can make up some ground over the next two days.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 12, Wales Rally GB
23-29 October 2017
Day 1
Action
Dani Sordo, Marc Martí, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Hayden Paddon (9th) said:

“Wales Rally GB is a great rally, but it has certain particularities that you need to deliver against in order to be quick. First, you need absolutely bags of confidence and to be completely comfortable in the car. We always seem to struggle with understeer on the opening day, so we were mentally prepared for that, but it held us back today. The conditions were tricky, as you’d expect in Wales, but I’d almost have preferred it to be raining. We changed the settings for the afternoon loop but the conditions changed as well, so it’s a bit of a moving target. Tomorrow is, of course, another day and I hope we can enjoy it a bit more.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th) said:

“The conditions have been difficult for everybody today. There was heavy rain overnight and then the roads started to dry, which actually made the situation worse as the moisture came to the top of the road and the surface became slippery. In the morning I was struggling with understeer and didn’t have the confidence to push, but we changed some things at the regroup and the car definitely felt better, even though were still struggling a bit with the traction. To be in fifth position is not so bad, but we have been discussing things that we can do to improve for tomorrow.”

 

Juho Hänninen (10th) said:

“It hasn’t been so easy today. I knew the conditions would be tricky but trying to estimate the grip this morning when it was changing on every other corner made it hard to find a rhythm. This afternoon the driving didn’t feel too bad but the times were not good at all. Now we are thinking carefully about how we can change the setup a bit and get some more confidence for tomorrow.”

 

Esapekka Lappi (11th) said:

“Today has been quite frustrating, as we have just been lacking grip. This morning I was missing some confidence, but it’s hard to build confidence when the pace isn’t there. I think we have something wrong in the setup because I was quite on the maximum in the last stage and we were still losing a lot of time. Now we have the opportunity to make changes in service to find some more grip and to learn for next year.”

 

Kris Meeke (6th) said:

“I’m very pleased with how today’s leg went. I managed to maintain a good rhythm throughout the stages. To be honest, I don’t think I could’ve done much more. I was expecting to have a hard time of it, given our position in the running order but the grip was actually pretty good this morning, when the mud cleaned a bit and you were left with the cobblestones. I think tomorrow should be even better, because the road conditions will be more even for all of us.”

 

Craig Breen (36th) said:

“I tried to keep it neat and tidy, but we started by losing a minute this morning, with a slow puncture. I hadn’t hit anything, so I was very disappointed to lose contact with the leaders so early in the rally. This afternoon, I spun the car and there was an enormous water hole. The front went in and we couldn’t get out. It was a very small, simple mistake but we didn’t get away with it. Thanks to the spectators for helping us!”

 

Khalid Al Qassimi (28th) said:

“It was a very tough day. I’m really not used to driving in conditions like these. Most of the time, it’s been like driving on ice. We are going to work with the engineers to see if it is possible to make it easier to drive the car.”

 

Mads Østberg (12th) really struggled through the first day. Setup issues and the challenging conditions left him outside the points. He said:

 

“We don`t really know what is wrong, except that the set-up on the car doesn`t work in these conditions. Regrettably we had technical issues during our test on Monday and managed only a few runs, and that meant we couldn`t test different set-ups. Today we have been guessing, but not found any answers. We tried a setup from Spain in the afternoon, but that made the car harder to drive. We shall analyse all data during the evening service and hopefully find a better solution for tomorrow”

 

Day two dawned cloudy and cooler. It was an earlier start as well for everyone with service at ten past six, a full hour earlier than Friday. Nine stages made this day the longest of the weekend, and with two held at night after service, it would really test the crews out.

 

Aberhirnant was first up, and Elfyn picked up where he had left off on Friday, taking the stage and increasing his lead over Ott to 30 seconds. Kris moved ahead of Latvala into fifth place. Andreas found some good pace as well, going third in the stage.

 

Stage nine, Dyfnant was next up and second placed Ott fell further behind Evans, but Seb was having a worse start after only setting the ninth fastest time. Thierry was closing on his rival for the championship. Elfyn was pulling away, the gap now 36 seconds.

 

Into stage ten, Gartheinog and Elfyn made it three from three, taking his lead to almost 40 seconds over Ott. Thierry also moved ahead of Seb into third. Latvala also closed a little on Kris. It was getting close behind our home leader!

 

Stage 11, Dyfi next and a lot happened in this one! Kris spun in the chicane losing time after a stall as well. The other news was that Thierry moved ahead of Ott and into second place. Further back, Dani Sordo was really struggling.

 

The rerun of Gartheiniog, stage 12 saw Elfyn extend his lead some more with his lead now 54 seconds over Thierry. The big news was that Kris lost part of his wing during the stage! I was stage-side, and he came past me with the top part missing! Andreas was also closing the gap to Jari-Matti in their fight for fifth place.

Kris Meeke, Citroen C3 WRC, Photo by Warren Nel

In stage 13, Dyfi, Thierry stopped Elfyn winning all the stages with a very good drive to take top spot, but Elfyn was still firmly in charge. The gap between Jari-Matti and Andreas was getting smaller and smaller, now just 1.6 seconds between them.

 

The short spectator stage at Cholmondeley Castle, stage 14, saw Juho Hanninen crash out of the event. His teammate, Jari-Matti also dropped behind Andreas in their battle over fifth place. With Thierry winning the stage from Dani and Ott, Elfyn kept it simple and set the ninth fastest time.

 

Now we just had two stages left, but they were run once the sun had gone down. The crews headed to the second run of Aberhirnant. It was going to be a much harder this time round though! The fog had descended, making everything much harder! Kris Meeke said, “It was completely crazy. You can’t see 10 metres off the start line. It was hellishly crazy.” Jari-Matti felt at home, setting the fastest time and moving back ahead of Andreas into fourth place overall. Ogier also moved back into second overall after Thierry only managed the ninth fastest time, a full 33.8 slower than Latvala.

 

The final stage of the day saw the crews return to Dyfnant and Elfyn returned to the top of the times with a very good time and extended his lead over Seb to 53 seconds. He had driven brilliantly all day, able to find the speed to pull away, and able to play it safe when it was needed.

 

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2

  1. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:32:39.2
  2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +53.1
  3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +53.6
  4. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +57.7
  5. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:03.6
  6. Tänak / Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:06.1
  7. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:27.6
  8. Paddon / Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:04.0
  9. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:41.0
  10. Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:35.8

 

Let’s catch up with the drivers after day two.

 

Six stage wins helped Elfyn pull away from his closest challengers, adding almost 30 seconds to his lead throughout the day.

 

Elfyn Evans (1st) said:

 

“It’s been a really good day for us and a really enjoyable one as well. I’ve always enjoyed these stages but I have to say that I was glad to get through the night stages!

 

“They really were tough. With the fog on Aberhirnant [SS15] you couldn’t even see the road in front of you so it was very, very challenging. But we made it through and actually managed to increase our lead.

 

“That’s given us a good cushion for tomorrow and there aren’t so many kilometres left, but they’re not easy. There are some very tricky stages coming up with a lot of big breaking areas into not a lot of run off and Gwydir [SS19] is massively technical and not been in use since 2013. There’s plenty in there tomorrow, so we need to keep focused and keep at it.”

 

Seb endured a puncture and then a failure on his brakes on the same wheel that he got a puncture, although it didn’t hold him back.

 

Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:

“It’s been a tricky day and we’ve been lacking some pace compared to yesterday. We need to understand why that was, but I’m just happy to be here after this evening’s night stages!

“When you drive in conditions as challenging as the ones we faced tonight, there is no way of making it risk free. Do that and you can easily lose a minute or more. The visibility really was terrible at times, but we just decided to go for it.

“It was so close between second and fifth that I had to try and it was working pretty well up until the last kilometre when I didn’t see an almost none existent corner. We hit the bank in the fog, damaged the front-left wheel, lost the brakes and honestly thought it would be difficult to finish the day.

“Without the brakes it would have been un-driveable but we managed to close the damaged system and carry on with only three brakes. Somehow, it was still possible to drive and we didn’t lose too much time.

“With only small gaps between a lot of drivers, and 40 kilometres left to complete, we’ll have to keep pushing if we want to stay on the podium.”

 

Thierry Neuville (3rd) said:

“Overall, it was a better day than Friday in terms of the driving, more consistent and we were able to make up a good chunk of time, although I am disappointed with the way our day has ended. We probably had the worst of the fog and honestly could not have gone any faster. We tried to push but it was impossible in those conditions. I expected poor conditions in the evening, but nothing like we experienced. I gave it all I had in the final stage but all our hard work was undone by the weather conditions.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala (4th)

“Things started a bit slowly in the first stage this morning but they just kept improving after that. We had much better traction than we did on Friday, and although we have still been struggling with understeer, we kept playing with the dampers during the day and this helped the car to feel better and better, and the stage times became quicker. Tonight, in the dark and the fog I was quite happy with the performance. Sometimes you have to attack when the conditions are trickiest. The grip was quite good and the feeling with the car was good. I’m looking forward to tomorrow now.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Toyota Yaris WRC

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th) said:

“On the whole, we have had a good day. The daylight stages were particularly positive. We benefitted from a better starting position today so we wanted to capitalise on that and regain some time. We were able to achieve that and were not far off the lead times. The car set-up was amazing. We knew the evening stages would be tough, with the fog, but we had nothing to lose so I drove as quick as I could. We set our light pods too high in the penultimate stage of the evening, and couldn’t see anything. We tried to modify those but with no fog in the final stage they were too low and visibility was worse. Still, there are a lot of good things to take from today’s running.”

 

Ott Tänak (6th) said:

“It has been a long, tricky day, but also a typical Wales Rally GB day. There was just one really foggy stage where we lost a lot of time. For sure it’s disappointing, but it’s done now and that’s how it is. The gaps behind Elfyn aren’t too big so let’s see what we can do tomorrow. Hopefully we can show more pace than today and be able to fight. It will be an interesting day for sure.”

 

Kris Meeke (7th) said:

“As we expected, it was a long day with a lot of time spent behind the wheel! I stayed in touch with the group fighting for the podium until I made a small mistake and stalled in a chicane: that cost me a good ten seconds or so. But I don’t think it made that much difference to our situation. Most of the time, we were able to match or get close to the performance level of our rivals and I enjoyed driving the Citroën C3 WRC today. Our position in the standings isn’t brilliant, but we’ll be ready to seize any opportunities if they come up tomorrow.”

 

Hayden Paddon (8th) said:

“There have been some positives and some problems today. On the positive side, the car has felt much better today and I have felt more confident. However, we have also encountered some trouble, which has set us back. We had a puncture at the start of the second stage and then hydraulic issues on the second run through Dyfi – the longest stage of the day. We had no gearbox or differentials for the entire stage, and it was an absolute handful if I’m honest. I was looking forward to the evening stages and felt that we got more out of ourselves. It’s the same conditions for everyone, but I am able to trust Seb implicitly on the pace notes, so we could push that bit more.”

 

Esapekka Lappi (9th) said:

“Today was certainly better than yesterday. It helped that we were the third car on the road. We made some big changes in service last night and the car started to feel good. I was still struggling for confidence but it has been a bit more enjoyable today. We made more changes in service before the night stages and I think these helped, as the grip felt better than on the previous stages.”

 

Dani Sordo (10th) said:

“There is nothing I can say. It has been a difficult day, and it ended with a poor stage where we lost a lot of time. The car has performed well, mostly, but we haven’t been able to make progress. I was struggling with the traction and grip this morning and the suspension was too soft for my preference. This rally is very special and unique, but so far, I haven’t been able to dial into it fully. I am definitely hoping to turn things around on the final day.”

 

Craig Breen (17th) said:

“On this rally, the handbrake really is the driver’s best friend. And today, I lost my best friend right at the start! The first runs on the stages were very difficult. It was a bit better on the second pass, because I could use the ruts to get the car to turn on the tight bends. It’s a shame we lost the handbrake, because the speed was definitely there today to set some very good times.”

 

Khalid Al Qassimi (23rd):

“It was one of the most difficult days in my WRC career! On the second pass, I was driving on a layer of mud just as slippery as ice. I wasn’t pushing at all, I was just trying to avoid going off the road. The night stages were also very tricky, with a lot of fog. I nonetheless enjoyed myself when there was a bit of grip.”

 

Mads Østberg had a troubling day. After four stages on Saturday, he retired his car. During stage eleven, the car stopped. He and his co-driver Emil got the car going again and they completed the stage.

 

 

Mads explains: “We had a couple of major high-speed “moments” that nearly sent us out among the trees. With no proper service during the day there was no other choice than to retire, and possibly have a chance to sort out the issues and restart on Sunday.”

“Something plays up with the centre differential and suddenly and without warning it stops functioning. We have also had the engine cut out completely at two different occasions on SS11.  Both issues are really something that you don`t want to happen flat in sixth gear.”

Mads Ostberg, Fiesta WRC

Juho Hänninen (Ret) said:

“Things were better this morning than they were yesterday. We made some changes with the car that helped us compensate for all the mud that we are collecting on stages, so the rear was not sitting down so much meaning we could have better traction at the front. Unfortunately, on the Cholmondeley stage I braked a bit too late and hit a hay bale, broke a front damper and had to retire. There is also some damage to the chassis so we won’t be able to restart tomorrow.”

 

Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny like Friday. The crews faced five stages to complete the event. Elfyn had a 53 second lead over his teammate Seb, who was on the verge of his fifth world championship. M-Sport were also looking at winning their first manufacturers championship.

 

Stage 17, Alwen, fell to Ott, but the big news was that Thierry went three seconds faster than Ogier and with that moved his Hyundai back into second overall.

 

Next stage, Brenig, which would later be the powerstage, was won by Andreas. Elfyn was on cruise mode, just getting around the stage and using his advantage to his benefit.

 

Stage 19, Gwydir saw Jari-Matti and Thierry set exactly the same time! Kris was third fastest, which was excellent news for him and Citroen.

 

Just two stages to go now and history being made. Could Elfyn deliver the win that we had been waiting for at home for 17 years and also become the first driver from Wales to win a World Championship event?

 

The re-run of Alwen went to Andreas and with the pace he found, he climbed back into fourth overall at the expense of Jari-Matti who could only manage ninth, five seconds slower than the Hyundai driver. Our leader Elfyn was pretty comfortable with this one, going fourth!

 

Time for the powerstage then and just 6.43km! The top five positions were taken by Thierry, Kris, Jari-Matti, Seb and Andreas.

Seb and M-Sport had done it. Together they’d won the drivers and Manufacturers Championships. However, the big news was that Elfyn had taken his maiden victory at his home event! What a result! Just fantastic!

 

Let’s hear then from the drivers starting with our seventh different winner this year.

 

Elfyn Evans (1st) said:

“I’m feeling pretty good, and just about managed to keep the tears away at the podium. It’s been a really long and difficult weekend, so this one feels good and it was made all the more special when you combine it with everything the team has achieved today.

“Already after Shakedown, we knew if the conditions played into our hands then the speed was there to challenge for the victory. As the weekend went on, I felt that it was always in my reach, but this is an event you can never predict. A clean run with no punctures, spins or mistakes is very difficult. It’s all about finding the right balance and I think that’s what we managed to achieve this weekend.

“I’m definitely hungry for more wins now, so let’s wait and see what next year has in store. Now that I have felt this feeling, it’s one that I would like to repeat!”

Elfyn Evans, Wales Rally GB 2017 winner

Thierry Neuville (2nd) said:

“Our congratulations to Sébastien on his fifth WRC title, and to M-Sport. We got the message just before the start of the Power Stage that he had done enough. It has been a really exciting battle this year and although we have had our moments of misfortune, we have enjoyed some great fights along the way. Everyone in the team has worked incredibly hard this year, so we can be pleased with our performances and for playing our part in the Championship fight. We could not have done any more this weekend. Elfyn was on incredible form, so to finish second to him is a great achievement. Our five Power Stage points shows our performance level this weekend, and I have enjoyed the rally, despite having to concede the Championship. We will now aim to finish the season well in Australia and to secure second place ahead of Ott.”

 

Sébastien Ogier (3rd) said:

“Emotion is something you cannot control. There is something beautiful about that and I have to say that this was the strongest feeling of emotion that I have ever experienced in my professional life. It’s hard to explain the feeling, but it is most definitely a good one.

“Twelve months ago, we decided to take what could have been considered a risk. We decided to team up with Malcolm and set ourselves a challenge. Today, we have succeeded in that challenge and know that we made the right choice.

“I felt immediately proud and very happy for the team. A drivers’ title is something that has never happened for them and it was so well deserved. What they are able to do is amazing. Really, a big thanks to all of them.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (4th) said:

“We have done our absolute best this weekend, trying to go as fast as we could. We wanted to show progress from Spain and we definitely did that. The battle for the podium was really close and I am pleased that we could finish so close to Séb. Fourth place in our second event with Hyundai Motorsport is pretty good. We took a few stage wins this morning, but also made a few mistakes as well, so there is still room for improvement. Overall, I am happy. As a team, we must now prepare to finish the season in the best way possible in Australia, and then aim to make another improvement in the Championship in 2018.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala (5th) said:

“I couldn’t have gone any quicker than I did on the Power Stage: I gave it absolutely everything! This has not been a perfect rally for us, but we’re happy to score some points, we know what we can do to improve, and it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that the Toyota Yaris WRC is the best car that I’ve ever driven. Conditions between the rally and the test were not exactly the same and that was one of the problems we experienced: on the polished stages today, it was impossible to get the car to turn, so that was frustrating. But I’ve still enjoyed the rally: it was fantastic to see so many spectators out on the stages. Wales is always one of the most difficult events of the year, but after Finland it is definitely my second home rally: I’m always very happy to be competing here.”

 

Ott Tänak (6th) said:

“Our weekend might not have played out as we had been hoping, but crossing the line and securing the manufacturers’ championship for the team was something very special. Malcolm, and everyone in the team, have done such an incredible job this year and we’ve achieved huge success together. They really do deserve everything this weekend.”

 

Kris Meeke (7th) said:

“Normally, I wouldn’t be happy with seventh place. But to be honest, Elfyn Evans was in a different class this weekend, he produced an exceptional performance throughout the rally. The battle was mainly for second place and for a long time, we were only thirty seconds or so back, among a group of drivers that were quite tightly bunched together. I dropped back slightly when I made a little mistake yesterday, but I’m still pleased with my rally. I felt good all weekend – it’s been a while since I felt that comfortable on this type of surface, throughout an entire rally.”

 

Hayden Paddon (8th) said:

“We have been in a bit of a no man’s land today, so we have concentrated on keeping things nice and smooth. The result isn’t what we wanted, of course, but we have started to regain our confidence in the car, and just enjoy ourselves a bit more. It has been hard to read the stages this weekend, but it’s been fun to get behind the wheel and to be part of the team again. We can now reset and refocus our efforts on Rally Australia, where we have our sights set much higher!”

 

Esapekka Lappi (9th)

“For me the most important thing was to get to the finish, so I made sure that I concentrated on that above everything else, in order to improve my experience of these challenging conditions. Today we had a good run through the first loop of stages and set some promising times, but on the second run when the roads were cleaner, it was more difficult and I struggled to find the grip. We learned a lot on this rally, so even though it wasn’t the result that we wanted, it was very valuable experience that will help us for the future. I’m learning all the time and so is the team.”

 

Dani Sordo (10th) said:

“It has been a challenging rally for everyone, with slippery and often unpredictable conditions. Unfortunately, we haven’t had the confidence that we needed to mount a stronger attack this weekend. It’s nice to extend our run of rally finishes this season but it isn’t the result we know we are capable of. We have had some positive results this year. Although I am not competing in Australia, we will be hoping for a competitive event for the team as we prepare to come back stronger in 2018.”

 

Mads Østberg and co-driver Emil Axelsson finished the event in 39th place after the problems inflicted on Saturday. He said:

 

“It`s just a bit comical to finish inside the top forty, but this has been the most difficult and frustrating rally this year. The team worked hard to find the source of the electronic “glitches” yesterday, but we haven`t been able to cure the problems. So today has been about driving through the five stages to collect further data and possibly find a solution.”

Mads won’t be driving in Rally Australia and there are no confirmed details as to what is happening with him next year.

“Finishing the season with the problems we have had here in Wales is of course very frustrating, but all in all there are many positive points from 2017. We have been able to fight for the lead in several rallies and I know my speed is very competitive, especially on the “loose”. Spain became a highlight with leading the rally on gravel the first day and securing a solid and good result after two days on tarmac.”

 

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Sébastien Ogier – 215
  2. Thierry Neuville – 183
  3. Ott Tänak – 169
  4. Jari-Matti Latvala – 136
  5. Elfyn Evans – 118
  6. Dani Sordo – 95
  7. Juha Hänninen – 71
  8. Kris Meeke – 70
  9. Craig Breen – 64
  10. Hayden Paddon – 59

 

MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. M-Sport World Rally Team – 398
  2. Hyundai Motorsport – 305
  3. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC – 241
  4. Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team – 210
M-Sport celebrate winning the 2017 Manufacturers World Championship!

Well, what an amazing Wales Rally GB that was! A home winner and two world championships secured as well!

Elfyn Evans and Dan Barritt hold the Peall Trophy.

I hope you enjoyed my recap of the event, and now it’s just a couple of weeks to the last round of the championship.

Let’s see what happens when the teams head down-under!

Wales Rally GB Preview 2017- M-Sport look to take the championship.

It’s time for the UK round of this year’s championship. Twelve months ago, Ott Tanak took the fight to his future teammate Seb. It was one of the closest finishes for a long time.

 

M-Sport can wrap up the Manufacturers Title this weekend, which will be an amazing achievement for this privateer outfit run by Malcolm Wilson.

 

Here’s his thought’s ahead of the team’s home event.

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“It’s hard to find the words to describe just what a momentous achievement we are on the verge of securing this week.

“When we started developing the Ford Fiesta WRC, I knew we had the people to design a competitive, rally-winning car, and we always hoped to be in this sort of position. Now that it is a reality, it really is hard to find the words.

“But it’s not done yet and we cannot forget just what a challenging event Wales Rally GB can be. The changeable weather, unpredictable grip and long days make it one of the most demanding events of the year.

“All three of our drivers have proven what they are capable of in Wales, and I have no doubt that all three of them are capable of securing the best possible result. But anything can happen and we must remain at the top of our game to get the job done.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Poland (POL) – WRC 29/06/2017 to 02/07/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Reigning champion Sébastien Ogier heads to Wales looking to take the championship for an amazing fifth time in a row.

 

Here’s his thoughts.

“This event is steeped in motorsport history and I think it’s fair to say that Wales Rally GB is one of the most iconic events on the calendar. It’s one that everyone wants to win and we’ll certainly be hoping to be in the battle for victory.

“It’s one of the most challenging rallies of the year and there is a real art to judging the grip levels through the forests. It’s an event that takes a while to get to grips with – quite literally – but I have to say that I now feel at home on the Welsh stages.

“Clearly, this could be a very special event for the team and it also provides us with our first mathematical chance of securing the drivers’ championship. But we can’t think too much about that. We just need to focus on enjoying the rally and delivering the best performance we can.”

Seb Ogier, Fiesta WRC 2017

Now, here’s the full details on the all the stages! There are twenty-one stages with a total of 304.36km of competitive, twisting muddy welsh roads!

THURSDAY 26 OCTOBER

8.00am: Shakedown – Clocaenog (3.32km)

6.57pm: Start (Tir Prince Raceway)

7.00pm: SS1 – Visit Conwy Tir Prince (1.49km)

8.00pm: Parc ferme (Deeside)

 

FRIDAY 27 OCTOBER

7.15am: Service A (Deeside – 15 mins)

10.20am: SS2 – Myherin 1 (20.28km)

11:00am: SS3 – Sweet Lamb 1 (4.24km)

11:15am: SS4 – Hafren 1 (35.14km)

1.27pm: Tyre and headlamp pod-fitting zone (Newtown – 15 mins)

2.31pm: SS5 – Myherin 2 (20.28km)

3.11pm: SS6 – Sweet Lamb 2 (4.24km)

3.26pm: SS7 – Hafren 2 (35.14km)

8.01pm: Flexi Service B (Deeside – 45 mins)

 

SATURDAY 28 OCTOBER

6.10am: Service C (Deeside – 15 mins)

7.55am: SS8 – Aberhirnant 1 (13..91km)

8.47am: SS9 – Dyfnant 1 (17.91km)

9.59am: SS10 – Gartheiniog 1 (12.61km)

10.28am: SS11 – Dyfi 1 (25.86km)

12.08pm: SS12 – Gartheiniog 2 (12.61km)

12.37pm: SS13 – Dyfi 2 (25.86km)

3.48pm: SS14 – Cholmondeley Castle (1.80km)

4.55pm: Service D (Deeside – 30 mins)

6.55pm: SS15 – Aberhirnant 2 (13.91km)

7.47pm: SS16 – Dyfnant 2 (17.91km)

10.26pm: Flexi Service E (Deeside – 45 mins)

 

SUNDAY 29 OCTOBER

7.00am: Service F (Deeside – 15 mins)

8.34am: SS17 – Alwen 1 (10.41km)

9.08am: SS18 – Brenig 1 (6.43km)

10.06am: SS19 – Gwydir (7.49km)

11.09am: SS20 – Alwen 2 (10.41km)

12.18pm: SS21 – Brenig 2 Power Stage (6.43km)

1.35pm: Finish (Llandudno)

 

Friday will see the #ElfynsCorner in Myherin! Very big support for D-Mack WRT driver Elfyn Evans has built up since I broke the story back in September. Stickers have been made and sent! Money will be raised for the Welsh Air Ambulance as well.

Saturday sees a mammoth 17-hour day! A very long day! There’s two-night stages as well. These will be very tricky indeed.

 

Now then what chance a home winner? Could Rally Spain victor Kris Meeke, Craig Breen or Elfyn Evans take victory in the welsh forests this weekend? It would be very popular, that’s for sure!

Here’s the thought’s then of the home-grown talent.

 

Kris Meeke said:

“Wales Rally GB is obviously a very special event for me. I competed in my very first rally here, almost twenty years ago! So, it’s the event that I know the best and the surface that comes most naturally to me. Our win in Spain was a great morale boost for the whole team. Having said that, it doesn’t guarantee anything for this event. We’ll see what sort of performance level we have in the Welsh forests. Obviously, a lot will depend on the weather. Running ninth on the road on Friday will be a handicap if it rains. In any case, I’m very motivated and will be doing everything I can to secure another good result for Citroën.”

Citroen C3 WRC

Craig Breen said:

“Between my appearances in the British Rally Championship and the WRC, I feel like I know this event pretty well. I have a lot of good memories here, the highlight being when we won the Junior WRC title. That was in 2011 and it was all more special because my co-driver at the time, Gareth Roberts, was Welsh. After missing the last rally, I’m very happy to be back in the C3 WRC for the final two rounds of the season. As always, it’s pretty difficult to set a specific target, given how much the conditions can affect the standings. But after finishing fifth six times, I would certainly love to do a bit better!”

 

Elfyn Evans said:

“There’s nothing quite like rallying at home and we’re in for a classic Wales Rally GB this year. The iconic stages, the weather, the night stages, the long days – this year’s offering has it all and it’s that sort of challenge that I really enjoy. I’m looking forward to it and to playing my part in what could be a really historic event for the team.

“It’s always amazing to see the Welsh fans out on the stages, and it’s true that their enthusiasm gives you that little bit extra. We’ll have to wait and see how the conditions suit our package, but we’re hungry for a strong result before the end of the year and will be giving it our all this weekend.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Poland (POL) – WRC 29/06/2017 to 02/07/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Now then, what of the Belgian challenger Thierry Neuville?  He saw his challenge for the drivers crown really take a dive after a no score last time out in Spain.

 

He explains: “We were dealt something of a harsh blow in Spain, but we are ready to fight back in Wales. It is a unique event on the calendar, a rally where weather conditions can really dictate performance and confidence levels. If it’s raining, windy and muddy, the stages become incredibly slippery. It is without doubt a tough event, but one that I relish. I have finished on the podium a couple of times, and get a buzz from the fantastic atmosphere. Driving at high-speed through the forest stages, sometimes in the dark, is just incredible. I intend to keep pushing right to the end of the Championship.”

 

Last year’s runner up Ott Tanak in this rally, will be looking to cement his second position in the championship, with a strong run. Here’s what he had to say:

 

“Wales Rally GB is a classic in every sense of the word. The days are long and the conditions are unpredictable, but that is rallying and that’s what makes it one of the biggest challenges on the calendar. When you secure a strong result in Wales, you know that you have delivered.

“This will be my seventh time competing in Wales, and six of those were with the top-specification Fiesta. I’ve got good experience here, and the stages are fast and flowing which I really enjoy. They can get quite slippery and ‘polished’ over the second pass but, again, that just adds to the challenge that makes this rally so special.

“Obviously, this will be a very important weekend for the team. We’re on the verge of securing something really amazing and everyone will be working their hardest to secure that goal. If we could top the weekend off with a win, it would be even better!”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Poland (POL) – WRC 29/06/2017 to 02/07/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Hayden Paddon fans will be happy too. He returns to his i20 and after finishing 5th in 2015 and then 4th last year, perhaps he could stand on the podium this year? His thoughts for you.

“Wales Rally GB is an iconic rally with plenty of driving challenges. The event has always been run late in the season, so we can expect some rain and potentially foggy conditions. In many ways, it is like being back home in New Zealand. There are some very nice, fast stages, and it is a rally I enjoy. Hopefully we can put together a good result and build up to a positive conclusion to what has been a tough season.”

2016 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 13 / Wales Rally GB / October 27 – 30, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Now, what of Mads and his Adapta Motorsport run Fiesta WRC? He will not be driving in Australia, and that means he’ll be looking to end his season on a high. He has scored well in this event, having got top results in previous years.

He has another co-driver alongside him. Emil Axelsson who was his co-driver in an Norwegian rally last month will be working very hard to guide Mads through the welsh forests.

 

Here’s the thoughts from him then.

“I can`t see why I shouldn`t be positive. I have two podiums from before in this rally and I like the often-changing conditions and grip in the Welsh forests. This autumn has also been very “uplifting” and positive, with a very good first day on gravel in Spain where I led the rally after four stages. In September we ran the Norwegian Championship finale as a competition test, and managed to find a very good set-up for the car on quite similar roads and conditions as we are expecting in Wales. I feel I have the necessary speed to be among the lead drivers, and Wales is the place to show it.”

 

Talking about the conditions on these classic stages, he continues:

“I won`t say that this is my absolutely preferred conditions for rallying, but I like the challenge and the special character of this rally. It`s a classic gravel rally on roads with proper ditches and trees in the forest. To imagine Wales Rally in sunshine and dry roads feels completely wrong. Wales is rain, fog and mud, and that in itself is a great challenge.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Poland (POL) – WRC 29/06/2017 to 02/07/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Finally, what of Toyota? It was recently announced that Ott Tanak will be with the team next year. Lead driver Jari-Matti has won this event twice in 2011 and 2012. It’s not been so kind lately though.

 

Here’s his thoughts then.

“Britain is a bit like my second home as it’s where I started my career and it was also my first world championship rally. There are some fantastic stages like Myherin and Dyfnant, which I’m looking forward to going back to. We obviously had a few technical issues in some of the recent rallies, but I feel confident that the team has got completely on top of those now and I just want to have two strong events to finish this incredible season. The first few rallies were challenging but maybe less demanding on the car than these events now at the end of the year, so we are learning more all the time as it is still only our first season as a team.”

Rumours abound that Juho Hanninen will not be driving in Australia as well, so this will be the last time I believe we’ll see him in the Yaris this year.

 

Here then are his thoughts.

“I’m happy with what we managed to do in Spain, so we go into Rally GB with a lot of confidence. This will be my last rally of the year, so most of all I just want to enjoy it. I’ve not actually competed there since 2014, but luckily most of the stages are still quite the same. Even though I don’t have a huge amount of experience in Wales I’ve always liked it, so I want to make sure that this rally is a nice one for us. We don’t have a particular plan: we just want to take it stage by stage and build on our pace. It’s a strategy that has worked well before.”

Juho Hanninen, Toyota Yaris WRC

Finally, Finland winner, Esapekka says:

“Our pre-event test was good but it was very strange weather: I brought my winter jacket and my hat, but when I stepped out of the hotel it was 22 degrees! Still, I think what we worked on can still be useful if it’s wet and muddy, which is normally what happens on Rally GB. I just hope that there’s not too much fog, as that can be really difficult. We changed some suspension settings and there are a few other lessons that we learned from Spain that I was able to improve on, so we made a lot of progress during the test. Normally I have a good feeling with Rally GB, so now I’m looking forward to getting out on the stages and hopefully we can have a good result at the end.”

 

Well, this looks to be an amazing event this year! In addition to that, I will be stage side throughout the rally, having secured a guest pass from the ever-helpful Wales Rally GB media team.

 

I’ll be joining the Elfyns Corner crew in Myherin on Friday and will journey around with them throughout the rest of the weekend. I can’t wait! Make sure you’re following both @PitCrew_Online and my own twitter account @Warren_S_Nel.

 

Enjoy the rally and if you’re coming to watch, come and find me!

 

Warren Nel

24th October 2017