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

Phil Hall’s Wales Rally GB Diary!

It’s going to rain on Rally GB, that’s for certain. It means the grip levels and visibility levels can be highly unpredictable.

This makes recce super-critical. Make good pace notes, and you can go faster in the fog. We had a great recce in GB, it felt good to be on home turf, however with the route change a lot of the stages were unfamiliar to us. I can tell you, for me there is no better feeling in Rallying than being flat out in the fog, knowing the two of you in the car are absolutely committed to the pace notes.

The other thing about Wales Rally GB is that’s it’s a test of endurance too, not in the rough, battering way that Turkey was, but in the get up at 4am and go to bed at midnight kind of way. Long, long days with few opportunities to service the car or get a break. Big distances in wet, cold, muddy conditions. It’s a classic challenge.

We had a good shakedown, and a good opening stage on Thursday night. And we followed that on Friday by getting stuck in and building a nice lead in the howling, rain-soaked forests of North Wales. We had a good day.

Saturday should have been about managing the gap, but a puncture in the second pass of Myherin saw us drop a lot of time. So, we had to fight back.

And over Saturday evening and Sunday that’s what we did, ultimately coming away with our first WRC 3 category win… and on our home event! A very happy memory.

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