Rally Spain 2021 – My Thoughts

We saw another incredible rally in Spain. Let’s take a look and the performances of the crews.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de Espana
14-17 October 2021
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

We have to start with the drive from Thierry and Martijn. Once they took the lead from Elfyn and Scott, they didn’t look back. Nine stage wins gave him a good lead and a repeat win as well after winning in 2019. It was a typically strong drive from the Belgian duo, and the kind that you’d expect from Thierry.

Elfyn and Scott, competing for the first time in Spain in the Toyota Yaris surprised everyone with their pace on the first stage and I’m not sure why. The Welshman has always shown very good pace on tarmac over the years, and with him getting the car to his liking, it was just a matter of time when he’d be quick. He still had some struggles as the roads got messy with the gravel being pulled out and the car not giving him the feeling that he wanted, but their performance was good enough to net second place, and also with the good finish to the power stage they closed the championship lead down a bit more to just seventeen points.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 11 / Rally Catalunya/Spain / 14-17 October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Dani and Candido had a great event, driving to their first podium together. They passed Seb on the final day for third place, taking four stage wins, including the power stage as well. It was a really good drive and has kept Hyundai’s hopes of retaining their manufacturers title just a bit longer.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de España
14-17 October 2021
Dani Sordo, Candido Carrera, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Looking beyond the podium Seb and Julien were the only other crew to take some stage wins, with two on Saturday. It wasn’t enough though to help them hold onto the podium position though and means that they go to Rally Monza with a useful but not big lead over their teammates. It is likely that the championship will be decided on the final stage, should both crews still be running on the final day.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 11 / Rally Catalunya/Spain / 14-17 October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle and Jonne had a good rally, with consistent times in the stages. They’d not competed in the Yaris on these roads before, and showed good pace out there. When we return next year, we can expect some good pace from the young Finn’s.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 11 / Rally Catalunya/Spain / 14-17 October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

At M-Sport we saw good drives from both crews. Adrien and new co-driver Alex did pretty well and set some good times including a second fastest time. There was a mistake that cost them time, but that does not detract from a very good drive from the French duo.

For Gus and Chris, it was a really good drive to sixth place. Chris Patterson’s final ever co-drive in a World Rally Car brought them both a good result, the kind that we have got used to since the change for Gus earlier this year.

 

Oliver and Craig drove to an excellent seventh overall, gaining good experience for the future. Learning the stages that they will return to, including the unique nature of the way to drive these cars in the road conditions that face them.

Finally, Ott and Martin had a rally to forget. After struggling with understeer throughout Friday morning, they went off the road, colliding with some trees causing too much damage to his i20 and leading to retirement from the event. A big shame for the crew who won their world title on this rally in 2019. They will return next year with a new car and hope for a better result. Who knows, they may even be fighting for another world championship.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de España
14-17 October 2021
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Well, we now head to Rally Monza which will see the championship decided for the second year in a row. Look out for my preview just before.

Rally Spain, Day Three Report – Thierry and Martijn win Rally Spain!

Well, just 50km’s over four stages remained, including the power stage of course. The start list looked like this – Katsuta, Fourmaux, Solans, Solberg, Greensmith, Rovanperä, Sordo, Ogier, Evans, Neuville.

SS14 Santa Marina 1 – 9.10 km was first up and run before sunrise as well, bringing an added dimension and difficulty to the stage. Dani set the best time, from Thierry and Elfyn. The Spaniards pace meant that he’s passed Seb for third place as well. Elfyn lost a further 1.4 seconds to Thierry whose lead was now 17.1 seconds. Adrien continued to show good pace as well, setting the early pace, and ultimately being fifth fastest.

Well, into SS15 Riudecanyes 1 – 16.35 km and the dress rehearsal for the power stage. Dani was fastest again from Thierry and Seb. Adrien and Takamoto both set the same time jointly sixth fastest in the stage.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de España
14-17 October 2021
Dani Sordo, Candido Carrera, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

After a short break the run of SS16 Santa Marina 2 – 9.10 km saw Dani take yet another stage win, seven tenths faster than Seb and the Spaniard was now 2.3 seconds ahead of the world champion, and not looking unfazed at all in their battle. Adrien continued good form in this one, with the fourth best time, equal with Thierry. Elfyn cruised through, three seconds of the front runners’ pace, likely looking ahead to the power stage.

Finally, to SS17 Riudecanyes 2 [Power Stage] – 16.35 km, and there was some drama for Thierry and Martijn as well. A video emerged of Martijn push starting their i20 and then flames and smoke coming out of the exhaust suddenly! They were having problems with the starter motor on their car and getting the car started because of this. Never-the-less, they did make it to the stage on time. Then there was further drama, with rain falling in the stage as well. The startlist was changed once again – Gryazin, Camilli, Katsuta, Fourmaux, Solans, Solberg, Greensmith, Rovanperä, Ogier, Sordo, Evans, Neuville. Nikolay was first to come across the rain at around 13.5km into the stage. As each crew completed, we had a new fastest time. The rain then eased off, but of course the road was still wet and greasy at the end. Dani set the fastest time, taking the maximum points with Thierry second and Elfyn third. It was a good time from the Welshman, eclipsing his title rivals time by three tenths of a second, and nicking another point out of Seb’s lead.

Final Overall Classification –Rally de España

1 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2:34:11.8
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +24.1
3 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +35.3
4 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +42.1
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +1:31.8
6 G. Greensmith C. Patterson Ford Fiesta WRC +4:17.3
7 O. Solberg C. Drew Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +4:26.7
8 N. Solans M. Martí Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +4:34.9
9 E. Camilli M. Vilmot Citroën C2 Rally2 +9:49.4
10 N. Gryazin K. Aleksandrov Škoda Fabia Evo +10:05.9
2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de Espana
14-17 October 2021
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Let’s here from the drivers then!

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“I am relieved to get to the end of this rally, to be honest. It has been a tough weekend, and not without its challenges. We have fought incredibly hard across all stages, taking a lot of fastest times, and gradually extending our advantage. The result itself probably doesn’t show how much we’ve had to work. We had a good clean run until the final stage; everything was working perfectly up to that point. Unfortunately, we had a lot of stress before the Power Stage with an engine starter motor issue. That was the only disappointing aspect of an otherwise positive rally. Thanks to Martijn for another good job, and our second win together, as well as to Dani and Cándido for their podium result.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de Espana
14-17 October 2021
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, WRC, Action during Day 3 of Rally de Espana 2021
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (3rd)

“Honestly you can’t imagine how happy I am, not only for myself but also for Cándido, as it’s our first podium working together. He has been working really hard to get us to this level. We couldn’t have done any more, we have pushed in every stage. Thanks to all my family and the supporters, who have been cheering us on this weekend. We have been involved in a fantastic battle with Sébastien and it has been a pleasure to drive here. Thanks to the team for giving me such a competitive car that has allowed us to fight, and for supporting me always. I am so happy.”

Oliver Solberg (7th)

“I knew what I had to do this week. I had to come here and drive really sensibly to make the finish, make the miles and to keep Andrea happy.

“I have to say, the conditions were, in places, tougher than I expected. You can watch the onboards and see the cars sliding on some of the gravel and mud pulled to the stage by the cars ahead, but until you are in that car and feeling it slide beneath you in sixth gear, you don’t have the experience.

“Sometimes I have been really surprised by how much the cars are off the road and cutting, but this is why I was here – I had to learn and see this for myself. Now I understand much better this rally and what it takes to make everything work here.

“We had one small problem with the clutch in the Salou stage on Saturday night. I knew I couldn’t stall the car and that was probably the worst stage to drive like that – it was so tight, so narrow and so twisty. Fortunately, it was very short and we could make it through.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“Second place is a positive result but it’s not so easy to be happy when we made such a good start to the weekend. Unfortunately, it faded away a little bit and I didn’t feel completely at one with everything. There was perhaps a little bit more to gain from this weekend. The good thing from the weekend is that we managed to close the points gap and that the championship is still open. Realistically it’s a big gap to close in one round, but as we experienced last year, anything can still happen and we’ll try our best once again at Monza.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 11 / Rally Catalunya/Spain / 14-17 October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“Coming here I was targeting more than fourth position, but it is still good points towards the championship. It was a close fight today and we definitely tried in the first three stages; then the rain on the last one did not help with my strategy of not taking risks, and I was definitely on the safe side there. But overall, we have to remember that this weekend is another positive step for the championship and that’s what matters the most. It’s not over yet though, so we’ll have to be good at Monza and try to repeat the success we had there last year.”

Kalle Rovanperä (5th)

“Overall, it has been quite a good weekend for us. There was a lot of learning, especially on Friday, but it got better with the setup and with my driving as the weekend went on. Today we were aiming for the Power Stage but the conditions were tricky and it was drying for the guys behind us on the road, so we didn’t have the chance to fight for more. We didn’t quite find the perfect feeling and not the pace that we wanted, but we tried our best and it was a solid weekend.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After Round Eleven

1 S. Ogier 204
2 E. Evans 187
3 T. Neuville 159
4 K. Rovanperä 140
5 O. Tänak 128
6 C. Breen 76
7 T. Katsuta 68
8 D. Sordo 63
9 G. Greensmith 60
10 A. Fourmaux 42

 

2021 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After Round Eleven

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 474
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 427
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 187
4 Hyundai 2C Competition 52

Well, we head now to the final round in Rally Monza from the 19th to 21st of November and a battle for both championships as well. Stay turned for my thoughts on the crews’ performances in the next few days.

Rally Spain Day Two Report – Thierry and Martijn pull away for Hyundai Motorsport

The second day then, and the crews had 117km seven stages ahead of them. The startlist looked like this – Katsuta, Solans, Solberg, Greensmith, Fourmaux, Rovanperä, Sordo, Ogier, Evans, Neuville. Now the interesting thing is that coming through the stages last would mean that the conditions for the leaders would be tricky with the corner cuts bringing gravel onto the road.

 

First up was SS7 Savallà 1 – 14.08 km and there was fog and mist in the stage, which kept moving.  The top three was Thierry, Elfyn and Kalle. The Belgian was 1.7 seconds faster and his lead was now up to 2.4 seconds. It was a good stage from the Hyundai driver, and perhaps the type of stage with it longer flowing and faster corners suited the i20 WRC more than the nimble Yaris, which seems to go better on the twisty stuff. Dani lost a little bit of time to Seb, as he looked to move into third, the gap between them now 6.3 seconds. Takamoto was back of course, and looking to build some confidence again on the stages, and did quite well to be just seven tenths behind Gus.

Into the longer SS8 Querol – Les Pobles 1 – 19.17 km and for a little while it looked like Adrien would take the fastest time, but he was denied by Thierry, whilst Dani set the third best time. Elfyn was only fifth fastest and 4.3 seconds down on Thierry’s time, so the gap now had grown to 6.7 seconds.

The final stage then of the morning loop, SS9 El Montmell 1 – 24.40 km and Thierry made it a clean sweep of the morning stage wins, from Dani and Elfyn. The Spainard who was six seconds faster than Seb, had now reduced the gap in their battle for third overall to just three tenths of a second now. It was game on for the final podium spot. Gus suffered a puncture in this one, and decided not to stop and change, but to complete, losing just over a minute. He’d have lost a lot more if he’d stopped, so it was the right choice. The M-Sport crew dropped two places to ninth overall as a result, with Olver and Nil Solans benefitting.

After the lunchtime break came SS10 Savallà 2 – 14.08 km and Thierry was fastest again from Seb who was 1.4 slower and then Elfyn third fastest a further seven tenths behind. The positions were pretty static to be honest, with no changes of places up and down the field. Sadly, Jari Huttunen retired after having an engine problem in his i20 Rally2.

There was a hint of some rain around an hour before SS11 Querol – Les Pobles 2 – 19.17 km, with some rain actually falling, but it soon stopped and didn’t change the surface of the road at all. Seb and Thierry shared the best time in this one, with Elfyn 1.6 slower. The Belgian was doing just enough to grow his lead over Elfyn. There was drama for Adrien though, as he hit a barrier on the left side and damaged his front wheel. He got it changed and limped to the end. A real shame for the Frenchman who’d been second fastest in the first running of the stage earlier.

The last long stage then of the day, SS12 El Montmell 2 – 24.40 km, and Seb finally broke Thierry’s stranglehold winning the stage from Thierry and Dani. Takamoto was fifth fastest, which was a good result for the Japanese driver, as he gained good experience for the future.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 11 / Rally Catalunya/Spain / 14-17 October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

The last stage then of the day, SS13 Salou – 2.15 km, and Thierry was fastest again, but to be honest there was drama for Seb who lost a huge chunk of time after a stall and only being 16th fastest. Dani was now just 1.2 seconds behind the champion in their battle for third place. There was good drama for Mads who placed his C3 Rally2 fourth fastest in the stage with a sideways display in the stage.

Classification after Day Two

1 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2:03:45.7
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +16.4
3 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +38.7
4 D. Sordo C. Carrera Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +39.9
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +1:12.3
6 G. Greensmith C. Patterson Ford Fiesta WRC +3:45.2
7 O. Solberg C. Drew Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +3:45.9
8 N. Solans M. Martí Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +3:53.8

 

Let’s hear from the drivers then after Saturday’s stages.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“We have had a good day and it’s obviously a very nice feeling to be leading the rally going into the final day. It wasn’t easy; we had some fog early on and the roads were very dirty, so I relied a lot on information from the road note crew. We have taken a clever approach, trying to avoid the sharp cuts, and not risking any punctures. We made an important set-up change yesterday that allowed us to take more out of the car, but there are still things we could have done to go even quicker. I still felt comfortable, and we set six fastest times out of the seven stages, so it wasn’t too bad! It’s always nice to be in front but there are some challenging stages yet to come. Nothing is guaranteed but we keep believing.”

Dani Sordo (4th)

“Honestly, I am quite happy with our performance today, and particularly on the El Montmell stage. I would have preferred to be fighting for the win, of course, but I have been pushing hard to keep up with Sébastien for third. This morning, we were in a nice fight but in the afternoon, he was always a step ahead, setting some strong times. It was difficult for us to make up much ground. We have done the maximum we could, and we’ve been close to his pace. We will try to push for the podium tomorrow, but we know it will be difficult. We have to stay focused and do our best.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de Espana
14-17 October 2021
Dani Sordo
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“We didn’t have a such a great day today and not what we wanted. The times were OK but not as good as yesterday obviously. We tried to improve the car in certain areas, like in the dirty places where we were struggling yesterday afternoon – and also this morning when we were running further back on the road. To an extent we managed to improve that, but in the process, we affected the overall balance of the car. We had to try something but it didn’t work out: I never really found the sweet spot and never felt as comfortable as yesterday. Here you have to be very confident, and I wasn’t at my very best today and it showed in the times. But tomorrow we’ll keep trying.”

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“This morning some things had been improved: I was more happy with the balance and I could enjoy driving the car more in the clean sections at least. Still, the times were not so great. But we continued to work on the car setup and after service it was starting to feel better and the times were coming and we had a great afternoon. Unfortunately, the engine stalled on a hairpin in the final stage so it is close again behind, but the positive is that the car is suiting me and the pace is there so I’m still very confident going into tomorrow.”

Kalle Rovanperä (5th)

“The pace was much better today and we could do good times without taking maximum risk. We made some more setup changes last night and already the first stage this morning was really nice in quite tricky conditions with a bit of fog and some damp places. We had a slow puncture on the second stage and then a big moment on the third one, but overall, it was quite a good morning and I was happy with the car. The afternoon was again quite tricky with a lot of gravel from the cuts, but we were not in a big fight anymore so we took it steady without big risks, and I’m learning all the time. Tomorrow the target is to finish the rally safely but also try to push for points on the Power Stage.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 11 / Rally Catalunya/Spain / 14-17 October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sunday

Now we have 50km’s over four stages remain and it’s looking like Thierry will take victory. Can Elfyn deny his push, or will the Belgian take his second win of the season? We will find out tomorrow!

Rally Spain 2021 Preview – Back to Tarmac!

Well, we are coming to the end of this year’s championship, and for the first time since 2019 we head to Spain! Another twist is that for the first time since 2009 the event will be an all-tarmac event. This will at least mean that Seb Ogier won’t have to sweep the road clear of gravel. He and his teammate Elfyn will continue their battle for this seasons Drivers World Championship on the super smooth roads of Spain. If the Welshman wins in Spain, then he will take the fight to the finale at Rally Monza. However, if Seb scores six or more points than Elfyn, then the Frenchman will take his eighth title in his final season.

Let’s take a look at the stages facing them all. 280km over the seventeen stages. The conditions will remain pretty consistent throughout the weekend with sunny weather forecast for the whole weekend.

Rally de España opens with shakedown on the morning of Thursday 14 October, followed by the ceremonial start near the Salou-based service park.

Friday’s six-stage itinerary features two runs of Vilaplana (20.00km), La Granadella (21.80km) and Riba – roja (14.21km).

Saturday is the longest day of the rally, with two loops of Savallà (14.08km), Querol – Les Pobles (19.17km) and El Montmell (24.40km) followed by a short street stage in the heart of Salou (2.24km).

Santa Marina (9.10km) and Riudecanyes (16.35km) close the event on Sunday, with the second pass of the latter stage forming the event’s Power Stage.

RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada itinerary:
Friday October 15
SS1 Vilaplana 1 20.00km (12.42 miles) 0843
SS2 La Granadella 1 21.80km (13.38 miles) 1021
SS3 Riba-roja 1 14.21km (8.72 miles) 1142
Service Port Aventura 1317
SS4 Vilaplana 2 20.00km (12.42 miles) 1500
SS5 La Granadella 2 21.80km (13.38 miles) 1638
SS6 Riba-roja 2 14.21km (8.72 miles) 1759
Service Port Aventura 1949

Saturday October 16
SS7 Savallà 1 14.08km (8.74 miles) 0844
SS8 Querol-Les Pobles 1 19.17km (11.91 miles) 0937
SS9 El Montmell 1 24.40km (15.15 miles) 1038
Service Port Aventura 1200
SS10 Savallà 2 14.08km (8.74 miles) 1414
SS11 Querol-Les Pobles 2 19.17km (11.91 miles) 1507
SS12 El Montmell 2 24.40km (15.15 miles) 1608
SS13 Salou 2.24km (1.39 miles) 1800
Service Port Aventura 1820

Sunday October 17
SS14 Santa Marina 1 9.10km (5.65 miles) 0700
SS15 Riudecanyes 1 16.35 km (10.15 miles) 0808
Service Port Aventura 0854
SS16 Santa Marina 2 9.10km (5.65 miles) 1029
SS17 Riudecanyes 2 16.35 km (10.15 miles) 1218

 

Now, let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“I’m really looking forward to Spain and to being back on asphalt again. It will be nice to have all three days of the rally on asphalt because those roads are really fun to drive. Also, for us it will good to not be sweeping gravel on the first day of the rally like we have been doing for much of the season. We are still in a strong position for the championship. Spain will be the first realistic chance to claim the title and I know what I need to do to make it happen. When I have the chance to win, I try to fight for it, and this will be the most simple way to achieve our goal.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 11 / Rally Catalunya/Spain / 14-17 October 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans

“The win on Rally Finland was a great result for us. The drivers’ title is still a long shot for us but once more we’ll be giving our best in Spain and trying to get the best possible result there. The asphalt roads in Spain are really fantastic to drive, so I’m looking forward to competing on an all-asphalt event this time around. So far whenever I’ve driven the Yaris WRC on asphalt, the surface has usually been quite dirty or provided very low grip, so I’m excited to drive the higher-grip roads in Spain in this car. That said, at this time of year the weather is never guaranteed to be dry even in Spain. If it does rain, as we’ve seen in previous years, it can still be quite a tricky and demanding event.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“I have driven in Spain twice before in WRC 2 and I always liked the days on asphalt there, so for me it’s a positive thing that it will be a full asphalt rally again. If the weather is good then it’s a really nice event. The roads are really fast and flowing and a bit different to the other rounds we normally do on asphalt. It’s more like circuit driving and you need to be really precise, but when you get it right then it’s really enjoyable. The characteristics were quite different in Ypres but there I had a good feeling in the car in asphalt specification, and I hope we can have that again in Spain and fight for a good result for ourselves and the team.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“When I first participated in Rally de España it was a full tarmac event and now we are back to that profile after a few years of mixed terrain. I’m looking forward to tackling some of the famous stages we have seen in the past. It is a rally I like; the nice flowing roads are really good fun to drive with these WRC cars. It is more of a circuit-style of driving, so you need to be clean and efficient, taking care not to slide too much. You also need good pace notes to rely on to be fast, as it is difficult to make a big difference in the gaps on these types of roads.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de España
14-17 October 2021
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak

“It has been a while since we’ve had three days of tarmac competition at Rally de España. It is a very fast event and one that I really enjoy. The roads require pure, clean driving – the routes in the forest are quite smooth with not many cuts and the weather is consistent there, which makes it an enjoyable event for me. After two consecutive podium finishes, it would be nice to secure a hat-trick in Spain as we aim for a strong finish to this season.”

Dani Sordo

“I am really happy to be back driving in Spain after two years without a rally in my home country. I’m looking forward to the challenge of a full tarmac event; I’m hoping the weather will be nice and that we will have a lot of fans there as well. You need to have a really good car set-up and be confident – then, you enjoy the rally a lot. If you have a car that is understeering and not working very well, you won’t be happy. I can’t wait to be back at Rally de España.”

Jari Huttunen

“I’m looking forward to the return of tarmac next weekend after our victory in Ypres Rally Belgium. We were able to find a good confidence and rhythm with the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 on those roads which we hope will put us on the front foot in Spain. Finland didn’t quite go our way from the start of the rally, so the target is to perform well from the very first stage.”

Teemu Suninen

“I’m looking forward to Rally de España with the Hyundai i20 N Rally2. Spain has been one of my all-time favourite rallies. At the same time, it’s the best event to feel the balance of the new car on tarmac because of the long curves. There are a lot of new stages in the rally this year, and therefore the pace notes will play an important role next weekend.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Gus Greensmith

“Spain’s a beautiful event with very smooth, fast and flowing Tarmac roads which is always a pleasure to drive in these cars. It’s something that seems to have always suited the Fiesta in the past so we know that it should be much stronger than in Finland and we’re hoping for a good result as a team.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“I am really happy to be back in Spain, I was there two years ago in the Fiesta Rally2 and have some good experience on this event. I really like this Tarmac event which is quite interesting with the lines you need for the corners. It’s quite a grippy event and my second event with Alex so we still want to improve our pace together.

“We want to have a good result we know the car is really good on Tarmac and want to able to fight with the rest of the guys.”

Seb Perez

“Really excited for Catalunya this weekend, it is going to be really good. My circuit knowledge should help with the gravel stuff, obviously the cuts are going to be a bit of a challenge. Hopefully I get my head around them and use them to my advantage, it’s going to be exciting as my first WRC round.

“I’ve done plenty events in the Fiesta Rally2 now so I’m looking forward to a couple of days of good rallying.”

 

Well, we are set then for an amazing Rally Spain. Elfyn and Scott do need to win this weekend to take the title battle to the final round. There can be no sitting back and hoping that second place will do the job. I don’t think that Seb and Julien can count their chickens either. It’s not a foregone conclusion that they will win either. Their teammates are very quick on tarmac. Then there’s the Hyundai challengers. Ott won the title for Toyota in 2019, but it was Thierry Neuville who took victory for Hyundai that year. Perhaps either of them could also challenge for the win and that could bring extra spice to the championship, if they are ahead of either Seb or Elfyn.

Shakedown starts in the morning, and it will be interesting to see who has dialled their car in in their pre-event test, as they may the one leading at the end of day one. Pop back on Friday for my Day One report.

Rally Spain 2017 Review- Kris and Paul emerge victorious!

The foundations for Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle’s victory were laid on Friday’s gravel stages. After just two stages, Kris was in the lead and despite some mistakes in the afternoon, at the end of that first day’s action, he was just three seconds from the lead.

 

Overnight leader was Andreas Mikkelsen on his first outing for Hyundai. His fellow teammates, Dani and Championship challenger Thierry were in sixth and seventh position. The wrong tyre choices and hotter than expected conditions on the stages had meant that there was little that Thierry could do other than get through the day and see what he and Nicolas could do on the smooth wide tarmac on Saturday.

 

It was an impressive Friday for Seb Ogier that despite running at the front of the field on the loose gravel, he was just 1.4 seconds from the lead. Ott Tanak was also driving very well. Third on the road, he maintained top ten pace in each of the six stages and holding fourth overall.

 

Also setting a great pace in his Fiesta was Mads, although in the final stage of the day the heater in his car got stuck on! What with the high temperatures outside, plus the heater on, it quickly became unbearably hot inside the Fiesta WRC. The two Norwegians therefore did well to make in to the end of the stage, just five seconds from the lead.

 

The first retirement of the event was Jari-Matti in his Toyota. After a very solid start in the morning, he won the first stage of the afternoon, but later in stage five he noticed that the car was starting to lose oil. This was the result of a strong impact under the car which made the lubrication system fail. He would not start the final stage of the day, and the damage to the engine would prove to be too severe. The team would be looking to Juho and Esapekka to bring the team some good results.

 

Elfyn Evans, running on D-Mack tyres, would start well, but after struggling in the afternoon, it was a case of get around and see what he could do on Saturday.

 

Here’s the driver quotes for day one.

Andreas Mikkelsen said: (1st)

“We could not have asked for a better start to our Hyundai Motorsport career. It has been a good day and I have been pleased with our approach. We started this morning carefully, to understand the car’s behaviour and generally just finding our feet.”

“A few changes to the settings allowed us to gain some time through the first Terra Alta run. The car felt very stable and there were no surprises. In the afternoon, we became more and more confident in the car. The final stage wasn’t ideal; we thought we had a puncture so took it a bit easier. We made it to the end safely and it’s nice to be fighting at the very top. It’s really close but it has definitely been a positive start for Anders and myself.”

Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:

“I’m really happy with our day. It wasn’t easy, but our position this evening is really amazing. Being so close to the lead after a full day opening the road is not something we expected, but it’s a very nice surprise.

“The gaps are all so close so we’re all going to have to keep pushing tomorrow. For sure Andreas [Mikkelsen] and Kris [Meeke] will push hard, but I’ve always had a good feeling with the Fiesta on Tarmac so hopefully we can stay in the fight for the victory.

“But the most important thing for us was to stay ahead of Ott [Tänak] and Thierry [Neuville], which we have managed to do so far. Our target is clear, and we will keep our main focus on Ott, Thierry and the Championship fight.”

Seb Ogier, Friday, Rally Spain 2017

Kris Meeke (3rd) said:

“This morning, we didn’t make the right tyre choice. The soft tyres went off on Terra Alta, so I had to manage my pace a little and drop some time. It didn’t matter that much, because the gaps remained pretty small. On hard tyres, I was able to push almost from start to finish and I really enjoyed driving the C3 WRC. It’s a bit frustrating to have made a mistake on SS4; if it weren’t for that, I’d be leading. But in any case, I’m in a good position and am pleased with the day.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Catalunya (SPA) – WRC 05/10/2017 to 08/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Ott Tänak (4th) said:

“Overall I think the performance has been very good today. We expected to lose quite a lot with the loose gravel but actually the gaps are very small at the end of the day.

“It will definitely still be interesting tomorrow. It looks promising for the moment so let’s see how it goes in the morning and if we can find a good rhythm. These Tarmac roads are very unique but also very enjoyable, so we’ll try to find a good set-up with the car and see what we can do.”

Mads Østberg (5th) said:

“Really disappointing with the heater, and extremely hot and uncomfortable for us both with nearly 100 degrees Celsius inside the car. It`s hot enough inside these cars without hot air blowing into it, but we didn`t manage to turn it off.”

“As it was a very long stage we lost a bit of concentration and focus and of course we lost some time. Still I am happy with our performance this Friday, without the problems on the last stage we could have been in the lead. We also had some issues with dust coming into the, but that we could cope with.”

“In the preparation for the rally we have concentrated mainly on the tarmac set-up and driving. This will be the first time I drive the Fiesta “in anger” on tarmac, and we have much less experience with this than our competitors. A special challenge for me will be the much more advanced aerodynamics on the 2017-car than the car I have driven before. The aerodynamics plays a much bigger role on fast tarmac roads than on the loose.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Catalunya (SPA) – WRC 05/10/2017 to 08/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Dani Sordo (6th) said:

“It is great being back rallying at home, and I am so thrilled with the support of the fantastic spectators. We had a solid start today. The morning loop was tough for tyre selection, as the softs were a bit too soft, and the hard compounds were a bit too hard. However, we found a good compromise and it was a very close fight at the front. The grip levels were better in the opening afternoon stages, and I was pretty happy with the car. The repeat of Terra Alta was more slippery with not much traction, but we made it through the opening day in a respectable position – and with only ten seconds to the lead, I think it will be an exciting battle this weekend.”

Thierry Neuville (7th) said:

“We know what we need to do this weekend, and our sights are firmly set on achieving that. It wasn’t the easiest of starts after we opted for soft tyres on the opening loop. The temperatures were higher than we expected compared to our data from testing. We started to lose grip quite early in the long Terra Alta stage. It was a real pity because we had a good feeling in the car and we were pushing hard. In the afternoon, we were carrying six tyres, which slowed us a bit too much, particularly in the repeat of the long stage. It is very close on the timesheets, so although we are not in the position we would want to be, we are definitely in striking distance.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (ret) said:

“In the morning it was difficult and the car was oversteering a lot, but we made some changes and things were starting to get better. We won stage four. I made a couple of mistakes in stage five and then we noticed we were losing oil, and before we got to stage six the engine stopped and wouldn’t start again. At the time we didn’t know whether anything was damaged but sadly it will not be possible to restart tomorrow.”

Juho Hänninen (8th) said:

“Today was not as good as I had hoped; I lost too much time to the top guys. I wasn’t fully confident, I was hesitating in some places, and you can easily start to lose time with that. I was struggling a little with the rhythm when the grip was changing. Tomorrow we need to make it better. There are some really nice stages coming up so I’m looking forward to that.”

Esapekka Lappi (10th) said:

“This morning I was happy with the balance of the car but then on the last stage I overheated the brakes and lost them completely towards the end. In service we made some changes to the suspension and on the first stage this afternoon, which was really smooth, it helped us to set a good time. But I really struggled on the last one with the dampers in these settings. We were a bit unlucky today but at least we have done the stages twice, which is good experience, and tomorrow will be a new start for everybody on asphalt.”

Stéphane Lefebvre (9th) said:

“After a long break, it was difficult to come back and compete at event that is almost unknown to me. I took it easy in the trickier sections and pushed when I felt more confident. We didn’t make any mistakes and I managed to add to my experience. The two passes on Terra Alta showed that you really need time to understand this type of stage. We’ll have to reset in order to tackle tomorrow’s leg on tarmac in the best possible shape.”

Elfyn Evans (11th) said:

“The feeling in the first two stages was okay but it’s fair to say that we struggled after that. This just wasn’t our day, but we made it through and tomorrow is a completely new day with a completely new surface so let’s see what we can do.

Khalid Al Qassimi (19th) said:

“I had a good feeling this morning, although I felt the car lacked precision on occasions. I was cautious, especially on the tarmac section on Terra Alta. We made quite a lot of progress with the set-up during service and I was happy with the handling. I think the upgrades on the dampers are a definite improvement.”

 

Saturday morning dawned warm and sunny. The cars had been switched into tarmac spec and were ready for the day’s action.

Kris Meeke took the lead from overnight leader, Andreas, in the first stage of the day and then proceeded to pull away from his closest challengers.

 

The Hyundai’s all experienced problems throughout the day with Andreas and Dani both hitting rocks hidden at the edge of the road in stage 12. Thierry’s rally wasn’t going so well either, suffering hydraulics problems which affected his handling of the car. This lead to a spin before stage nine which resulted in damage to the rear of the car. The team did a good job to get the car fixed before the afternoon stages and this lead to a better afternoon for the Belgian driver.

 

M-Sport duo Seb and Ott were both driving well, with just minor issues holding them back through the morning, mainly being setup. With some tweaks, they Seb was able to push much harder and won all three afternoon stages. Ott heard a strange noise from the gearbox, so the team decided to change it during the midday service break.

 

The remaining Toyota drivers, Juho and Esapekka both enjoyed a very good day on the unique Spanish roads. Juho was third fastest on the opening stage before winning stage eight and nine. Lappi was focused on understanding the level of grip available, and with an imperfect setup on the car, struggled for confidence. However, after making a few changes in the service break, he felt more confident and this lead to a better afternoon.

 

Mads Østberg had a good day too. Despite hitting the same rock in stage twelve, that had put Andreas and Dani out, he got some luck and was able to finish. There were further technical issues with the car, but Mads made great progress throughout Saturday and completed the day in sixth.

 

Let’s hear from the drivers then.

Kris Meeke (1st) said:

“Today couldn’t have gone any better, to be honest. We’ve known about the potential of the C3 WRC on tarmac since the rounds in Corsica and Germany, but I was nonetheless a bit apprehensive because we hadn’t done any pre-event testing on this surface. The first stage looked like it would be tricky with the rain, but everything went well. The rest of day went much the same way, although it was pretty close with the other drivers. I’m very pleased to be leading and I obviously want to convert this first place into a win tomorrow. There are still six stages to go before we get there, the first of which will be contested in the dark. So, we won’t get ahead of ourselves: one step at a time!”

Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:

“The general picture is a positive one for us at the moment and, if we can secure this podium at the end of tomorrow, it will be another good step towards the championship.

“Of course, I always want to fight for the victory but, realistically, I think Kris [Meeke] is probably a bit too far ahead. We lost quite a lot of time to him this morning when I wasn’t super confident with the car. When you’re not perfectly committed you lose tenths everywhere and that can easily amount to ten seconds at the end of the stage.

“We worked hard on the set-up throughout the day and I had a much better feeling this afternoon. Hopefully we can start tomorrow morning with that same feeling as we will for sure still have to push.”

Ott Tänak (3rd) said:

“The podium is always the target, and we’re in a good position to secure that at the moment so it has been a good day. We weren’t so happy with the feeling in the car first thing [this morning], but we soon found a good balance and improved the times after that.

“The goal is to secure as many points as possible but, as we have already seen, everyone is pushing very hard and it’s difficult to make the difference. Even if you have the perfect stage, you can still miss out on the fastest time by a couple of tenths.

“Kris is very strong so it’s going to be hard to compete with him, but we’re still in a very competitive position and it will be important to get to the end and secure these points for the team and for ourselves. We’ll certainly keep the pressure on, so let’s keep it going and see what happens.”

Juho Hänninen (4th)

“It has been a really good day. I was a bit disappointed after yesterday but I knew that the asphalt would be better for me. Even still, I was a bit surprised with how good the stage times were this morning. I was really, really happy with the car and I didn’t need to change anything in service. I drove the afternoon the same as in the morning and it felt good. I haven’t really been looking at the overall classification and it could be difficult to catch the guys ahead, but I haven’t given up and I will push tomorrow for sure.”

Thierry Neuville (5th) said:

“I honestly think we deserved far better than we got today. We experienced hydraulic problems at the end of SS8, which we worked on at stage-end to keep the car going. Suddenly, the car wouldn’t start, and when we finally got going we had to move quickly to get to the next stage. Without hydraulics under braking we spun the car, which caused some rear damage. We checked into SS9 three minutes late, so we were given a time penalty. The team did an incredible job to get the car repaired at service in time for the repeat loop, where we were able to show good pace again. The rally is not over but it was another frustrating day and not representative of what we know we can achieve. We set some of the quickest times in the afternoon stages, and were much happier and confident with the car. It’s hard to keep up the fight when you lose so much time, but others can have problems, especially with a longer than usual Sunday with six stages. We won’t give up.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Rally de Espa–a
05 – 08 October 2017
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Sarah Vessely
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Esapekka Lappi (6th) said:

“On the first stage this morning I was not confident enough, as the grip was much higher than in my test, but step-by-step during the morning I found the confidence. I wasn’t completely happy with the set-up but we managed to improve it during service and the car felt even better in the afternoon, especially on the penultimate stage: it was the best that the car has ever been on asphalt. So I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. We will try to carry on in the same way and maybe get some points on the Power Stage.”

Mads Østberg (7th) said:

“It really has been the best day at school ever! This is my first proper tarmac experience with the 2017 spec car, and I was very uncertain how we would manage and how fast we could expect to be. Yesterday we led the rally after four stages, but that was on gravel. Today we have lost some time to the leaders, but that was expected. I am learning on every stage and the progression from the start of the day, not to mention my understanding of the car, has been enormous. We started the day 1 second per km slower than the fastest guys, now we are down to 0.3 seconds”.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Catalunya (SPA) – WRC 05/10/2017 to 08/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Speaking about the rock that he hit…

“There was a massive rock right on the driving line in a corner where we were cutting. I hit it hard, but for once I had some luck. The steering and a wheel was damaged, but I could continue and finish the stage without much loss.”

In the final stage, Mads suffered an additional problem with the hydraulics.

“The car became nearly impossible in the very tight corners. It was frustrating, but as it was a short stage the time loss wasn`t extensive.”

Finally, he explained how much fun the car was to drive on these roads.

“I feel we are getting more and more competitive, which hasn`t really been the case for some time on tarmac. The split-times on several stages shows that I am closing in on the fastest tarmac guys. I am also enjoying every moment as the driving experience with the 2017 Fiesta on these roads really is awesome.”

Stéphane Lefebvre (8th) said:

“The switch from gravel to tarmac between the first and second day is not easy at all, especially as this is the first time I have experienced this situation. I feel like I made progress throughout the day, without making any mistakes. The handling of the C3 WRC helped to give me confidence. On SS10, for example, I pushed and my time was about 2/10ths per kilometre off the pace of the stage-winning driver. I’ll be able to build on this experience to try and finish on positive note tomorrow.”

Elfyn Evans (9th) said:

“It’s been another pretty tough day for us. The pace isn’t there and we’ve just been struggling for grip. That’s the way it is and we need to focus on getting all the kilometres under our belts and collecting as much information as we can for the future.”

Khalid Al Qassimi (18th) said:

“This was my first competitive outing with the C3 WRC on tarmac. And I hadn’t driven on this surface for a year! I’m pleased with the day, I had a good feeling in the car. However, I opted to take it easier on the second pass, because the roads were very dirty. I preferred to stick to the lines.”

 

Sunday morning was much like Saturday- warm and sunny.

Could Kris take his and Citroen’s second victory of the year? Could Thierry score some points to stop Seb opening a big lead in the championship?

 

Six stages awaited the crews and no service break either. They all took spare tyres in their cars. One puncture could destroy all the hard work.

The first stage was held in darkness, but it didn’t trouble Kris. He took the first stage of the day and then added the other two, thus increasing his lead to almost 25 seconds over the M-Sport duo of Seb and Ott.

Stephane Lefebvre was also pushing hard through these stages, bringing him closer to Mads. Stage 16 would see Thierry retire from the event after hitting something out of sight and damaging his right front suspension. Esapekka would also retire after sliding on some slippery tarmac and hitting a barrier.

Setting some good times as usual were Seb and Ott, ultimately bringing their Fiesta’s to a double podium behind Spanish master Kris. Juho would also have a very Sunday morning, guiding his Yaris into fourth place overall- pretty impressive given that he’d not driven this event for six years!

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Catalunya (SPA) – WRC 05/10/2017 to 08/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Fifth place fell to privateer Mads in his Adapta Motorsport Fiesta. With Torstein Eriksen alongside him through the weekend, they found good consistency, even leading on Friday for a short while. The pre- event testing, they did on the tarmac clearly paid in off in spades.

 

Dani Sordo and Andreas Mikkelsen both had an up and down event, but Dani came through and won the power stage. Andreas would suffer a broken windscreen after his bonnet came loose and flipped up in front of him! It was all good learning for next year though, having never driven the i20 on these surfaces.

 

Elfyn Evans in his D-Mack shod Fiesta drove as best he could to seventh place, as his tyres couldn’t give him the consistent grip on the tarmac he needed. However, there were positives and it was the best result he’d scored in this event.

Rally Spain 2017 result

1 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) 3h01m21.1s

2 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +28.0s

3 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +33.0s

4 Juho Hänninen/Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +54.1s

5 Mads Ostberg/Torstein Eriksen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2m26.2s

6 Stephane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau (Citroen C3 WRC): +2m43.0s

7 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4m37.4s

8 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta R5) +8m22.7s

9 Jan Kopecky/Pavel Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +8m54.5s

10 Ole Christian Veiby/Stig Rune Skjaermoen (Skoda Fabia R5) +9m04.8s

Here’s what the drivers had to say.

Kris Meeke (1st) said:

“This completes an exceptional weekend for me. Since our win at Rally Mexico, we’ve had some tough moments, but we’ve picked ourselves up each time by working hard. We always knew this car was terrific on asphalt and I think that we have demonstrated that since yesterday! This win shows the quality of the work done by the entire team and it gives us all a huge confidence boost for the rest of the season.”

Kris and Paul take their fifth WRC victory.

Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:

“We’ve taken a really positive step towards the championship this weekend. I think we were on course to extend the lead anyway, but with Thierry’s mistake that changed the picture completely and we’ve been able to extend the gap even more.

“We were never really in a position where we had to take all the risks, but we still had to keep a good rhythm. There was no chance to fight with Kris [Meeke] as he was just on another level on the Tarmac, but we had a clean drive and it’s definitely been a positive weekend.

“It’s been good news for the team too as the manufacturers’ championship is now pretty much done and we can start to plan a bit of a party for their home event in a couple of weeks’ time.”

 

Ott Tänak (3rd) said:

“We feel good at the end of this one. This result was more or less the maximum we could do this weekend so a great result overall.

“I think our first day was particularly good. We were quite early in the running order and still managed to stay close to the lead. Then on Tarmac we had a couple of small issues but generally a good run and a good feeling with the car.

“For sure there will be a big fight for second place in the drivers’ championship now. Sébastien is pretty safe, but there is still something to fight for and two more exciting events ahead.”

 

Juho Hänninen (4th) said:

“I’m very happy with this result. Yesterday and today have been two of the most enjoyable days of rallying I’ve ever had. Yesterday was really good and today I tried to keep it quite steady because there was a big gap behind. On asphalt we have had a really, really good car. I have felt really confident with it and I haven’t had to take any big risks. It’s really important for me to see that I am able to fight for the leading positions even though I haven’t been here for a long time.”

Juho Hanninen, Rally Spain 2017

Mads Østberg (5th) said:

“The team performed brilliantly. Its five years since we did a WRC rally with our own Adapta Motorsport crew, but it`s like they haven`t been away at all. I would also like to thank Torstein Eriksen, who did only his second WRC-event and really did a professional and great job.”

“The tarmac experience from Spain will be put to good use later, but not until next season as the championship finishes with gravel events. Already in less than three weeks the stage is set for fog, mud and possibly sleet and snow in Wales.”

“It`s one of my favourite rallies where I have been very competitive before. The gravel stages here in Spain gave us the answer that we are right on the mark on the loose stuff. My goal for Wales is to fight for a possible victory.”

 

Stéphane Lefebvre (6th) said:

“We tried to push and managed to claw back some time on Mads Østberg in the first loop. After that, it became more difficult with some hydraulics problems and then we lost the intercom. From that point onwards, I was just making sure I held position. Sixth place is pretty good, considering my limited knowledge of this event. I would say this result was more or less comparable with my top-five finish in Poland. Little by little, as I gain more experience, I’m improving and I hope to be able to confirm my progress in the future. Congratulations to Kris and Paul on winning again – it’s a morale-boosting result for everyone in the team!”

 

Elfyn Evans (7th) said:

“Everyone knows that this was a tough weekend for us, but we kept our heads down and got the job done. It’s not been easy, but we managed to get a lot of information from all of the kilometres and now we can start to focus on Wales Rally GB.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Catalunya (SPA) – WRC 05/10/2017 to 08/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Teemu Suninen (Fiesta R5) (8th) said:

“This has been a really good weekend for us and I think we have made a big improvement on Tarmac. We’ve had good pace on both surfaces and I think I can be really happy with the rally and what we have done.”

 

Khalid Al Qassimi (17th) said:

“It was a very good day. As the day wore on, I enjoyed driving the car more and more and I’m very pleased with the progress made by the Citroën C3 WRC. But I’m most pleased of all about Kris Meeke winning the rally. He had a fantastic race this weekend, it’s a great moment for us all and I’m very proud to see Abu Dhabi promoted by these performances.”

 

Well, there you go…. Two rounds left and M-Sport have almost secured the manufacturers championship. Also, it’s looking very likely that Seb will win the drivers crown after Thierry failed to score any points in Spain.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Catalunya (SPA) – WRC 05/10/2017 to 08/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

A great drive from Kris and Paul in the number 7 C3 WRC for Citroen’s 98 WRC victory and his fifth as well, puts to bed any worries about his abilities behind the wheel.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Catalunya (SPA) – WRC 05/10/2017 to 08/10/2017 – PHOTO : @World

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after round 11:

1 Sebastien Ogier 198

2 Ott Tanak 161

3 Thierry Neuville 160

4 Jari-Matti Latvala 123

5 Dani Sordo 94

6 Elfyn Evans 93

7 Juho Hänninen 71

8 Craig Breen 64

9 Kris Meeke 60

10 Hayden Paddon 55

11 Esapekka Lappi 49

 

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after round 11:

1 M-Sport World Rally Team 358

2 Hyundai Motorsport 275

3 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT 225

4 Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 198

Rally Spain Preview 2017- The battle for the WRC crown continues

We are getting closer to the end of the season, and M-Sport driver Seb is 17 points ahead of Thierry and there are just three rounds left. Rally Spain takes place from the 5th to the 8th of October.

 

It’s the only round to feature gravel and tarmac stages as well, with Friday being all gravel, with the teams getting extra service time to convert the cars into tarmac spec for the smooth fast stages that follow on Saturday and Sunday. A total of 19 stages, covering 312km makes Rally Catalunya a very tricky event.

 

Here’s the stage information for you.

RALLY DE ESPAÑA SCHEDULE (GMT+2)

 

THURSDAY 5 OCTOBER

8.00am: Shakedown – Salou (2.97km)

8.00pm: Ceremonial start (Salou)

 

FRIDAY 6 OCTOBER

8.15am: Start

9.53am: SS1 – Caseres 1 (12.50km)

10.21am: SS2 – Bot 1 (6.50km)

10.56am: SS3 – Terra Alta 1 (38.95km)

1.11pm: Service A (PortAventura – 30 mins)

3.19pm: SS4 – Caseres 2 (12.50km)

3.47pm: SS5 – Bot 2 (6.50km)

4.22pm: SS6 – Terra Alta 2 (38.95km)

6.32pm: Flexi Service B (PortAventura – 75 mins)

 

SATURDAY 7 OCTOBER

6.45am: Service C (PortAventura – 15 mins)

8.00am: SS7 – El Montmell 1 (24..40km)

9.07am: SS8 – El Pont d’Armentera 1 (21.29km)

9.54am: SS9 – Savalla 1 (14.12km)

11.35am: Service D (PortAventura – 30 mins)

1.08pm: SS10 – El Montmell 2 (24.40km)

2.15pm: SS11 – El Pont d’Armentera 2 (21.29km)

3.02pm: SS12 – Savalla 2 (14.12km)

5.00pm: SS13 – Salou (2.24km)

5.30pm: Flexi Service E (PortAventura – 45 mins)

 

SUNDAY 8 OCTOBER

6.00am: Service F (PortAventura – 15 mins)

7.00am: SS14 – L’Albiol 1 (6.28km)

7.38am: SS15 – Riudecanyes 1 (16.35km)

8.38am: SS16 – Santa Marina 1 (14.50km)

10.14am: SS17 – L’Albiol 2 (6.28km)

10.53am: SS18 – Riudecanyes 2 (16.35km)

12.18pm: SS19 – Santa Marina 2 – Power Stage (14.50km)

1.41pm: Service G (PortAventura – 10 mins)

3.00pm: Podium (Salou)

 

Let’s hear from the top two in the championship.

 

Sébastien Ogier said:

 

“We’re feeling fully refreshed after the break and ready to get back to business. Spain is always an enjoyable event. Its mixed surface makes it truly unique and the fans are so enthusiastic. I have a lot of special memories here, and it would be nice to add to them next week.

 

“Opening the road is a good thing in one sense as it means that we are back in the lead of the championship. But if it’s dry the championship lead also comes with its challenges and we’ll need to work hard to minimise the time loss through the opening gravel stages.

 

“Then, it’s onto the fast, smooth asphalt that this event is famed for. We had a one-day test to get used to this circuit-like asphalt and the car felt pretty good. We completed a lot of kilometres for a one-day test, and that sees us well prepared to deliver our best.

 

“With the championships so close, that’s exactly what we will have to deliver. We have a 17 point lead, but with 90 points still available there remains all to play for and we all need to work together to maximise our potential – starting with Rally Spain.”

Thierry Neuville said:

 

“Entering this crucial part of the season for the championship, we must stay focused and look to target the podium, if not victory, in all rounds. Things are delicately positioned in the Drivers’ Championship between Ogier, myself and Tanak, so anything can still happen.”

 

“Spain is going to be a huge challenge, as it always is with the change of surface. It is a rally that all crews enjoy, with a good atmosphere and, usually, great weather. We are rested after the long break and determined to put in our strongest fight for the title.”

Hyundai, Tarmac test 2017

Here’s the thoughts of the rest of the drivers.

 

Andreas Mikkelsen signed to Hyundai Motorsport for the next two years during this past week. He took his first WRC victory in this event two years ago when Seb crashed out in the final stage.

 

Here’s his thought’s….

 

“I am really pleased to be making my debut as a Hyundai Motorsport driver. Since the announcement, Anders and I have had the opportunity to test the car on both tarmac and gravel; I have been very impressed with what we’ve experienced.”

 

“The car has already shown itself to be versatile, and there’s nowhere better than Spain to showcase those characteristics. It’s a special rally for me, as I took my first win in Spain in 2015, so it has fantastic memories. The changes in surface can be demanding, particularly with the quick switch from gravel to tarmac. It is a challenging, but highly enjoyable event, and I hope to be able to fight at the front in my first WRC event with the team.”

 

Dani Sordo said:

 

“It is always a pleasure to return to Spain for my home rally, and to have the chance to compete in front of so many enthusiastic supporters. We definitely want to give them something to cheer. I think our road position will be beneficial on the opening gravel stages on Friday. We then move onto tarmac for the final two days, where we push to secure our third podium of the season – and our third in a row in Catalunya for Hyundai Motorsport. That’s the aim.”

 

M-Sport WRT

 

Ott Tänak said:

 

“I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel. It was really nice to have some time at home with the family, but I have to admit that I was also starting to miss the thrill of competition!

 

“We’ve proved that we can be competitive on both gravel and asphalt, so I’m not daunted by the mixed surface of Spain. Going from one surface to the next in the same weekend can be a little strange at first, but we all get up to speed pretty quickly.

 

“The gravel roads are really nice with a mix of fast and technical sections and we had a Tarmac test in Spain last week which reminded me just how amazing those roads are. They’re so smooth and it really is like driving on a circuit in some places.

 

“With both championships so close at the moment, I think we’re in for an interesting weekend and we’ll certainly be aiming to deliver our best for both the manufacturers’ and the drivers’.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Tour de Corse (FRA) – WRC 06/04/2017 to 09/04/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Elfyn Evans said:

 

“As the only mixed-surface event on the calendar, Rally Spain is really unique. I’ve not had the best of luck there in the past, but we’ll be hoping to put that right this year.

 

“The gravel stages can be quite technical and on the Terra Alta stage we have long sections of asphalt in amongst the gravel. That can make the car move around quite a lot and you have to drive with the whole stage in mind.

 

“It’s quite a strategic rally in that sense and you have to think about the long game with a day and a half of pure Tarmac to follow the gravel. The weather could also prove a deciding factor so it’ll be interesting to see what the Spanish forecasts have to offer us this year.

 

“With the championship so close, this event could be really crucial and we’re all determined to deliver our best.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

 

Kris Meeke said:

 

“We had a good test session and it was interesting to work with Seb [Loeb]. There is always room for improvement, but I think we are moving in the right direction. I’m looking forward to being back in a competitive environment again after a frustrating Rallye Deutschland and this long break. I have to say, though, that I can’t quite believe that this is going to be my tenth appearance in Catalonia! Potentially, we have a good starting position, but that’ll depend on the level of dust or whether it rains. For the last two legs, we know all about performance level of the C3 on tarmac. The main thing is that I want to enjoy myself in the car. If I do that, then we can aim for a good result and that’d be good news for the entire team.”

Citroen C3 WRC 2017

Stephane Lefebvre said:

 

“I’m very pleased to be back behind the wheel of the Citroën C3 WRC. It has been three months since we finished fifth overall in Poland and I’m going to have to find the right pace on stages that I am relatively unfamiliar with. We have to bear in mind that I am undoubtedly the least experienced driver in the field at this event. I’m pleased with how testing went last week. I had the opportunity to try the new front-to-rear wheel torque distribution for the first time. This upgrade matches my driving style really well and it was therefore a very positive experience. If the conditions are favourable, we’ll try to make the most of our position in the running order on day one.”

 

Kalid Al Qassimi said:

 

“This will be my tenth appearance in Spain! This round is one of my favourites on the WRC calendar. I love the challenge provided by the mixed surface route, and especially the fact that switching from gravel to tarmac during a stage encourages you to drive more quickly. I really like the atmosphere here; the supporters are incredible and the organisation is absolutely fantastic. That’s why I like to keep coming back to compete in Catalonia every year. We’ll try to find a good pace depending on the stages, pushing whenever I feel comfortable. I wish Kris and Stéphane all the best.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

 

Jari-Matti Latvala said:

 

“I like the combination in Spain of having the first day on gravel and then two days on asphalt. They are the best asphalt roads in the championship – as close to a race circuit as is possible – and the gravel stages are also quite good. I did two days of testing for Spain this week: on the asphalt, we were focused on the suspension, and on gravel we concentrated on the differential. The change of surface creates extra work for the mechanics and the engineers, and as drivers we need to adapt our driving style overnight. Our car showed winning speed on gravel in Finland and the performance was also there on asphalt in Germany, so I believe we should be very competitive.”

Toyota Yaris WRC

Juho Hänninen said:

 

“The car has felt good in testing, just like it did in Germany. We plan to continue in the same way in Spain. Friday will be challenging for me because the stages are exactly the same as recent years and I haven’t done this rally for a while, so I will need to push a lot on Friday in order to be in the fight. But unless it rains like last year, I don’t think the time differences will be too big. Then there will be some new stages on Saturday and Sunday, which should help.”

 

Esapekka Lappi said:

 

“Spain is a really challenging rally with the mix of gravel and asphalt. It’s a completely different type of rally to what we are used to. The gravel part is similar to Portugal in my opinion, and then the asphalt stages are quite unique: I think they’re the best stages on asphalt in the world. They are pretty clean and smooth, and are not as twisty as Corsica and not as narrow as Germany, so really enjoyable to drive. I’m really looking forward to it. There were some ups and downs in Germany but in the end, we could match the speed of the others and our performance should be good on both surfaces.”

 

Onebet Adapta WRT

 

Mads Østberg is back after missing Rally Germany. His co-driver will be Torstein Eriksen. He’s been keeping busy though. Its two months since the last WRC event for Mads, but he has had competitive outings in the meantime. Three weeks ago, he did a couple of races as a guest driver in the Swedish Porsche Carrera Championship, and with good results. Last weekend he drove the last round of the Norwegian Championship with his Fiesta WRC and Emil Axelsson as codriver. As expected he won the rally with a clear margin.

 

Mads explains, “The Porsche drive in Sweden obviously couldn`t compare with rallying, but it was valuable driving experience on tarmac. And I wasn`t too bad as a tarmac racer, really! The rally in Norway was used as a gravel test, and we had very good progression trying different set-ups during the day. The rally also gave me the chance to have Emil Axelsson in the car with me, as we are still evaluating different co-driver choices for next year”

Mads, Spanish tarmac test.

Final words to the Team Principal’s.

 

M-Sport WRT Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

 

“We’ve had a fantastic season to date, and we’re now entering the decisive final phase. The competition could not be closer and the next three rallies will be crucial – Rally Spain in particular.

 

“With its mix of gravel and asphalt, this event is truly unique and the teams will have to master both surfaces in their pursuit of victory. Having secured a podium on every event this season, the Fiesta has proven competitive on every surface and we hope to see that continue next week.

 

“Sébastien certainly knows what it takes to win here, and Ott and Elfyn will both be determined to settle a few scores. A strong result will be imperative to the outcome of the championship, and that is exactly what we aim to deliver.

 

“It won’t be easy by any stretch of the imagination, and the competition will be extremely tough, but I have confidence in the team who are working their hardest to deliver our best.”

 

Hyundai Team Principal Michel Nandan said:

 

“We have had a long summer break but we have used the time wisely to try and turn around our recent misfortunes. Finland and Germany were both frustrating, and saw us lose ground in the championship. From Spain, and in the final rounds of the season, we are determined to do all we can to catch up. We welcome Andreas and Anders into the team from Spain, an event they won memorably in 2015, alongside Thierry and Dani, who have both had podiums at this rally. For Dani, it will be extra special, as his home event, so we are in optimistic and hopeful mood. With an upgraded Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, our primary target is to get back onto the podium.”

 

Enjoy the event, and let’s see who comes out our winner!